In this review we looked at the ASUS Maximux XI Apex. Overall the motherboard performed extremely well with solid performance out of the box and consistent scores both overclocked and with stock settings. This is not uncommon for a product that is designed to be used in extreme conditions but the execution is often a deciding factor. I have used a variety of these motherboards in the past where they might be designed for overclocking but in reality they are designed for the in-house overclocker with no documentation and little support. The ASUS Maximus XI Apex is different in that you get all of the features and controls needed to be successful plus enough information to help you use everything to your advantage.
One of the unique features of this particular motherboard is the change in the VRM design. In the past ASUS has used phase doublers allowing them to use a much smaller VRM and still get the same power delivery. With the XI Apex they have moved to a “Teamed Power Stage” design that will activate pairs of power phases for consistent power delivery. By default the VRM will be physically larger and while 16 phases are present on the Apex it is effectively an 8-phase VRM. If memory serves this is not a new concept as Gigabyte did something similar back in the day and even had some software to show you what power phases were active as little engine graphics. The Gigabyte design allowed you to enable all of the phases or have them activate in stages based on load. The ASUS design works the same and is a much better approach for higher core count processors
The UEFI layout is quite good and displays exactly what you need to see. This is an important feature given that many manufacturers tend to overcomplicate the interface by trying to show "everything" or do the opposite and hide everything in a list of complex menus. The ASUS UEFI is very straight forward showing you the current state of your system while giving you appropriate menus to make adjustments. I will admit the menus can get excessively long and some settings are easy to miss as a result.
When it comes to overclocking I found the Apex to be very responsive both manual and some automatic adjustments and with the Core i9 9900K I found that using the automatic and “offset” controls to be more effective and consistent than locking in a manual setting. The benefit was the ability to increase voltage but still allow the Digi+ power engine to modify the voltage curve as needed.
There are many different levels of Z390 motherboards from ASUS and the ROG Maximus XI Apex is one of the more unique entries on the list. Not only is it one of the less expensive models but is designed for the hardware enthusiast who enjoys overclocking and really pushing the limit. It has LN2 controls built into the hardware and takes a no frills approach to motherboard design. The higher end ROG motherboards like the Extreme are quite a bit more expensive but are designed for system builders who are concerned with appearance and cooling modifications over raw performance.
This, of course, is a subtle misconception that some folks overlook. For instance the Maximus XI Extreme is a very capable overclocker with the same LN2 controls found on the Apex. One of the major differences is how memory overclocking is handled. The Apex only has two sockets while the Extreme has four due to its retail nature. There are also provisions for factory overclocking support which the Apex doesn’t have, cause: LN2.
Having used a variety of overclocking ready Z390 motherboards I can honestly say that the Apex is one of the most refined offerings on the market and clearly would get my recommendation as the perfect dual purpose motherboard for the hardware enthusiast looking to have a 24/7 machine that they can overclock on the weekends for them juicy gold cups.
Black Color Scheme
Oversized VRM Heatsinks
Excellent UEFI Menus
Flexible PCI Express Layout
4800Mhz DDR4 Performance
DIMM 2 M.2 SSD Card
Super Clean Audio
LED Strip Header
Excellent Voltage Control
Overvoltage is easy so watch them temps
Would like to see a watercooled VRM option
Not a fan of the white graphics on the PCB