Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard Review

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Introduction

A lot is riding on this launch, none more so than Intel’s pride, and motherboard partners are keen to at least cash in on the attempt despite the fact that Intel has left them in the cold with the Z490 not including a lot of interesting developments in terms of its offering. That said, this leaves a lot of room for motherboard makers to be creative which may or may not backfire on Intel as the platform cost for the Z490 platform, despite its mainstream position, will see boards go upwards of 800$ or more.  Then again, it started last year with X570 and motherboard makers have tested the waters on just how much the current enthusiast market is willing to spend on motherboards. With X570 you get Gen4 though, with Comet Lake errr you get Gen3, still.

Well screw that said GIGABYTE. They are marketing their Z490 motherboards, particularly the AORUS lineup, to supprt PCIe Gen4. This is despite the fact that Comet Lake is purely PCIe Gen3. This only means that the upcoming successor for Comet Lake will support Gen4, otherwise, a Comet Lake with Gen4 just doesn’t make sense as well. Rumors aside, GIGABYTE is building that hype train already and is including it in their marketing but let’s be honest, that’s friendly-fire when you reveal to customers that they could get a better chip by waiting another generation.

In today’s review, we’ll check out the Z490 AORUS XTREME. The top-end motherboard from GIGABYTE under their AORUS gaming lineup and it is one heavy kit. Featuring much of the design that made the X570 AORUS XTREME, GIGABYTE will be looking to feed off of that success withe Z490 but with nearly a $1000 price tag, this motherboard is extortionately premium.

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

Intel 400 series Chipset – Z490

Let’s be honest Intel, I’d usually do a full breakdown of the chipset for this generation but truth be told, it’s pretty much the Z390 with WIFI6 and LGA1200 socket. Intel cites that the new motherboards required a new power configuration hence the new socket but then again, that’s for the socket, the chipset itself is left with just WIFI6. Intel could’ve released second-gen Z390 but it wouldn’t make motherboard makers happy, would it? For motherboard makers though, they have full freedom to explore newer power implementations. With experience from AMD’s high core-count chips, the Z490 should inherit a lot from the X570 of last-generation in the power delivery side and have some space to play around with the features.

Intel Z390, B460, Z370 and Z270 Chipset Comparison
Feature Z490 B460 Z390 Z370
Max PCH PCIe 3.0 Lanes 24 24 24 24
Max USB 3.1 (Gen2/Gen1) 6/10 ? 6/10 0/10
Total USB ? ? 14 14
Max SATA Ports 6 6 6 6
PCIe Config x16
x8/x8
x8/x8/+4
x16
x8/x8
x8/x8/+4
x16
x8/x8
x8/x4/+4
x16
x8/x8
x8/x4/+4
Memory Channels (Dual) 2/2 2/2 2/2 2/2
Intel Optane Memory Support Y ? Y Y
Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) Y ? Y Y
Max Rapid Storage Technology Ports 3 ? 3 3
Integrated WiFi MAC Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 6 Wi-Fi 5 N
Intel Smart Sound Y ? Y Y
Integrated SDXC (SDA 3.0) Support ? ? Y N
DMI 3.0 3.0 3.0 3.0
Overclocking Support Y N Y Y
Intel vPro ? ? N N
Max HSIO Lanes 30 ? 30 30
Intel Smart Sound ? ? Y Y
ME Firmware 14 14 12 11

Table courtesy of Anandtech

Closer Look

Unboxing

First off, this motherboard is easily the heaviest boards of this generation rivalling, of course, its direct competition the MAXIMUS XII EXTREME. This board requires some careful handling as I nicked my fingers on the rear I/O by carelessly holding it. Rants aside, the weight is mainly due to the amount of material that comprises the motherboard with a large metal backplate covering nearly 90% of the back and a mix of metal and plastic on the front.  The metal on this board is treated to help dissipate heat better and as you can see in our unboxing video, is not a cheap powder coating job as it is very tough to scratch. There are some things I need to point out right now. The Power/Reset buttons on the top right of the board are poorly made and do not give a satisfying feedback when pressed. Overall though, the layout of the board is quite uniform underneath the heatsink and its angled connectors make it a very clean option for high-end show builds.

GIGABYTE is using a 16-phase power delivery design on this board but unlike the direct-array setup it had on the X570 XTREME, uses a more traditional approach. The MOSFETs are cooled by AORUS’ signature fin-stack heatsink for motherboard which they claim provides better overall performance and dissipation. A running joke about AORUS’ boards is when they use reinforced DIMM slots despite no memory stick will weight so much to rip those slots from their solder. Still, it adds a nice touch of quality and rigidity to this motherboard. The same goes for the ATX and EPS power connectors on the top using solid connectors.

One, or should I say, two, of the driving force behind the cost of the AORUS XTREME is the inclusion of Thunderbolt3 and 10G LAN onboard.  This is one of those lesser marketed highlight of this motherboard as AORUS is pushing for power and sound on this board a bit more.  The board has a rich assortment of connectivity with 2.5G LAN present as well.  On the other side we have the SATA ports, all 6 of them, as well as a lot of sideways connector for fan headers and USB3.0 front panel. USB3.1 front connectors are still forward facing but just the ATX-24 pin being sideways is a lot of help already. This board uses a USB2.0 header splitter which limits the USB2 connectivity of this board to 2.

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

Removing the shroud of this motherboard which requires removing 4 screws for the bottom and 2 screws for the top cover, will reveal the nicely aligned M.2 slots. This board can run three M.2 SSDs in RAID for faster extremely fast storage to aid a Thunderbolt3 storage array if the user scenario calls for such usage.

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

There’s a little tab cover on the bottom left which hides the front-audio header and some switches.

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

AORUS includes a USB DAC device with the Z490 AORUS XTREME. This device promises to improve audio quality which is why they chose to hide the front panel audio connector. This DAC is powered by a ESS SABRE HIFI although AORUS doesn’t detail the exact details of the DAC.

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

Conservative RGB on this board with the glass tops on the shroud slicing up the relatively dimmer light  but removes the backlight and other onboad lighting due to the shroud in-plate. In my opinion, a better RGB accent rather than forcing the lights.

BIOS Walkthrough

AORUS recent UEFI BIOS interface is easy-to-use but highly cluttered due to the lack of visual separation. Everything is under the Tweaker tab and most of the voltage controls and memory control are under their respective groups. Onboard devies and such are under Settings but you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the interface if you want to play around with this boards connectivity and overclocking options.

This motherboard ships with Power Limits disabled. It will run at a higher TDP due to this.

Test Setup & Methodology

Test Setup: Intel “10th-Gen”
Processor Intel Core i9-10900K, Intel Core i7-10700K (both engineering samples)
Motherboard GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS XTREME
RAM Gskill TridentZ RGB DDR4-3600 32GB (8GB)x4 CL16
VGA NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
Storage Seagate FireCuda 510 1TB
Power Supply Seasonic Platinum 1050w

Test Setup: Intel “9th-Gen”
Processor Intel Core i9-9900K, Intel Core i7-9700K
Motherboard ASUS ROG MAXIMUS XI EXTREME
RAM Gskill TridentZ RGB DDR4-3600 32GB (8GB)x4 CL16
VGA NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
Storage Seagate FireCuda 510 1TB
Power Supply Seasonic Platinum 1050w
Test Setup: AMD
Processor AMD Ryzen 9 3900X, AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Motherboard ASUS PRIME X570
RAM Gskill TridentZ RGB DDR4-3600 32GB (8GB)x4 CL16
VGA NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition
Storage Seagate FireCuda 510 1TB
Power Supply Seasonic P1000 Platinum 1000w

Cooler: ROG Ryujin 360mm AIO Cooler

Monitor: ROG PG27UQ 4K 144hz HDR10 Gsync Monitor

All tests are performed in an open bench with ambient room temperature kept at 35*C (Because its summer in the Philippines.)

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 R20 – Multi-threaded CPU benchmark
  • Blender 3D – BMW 2.7 CPU Render benchmark
  • POV-Ray 3.7.1 – Multi-threaded Render benchmark
  • HWBot x265 – 4K x265 CPU encoding benchmark
  • 7zip Benchmark – a compression benchmark
  • wPrime 1024M – multi-threaded prime benchmark
  • SuperPI 32M – single-threaded prime benchmark
  • PugetBench for Photoshop – an Adobe Photoshop benchmark developed by PugetSystems
  • Adobe Media Encoder – an encoding benchmark
  • Corona Bench 1.3 – a rendering benchmark
  • V-ray 4.10.07 – a raytracing benchmark
  • 3DMark Time Spy – a DirectX12 gaming benchmark
  • 3DMark Fire Strike – a DirectX 11 gaming benchmark
  • PCMark10 Extended – a complete system benchmark
  • PCMark10 Digital Content Creation – the content creator sub-score from the Extended test

Other Software

  • Latest LAN Speed Test via LST Server
  • Latest AIDA64 (Stress Test) -or-
  • Prime95 26.6 non-AVX version – Custom 12K (Stress Test)
  • Latest CPU-Z
  • Latest GPU-Z
  • Latest HWnfo 64-bit

Test OS Environment

  • Windows 10 Pro 1909
  • 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
  • Sound level meter

Network Hardware

  • ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AC5300 Router

We would like to thank the following for our reviews:

Thanks to UL Benchmarks for providing access to their benchmarks for our reviews.

Understanding Intel CPU Behavior Based on Motherboards

For the past couple of years, Intel has introduced Turbo Boost and Turbo Max and now we have Turbo Boost Velocity. While Intel sets a defined standard on how these values affect CPU performance and how long they stay active, motherboard makers were always given rights to comply with these standards. With quad-core CPUs, this wasn’t much of a concern but with newer 6-cores and more-cores CPUs, this has exponentially added to the power draw of these CPUs.

You see, the way this works is that Intel sets the TDP or Thermal Design Power for CPUs at a certain level, in the case for the 10th-gen 10900K, 125W. With Turbo Boost 2.0 active, that will increase until a workload is finished or the CPU meets certain thresholds. On top of this, there is also Turbo Boost Max and Turbo Velocity Boost. These values are set by Intel for the CPU and will take advantage of lifting performance if certain conditions are met. In most cases, especially for gaming or enthusiast boards, companies assume that gamers will be using more exotic cooling that meets or exceeds the TDP rating of the CPU. This means,  gaming boards from ASUS, AORUS/GIGABYTE, ASRock, MSI, EVGA, and everyone else that markets themselves as a performance board, in assuming the user has good cooling, will set their own values for Turbo.

Now this has a direct effect on benchmark results, temperatures and power draw, of course. With the higher clocks, power drawn from the outlet increases as the TDP rating increases and so does temperatures. This are usually out-of-box settings for specific boards hence their default settings. While advanced overclockers used to tuning these timings and values can configure the boards to meet a satisfactory setting, most casual consumers will just set XMP and go. This means that in exchange power absolute performance, these boards are assuming users can meet the cooling standards that their settings induce.

Here in Back2Gaming, I test motherboard with out-of-box settings, noting in our conclusion if the BIOS is tuned right, etc. In reading these reviews, we highly urge readers to have an understanding of this behavior as they are not directly Intel’s decision to make which may lead to misinformation about the power draw and temperatures of these CPUs. This, in turn, has its upside besides performance as it shows us a good balance of how much confidence a board maker has on its products if and they do implement an unrestrained Boost on motherboards that are relatively lighter on its VRM cooling, VRM design, lower price, etc. but we will be critical if board makers are just doing this to increase review scores

Arithmetic Test

SuperPI 32M (Single-threaded)

wPrime  1.55 1024M (Multi-threaded)

 

Encoding Test

HWBOT x265 Benchmark

 

 

7zip

 

Rendering Test

CineBench R20

 

POV-Ray 3.7.1

 

 

V-Ray Benchmark 4.10.07

 

Corona Renderer Benchmark 1.3

 

Blender 2.87 – BMW 2.7 CPU Benchmark

 

 

Content Creation Test

PugetBench for Photoshop

 

Adobe Media Encoder

 

Memory Performance

 

 

System Performance – PCMark 10

 

 

3DMark Benchmarks

 

 

Gaming Test – Rainbow Six: Siege

 

 

 

Power and Temperatures

To measure power draw, we hook-up our power meter on another system via USB. Our power meter is capable providing a chart of power the watts currently being consumed by the unit plug into it. We take the average of 15 minutes idle and 15 minutes load to show our power daw. Our load test is SuperPI 12K. A power virus scenario which you will never encounter on regular use. This is a worst-case scenario but is lighter on power than our previous AIDA64 stress test which is an AVX test, which draws more power than normal. The raw data from app is gathered and we get our results.  Temperatures are also captures during this time.

Various configurations will play a factor on how much you are consuming and the same applies to our test. We try to keep our test bench uniform at all times (same memory, graphics card, board if possible, etc). All tests are done with the motherboard or CPU on out-of-box settings as indicated in our Test Setup page with only XMP applied.

When tested on motherboards, this shows how motherboard companies tune their BIOS to affect performance which in turn affects power draw and temperatures.

As you can see in our workload benchmarks, the AORUS boards have a distinct performance advantage over the ASUS motherboards and that’s due to power limits. We’ve discussed in details about TDP and how removing that limit can potentially increase performance but in return for great power draw and CPU temperatures. GIGABYTE has decided to ship their boards with power limits turned  off and will allow CPUs to run at their boost without limits. Here we have the Z490 AORUS XTREME on stock settings running a Prime95 12K stress test. As you can see, we’re getting a throttled 4.7Ghz on the CPU clock because our 10900K is running at 99*C under a 360mm AIO.

On short bursts, this can relatively be safe like quick render bursts and so on but for extended periods, will require better cooling or otherwise, a manual overclock to hopefully override the aggressive voltage the motherboard may be using. That said, this is what shows the the difference between performance and thermals/power draw between ASUS and GIGABYTE.

 

GIGABYTE is running basically double the TDP rating of the 10900K which exposes the limits of this CPU which in turn pushes temps and power draws to very high levels. We’re comfortable running the CPU at 90*C but 99*C is already past my limit for a 4.9Ghz processor.

Thermal Images

Due to the power increase, this board’s VRMs runs a bit higher but is still far from alarming.

Overclocking

We don’t feel as confident in this overclock seeing as we only got 5Ghz on this board knowing we could do 5.1Ghz on other boards. That said, we’ll need to play around with this board further to see what’s up. Due to the short period we had with this board on the 10900K, we couldn’t come to a satisfying OC result so we’ll update this further as we see post-launch BIOSes hopefully correct some things.

Conclusion

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard

Again, a foreword for readers that’s knee jerk reaction is to rip on Intel, that’s not your choice and if a person wants to go that route, it is their choice. Thus, this review assumes the user knows this and is fully committed into purchasing a 10th-gen CPU.

That said, let’s discuss performance. AORUS was set into taking those review scores and went with an unlocked power limit but then again, power limits were disabled on Z390. We choose to go with out of box settings and if any of these change, we will happily re-test for ASUS or GIGABYTE. Still, while performance are good, disabling MCE by default would’ve been the smarter choice to keep the CPU from facing slightly misunderstood results from incomplete testing. With sufficient cooling, the results would’ve been impressive and given the market for this board, we agree with AORUS opting to choose to do so, leaving that to the user.

With the board sucking up so much power, you will notice in our thermal images that the ATX/EPS cables are heating up as well. This board handles power delivery well but with its higher clock speed and power comes increased heat and that shows in the thermals with a load temps on the VRM heatsinks of around 50*C+, which is not an alarming number. Anything below 100*C on the VRM is safe. While it is heavy, it pales in comparison to the overbuilt nature of the MAXIMUS XII EXTREME but this is offset by the fact that this is a better looking motherboard the what ASUS has for the top-end ROG. The M12E is not ugly but it’s as pleasingly clean as the AORUS Z490 XTREME.

Functionally, this board is really loaded and there’s enough underneath that hood to make people happy including me. AORUS’ choice to go with built-in Thunderbolt3 is better than a daughter card addition to the board. While it does add to the cost, its something you absolutely have to have to make the decision, not a forced bundle you probably will never use.

The AORUS Z490 AORUS XTREME (yes, they’re brand name makes the model name redundant) is a $800 motherboard and is $Php46,000 in the Philippines and it does compete directly with the MAXIMUS XII EXTREME. The big difference is execution. While the AORUS XTREME manages to be an attractive, all-in-one solution for gamers/content creators,  ASUS goes for a more modular approach. In this case, you loose the a PCIe slot which is not a good idea for ASUS jut to retain USB Type-C. The Z490 AORUS XTREME is already a premium motherboard and built-in Thunderbolt3 makes more sense.

The Z490 AORUS XTREME is an excellent performance motherboard and is basically the GIGABYTE DESIGNARE board in AORUS skin. It offers high-speed storage connectivity in both M.2 and Thunderbolt3 and is openly advertising PCIe Gen4 supprt with a future CPU. That said, this board will last but if and should there be significant upgrade to make you jump to whatever is replacing Z490, it’s something worth taking note of but as of this moment, the AORUS Z490 XTREME is an extremely premium board that should please its rockstar owner who can fork out the cash.

Do we recommend the AORUS Z490 AORUS XTREME? If you’re a professional content creator that will use an i9-10900K and like the clean aesthetic of the board and can absolutely afford it, then by all means. No matter how much we dislike the price increase, if its an industry decision that most board makers will do, then gamers have spoken with their wallets and it showed in the sales report that’s why these boards exist.

The Z490 AORUS XTREME is a well-built motherboard packed to the brim with connectivity that can improve content creators’ workflows. It’s an easy alternative if GIGABYTE will release a more premium Designare board.

AORUS backs the Z490 AORUS XTREME with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Silver Award!

Z490 AORUS XTREME LGA1200 Motherboard Review
Final Thoughts
The Z490 AORUS XTREME is a well-built motherboard packed to the brim with connectivity that can improve content creators' workflows. It's an easy alternative if GIGABYTE will release a more premium Designare board.
Build Quality
9.7
Functionality
9.7
Bundle
8.2
Value
8.3
Pros
Excellent build quality
16-phase VRM
Great board design
Lots of connectivity options
Clean layout
Cons
Premium price
Side ports need wider and taller case
Limited USB2.0 header, may cause problems with RGB controllers and AIO that need USB2.0
Cheap plastic feel on onboard buttons
9
Rating

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