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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  • Tomatotech - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Get better hubs then. At least mains powered hubs.

    I understand not everyone has wifi/ ethernet printers, bluetooth / radio mouse / keyboard / headset, or usb hubs in their monitors, but there does seem to be slightly less need for lots of USB ports compared to a few years ago.
    Reply
  • Beaver M. - Saturday, May 2, 2020 - link

    Not an option due to several reliability issues and issues recognizing claimed "better hubs" in the first place. Even well known big companies produce crappy USB hubs.

    As a normal user I have
    a printer
    a mouse
    a keyboard
    a gamepad with USB dongle
    a USB headset
    an external HDD
    several external USB ports for USB sticks, temporary Bluetooth dongles, charging devices, etc., which can be up to 4 at a time

    Specialized
    things:
    a joystick
    a USB microphone interface

    Not really unusual.
    Add webcams, card readers, Wifi adapters and many other not really unusual stuff and you still wont have anything rare.

    Lots of USB ports are important. Period. And it doesnt even matter if its an ATX board or a NUC. They are always very important.
    Reply
  • duploxxx - Friday, May 8, 2020 - link

    wow so many USB that you need in the back, how long have you been searching on the internet to find all of these? You can buy cases that also serve USB, or backend brackets….

    a printer : wireless
    a mouse - keyb sure
    a gamepad, connected from the back? often to short cable
    a USB headset ---- audio connection which you can link with USB mic….
    a USB External HDD.... zzz one that you can put away for backup or just horrible initial design from storage perspective
    several external USB.... all front unless you Always use your usb dongles and put them in the back "loooooool"
    joystick.... yeah use gmaepad and joystick at the same time. same as the gamepad regarding cable length

    webcam... easy connection in monitor hub
    card readers... again in the back used all day right....
    USB wifi adapters? really are you joking?

    in other words lots of pathetic feedback... learn to design a desktop computer
    Reply
  • Beaver M. - Saturday, May 2, 2020 - link

    Low USB port count has been a problem far longer than 5 years.
    Only Asus seem to have gotten the hint at some point, but Asus is crappy quality and CS.
    Seeing Gigabyte adding enough now is a good sign, because they usually were the ones having the least amount of them.

    I agree on the hubs. Not only do they die, some of them even nuke your mainboards USB ports through feedback loops. Not to mention they always either have connection problems or issues with sleep or hibernation.
    Reply
  • Chaitanya - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    Whats wierd is most of the boards from Asus and Asrock have multiple 40mm fans to cool VRMs while they seem to stick solid slabs of Aluminium and calling it a day unlike Gigabyte and Msi(on top end atleast) who have proper finned heatsinks. Reply
  • Deicidium369 - Friday, May 1, 2020 - link

    The only reason people think Asus are a high end manufacturer is their price and the truckloads of equipment they give to anyone with more than 10 subs on Youtube. Gigabyte or go home. Reply
  • Beaver M. - Saturday, May 2, 2020 - link

    Agreed. Same with ASRock and their crappy customer support and massive USB issues.

    Gigabyte always tried to add important features. Remember when they added their "extra ounces" of copper? All other manufacturers whined that it doesnt do anything and Gigabyte should stop because its a "waste of resources". LOL!
    Now they all do it because it makes the mainboard much more reliable.
    Sure, they dont have the best OC boards, but in the last few years OC has become very niche, because you cant really OC CPUs well anymore, unless you want to use LN or custom liquid coolers.
    Reply
  • Andrew LB - Sunday, May 10, 2020 - link

    I've been building/repairing/upgrading computers for people for close to 30 years and I've had more problems with Gigabyte than any other current major brand. Abit was even worse but they're long gone. I'm willing to bet that those of you who say a company has bad customer service was due to you contacting them via e-mail. Pickup the phone next time and i bet it will go much easier.
    Best CS from my experience is EVGA.
    Reply
  • taz-nz - Saturday, May 2, 2020 - link

    To many board still don't have attached back plates, should be standard now.

    Nice to see gigabyte bring proper finned heatsink to Mid range board, pity so many other boards still have cosmetic lumps of aluminum, instead of proper VRM heatsinks, and worse that so many still choose to cover the those so called heatsinks with cosmetic plastic covers that only reduce airflow and hurt thermal performance more, while also interfering with large air cooler fitment.
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, May 2, 2020 - link

    "What's interesting is how similar the Z490 and Z390 chipsets are in terms of specifications, which adds the question of why Intel has opted for a new socket, on what is effectively a refresh of its 14 nm process node."

    Baffling is a better word than interesting.

    If AMD weren't so competitive then it would make more sense to paint oneself into a corner even more.
    Reply

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