We took a look at the Blitz Formula and Extreme boards from ASUS just over two months ago, and now we have the X38 version of those boards on the bench today. In addition to featuring a Northbridge waterblock, it also has “extreme” overclocking ability and a great bundle.
Chances are, when you first take a look at the Maximus, the first thing your eyes will be drawn to is the elaborate heatsink, which is comprised of both copper and aluminum, though the latter is primarily above the PWM area.
I appreciate the abundance of fan connectors, which include three towards the bottom and three on the top half. The side S-ATA ports wil also be welcomed by those who want to keep their case as tidy as possible.
There is only one design-related feature that I found tedious to work around. The left portion of the waterblock is tight… I had trouble installing tubing there and successfully securing the clip to the left barb. Better spacing between the waterblock and the rest of the heatsink would have been appreciated.
The slot layout may seem a little odd, but it works. There are two PCI, two PCI-E 16x and three PCI-E 1x (though the absolute top one designed for the included sound card is not pictured). If you have two large GPUs installed,. the slots directly below each PCI-E 16x slot might be blocked.
Moving rightward, we can see the Southbridge and its simple heatsink and also the USB connectors, onboard power/reset switches and the side-mounted SATA ports. Two fan connectors are located here as well.
The Fusion waterblock is a rather simple affair, but it’s more than capable of keeping the Northbridge cool. The barbs are 3/8″ sized, but if you are using a 1/2″ setup, converters are included.
The Formula is a DDR2 board, while the Extreme is a DDR3 board, although the release of that model hasn’t been announced yet. There’s another fan connector to the right of the DIMM slots, which comes in handy for those RAM coolers, such as Corsairs Dominator Airflow.
Here is a better view of the entire heatsink setup. It’s one of the most elaborate I’ve seen on any motherboard, which is a good thing. Even without water, the boards heatsink will help keep temperatures at reasonable levels. The entire heatsink is copper based, with the aluminum portion being located right atop it.
Lastly, the back panel includes six USB ports, SPDIF optical, firewire, Clear CMOS (does as you’d expect) and also a PS/2 Keyboard port. Not pictured is the separate sound card that ASUS includes with their Blitz and Maximus boards, which will use the top PCI-E 1x port.
Before we report on performance, we will first go through the BIOS and see what the Maximus is capable of. As we find out… it’s more capable than most will ever need it to be.