Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Asus ROG Maximus XI Gene - Intel Z390 Motherboard (Gen. Coffee Lake Refresh)

Asus ROG Maximus XI Gene (Z390) Motherboard

  • Finally, a new Asus Maximus Gene model, the Intel Z390 XI Gene.
  • Last Gene model was based on Z170 chipset from way back 2015 which was surprisingly supplanted by latter budget Strix mATX builds.
  • Amalgamation of both extant Maximus Gene and newer Maximus Apex ideals. 
  • Gene - mATX, feature packed build - onboard buttons/switches, debug LED,  plenty fan headers, forward leaning features eg. Asus DIMM.2
  • Apex - max. overclocking, streamlined 2 DDR4 slots (rated 4600MHz!), single x16 PCI-e slot.
  • Supports the new soldered 8 core i7-9x00K (but still MIA in retail as of now mid-Oct) with retro support for 6 core i7-8x00K greased processors.
  • Supports 32GB “Double Capacity” DDR4 RAM modules
  • Well connected - Intel G.LAN,  Intel AC-9560 wifi, Bluetooth 5.0

Official Asus Specs & Z390 Guide


PDF Manual


Summary of Z390 in 2018  vs Z370 in 2017 platforms

  • Out of box ready Intel 9th gen 8C16T support
  • Intel chipset USB 3.1 and wifi support
  • 2018 CFL-R K processors are TIM soldered and allegedly hardware fixed for certain Meltdown hacks
  • Higher RAM capacity support with better RAM overclocking potential (Asus internal doc mentions up to DDR4-4700 for the XI Gene)


Impressively large and heavy box for a mATX model.


Not quite overflowing with accessories inside, the motherboard and Asus DIMM.2 card contribute most of the weight.

Horizontal Headers

... cable management fans, rejoice. Plus voltage measuring points for the hardcore fanatics.

PCI-e Slots

Reinforced x16 and open ended x4

SATA Ports

A missed opportunity with upright power and USB3.1 headers, pity. Oh well, hooray to the forward looking 4 x M.2 (NVMe x4)!

Asus DIMM.2, QLED Display, Onboard Buttons

The proprietary Asus DIIM.2 design allows 2 more NVMe SSDs with better cooling.

CPU Socket Region

Note the 10+2 phase power delivery (IR3555) and... 2 x 8 pin CPU 12V plugs, it's the only such equipped model besides the top eATX Extreme model.


Test Setup

Asus ROG Maximus Z390 XI Gene | Intel Core i5-9600K@4.8GHz | Corsair DDR4-3466@XMP 16GB Kit | WD Black nvme 500GB SSD | Scythe Kabuto3 | Win 10 x64 1803 (test OS)

Using the onchip Intel HD630 for now cos undecided on which discrete GPU to pair it with.

Open air caseless, SG ambient 29C

* settings are neither refined nor finalised, personal preference is an overall balance of performance, power, heat... and especially noise.


Web reports have claimed up to 5.2GHz overclocks for the i5-9600K so the value proposition of this lowest end soldered CFL-r chip is definitely there. Using an air cooling solution here so no heroics, just a modest push to 4.8GHz with pleasantly low load temps. btw, SG currently has nil to very low stock for the higher end soldered CFL-r processors currently... :(

Ordered the Scythe air cooler off Amazon since it seems to be well suited for the Gene XI with its overhanging blow down action. Keeps the nvme SSD and DDR4 nicely breezy and cool, a great testament to the thoughtfulness of the designers of this motherboard.

UEFI Sample Screenshots

Still the best UEFI implementation, imo. Powerfully detailed yet logically easy to use. Other makes are still lagging behind, lacking very useful features like debug LED toggle options, CMOS setting change tracking and text file export etc...  most impressively, the ability to flash a BIOS out of the box to support new processors is unrivaled so far.

For those who love tinkering and overclocking yet are acutely allergic to cold dual boots... the Gene XI, even when overclocked, boots into the OS straight on cold boots. Love it!


CPU-Z Bench

Can it catch up with the costlier i7-8700K?

Cinebench R15

Clearly out-performs the stock 6C12T i7-3930K with this modest overclock despite the lack of hyperthreading in the i5-9600K.




HyperPi 32M

Still Intel's forte, AMD's heel.


RealBench 2.56

It actually ran completed with the Intel HD630... lol

Looks like plenty of room to move around with such air cooled load temps, vcore and low rpm fan noise. More effort and time invested would definitely yield better clocks and timings.



First Thoughts

Design-wise, the XI Gene can be quite the powerhouse for use as a gaming station and as the heart of a high end HTPC. It is is featured packed with quality components and thoughtful placement meant for effective overclocking and cooling. The SupremeFX S1220A audio solution has the now less seen optical output in case your home theatre HDMI ARC setup is lacking.

Yes, the XI Gene definitely looks like an interesting mATX model in interesting times when Intel is now playing ball with more cores on its mainstream desktop platforms albeit at not quite mainstream pricing. Of course, AMD must be doing a really good job with their own truly mainstream priced Ryzen moar coars platform this past year.

For die hard Intel fans especially the fps gamers, a nicely overclocked 8 core Z390 setup could really be the ultimate gaming platform.

Performance wise, this platform is looking very good with ready availability of solid motherboards but Intel processor worldwide scarcity and cost seems to be an over-riding dampening concern. While almost full marks may go to Asus for their impressive Gene XI design and enticing local SG promotion, Intel would definitely score less for their 9th Gen processor effort with dismal availability and pricing.

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