Intel Core i9-9900K 8 Core and 16 Thread 5.0 GHz CPU Review Ft. Z390 AORUS Master Motherboard
AORUS Z390 MasterOctober, 2018
AORUS Z390 Master Motherboard - Close Up
The AORUS Z390 Master is styled in black and silver. This is a top-tier product that retails at $290 US so expect lots of features packed inside this motherboard. The motherboard comes in the standard ATX form factor. The Master series replaces the Gaming 7 products which have always been the go-to products for high-performance gamers and enthusiasts while the Xtreme tier products are aimed at the premium high-performance market.
The back side of the motherboard has a base plate which comes with additional thermal pads to interact with the electrical components on the back. This offers better thermal conductivity through the back side and the shield provides more durability to the motherboard.
The board uses the LGA 1151 socket to support Intel Core processors. The socket is compatible with Intel's 8th & 9th Generation core family. The socket has a protective cover on top of it that points out the exclusivity with Coffee Lake CPUs and refrains users from running an older 6th or 7th generation CPU as they won't work with these motherboards at all.
Next to the socket are four DDR4 DIMM slots which can support up to 64 GB dual channel memory. These slots are rated to support XMP profiles up to 4266MHz (OC Plus). Each slot is labeled, making it easier to install DIMMs in the proper orientation.
The interesting thing is that Intel has said to allow memory capacity support of up to 128 GB but that would mean that DRAM vendors would have to release dual-capacity memory kits that utilize 16Gb dies and ensure that they are compatible with these boards. All four DIMM slots feature the metal shielding which offers increased durability.
AORUS has been offering these since their 200 series motherboards and they do add to the quality of the board. Previous generations had also embedded LEDs but AORUS has gone away from that design scheme to offer Digital LEDs on different Accent zones spread across the motherboard.
The AORUS Z390 Master packs a 12 IR Digital VRM supply. The PWM design includes 12 IR3553 40A MOSFETs and 6 IR3599 Phase Doublers. The one on the Z390 AORUS Xtreme is an even higher end, rocking a 16 phase design (TDA21462 60A) and 8 Phase Doublers.
The only other board to use International Rectifier components is the Z390 AORUS I Pro WiFi which has a 6 phase design IR35201 PWM unit (IR3553 40A MOSFETs) but no Doublers like the high-end models. All of these motherboards should ensure top-notch overclocking and the best stability on unlocked 9th and 8th Gen processors. AORUS themselves state that the boards will offer 5 GHz+ overclocking capabilities across all 8 cores.
As you can see, the VRMs are getting ample cooling from the two metallic heatsinks that are beefy in terms of overall size. This motherboard is designed for overclocking so expect stable operation of the electrical circuitry when this board is running.
If you look in closely, the heatsink solution comes with heat pipe cooling that runs across the entire length of the dual heatsinks. The heatsink is a combination of various blocks, the most impressive of which is the Direct Touch fin stack that embeds the copper heat pipe. AORUS claims that the fin heatsink offers up to 30% temperature reduction compared to traditional aluminum blocks.
The fin stack is actually embedded on top of the main aluminum heatsink and I cannot a slight gap in between them which is filled by a high thermal conductivity pad. This would ensure that air does not get trapped within the opening. The main aluminum block features the direct touch heatpipe solution which disspates heat from the VRMs effectively.
AORUS is also using Digital LEDs within the top I/O cover that gives a nice effect, emitting light through the fin stack when the motherboard is operational.
Below, you can see the conductivity pad which sits underneath the aluminum block and the fin array which sits over the aluminum block, finally being topped off by a plastic shroud that gives nice aesthetics to the motherboard. Both aluminum blocks further include fin cuts so that air can channel through them.
The CPU is supplied power through an 8+8 pin power connector configuration. This will feed the CPU with up to 300W of power. Most Intel CPUs will be shipping with TDPs under 100W but that changes when users overclock since that changes the power limit based on applied voltages and clock speed.
On close inspection, you can see that the power connectors are braced using metal shielding. These including the 24pin ATX connector use the solid pin design that has a larger contact area for electric current to flow through and higher metal quantity to sustain higher power draws.
Expansion slots include three PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x16/x8/x4 electrical), three PCI Express 3.0 x1 and three M.2 slots. The board can support three-way multi-GPU (CrossFireX / SLI). The M.2 slots are rated to support NVMe PCIe gen3 x4 and Intel Optane series memory.
AORUS is using their Ultra Durable PCIe armor on the sides of the expansion slots 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 do look really sweet.
All three M.2 slots feature the M.2 Thermal Guard that comes with a large metallic plate, acting as a heatsink and further includes a thermal pad that can sustain higher temperatures when storage devices (M.2 SSDs) are stressed for long durations.
The PCH is cooled off by a large metallic heatsink which runs next to the SATA ports. The PCH heatsink has embedded Digital LEDs and provide a good light show for those that are interested in RGBs trend. You can also turn off the LEDs entirely through AORUS's bundled software if you are not a fan of such LEDs.
The PCH heatsink is themed to represent the AORUS Falcon logo which offers a nice touch the motherboard.
Storage options include six SATA III ports rated to operate at 6 GB/s. These can support a total of six different storage devices at once. There's also a right-angled USB 3.0 front panel connector. Many fan headers and jumpers can be found beneath the storage ports.
AORUS is using the latest high-end ESS Sabre DAC (ES9118) and ALC1220 Audio Codec for sound enthusiasts. There is a range of audio technologies available on the board which include audiophile-grade WIMA capacitors and Nichicon caps while the precision audio stream (TXC Oscillator) chip offers precise time triggers to Digital-Analog converters.
The full list of connectors on the motherboard is listed as follows.
- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
- 2 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
- 1 x CPU fan header
- 1 x water cooling CPU fan header
- 4 x system fan headers
- 2 x system fan/water cooling pump headers
- 2 x Addressable LED strip headers
- 2 x Addressable LED strip power select jumpers
- 2 x RGB LED strip headers
- 3 x M.2 Socket 3 connectors
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
- 1 x front panel header
- 1 x front panel audio header
- 1 x S/PDIF Out header
- 1 x USB Type-C port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 header
- 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
- 1 x Thunderbolt add-in card connector
- 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header (2x6 pin, for the GC-TPM2.0_S module only)
- 1 x OC button
- 1 x reset button
- 2 x temperature sensor headers
- 2 x BIOS switches
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- Voltage Measurement Points
AORUS is using the Intel 802.11ac Wave2 CNVi WiFi and Bluetooth Module to power wireless connectivity such as 802.11ac WiFi (up to 1.73 Gbps) and Bluetooth 5.0.
Finally, we have the I/O panel which includes the following ports:
- 1 x Power/Reset button
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 2 x SMA antenna connectors (2T2R)
- 1 x HDMI port
- 1 x USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support
- 3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red)
- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
- 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 1 x RJ-45 port
- 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
- 5 x audio jacks
AORUS Z390 Master RGB Fusion System:
AORUS is using their RGB Fusion technology to power the lighting system on the Z390 Master. There's a range of customization available through the app which can be downloaded directly from AORUS's official webpage.
In addition to the built-in RGB illumination, it also features onboard RGB headers and an addressable RGB header that allow the motherboard to be connected to compatible LED devices such as strip, CPU fans, coolers, chassis and so on. Users may also synchronize RGB LED devices across the RGB Fusion Sync-certified accessories to create their own unique lighting effects.