Hero is an Intel 200-series motherboard and as such carries support for the latest Intel 7th Generation of Core Processors codenamed Kaby Lake. Therefore, our socket is LGA 1151 if you already have a Skylake processor such as the Intel Core i7-6700K, then this will also work perfectly on this motherboard too.
Hero employs a 10-phase power design which arrives with Digi+. Also around the socket, we have long-life black solid CAPs for longevity and stability.
Covering the VRM system we have two independent heatsinks which adopt the gunmetal design which weve already taken note of. Both heatsinks feature a hollowed-out design which weve never seen before and it certainly gives the board a fresh style.
On the top-edge of the board we have an 8-pin CPU power socket and there is a triple fan header arrangement also found on the top-edge which provides support for two CPU fans and pump compatibility.
Viewing the memory region, there are four slots for dual channel DDR4 and there is support for up to 64GB and 4133MHz kits. Few boards manage to stretch beyond 3800MHz so this is an option to look out for if youre intending to use a high frequency kit.
ROG has decided to shy away from any steel reinforcement for the memory slots perhaps this indicates that such a feature found on rival boards is just a gimmick.
Dotted around the memory we have a series of additional features which should serve up some useful functionality. These features are as follows:
RGB header for use with LED strips and Aura software
LED Debug for diagnostics on POST
Diagnostic LEDs quick diagnosis of malfunction of CPU, VRAM, VGA or HDD.
MemOK! ensures enhanced compatibility for troublesome memory
3D Mount one of many to allow 3D object to be fitted
USB 3.1 header USB 3.1 functionality for the front panel of the case
While many vendors and boards are still opting for USB 3.0 headers, Hero jumps into the spotlight with support for USB 3.1 though there may not be many cases supporting this yet, its great to see such a board futureproofing the user.
Where we saw strong emphasis on SATA Express on the ASUS Intel 100-Series, ASUS are now stepping away from this standard as it doesnt appear to have really gained any momentum. Instead, the focus is on SATA and M.2. Hero supplies us with:
6x SATA 3 (6GB/s) ports
2x M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4 with Intel Optane Memory support)
Although we have plenty of SATA support, it surprising to see a high-end ROG motherboard without any U.2 ports. In fact, looking at the flagship models in this range which cost double the price, there are no U.2 ports found on these boards either. So, it seems that SATA-Express isnt the only standard being abandoned by ASUS.
Behind all the storage ports we have a substantial heatsink sitting on top of the Intel Z270 chip. This heatsink has a lovely gunmetal finish, is again, hollowed-out and features the ROG logo which illuminates once the board has power.
Running along the bottom of the board there is another RGB header this again, allows LED strips to be connected to the board for use in your computer chassis. All of the lighting can be controlled using the Aura software.
Moving over the PCI Express department, we have the following available:
3x PCI Express 3.0 X16
3x PCI Express 3.0 X1
The modes for each of the PCI Express X16s are: x16, x8, x4. So, if you are intending to use just one graphics card the top slot is the best one to go with. The two upper-most PCI Express 3.0 X16s have been given what ASUS term Safe Slot. The slots are strengthen with metal plates to provide durability and prevent sustained pressure being applied to the plastic which is a great idea since high-end graphics cards are large and heavy.
At the bottom of Hero running along the bottom-edge we have onboard power (START), reset, safeboot, retry and slow-mode switches.
Safeboot powers the system into safe mode (a handy tool to have if on the test bench) and retry button forces a hard reboot.
ROGs renowned SupremeFX makes a return to the 200-Series with an improved codec by way of the new Realtek ALC 1220 delivering 10 DAC channels and 7.1 playback.
All of the components are isolated and include Nichicon CAPs, switching mosfets, ESS9023P DAC. The finer details of the audio can be modified using Sonic Studio III which allows users to create their own profiles for different applications.
Last of all, we come to the Rear IO section which hosts quite a large selection of ports. Included here we have:
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x LAN (Gigabit LAN via Intel i219 with Languard protection)
1 x USB 3.1 (black)Type-C
1 x USB 3.1 (red)Type-A
4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
4 x USB 2.0 (one port can be switched to USB BIOS Flashback)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
The back panel delivers a bit of disappointment which is two-fold. First of all, the video out ports arent using the latest standard. HDMI 1.4 and Displayport 1.2 are included but there are rival Z270 boards which offer HDMI 2.0 and/or Displayport 1.4. The newer standards support larger frame/refresh rates.
The other matter is the inclusion of so many USB 2.0/3.0 and just two USB 3.1 ports. Comparing this newer Maximus IX Hero to the previous generation Maximus VIII Hero we actually gain no extra USB 3.1 on this back panel we just have additional USB 2.0/3.0. The extra ports will be useful but next-gen is surely the objective with a fresh new chipset.