Thinking of building a new super-high-end gaming PC? Asus has a bunch of new hardcore motherboards, made for Intel's new sixth-generation Skylake overclocking-friendly CPUs, to tempt your wallet.
The most expensive, super-premium, top of the line 'board in the lineup is the ROG Maximus VIII Extreme — it's a full-size ATX board, with the same black-on-grey-on-red colour scheme that all sixth-gen ROG boards have. This is the one to get if you are building a ridiculously overpowered machine, since it has four PCI-E 3.0 x16 connectors as well as two PCI-E 3.0 x1, and an onboard M.2 slot for superfast solid-state storage. (Asus is also going to sell a M.2 to U.2 adapter, which will let builders try out the awesome Intel 750 Series SSD.) The Extreme isn't out quite yet, though, but there are other options on the table if you just can't wait.
From the Extreme, you move down to the slightly more attainable Maximus VIII Hero — still ATX — then to the Maximus VIII Gene, a micro-ATX pocket powerhouse that still has 4 DDR4 DIMM slots and the lion's share of the Extreme's overclocking potential, just lopping off a couple of those full-size PCI-E slots. (The Gene line has always been my favourite, and it's looking to be the sweet spot in this generation too.) At the entry level to the still-extremely-high-end ROG family, you have the Maximus VIII Ranger. All three of these boards are out now, and have broadly similar feature-sets.
Asus is touting its ROG boards' ability to handle RAM overclocking of 3400MHz and above, which is crazy when you think that the fastest factory-binned DDR4 chips are currently sitting at 2666MHz. Other manufacturers, Asus says, are having trouble tuning their motherboards to hit over 3000MHz. Similarly, 12-phase VRMs onboard the Extreme, as well as Skylake's move away from Intel's Core chips' integrated FIVR, should make for a massive amount of voltage, and therefore frequency and multiplier, tuning potential.
Probably the most useful part of the new boards, though, is the fact that they now all come with an idiot-proof CPU applicator; basically a solution for the cack-handed amongst us that have put a CPU in the wrong direction and have ended up bending pins. By the way — you want I/O? You got I/O. Because Skylake opens up more PCI-E lanes, a bunch can be allocated to high-speed USB — and that's a mix of USB 3.1, USB 3.0, USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Type-C, depending on which motherboard you choose. Having at least one Type-C and one high-speed USB 3.1 Type A connector is great, because then you'll be future-proofed A redesigned SupremeFX 7.1-channel audio output, too, makes for much improved audio noise floor and total harmonic distortion, as well as output power.
The proof is in the pudding, too — we had a quick demo with Asus that saw a ridiculously fast i7-6700K overclock with a very quick and dirty seven-step process, that pushed a stock chip on a closed-loop water cooler to 4.5GHz and above with zero further BIOS tweaking. Don't want to upgrade to Z170 just yet, but still want fast peripherals support from your PC? Asus also has the world's first certified USB 3.1 Gen 2 Z97 motherboard, as of today — that's 10Gbps throughput — in the TUF Sabertooth Z97. [ASUS]