After almost a decade of total market dominance, Intel has spent the past few years on the defensive. AMD's Ryzen processors continue to show improvement year over year, with the most recent Ryzen 5000 series taking the crown of best gaming processor: Intel's last bastion of superiority.
Now, with a booming hardware market, Intel is preparing to make up some of that lost ground with the new 11th Gen Intel Core Processors. Intel is claiming these new 11th Gen CPUs offer double-digit IPC improvements despite remaining on a 14 nm process. The top-end 8-core Intel Core i9-11900K may not be able to compete against its Ryzen 9 5900X AMD rival in heavily multi-threaded scenarios, but the higher clock speeds and alleged IPC improvements could be enough to take back the gaming crown. Along with the new CPUs, there is a new chipset to match, the Intel Z590. Last year's Z490 chipset motherboards are also compatible with the new 11th Gen Intel Core Processors, but Z590 introduces some key advantages.
First, Z590 offers native PCIe 4.0 support from the CPU, which means the PCIe and M.2 slots powered off the CPU will offer PCIe 4.0 connectivity when an 11th Gen CPU is installed. The PCIe and M.2 slots controlled by the Z590 chipset are still PCI 3.0. While many high-end Z490 motherboards advertised this capability, it was not a standard feature for the platform. In addition to PCIe 4.0 support, Z590 offers USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 from the chipset. The USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 standard offers speeds of up to 20 Gb/s. Finally, Z590 boasts native support for 3200 MHz DDR4 memory. With these upgrades, Intel's Z series platform has feature parity with AMD's B550. On paper, Intel is catching up to AMD, but only testing will tell if these new Z590 motherboards are up to the challenge.
The ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 features a robust 10-phase VRM with top of the line power stages and a substantial VRM cooling solution. The ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 also offers great connectivity with WiFi 6, 2.5 Gb/s Ethernet, and Thunderbolt 4, and the Phantom Gaming ITX line has a history of offering great performance, so let's see how this latest entry into the family stacks up!
2x Antenna Ports 1x HDMI Port 1x DisplayPort 1.4 1x Optical SPDIF Out Port 5x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Ports (10 Gb/s) 1x USB 4.0 Thunderbolt™ 4 Type-C Port 1x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED 1x Clear CMOS Button 5x HD Audio Jacks
1x Realtek ALC1220 Codec
ATX Form Factor: 6.7 x 6.7 in.; 17.0 x 17.0 cm
ASRock USB 4.0 Thunderbolt™ 4 Type-C Port
ASRock Front Panel Type-C USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Header (20 Gb/s)
ASRock USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s)
Premium 90A Power Choke
Nichicon 12K Black Caps
Matte Black PCB
High Density Glass Fabric PCB
10 Layer PCB
Killer 2.5G LAN
Killer 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E
Killer Double Shot™ Pro
ASRock steel Slot
ASRock Full Coverage M.2 Heatsink
ASRock Hyper M.2
ASRock POST Status Checker
ASRock Full Spike Protection (for all USB, audio, LAN ports)
ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
Packaging and Contents
The front of the ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 box features a colorful background. "Z590 Phantom Gaming ITX/TB4" is at the bottom, with brand badging below it along the bottom edge. "ASRock" is in the top-left corner. The center of the box is dominated by a large Phantom Gaming logo.
The back of the box has all the highlights: a top-down shot of the board, several panels detailing prominent features, a diagram outlining the rear I/O, and the specifications list. The box design is well executed and matches the board nicely.
The accessories are standard, with a few Velcro cable ties thrown in as a nice extra. Notably absent is any kind of rear I/O shield because the shield is integrated into the board.
The full list of accessories includes:
Quick installation guide, support CD
2x SATA data cables
2x ASRock WiFi 2.4/5/6 GHz antennas
2x Screws for M.2 sockets
The ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 uses a classic ASRock design, a black PCB matched with black heat sinks.
The CPU socket is not as open as on larger boards, so checking cooler clearance is recommended.
There are two M.2 slots on the ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4, with the front slot featuring a full-coverage heatsink.
Note that the top M.2 slot will only function with an 11th Gen CPU installed.
The ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 offers a single metal-reinforced PCIe 4.0 x16 slot. The board has a total of three SATA 6 Gb/s ports on the side. While space is always tight on SFF boards, I would have liked to at least see four SATA ports on the ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4.
The ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 has a decent I/O offering that includes an optical S/PDIF Out port, Wi-Fi 6E, and a Type-C Thunderbolt 4 port.
2x Antenna ports
Optical SPDIF Out port
5x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports (10 Gb/s)
USB 4.0 Thunderbolt™ 4 Type-C port
RJ-45 LAN port with LED
Clear CMOS button
5x HD audio jacks
Networking on the ASRock Z590 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB4 is handled by a Killer E3100G 2.5 Gb/s controller. For wireless connectivity, there is a Killer AX1675x Wi-Fi 6E module.