In the PC hardware enthusiast community, there are few names as well known, or respected as ASUS and The Republic of Gamers. From casual gamers to professional overclockers, the ROG brand is trusted by gamers and enthusiasts worldwide. When you buy a product with the ROG seal of approval, there is a certain level of performance and quality you expect from that product. That seal guarantees that product, be it motherboard, graphics card or sound card, will live up to the high expectations the community equates with the ROG name. The ASUS Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex is one of the many products that sports that ROG seal of approval, and it is the focus of this review.
The Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex is designed with high performance and overclocking in mind. With Enhanced Extreme Engine Digi+, dual ProCool 8-pin power connectors and optimized 2-DIMM memory-trace layout for DDR4 4800MHz+ overclocking support, the ROG Maximus XI Apex is truly an overclockers dream. However, in an age where you can get excellent performance and overclocking out of more budget-oriented boards, is something along the Apex worth getting for the average enthusiast. Or is it a case where you end up paying for features you may never use? We put the ROG Maximus Apex through our suite of benchmarks to try and answer that very question.
Review Sample Provided By: ASUS
Product Name and Website: Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex
The front of the box for the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Apex has the Republic of Gamers eye logo on the top right-hand corner followed by several badges representing features of the motherboard. These badges include AURA Sync compatibility, AMD Crossfire technology, Nvidia SLI, Intel Optane support, Intel’s Z390 Chipset, Intel Core Processors and double capacity DIMMs.
The back of the box has ample amounts of information about the Maximus XI Apex. In the center, there is an image of the actual motherboard and an angled side image of the I/O. On either side of the depictions, you’ll find the full specifications of the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. Across the top, there are images of a few of the main features of the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. These included the DIMM.2 card with heat sinks, WiFi, an integrated I/O shield and the Extreme Engine DIGI+.
ASUS ROG motherboards have some of the best packagings of any other brand. The board itself comes packed in a cardboard tray with a plastic cover. Underneath the tray is where you’ll find the accessories for the board. Under the motherboard, you will find the user manual, driver disk, a coaster and a sheet of stickers. I’ve always been a fan of the stickers ASUS packs in place of a single case badge. the accessories go even further down. There are two compartments on either side of where the user manual is packed. Here you’ll find the DIMM.2 card, WiFi antenna, temp sensors, and M.2 mounting screws.
A Closer Look at the Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex
Across the top of the Z390 Maximus XI Apex are the dual ProCool 8-pin power connectors. In total, there are five 4-pin fan headers across the top of the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. From left to right, you’ll find FS_Fan 1 then the dual 8-pin power connectors. Next, we find the CPU_Fan and CPU_Opt headers followed by a 4-pin RGB header, AIO_Pump header and FS_Fan 2. Last, the postcode display is on the top right-hand corner of the board.
Going down the right, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex has a feature that I look for in a motherboard. That feature is a power button, or in this case a start button, as well as a reset button. Since I prefer using an open-air test bench, I like having the power and reset right on the board. This eliminates the need for messing around with any front panel connectors. The ROG Maximus XI Apex has what ASUS refers to as their Overclocker’s Toolkit. This has nine core components that all run down the right side of the motherboard. Just below the postcode display, there are four LED’s that show the current boot status. Just above the start button, there is the Memok II switch that allows you to re-tune the memory settings with the flip of a switch. Just below the reset button is the Probelt that allows you to check the voltage via integrated measurement points. Just before the 24-pin connector is the retry button that initiates a hard reset and the Safe Boot Button that allows you to reset the PC and boot into safe mode.
For those that like to do extreme overclocking (LN2), the Maximus XI Apex also has condensation detection. The sensors are located on the back of the board, near the socket. The condensation detection is divided into three sections. These sections are CPU, DRAM, and PCIe. The LEDs under the postcode display LEDs illuminate to let you know when an area may be at risk of short-circuiting. The ROG Maximus XI Apex has both the front USB 3.0 and front USB 3.1 headers on the right side of the motherboard.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex has six SATA 6 ports next to the front USB 3.0 header. Next, there are a series of three switches. Two of these switches are part of the Overclocker’s Toolkit mentioned earlier. From right to left, the first switch is the Pause switch. this will pause the system and fine-tune OC parameters mid-benchmark. Next is the Slow Mode switch that reduces the CPU ratio to 8X to bypass touchy benchmark passages. Next to the three switches is the LN2 Mode jumper that enables special options and functions for liquid-nitrogen (LN2) overclocking. The last thing of note on the right side of the board is the BIOS switch for swapping between the two BIOS on the Maximus XI Apex.
Along the bottom of the motherboard, we find what you’d expect to find on an average motherboard. From right to left, there are the front panel connectors followed by the headers for a temp sensor and a speaker for postcode beeps. Next, are four fan headers. Specifically, FS_Fan3, W_Pump+. H_Amp, and CH_Fan3. The H_Amp header being a high amperage fan header. Continuing along there is another front panel USB 3.0 header followed by two front USB 2 headers. Next, there is a Node port, an RGB header, a 4-pin Molex connector, and the front panel audio header.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses the ROG Supreme FX controller and uses only premium Nichicon caps for its onboard audio. Supporting up to 8 channels, the ROG Supreme FX features 113dB SNR line-in and 120dB SNR line-out for near noiseless audio. The Supreme FX audio also features a 600 Ohm headphone amplifier.
The I/O on the ROG Maximus XI Apex has it all. For starters, it has both a BIOS flash button and a clear CMOS button. I love both these features as they eliminate the need to remove the battery when clearing of CMOS is necessary. Especially since removing the battery on the Apex would require removing of the GPU. Next, are my absolute favorite parts of this board. Not one, but two PS/2 Ports. One green, for a mouse and the other blue, for a keyboard. Next, are a total of ten USB ports. there are six USB 3.1 gen 1 (USB 3.0), then four USB 3.2 gen 2. Three are Type A, one is Type C. There is a single Intel I219V Gigabit LAN. Next is the dual connectors for the WiFi antenna. The Apex uses Intel’s Wireless-AC 9560 Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac card for the boards WiFi. Last, there are five 3.5 mm jacks for the 8.1 surround sound and as optical or SPDIF port. The shroud over the I/O has the Maximus XI Apex branding illuminated by RGB LEDs. The LAN, USB, and audio ports are protected with ESD Guards. This provides increased protection from electrostatic discharge when plugging or unplugging anything on the rear I/O on the board. The ROG Maximus XI Apex also has an integrated I/O shield. This is a great feature and will prevent me from constantly forgetting to install the I/O shield. Full disclosure, Not one of my system has had an I/O shield since the Z97 days.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses the same LGA 1151 socket in use since the 6th generation of Core Processors launched. However, like the Z370 chipset, the Z390 chipset only supports 8th and 9th generation Core Processors. There is also a small decorative plate with the ROG logo directly under the socket. This plate can be swapped out with other plates that can be 3D printed. This is a cool feature but I’d rather the option for a third M.2 slot right on the board. However, the decorative plate does add the already beautiful aesthetic of the ROG Maximus XI Apex.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses the Extreme Engine Digi+ technology to provide clean power to your CPU. The Apex has a beefy 16-phase power delivery. However, the Maximus XI Apex doesn’t use traditional MOSFET. Instead, the Apex uses PowlRstage MOSFET. Where a traditional power design starts with the PWM controller then follows this path, MOSFET Drivers, High then Low Side MOSFET, Choke, Capacitor then CPU. The PowlRstage MOSFET is a single chip that includes the MOSFET driver, one high side MOSFET, and either one or two low side MOSFETs. PowlRstage MOSFETS are made using a newer, more advanced manufacturing process that leads to them being more efficient than the traditional process. However, they are also more expensive to produce which is why they are usually used on higher-end boards. The MOSFETS are cooled by 2 fined heatsinks with a heat pipe going through them both.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses Microfine Alloy Chokes. These chokes use smaller granules than the traditional chokes. These granules are densely packed and designed to be more uniform. The granules in the MicoFine Chokes are three times finer than the average choke. This allows for more evenly distributes air gaps and makes the chokes more permeable. The Alloy chokes were designed to increase the rate of inductance loss by up to 50% when compared to your average choke. The Alloy chokes also run at a far lower temperature than traditional chokes, about 30% cooler on average. All around, the Microfine Alloy Chokes on the ROG Maximus XI Apex is just far superior to your traditional choke.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses Japanese made 10k black capacitors. With a life span of 10,000 hours, these capacitors have fives times the like span of your industry standard 2k caps. Capacitors are rated for a specific amount of time, in this case, 10,000 hours, running at 105°c. This is far above the average operating temperature of the average PC, hopefully. These components combined with the Digi+ PWM controller on the Apex deliver clean and stable power to your processor for the best overclocking and performance.
Unlike your average motherboard on Intel’s consumer platform, the ROG Maximus XI Apex has only two DIMM slots. However, these two DIMM slots are optimized for DDR4 4800MHz+ overclocking support and are also double capacity DIMMs. This means the slots support up to 32 GB DIMMs. So if you’re like me and feel dirty using less than 64 GB of ram, ASUS has you covered with the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. The use of only two DIMM slots allows for a shorter memory trace layout and better control over impedance to reduce signal interference. The Apex uses ASUS Optimem II to preserve the integrity of the memory signal. It does this in part to the routing the memory traces through the optimal layers on the PCB to reduce vias and add shielding zones that reduce crosstalk. These features help to provide increased headroom for better overclocking and better stability. This allows the user to achieve overclocks of 4800 MHz and higher on the ROG Maximus XI Apex. ASUS uses its Q-DIMM locking mechanism to lock the memory modules in place. At first glance, the lack of M.2 slots threw me off. That’s because, in place of your traditional M.2 slots on the board, the ROG Maximus XI Apex uses a DIMM.2 Slot that is exclusive to ASUS.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex uses the ASUS DIMM.2 expansion card for a total of two M.2 SSDs. One side of the card can support up an M Key Type 22110 PCIe 3.0 x 4 M.2 SSD. The opposite said of the card supports up to M Key Type 2280 PCIe Gent 3 X4 M.2 SSDs. The DIMM.2 card has heat sinks on either side that not only look good but help to keep the SSDs cooler. A cooler running SSD may not increase performance per se. However, lower temps over the life of the SSD can help to extend the lifespan of the drive. A quick, but important side note. When installing or uninstalling the DIMM.2 card, power MUST BE disconnected from the PC by either shutting off the power supply or preferably disconnecting the power cord altogether. Failure to do so can result in irreparable damage to the motherboard and or drives. I learned this the hard way on the Z270 Maximus IX Apex.
The heat sinks are connected by a series of screws on either side of the expansion cards. On each of the two heat sinks, on either side, there are thermal pads. One side has a single thermal pad for up to a Type 2280 M.s SSD and the other has two thermal pads. One larger one that will cover up to a Type 2280 M.s SSD. The other thermal pad is a far smaller one. This is only used in the case of a Type 22110 M.2 SSD as they are longer than the Type 2280. In the accessories, the ROG Maximus XI Apex comes with two standoffs and two screws for mounting two drives to the DIMM.2 card. To use a PCIe Gen 3 X4 SSD, you’ll have to go into the BIOS and set it to X4 to be able to use most PCIe M.2s as the default setting is X2. The DIMM.@ expansion card also allows for an NVMe Raid. The Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex supports RAID 0,1 and 5.
The ROG Maximus XI Apex has three PCIe X16 Q-Slots. The locking mechanism on the Q-Slots allows for an easier installation of your graphics card. Just a light push will pop out your card as opposed to traditional PCIe slots that take a bit of force to unlock. The Q-Slots release your cards far easier. The top two slots are what ASUS calls “SafeSlots” This means the PCIe slot is reinforced with a metal brace to provide better retention and help prevent heavier cards, such as the Strix cards, from sagging. SafeSlots are 1.6 times stronger than your traditional PCIe slot when it comes to retention and 1.8 times stronger when it comes to shearing resistance.
The heatsink over the PCH is RGB backlit and like many other features of the ROG Maximus XI Apex, just look good. The Z390 ROG Maximus XI Apex features the TPU or Turbo Progress Unit from ASUS. TPU allows you to manually adjust the CPU frequency, core ratio, DRAM frequency, and related voltages in the AI Suite as opposed to just in the BIOS.
The Z390 Maximus XI Apex has a very comprehensive cooling design with dedicated headers for almost every component in a full custom loop. This includes headers for six 4-pin PWM and DC fans, a single water pump header, an AIO pump header, three full speed (FS) headers, a header for a flow sensor and a header for a temp sensor. This allows you to set up a full custom loop with temperature sensors and all that can be monitors by your motherboard,
UEFI BIOS and ASUS Software
For this review, we used BIOS 1005 released on 4/10/19. The BIOS on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex is like any other ASUS BIOS in recent memory. Just either the ROG Eye logo at the top left-hand corner in place of the say TUF or PRIME logos. The Bios has both EZMode and an Advanced Mode. The BIOS boots into EZMode. You can swap between EZ and Advanced Modes by pressing F7. You can also set it so the BIOS boots in Advanced mode every time you enter the BIOS. EZMode gives you a rough overview of the BIOS settings. You can swap around the boot order of your drives, set fan curves of each fan connected to the board and set XMP profiles. There is also an EZ System Tuning section that goes between Normal and ASUS Performance mode. To get more in-depth experience, enter Advanced Mode.
From EZMode allows you to quickly access Q-Fan mods. Here you can set fan curves for every fan or pump header on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. In EZMode you can also access your favorites, the AI OC Guide, the search feature and disable and enable the AURA lighting on your board.
The first section in the Advance Mods of the BIOS is the Main section. This section will tell you the basic information of the BIOS such as the version, date its releases and versions of the different firmware. The nest section is the Extreme Tweaker section. here you can tweak your processor’s turbo frequency, AVX frequency, DRAM frequency, and cache frequency. You can set the frequency per core or sync all cores to the same frequency. You can play with memory timings and much more. There is a host of setting in this section to help you get the most out of your processor.
Next section is the advanced section. Here you can go in-depth on the setting on your motherboard. Everything from USB and PCH configuration to CPU configuration to NVMe configuration. Next section is the Monitor section. Here you can monitor temperatures of the various temp sensors on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex.
The next section is the boot section. Here you can set the boot order of your various drives installed. You can also set priorities for your hard drives, USB devices, and CD/DVD drives. The tool section has a set of various tools specific to ASUS BIOS. The last section is the save and exit section. Here you can load optimized defaults, save or discard changes and its also where you exit the bios.
Test System and Testing Procedures
As with all reviews, we try to keep the ambient temperature as close to 20°c (68°f) as possible. When the system was first turned on, it sat idles for about 20 minutes or so before any benchmarks were run or results recorded. We waited in between each benchmark no less than 20 minutes to give the system time to cool down a bit. We test everything from CPU and memory performance to gaming, audio, and networking. All benchmarks were run with both the CPU and GPU at their stock speeds. The Intel I9 9900k we used, on average, boosted to 4.7 GHz. The test results from the Z390 Maximus XI Apex were compared to the results from the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce and boards were tested with the same i9 9900k. For full disclosure, the I9 9900k used in this review is an engineering sample provided by Intel, not a retail CPU. Both had G. Skill Trident Z memory running at 3200 MHz and used the same power supply. Both systems used open-air cases. Each benchmark was run three times and we went with the best overall results.
||Product Name||Provided By|
|Processor||Intel Core I9-9900k||Intel|
|Motherboard||ROG Z390 Maximus XI Apex||ASUS|
|Memory||G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200 MHz CAS 14 32 GB||Retail Purchase|
|Drive||Crucial P1 500 GB NVMe M.2 SSD||Crucial|
|Video Card||ASUS RTX 2080 TI Strix||Retail Purchase|
|Monitor||LG 27UL500-W 27″ 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz||Retail Purchase|
|Case||Primochill Praxis Wetbench||Primochill|
|Power Supply||1600 Watt EVGA SuperNova Ps 80+ Platinum Power Supply||EVGA|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates|
General Performance Benchmarks
AIDA64 has a set of several 64-bit benchmarks to measure how fast the computer performs various data processing tasks and mathematical calculations. Multi-threaded memory and cache benchmarks are available to analyze system RAM bandwidth and latency. Benchmark pages of AIDA64 Extreme provide several methods to measure system performance. These benchmarks are synthetic, so their results show only the theoretical maximum performance of the system. The AIDA64 suite has various benchmarks for CPU, FPU, GPU, storage and memory testing.
The memory used in this review has been my go-to kit for any review that isn’t memory for the last few years. Its a 32 GB kit of G. Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200 MHz CAS 14, non-RGB memory. The same kit was used in the testing of both motherboards. All testing was done with XMP Profile #1 enabled. On the Aida64 Latency test, out Trident Z kit achieved 51 milliseconds on the Aorus Z390 Pro and 40 milliseconds on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. As for memory bandwidth, The Apex did better on the read speed with a speed of 46548 Mbit/s. However, the Aorus Z390 Pro did achieve better write and copy speeds. The write speed on the Z390 Aorus Pro was 49007 Mbit/s to the 48036 Mbit/s on the Apex. The Copy speed had similar results with the Z390 Pro hitting 46493 Mbit/s and the Apex hitting 44504 Mbit/s.
CPU Queen is an integer benchmark that tests branch prediction and misprediction penalties. CPU PhotoWorxx tests the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and the memory subsystem. CPU ZLib is a compression benchmark that tests the combined CPU and memory performance. CPU AES is a multi-core encryption benchmark that uses Advanced Encryption Standard data encryption. CPU Hash is an integer benchmark that measures performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm. FPU Julia measures single-precision FP, FPU Mandel measures double-precision FP, FPU Sin Julia measures extended precision FP while FPU VP8 is a video compression test utilizing the FPU Julia fractal module.
For the Aida64 CPU and FPU benchmarks, our 9900k ran neck and neck on the two motherboards with the Z390 Maximus XI Apex coming out slightly ahead of the Z390 Pro in all tests but one. The Aida64 CPU Queen test was the solo benchmark in which the Z390 Maximus XI Apex didn’t come out on top. In CPU Queen, The Z390 Pro achieved a score of 101035 to the 100972 the Apex scored. The CPU AES test had the biggest difference between the two. The Apex achieved a speed of 27100MB/s to the 19105 MB/s on the Z390 Pro. The Photoworxx was very close with the Apex hitting 42799 Mpixel/s to the 42792 Mpixel/s on the Z390 Pro
In the CPU Zlib test, the Apex was again the winner with a speed of 845.3 MB/s over the 842.8 MB/s on the Z390 Pro. The Latest version of Aida64 replaced the CPU Hash test with the CPU SHA3 test. Again, the Apex won this round with a speed on 3665 MB/s in CPU SHA3 where the Z390 Pro hit a speed of 3642 MB/s. Again, very close.
The Aida64 benchmark has three FPU tests on top of the CPU tests. These tests are SinJulia, Mandel, and Julia. The Z390 Maximus Apex won out on the FPU tests in Aida64. In the FPU Julia test, the Apex scored 79846 to the 79802 of the Z390 Pro. In Mandel, the Apex scored 42986 to the 42972 on the Z390 Pro. Last was Sinjulia where the Apex scored 11324 to the 11316 of the Z390 Pro.
The L1, L2 and L3 cache is measured in MB/s on the Read, Write and Copy speeds. The test results were very similar as we used the same kit on both boards. The L1 cache was neck and neck with the Apex doing better on the Copy speed, by 2 MB/s. beating the Z390 Pro 2334 to 2332. The write was tied 1170 MB/s to 1170 MB/s. On the Read, the Z390 Pro came out ahead 2327 MB/s to 2325 MB/s
On the L2 cache, the Apex beat out the Z390 Pro on only the read speed 893 MB/s to 885 MB/son the Z390 Pro. On the Write speeds, the Z390 Pro hit 577 MB/s to 540 MB/s on the Apex. The Copy speed was more of the same. The Z390 Pro hit 780 MB/s on the copy speed to the 739 MB/s on the Apex.
The L3 Cache was the one test in which the Z390 Pro won outright on the Read, Write and Copy. On the read, the Z390 Pro hit 382 MB/s to the 352 MB/s on the Apex. For the write speed, the Z390 Pro achieved a speed of 237 MB/s to the 219 MB/s on the Apex. Last was the Copy where the Z390 Pro hit 287 MB/s to the 273 MB/s on the Apex.
Based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software Cinema 4D, CINEBENCH is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. It has both the single thread and full performance test for your CPU, as well as an Open-GL test for your GPU. Cinebench R15 is one of the most widely used benchmarks used to test the performance. It puts the CPU under 100% load, but only for a very short time. It gives a good baseline for your CPU. However, I wouldn’t use it for testing the stability of an overclock.
Although they have released Cinebench R20, I still use Cinebench R15 more because I’m used to it. In Cinebench R15, again, we used the same chip on both boards. We tested the I9-9900k at both stock and overclocked settings. Our overclock being 5.2 GHz at 1.35 volts. Before this review, my best Cinebench R15 score on the 9900k had been 2037 CB on multi-core and 212 on a single core. Those scores were achieved on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. On the Z390 Pro, we achieved scores of 2001 at stock and 2129 while overclocked. I was very pleased with this score where it had been the highest I had ever achieved on the 9900k. That was until I installed our I9-9900k on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. At stock, we hit 2011 CB on the Apex. With the processor overclocked, we hit 2042 CB. This is the best score I’ve achieved with this particular processor.
The single-core test was a bit closer on Cinebench R15. On the Z390 Pro, we achieved a single-core score of 204 CB at stock. Overclocked, our 9900k hit 219 CB on the single-core test on the Z390 Pro. On the Apex, at stock, out 9900k hit 209 CB. While overclocked, we achieved a score of 223 CB on the Cinebench R15 single-core test while running our 9900k on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex.
PCMark 10 is the successor to PCMark 8 and the latest complete system benchmark from UL, formerly Futuremark. In their own words “PCMark 10 features a comprehensive set of tests that cover the wide variety of tasks performed in the modern workplace. With express, extended, and custom run options to suit your needs, PCMark 10 is the complete PC benchmark for the modern office.”
In PCMark 10, The Z390 Maximus XI Apex did outperform the Z390 Pro overall. However, there were a couple of tests in the overall suite that the Z390 Pro did perform better on. In the spreadsheet test, the Z390 Pro scored 10179 to the 9848 of the Apex. Also, the Z390 Pro came out ahead on the writing and productivity tests. On writing, the Z390 Pro scored 7501 to the 7198 on the Apex. For Productivity, the Z390 Pro beat out the Apex 8738 to 8419. On the rest of the suite, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex beat out the Z390 Pro. For example, on the App test, the Apex won by a score of 17215 to 13064 on the Z390 Pro.
Multimedia, Compression and Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks
x264 is a free software library for encoding video streams into the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format. x264 FHD measures how efficient a system is in encoding H.264 video and produces results in frames-per-second. H.265/HEVC video encoding is the future of video able to compress significantly larger resolution videos including 4K and make streaming a possibility. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, our 9900k ran the x264 FHD benchmark at an average of 58.1 frames per second. On the Z390 Maximus XI Apex, the 9900k runs the X264 FHD benchmark at an average of 60.97 frames per second.
x265 is an open-source implementation of the H.265 standard and x.265 HD benchmark tests the CPU’s ability to process an HEVC video. This benchmark is run by the processor alone. Like other benchmarks, the 9900k did slightly better on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex than it did on the Z390 Aorus Pro. But not by much.you could say that the results are within the margin of error. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, the 9900k averaged 35.96 frames per second. On the Z390 Maximus XI Apex, the 9900k averaged 36.08 frames per second. So, as you see, there is almost no difference.
The 7-zip benchmark shows a rating in MIPS (million instructions per second). The rating value is calculated from the measured speed, and it is normalized with results of Intel Core 2 CPU with multi-threading option switched off. So, if you have modern CPU from Intel or AMD, rating values in single-thread mode must be close to real CPU frequency. There are two tests, compression with LZMA method and decompression with LZMA method. Once the total passes reach 100, the score is taken. 7-Zip gives the resulting score for decompressing, compressing and an overall score. As the chart shows, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex was the clear winner in 7-Zip. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, the total rating score was 49454. On the Z390 Maximus XI Apex, the best total rating score was 56947.
WinRAR is a file archiver utility for Windows, developed by Eugene Roshal of win.rar GmbH. It can create and view archives in RAR or ZIP file formats and unpack numerous archive file formats. In Winrar, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex did far better than the Z390 Pro. The chart below shows the resulting speed in KB/s. The Z90 Pro had a resulting speed on 21373 KB/s. This was a fair distance behind the resulting speed of 28589 KB/s on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex.
HandBrake is a free and open-source video transcoder, originally developed in 2003 by Eric Petit to make ripping a film from a DVD to a data storage device easier. Essentially, it can convert video to almost any modern format. HandBrake is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. The workload video file is a ~6.27 GB, 3840 x 1714, 73.4 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mov video file that is transcoded to a ~1480 MB, 1920×858, ~17.1 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mp4 video file. The File was transcoded by the 9900k on the Z390 Aorus Pro in 7 minutes and 27 seconds. The same Intel 9900k on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex was able to transcode the same file in 7 minutes in 20 seconds. Not a huge difference, but as they say, every second count.
Sub System Benchmarks (Storage, Audio and Networking)
For Storage benchmarks, We used two different benchmarks. The first being the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The other is CrystalDiskMark5. ATTO and CrystalDisk Mark were used to test two drives. We tested both an NVMe M.2 and a 2.5″ SATA 6 SSD. The first drive we tested was the 1 TB Crucial P1. The P1 is the latest NVMe M.2 SSD from Crucial, using Micron 3D NAND technology. The BX500 is also from Crucial. In the review, we tested the 960 GB version of the BX500 using 96 layer NAND.
The ATTO Disk Benchmark utility was designed to measure regular disk drive performance. However, its more than capable of measuring both USB flash drive and SSD speeds as well. The utility measures disk performance rates for various sizes of files and displays the results in a bar chart showing read and write speeds at each file size. The results are displayed in megabytes per second. The Crucial P1 did as expected on this Z390 Maximus XI Apex, if not a bit better. On the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the Crucial P1 maxed out at about 2008 MB/s on the read speed and about 1723 MB/s on the write speed. This was slightly slower than the advertised speeds of 2,000 MB/s read and 1,700 MB/s write. But respectable enough. The BX500 hit a max of about 557.98 MB/s on the read speed and a max of about 510.3 MB/s on the write speeds. Overall, the Crucial P1 did better than I have ever seen it perform on any system I’ve tested in on. Previously, the best I got from The Crucial P1 was 1860 MB/s on the read and 1580 MB/s on the write. I believe the DIMM.2 slot and add-in card made the difference in speeds here. The BX500 nearly saturated the SATA interface on the Apex.
“CrystalDiskMark 5 is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds.” It’s one of the most commonly used utilities for testing drives. Both the Crucial P1 and BX500 did better on Crystal Disk Mark 5. The Crucial P1 hit 1997 MB/s on the read speed and 1713 on the write speeds. Again, performing better than I’ve ever seen it perform on Crystal Disk Mark.. The BX 500 did about the same in Crystal Disk Mark 5 as it did on ATTO. The BX500 hit 558.8 MB/s on the read and 514.2 on the write speeds.
To test the on-board audio on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex, we use the Rightmark Audio Analyzer benchmark. However, before we run the benchmark, we must test the DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency. The DPC is checked to ensure the audio can produce usable results in Rightmark. DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency, is a Windows function that handles driver efficiency and allows high-priority tasks to defer required, but lower-priority tasks for later execution. We use LatencyMon to test the DPC Latency.
We had LatencyMon run for a little over 12 minutes. The highest reported ISR routine execution time was 136.24. The highest reported DCP routine execution was 140.34. At the 4000 microseconds, the system will be unsuitable for real-time audio playback. Since both results were under this range, we can continue to Rightmark Audio Analyzer. Now, I’m not going to lie. I was expecting far better results in the Rightmark Audio Analyzer than I achieved. The sample chart below shows what very good and excellent results look like.
To test with Rightmark, you must first plug into both the rear headphone jack and the rear mic jack using a double-ended 3.5 mm jack cable. This creates an audio loop to test the internal audio performance of the onboard audio. We tested using both 16 and 24-bit settings through a range of frequencies from 44 kHz up to 192 kHz. On both the 16 and 24 bit testing, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex did ok. Now, when compared to our results, we’re nowhere near what the sample chart says are very good results. Even after running the 16 and 24-bit tests in Rightmark several times. However, in real work testing, the on-board audio on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex sounds excellent. I used the onboard audio as if I were doing a review on just that. This includes listening to music, watching TV and movies, as well as hours of gaming. I’m not sure why Rightmark gave the results it did. But I can say the on-board audio on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex sounds good as on-board audio goes.
For network testing, I used my Comcast Business class router from Motorola. The server PC was my standard test bench. This consists of the Aorus Z390 Pro running an I7 8700k. The Z390 Aorus Pro features an Intel Gigabit LAN. The Client PC was the Z390 Maximus XI Apex running the I9 9900k. The system We use the Networking Test in the PassMark Performance Test 9. For this review, we ran both the TCP and UDP Networking tests. As the charts show, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex did outperform the Z390 pro on the networking test. For our Z390 Maximus XI Apex. the average on the TCP test was 936.9 Mbit/s to the average of 936.2 on the Z390 Pro. On the UDP test, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex averaged 894.6 Mbit/s to the 802.7 Mbit/s on the Z390 Pro.
Since this motherboard has Intel® Wireless-AC 9560 Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac it wouldn’t be a full review if we didn’t run a speed check on the WIFI. My office has Comcast Business class internet. To test the speed of the internet, we used the Comcast Business Speed Test. Click this link to run the same test: https://business.comcast.com/learn/internet-speed-test. The 802.11 ac WIFI on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex hit 61 Mbps download and 21 Mbps upload. Through Ethernet, the speeds test results were 304 Mbps download and 22 Mbps upload. The WIFI on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex is more than suitable for gaming, streaming or uploading to YouTube. The limit is going to be your connection to the internet.
The GPU used in this review was the ASUS RTX 2080 TI Strix. For gaming, we tested four games out of our normal suite of games used for GPU reviews. However, games were only tested at 1080p. This puts less of a strain on the GPU, allowing the CPU to do more of the work. Both 1440p and 4k puts more of a strain on the GPU as opposed to the CPU. The games were benchmarked at the highest presets. The three games we tested for this review were Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Far Cry 5, Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Each benchmark was run three times. We then averaged out the minimum, maximum and average frames per second. The results in the chart are the average of the three runs. As this isn’t a GPU review, we didn’t bother with RTX or DLSS testing.
Far Cry 5 is the latest in the far cry series. It takes place in the fictional Hope County Montana. You play the role of the un-names deputy who’s sent to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of the dangerous Edens Gate Cult. However, things do not go as planned and you spend the game trapped in Hope County attempting to take out Joseph and the rest of his family as they attempt to take over the entire county. Far Cry 5 was released in 2018. Ubisoft has developed a beautiful open world with amazing visuals. However, the game is very demanding on even the most powerful systems. This game was tested with the in-game benchmark, as well as near the beginning of the game when you first leave the bunker owned by Dutch as you attempt to clear his island of cult members.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands is a third-person tactical shooter game. You play as a member of the Delta Company, First Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, also known as “Ghosts”, a fictional elite special operations unit of the United States Army under the Joint Special Operations Command. This game takes place in a modern-day setting and is the first in the Ghost Recon series to feature an open world with 9 different types of terrain. The benchmark was run at the beginning of the first mission in the game.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is set to be the third and final game of the rebooted trilogy developed by Eidos Montréal in conjunction with Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you continue your journey as Lara Croft as she attempts to finish the life work of her father. Her in a journey that takes her from Central America to the hidden city of Paititi as she attempts to stop Trinity in their attempt to gain power. The section used for the benchmark was near the beginning of the first section that takes place in the hidden city. This was compared to the in-game benchmark which seems to be an accurate representation of the gameplay. Since they recently added in support for real-time ray tracing, we included the results for Ray Tracing set to Ultra.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is an action role-playing game with first-person shooter and stealth mechanics that released in 2016. Set two years after Human Revolution in 2029, the world is divided between normal humans and those with advanced, controversial artificial organs called augmentations. You take up the role of Adam Jensen, a double agent for the hacker group Juggernaut Collective, who are equipped with the latest and most advanced augmentation technology. This game is beautiful and still very demanding on your system. The section benchmarked was near the beginning of the game, after the tutorial.
Now I know it goes without saying, the 2080 ti is way overkill for testing 1080p gaming. However, as we mentioned earlier, we want to put more of a strain on the CPU, as opposed to the GPU. My one surprise is that not all games averaged over 100 FPS while testing. The lowest average of the four games we tested was Ghost Recon Wildlands with an average of 84 FPS. Next was Far Cry 5 with an average of 124 FPS. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was slightly ahead of Far Cry 5 with an average of 125 FPS. This leaves Shadow of the Tomb Raider in the top spot with an average of 146 FPS.
Overclocking and Temperatures
When overclocking, we do our best to keep the ambient temperature at 20°c (68°f). To validate our overclock, we use the Aida 64 CPU and FPU stability test. The I9 9900k used on both boards tested in this review is an engineering sample sent to us by Intel. But just because it’s an engineering sample or a confidential chip, doesn’t mean its a binned sample. For example, our I9-9900k doesn’t like adding extra voltage. Anything past 1.35 volts and the system would crash. However, I was able to achieve a stable overclock of 5.2 GHz at 1.35 volts. The processor was able to hit 5.3 GHz. However, after about 4 minutes on the Aida64 Stability test, crashed. The Stability test was able to reach over 15 minutes running at 5.2 GHz.
Although the I9-9900k has a base clock of 3.6 GHz, in past reviews, our ES 9900k has boosted as high as 4.9 GHz. On average, it boosts between 4.7 and 4.8 GHz. On the Z390 Maximus XI Apex, our I9 9900k would boost to 5.0 GHz. At first, I thought it was just set to 5.0 GHz in the BIOS. But after updating the BIOS and enabling XMP Profile #1, the system would consistently boost to 5.0 GHz. I was very pleased with this result as I’d never seen this specific chip boost past 4.9. That was on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce.
To validate our overclock, we use the AIDA64 Stability Test. This test puts a 100% load on your CPU and isn’t exactly representative of an everyday workload. First, the results from the Z390 Aorus Pro. On the Aorus Pro, the 9900k was cooled by a modified Swiftech H320 X2. By modified, it has an EK Supremacy EVO water block and EK coolant running in the cooler. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, the I9 9900k idled around 35°c. Keep in mind, our sample does boost between 4.7 and 4.9 GHz on the Z390 Pro. When we ran the CPU test, it did fine and hit only 78°c after a 15-minute test. Our 9900k did run a bit cooler on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex. at idle, it ran at about 33°c. Under load, it hit 74°c after a bit over 15 minutes running the Aida64 CPU stability test. However, when I ran the FPU test at anything over 4.8 GHz, on either board, it hit thermal limits and began to throttle after about 5 minutes. Even running at stock speeds, our 9900k would hit well into the 90’s after a few minutes and begin to throttle.
Since the I9-9900k does run hot, the first this I did when overclocking was set the thermal limit to 110°c. This will help to prevent some crashes due to thermal limits while overclocking. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, I had, on several occasions, tried to get this Intel I9 9900k past 5.0. But I had no luck. I was shocked when I install our 9900k on the Apex and saw that it was boosted to 5.0. I was able to get the I9-9900k to 5.2 GHz at 1.35 volts stable. I was able to get the 9900k to 5.3 GHz at 1.35 volts. However, it only lasted a few minutes on the Aida64 CPU stability test and therefore, not stable.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Overall, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Apex is an AMAZING motherboard. I’d dare to say this is my favorite motherboard I’ve personally ever tested. The Z390 Maximus XI Apex is truly an overclockers dream. Our engineering sample I9-9900k had never performed this well on any other motherboard, even ones that cost upwards of USD 900. The Z390 Maximus XI Apex was the first motherboard I’ve ever achieved a stable 5.2 GHz overclock. I mean the entire time I was testing this board, I had not one system crash due to an overclock. Even now, as I write this, the system has been running constantly at 5.2 GHz for well over a month now.
The benchmarks were solid. In many cases, achieving higher scores than I’ve personally ever achieved. For example, the 2042 CB we achieved in Cinebench R15, as well as the 223 CB on the single-core score. When compared with the Aorus Z390 Pro, the Z390 Maximus XI Apex was the clear winner on the majority of the benchmarks. The once that the Z390 Pro did come out ahead on, were all rather close. The one benchmark that completely threw me off was the Rightmark Audio Analyzer. I couldn’t figure out why the results for both the 16 and 24-bit testing were so low. However, as I mentioned earlier, the onboard audio went through the same testing we do for sound card reviews. In real-world testing, the onboard audio sounds excellent on the Z390 Maximus XI Apex.
Being a ROG motherboard from ASUS, this is not a budget board by any means. At the time of this review, Amazon didn’t even have the board listed as used. Let alone new. However, we did find the Z390 Maximus XI Apex on sale on Newegg for $470.29. So, this is 100% an enthusiast-grade motherboard. As an enthusiast-grade motherboard, I’d say it may be the best motherboard I’ve ever tested. At first, I had been a little iffy on the fact the board has only two DIMMs. However, for their target audience, ASUS did the right thing as this Apex is optimized for high performance overclocking. The Z390 Maximus XI Apex is even set up specifically for LN2 cooling. So again, this is truly enthusiast-grade hardware. However, if you do decide to pick up the Z390 Maximus XI Apex from ASUS, I promise, you’ll enjoy this board and its massive array of features.