At first, you may not realize that the two motherboards shown in the picture below are in fact different. They certainly appear very much alike in both looks and features, but those with keen eyes will notice that one is the ROG Maximus IX Formula and the other is the Maximus IX Code. So what exactly are the differences? I've unboxed both and torn them apart to help you decide which Z270 gaming motherboard you need.
Which is best for you?
With the Code, ROG wanted to give enthusiasts top-end performance and prestegious aesthetics at a reduced cost. For what you get, it's really is a bargain. Those who often had their eye on the ASUS Deluxe Series now have a better choice at a similar price point - an ROG gaming motherboard. Now you can build a serious gaming rig on a foundation with incredible overclocking potential, premium components for longevity and stability, and ROG-exclusive features like Extreme Engine DIGI+ and Sonic Studio III. You also get the unmistakable ROG look and feel, which can make your PC seem even more powerful than it already is.
The Formula comes with more bells and whistles, none more glaring than the ability to liquid-cool the motherboard itself. The MOSFETs are covered by a CrossChill EK II hybrid heatsink/waterblock compatible with the custom loop you'll need for your mod-of-the-year project. The CrossChill EK II is only available on the Formula, so it's important to decide how you're going to liquid-cool your system before deciding between the boards. Although blocks can be added to the Code, making some of them fit may require removing the armor. Both boards are compatible with typical CPU blocks, including those attached to all-in-one liquid-cooling kits.
In addition to supporting more extravagant liquid cooling, the Formula has a more extravagant finish. There are more customizable AURA Sync zones that you can light up and sync with compatible ROG products, and there's a metal fortifier on the back for builds that reveal both sides of the board. Read on to find for more details on the differences.
What are the key differences?
Let's look at the six key differences between the Formula (left) and the Code (right).
1. The Formula supports custom liquid loops with a new CrossChill EK II cooler that incorporates thinner fins which reduce temperatures by 4˚C compared to the previous generation. The holes for standard G1/4" fittings are covered by plugs adorned with ROG logos. The design also works with air cooling, but circulating liquid through the block reduces temperatures by up to 23˚C. On the Code, you still get a new heatsink design with a phosphate conversion coating and premium, brushed-metal finish.
2. The Rampage V Edition 10 first introduced the pre-mounted I/O shield. This integrated piece makes PC building easier, since you no longer need to be concerned about the clearance for plugs or remembering to install the shield before the motherboard. The gap between the I/O plate and the motherboard is also greatly reduced, and it's always perfectly aligned, which simply looks great. The Formula takes this concept one step further by eliminating the I/O frame for an almost seamless surface.
The Code (right) still offers a fantastic-looking nickel-coated Q-Shield.
3. The Formula and Code both offer full ROG armor.
But the Formula adds extra flair wherever possible, including two extra brushed metal plates highlighted below.
4. The M.2 covers have hinges, allowing them to be removed easily with one screw. The cover on the Formula comes in Gunmetal Grey, which makes it inconspicuous, while on the Code it is Matte Black.
5. The Formula adds AURA Sync lighting in two more zones - the tabs behind the SafeSlots, as well as the ROG logo on the PCH.
6. The Formula adds a full-board fortifier to protect the motherboard from bending when pressure is applied. It looks great and provides reassuring strength for those times when you might need to push harder, like installing stubborn CPU coolers and graphics cards, or attaching a tight-fitting 24-pin power connector. The Code might not have a fortifier, but it does offer heatsinks to cool the MOSFETs from the back.
What's in the box?
Most enthusiasts love adding accessories to their pride and joy, but the extra expenses add up. You can count on ROG motherboards to always offer plenty of goodies to add value and make building easier and more fun. Here are the goodies you'll find in the box.
The ol' trustworthy user's guide keeps you informed about the nitty-gritty, and the CPU installation tool is there in case it's been some time since you last upgraded. For mass storage, you'll still need some SATA cables; the Code comes with two pairs, while the Formula provides an extra pair. An extension cable for connecting up RGB lighting is bundled with both boards.
It's always preferable to complete a build with matching colors, components, and decor. That's precisely why the ROG Certified program was created. By just getting the Formula or Code, you're ready to match a growing collection of ROG-approved products.
You can choose to extend the ROG theme across your build by applying the bundled stickers for fans, cables, and the chassis. You can color-code your cables and use the metal ROG badge as the finishing touch on your case. For more choices for cables and lighting, a 20%-off voucher for CableMod is included in the box. There's even an ROG coaster to match the Claymore and Spatha on your desk.
An M.2 bracket is supplied for your second M.2 SSD. Here's a guide to setting up two of them in a RAID 0 configuration for extreme speed.
An external magnetic antenna for the 2T2R Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO is supplied for better reception. A high-bandwidth SLI bridge is bundled - and ripe for a 3D-printed cover - but if you're interested in added RGB lighting with a touch panel, check out our premium SLI bridge. Finally, there's the small-but-convenient Q-connector that helps you connect the chassis buttons and lights easily.
The Formula and Code are both great motherboards with the same DNA. If you can determine what you want to do with your system, you can pick one that will leave you more than happy for years to come. The Code is tuned for gaming and overclocking enthusiasts ready to move up to the next level in aesthetics and customization, while the Formula is for liquid-cooling and modding aficionados who want to make their rigs really stand out.