PCB Design and Functionality
Since Asus Maximus V Formula belongs to the “Republic of Gamers” series, it automatically implies that it is targeted for computer enthusiasts. To ensure that it will do great during overclocking, the board comes equipped with a digital voltage regulator – Extreme Engine Digi+ II. It is built with high-quality electronic components and works as 8+4+2, where eight phases power the processor, four phases – the graphics core integrated into the processor and two – the DDR3 memory. By the way, the processor power can be received via two AT12V connectors at the same time: the primary connector with eight pins and the auxiliary power connector with four pins in it.
The mainboard developers and marketing team are particularly proud of the hybrid “Fusion Thermo Solution”, which can become part of the air- or liquid-cooling system. The aluminum heatsink on the components of the processor voltage regulator circuitry that run warm during work has a heatpipe inside that helps distribute the heat over the heatsink body more evenly. There is a copper pipe parallel to it, which can be connected to a liquid-cooling contour through the fittings.
The only strange thing about it is that they claim it is the world’s first system of the sort, while just a few years earlier combination systems like that were pretty popular and we have already seen them multiple times on the mainboards from Foxconn and Gigabyte. Even Asus has already had hybrid cooling systems in their products. Remember the Asus Maximus Extreme mainboard, which had conventional heatsinks with heatpipes and could also accommodate liquid-cooling methods? That particular system even had a similar name – “Fusion Block System”.
I would like to add that all heatsinks on Asus Maximus V Formula, including the one on the chipset, are fastened with secure screws. The backplate on the other side of the PCB provides additional heat dissipating surface for the heating components of the processor voltage regulator circuitry. As for the central heatsink, it is there for purely aesthetical purposes: once the mainboard is powered on, the “ROG” logo and “Republic of Gamers” phrase will start blinking red. However, you may turn this lighting off in the BIOS, if you wish.
There are three PCI Express x16 slots for building AMD CrossFireX or Nvidia SLI multi-card configurations. A single graphics card will work at full speed, and with two graphics cards in the system the 16 lanes will be split equally between the two slots. The third slot will only be operational if you use an Ivy Bridge processor, and in this case the three slots will work as x8/x4/x4. Besides, there are one PCI Express 2.0 x4 slot and three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots for expansion cards. To ensure that all numerous connectors and additional controllers can work simultaneously, the board is also equipped with a PLX PEX 8608 hub adding another eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Intel Z77 Express chipset provides the board with two SATA 6 Gbps ports, and four more powers are implemented via two ASMedia ASM1061 controllers. All six connectors are red. You see only two black SATA 3 Gbps ports out of four provided by the chipset, because the third one is laid out as a mini-SATA and the fourth exists as eSATA on the back panel.
The photo of the mainboard’s back panel also shows the backplate on the other side of the PCB. Overall, there are the following ports and connectors:
- “Clear CMOS” and “USB BIOS Flashback” (“ROG Connect”) buttons;
- Four USB 2.0 ports, another four ports are laid out as two onboard pin-connectors;
- One eSATA 3 Gbps port provided by the Intel Z77 Express chipset;
- Four USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors), two of which are implemented via ASMedia ASM1042 controller. Another two ports and one more internal pin-connector for two additional USB 3.0 ports are provided by Intel Z77 Express chipset;
- HDMI and DisplayPort video outs;
- Two optical S/PDIF (In and Out) and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec;
- A local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Intel WG82579V controller).
The white USB 2.0 port is specifically designed for “USB BIOS Flashback” and “ROG Connect”. The former will let you update the mainboard BIOS even before you complete your system assembly: just connect the power. The latter will allow to connect two PCs with a single cable, so that you could monitor and even adjust the system parameters externally. The left part of the back panel seems empty, but this impression is deceiving, because the special mini-PCIe Combo card included with the mainboard will go into the special slot on that side. It combines mSATA and mPCIe ports.
The peculiarity of the mini-PCIe Combo card is that it has an mSATA connector on one side, and the retention allows using full-size drives. On the other side, there is a mini-PCIe connector, which could take a half-sized card. Moreover, there is an Azure Wave AW-NB111H Wi-FI/Bluetooth card already installed there by default. The module is built around Broadcom chip, supports IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n standards and can work in 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency ranges. It also supports Bluetooth 4.0.
We have briefly mentioned the audio ports on the back panel. however, it is important to point out that the integrated SupremeFX IV card based on the eight-channel Realtek ALC898 HD codec features “SupremeFX Shielding” and uses high-quality capacitors and an integrated Texas Instruments TPA6120A2 amplifier.
Like other Asus mainboards, Asus Maximus V Formula features convenient wide Q-Slot latches on the graphics card slots and single-sided Q-DIMM latches on the DIMM slots. Besides the glowing Power On and Reset buttons in the upper right corner of the PCB, we see a “GO” button, which will allow you to load the system settings from the corresponding BIOS section on the fly. It also functions as “MemOK!”, which lets the board start up successfully even if there are problems with the system memory. The “Q-Led” diodes will quickly indicate where the boot-up failed, and you can always use the POST-code indicator for more detailed diagnostics. “Slow Mode” switch and “LN2 Mode” jumper will help avoid possible problems at sub-0 temperatures when extreme cooling methods are used. A set of control points will help measure the most important voltages manually with a voltmeter. The mainboard has four four-pin connectors for processor fans, three regular connectors for case fans and three special fan connectors featuring special pins for additional temperature sensors (the sensors are not included with the board).
We summed up all the mainboard’s technical specifications in the following table. Note that the engineers had to go beyond the dimensions of the ATX form-factor to fit all the extra functionality onto their board. Therefore, Asus Maximus V Formula remained 305 mm long, but its width increased to 257 mm.