We caught a glimpse of it very briefly in our motherboard overview at the time that Intel launched its 6-th Generation Skylake processors, but at the end of last week ASUS formalized its announcement around their flagship motherboard for this generation, the Maximus VIII Extreme. The Extreme, despite being part of the ‘Republic of Gamers’ brand, is designed by ASUS’ in house overclocking team and the goal is often to provide a rounded product that can do day-to-day as well as break records. We’ve reviewed other Extremes in the past, such as the Rampage IV Extreme, the Rampage IV Black Edition, and the Rampage V Extreme, and the product line aims to continue the mantra with this latest model.

As with most elements of technology, a product can be engineered beyond specification, almost to the point of being a little crazy. High end halo motherboards tend to do this not only to satiate the users who will spend $5000 and up on an extreme system, but to also showcase their engineering talent in a mass market (no one-off chrome Aventadors here). For overclocking this means for the M8E (Maximus VIII Extreme) power delivery that is both quick to react and capable of holding overclocks way beyond normal specifications, DRAM arrangements rated up to DDR4-3866 when all memory slots are populated, enhanced base-clock control to north of 400 MHz, a bundled OC panel with updates for Skylake and extra onboard buttons and switches to help with BIOS selection, updates and memory recovery.

For gamers, the M8E will house ASUS’ latest evolution of their ALC1150 audio solution dubbed SupremeFX 2015. This includes an enhanced DAC, ultra-low-jitter, high-end capacitors and filters, headset impedance detection up to 600 ohms, as well as software features to enhance aspects of gameplay (noise reduction, footsteps, on-screen audio directional locator). The M8E will support ‘quad-SLI’ and ‘quad-CFX’, but only in certain situations – despite looking the part, it is not equipped with a PLX 8747 PCIe switch (that would normally enable the PCIe graphics lanes to be split for up-to x8/x8/x8/x8 operation, which is slowly becoming rarer on mainstream motherboards as the price of this switch has significantly increased over the last two years). Instead ASUS is using an x8/x4/x4 arrangement with another PCIe 3.0 x4 from the chipset, allowing for quad-CFX in x8/x4/x4/x4 mode or quad-SLI when dual-GPU cards are used in the x8/x8 slots. ASUS also equips the M8E with an Intel I219-V network controller with electrostatic protection and software optimization for network traffic prioritization, as well as a tri-stream 3T3R 802.11ac wireless solution.

For software, ASUS is bundling the M8E with updated iterations of RAMCache, KeyBot II and AI Suite, but also new in the bag is Overwolf, a display sub-system that allows for browsing, email, messaging or streaming while in-game.

Storage is a big part of the M8E, with U.2 support directly next to the SATA ports for SSD 750 users, SATA Express, M.2 running at PCIe 3.0 x4, and then we also have Thunderbolt 3 alongside USB 3.1 at 10 Gbps both in Type-A and Type-C.

The Thunderbolt 3 support is provided by Intel’s Alpine Ridge controller in a Type-C connector format. This port can also run in USB 3.1 mode, with the AR controller giving two of the USB 3.1 ports (one Type-C and one Type-A). The other two Type-A USB 3.1 ports at 10 Gbps are given by ASMedia’s ASM1142 controller, which we’ve seen on a number of motherboards already.

Perhaps to be expected, the M8E will not be the cheapest board in the market. At $500, and it should be available from today in NA, the Extreme line remains the realm of users with a spare bit of green and the need for a high-end system. It would be interesting to see this paired up against the other $500 motherboard on the market, the GIGABYTE Z170X-Gaming G1, as we already have it in for review.

Source: ASUS

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  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    As long as Intel offers IO ports that can be configured to do any of several things, we'll have many boards sold to the enthusiast market adding connectors for both options rather than make multiple boards with different selections of options hardwired in. Since all the major high speed interfaces off the southbridge are serial, I don't expect to see Intel change how they're doing it, except that the number/flexibility will probably go up with time. The size of the chip is limited by the number of IO pins on it; putting extra controllers on and multiplexing them is a way to fill up the extra 'free' silicon needed to make the chip big enough for all the IO it needs.

    The next major chipset generation (likely for whatever comes after Cannonlake) will probably add more IO lanes; but at best I'd expect to see the number of device connections maintaining parity with the current generation as 4lane m.2/u.2 ends up largely displacing 1 lane sata ports. In the interim, that growth in demand will probably make the 3rd party hub/port multiplexing issue more severe on Kabbylake and Cannonlake boards. Full ATX will continue to suffer the worst because mATX/mITX doesn't give as much room for jamming as many connectors onto a single board, and since full ATX remains a very small share of the overall desktop market segment, Intel will continue to tune the controller size for smaller boards with a smaller peak number of connections.
  • madwolfa - Monday, October 19, 2015 - link

    "network controller with electrostatic support"
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    Probably just a resettable breaker (fuse) incase of a surge. This is pretty common on USB ports, but somewhat rare on RJ45 connections...which is strange because I've seen a number of NIC's get blown out over the years from cable modem/router surges that come in via coax.
  • Ian Cutress - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    Sorry yes, I meant electrostatic protection. Apparently lightning strikes affecting networking and killing other components is a big enough thing in which extra protection might be needed.
  • mapesdhs - Monday, October 19, 2015 - link

    Been discussing this board vs. X99 options elsewhere. A top-end ASUS X99 (R5E) with a 5820K costs the same but has way better PCIe provision. Or a good midrange ASUS/Asrock X99 with a 5820K saves enough to include a 500GB 850 EVO for the same total, or almost all the way to a 5930K.

    Not keen on where this Maximus line is going. In the old days, it was premium stuff, the M4E being particularly awesome. NF200 or PLX switches, excellent oc'ing, worth the price. But SkyLake is so expensive, I don't see the point.

    Also don't like the colour styling, it needs to be much more in the traditional Maximus black/red, rather than this black/grey with red tints which is more what I'd expect for their workstation series.

    iamkyle is right, X99 makes more sense atm. Either that or weight for the M8 Formula.
  • mapesdhs - Monday, October 19, 2015 - link

    0237hrs and my brain isn't working. Can't believe I typed 'weight' instead of 'wait' (humble apologies to all who wince at the sight). And now I can't edit it! Argh! Dear AT, when oh when will we be able to edit our comments? S'like living in the 90s atm...
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 20, 2015 - link

    I spent $300 on my Asus P6T in 2008, probably the best motherboard I've ever had. I sold it in 2014 (6 years later...) for $150. It held so much value because cheap Socket 1366 Xeon's started flooding the market (like <$50 for a 6-core, 12MB cache monster)

    This probably won't happen with Socket 1155/1150 because it has become so mainstream, unlike Socket 1366, which was always considered high-end much like Socket 2011. But it's still an important example of how these boards will be worth more than a typical Z-series board way down the road. And you will ultimately enjoy the hell out of it while you own it, having a hard time even giving it up.
  • dzur13 - Wednesday, October 28, 2015 - link

    Nice, I still have my Asus P6T and able to play any game out there. Will probably upgrade next year.

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