Articles

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula Z390 Motherboard Review

Author:Daniel Dobrowolski

Editor:Kyle Bennett

Date: Thursday , January 17, 2019

ASUS brings us the one of it most aesthetically pleasing and expensive Z390 motherboards this generation. Even if you have no interest in spending a ton of money on an LGA 1151 motherboard, you will want to give this Formula a look as it certainly shows us that ASUS is not sitting around on its thumbs on the high end.
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Motherboard Overclocking Software

ASUS AI Suite III software has remained largely unchanged for a few years now. The last major revision I can recall happened during the Z97 chipset days several years ago. That said, the back end gets revised and support for newer motherboards that have come and gone has always been solid. For those who may not know, AI Suite III is a software suite which provides the user the capability of tuning the system within the Windows operating system environment as well as monitoring the system for critical alerts relating to PC health. Variables such as temperatures or fan speeds can be monitored here. The software does provide more functionality than that, however, for the sake of brevity overclocking and monitoring are what we’ll be talking about primarily. We will also discuss the user experience and explore the pros and cons of each.

The software itself provides a flawed, but ultimately decent user experience. The software is quite capable and is therefore daunting to use at first. The biggest issue with the software is its navigational challenges. The main crux of my issue is that there is no consistency regarding navigation. From the main window you can essentially move forward into any menu or group of settings easily. However, the menus themselves lack a back button and don’t respond to mouse or keyboard inputs that would navigate the interface in other applications. The only thing you get for navigation is a semi-hidden menu bar on the side which can be expanded. However, not even this is very clear as the Dual-Intelligent Processors 5 menu is the menu you start with. They all have entries in the navigation menu, but again, once you are in a menu you have to use the navigation tab to go somewhere else.

Once you get past the navigation, the utility is straight forward and relatively easy to use while maintaining a broad feature set and tuning capabilities in excess anything short of Intel’s XTU or AMD’s Ryzen Master software. Among the best aspects of AI Suite III’s design are its two automatic overclocking technologies. The first is a new AI Overclocking mode which is can discern the quality of your processor and estimate its clocks and the required voltages to achieve them. It can even evaluate your cooling system and factor that into its calculations as well. I’ve found the software to be relatively accurate in its assessment. You can generally go higher than it states with about the same or less voltage, but that’s because the software is somewhat conservative. However, it’s very close to the mark and even if you manually overclock your system, the information displayed by the AI Overclocking feature is a useful starting point to work from.

AI Suite III still has its old Dual-Intelligent Processors 5 or DIP5 menu which still allows for automated overclocking and fan tuning. However, this is a guided approach where the user can set criteria the system should use when evaluating the system and tuning it to its maximum capabilities. This tool doesn’t get as close to the mark as AI Overclocking can, but it isn’t far off either. The biggest problem is that the tool can easily fail based on overly conservative user input, or values that don’t match. You can’t really go for maximum clocks and not giving a crap about the power consumption while limiting the TDP settings to something unrealistically low. This tool’s success rate also varies on some platforms and motherboard models.

The AI Suite III software has unparalleled fan control that’s the gold standard for software bundled with motherboards. Features like automatic tuning, fan smoothing, and even the ability to rename fan headers in the tool are easy to use and work very well. DC and PWM modes are available and the autotuning process can tell you what your fans are all capable of individually. The tool also has excellent health monitoring features which are always present in the interface. Individual monitors can be expanded for more information or to configure alert or warning thresholds. I’ve been using AI Suite III in its various forms for many years now and I’ve found it to be the best tool overall when compared to its rivals. It isn’t perfect, but it’s got a good blend of functionality, usability, reliability and aesthetics. There are some other tools which excel in one or two areas, but not overall.

Aura

ASUS’ Aura software is used to configure the RGB LED lighting on the motherboard’s many mirror-like surfaces. Like competing utilities from other motherboard makers, the Aura software supports a broad color palette and enables the user to configure a variety of lighting effects with options for each one. ASUS uses both a color wheel and a direct numeric entry to make color matching easier, or creation of specific colors easier. While the brightness control isn’t all that unusual, the addition of a saturation control is unique to ASUS. Additionally, it offers an alternate configuration for when the system is powered down. This is especially cool and something I’ve done on my own system and rather enjoy. It’s something I miss when working with offerings from the other vendors.

Lastly, the system offers an interface for tuning addressable RGB and standard RGB headers. There are hue settings to aid in color matching RGB LED lights and strips, or even other hardware to the Aura system. This is one aspect of the lighting system I haven’t ever tested, as I don’t have video cards or other hardware with a bunch of RGB LED lighting on it.