ASUS Maximus Z690 Hero Motherboard

Since about 2017, and we would say even longer than that, Intel has been accustomed to its own routine with new generations of CPUs and new chips. Because of its almost absolute dominance of the computer market at that time, Intel was dealing with users on the principle of “pointing”, and you may be surprised a little by this term that it used, but it is actually quite accurate. The company was already using a development system it called itself Tik-tok. With 2017 coming and the revolutionary Ryzen processors finally coming to light, it was a slap in the face for Intel that has reeling from that time until the last generation.

And in order not to confuse you, dear reader, we do not mean here that it was regressive, for example, in terms of competition for the best performance or in terms of sales and market share. But the truth is that Intel has been falling a lot, both in terms of market share and sales that are starting to dwindle, or more importantly for many, innovation versus what AMD is doing. But it seems that this will finally change with the new generation that we have now.

The reason for this is that the ancient tech giant Intel has finally broken its own routine, which the company has been accustomed to for a little over a decade ago. Yesterday, the company finally announced the 12th generation of Core I processors for consumers. In fact, the difference this time is not only the company’s launch of a new generation of processors, this happens almost every year, but what is distinctive this time is the number of changes that accompanied this new architecture. This time, the new changes finally made us feel for the first time that Intel is really introducing something new with the new generation, instead of just increasing the frequencies or the number of cores.

Introduction and summary of updates

With this new generation, Intel has made many changes, whether in terms of new manufacturing accuracy (finally) or the principle of hybrid processors, support for a new generation of memory and PCIe ports, or even by launching the third generation of random memory overclocking profile, which is known as XMP technology 3.0. Before we rush out about new motherboards or the features of the latest chipsets from Intel, let’s talk a little bit about the motherboard we have today.

There is no doubt that ASUS is one of the names that come to many people’s minds when talking about motherboards or dedicated graphics cards. The reason for this is certainly not due to chance, for example, as Asus is one of the largest and already oldest companies that has been and still offers a lot to the personal computer market. As usual with every new generation of chipsets or central processors, the company comes out with new motherboards to offer the latest technologies, features and unique designs.

One of the most important changes that the new board has taken into account is centered around the exciting discoveries the company has made with DDR5 memory, as it seems that many of the first DIMMs on the market will suffer from some kind of voltage throttling due to the new PMIC architecture. Which made Asus implement a workaround, which will be discussed in some detail in the section on motherboard features. The new motherboard has also been highly tuned to accommodate the changes that Intel has introduced with its new chip.

As the power requirements of the new chips increased, the company also enhanced its VRMs and thermal (cooling) solutions to make systems that were both powerful and quiet. Some new changes – as with Asus’ recent trend – focus on providing ease of use for the motherboard and its features. You may have noticed this in recent generations, as the company has tried more to provide automatic (automatic) system tuning solutions such as Ai Overclocking and Ai Cooling technologies, for example. In this generation, the company offers well-tuned memory profiles to users through AEMP technology. Just as the company has added the Q-Latch system for easy installation of M.2 modules before, the company has added the unique Q-Release button, which makes it easier to disassemble and replace PCIe expansion cards.

But before we get into the details, let’s make it clear to you that this review will be a bit long, because it contains a lot of explanations for the motherboard itself as well as the new Intel chip. So if you want to make more time for yourself, you can jump between the pages as you like, and we tried to cover the important points in this introduction for those who want to “recap”. Now let’s dive more into the technical details of the new generation in general, and then the motherboard itself, passing through the performance page that everyone loves, and then give our final assessment of the motherboard. So, dear reader, we advise you to prepare your own cup of coffee because you have a long way to go!

What’s new in the Z690 chip?

In conjunction with the announcement of Intel’s new Alder Lake series CPUs, motherboard manufacturers have unveiled dozens of new Z690-based motherboards to line up with the new 12th generation processors. As usual (mostly) these new motherboards offer the latest and greatest technology supported by the new processors, including support for DDR5 memory, while some motherboards support DDR4 memory. This is of course in addition to support for the new PCIe 5.0 standard, and an upgrade for power connections.

Perhaps one of the most important features of the new processors from Intel this time is the focus on the power design of the processors, which is clearly demonstrated by the architecture itself. As this time Intel has moved towards a design different from what it was in the past in terms of kernel distribution, the new big little architecture that the company is adopting is working to provide this point well. The largest cores or performance cores, which are referred to by the symbol P or Performance, are the most powerful and draw power cores, and their function is certainly to work in case the system needs high computational power, while the E or Efficiency power cores provide a quiet working atmosphere by saving energy and work Quietly.

New socket, assorted chips

One of the main things that distinguishes the new Z690-generation chipset from the previous generation is the new LGA1700 socket. As with any new generation, this one comes with additional lower-end chipsets such as the H670, B660 and H610. As for those waiting for the HEDT update, they won’t be forgotten, as the X699 chipset seems to be on the horizon. While workstation users will get the W680 and W685 chipset for Xeon processors.

Support for the latest PCIe 5.0 standard

One of the main differences in the new Z690 chipset is PCIe 5.0 support as standard, which doubles the available bandwidth to 64 Gbps. This higher bandwidth will enable you to run more devices (M.2 slots, for example) that use PCIe lanes connected to the CPU and not lose the performance of your graphics card.

Alder Lake processors will support a total of 20 CPU lanes coming from the same processor, for a total of 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes and four additional PCIe 4.0 lanes. The platform divides the lanes of 5G 5.0 such as x16 or x8 for graphics and x4/x4 for storage, allowing a full 64Gbps bandwidth for these segments. The four PCIe 4.0 lanes provide additional connectivity for redundant storage should you need to install any of them.

DMI link optimization

Another new feature is the increased speed of the DMI link between the chipset and the CPU. With the last generation, the Z590 chip doubled the link speed, going from PCIe 3.0 x4 to PCIe 3.0 x8. And now with the Z690, Intel has doubled that again, this time jumping DMI link speed to PCIe 4.0 x8.

Support for the latest DDR5 memory standard

This time around, too, Intel takes precedence over DDR5 support for consumer desktop platforms, providing users with more bandwidth and power while consuming less power. Convenient this time around for those who don’t want to migrate to DDR5 yet, they can buy Z690 motherboards that support older DDR4 memory. And since rumors suggest that currently the performance differences between DDR4 and DDR5 are not significant in many use cases, staying with the older memory is still a good option for many. However, we don’t expect a huge difference until DDR5 memory matures (ie faster speeds and lower response times).

XMP 3.0 profiles, Dynamic Memory Boost technology

In a separate article a few days ago we had talked about updating Intel’s XMP profiles, and the new generation is simply an upgraded version of XMP files but for the new DDR5 memory standard that was introduced with Alder Lake processors. With the new version comes a plethora of improvements, including more profiles, the ability to name profiles that you can customize yourself, and more standard voltage control with integrated DDR5 voltage control. As for DMB, it is a technology that allows the CPU’s built-in memory controller to convert from standard JEDEC file speeds to existing XMP frequencies depending on the task the memory is dealing with (it works in a similar sense to processors’ boost frequencies).

A look at the ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO motherboard

One of the great things about the ROG Hero series of motherboards from Asus is that they take all the factors specific to ASUS to balance premium looks and durability while bringing the latest technology and ease of work to the next level. This is something that the company has succeeded in for several generations with many motherboards that have always been distinguished by their distinctive shape, cooling and better power supply, without compromising aesthetics, ease of operation and more innovative connectivity solutions.

Design and Aesthetics

In terms of design and aesthetics, the ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO motherboard has received a design that supports the new Polymo dot lighting. And that is by stacking multiple layers of the art to provide internal reflection, to give the overall shape of the painting a sense of depth. And this effect is further enhanced by a wide palette of colors that brings additional richness and a smooth transition to vivid animation. The material design of the lights complements the texture of the grid-like center panel. The fan headers have also been regrouped into two distinct areas on the board, to provide cleaner cable management.

Maximus Z690 Hero also features a special AURA header and three addressable RGB headers, strategically placed along the perimeter of the board. And to give users more options for customizing colors, the integrated Aura system continues to evolve, to include multiple product categories and more third-party equipment. And because the number of devices supporting the system is constantly growing, the need for finer layers of software control becomes greater, so the latest Aura software update supports direct input of RGB codes, allowing you to generate and control colors more precisely.

Voltage regulating units and their cooling

At first, the Maximus Z690 Hero motherboard offers the ability to handle the most powerful CPUs Intel has to offer this generation. Design-wise, the new hybrid p- and e-core architecture puts more stress on the operating system to dynamically delegate tasks, which in turn requires motherboard power delivery circuits that can respond quickly to these load changes. To meet this need, the motherboard comes with an arsenal of twenty 90-amp power phases grouped into ten combined phases, ensuring that transitions between efficiency cores and performance cores are handled as smoothly as possible.

With multiple power stages, VRMs are able to distribute the power requirements in order to give each stage more time to dissipate heat in the aluminum pans on top. Which in turn has a large surface area for heat distribution. Reinforced with quad fins with slits for ventilation, they connect in a single block that extends all the way to the I/O rear panel. Power stages placed on the north side of the socket are also connected to the main unit through an L-shaped heat pipe, which is reinforced with a three-fin extension next to the CPU power socket.

Expansion slots and Q-Latch and Q-Release switches

In contrast to the unified cooling chassis on the power solution, NVMe volumes get a more detailed cooling solution. For ease of installation, the three integrated PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots are covered with two thick, easily removable panels. Below them is a set of individual heatsinks for each SSD, plus the ability to hold each M.2 storage unit optimally in place with a Q-Latch instead of traditional screws. For users looking to take advantage of the capabilities of PCIe 5.0, two x16 expansion slots support the new standard, and the motherboard is bundled with an additional Hyper M.2 expansion card to exploit upcoming Gen 5 SSDs.

Also, to make switching and upgrading easier, the slot closest to the CPU is connected to a new Q-Release button that mechanically pops the PCIe card. This is especially useful because the motherboard is riddled with cooling shields and protections that make it difficult to access the virtual PCIe jack with bulky graphics cards.

DDR5 and PMICs

While PCIe 5.0 adoption may take some time, DDR5 memory is already there, and for most users it could have a bigger impact on their daily performance, if only sooner. However, the change in memory architecture brought challenges, as one of the most important changes from DDR4 to DDR5 was the addition of a voltage regulator on the memory module called PMIC so as to provide an integrated power management regulation. In terms of the required effort, companies have manufactured a number of different PMICs in relation to the category to which the memory is directed (Samsung, for example, has 3 PMICs, two of which are for server memories and one for desktop computers).

There is also a division among the PMICs for desktop computers, some of which have the ability to overclock “through High Voltage Mode” and others not to “Secure Mode”. So, for some of the lower-tier memory modules introduced in this generation (those with Secure Mode enabled), PMICs offer a voltage lockout of 1.1v, limiting the potential performance that can be extracted from these cheaper memories.

So, ROG engineers have found a way to unlock the voltage of the PMICs to allow additional voltages to be provided with the locked DIMMs in order to boost the frequency and narrow the timing range. So, enthusiasts can find the settings for that in UEFI to manually adjust the PMIC voltage and do some overclocking for their memory, even with combinations that aren’t designed for overclocking.

Also, to give users more performance than their base memory capacity, ROG Z690 motherboards come preloaded with optimized settings for Micron, Samsung or SK Hynix DDR5 memory clusters. During boot up, the board detects the memory IC, and in UEFI there is a new option called: AEMP or ASUS Enhanced Memory Profiles (which are simply custom XMP files). And based on the detected IC, two settings are automatically configured for users to choose: one focusing on overclocking frequency, the other with tighter timings.

Additional Connections

Undoubtedly, the main features of the new generation are concentrated with the bandwidth gains from memory and newer expansion slots, and as noted, there have been similar improvements in USB connections. As the USB Type-C standard is becoming increasingly popular, and as the industry increasingly adopts the Type-C interface, Hero boards have moved in that direction as well. The board comes with three USB-C connectors on the rear I/O panel: two of them come With Thunderbolt 4 at speeds of up to 40 GB/s, the latter is compatible with ultra-fast 20 GB/s.

There are still eight USB Type-A ports as well, six of which support the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 standard. One of the onboard USB connectors is physically powered with Quick Charge 4+ to provide a charging capacity of up to 60W. It is designed to work with computer cases that support at least 3A power delivery, including the updated Corsair, Lian Li, and In Win models. This header is also positioned on the right side of the board for easy connection, typically placing it near the I/O ports of the case itself.

Software support and audio performance

The comprehensive driving application Armory Crate

Armory Crate is the all-in-one app for connecting, configuring, and controlling a large number of ROG gaming products. Through one easy-to-use one, Armory Crate allows users to make adjustments specific to their ROG motherboard, including adjusting CPU settings, fans, and lighting adjustments. The Maximus Z690 Hero’s Polymo lighting will be automatically detected and can be processed and communicated using the Aura Sync system.

Fan Control System and Fan Xpert

With no less than eight PWM / DC headers featuring a detection circuit that automatically determines its correct voltage regulation mode, Maximus Z690 Hero provides complete control over your cooling system via Fan Xpert software or the UEFI BIOS. Three of the case’s fan headers include additional circuits that allow them to independently control up to three fans connected in a Daisy chain, in a solution called the ASUS Hydranode.

Fan Xpert

Fan Xpert also allows, as usual, the ability to automatically adjust and calibrate the fans, through several modes that are either in line with user preference or presets that harmonize with the temperatures of components such as the graphics card or processor, or even ultra-quiet mode or other standard modes. It is also compatible with liquid coolant units, and determines the speed of its fans based on their workloads. And AI Fan mode saves users who prefer the device to do it all a lot of time and effort with light and medium workloads.

For water-cooling enthusiasts, ROG Maximus series motherboards are loaded with inlet and outlet water temperature connectors for thermal probes, as well as a flow-rate connector compatible with the latest Bitspower gauges. Data from both can be fed directly to the Armory Crate controller, which in turn provides the ability to control or display system fans to check the performance of a special cooling loop, to provide more accurate monitoring of the cooling process.

Connecting to the outside world

And so you’re not cut off from the outside world, the Maximus Z690 Hero is armed with Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210 network controllers that provide wireless connectivity up to 2.4Gbps, and access the 6GHz Intel I225-V Ethernet 2.5 band. Gigabits per second to boost bandwidth, both of which can be controlled through the GameFirst VI app.

GameFirst VI. App

And mentioning GameFirst VI, an app from Asus that improves AI recognition and prioritization to ensure faster and smarter network optimization. The app tracks user patterns, intelligently prioritizes bandwidth and adjusts to the situation, so that it provides more bandwidth for games when you open them, for example. In addition to using adaptive virtual intelligence, users can also manually prioritize games, live broadcasts or multimedia to ensure a smooth experience, even when using other bandwidth on the system or network.

WiFi Quick Assist analyzes network and bandwidth information in real time to create a graph showing the current network status. So when paired with an ROG series router, users will be able to scan Wi-Fi to find the best channel, and then use Game Boost to prioritize gaming hardware and packets on the network.

ASUS MAXIMUS Z690 HERO motherboard performance

We’re in front of a new generation of processors, so we’ll be testing the motherboard’s performance with the Intel Core I9 12900K processor paired with the RTX 2080 Ti when we do our tests. Running games and heavy programs was not a frightening thing for this panel, as it is concerned with build quality and temperatures, as well as with aesthetics and features. This time though, we won’t go into the performance aspect of apps and software because there’s nothing new in this regard. But we will talk about the temperatures, the performance of the storage units, and other features that the company provides as a kind of update.

Of course, the panels don’t change anything in your gaming experience. Games work as they should work on the processor and card without paying attention to the specifications of the motherboard itself. What we are interested in in choosing is the features this board offers and its ability to overclock the processor to reach good numbers that can extract the power of the current graphics cards. Since we’re with the new Z690 chip, let’s see what we can get with the PCIe 4.0 modules here (as of course we don’t currently have any PCIe 5.0 modules)!

PCIe interface performance and motherboard and chipset temperatures

With PCIe 5.0 storage ports through the expansion card that came with the motherboard, and no modules supporting this standard, we tested with our PCIe 4.0 modules, specifically the XPG Gammix S50. This is in order to see what temperatures the unit can reach, as the speeds of the same storage units are the same as those provided by the rest of the boards supporting the same standard and there is no difference here in speed, as the unit achieved speeds of 5010 for reading and 4289 for writing.

When we installed this unit without the heat sink that came with the board, we found that it averaged 46 degrees Celsius and reached 54 degrees when pushed hard. The temperatures are a little high, but it’s okay. As for the thermal performance of the motherboard, the board achieved good results, and perhaps the main reason is the large heat sinks found almost everywhere.

Under pressure, the board achieved a temperature of 36 degrees Celsius and the temperature of the chip itself reached about 77 degrees (which is an odd result), the voltage regulators stabilized at 44, while the processor was stuck at 58 degrees. They are very good degrees with this kind of frequencies and number of cores.

As for the frequencies reached by the processor, it was able to reach a frequency of 5.2GHz for the performance cores, while the efficiency cores reached frequencies of 3.9GHz. In contrast, RAM frequencies reached 5200Mhz in XMP mode.

As for the performance results for the DDR5 memory that we tested with the board, a Corsair Dominator Platinum 32GB 2x16GB 5200MHz memory, we got the following results from it at its advertised frequencies, which we could easily access through the XMP files included with the board.

Evaluation and final review

Well, we do not deny you, dear reader, that the process of evaluating motherboards for us is very relative, especially when it comes to a new generation motherboard. Here we find ourself very limited in terms of evaluation, and the reason is that we cannot compare the results of this motherboard with other motherboards of the same generation. This is certainly the essence of the evaluation in the foundation.

If you want to talk about this motherboard compared to previous generations, it will undoubtedly be preferred because of its support for the new generations of the PCIe 5.0 standard and DDR5 memory as well. It also supports a newer generation of processors with a hybrid design as well. Which, by the way, is another thing that makes the evaluation process restricted in terms of frequencies and cooling for this processor and chip. So, we’re going to rate this board in terms of overall value and support, without putting too much weight on the performance side (until there are plenty of reviews to base it on).

In any case, and as we always say, motherboards, although they are considered the main factor in everything you see in front of you in your computer in terms of performance or modern technologies, they are sometimes overestimated. And here we are by no means referring to users, but to the manufacturers themselves. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are useless features, especially since we are talking about a high-end motherboard here.

In terms of the features of the ASUS ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO motherboard, there is nothing wrong with it. The panel offered a lot in terms of the features it provides and in terms of design as well. In terms of design, the board has already provided a majestic design with all these shields scattered everywhere, which give a very strong aesthetic touch with RGB lighting and its dark colors. The motherboard has also maintained the ability to overclock it with 20 power stages, and a very intense cooling system for these stages, and for the motherboard in general.

In terms of support, there is nothing wrong with it, with three PCIe 4.0 M.2 ports and a new-generation Hyper M.2 expansion card, eight SATA ports, in addition to many expansion ports and USB ports of various types, and many innovative and simple solutions such as Q -Latch and Q-Release, and other features we talked about, we are already in front of a monster that provides you with everything you need in any motherboard at all.

ASUS Maximus Z690 Hero Motherboard rating

  • Performance: 9
  • Design: 9.5
  • Cooling: 8.5
  • Price: 8
  • Accessories: 9

Positives

  • Sturdy design and distinctive aesthetics
  • Great ease of use and abundant solutions for installing PCIe and SSD units
  • Very good and stable performance.
  • Several innovative and simple solutions, such as Q-Latch and Q-Release, make the installation process much easier.
  • High overclocking capacity and DDR5 memory thanks to multiple power phases and AEMP mode
  • Extensive software support.
  • Good temperatures.
  • Multiple expansion ports and various USB support.

Negatives

  • Chip temperatures are high for a motherboard this bright.
  • Where the error board is located in the far upper right corner of the board is not optimal with some large cooling solutions on top.
  • The price is a little high.

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