The lead or rather review board for AMD’s AM4 platform is, by all accounts, late. Even though we may have had this board around since late March, it’s only now with the latest 1401 BIOS that one feels it’s ready for something resembling prime time.
This isn’t anything to do with ASUS entirely, but rather the updates which we had all been waiting for from AMD. Right now, with all the relevant updates, the Crosshair VI Hero is not only a better board than it was at release, but finally worth the price. To repeat again, this isn’t entirely ASUS-related as AMD had plenty to do with it. The difficulty is in determining which is a board, and which is a platform issue. Of course, like all vendors, officially almost everything is AMD-related, but AMD won’t point at board vendors and instead politely tell you to check for the latest firmware update – which is expected, but in a material sense says nothing at all.
That aside, the Crosshair VI Hero with the 1401 update (presently not available on the official page), brings with it plenty of fixes, and by and large makes it the board it was always meant to be. I’d wager that it’s the only extreme overclocking ready AM4 offering on the market, especially out the box. This is important because for all the requirements needed to make extreme overclocking worthwhile, the updates and improvements within such a situation make sure that normal users and enthusiasts have a near perfect platform to use. At the very least, one that is able to extract the most from the current batch of Ryzen processors.
With the Crosshair, you’ll have to determine for yourself what it is you’re looking for with a bit more care. If you’re out for the best competitive overclocking board around, this is the one for you, and if you’re looking for a gaming board exclusively, this may still be the one. For those remotely interested in performance tuning, you definitely want the Crosshair. Moreover, if you have 3,600MHz memory kit or higher, this is probably one of two that can operate such frequencies reliably. Do yourself a favour, though, and check the QVL as right now it only has official support for speed bins up to 3,200MHz, but I did test frequencies of 3,600MHz and beyond and it works just fine. Just be aware that at present, memory performance tanks at 3,600MHz, whether you’re using a divider or Bclk. So, for now stick to 3,466MHz until it’s sorted in a future update.
So, what is that makes the Crosshair VI Hero tick?
Well, it has all the bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from the ROG line with a few changes here and there. First up is the ability to use your present AM3 cooling solution. No need to go and purchase an adaptor, or worse a whole new AM4 compatible AIO. Simply use your existing water block or tower heatsink-fan and you’re good to go. It’s the small things that matter ultimately, and this is one of them which saves the user real money. That also means your present LN2 container that only has AM3 support will work on this board just fine. This is the one thing that I believe no other AM4 offering has, and another reason why for the competitive overclocker there really is no other board besides this one.
Audio-wise, ASUS has again come to the party with a pretty good solution which isn’t too different from what other vendors are offering, at least as far as the CODEC goes. The difference with the SupremeFX is that they pair the ALC 1220 with the ESS Sabre ES9023P DAC. It’s a respectable DAC, and familiar as well as it was around as far back as on the Maximus VIII (Z170) family. Nichicon audio capacitors and a TI RC4580 op-amp complete the audio portion of the board. On top of this, Sonic Audio III is layered and ties it all together in a simple interface decked out in the typical ROG RED. The overall sound is rather good, actually better than I’d expected, but that’s not new for ASUS. It isn’t going to match the USB DAC that you’ll find on the Rampage V 10 Edition, but for what you’re paying, it’ll be more than fine for gaming, music, and movies. In the gaming mode, it’s particularly punchy, accentuating gun fire and adding a layer of immersion that is absent otherwise. Definitely worth using, so don’t ignore the drivers and utilities section of the download page.
Networking is provided courtesy of Intel’s I211-AT NIC, with ROG’s GameFirst IV software controlling it all. There will be some differences, of course, between this solution and the typical Killer NIC, but these are going to be cosmetic for the most part. Software takes care of traffic priority and management. By and large, GameFirst IV is simpler to use and lighter on the system while offering much of the same functionality. There’s really not much here that can be done which you’ve not seen before.
The rest is tons of USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 support (some via a third-party ASMEDIA controller), but just be careful when it comes to loading up all the ports. If you have devices which use up as much bandwidth as possible (cameras, for example), then you may run out of bandwidth for other USB devices. This isn’t a new situation, but simply how traffic is routed via the available links for the system. Again, something most users will never come across, but for content creators and the like, be mindful of this.
Where cooling and aesthetic customisation is concerned, fan and RGB strip/LED support are standard, and an area where the Crosshair holds its own. You can directly control five 4-pin PWM fans, and in addition, there are dedicated headers for your water/AIO pumps as well. Two water temperature sensors and a water flow sensor are included as well. You’ll have to spend some time configuring all of this and you’d do well to install the software that will allow you to control all these fans and pumps in real time. It’s possible to do it in the UEFI, but you may find it easier using Fan Xpert software.
Finally, we get to the RGB LEDs, which are near identical on all boards so it’s hard to write anything about them without waffling. You like bright colours and shiny things, the Crosshair has you covered, but that isn’t in the top 10 list of things that make this board worthwhile. In fact, even without any LEDs, I’d not change my mind about it.
Part of what makes this such an interesting board for performance tuning and overclocking is that it uses a particular routing mechanism for the memory, simply known as T-topology. What this means is that there’s a single set of signals, or lines if you prefer, from the CPU IMC (integrated memory controller) to the DIMM socket. These signals split in a T-shape, servicing both channels (this is a logic layout and not necessarily a physical one). It’s a lot more complicated than that, but it helps with memory overclocking, and it’s the same design implemented on the APEX series. The downside of this layout is that four DIMM operation or performance is sacrificed by a small margin. So, if you’re going to be using four 8GB or even 16GB DIMMs, you may want to consider another motherboard. It won’t be easy to find a matching offering though, because while others may have better 4-DIMM performance, the operating frequency may be significantly lower, so the Crosshair could potentially make up for this via the frequency advantage. Ultimately, this just may be the right board for you anyway, even if you’re using four high density DIMMs.
As you can see in the performance charts, the scaling is pretty good with increased memory performance. Keep in mind, though, that simply increasing memory frequencies without checking what’s taking place in the secondary or tertiary timings may lead to a negative performance impact or reduced scaling when compared to what you see here. All the results here maintained the same secondary and tertiary timings so you can see “isolated” scaling performance, with no other performance tuning options changing automatically.
As is the case with many ROG components, this is a tuner’s board. Perfectly capable in a gaming context, but it’s true ingenuity is in the performance options it lays at your disposal. You can go into the details and spend an eternity on it tweaking away at the UEFI options. It’s a tuner’s platform, and the massive roughly 2,200-page long thread at OCN is at some level indicative of this. Fear not though, as you can make your way around pretty easily with patience. As it stands, the CHVI is vastly improved and has been refined plenty in the last three months, and is finally worth considering for your AMD powered gaming/content creation or competitive overclocking.
In a market where boards are so similar, it’s hard for any one model to stand out. ASUS has managed that with the Crosshair VI Hero, and by and large this is the most complete offering for Ryzen CPUs money can buy. Give this one some serious consideration as you’ll not be disappointed.
90With 140X Firmware updates, the Crosshair VI Hero is without a doubt the most complete AM4 motherboard on the market.