Since the introduction of Intel’s Z97 chipset in June, we’ve reviewed a total of four Maximus VII series of motherboards from ASUS Republic of Gamers (ROG). The Maximus VII Ranger would be the 5th and the last Maximus VII board that we’re going to review today. Like other Z97 boards, the Maximus VII Ranger features the M.2 storage port and LGA1150 socket that supports the current Haswell architecture processors and the upcoming Broadwell processors.
Retailing at RM 699, it is the cheapest ROG Maximus VII motherboard on the market. In terms of features, the Ranger is a cutback of what we have on the Hero which is priced RM 200 more than the former. Can this budget gaming motherboard compete with its pricier brethren? Let’s find out in our review!
Product Link: http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/MAXIMUS_VII_RANGER/
Suggested Retail Price: RM 699
Like you might have expected from any ROG motherboard, the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger is well packaged in a cherry red box. The front side across the bottom of the box shows some of the board’s features such as support for Intel’s Core processor and Z97 chipset, support for both NVIDIA’s SLI and AMD’s CrossfireX technologies, native support for resolutions up to 4K as well as Windows 8.1 ready.
Flipping open the lid of the box you will find more details about the key features of the Maximus VII Ranger. These include Supreme FX 2014 audio solution, networking technology such as LANGuard and Game First III, KeyBot technology which allows you to upgrade your conventional keyboard to macro-able, and protection features including the DRAM Over-current Protection and ESD Guards.
The back of the retail packaging shows the specifications of the Maximus VII Ranger and highlights the main components of the feature set which include the Supreme FX 2014, Gamer First III, KeyBot, as well as Sonic Radar II technology. A diagram of the rear I/O panel is shown to demonstrate the I/O connectivity offered by the motherboard.
Being an entry-level motherboard, ASUS will not let buyers running short of essential accessories. You will get a detailed user’s manual, the CD containing driver and software, a 12-in-1 ROG cable labels, a ROG door hanger, four SATA 6Gbps data cables, a set of ASUS Q-Connector for the front panel connectivity, a ROG I/O Shield, and a ROG SLI bridge.
Again, like any ROG motherboard that we’ve reviewed previously, the Maximus VII Ranger also sports a black and red color scheme. The PCB features a matte black colour which looks very nice. Unlike the Maximus VII Hero and Gene, the PCH chipset heatsink of the Ranger doesn’t have a lighting feature hence will not glow whenever the system is powered up.
On the top right of the Maximus VII Ranger’s PCB you will find four DIMM slots which are specified to run at dual channel configuration with support for Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) and up to 32GB capacities running up to 3200MHz DDR3 when under overclocking. Besides that, you can see the Q-Code LED, a fan header, the MemOK! button, a USB 3.0 header, and the 24-pin power connector which supplies power to the motherboard. The MemOK! button comes in handy in case if memory problems are preventing your system from booting.
Being a gaming motherboard the Maximus VII Ranger is not exempted from doing quad-GPU SLI and CrossFireX configurations. It features a pair of PCIe 3.0 slots that are specified to run at x16 bandwidth for single card solution. However, these slots will run at x8 when both are occupied. Besides that, ASUS provide a PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (x4 mode), and three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots which should be useful if you have an external sound card or PCIe-based storage devices. Sitting above the top PCIe 3.0 x16 slot is the 10Gbps M.2 (socket 3) connector. Formerly known as next-generation form factor (NGFF), M.2 is the replacement for the mSATA interface found on some motherboards since previous generations.
Moving to the bottom edge of the motherboard, from left to right, you can see the Front Panel Audio connector (AAFP), SoundStage and Clear CMOS buttons, ROG Extension header, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, a fan header, the KeyBot button, and the front panel connections.
The Maximus VII Ranger comes equipped with the best audio, namely the SupremeFX 2014 which features Red-line shielding, ELNA premium audio capacitors, Sonic SoundStage, Sonic SenseAmp, Sonic Studio as well as Sonic Radar II technology for maximum audio quality. Sonic Radar II will allow you to see your enemy behind walls or distances very clearly and precisely.
For storage needs, ASUS provide a total of six 6Gbps SATA 3 ports, all of them are natively supported by the Z97 chipset supporting Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 technology. There’s no third-party controlled SATA port like you have seen on the more expensive Hero.
The rear I/O panel consists of a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port, a DVI-D, a D-Sub, and an HDMI port, a LAN (RJ45) port for wired connectivity, four USB 3.0 ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, an Optical S/PDIF output, six audio jacks, and the USB BIOS Flashback Button.
Dismantling the VRM heatsinks reveals the power delivery system of the Maximus VII Ranger. The board features an 8-phase Digi+ VRM power delivery design, NexFET Power Block MOSFET, new Alloy Choke, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. All of these high quality components have been tested rigorously to ensure their reliability and stability even under the extreme conditions.
The back side of the PCB has a pair of retaining heatsinks for the power phases on the other side of the board. Also seen on the back of the PCB is a ROG chip that sits around the PCIe slot area. Measuring in 12 inch x 9.6 inch (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm), the Maximus VII Ranger conforms to ATX from factor standard thus will fit in any standard sized casing.
The Maximus VII Ranger comes equipped with ASUS’ exclusive SupremeFX 2014 audio solution featuring Sonic Radar II, Sonic SoundStage, Sonic SenseAmp, and Sonic Studio. For consistent power delivery, ASUS provides Extreme Engine Digi+ III with NexFET Power Block MOSFET, new Alloy Choke, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. For better gaming experience, ASUS implemented GameFirst III in conjunction with Intel Ethernet protected by LANGuard. Asides from that you get Dual Intelligent Processors 5, KeyBot + TrueVolt USB technology, quad-GPU CrossfireX and SLI support, and so much more out of the ROG feature set.
The UEFI BIOS
ASUS has done a great job in updating their UEFI BIOS for the latest Z97 motherboards and the Maximus VII Ranger has no exception. The layout design of the new UEFI BIOS is quite informative with the descriptions of every option displayed on the bottom of the screen. There are two modes for the UEFI BIOS to choose from, namely the EZ Mode and Advanced Mode.
The Advanced Mode is suitable for experienced performance enthusiasts that demand for more adept of tuning abilities for higher level of overclocking.
The EZ Mode is easy to learn, use, and manage for users who do not want to spend the time going through the advanced sections of the BIOS. It displays frequently-accessed setup info. Users can choose system performance mode on demand and also drag and drop to set the boot priority.
The AI Suite III
ASUS AI Suite III is an intuitive central hub that provides access to the vast majority of ASUS monitoring and control utilities on the Maximus VII Ranger. This utility offers a thorough control for the TurboV Processing Unit (TPU), Energy Processing Unit (EPU) to enhance energy efficiency, DIGI+ Power Control for enhanced performance, increased efficiency and optimum reliability, and Fan Xpert3 for unrivalled customizable fan control, allowing you to supervise overclocking, energy consumption, fan speeds and voltages. These are the main features of the 5-Way Optimization technology driven by Dual Intelligent Processors 5 system. Overall, the software worked perfectly during our testing process. In fact, it is much more stable than the old AI Suite II.
Test Setup & OverClocking
The Maximus VII Ranger is not just a budget gaming motherboard. It also comes with tons of overclocking features such as the 8-phase Digi+VRM power delivery design, NexFET Power Block MOSFET, new Alloy choke, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors. During our overclocking process, we managed to squeeze a healthy clock of 4.6GHz out of our i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” processor with the Maximus VII Ranger. Of course it could go higher with further tweaking but for the sake of comparison purpose we will take this 4.6GHz overclock as the reference for the benchmarks in the following chapters.
To confirm its stability, we’ve put the 4.6GHz overclock under torture mode with AIDA64 Stability Test and the run it for around 15 minutes. Cooled by custom water cooling kit, there was no error or thermal throttling observed hence we can conclude that this overclock is suitable for 24/7 operation.
We used the G.Skill TridentX memory kit running at 2666MHz 10-12-12-25-1T and the ASUS ROG Matrix R9-290X Platinum graphics card running at factory clocks and with stock cooler. Our trusty Corsair AX1200 power supply unit (PSU) was responsible to supply an adequate power to the system. All of these components were installed on our beloved DimasTech EasyDual V2.5 bench table.
Overall, Maximus VII Ranger performed in line with other motherboards in the comparison. Sometimes it beat other motherboards and sometimes it lacked behind by small margins. As for boot time test, the Maximus VII Ranger booted very fast and took just around 9 second to finish booting.
ASUS provides their Maximus VII Ranger motherboard with a total of six 6Gbps SATA 3 ports natively controlled by Intel’s PCH. During our testing process, the Maximus VII Ranger motherboard’s SATA ports worked flawlessly and its storage performance was almost identical to other motherboards in the competition. Unfortunately we didn’t have the chance to test the M.2 performance due to the lack of hardware.
The game benchmark settings are listed in the table below:
The game titles selected demand GPU power over CPU power therefore in each test the difference is rather negligible.
Due to the absence of the absence of memory preset, memory overclocking on the Maximus VII Ranger could be a headache for users especially those who are very new to this field of overclocking. You have to tweak the RAM timings manually by your own experience therefore it is not something that can be done within a few minutes. So make sure that you have done some googling homework before stepping into memory overclocking. The first thing you need to do is that you must to know what’s the IC being used in the memory modules. Then start pushing the memory speed and tight the timings while playing with the RAM voltage (VDIMM), System Agent voltage (VCCSA), digital and analog I/O voltages (VCCIO-d/ VCCIO-a). Provided that you have a good overclocking memory kit and a CPU with a strong Integrated Memory Controller (IMC), pretty sure that you won’t have any trouble overclocking the memory.
During our memory overclocking process, we were able to overclock the single-sided Hynix-MFR to to 3100MHz 11-14-13-35-1T from 3000MHz 12-14-14-35-2T. Besides that, we managed to squeeze the Samsung kit to 2800MHz 9-12-12-25-1T from 2666MHz 10-12-12-31-2T. Take note that it could go higher with further tweaking and low-resource operating system (Windows XP).
Hynix-MFR IC RAM: Apacer ARES 3000C12 2 X 4GB @ 3100MHz 11-14-13-35-1T
Samsung IC RAM: G.Skill TridentX 2666C10 2 X 4GB @ 2800MHz 9-12-12-25-1T
Thoughts & Verdicts
Now it’s time to wrap everything up. In terms of appearance, the Maximus VII Ranger looks very stylish with its ROG’s black and red colour scheme. The matte black PCB and heatsinks as well as the red glowing audio circuitry add another aesthetic point to the overall look of the motherboard.
In terms of build quality, ASUS employed plethora of overclocking features in pursuit for higher overclocking potential. Equipped with a strong 8-phase DIGI+ VRM power design, NexFET Power Block MOSFET, new Alloy Chokes, and 10K Black Metallic Capacitors, the Maximus VII Ranger certainly help you push the overclocking to its limit. To provide the best gaming experience ASUS implemented the LANGuard network protection, GameFirst III network optimization, and in-game visualized Sonic Radar II detection. Besides that, it is also loaded with the best audio solution known as the SupremeFX 2014 which feature Sonic Radar II, Sonic SoundStage, Sonic SenseAmp, and Sonic Studio. Aside from that you will also get the KeyBot + TrueVolt USB Technology. For storage needs, you get plenty of SATA3 ports as well as the lightning-fast M.2 connector.
The included AI Suite III application worked perfectly to fine tune the overclocking. The UEFI BIOS is polished from previous generation with some improvements here and there. Although a bit clustered, the each of the BIOS options is described clearly on the bottom side of the BIOS interface. You might also read the included user’s manual to familiarize with the BIOS settings.
As you might have expected from synthetic aspect, the performance of the Maximus VII Ranger performs is very identical to other Z97 motherboards that we’ve tested thanks to the same primary engine driven by Haswell-based processor. In the aspect of CPU overclocking performance, we can conclude that the Maximus VII Ranger is an excellent overclocking motherboard. With minimal tweaking applied we were able to push our favourite Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” processor to 4.6GHz without a hitch. Moreover overclocking boosted its performance to a higher level. Meanwhile, memory overclocking could be a little bit difficult for newbies. The absence of memory profile preset requires some manual tweaking and experiences. On our side of story, we managed to get the Hynix-MFR and Samsung kits pushed to their limits.
In the end, the ASUS Maximus VII Ranger is suitable for addictive gamers who are looking for a gaming motherboard and at the same time wanting to step into the overclocking arena. The board is available in the market for RM 699, which is not really cheap for an entry-level motherboard. But with all the ROG ingredients crammed onto the board we believe that price tag is reasonable.
Performance/Price Value: 4/5
- Excellent overclocking potential
- Attractive ROG’s red and black colour scheme
- Solid build quality with high-end components
- Nice board layout with good placement of primary PCIe slots
- Quad-GPU SLI and CrossFireX supports
- Best SupremeFX 2014 audio solution
- AI Suite III helps in fine tuning the overclocking
- Responsive UEFI BIOS
- Fast booting
- Price could be lower
- No memory profile presets
- WiFi + Bluetooth module is not included, which prevent wireless connectivity
- Doesn’t come with SATA Express port
ASUS Maximus VII Ranger received Recommended Award from OCDrift.com
Disclaimer: OCDrift.com gives out our own award based on the Hardware Performance, OverClocking Ability, Innovation, and Value as determined by the reviewer
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