In today’s review let’s check out the Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula Z490 motherboard; built for the latest Intel 10th gen Core processors. If you’re familiar with Asus’ lineup, a “Maximus Formula” motherboard is one of the company’s high-end motherboards. Maximus Formulas are designed with the water-cooling enthusiasts in mind. It has been that way starting with the Maximus V, released many years ago. If you’re in the market for such a motherboard, let’s continue below and find out what features the Maximus XII Formula offers and how it performs.
Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula Review
In this review let’s explore the features of the Maximus XII Formula motherboard, as well as its specifications. We are also going to take a closer look and see what components are hidden under those “armor”. And finally, let’s check out how this motherboard performs compared to other Z490 motherboards.
Before we begin, I (unfortunately) don’t have data yet for thermal benchmarks with its VRM water-cooled. The data that I have are computational and gaming benchmarks for now. I hope to add those in the future once I have properly set it up inside a custom water-cooling loop. With that out of the way, let’s proceed with its features first.
The newer ROG Maximus XII Formula is very reminiscent of its predecessor, the Maximus XI. If we put the two motherboards side by side, you can see that they look very similar and identical. There are only a few minor aesthetic changes here and there, but no major changes. Even the layout and most of where the components are located are the same.
However, despite their similarities, there’s one glaring difference between the two motherboards. One is based on the new Z490 chipset designed for 10th gen Intel CPUs, while the other is based on the older Z390 chipset that only supports 8th and 9th gen CPUs. Their socket might look similar as well, but the Z490 Maximus XII motherboard features the newer socket LGA1200. Meanwhile, the older one has socket LGA 1151, which has a lesser number of pins.
New Features In Z490 ROG Maximus XII Formula
The new socket and CPU are not the only things new in this Z490 motherboard. Asus has also upgraded or updated some of its features and capabilities. For example, the Maximus XII now supports up to 4800MHz (OC) memory speed and up to 128GB of memory capacity. Its predecessor can only support up to 4400MHz (OC) memory speed and up to 64GB of memory.
There are now three M.2 slots for storage, and they support both SATA and NVMe PCIe Gen3 SSDs. There’s also Intel Rapid Storage technology support, and a much faster 10Gb Ethernet connection and Intel WiFi 6. The Maximus XII Formula features a Marvell AQtion AQC107 10Gb ethernet, and Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 with Bluetooth 5.1 wireless connectivity option as well.
Below are the Intel Z490 Chipset Block Diagram and the features that you can expect from the new Z490 platform. After that is a brief specification of the Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula motherboard. Then we’ll take a closer look at the motherboard itself while discussing more of its features.
|ROG Maximus XII Formula||Specifications|
|Price (MSRP)||$500.00 USD|
|Memory||4 x DDR4 up to 4800+ (OC)|
|Multi-GPU||2 x SLI, 3 x CrossFireX|
|PCIe||2 x16 @ x16, x8/x8|
1 x16 @ x4
|Storage||2 x M.2 2280 (NVMe x4 )|
1 x M.2 22110 (NVMe x4 or SATA)
6 x SATA 6Gbps
|Networking||Marvell AQtion AQC107 10Gb Ethernet|
Intel I225-V 2.5Gb Ethernet
Intel AX201 WiFi 6: 2x2 802.11ax MU-MIMO
|Audiov||SupremeFX S1220 codec|
ESS ES9023P DAC
TI RC4580 op-amp
|Thunderbolt 3||1 x internal header|
|USB||3.1 Gen 2: 1 x Type-C, 3 x Type-A, 1 x front|
3.1 Gen 1: 6 x Type-A, 4 x front
2.0: 4 x front
|Aura||2 x strip headers, 2 x Gen 2 addressable headers|
|Cooling||9 x fan headers|
1 x coolant flow
1 x coolant temperature
|Where to Buy||Amazon|
For a more detailed specification of this motherboard, you can check out Asus’ page here. Now, let’s take a closer look at the ROG Maximus XII Formula motherboard.
Packaging and Closer Look
As expected from a ROG product, you get a premium packaging. Even the box feels a bit premium, with its all-black and red accents. The “ROG Maximus XII Formula” name has this reflective surface, and at the back of the box, you can read the highlighted features of this motherboard.
The box includes the following: a manual, driver CD, Q-connector, RGB extension cable, SATA cables, 2×2 dual-band WiFi antenna, ROG stickers, and a ROG key chain. Speaking of the WiFi antenna, I am not a fan of Asus’ antenna design at all. That shark fin-looking antenna; the base is a bit slim; it feels imbalanced, and the bottom plate gets detached easily. I hope Asus change or improve the design of their WiFi antenna.
Above you can see the front and back portion of the Maximus XII Formula; including the input and output ports section. This thing looks beautiful and feels very premium. There are grooves, cutouts, and patterns that make this motherboard a head-turner. At the back, you can see a layer of “electro-galvanized, cold-rolled coil construction” steel backplate protecting the backside of the motherboard.
On the I/O ports you get the following: a clear CMOS button, a BIOS flashback button, 6x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, a PS/2 port, 3x USB 3.2 Gen2, a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, 10G Ethernet + Intel 2.5G Ethernet ports, WiFi 6 connector, an optical S/PDIF out and the audio ports with SupremeFX 8-channel HD audio.
One of the main features of the Maximus XII Formula is its CrossChill hybrid cooling heatsinks. You can passively cool the VRM thanks to the chunky aluminum heatsink with a large diameter heat pipe that extends towards the OLED area. Or you can actively cool the VRM area by water cooling it. The CrossChill EK III lets you cool the MOSFETs with water and/or air. Asus uses a G1/4″ threaded fittings, so it is not that difficult to connect it to a custom water cooling loop.
Below the CPU sock is a 2”-inch LiveDash OLED display. It’s a handy mini-display that can display system information like temperature or voltage. You can also set it to display just a photo or an animated logo as well.
The ROG Maximus XII Formula is a Z490 motherboard and it features a new socket LGA 1200 designed for the latest 10th gen Intel Core processors. According to reports, the Z490 motherboard will have support for the upcoming 11th gen Rocket Lake CPUs as well. Well, I hope so; so that there is still an upgrade path for this motherboard.
There are four DIMM slots that can support up to 128GB in capacity and up to DDR4-4800MHz (OC) speed. There are onboard power and reset buttons, just below the Q code display. At the bottom of the 24-pin motherboard power connector are two USB 2.3 Gen2 front panel connectors.
On the upper right-hand corner are CPU fans headers and two RGB headers; one is a 3-pin addressable RGB header while the other is a 4-pin header. In the company’s marketing presentation, Asus boasts that they are using solid-core pins for the 8-pin CPU power connector. They are calling it the “ProCool II” connector that has metal armor for further heat dissipation.
As for M.2 storage, you get three M.2 slots that support both SATA and PCIe Gen3 NVME SSDs. The third M.2 is actually located at the back of the motherboard. There is a single and long aluminum heatsink cover for the two M.2 SSDs on the front portion, but I have an issue with this approach.
You can’t install an M.2 SSD that already comes with a heatsink; like the WD Black SN750 with heatsink, or something like the ADATA XPG Spectrix S40G. The whole cover must be removed if you plan to install an SSD with a heatsink. And if you plan to install only one of those, the other “exposed” area doesn’t look aesthetically pleasing any more.
An AIO pump header and a chassis fan header are oddly located above the first PCIe slot, lower left-hand portion of the CPU socket. There are 6 SATA ports and another USB3.2 Gen1 header next to it. The white headers you see right next to the SATA ports are for liquid cooling system headers. This is, after all, a motherboard built for water cooling enthusiasts.
At the bottom, you can see the SupremeFX S1220 CODEC protected by a metal shield. It has an ESS ES9023P Hi-Def DAC chip with 7.1 surround sound support. There are additional headers at the bottom for fans, RGB, Thunderbolt, and more USBs. There’s also a ReTry button, which is different from the reset button.
When it comes to power delivery, the Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula features a 16+0 power stage with 8 PCB layers; a similar configuration with the flagship Maximus XII Extreme. That large hexagonal chip you see is the Marvell AQtion AQC107 10Gb controller. Below is a line from the AQtion’s overview:
The AQtion AQN-107 is a single-chip, single-port, high-performance PCIe 3.0 Multi-Gig 10GBASE-T/5GBASET/2.5GBASE-T/ 1000BASE-T/ 100BASE-TX Ethernet adapter. It incorporates Marvell’s AQrate PHY technology to deliver 10 GbE, 5 GbE and 2.5 GbE network connectivity speeds over 100 m with zero change required for legacy cabling. Speeds ranging from 5 GbE to 100 M are supported by Cat 5e cabling while 10GbE requires a minimum of Cat6 with Cat 6a running up to 100 m.
In addition, there are 16 Infineon TDA21490 power stages for the VRM; rated to handle 90amps. Each power stage is accompanied by a high-permeability microfine alloy-core choke, rated to handle 45 amps. Furthermore, the input and output filtering are handled by a number of 10K Japanese-made solid-polymer capacitors. Each capacitor is rated to last thousands of hours at high operating temperatures.
Admittedly, I am not an expert when it comes to these components and engineering design. So, on the next page let’s quickly look at the BIOS interface and the software included.