The Intel Z690 Motherboard Overview (DDR5): Over 50+ New Modelsby Gavin Bonshor on November 9, 2021 9:00 AM EST
GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Xtreme & Xtreme WaterForce
Looking at GIGABYTE's Z690 DDR5 based motherboard list for launch, it has gone for a simple and balanced stack with a modest amount of both DDR5 and DDR4 enabled motherboards. The most premium of all and the current flagship for GIGABYTE on Z690 is the Z690 Aorus Xtreme, which has been a long-running series encompassing the most premium controller sets and high-end features of all its models. Looking at the design, GIGABYTE has opted for a simplistic, but premium-looking aesthetic. It is also using an E-ATX sized PCB making it one of the biggest Z690 motherboards at launch.
The GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce model shares the same specifications and controllers as the non WaterForce model but comes with a custom milled monoblock which keeps the processor and power delivery running cool, but we don't currently have any official images from GIGABYTE at the time of writing.
The Z690 Aorus Xtreme includes an OLED screen built into the rear panel cover, as well as what looks to be a DDR5 memory cover which also features an OLED screen. GIGABYTE also has an RGB enabled Aorus logo which sits below the chipset heatsinks. All across the board is plenty of armor and heatsinks, including a large power delivery heatsink, and an amalgamated M.2 heatsink array that molds into the chipset heatsink.
The GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Xtreme includes two full-length PCIe 5.0 slots that can operate at x16 and x8/x8, with one full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot. In the top-right hand corner of the board is four memory slots, which allow users to install up to DDR5-6600, with a combined capacity of up to 128 GB. For storage, the Z690 Aorus Xtreme models include four PCIe 4.0 x4 slots, with just four SATA ports capable of supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays.
Interestingly for the integrated audio, GIGABYTE has gone for an impressive selection including an ESS ES9280AC DAC chip, with two assisting ESS ES9080 chips. GIGABYTE doesn't mention any of the typically used Realtek ALC HD audio codecs in the specifications and given there are just two 3.5 mm audio jacks on the rear panel, it looks as if though the ES8280AC DAC is leading things in this regard.
On the rear panel is a very premium selection of input and output, including two Thunderbolt 4 Type-C ports, and a whopping ten USB 3.2 G2 Type-A ports too. The Z690 Aorus Xtreme opts for a premium ESS Sabre solution with two 3.5 mm audio jacks, but networking is premium with a Marvel Aqtion AQC113C 10 GbE and Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE controller pairing, as well as Intel's latest AX210 Wi-Fi 6E CNVi. Finishing off the rear panel is a small clear CMOS button, an OC Ignition button, and a Q-Flash BIOS Flashback button.