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 Steel Legend WiFi 6E aims to be a durable, dependable platform for the mainstream market. The ASRock Z590 Steel Legend WiFi 6E features a respectable 14-phase VRM that takes advantage of 50 A power stages from Vishay. Additionally, ASRock has included a 2.5 Gb/s LAN controller from Realtek as well as the latest WiFi 6 connectivity. The ASRock Z590 Steel Legend WiFi 6E has all the mainstream features most users need packaged in at a reasonable price. All that is left is to see how the ASRock Z590 Steel Legend WiFi 6E stacks up against the competition!
2x Antenna Ports 1x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port 1x HDMI Port 1x DisplayPort 1.4 1x Optical SPDIF Out Port 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Port 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C Port 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Ports 2x USB 2.0 Ports 1x RJ-45 LAN Port 5x HD Audio Jacks
1x Realtek ALC897 Codec
ATX Form Factor: 12.0 x 9.6 in.; 30.5 x 24.4 cm
ASRock Super Alloy
XXL Aluminium Alloy Heatsink
Premium Power Choke
Nichicon 12K Black Caps
Shaped PCB Design
Matte Black PCB
High Density Glass Fabric PCB
2oz copper PCB
Intel® 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E
ASRock steel Slot
ASRock Full Coverage M.2 Heatsink
ASRock Hyper M.2 (PCIe Gen4x4)
ASRock Ultra USB Power
ASRock Full Spike Protection
ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
Testing for this review was conducted using a 10th Gen Intel Core i9-10900K. Stay tuned for an 11th Gen update when the new processors launch!