Asus ROG Maximus Z790 APEX Review – Master Of One
What’s under the hood of Asus’s ROG Maximus Z790 APEX powering multiple overclocking world records? Read on.
Purpose-built VRM for extreme overclocking Excellent VRM thermals DIMM.2 expansion for additional M.2 slots Q-Latch / Q-Release for easy hardware installation
If the sole purpose of your next motherboard purchase is to get into extreme overclocking or trying to break world records, the Asus ROG Maximus Z790 APEX is likely your next weapon of choice.
Frankly speaking, the very nature of motherboard itself (with most specs dictated by the chip manufacturer i.e. Intel or AMD) meant that there’s not a whole lot of design variances available for the motherboard makers to play around with. Most motherboards retain similar layouts, with your RAM sitting on the right, VRM heatsinks on the top and left, and primary SSD sitting below the CPU socket. But what does a motherboard entirely dedicated for extreme overclocking applications looks like? That’s where Asus’s ROG MAXIMUS Z790 APEX comes in.
From the get-go: this is a very different box from the outside. Instead of the standard box with red accents (like you see in pretty much every PC peripheral packaging coming from ROG), the Z790 APEX gets an all-black box that presents itself as the “this thing needs no introduction” motherboard – the backside is nothing but regulatory information labeled below. Granted, this is designed for XOC applications, so whoever doing this kind of stuff will already have its capabilities figured out before buying.
The motherboard itself is visually very different from the Z790 Hero sibling (though mostly similar to Z690 APEX, just in white), with an all-white design and a less mainstream motherboard layout, all optimized for competitive overclocking. That means you only get two DDR5 slots, and onboard SSD slots are limited to PCIe 4.0 x4 (though you can get PCIe 5.0 using a separate add-in card, which we’ll mention below).
Down the box you get two add-in cards, both serving the same purpose: the top is the proprietary DIMM.2 expansion card which enables two additional PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 SSD slots on top of the two PCIe 4.0 SSD slots onboard. The bigger card however is the sole slot providing PCIe 5.0 x4 signaling – in total you get five M.2 slots available, 2 onboard, 3 in expansion cards. There’s also the circular shaped “ROG Overclocking medal” (as they call it) that you can place it somewhere to publicize your overclocking records.
Box contents (from packaging interior – bottom, left side)
In the opposite side of the box packaging you get Wi-Fi 6E antenna, thermal pads, M.2 latches and screws like most Asus motherboards – however the Z790 APEX also includes a small fan and mounting kit dedicated for RAM cooling, for when you need that record memory overclocking attempts.
As mentioned, Asus has given the motherboard all-white treatment this time around, making it a big contrast to the outgoing Z690 APEX’s designs. Most of the visible surfaces are covered in heatsinks – with the VRM heatsink forming a single massive unit with heatpipes crossing through top, left and bottom (with M.2 heatsink sitting on top on the bottom side). On the rear side there’s not much aside from the unique ROG graphics that most come to expect.
The bottom chunk of metal is a two-piece unit comprising of second M.2 heatsink on the left, and chipset heatsink on the right; the M.2 heatsink in particular comes with a see-through ROG insignia as well as a 3D cutout of the “ROG” typeface visible when viewed diagonally. On the right side of two RAM slots comes a single proprietary DIMM.2 slot that provides additional M.2 SSD expansions. Overclocking-focused motherboards like this one usually do away with extra RAM channels to provide maximum stability and overclocking potential to the remaining channel onboard – hence two less slots here.
RGB has been applied a bit more liberally than other ROG models – though unlike the Z790 Hero there’s no Polymo Lighting present here, which we think is simply reducing any unneeded CPU overheads and provide as much heatsink surface as possible. There’s also chipset RGB lighting which shines through the translucent ROG insignia. Still, it doesn’t look half bad either.
Perhaps this is the part where you may begin to understand that this motherboard is designed for a very specific purpose. In the pursuit for maximum overclocking and minimal overhead for overclocking attempts, there’s a few creature comforts removed entirely – including display outputs (the VRM is entirely dedicated for CPU, too – when there’s usually 1 or 2 stages reserved). Another less common sighting is the return of PS/2 ports. These ports are more often used in extreme overclocking scenarios as to avoid stressing the USB bus to provide extra bit of stability to the CPU itself. Thunderbolt 4 is also absent here, you’ll have to use the front panel header for that.
Asus ROG Maximus Z790 APEX
|CPU Support||LGA1700 (Intel Core 13th Gen 12th Gen, Pentium Celeron w/ compatible socket)|
|Form Factor||ATX (12 x 9.6 in / 305 x 244mm)|
|Power VRM||2x EPS 8-pin 24-stage (Vcore only), Renesas RAA22010540 (105A per powerstage) MPS MP86992 (AUX, 70A per powerstage) Renesas RAA229131 PWM controller|
|Memory||2-slot Max. 96GB DDR5-5600 non-ECC unbuffered DDR5-8000 overclocking support|
|PCIe Expansion Slots||2x PCIe 5.0 x16 (CPU) 1x PCIe 4.0 x4 (chipset) 1x PCIe 4.0 x1 (chipset) fallback to x8/x8 mode if both slots are active|
|Storage||6x SATA 6Gb/s 5x M.2 slots: – Onboard M.2_1 (PCIe 4.0 x4 – CPU) – Onboard M.2_2 (PCIe 4.0 x4 – chipset) – DIMM.2 proprietary add-in card (PCIe 4.0 x4, two slots) – PCIe 5.0 SSD add-in card (PCIe 5.0 x4, single slot)|
|Networking||Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (CNVio2) Bluetooth v5.3 Intel 2.5GbE I226-V LAN|
|USB||Rear: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (USB-C) 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Front (headers): 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 header (USB-C, 60W USB-PD/QC4) 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers (splitting to 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1) 2x USB 2.0 header (splitting to 4x USB 2.0)|
|Other I/O||1x Wi-Fi 6E antenna connector module 1x BIOS FlashBack button 1x Clear CMOS button 1x PS/2 keyboard port 1x PS/2 mouse port|
|Audio||ROG SupremeFX Realtek ALC4080 codec Savitech SV3H712 amp 5-channel audio jacks (rear) 1x front panel audio header|
|Peripheral Headers||Fan and Cooling 1 x 4-pin CPU Fan header 1 x 4-pin CPU OPT Fan header 1 x 4-pin AIO Pump header 3 x 4-pin Chassis Fan headers 2 x 4-pin Full Speed Fan headers 1 x W_PUMP header 1 x 2-pin Water In header 1 x 2-pin Water Out header 1 x 3-pin Water Flow header Miscellaneous 1 x 80 Light Bar jumper 3 x Addressable Gen 2 headers 1 x Aura RGB header 2 x BCLK button 1 x BIOS Switch button 1 x FlexKey button 1 x Front Panel Audio header (AAFP) 1 x LN2 Mode jumper 1 x Osc sense header 1 x Pause switch 12 x ProbeIt Measurement Points 1 x ReTry button 2 x RSVD switches 1 x RSVD header 1 x Safe Boot button 1 x Slow Mode switch 1 x Start button 1 x V_Latch switch 1 x 10-1 pin System Panel header 1 x Thunderbolt (USB4) header 1 x Thermal Sensor header|
|Accessories||ROG DIMM.2 with Heatsink 1 x ROG DIMM.2 with heatsink 1 x M.2 pad for ROG DIMM.2 2 x M.2 screw package for ROG DIMM.2 PCIe 5.0 M.2 Card with Heatsink 1 x PCIe 5.0 M.2 Card with heatsink 1 x M.2 screw package for ROG PCIe 5.0 M.2 Card Additional Cooling Kit 1 x Thermal pad for M.2 1 x DDR5 Fan holder 1 x DDR5 Fan 1 x DDR5 Fan screw Miscellaneous 1 x Asus Wi-Fi moving antennas 1 x Q-connector 1 x ROG overclocking medal 1 x ROG thank you card 2 x M.2 Q-Latch packages for M.2 backplate 2 x M.2 backplate Rubber Packages Installation Media 1 x USB drive with utilities and drivers|
|CPU||Intel Core i9-13900K|
|Cooler||Asus ROG Ryujin II 360 AIO Cooler Master MasterGel Maker|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Maximus Z790 APEX (BIOS ver. 0096)|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Founders Edition|
|Memory||Kingston FURY RENEGADE RGB DDR5-6400 CL32 (2x16GB)|
|Storage||Samsung SSD 980 PRO 256GB (Boot) Kingston NV1 1TB|
|Power Supply||Cooler Master MWE Gold 1250 V2 Full Modular 1250W|
|Case||VECTOR Bench Case (Open-air chassis)|
|OS||Windows 11 Pro 22H2|
A Closer Look
The sharp-eyed among you have probably noticed this VRM array looks a bit unusual. You’d be correct: the traditional cylindrical-shaped electrolyte capacitor is not present on this motherboard. Instead, it’s replaced by the SMD (surface-mounted device) capacitors that sit just outside of the MOSFETs, as well as on the inside of chokes.
As mentioned before, this is a motherboard designed solely for overclocking purposes – that means the VRM is entirely dedicated to the CPU itself, with a 240 stage layout leaving nothing for the SoC (onboard graphics), so even if you have an Intel chip that comes with onboard graphics, you simply couldn’t use it here.
Both the PWM controller and MOSFETs are all Renesas chips, specifically, Renesas RAA229131 and Renesas RAA22010540 (which supplies up to 105A per powerstage). While it already comes with a huge heatsink (with the heatpipe attached, something you don’t see all that often), it’s likely that any XOC attempts performed on this motherboard will also take care of heat from VRM and MOSFETs with overclocker’s own cooling methods (such as LN2).
On the subject of audio, this motherboard went with a more conventional setup which is the same as the STRIX B760-A GAMING motherboard: Realtek ALC4080 codec paired with Savitech SV3H712 amp (located at the left of capacitors). For reference – the more “mainstream” Z790 Hero uses Realtek ALC4082 and ESS ES9218 Quad DAC pairing to power the audio.
As for the expansion options, the most obvious characteristics of this motherboard is the lack of PCIe 5.0 SSD slots. Matter of fact – you only have two M.2 slots to work with, as Asus has jettisoned the remaining slots to a separate add-in card (or rather, two) which provides three extra slots: one PCIe 5.0 from the dedicated AIC and two PCIe 4.0 slots using the DIMM.2 card.
Should you need to use the PCIe 5.0 SSD add-in card, this will split the signaling on the pair of PCIe 5.0 slots into x8/x8 mode. That effectively leaves half the bandwidth remaining for the GPU, but this won’t be a problem at this time as GPUs are not close to saturating PCIe 5.0 x8 (or effectively, PCIe 4.0 x16) signaling just yet. The remaining two PCIe 4.0 (x4 and x1 slot) are wired to chipset.
Nothing of surprise here: as an Intel motherboard, connectivity options are the same Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX211 (CNVio2 module) and Intel I-226V 2.5GbE controller seen on pretty much all contemporary generation Intel motherboards at this point.
A 10-minute run of the Cinebench R23 stress test has only managed to heat the VRM up to 62°C, which is excellent given the sheer power draw of Intel’s Core i9 processors. Granted, we performed this run with MCE off so the CPU sticks to 253W MTP in the entirety of the run (short for the first few seconds where it spikes briefly to 300W), but there’s definitely enough headroom for more if you can give the CPU itself more cooling.
If you’re just an average joe – most of these switches are not very relevant for your kind of use case. These are primarily designed for extreme overclockers, with additional fallback switches such as “SLOW_MODE” that forces the CPU to downclock so it can boot under LN2-cooled conditions. Next to the switches and buttons are a column of probe points to provide accurate voltage readings as BIOS may report inaccurate values under extreme overclocking/cooling conditions.
Other switches include SAFE_BOOT switch, as well as BIOS_SWITCH which swaps between two on-chip BIOSes in the event that one has been corrupted should crashes occur. There’s also condensation detection sensors marked as “C_DET_CPU/DRAM/PCIE” to alert overclockers before the short circuit manifests itself.
As for the software, it’s not much different than most ROG motherboards aside from the hardware-level feature differences that may add a few extra options here and there. For example, FlexKey can be mapped with a few presets based on overclocking scenarios and whatever is suitable for the overclocker in question.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. The Asus ROG Maximus Z790 APEX is not for your average everyday user even if you can easily pay for the sticker price it’s asking for (which we’ll get on in a bit). With available RAM slots cut in half and lack of iGPU circuitry, it has already cut creators out of the picture as far as the target audience is concerned. As for gamers, the lack of iGPU can also be a potential issue should their dGPU failed in any way, which can complicate troubleshooting process.
For overclockers though, the Z790 APEX packs among the most powerful hardware available, which is essential if you’re gunning for world records. From various aspects of the motherboard you can see the design philosophy is to minimize as much processing overhead for the CPU as possible to make sure it can stay just long enough at the extreme overclocks to validate a result.
At RM3,599 – it’s only a hair more expensive than Z790 Hero, but for the most part this is simply apples-to-oranges comparison. As far as Malaysian market is concerned, there doesn’t seem to be competition releasing their XOC-focused equivalents to compete with Asus’s entry here. So it’s very simple at this point – if you’re just a regular PC gamer looking for a motherboard to use, avoid this. If you are an overclocker instead, perhaps give this motherboard a shot?
Thanks to Asus Malaysia for sending us the ROG Maximus Z790 APEX for this review.
How to Update Asus Maximus X Hero Drivers | Quick Easy
If you’re seeking compatible drivers for your Asus ROG Maximus X Hero Motherboard, then this post is written for you. No matter what components you have on the motherboard, you’ll be able to find the correct drivers for them with a few simple steps.
How to update your Maximus X Hero drivers
First of all, you should know that there’s no particular driver for a motherboard, but there are drivers for motherboard devices. For more details of what motherboard is and how to update motherboard drivers, you may take a look at this post.
Some of the most common motherboard drivers include chipset drivers, network card drivers, audio drivers, video drivers and so on. When you try to update these drivers manually for your Asus ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard, you should be well clear about their specifications first.
Here we recommend you two ways to update the drivers.
Option 1 – Manually – You’ll need some computer skills and patience to update your driver this way, because you need to find exactly the right driver online, download it and install it step by step.
Option 2 – Automatically (Recommended) – This is the quickest and easiest option. It’s all done with just a couple of mouse clicks – easy even if you’re a computer newbie.
Option 1 – Update the drivers manually
- Go to the download webpage of Asus ROG Maximus X Hero motherboard.
- On the pop-up page, click the down arrow button to the right of Please select OS to expand its drop-down list, as illustrated below. Then select your version of the Windows operating system.
- Then you’ll be presented with a list of drivers available for download. Note that not all of them are drivers; some are just useful pieces of software which you may download as well.
- When you decide to download a certain kind of driver, say the audio driver, simply click the DOWNLOAD button next to it. You can find more versions (if there’s any) of the desired driver by clicking See All Downloads. Then choose one of them to download based on your own situations.
- Once you’ve downloaded the correct driver for your system, double-click on the downloaded file and follow the on-screen instructions to install the driver.
- Reboot your computer for the changes to take effect even if you’re not asked to.
Repeat Step 1 through Step 6 until you finish downloading and installing all the drivers you need. This may seem a bit time-consuming and error-prone, though. If you’re interested in the benefits of updating drivers automatically with a driver updater tool, read on and find out how.
Option 2 – Automatically update the drivers
If you don’t have the time, patience or computer skills to update your Asus Maximus X Hero drivers manually, you can do it automatically with Driver Easy.
Driver Easy will automatically recognize your system and find the correct drivers for it. You don’t need to know exactly what system your computer is running, you don’t need to risk downloading and installing the wrong driver, and you don’t need to worry about making a mistake when installing. Driver Easy takes care of everything.
You can update your drivers automatically with either the FREE or the Pro version of Driver Easy. But with the Pro version it takes just 2 clicks:
- Download and install Driver Easy.
- Run Driver Easy and click the Scan Now button. Driver Easy will then scan your computer and detect any problem drivers.
- Click the Update button next to a flagged driver to automatically download the correct version of that driver, then you can manually install it (you can do this with the FREE version). Or click Update All to automatically download and install the correct version of all the drivers that are missing or out of date on your system. (This requires the Pro version which comes with full support and a 30-day money back guarantee. You’ll be prompted to upgrade when you click Update All.)
If you have any problems when using Driver Easy to update your driver, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always here if we can help.
Hopefully you’ll find this post helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have any further questions or ideas. Thanks for reading!
ROG MAXIMUS X Hero Edition
The first of its kind, the ROG MAXIMUS X Hero edition, has landed. The entry level of the most enthusiastic motherboard line-up Asus has to offer. But do not be fooled! This Hero edition has nothing of an entry level, and was not afraid to challenge its more expensive sisters!
- Review Price: 240.00 USD
- ATX Form Factor
- Intel Z370 chipset
- Intel LGA 1151 socket “v2”
- 4 x 4133MHz DDR4, maximum 64GB
- 3 x PCI-E x16, 3 x PCI-E x1
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x USB 2.0, 4 x USB 3.1 (1st Gen), 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x HDMI (1.4b), 1 x DisplayPort (1.2), 5 x audio, 1 x optical S/PDIF
- 2 x M.2, 6 x SATA 3
- 2x SLI, 2x CrossFire support
Since there is really nothing new between the Z270 and the Z370 based chipset motherboards, and since it is EXACTLY the same components, layout and technology that you will find from a series to another, manufacturers really had nothing much to do but to change some packaging and titles. But some others took the opportunity to FOCUS on the actual design of their motherboards. And that’s precisely what Asus has done with the MAXIMUS X Hero edition.
To be honest, it had been hard for me to raise any form of excitement for this coming series. But hey, I love to be wrong!
Let’s start with the obvious!
- This is an ATX (24.4 cm X 30.5 cm), so chose your case accordingly!
- Equipped with the new Intel Z370 chipset… which is nothing else but a Z270 chipset (more on that later).
- Can ONLY run 8th Gen.Intel processors. The so-called Coffee Lake CPUs.
Even though this is none of the Asus’ fault, I am fuming on the idea that compatible hardware, has been made incompatible for marketing reasons. The 6th and 7th Generation Intel processors (Skylake and Kaby Lake) are fully able to run on Z370 based motherboards… but Intel has deliberately disabled its support to push its latest generation forward. I can go on and on.
Note that the back has no protective plate, so show some care when handling the motherboard.
The CPU socket
This is the very same LGA 1151 socket that you would find on a Z170 or a Z270 series. It is the very same chipset too. Yet you will not be able to use Z170 and Z270 compatible chipsets with Z370 chipsets and their so-called LGA 1151 “v2”.
This makes me mad! So mad! But that’s Intel decision. not Asus’so I’ll move on.
The PCIe slots
We have an impressive 6 individual 3rd Generation PCIe present on this board.
X3 single slot and single speed
X 16 slots with different speeds.
In a single GPU configuration, the first 16 slot PCIe (the closest on to the CPU), can deliver 16 full BUS speed. It is the only one able to do so. Make sure to use it for optimal GPU performances.
In a dual GPU configuration, the two first 16 slot PCIe will share bandwidth and will deliver up to 8 full BUS speed individually.
The last 16 slot PCIe is capped at a nominal 4 BUS speed, no matter the GPU configuration.
ASMR Unboxing. ROG Maximus Z790 Hero Motherboard
Since the first 2 16 slots, PCIes are the one most likely to receive GPUs, they have been metallically re-enforced for a better support.
Nothing groundbreaking here, as usual, we have our 6 3.0 SATA plugs. They deliver up to 6 Gb/s of data swap. Perfect for your SSDs.
The IO Back-plate
Finally, an integrated I/O shield on an entry level! I have been complaining about this, over and over again. But finally, it is here :).
It might not sound like a big deal for many, but for a guy who grew up on 386 builds, and had many of its fingers scarred by generations of these animals, it is HUGE!
Starting from the left we have :
- Clear CMOS and BIOS button
- 1.4b HDMI and a 1.2 DisplayPort output for our CPU integrated GPU
- x2 2.0 USBs, with transfer rate up to 480 Mb/s
- x4 3.1 (1st Gen.) USBs, with transfer rate up to 5 Gb/s
- x2 3.1 (2nd Gen.) type A and Type C USBs, with transfer rate up to 10 Gb/s
- a surged protected Gigabit Ethernet plug
- 5 Supreme FX audio out 1 optical SPDIF outlet.
As usually found on Asus boards, you can expect a higher sound rendition with the Supreme FX sound audio chipset. Worth noting, Asus has added the third generation of its already widely use Sonic Radar III and Sonic Studio III, which aims to please audio producing users more than gamers really!
Two Optane ready M.2 SSD connectors:
- up to 80 mm (closest to the CPU, hidden under a sandblasted aluminum heat-shield)
- up to 80 mm (under the Z370 heat shield)
And they individually can (supposedly) transfer data up to 32 Gb/s. But of course, this will be limited by the heat the sticks will produce doing so. Keep in mind that they WILL thermo-throttle. But Asus tried to limit this by adding an optional fan of the first M.2 SSD connector (will require a 3D mount) and a thermo-pad on the back of the central heat shield. Both M.2 SSDs have now different heat dissipation options. Coudos to Asus for that!
So yes! M.2 SSDs can be the main source of storage on this board!
64 GB DDR4 Ram, overclock-able up to an impressive 4,133 MgHz! (XMP must be enabled). Obviously, that’s 32 GB per channel, and 16 GB per memory slot.
Q-LED and Soldered Buttons and other stuff.
Now, entry levels who show up with no less than 5 individual PWM fan connectors impose respect! But it also has a fan extension connector, just in the case, you know… you’d want to add 8 more of them!
And yes, we do have a Q-LED screen. And any enthusiast knows this option is not an option! Going through complex builds means that you will more than likely meat a failure of some sort on your first boot. And this little screen will save you both time and sanity when troubleshooting it. A MUST!
I also love the fact that we have not less than 5 soldered buttons on the board. Again, easy to start up your board for test runs without the need of front panel buttons. Let’s note that we do have a Retry and Safe reset button, first time I see this on an entry level board. Well done Asus… Well done indeed.
And of course the looks. This board comes with no less than 3 integrated RGB strips hidden under :
- The IO roof
- The M.2 SSD heat shield (brilliant)
- The Z370 chipset heat-shield.
Of course, they are all AURA compliant. Meaning that we will be able to sync there different lighting effect through Asus proprietary sync software (which you’ve guessed it, is called AURA).
You can also add LED strips exports on your board. We have no less than 3 of them available to us. Again, one more than usually available on previous Hero editions! And let us note that, also for the first time, amongst them 3 connectors, we have an RGB addressable connector.
For the ones who might not know it, and addressable LED strip will allow you to control the light intensity and color of every individual LED on that strip! Fancy!
I will go quick. Asus did achieve a lot with the ROG MAXIMUS X Hero edition. It managed to narrow the gap between the Hero and its next upgrade, the MAXIMUS X Code.
And surprisingly, even though there were no real technological advancements between the Z270 and the Z370 chipset motherboards (don’t get me started), Asus managed to deliver some real advancements and exciting features not present on its previous Hero iterations:
Геймерская мощь \ Распаковка ROG Maximus Z690 Hero
- Integrated I/O shield
- Addressable RGB connector
- more soldered buttons (Safe Reset and Retry)
- better integrated RGB strips (more LEDs per strips)
We also have a real custom water-cooling motherboard. We have flow in and flow out sensors, AIO pump connectors, flow meter connector, etc. etc.
This board got everything you’ll need to OC the heck out of your expensive K-type CPU, and won’t cost you an eye and an arm. Actually, it’ll keep you at a cool 240 USD at review time!