Intel Comet Lake Core i9-10900K, Core i7-10700K, Core i5-10600K CPU Review Ft. ASRock Z490 Taichi, ASUS ROG Maximus XII HERO & Gigabyte Z490 Vision G
Conclusion - The Z490 Motherboards
The Z490 motherboards deserve their own breakdown. Following is my verdict on the three Z490 boards that I initially received for testing. Do note that we will have more Z490 board reviews in the coming weeks so stay tuned for them too.
ASUS ROG Maximus XII HERO WiFI ($399.99 US)
The latest Maximus XII HERO from ASUS ROG brings a lot of brand new features. Compared to the previous generation, the latest ROG is a definite improvement in all possible ways, with a better & more high-end design than ever.
The M12H has a 14+2 phase power delivery rated at 60A (each) while the M11H had a 6 phase and 50A (each) design. You get better heatsinks with more heat pipe coverage, four DDR4 slots that can support up to 128 GB capacities at speeds of 4800 MHz versus 4400 MHz on its predecessor. There are also triple M.2 slots compared to just two on the M11H and all three are covered by their heat sink blocks. Expansion slots configuration remains the same but you do go support for PCIe Gen 4 which will be enabled with future processors that only the LGA 1200 socket can support, not the LGA 1151 socket.
I/O is also strong with dual networking ports (1GbE/5GbE) compared to a single 1GbE LAN port on the M11H. There's also WiFI 6 onboard which is faster than the solution featured on the M11H. In terms of USB connectivity, you get four USB 3.2 Gen 2, four USB 3.2 Gen 1, and two USB 2.0 ports which are a definite improvement over the 4/2/2 configuration on the M11H. You also get 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1, and four USB 2.0 front panel connectors compared to 1/2/2 config for the M11H.
Overclocking on the board is a breeze if you consider the extra VRM cooling that the heatsinks provide and the overall design is more in-line with the higher-end ROG motherboards & is truly impressive to see that on a ROG HERO series motherboard. The BIOS for ASUS ROG series is fine-tuned for enthusiasts however, a general user might get overburdened by the excessive options that the BIOS provides.
Finally, we have the price which has seen a massive increase over the previous model. The ROG Maximus XI HERO WiFI costs $299.99 US whereas the ROG Maximus XII HERO WiFI costs $399.99 US. It looks like ASUS has revised both, the price segment and the specifications of its ROG HERO motherboards for both Intel and AMD platforms. Currently, the ROG Crosshair VIII HERO WiFi for AMD Ryzen 3000 CPUs costs anywhere around $360 US which is a fairly decent price over its MSRP of $379.99 US but the pricing is solely based on availability with some retailers having it listed for over $500 US which is a huge markup. The ROG Maximus XII HERO is definitely more feature-rich than its Crosshair brother but is slightly more expensive.
Overall, the ASUS ROG Maximus XII HERO is one of the most solid ROG HERO offerings by ASUS in a long time. It offers all the necessary features that are required to gamers and enthusiasts, offering best-in-class overclocking than the rest of the Z490 $300 US motherboards.
ASRock Z490 Taichi ($369.99 US)
ASRock seems to have gone all out with its latest Taichi offering based on the Z490 chipset. The Z490 series drops the look from the Z390 series and goes with the one introduced on the X570 Taichi motherboards which are by far the best Taichi design so far. You get an updated 15 phase (50A) VRM vs a 12 phase (50A) power delivery, four DDR4 slots that support up to 4666 MHz vs 4200 MHz, and a heavily improved XXL Aluminum heatsink design. The LGA 1200 socketed CPUs require more power and for this purpose, the Z490 Taichi is outfitted with a dual 8 pin connector configuration vs an 8+4 on the Z390 Taichi. The motherboard has an even better power delivery than the X570 Taichi which is impressive to see.
An overclock of 5.2 GHz across all the 10th Gen CPUs wasn't hard to come by on the Z490 Taichi. The new and subtle BIOS side enhancements are always a warm welcome. Once again, the VRM cooling provides great results if you can get used to RPM shooting up randomly.
Coming back to the heatsink design which I mentioned, while the X570 Taichi features active PCH cooling, the Z490 Taichi features active VRM cooling. The Z490 Taichi integrates three fans on the VRM heatsinks, two vertical on the top heatsink, and one horizontal on the side heatsink. In my tests, the Z490 Taichi VRMs actually produced lower heat due to extra cooling but at the cost of higher noise output and unusual RPM shoot when the CPU was stressed at random intervals. This did cause some annoyance but most of the time, the fans were off thanks to the implementation of 0dB technology. You can definitely turn the active fans off through the BIOS but if you're going to overclock, then it might become necessary to keep them up and running.
The I/O on the Z490 Taichi is better than the X570 Taichi and Z390 Taichi. Featuring 3 USB 3.2 Gen 2 and 5 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports compared to just 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports on the X570 Taichi & Z390 Taichi but both motherboards do come with an additional USB 3.2 Gen 1 port. There are also more front-panel USB 3.2 ports on the motherboard which include 6 on the Z490 Taichi, 5 on the X570 Tachi & 3 on the X570 Taichi. All three motherboards have WiFi capabilities but its only the Z490 Taichi that takes advantage of the Intel WiFi 6 technology. LAN options include a 1GbE and 2.5GbE port on the Z490 Taichi which is better than the X570's single 1GbE LAN port but slightly inferior to the Z390 Taichi Ultimate's triple LAN port config, offering two Gigabit and a single 10GbE LAN connector. The Z390 Taichi Ultimate lacks a pre-installed rear-panel I/O which is a standard on the X570 and Z490 series motherboards.
With that said, the Z490 Taichi is definitely the most expensive Taichi motherboard produced for the mainstream segment. Retailing at $369 US, this is a $169 US price increase over the $299.99 US Z390 Taichi Ultimate and the X570 Taichi. However, there's a certain supply issue going on for X570 motherboards which have led to retailers selling the said boards with a huge markup. The ASRock X570 Taichi is currently out of stock at Newegg and the 3rd party sellers have listed it for $599.99 US.
So as an alternative, the Z490 Taichi is definitely the more reasonable option to go for if you're into the market for a Taichi board although I would select some other option in this price range as the Taichi Z490 is simply put a very expensive motherboard and ASRock has various options for under $300 US such as the Phantom Gaming Velocita and Extreme 4 that offer similar specs. The ASUS ROG Maximus XII HERO in comparison is a more impressive option for slightly more or if you're looking for something more affordable, then ASRock's Z490 Extreme4 is a solid 10th Gen option for under $200 US. The ASRock Z490 Taichi is superior to the Z390 Taichi in all aspects, even outclassing the X570 Taichi but the $170 US premium is just a bit too much for this motherboard.
Gigabyte Z490 Vision G ($199.99 US)
The Gigabyte Z490 Vision G is the lowest priced Z490 motherboard I got to test, retailing at $199.99 US which makes it a far more compelling option for the mainstream audience. The board carries a good VRM with 12 phases rated at 50A along with the use of premium components. You get DDR4 DIMM slots that can support up to 128 GB capacities at speeds of up to 5000 MHz which is super impressive for a $200 US board.
I/O is solid with four USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4 USB 3.2 Gen 1, and 2 USB 2.0 on the rear and 1 USB 3.2 Gen 2 / 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 front panel headers. You also get four additional USB 2.0 front panel headers on the motherboard. The rear panel comes with a pre-installed I/O shield and has additional ports such as 2.5GbE Networking switch, HD audio jacks, HDMI, DisplayPort, and support for Thunderbolt 3.
The most impressive thing about the Gigabyte Z490 Vision G is the new creator aesthetic, featuring a white and black design with a subtle RGB implementation. The VRM heatsinks are made up of all aluminum alloy and use a brushed 'SLIVER' (misprinted Silver) colors. Two of the M.2 slots feature full-length heatsinks with the top-most featuring Gen 4 tier hardware which will be available with Intel's future core processors on the LGA 1200 socket.
Even when it comes to overclocking, I had no issue running all three chips at 5.2 GHz, making the Z490 Vision G a great board for those who want some extra performance out of their chips. When it comes to pricing and features, the Gigabyte Z490 Vision G goes easy on the wallet while providing you with all the necessary features that you'd ever need in your PC.