Ten months ago, AMD released the Ryzen 3000 series desktop processors in one of the most monumental hardware launches of the modern era. This final step completed the Red brand's ascent back into the forefront of the desktop processor market that began with the launch of the first generation of Ryzen CPUs. Today, Intel is finally firing back with the launch of the 10th Generation Intel Core processors, along with a new motherboard standard to drive them.
As should be no surprise, the focus will remain on the new motherboards. While the 10th Gen Intel Core processors will not support PCIe 4.0 connectivity due to signal integrity issues, many of the Z490 motherboards are designed to support the PCIe 4.0 specification. This is accomplished by adding clock generators to help clean up the signal. Generally speaking, when it comes to long-term platform support, AMD has been the trendsetter. Has AMD's long support of the AM4 socket on its newer generation processors inspired Intel to take similar steps?
So what is Z490 offering right now? For starters, there has been a large focus on VRM and VRM cooling design. With the top-level Intel Core i9-10900K featuring 10 cores along with HyperThreading, the ability to deliver clean, continuous power is going to be one of the primary factors that separates a good Z490 board from the competition. With the introduction of HyperThreading on Intel's mid-range line-up, power delivery is going to be vital in all segments.
The AQUA line from ASRock is the brand's "halo" product. Featuring everything except the kitchen sink, including a full-coverage mono block for custom water cooling and even a limited run serial number. This limited production board was first introduced for X570, with a run of 999 motherboards. Now, ASRock is back at it with another 999 board run on Z490 with the ASRock Z490 AQUA.
The ASRock Z490 AQUA features a 14 phase Vcore VRM utilizing top of the line 90 A power stages from Intersil. When paired with the included monoblock, this could easily be the coolest-running Z490 VRM to date. Beyond the VRM and watercooling, there is Thunderbolt 3 connectivity with two Type-C ports as well as two Mini DisplayPort inputs on the rear I/O. There is even a monochrome LED screen over the rear I/O that can be customized to display a variety of information.
With so many features to dig into I won't waste any more time here—let's see how the ASRock Z490 AQUA performs!
|CPU Support:||Intel 10th Gen or later processors|
|Power Design:|| CPU Power: 17 phase |
Memory Power: 2 phase
|Integrated Graphics:||Dependant on installed CPU|
|Memory:||4x DIMM, supports dual-channel DDR4-4700+(OC) MHz|
|BIOS:||AMI UEFI BIOS|
|Expansion Slots:|| 3x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) slots |
2x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
|Storage:|| 8x SATA 6 Gb/s port |
3x M.2 port (SATA3/PCIe 3.0 x4)
|Networking:||1x AQUANTIA AQC107 10G LAN|
1x Realtek RTL8125AG 2.5G LAN
1x Intel 802.11ax WiFi module
|Rear Ports:||2x Antenna ports|
1x Bios flashback button
1x Clear CMOS button
2x Mini DisplayPort Input ports
1x HDMI port
2x Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports
2x LAN (RJ45) port
4x USB 3.2 (Gen1) ports
3x USB 3.2 (Gen2) Type-A ports
3x USB 3.2 (Gen2) Type-C port
1x Optical SPDIF out port
5x 3.5 mm audio jacks
|Audio:||1x Realtek ALC1220 Codec|
|Fan Headers:||8x 4-pin|
|Form Factor:||E-ATX form factor: 12.0 in x 10.5 in; 30.5 cm x 26.7 cm|