Intel Z790 Motherboards
Overview of the Z790 Motherboard Range
This roundup explores 11 Z790 motherboards from leading manufacturers like Asus, Asrock, MSI, and Gigabyte. These boards vary in price, ranging from $280 to a hefty $1,200, catering to different budgets and performance needs. Each board will be examined for its unique features and performance, particularly focusing on VRM thermal testing, a critical aspect for system stability and longevity.
Asus TUF Gaming Z790-Pro WiFi
Pricing and Positioning
Asus' TUF Gaming series is a prominent sub-brand known for its robust build and reliable performance. The latest addition to this lineup is the Z790-Pro WiFi, priced at $280. This model closely resembles its predecessor, the TUF Gaming Z790-Plus, in terms of design and core features.
Despite their similarities, the Z790-Pro WiFi distinguishes itself with a few upgrades. It converts one of the PCIe 4.0 x1 slots to an x16 slot (still wired for x1 bandwidth) and introduces a 30-watt PD fast-charging support for the front USB 20Gbps port. These modifications, though minor, add a layer of convenience and future-proofing to the board.
The current pricing of the Z790-Pro WiFi poses a dilemma. Its predecessor, the Plus model, is available at a more affordable $205, with some listings going up to $230. This price difference makes the Pro model at least 22% more expensive, raising questions about its value proposition. It's advisable to wait for the Pro and Plus models' prices to align more closely before considering a purchase.
Asus ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi II
Aesthetic and Functional Upgrades
The ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi II, priced at $360, maintains the same price point as its predecessor while introducing several updates. Aesthetically, the board has undergone a revamp, though its power delivery and cooling systems remain largely unchanged.
One of the significant upgrades is the introduction of WiFi 7 with Asus' new Q-Antenna feature, which simplifies the antenna connection process. Additionally, the board replaces one of its PCIe 4.0 x16 slots with an extra PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot, enhancing storage options.
I/O and Audio Modifications
The I/O panel sees the addition of two USB 2.0 ports, expanding connectivity options. However, the audio system has been downgraded to ROG SupremeFX 5.1 from the previous 7.1 setup, which might be a consideration for audiophiles or users with advanced audio setups.
Asus ROG Maximus Z790 Dark Hero
High-End Aesthetic Appeal
The Asus ROG Maximus Z790 Dark Hero, priced at a premium $700, is a high-end motherboard that stands out for its striking design. This model is a revision of the original Hero motherboard, with most changes being aesthetic.
Feature Upgrades and Pricing
While the aesthetic changes are the most noticeable, the Dark Hero does offer some functional upgrades like WiFi 7 and an improvement in Bluetooth technology (from version 5.3 to 5.4). The M.2 configuration has also been modified, with the board now featuring all five M.2 slots onboard, including a primary PCIe 5.0 slot.
The price jump from the original Hero model at $530 to the Dark Hero at $700 raises questions about the value for the 32% price increase. The new features, although beneficial, may not fully justify the significant price hike for all users.
Expanding the Review to Other Motherboards
Continuing the roundup, the review will cover other notable Z790 motherboards from Asrock, MSI, and Gigabyte. These boards will be scrutinized for their unique features, performance metrics, and value for money. The review aims to provide a comprehensive overview, helping users make an informed decision based on their specific needs and budget constraints.
Asrock is known for producing motherboards that strike a balance between performance and affordability. Their Z790 lineup is expected to continue this trend, offering a range of features aimed at different user segments, from gaming enthusiasts to professional content creators.