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