ASRock Z690 Aqua OC Motherboard Review Ft. Corsair’s Hydro X Series Liquid Cooling


ASRock Z690 Aqua OC Motherboard - Close-Up

The ASRock Z690 Aqua OC is themed in silver, grey, and black colors. This is a flagship product that retails at over $1000 US. The motherboard comes in the E-ATX form factor, measuring 30.5 x 26.7 cm, and is jam-packed with features.

Taking a look at the front of the motherboard, we see a design that would look great with almost any PC build. The silver looks with metallic and brushed metal accents look great. Despite being a overclocking-geared motherboard, this is the most streamlined designed I have yet to see from several offerings.

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The back of the motherboard comes with a reinforced backplate that offers both durability and cooling. It also features a brushed metallic accent and has a separate backplate for the IO cover.

The board uses the LGA 1700 socket to support Intel Core processors. The socket is compatible only with Intel's 12th Generation core family. The socket has a protective cover on top of it that points out the exclusivity with Alder Lake 12th Gen CPUs & refrains users from running an older 11th and 10th generation CPUs as they won't fit in the socket at all and forcing them in the socket is only going to cause permanent damage to your motherboard.

Do note that to access the CPU socket, you would have to unscrew the whole VRM/CPU water block from the back of the motherboard. But doing so isn't a complicated process and requires removing four screws from the backplate and the water block can be twisted off the motherboard with ease.

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Next to the socket are two DDR5 DIMM slots that can support up to 64 GB of dual-channel memory. These slots are rated to support XMP profiles up to 7000 MHz (OC Plus). Each slot is labeled, making it easier to install DIMMs in the proper orientation. DDR5 memory comes with a different latch position so forcing a DDR4 module into a DDR5 slot will cause permanent damage. Each slot is also combined with a reinforced design to make sure signal integrity remains good while keeping the slots durable for long-term usage.

The use of two DDR5 DIMM slots makes the signaling better and is generally regarded as a better approach to memory overclocking than using quad DIMM motherboards. You do get restricted to just 64 GB of memory.

The ASRock Z690 Aqua OC packs a 20+2 phase power delivery configuration that makes use of the 105A Smark Power Stages. The motherboard also makes use of a high-end 12 layer PCB with a 2oz copper design.

As you can see, the VRMs are getting ample cooling from the whole water block. We will detail the water block in a bit.

The CPU is supplied power through an 8+8 pin power connector configuration. This will feed the CPU with up to 300 Watts of power. The Intel 12th Gen Unlocked CPUs are very power-hungry with the maximum turbo power rated at 241W for the Core i9-12900K and more if you are planning to overclock these chips.

The whole heatsink design is based on ASRock's XXL Aluminum alloy implementation and is part of their 'Aqua Cooling' armor.

The ASRock Z690 Aqua OC comes with a stainless steel water block with machined cuts on the front to expose the aluminum skeleton within it. The water block provides cooling to both the CPU & the VRMs and features micro-channel fins for increased heat dissipation. The base plate comes with a removable film that should be removed before screwing the block back on the CPU socket. Treads used by the water block are G1/4 so compatibility shouldn't be an issue with most water-cooling PC setups.

The Z690 & Aqua logos are laser-etched on both heatsinks and provide a nice aesthetic for the motherboard. Since this is a specialized media sample, the board comes with our own 'Wccftech' logo.

Expansion slots include three PCI Express x16 (1 Gen 5 x16 / 1 Gen 5 x8/ 1 Gen 4 x4), and a single Gen 3 x1 slot. There are also triple Hyper M.2 ports, all of which are Gen 4x4 compliant, offering up to 64 GB/s transfer speeds.

  • - 1 x Hyper M.2 Socket (M2_1, Key M), supports type 2260/2280 PCIe Gen4x4 (64 Gb/s) mode
  • - 1 x Hyper M.2 Socket (M2_2, Key M), supports type 2260/2280 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s & PCIe Gen4x4 (64 Gb/s) mode
  • - 1 x Hyper M.2 Socket (M2_3, Key M), supports type 2242/2260/2280/22110 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s & PCIe Gen4x4 (64 Gb/s)

ASRock is using a metallic cover on the sides of the PCIe Gen 5.0 expansion slots as a part of its Surface-Mount Tech which provides protection to some extent. It adds more retention and shearing resistance by reinforcing the slots with metal plates. Aside from adding more protection, they are also said to offer ideal signal flow.

The triple M.2 slots are cooled off by the thermal pad and aluminum baseplate cooling. This is part of ASRock's M.2 heatsink cooling technology and ensures stable operation for M.2 storage devices. The thermal adhesive has a plastic cover over them which needs to be removed before using them with the storage devices. Two of the M.2 slots run between the PCIe slots while the third one runs next to the DDR5 DIMM slots.

The Z690 PCH is housed beneath a large heatsink with the Aqua logo on top of it and the 'Wccftech' logo on the mirror plate. The design on the heatsink cover is just for aesthetic since it has several RGB LEDs running on ASRock's Poly-Chrome Sync RGB technology.

The whole futuristic vibe that the Aqua throws at you is just stunning and doesn't overwhelm you with flashy RGB or color schemes. It is a very professional-looking motherboard, designed for serious users.

You have the option to disable all RGB LEDs on the ASRock Z690 Aqua OC board too.

Storage options on the ASRock Z690 Aqua OC include six SATA III ports rated to operate at 6 GB/s. These can support six different storage devices at once. There are also dual USB 3.2 (2x Gen 2 / 2x Gen 1) front panel connectors. Many fan headers and jumpers can be found beneath the storage ports.

ASRock is using its Audio system for audio which is a combination of hardware, software audio solutions. 7.1 CH HD audio with the latest Realtek ALC1220 audio codec, ESS SABRE9218 DAC & Wima capacitors (for front outputs).

The full list of connectors on the ASRock Z690 Aqua OC motherboard is listed as follows.

  • - 1 x SPI TPM Header
  • - 1 x Power LED and Speaker Header
  • - 1 x RGB LED Header
  • - 3 x Addressable LED Headers
  • - 1 x CPU Fan Connector (4-pin)
  • - 1 x CPU/Water Pump Fan Connector (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
  • - 6 x Chassis/Water Pump Fan Connectors (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)
  • - 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
  • - 2 x 8 pin 12V Power Connectors (Hi-Density Power Connector)
  • - 1 x 6 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector)
  • - 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector (15μ Gold Audio Connector)
  • - 2 x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 4 USB 2.0 ports) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Headers (Support 4 USB 3.2 Gen1 ports) (ASMedia ASM1074 hub) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 2 x Front Panel Type C USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Headers (20 Gb/s) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 1 x Dr. Debug with LED
  • - 1 x Power Button with LED
  • - 1 x Reset Button with LED
  • - 1 x Retry Button
  • - 1 x Safe Boot Button
  • - V-Probe™: 4-set of onboard voltage measurement points laid
  • - Rapid OC Buttons: +/- buttons to adjust OC frequency
  • - 1 x Slow Mode Switch
  • - 1 x LN2 Mode Switch
  • - 1 x NickShih's OC Profile 1 Button with LED
  • - 1 x NickShih's OC Profile 2 Button with LED
  • - 1 x NickShih's OC Profile 3 Button with LED

ASRock is using Intel's Wi-Fi 6E to power wireless connectivity such as 802.11ax WiFi (2.4G WiFi) and Bluetooth 5.2. In terms of Ethernet, the motherboard rocks an Aquantia AQC113CS controller that's powering the 10GbE and a Killer E3100G controller that powers the 2.5GbE LAN ports.

The I/O plate comes with an I/O cover with ASRock's iconic gear design that rotates in real-time embedded within it. Following is the full list of I/O on the ASRock Z690 Aqua OC motherboard:

  • - 2 x Antenna Ports
  • - 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
  • - 1 x HDMI Port
  • - 2 x DisplayPort 1.4 Input
  • - 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
  • - 2 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Ports (10 Gb/s) (ReDriver) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 2 x USB4 Thunderbolt 4 Type-C Port (40 Gb/s for USB4 protocol; 40Gb/s for Thunderbolt protocol) (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A Ports (Supports ESD Protection)
  • - 2 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
  • - 1 x Clear CMOS Button
  • - 1 x BIOS Flashback Button
  • - HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone (Gold Audio Jacks with LED)

Another cool feature of the motherboard is the OLED display that shows the status of the motherboard, the content can also be configured in the BIOS for a more user-friendly application.

Users are greeted with an Aqua splash screen before they get more useful and real-time metrics such as voltages, temperatures, fan speeds, clocks, etc. Once again, this screen can be customized fully and gives a good experience if you are an overclocker looking for these measurements close to you.

There aren't the only OC-specific feature that you get on the motherboard. The Aqua OC features its own unique OC button design which includes Rapid OC buttons (+/- to adjust OC frequency), a slow mode switch, an LN2 mode switch, and three separate buttons which include OC profiles from ASRock's renowned overclocker, NickShih himself.

ASRock Z690 Aqua OC RGB Gallery:

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