ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

Introduction

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

ASUS has skipped a few generations before, not releasing an ROG Gene model but regardless, most Gene models are cutback versions of the Formula in some way. When the Hero line was introduced, the Formula models stepped into a more top-end position and the Gene served as a standalone representation of ROG’s vision of a compact board with top-end features. With the Z390 release, ASUS has stepped away from the dual PCIe x16 slot format for mATX and has made other various changes to offer what seems to be a platform for maximum performance with maximum high-speed storage potential.

The new ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XI GENE is a big change in layout from traditional micro ATX boards. But is ASUS limiting its user-base by changing things that already work. Read on to find out more about the MAXIMUS XI GENE.

Features

  • LGA1151 socket: Ready for 9th/8th Generation Intel® Core™ desktop processors.
  • Double-capacity DIMM: Optimized memory trace layout for dual 32GB DIMM support.
  • Perfected cooling: Dedicated water-cooling zones, M.2 heatsink and flexible fan controls.
  • ROG DIMM.2: Vertically-installed dual-M.2 expansion card with heatsink for maximum cooling and performance.
  • Overclocker’s toolkit: Hardware-level controls to aid with subzero overclocking.
  • 5-Way Optimization: Automated system-wide tuning, providing AI overclocking and cooling profiles tailor-made for your rig.
  • Gaming connectivity: Intel Gigabit Ethernet, four M.2, USB 3.1 Gen 2, and CNVi 2×2 802.11ac Intel integrated Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO support for lightning-fast data transfers.
  • Gaming audio: High-fidelity sonics that draw you deeper into the action, with SupremeFX and Sonic Studio III.
  • Synchronized RGB lighting technology: Works with a vast portfolio of Aura Sync-capable PC gear and includes support for addressable light strips and Phillip Hue.
  • Gaming durability: ASUS SafeSlot, patented pre-mounted I/O shield and premium components for maximum durability

About Intel Z390

It was already announced that Intel would be releasing a Z390 chipset a bit further in the year with the announcement of Z370 back in early 2018. That announcement materializes late in 2018 with the launch of the Intel Z390. Usually a processor would be the prelude to a new chipset but in this case, with the rumor already floating around that an 8-core Intel MSDT part would be released, it was already expected.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
Intel Z390 Chipset Block Diagram

Not much has changed from Z390 to Z370. The new 9th-gen processors themselves work fine on Z370 chipset boards although Intel has been very adamant in utilizing the new Z390 boards with 8-core parts due to revisions on standards about how board makers should configure their VRMs.

In terms of changes, there’s only a few to note which includes Intel WIFI-AC having been baked directly into the board, the increase in USB3.1 Gen2 ports to 6. PCI-e lanes and HSIO config remains the same from last generation.

Coffee Lake Refreshed

The 9th-generation Intel Core processors mark the debut of the Core i9 in the mainstream market, previously only being made available in HEDT platform. This also sees Intel’s first 8-core offering for mainstream. One that would see prices skyrocket for their top parts. Factor in the current, ongoing supply issues that Intel has and its been a difficult time for the company and customers alike in terms of availability and pricing.

Going back to the processors themselves, Intel has announced three launch models: the Core i9-9900K, Core i7-9700K and the Core i5-9600K. Other SKUs have seen been announced including models without IGPs. Besides core count, one of the main changes that the 9th-gen Core processsors will is the total lack of Hyperthreading. Only the Core i9-9900K will have Hyperthreading amongst all currently announced models alongside its non-IGP counterpart.

As with the previous Coffee Lake release, the parts are forged in the 14nm fab process.

You can read more in our review of the Core i9 9900K and Core i7 9700K.

Note: Best viewed on desktop 1366x768 or higher.
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Specifications

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

Official product page

  • CPU Build in Intel® 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® Processors
    Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
    * Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
  • Chipset Build in Intel® Z390
  • Socket 1151 for 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® processors
    2 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory *
    Dual Channel Memory Architecture
    Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
    * Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
    * Double Capcity DRAM support depends oh the DRAM models
  • Graphic Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® UHD Graphics support
    – Supports HDMI 1.4b with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
  • Expansion Slots Socket 1151 for 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® processors
    1 x PCIe 3.0 x16
    Intel® Z390 Chipset
    1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
  • Storage Socket 1151 for 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® processors :
    2 x ROG DIMM.2 Module support(CPU_DIMM.2), with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
    Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    2 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (x4 PCIE mode)
    Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    4 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s),
    Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
    Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
  • LAN Intel® I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
    Anti-surge LANGuard
    ROG GameFirst Technology
  • Wireless Data Network Intel® Wireless-AC 9560
    Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
    Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
    Supports MU-MIMO
    Supports channel bandwidth: HT20/HT40/HT80/HT160. Up to 1.73Gbps transfer speed
  • Bluetooth Bluetooth® 5.0
  • Audio ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A
    – Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
    – Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
    – High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output 113 dB SNR recording input
    Audio Feature :
    – SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
    – Gold-plated jacks
    – Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
    – Sonic Radar III
    – Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Link
  • USB Ports Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel connector port(s)
    Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    4 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port(s) (3 x Type-A+1 x Type-C)
    Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    8 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s) (2 at mid-board)
    Intel® Z390 Chipset :
    6 x USB 2.0 port(s)
  • ROG Exclusive Features ROG CPU-Z
    ROG CloneDrive
    Pre-mounted I/O Shield
    Slow Mode
    CMOS button
    Overwolf
    ReTry Button
    Safe Boot Button
    Start Button
    Reset Button
    LN2 Mode
    ROG Aura
    – Aura Lighting Control
    – Aura RGB Strip Headers
    Extreme Engine Digi+ :
    – MicroFine Alloy Chokes
    – 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
    Mem TweakIt
    Double Power :
    – Dual 8 -pin CPU
    USB BIOS Flashback
    ROG Exclusive Software
    – RAMCache III
    – GameFirst V
    – Sonic Studio III + Sonic Studio Link
    – Sonic Radar III
  • Special Features AI Overclocking
    ASUS 5X Protection III :
    – ASUS SafeSlot Core: Fortified PCIe Slot prevents damage
    – ASUS LANGuard: Protects against LAN surges, lightning strikes and static-electricity discharges!
    Gamer’s Guardian:
    – SafeSlot
    ASUS Optimem II:
    – Optimem (Improved DDR4 stability)
    – Improved DDR4 Stability
    ASUS Exclusive Features :
    – MemOK! II
    – Pre-mounted I/O Shield
    – ASUS NODE : hardware control interface
    – BIOS Flashback Button
    – Clear CMOS Button
    – Reset Button
    ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
    – ASUS Fan Xpert 4
    ASUS Q-Design :
    – ASUS Q-Code
    – ASUS Q-LED (CPU, VGA, Boot Device LED)
    – ASUS Q-Slot
    – ASUS Q-DIMM
    – ASUS Q-Connector
    AURA: RGB Lighting Control
    Armoury Crate
  • Operating System Support Windows® 10 64-bit
  • Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
    1 x HDMI
    1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
    3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (red)Type-A,
    1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (red)Type-C
    6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (blue)
    2 x USB 2.0
    1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
    1 x Wi-Fi antenna port(s)
  • BIOS 1 x 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI3.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 3.0, ACPI 6.0, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information.
  • Manageability WfM2.0, DMI3.0, WOL by PME, PXE
  • Support Disc Overwolf
    1-year Anti-Virus software
    Daemon Tools Software
    WinRAR
  • Form Factor mATX Form Factor
    9.6 inch x 8.9 inch ( 24.4 cm x 22.6 cm )

Packaging & Content

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

ASUS has been subtly tweaking its packaging over the last generations of motherboards and this time around, the change is a bit more defined yet still subtle. The new ROG motherboard packaging now don a more distinct black styling with abstract panel lines adorning the main sides. The main cover has holographic prints in bold for the model names with minimal prints on the rest of the front.

The side are now a brighter shade of red, a truer red than what we’ve been used to seeing since the early Maximus or Rampage releases. The narrow sides now have a bright red print with the eye logo of ROG printed on 1 side similar to Jordan brand packaging style.

The Maximus XI Gene’s packaging is thinner but wider than the Maximus XI Hero and Extreme. This is due to ASUS moving all accessories to one compartment to the side of the board packaging and putting the wider paper inserts on the bottom.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

At the back we have a detailed breakdown of the features and specs of the motherboard. There’s also detailed highlights of some of the key features of the board at the back.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX package contents

Inside the package we have the following:

  • WIFI antenna
  • Front panel Q-connector
  • ROG SLI HB bridge
  • 4x SATA cables
  • M.2 screws
  • Cable for RGB strip
  • Cable for addressable RGB LED
  • ROG driver disc
  • Manual
  • Greeting card
  • CableMod discount voucher
  • Mounting adhesive pads for M.2
  • ROG DIMM_2 M.2 riser module

Closer Look

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

The entire MAXIMUS XI portfolio will share a new darker theme than previous ROG generations. This makes them even more neutral making them easy to blend with any themed builds. ASUS’ excellent build quality is evident when you first hold these boards and the MAXIMUS XI GENE, despite its size is a hefty board.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

The board features 12-phase power delivery design to provide stable power to the CPU. The design is capable enough to handle extreme overclocking and heatsinks used to cool the VRM area are denser to handle the larger VRM area.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

And here comes one of the major changes in this motherboard with the use of only two DIMM slots. As you can see, ASUS has opted to utilize the space for a M.2 slot and a DIMM_2 slot. DIMM_2 is ASUS’ proprietary mounting for their M.2 risers which debut with the Maximus IX series. The motherboard extends a bit than most mATX boards, utilizing the maximum width of the ATX standard meaning the board is literally an ATX board but with mATX height. The layout on this motherboard is impeccable and everything looks square in place including the onboard buttons and debug LED. The ATX power and USB3.0 front panel connector and USB3.1 connector look flush and clean and don’t look like they were crammed in their places for no reason.

A large heatsink spans from the top of the board in-between the DIMM slots and DIMM_2 slot. This screws into place and houses a single M.2 SSD.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

As mentioned, ASUS built this board for extreme performance and while we feel it doesn’t need it, ASUS puts in two 8-pin ATX-EPS power connector on the motherboard for extreme situations.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

Another notable shift in design with the Maximus XI Gene is the decision to angle all connectors. Most, if not all, bottom edge connectors on this motherboard or angled downwards allowing for a cleaner look but based on experience, planning is required before finalizing wiring as we’ve had some very complicated situations in which we need to reconnect wires in an mATX case but with the cables already flush to chassis floor, it gets tough disconnecting and connecting them again. Still, its a nice idea and one that other motherboard brands should consider.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

ASUS SupremeFX again makes it return with a Realtek ALC1220 still getting major love from all the motherboard companies this generation.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

Notice that the motherboard pushes the first x16 slot to the 2nd space which has been the trend recently, relegating the first PCIe slot to x1 duties. This allows board makers to have M.2 slots just below the CPU socket. In an mATX situation, this arrangement removes a possibility of a 2nd x16 slot which a board of this level is capable of handling. Previous Gene models supported multi-GPU configurations but with the Maximus XI GENE, ASUS has decided to drop multi-GPU support altogether, instead opting for a single PCIe x16 slot and a single x1 slot.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

At the back we have the BIOS flashback and reset buttons. We also have a legacy PS/2 port, USB2.0 ports, 4x USB3.0 ports (one of which used for the BIOS flashback feature, denoted by the square outline and BIOS label on the lower pair), USB3.1 Gen2 Type-C and Type-A ports, the WIFI connectors and the audio connectors. For video, we have a single HDMI port for output display from the IGP.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

Total of 4 SATA ports located on this board.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene with DIMM_2 M.2 module installed

A shot of the DIMM_2 module connected to the motherboard. Basically looks like one giant stick of RAM with that massive heatsink.

BIOS Walkthrough

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

ASUS still has their familiar UEFI BIOS interface with the new Z390 motherboards. Most of these boards will share the same menu options with higher models like the Maximus XI Extreme having more menu options for extreme overclocking and tweaking. The ASUS Maximus XI Hero, Gene, etc. mostly share similar menu options.

The UEFI interface has been a mainstay for ASUS for a few generations now and we’ve praised it for being a simple yet rich at the same time. The interface is simple to navigate and offers easy-to-use dropdown menus to change values. Besides tweaking options, ASUS also integrates rich fan controls as well as voltage and temp monitoring. There’s also profile management, DRAM and PCIe viewers to check system hardware. ASUS integrates the option to update the BIOS online as well as via local storage with their interface and has been a great tool to work with.

ASUS has a BIOS flashback feature which allows users to reinstall a fresh BIOS copy in the event of an issue.

ASUS also integrates AI overclocking with their latest motherboards allowing the BIOS to gauge processor potential. In the screenshot below you’ll on the lower right the Cooler points and Silicon quality rating of the system. Intel has since voiced their concern over this and has requested ASUS to remove silicon quality. Newer BIOS will not have silicon quality in their prediction panel.

Test Setup & Methodology

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

Processor: Intel Core i9 9900K
Motherboard: ASUS MAXIMUS XI GENE
Memory: Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4-3600 16GB
Storage: WD Blue SSD 1TB SATA
PSU: Seasonic Platinum 1050w
Cooling: Fractal Design Celsius S36 AIO Liquid cooler
Monitor: Viewsonic VX2475smhl-4K
VGA: NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -

All tests are performed in an open bench with ambient room temperature kept at 28*C.

Motherboards are updated to the latest BIOS during time of testing kept at their out-of-box settings aside from XMP frequencies when running stock benchmarks.

As many already know, most motherboards will have varying frequency multipliers and this may affect performance overall. As this is part of their out of the box configuration we see it fit to use them as is. All data presented here in are with the default motherboard settings for stock performance. Overclocked performance will be indicated where needed. For non-Z series motherboards, all benchmarks are performed on DDR4-2133 default settings.

As always, we’ll let the numbers do the talking.

Best Practices

  • Same thermal paste and same application method used on all cooler mounting. A pre-benchmark stress test is performed to let the TIM settle. We use Noctua NT-H1 for all our testing.
  • A fresh install of Windows 10 Pro is used for every sample testing. The OS image contains all benchmarks and games. Drivers are installed after image is installed.
  • An average of 3 benchmark runs is used for test sampling.

Benchmarks Used

  • Maxon Cinebench R15 – Multi-threaded CPU benchmark
  • Blender 3D – BMW 2.7 CPU Render benchmark
  • POV-Ray 3.7.1 – Multi-threaded Render benchmark
  • Cinegy Cinescore 10 – Ultra HD 4K resolution CPU encoding benchmark
  • HWBot x265 – 4K x265 CPU encoding benchmark
  • wPrime 1024M – multi-threaded prime benchmark
  • SuperPI 32M – single-threaded prime benchmark
  • GeekBench Pro 4.2 – full system benchmark
  • ASUS RealBench 2.56 – full system benchmark

Subsystem Benchmarks

  • Crystal Disk Mark
  • Rightmark Audio Analyzer

Other Software

  • Latest LAN Speed Test via LST Server
  • Latest AIDA64 (Stress Test)
  • Latest CPU-Z
  • Latest GPU-Z
  • Latest HWnfo 64-bit

Test OS Environment

  • Windows 10 Pro Retail 64-bit
  • Latest NVIDIA GeForce Game-Ready drivers
  • Latest AMD Chipset/Radeon drivers (when applicable, AMD boards)
  • Latest DirectX end-user runtime

Measuring Equipment:

  • Flir One USB Thermal Camera via Thermal Imaging+ app
  • HP-9800 AC wattmeter with USB interface for app logging
  • Standard sound level meter

Network Hardware

  • ASUS ROG Rapture GT-5300 Router

Performance Test – Rendering/Encoding

Rendering tests are benchmarks designed to gauge performance during
multimedia and professional workloads like 3D rendering or video encoding. This gives us a good idea on how a certain system will perform during a certain predefined workload.

MAXON Cinebench CPU Benchmark R15


Blender BMW Render Benchmark 2.7

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POV Ray 3.7

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Cinegy Cinescore 10 – Ultra HD

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HWBot x265

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Performance Test – Arithmetic

Arithmetic benchmarks measure the performance of systems with regards to mathematical computations which some programs require. These benchmarks paint a good picture of how raw CPU performance is like.

wPrime 1024M

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SuperPI 32M

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Performance Test – System Benchmark

System benchmarks measure the performance of a system based on numerous tasks including a mix of rendering, arithmetic and other things. These benchmarks require the entire system to work together and components should compliment each other to achieve maximum performance.

GeekBench Pro 4.2 Multi-Core Benchmark

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ASUS RealBench 2.56

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Performance Test – Memory Benchmark

AIDA64 Memory Benchmark – Read/Write

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AIDA64 Memory Benchmark -Latency

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Temperature & Power Draw

In this test we’ll measure how much manufacturer-set BIOS settings affect temperature and power draw. As we’re dealing with pre-launch samples, more mature BIOS may change these over time.

Temperature


Power Draw

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We really don’t put too much stock on individual component temperatures as they will vary depending on usage and we do not benchmark using extreme loads anymore as they’re not reflective of real world applications. To stress the CPU, we use a 20-minute run of AIDA64 stress test. We recorded the peak CPU temps and cross-match HWINFO and AIDA64 readings. For power readings, we measure the peak system draw.

Thermal Images

Value & Conclusion

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

microATX and miniITX may be more accessible nowadays but both of which have been relegated to the compact system designation but as with recent years have shown us, compact system are more than capable of performing like their full-sized counterparts. That being said, the catch is that these mATX boards are configured similar to their full ATX brothers and with the ASUS MAXIMUS XI GENE, having to drop a pair of memory slots and lose dual-GPU capabilities meant this new platform will offer pretty much the same performance as an equivalent 2-stick, single GPU system. The catch is, well, obviously you’re stuck with only two DIMM slots and a single GPU which begs the question why ASUS went this direction. What you gain though is high-speed channels for our M.2 storage and if you’re looking to expand, you can pop-in a riser in that PCie x1 slot for more high-speed storage. This could make for a compact, content creation rig that heavily uses high-speed storage IO like 4K videos but then with that kind of usage you’re limited to 2 sticks of memory which at this point in time in December 2018 and early 2019, is limited to a maximum of 16GB per stick.

But have no fear, ASUS to the rescue as they’ve partnered up with G.skill and ZADAK 511 to offer Double Capacity memories which are only compatible with the ASUS MAXIMUS XI GENE and XI APEX. This solves the problem of memory size until 32GB and 64GB sticks become standard. We’ve yet to test Double Capacity memory so we’re still unsure about its performance.

Regardless, the ASUS MAXIMUS XI GENE performs like a champ, showing numbers closer to the MAXIMUS XI Extreme than the Hero. This reflects our earlier expectations from boards with simpler feature sets like this one. In terms of features, there’s plenty here to make sure that compact builders don’t feel left out with the board delivering same-level performance and tweaking features like its full ATX brothers.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review

Build quality is excellent and despite its quirks, the layout is clean and well thought out. Every connector and onboard component compliments each other and its just a gorgeous looking motherboard.

If you’re looking to build a top-end microATX system that will see some hefty overclocking action and probably house a beefy GPU, there’s plenty of reason to consider the ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XI Gene: great performance, excellent build quality and an insane amount of high-speed storage options make it a great foundation for a high-power, mATX content creation system.

ASUS backs the ROG Maximus XI Gene with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Silver Award!

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Gene microATX Motherboard Review -