Just a few short weeks ago Intel announced their next gen CPUs, which hopefully will be the last one based on the 14 nanometer process. Unfortunately those chips are not quite ready yet, nevertheless we have accompanying motherboards already coming to market. This right here is a Z590 motherboard from ASUS, it’s the ROG Maximus XIII Hero. It is a pricey beast, so let's see what you get for your money?
So first off, this is a big board with plenty of features. It is ready for the 11th Gen Intel processors but it also supports 10th gen should you wish to use it before the next gen CPU is available.
This motherboard is using 14+2 teamed power stages rated at 90 Amps, for that you have two 8 pin power connectors at the top.
On the right we have four DIMM slots supporting dual channel DDR4 Memory with speeds up to 5333MHz and a total maximum capacity of 128GB. If you plan to go with some crazy fast RAM, please review the memory qualified vendor list on Asus website.
Heading down the board we finally have PCIE gen 4 support. Welcome to the future Intel!
As this is a high end board, the top two x16 expansion slots are actually traced at PCIE gen 4, providing you are using one of the new 11th gen Intel CPUs. While you don’t have enough lanes on the CPU to run two times 16 graphics cards - you can actually run them in SLI in 8+8 mode and as it is PCIE gen 4, it would have similar bandwidth as 16+16 on PCIE gen 3.
Moving further down we have an extra x16 slot and one x1 slot in between, these are wired up to the Z590 chipset and are running on PCIE gen 3.
Talking about chipset, in this generation Intel has doubled the amount of lanes from CPU to the chipset to 8, avoiding to go the PCIE gen 4 route. I guess they did it to keep the costs of the traces down. Regardless of that, we get a lot more IO and storage options.
On this board it is possible to install up to four m.2 drives with two of them supporting PCIE gen 4. Do note that the top drive is only compatible with Intel 11th gen CPU, otherwise it will be disabled.
On top of the m.2 drives there are up to 6 SATA ports. There’s one important detail - if you are using all 4 m.2 drives then the last two SATA ports are disabled as there are not enough PCIE lanes to feed all the components. It’s not ideal but having an option is still preferred.
Moving on to fans: this board is clearly suitable for a large water cooling set-up as it has 6 fan headers and two water pump headers. Also we have sensors for temperature, water flow etc. Basically it’s fully covered.
Across the board we also find 3 addressable RGB headers as well as one standard RGB header.
On the right is the expected USB type C and USB type A expansion ports with some USB 2.0 at the bottom. To be honest, I don’t expect these to be used much except to possibly run some RGB or fan controllers.
For the tinkerers there is the usual Q LED to help with troubleshooting as well as clear CMOS and flash back butto ns.
On the back we have a nicely integrated IO plate with a whole lot of ports, the most notable ones include antenna connectors for the latest WiFi6 E, dual 2.5 GBps network ports, dual Thunderbolt 4 ports as well as 6 USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and to top it all off there is ROG SupremeFX 7.1 surround sound.
This motherboard clearly has something for everyone. We got a massive amount of options in terms of storage, IO and cooling. I would say this amount of features is probably best suited for someone who is building out an epic rig to do both gaming as well as some productivity tasks.
My only concern is that Intel has reduced the maximum amount of cores for their latest CPU down to 8 thus making this caliber motherboard potentially a dead end, so to anyone planning to build a high end machine, do consider what you will be doing in the next few years and what kind of horse power you will likely need.