With the launch of Coffee Lake not too long ago, ASUS returns to the market once again with their Apex variant of motherboards. The ROG Maximus X Apex is made for Intel’s 8th Gen processors, and it’s made with one objective in mind – overclocking. With many more overclocking-centric features introduced to the new Maximus X Apex, overclocking is bound to get better.

Let’s take a look at how well the ROG Maximus X Apex performs with Intel’s latest i7-8700K in this performance review.

Unboxing

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

Let’s start off with a simple unboxing of the Maximus X Apex itself. To be honest, the packaging design’s vibe is pretty much similar to the Z270 counterpart.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

Behind the box shows some feature highlights and specs of the Maximus X Apex. One thing to take note here is the ROG DIMM.2 riser card and also the coupon for 20% off CableMod purchases.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

I’m actually surprised that ASUS took some of the beauty in subtle packaging designs from the ROG laptops’ box, where there’s a little ROG logo and a short greeting on the lid itself. Just feels more welcoming, in my opinion.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

Opening up the box reveals the Maximus X Apex motherboard itself – sitting in the box with cardboard spacers surrounding all sides. Comes with a hard shell cover to protect all the components during shipping, too.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

Digging all of the accessories out of the box reveals a whole lot slew of things – there is a DIMM.2 card, the high-bandwidth bridge for SLI, few SATA cables, a coaster, a driver CD, a case badge, a bracket to mount a fan over the DIMM.2 card. a CPU installation tool, and the I/O shield. There are other minor accessories like a front I/O helper too.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

If you’re into stickers, then ASUS has got you covered as they have another sheet stickers. Comes with a few different sizes and designs of the ROG logo and the slogan, too. Some of them are cable labels so you can color code your cables.

Design

In terms of the overall design, the Maximus X Apex isn’t that much different from its predecessor. I mean, it’s ASUS’s second iteration of the Apex motherboard within this year alone.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

The most significant difference on the Maximus X Apex is the rear I/O cover that extends all the way into the VRM heatsink. This is actually a trend that many more high-end motherboards have, actually.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

With that said, the chunky piece of cover actually intrudes the double 8-pin EPS headers that are situated at the top left corner of the motherboard. If you’re installing the board into a case, make sure you got these two cables connected first to avoid frustration.

Features

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

When it comes to features, the Maximus X Apex retains what overclockers love about its predecessor – the onboard buttons, Q-Code, and a slew of other buttons to assist in achieving a stable overclock.

All of these buttons, switches, and jumpers are located at the top right corner of the motherboard, with the exception of the BIOS switcher button which is placed at the bottom right-hand corner. The ROG Maximus X Apex comes with dual-BIOS, by the way.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

One funny thing about the Maximus X Apex is that the light bars and M.2 lights can actually be disabled or enabled by using the jumpers on the motherboard themselves. Consult the user manual on which pins to short.

The DIMM.2 slot card can actually accommodate two M.2 SSDs – one on each side. It can support M.2 2230 all the way to 22110 SSDs. Also, ASUS included a fan bracket for the DIMM.2 slots which can support a single 100mm x 100mm fan or two 50mm x 50mm fans. Interesting implementation by ASUS, since high-end NVMe SSDs like the Samsung 960 EVO is known to overheat and thermal throttle.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

As the Maximux X Apex is meant for overclocking, ASUS included a clear BIOS button alongside with a USB BIOS flashback button at the rear I/O panel.

Another interesting feature is that the Maximux X Apex actually has two different Ethernet ports. The black one is an Aquantia AQC-107 10G Ethernet port, whereas the red one is a standard Gigabit Ethernet port.

BIOS

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Truth to be told, ASUS’ BIOS has always been on the top spot of our favorite list because of its simple,extremely user-friendly UI which no other brands can deliver even until this very day.

While the UI are pretty much similar across the ROG motherboard lineup, the higher-end board usually comes with some extra overclocking profiles. These profiles makes it easier for the users to fine tune their CPU and memory clocks, which is usually very time consuming.

CPU Overclocking

Getting 5.0GHz on Intel CPU (i7 in particular) has be surprisingly easy since the launch of Intel’s 7th Gen Kaby Lake CPU, and it gets even easier with the current 8th Gen Coffee Lake CPU. Not only that, the voltage required to maintain the stability of the CPU on 5.0GHz has been lowered significantly as well.

If paired with a decent CPU cooler, almost anyone can get their Intel i7-8700K to run on 5.0GHz with core voltage of as low as 1.28V with minimal knowledge in overclocking.  We were able to get the Intel i7-8700K to run on 5.0GHz with a slightly lower core voltage of 1.26V, which really helps in lowering the heat output of the CPU during full load.

asus rog maximus x apex intel i7-8700k 5.0ghz
Intel i7-8700K running on 5.0GHz with lower core voltage using the ROG Maximus X Apex

Unlike in the past, you can now reach higher clock speed using ASUS’ system determined auto overclocking feature (TPU I and TPU II) given that your CPU cooler are capable of handling the large amount of heat generated from the CPU due to higher core voltage being assigned to ensure the stability of the CPU at high frequency.

Based on our result, getting the same i7-8700K to run stably on 5.2GHz requires less core voltage when we’re using the ROG Maximus X Apex compared to the AORUS Z370 Gaming 7. The difference might not seem to be a lot to some, but running at lower core voltage has significantly reduced the heat output of the CPU – it’s a lot of difference if when you have a max load temperature of 86°C vs. max load temperature of 78°C.

asus rog maximus x apex overclock i7-8700K 5.2GHz fire strike result
3DMark Fire Strike Result: Stock vs. Overclocked

And let’s not forget, overclocking your CPU does actually affect the graphics performance. Having your CPU running on higher clock speed plays an equally important role as overclocking your GPU in order to achieve better results.

Memory Overclocking

While it is to be expected for each newer generation architecture to have a much better IMC, Intel has done a wonderful job with the vast improvement of memory clocks in each newer releases.

We’ve used the same Apacer Panther Rage Illumination DDR4 2400MHz kit with Hynix IC since we started reviewing Intel Z270 chipset motherboards, which we’re able to achieve 3600MHz in our ROG Maximus IX Hero review. In one of our recent AORUS Z370 Gaming 7 motherboard review, the same kit can only achieve 3466MHz at most, much to our surprise. As soon as we moved our test to the ROG Maximus X Apex, achieving 3866MHz on the Apacer Panther Rage Illumination DDR4 2400MHz kit didn’t take much effort compared to the AORUS Z370 Gaming 7.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

The better overclocking performance shines even more when we swapped out the Apacer Panther Rage Illumination DDR4 2400MHz kit with a G.SKill Flare X DDR4 2933MHz kit. 4000MHz which is almost impossible for the Hynix IC kit can be achieved with almost no effort using the Flare X DDR4 kit with Samsung B-die IC. With further tweaking on both the memory timings and relevant voltages, we were able to achieve 4533MHz on the G.Skill Flare X DDR4 – our test system just refuse to POST on a slightly higher memory clock of 4600MHz.

Wrapping up the ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex review

All in all, ASUS packs a lot of punch in the ROG Maximus X Apex in terms of features that is inclined towards overclocking. Aesthetics wise, you’ll find the the RGB elements, onboard buttons and switches as usual, so it’s not really something to worry about if you’re a big fan of these mentioned features.

ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex

While some might argue that any Z370 motherboards can do 5.0GHz on the CPU with ease, but that’s just for the CPU – besides, hitting a stable 5.2GHz requires lesser voltage on the ROG Maximus X Apex compared to other Z370 boards using the same CPU. We’ve tried overclocking both of our memory kit with Samsung B-die and Hynix IC on a different Z370 motherboards using the same CPU, but none of the Z370 motherboards were able to achieve the result we have using the ROG Maximus X Apex – 3866MHz on the SK Hynix kit and 4533MHz on the Samsung B-die kit.

The ROG Maximus X Apex does looks promising when it comes to pushing a chip way past its normal overclocking boundaries, but there are sacrifices made along the way on features that most mainstream users will need – i.e limited amount of memory slot, additional extension card required for M.2 SSDs, 4 SATA ports. If you need any extra on either of the features mentioned, then you might want to look else where.

Pros

  • Good overclocking performance
  • Comes with ready to use, fine-tuned overclocking profiles
  • Supports AURA Sync
  • Customizable name plate
  • Lots of USB 3.1 Gen2 ports

Cons

  • Additional extension card required for M.2 SSD
  • Limited SATA ports
  • Limited memory slots

 

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