One interesting point to note about GIGABYTE's Z490 product stack is that it includes PCIe 4.0 support from compatible processors, with Intel's future release of Rocket Lake seemingly equipped with PCIe 4.0 lanes. Some models include PCIe 4.0 slot support with a PCIe 4.0 clock generator, PCIe 4.0 switches, and PCIe 4.0 re-drivers. All of GIGABYTE's Z490 models natively support PCIe 3.0, with Intel's Z490 chipset operating with PCIe 3.0; future PCIe 4.0 support on Z490 will come directly from the CPU and not the chipset. GIGABYTE is also the first vendor to utilize Intel's 2.5 G Ethernet controller, the I225-V. Other vendors have opted for Realtek 2.5 G controllers for point of reference.

GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme & Xtreme WaterForce

We've seen some Aorus Xtreme branded models such as the AMD based GIGBYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme which was impressive in our testing, to say the least. Something of note to consider is that GIGABYTE didn't launch an Xtreme WaterForce model for X570, but it makes a reappearance for Z490. Both the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme and Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce models share the same high-end feature set which includes an Intel Thunderbolt 3 controller, a solid 16-phase power delivery, support for 128 GB of up to DDR4-4800, and an Aquantia 10 G and an Intel 2.5 G Ethernet controller pairing. 


GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce (left) and Z490 Aorus Xtreme (right)

The only difference between the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme and the Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce is the latter comes with a custom-designed water block. This allows users to create a custom water-cooled system which is something enthusiasts looking to push Intel's 10th generation Comet Lake processors further than can be done on conventional air cooling. The water block not only cools the CPU but the Z490 chipset and the power delivery too, making this the go-to board for enthusiasts looking to create a fully water-cooled based system.

Some of the new design features across both models is memory shielding and improved memory routing designed to help improve memory performance, with high-end 90 A power stages for the power delivery, and Tantalum Capacitors. Cooling the large 16-phase power delivery is a large heatsink using a nanocarbon fin array. Power delivery cooling is something GIGABYTE has been taking seriously over the last year or so. On the board's core design, it has a right-angled 24-pin 12 V ATX motherboard power input, as well as right-angled SATA ports and board headers which blends into the boards sleek full cover design. 

Both models include three full-length PCIe 3.0 slots which operate at x16, x8/x8, and x8/x8/+4, with three integrated PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, each with its own individual Thermal Guard 2 heat sink. In addition to the Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec and ESS ES9018K2M Sabre DAC for the rear panel audio, GIGABYTE has equipped both models with an ES9218 Sabre DAC for the front panel audio.

A total of four memory slots include support for up to DDR4-4800, with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB, with official support for 32 GB UDIMMs being pushed as a primary feature by GIGABYTE. This is something all major vendors is doing on its Z490 models. 

On both the Z490 Xtreme WaterForce and Z490 Xtreme rear panels are two Thunderbolt 3.0 Type-C ports, four USB 3.2 G2 10 Gbps Type-A, and two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports. It includes two Ethernet ports with one controlled by an Aquantia AQC107 10 G controller, with the other by an Intel I225-V 2.5 G controller. For users looking for wireless connectivity, the rear panel has two antenna ports for Intel's AX201 Wi-Fi 6 wireless interface with BT 5.1 support, with the five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output powered by a Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec, with a supporting ESS Sabre DAC for USB audio devices. Allowing leveraging of Intel's integrated graphics, there's also a single HDMI video output, with a clear CMOS button and BIOS Flashback button.

Over the last couple of years vendors flagship models have been consistently raising the bar in terms of quality, feature, and unfortunately, price. The GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme has an MSRP of $799 which is typical flagship pricing in today's current market.

The GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce completely flips the script with an MSRP of $1299, which means the custom waterblock comes at a premium of $500. GIGABYTE has gone all out with both Z490 Xtreme models with 10 G and 2.5 G Ethernet controllers, triple M.2, and dual Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports on the rear panel, but the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce will either whet the appetite or have enthusiasts crying into their wallets.

EVGA Z490 FTW WiFi GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Master
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  • Andrew LB - Saturday, May 9, 2020 - link

    So these boards bring Wifi6, PCI-Express 4.0, gigabit 2.5, and for people like myself who are upgrading from a Z87 board.... just about everything is a huge leap.... yet you think there is just 'more of the same'? I guess if you're one of those idiots who buys a new CPU every year, then clearly this is not the release for you. Nor would AMD's latest offerings if that same metric is applied.
    So what's your problem with Capitalism? Do incremental design improvements offend you? Or is it profit that does? Hate to break it to you, but its profit motive that fuels innovation. Collectivism is a cancer and by its very nature hinders progress due to it not rewarding exceptionalism. It's why countries like China don't innovate. Otherwise they wouldn't need forced technology transfers from those who manufacture goods in their country.
    Reply
  • Zenzdeluxe - Wednesday, September 2, 2020 - link

    Thanks for that. The hypocrisy of these people. Imagine imbibing in the fruits of the capitalist system which besides continuing innovation, provides more spoils at lower price points for everyone than ever before. The audacity of such entitlement and seemingly collectivist / marxist based criticism is mind boggling. Cognitive dissonance off the scale indeed. Reply
  • ilkhan - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Details page for GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Pro AX (copy and paste because who can keep them straight otherwise) makes a big deal of no usb-C, but it's there in the picture... Reply
  • ecjp - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Yeah, I noticed that too. Gigabytes site shows same picture and lists "1 x USB Type-C™ port on the back panel, with USB 3.2 Gen 2 support" in the specs, so I assume its an error in the article. Reply
  • gavbon - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Thanks for picking that up. I must have been writing about the wrong board. Apologies, it's updated Reply
  • regsEx - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    "Integrated into the Z490 chipset is an Intel Wi-Fi 6 CNVi which allows motherboard vendors to integrate its AX200 wireless solutions directly from the chipset with a CRF module."

    CNVi is an old generation 802.11ac controller. Here it is CNVio2. CRF module is AX201. AX200 is a standalone controller that can work on any system. X570 motherboards with 802.11ax support, for example, packs with AX200 card.
    Reply
  • lunaticbunny - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    There are no boards under $200. Seems like this Z490 chipset got the X570 inflation treatment as well. Reply
  • drexnx - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    just like the X570 boards, they've all got seriously beefed up VRMs

    and maybe the pcie4 tax wasn't just a cash grab? we'll really see when AMD B550 comes out, where those board prices land
    Reply
  • Andrew LB - Saturday, May 9, 2020 - link

    Plenty of boards under $200.
    ASUS Prime Z490M-PLUS
    GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Elite
    ASUS TUF Gaming Z490-Plus
    ASUS TUF Gaming Z490-Plus wifi
    GIGABYTE Z490 UD
    MSI Z490-A PRO ProSeries

    A bunch of Asrock boards will be under $200 as well. You can see many prices already on Amazon.
    Reply
  • dgingeri - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    It looks like, potentially, at least Gigabyte has decided to include a decent number of USB ports. I can't tell with the Asus board, but all the rest look to have only 6 USB ports, an annoyingly small number. I have been really annoyed with the lack of USB ports on boards for the last 5 years. Heck, with the old 440BX boards, we had 2 ps2, 4 or 6 USB, 1 or 2 serial, and a parallel port. We've lost the other ports, and internal drives in most computers, and not gained USB ports to compensate for it. External hubs aren't going to do it, either, as those stupid things keep dying in a matter of months. Reply

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