Best Intel Z490 Motherboards

7 Best Intel Z490 Motherboards For i5-10600K, i7-10700K, i9-10900K

We’ve reviewed top rated best intel z490 motherboards for i5-10600K, i7-10700K, i9-10900K CPUs in 2020.

Despite pre-launch rumors, Intel’s new 10th-gen CPUs aren’t nearly as power hungry and PSU killing as we’d been led to believe. However, you’ll still need a motherboard with good cooling and potent power delivery to handle an overclocked 10-core 14nm CPU. We’ve picked top rated Z490 motherboards to pitch against the new Core i9-10900K. We’ve run through our usual performance benchmarks, as well as audio, storage and cooling tests, to see which boards are worth your cash.

Our test kit includes 16GB of 3466MHZ Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro RAM. We also use a 2TB Samsung 970 Pro SSD, plus a Samsung 960 Evo SSD, to test the speed of M.2 ports, as well as heatsink performance, tapping into the internal temperature sensors to see how well any M.2 heatsinks perform under load, using back-to-back runs of Crystal Disk Mark’s entire battery of tests.

We use Windows 10 with the 1909 update installed, plus an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card. Our new motherboard and CPU cooling rigs also sport a Barrow Ropilema test bench and full custom water-cooling systems, including two 240mm radiators and a Laing DDC pump.

We use Right Mark’s Audio Analyzer software to measure the dynamic range, noise level and total harmonic distortion of the on-board audio. Other tests include our Real Bench suite of performance benchmarks, Far Cry 5 New Dawn, and Cinebench R20’s single and multi-threaded tests.

We also measure the total power consumption of our test rig with each motherboard installed, at both stock and overclocked speeds. Our scores are based on a weighted calculation including performance, features and value, with an overall score being the sum of those three values.

Also Z490 motherboards through their paces, to find the best homes for LGA1200 Intel chips.

Best Intel Z490 Motherboards

Below are some of the top rated intel z490 motherboards, including atx gaming motherboard in 2020.

PRODUCTDETAILS 
Top PickAsus Maximus XII Hero Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming MotherboardASUS ROG Maximus XII Hero Z490
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1155
Runner-upASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming Z490ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming Z490
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1155
Best ValueGIGABYTE Z490 AORUS MasterGIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Master
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
4GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS PROGIGABYTE Z490 AORUS PRO
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
5MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Gaming MotherboardMSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Gaming Motherboard
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
6MSI MEG Z490 ACE Gaming MotherboardMSI MEG Z490 ACE Gaming Motherboard
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
7ASRock Z490 Taichi (Intel Z490) ATX MotherboardASRock Z490 Taichi (Intel Z490) ATX Motherboard
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: Socket 940
8ASUS Prime Z490M-PLUSASUS Prime Z490M-PLUS LGA 1200 Intel 10th Gen Z490 Micro ATX Motherboard
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: Mirco ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
9MSI Z490-A PRO ProSeries ATX MotherboardMSI Z490-A PRO ProSeries ATX Motherboard
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
10Gigabyte Z490M Gaming XGigabyte Z490M Gaming X
  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • Form Factor: Mirco ATX
  • Maximum RAM: 128GB
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1200
  1. Asus Maximus XII Hero Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard
  2. ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard
  3. GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Master (Intel LGA1200/Z490/ATX
  4. GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS PRO AX Intel LGA1200/Z490/ATX Gaming Motherboard
  5. MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Gaming Motherboard
  6. MSI MEG Z490 ACE Gaming Motherboard
  7. ASRock Z490 Taichi 10th Gen Motherboard
  8. ASUS Prime Z490M-PLUS LGA 1200 Intel 10th Gen Z490 Micro ATX Motherboard With Thunderbolt 3, Aura Sync RGB Support
  9. MSI Z490-A PRO ProSeries ATX Motherboard
  10. Gigabyte Z490M Gaming X LGA 1200 Micro-ATX Motherboard
  11. MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi ATX Gaming Motherboard
  12. Gigabyte Z490 Vision G Motherboard
  13. Gigabyte Z490I AORUS ULTRA Mini-ITX Motherboard
  14. MSI MEG Z490 Unify Mini-ITX Gaming Motherboard
  15. Gigabyte Z490 Vision-D for Workstations Motherboard
  16. ASUS ProArt Z490-Creator Motherboard
  17. MSI Z490 Unify ATX Gaming Motherboard
  18. ASUS Maximus XII APEX
  19. ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme
  20. MSI MEG Z490 GODLIKE E-ATX Gaming Motherboard

1. Asus Maximus XII Hero Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard

Asus Maximus XII Hero Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard

With its price on the high side, the Maximus XII Hero is the most expensive Hero-branded ROG board we’ve tested. In terms of your wallet’s fear level, it sits significantly higher than MSI and Gigabyte’s pricier options this month. It’s an impressive beast of a motherboard, though, with a trio of huge heatsinks all linked by a massive heatpipe.

There’s additional cooling here in the form of a bundled VRM fan as well, which can be mounted next to the memory modules and controlled in the EFI or Asus’ AI Suite software. In use, the peak VRM temperature fell from 54°C to 48°C with the fan at 50 per cent speed, where it was inaudible above the noise of our test system.

There are three PCI-E 3 M.2 ports, and Asus is making no marketing statements regarding PCI-E 4 support, other than claiming many Z490 boards are engineered with it in mind. All three ports are covered with heatsinks, and 49°C was the peak load temperature of our Samsung 960 Evo SSD, which was nearly 10°C cooler than without the heatsink. However, accessing the two upper ports is fiddly, requiring the removal of a large plastic shroud, which means you also have to remove your graphics card.

You get the full complement of overclocking and testing tools, including power, reset and clear-CMOS buttons, plus an LED POST code display. There’s also a thermal probe header, so you can control fans using an additional input, such as a coolant probe, but a standard air probe is included too. Unlike the MSI MEG Z490 Ace, you get a display output on the rear panel to help troubleshoot graphics cards, plus you get nine Type-A USB ports, seven of which are USB 3 or faster. It’s the only board to offer a 5 Gigabit port as well, plus you get 802.11ax Wi-Fi on the ‘WiFi’ branded model we tested.

Asus also includes an option during POST to hit F3 and remove certain power limits, allowing the Core i9-10900K to hit its 5.3GHz boost more often. We enabled this feature, but left all other settings in the EFI alone except for applying the usual XMP profile. This saw a decent result in the Cinebench single-threaded score of 539, and some excellent results in our image editing, multitasking and system scores too.

Overclocking was rather fiddly, though, as with the cheaper ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming, with CPU-Z showing a big drop in voltage under load. We had to set a vcore of 1.45V to hit the usual 1.3V and get a stable 5.1GHz overclock, with loadline calibration not able to deal with the issue on its own.

However, the overclocked power draw was only 20W or so higher than the competition and it managed a massive 68,247 points in the image editing test, coming top in RealBench overall, albeit with a mediocre result in Far Cry New Dawn.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Three 16x PCI-E 3, three 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Marvel 5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 98-538MHz, CPU multiplier 8-120x; max voltages: CPU 2.155V, RAM 2.4V
  • Ports: 6 x SATA 6Gbps 3 x M.2 PCI-E 3, 4 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 4 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

The Asus Maximus XII Hero (WiFi) is a supremely high-end motherboard, and it’s worth the extra money if you’re genuinely going to use the extra features. However, both MSI and Gigabyte’s most expensive offerings this month offer far better value, and less hassle when it comes to overclocking too. A monster motherboard, but we’d save the cash and opt for similar, cheaper offerings.

Pros

  • Bristling with features
  • Excellent VRM cooling
  • Thermal probe-based fan control

Cons

  • Exposed VRM fan
  • Overclocking a hassle with current EFIs
  • Expensive

2. ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming Z490 (WiFi 6) LGA 1200 (Intel 10th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard

The award for snazziest board goes to the Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming, with its funky mirrored panels illuminated from beneath with RGB lighting. Its U-shaped heatpipe winds its way around half of the board, and Asus includes a VRM fan you can attach manually for more cooling. However, with the VRMs sitting below 60°C anyway, you’ll only need it in extreme situations.

There are no power or reset buttons, nor a clear-CMOS switch, although you do get USB BIOS Flashback. That’s all a little disappointing for the price, although it’s far from the most expensive board on test. The M.2 ports are strictly PCI-E 3-only as well, with the lower port being the most easily accessible. Sadly, the top port sits under a plastic shroud, so you need to remove it and your graphics card to access the SSD.

The M.2 heatsink is quite small, and the M 2 SSD temperature was the highest on test at 51°C, although that’s only a degree or two warmer than the competition and still much cooler than not using one. One issue we did spot with M.2 SSDs using the supplied 0509 BIOS is that you need to manually set the PCI-E speed to 4x mode in the EFI. Out of the box, our 3,000MB/sec SSD only ran at half that speed.

Around the back of the I/O panel, you’ll find connectors for the 802.11ax Wi-Fi, 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, display outputs, nine Type-A USB ports (five of which are USB 3 or faster), and a USB 3.1 Type-C port, all sitting in an integrated I/O shield.

Meanwhile, Asus allows you to plug a thermal probe or coolant temperature probe into the motherboard, and set the probe to dictate fan speed too. However, unlike with Gigabyte’s boards, this doesn’t all happen from the flick of an option in the EFI’s fan control suite; you have to delve deeper into the EFI menus to switch the temperature input first.

As with the ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming, pressing F3 when entering the BIOS instead of F1 enables you to remove certain power limits, so the Core i9-10900K can stretch its boosting legs while remaining in specification. This seemed to work, with the board hitting a massive 545 points in Cinebench’s single-threaded test.

Overclocking was a challenge to say the least, though, with the board apparently suffering from huge vdroop and needing a voltage of 1.475V to remain at 1.3V under load. However, the power draw was reasonable for the CPU, sitting at 302W at stock speed, and a slightly eyebrow-raising 388W overclocked, but it was stable at 5.1GHz. The Z490-E was the fastest board in numerous tests at stock speed, and held on to a lead again at 5.1GHz, with the best audio on test too.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Two 16x PCI-E 3, one 4x PCI-E 3, three 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 98-538MHz, CPU multiplier 8-120x; max voltages, CPU 1.7V, RAM 2V
  • Ports: 6 x SATA 6Gbps 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3, 4 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3, 4 x USB 2, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

Despite some tricky overclocking that may well be fixed with a future BIOS, the Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming is a solid £300 board. It has plenty of features, it looks fantastic, and costs significantly less than the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master and MSI MEG Z490 Ace. Those boards do sport far more features and are less troublesome to overclock, but the ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming is a decent contender if you don’t have big bucks to spend. Cheaper than the competition with good cooling, although overclocking is a little tricky.

Pros

  • Good features for the money
  • Top-notch aesthetics
  • Good stock speed performance

Cons

  • Tricky overclocking
  • Limited onboard overclocking features
  • High overclocked power consumption

3. GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Master (Intel LGA1200/Z490/ATX

GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Master

Up there with MSI’s hefty MEG Z490 Ace in terms of weight and premium feel is Gigabyte’s Z490 Aorus Master. It not only has huge finned heatsinks for its 14-phase 90A VRMs, but it also sports a large backplate to cool them from the rear. As you’d expect for the price, it’s bristling with features and boasts one of the best spec lists on test.

As well as eight fan headers, you get two thermal probe inputs, with two probes included in the box. You can also use coolant probes here, so you can control your radiator fans based on coolant temperature, making for an efficient and quiet cooling system.

Gigabyte is the only manufacturer to allow this arrangement to be set up by only visiting its snazzy EFI fan control suite, although Asus does at least offer this function, albeit with a few more EFI tweaks needed to get it working. Like it’s cheaper sibling the Z490 Aorus Master includes three M.2 ports, but one of them is disabled for the moment, as it will require a future Intel CPU to offer PCI-E 4 support.

All the ports include heatsinks and there are thermal pads above and below the SSD to cool both sides. We saw a peak temperature of 49°C with our Samsung 960 Evo, which was 9°C cooler than without the heatsink. However, the single-piece heatsink for the PCI-E 3 M.2 slots requires you to remove your graphics card to access it, which isn’t ideal, especially if you water-cool your PC.

Meanwhile, there’s dual-BIOS support and an LED POST code display, plus power and reset buttons, USB BIOS Flashback and a clear-CMOS button, which you’d expect at this price. The RGB lighting is restrained, but there are splashes of illumination across the I/O shroud and PCH heatsink; you also get four RGB headers – both 3-pin and 4-pin – for you to hook up your own LED strips.

Move to the back, and the rear I/O panel sports connectors for the 802.11ax Wi-Fi, with a desktop aerial included. There are also nine Type-A USB ports, five of which are USB 3 or faster, as well as a single 2.5 Gigabit LAN port and USB 3.1 Type-C port, all embedded in an integrated I/O shield.

The Realtek ALC1220 audio benefits from an ESS Sabre DAC as well, although its dynamic range and noise levels of 110.4dBA and -110.9dBA aren’t quite the best we recorded, with both the Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming and MSI MEG Z490 Ace managing better results.

The Z490 Aorus Master lacked the aggressive boosting of the Asus boards on test, and that of the MSI Z490 Ace, only hitting a single-core Cinebench result of 530. However, once overclocked, it matched other boards that managed 5.1GHz across all 10 cores, which it achieved with little fuss at a 1.3V vcore. Power consumption was reasonable at stock speed as well, at 323W under load for the system at stock speed, and 355W once overclocked.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 5000MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Three 16x PCI-E 3, two 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 100- 200MHz, CPU multiplier 23-63x; max voltages: CPU 1.55V, RAM 2V
  • Ports: 6 x SATA 6Gbps 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3 x USB 3, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

With a great set of features, some of which are absent from the competition, as well as solid overclocking and scope for use at the heart of a water-cooled PC, the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master is our Z490 motherboard of choice if you can afford it. With a great set of features, some of which are absent from the competition, as well as solid overclocking and scope for use at the heart of a water-cooled PC, the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master is our Z490 motherboard of choice if you can afford it. A superb set of features, decent overclocking performance and a competitive price make the Z490 Aorus Master our Z490 motherboard of choice.

Pros

  • Excellent features
  • Good VRMs and cooling
  • Cheaper than the competition

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Lacks aggressive stock speed boost
  • Awkward M.2 heatsink

4. GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS PRO AX Intel LGA1200/Z490/ATX Gaming Motherboard

Despite costing nearly 300 dollar, Gigabyte’s Z490 Aorus Pro AX feels less substantial than the other boards on test – even MSI’s far cheaper MAG Z490 Tomahawk. It sports a 12-phase power delivery system, but it’s less beefy than the one on the Z490 Aorus Master, Plus, while there’s a large heatpipe embedded in the VRM heatsinks, the heatsinks aren’t as large as the others on test and there’s no active cooling option either.

Thankfully, the Aorus Pro AX has plenty of potential in terms of water-cooling systems, with a thermal probe header that can be used to govern fan speeds in the EFI or Gigabyte’s software – a feature not offered by either of MSI’s motherboards, and even Asus’ boards can’t do it in the convenient EFI fan control suite. The Gigabyte’s software actually worked well too, unlike MSI’s software, which was a little buggy in places.

While the board has three M.2 ports, only two are actually usable. Gigabyte has reserved the top slot for future PCI-E 4 support, which may come with forthcoming Intel CPUs. For now, it’s not usable, but the remaining ports offer heatsinks, and kept our Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD below 50°C under load, which was 8°C lower than without them.

Some of the features are shared with the pricier Z490 Aorus Master, such as 802.11ax Wi-Fi, 2.5 Gigabit LAN, USB 3.1 Type-C ports and headers. You also get QFlash Plus – Gigabyte’s version of USB BIOS Flashback, eight fan headers and Realtek ALC1220 audio. However, the lack of on-board overclocking and testing tools is disappointing at this price. You do at least get a display output for graphics card troubleshooting, though, and the rear I/O panel includes a generous count of nine Type-A USB ports.

At stock speed, the Cinebench single threaded score of 531 suggests the Core i9-10900K wasn’t boosting to its claimed 5.3GHz, with most other boards hitting 540 or above. The board also seemed to use a lot of power at stock speed, with our system drawing 354W from the mains. The Z490 Aorus Pro AX’s benchmark scores were otherwise on the money, though, and it had reasonable audio performance too.

Overclocking was tricky, however, with the board applying 1.34V despite us inputting 1.3V under load, thanks to some aggressive loadline calibration as standard. We also had to manually increase the CPU’s power limits, but we did achieve a stable 5.1GHz overclock. This saw the system score rise from 318,843 to 327,831 and the minimum 99th percentile frame rate in Far Cry New Dawn increase from 98fps to 103fs.

It’s a tad disappointing as a result. Owners of the Core i5-10600K would be better served by a cheaper motherboard, while those splashing some cash on a Core i9-10900K system would benefit from opting for the pricier Z490 Aorus Master instead. The latter was happier when overclocking, it has better cooling and it offers loads more features, making it ultimately worth the extra cash.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 5000MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Three 16x PCI-E 3, two 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 98-200MHz, CPU multiplier 8-63x; max voltages: CPU 1.7V, RAM 2V
  • Ports: x SATA 6Gbps 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3 x USB 3, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

Motherboards that use Intel’s Z490 chipset are generally pricey, and the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Pro AX unfortunately falls into an area where you’ll see little change from a wallet hitting £300, yet get noticeably fewer features than you’d expect at this price. A reasonable effort, but the feature set is disappointing for $300.

Pros

  • Potential for future PCI-E 4 support
  • 2.5 Gigabit LAN and 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Excellent fan control

Cons

  • Modest VRMs and cooling
  • No overclocking and testing tools
  • Disappointing feature set for the price

5. MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Gaming Motherboard

MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Gaming Motherboard

If your wallet has been shaking in the corner looking at some of the price tags of the other boards in this test, thankfully you’ll be pleased to know there’s plenty of more affordable Z490 motherboards around that will leave you with change from $250. In fact, the MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk costs just under $200, making it by far the cheapest Z490 board on test. Despite this, though, the board includes plenty of premium features.

While its two VRM heatsinks aren’t connected via a heatpipe unlike other boards on test, the 12+1+1 power delivery is cooled by two large chunks of metal, with the last heatsink morphing into the I/O shield too. As a result, the motherboard weigh a ton, but this should m to handle lengthy periods of high loads without the active cooling that’s employed on some other boards.

You also get heatsinks for both M.2 ports and these are set in positions that won’t require you to remove your graphics card. Both support PCI-E 3.0 NVMe or SATA 6Gbps M.2 SSDs, but bandwidth is shared with the SATA ports, so you won’t be able to fill all storage ports on the board at the same time.

The lowest temperature we saw from the M.2 ports using our Samsung 960 Evo SSD was 47°C – a full 11°C lower than we saw without the heatsink. There’s a splash of RGB lighting under the PCH heatsink, but other than this, you’ll need to add your own lighting strips and hook them up to the numerous 3-pin digital and 4-pin RGB LED headers.

Sadly, there’s no header for controlling Corsair RGB components such as pumps and fans, as you get on the more expensive MEG Z490 Ace. The rear I/O panel is well equipped with seven Type-A USB ports plus an ASMedia-powered USB 3.1 Type-C port with 20Gbps bandwidth, which is paired with a USB 3.1 Type-C header on the PCB too.

You also get a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port and an optical output among the full complement of audio ports from the Realtek ALC1220 on-board sound.

Like other manufacturers, MSI has been grappling with the boosting issue with Intel’s new CPUs and the single-threaded result in Cinebench of 534 suggests it’s some way behind Asus here. However, both MSI boards were easy to overclock from the EFI, and had none of the issues we faced with Gigabyte and Asus’ boards. However, MSI’s Dragon Center software didn’t work too well and often failed to apply overclocks or interfered with things too.

We also failed to hit the 5.1GHz all-core overclock we achieved with other boards, instead hitting 5GHz with 1.24V, which perhaps suggests the MAG Z490 Tomahawk is better suited to 6-core and 8-core 10th-gen CPUs than the monstrous Core i9-10900K. That said, we should stress that testing was done when new BIOS versions were landing daily. Audio and storage performance was on the money and despite a lower overclock, the benchmarks weren’t far behind other boards.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Two 16x PCI-E 3, two 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 100- 200MHz, CPU multiplier 23-63x; max voltages: CPU 1.55V, RAM 2V
  • Ports: 6 x SATA 6Gbps 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 4 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

The MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk is a solid board for the money and may well be able to push a Core i9-10900K to its limits in future. However, for now, we’d suggest spending a bit more or opting for the excellent Core i5-10600K instead. Cheaper than the competition but lacks features and overclocking prowess.

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Excellent VRM cooling
  • 2.5 Gigabit LAN

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi
  • CPU boosting issues
  • Struggled to overclock Core i9-10900K

6. MSI MEG Z490 ACE Gaming Motherboard

MSI MEG Z490 ACE Gaming Motherboard

The MEG Ace series of motherboards has shown itself to offer some seriously premium features as well as excellent overclocking performance, but with this Z490 board retailing for just short of £400, we expect all this and more. The board certainly looks the part and is equally hefty compared with other boards on test, donning not just large VRM, PCH and M.2 heatsinks, but backplates too, two of which help to cool the rear of the VRM area.

While the I/O shroud isn’t a massive single-piece heatsink as on the MAG Z490 Tomahawk, here the two heatsinks are linked using a heatpipe and the left portion is actively cooled using a small fan embedded in the I/O shroud too, rather than having to mount it on top like the Asus boards on test this month.

It’s a more elegant solution but this never span up during our testing, even with the board overclocked, which is maybe just as well given we couldn’t seem to be able to alter its speed in the EFI or MSI’s Dragon Center software.

The VRMs hit 55°C under load, which is miles away from any thermal throttling situation, and the 16+1 phase power delivery seemed to do a good job at stock speed and when overclocked too.

There are three M.2 ports, although these share bandwidth with the six SATA 6Gbps ports, so some of those will be disabled if you use all three M.2 ports. The peak M.2 temperature using the lower, larger heatsink was 49°C, which was 9°C cooler than with the heatsink removed. The M.2 SSDs are much easier to access than on the Maximus XII Hero too. You get the full complement of overclocking and testing tools including power, reset and clear-CMOS buttons, but we were disappointed at the lack of an error display, which can be useful for troubleshooting.

The rear I/O panel has seven Type-A USB ports with five of these USB 3 or above, plus a 20Gbps USB 3.1 Type-C port. There’s also 802.11ax Wi-Fi, gold-plated audio connectors for the on-board ALC1220 sound, USB BIOS Flashback and a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port, which is included on all MSI’s Z490 boards.

The on-board lighting set the MEG Z490 Ace apart from the crowd with a bright,vivid A symbol on the I/O shroud and more details on the PCH heatsink, plus you get four RGB headers on the PCB including a 3-pin port to control Corsair RGB water-cooling components.

The latest BIOS saw a much lower single threaded score in Cinebench than the Asus boards, but this will likely receive a fix soon. Elsewhere there was very little between them with just 3,000 points separating all the boards in the system score.

The MEG Z490 Ace had the best performing audio on test with a dynamic range of 114.6dBA and the second lowest load power draw too. It was the easiest to overclock as well, requiring 1.3V to hit our CPU’s 5.1GHz across all ten cores. This saw the system score rise from 319,985 to 331,496, but it was slower in the Cinebench single-threaded score.

Specification

  • Chipset: Intel Z490
  • CPU socket: Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 4 slots: 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots: Three 16x PCI-E 3, two 1x PCI-E 3
  • Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking: 1 x Intel Gigabit LAN, 1 x Realtek 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Overclocking: Base clock 100- 200MHz, CPU multiplier 8-123x; max voltages: CPU 1.7V, RAM 2V
  • Ports: 6 x SATA 6Gbps 3 x M.2 PCI-E 3, 3 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3, 3 x surround audio out
  • Dimensions (mm): 305 x 244

Conclusion

The MSI MEG Z490 Ace is an excellent Z490 motherboard and second only to the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master in terms of features and value. MSI needs to sort out its software, which was a little buggy at launch, but if you need a premium Z490 board it otherwise comes highly recommended. Reassuringly expensive and better able to handle Intel’s 10-core monster than its cheaper sibling.

Pros

  • Excellent overclocking
  • Effective cooling and power circuitry
  • Plenty of features

Cons

  • No thermal probe header
  • Pricier than the competition
  • No display output

7. ASRock Z490 Taichi 10th Gen Motherboard

Asrock’s Taichi motherboards usually impress us. They’re not promoted as the solution for a particular sub-market, but instead focus on key features while sticking to a more subtle design aesthetic that should appeal to all kinds of buyers. Can the Z490 Taichi offer the sweet spot value we’ve come to expect from the brand? At $689 though, it’s now a premium level board, and it has to be judged as such.

The Z490 Taichi doesn’t deviate too much looks-wise from its recent siblings. Why would you though with its lovely retro, almost analogue theme. It looks terrific. You get a nice splash of RGB lighting too of course.

The Taichi has a beefed up 15-phase VRM system fed by dual 8-pin power connectors designed to cope with the demands of 10th Gen processors. Each choke is rated for 60A, less than the 90A the MSI and Gigabyte offer. The Taichi incorporates no less than three small fans into the heatsink, though thankfully they are all but silent and couldn’t be heard above the sound of our AIO CPU cooler and pump. When the board is presented with a light load, they don’t spin at all.

You get eight SATA connectors and three M.2 slots. Asrock is also touting its PCIe 4.0 readiness, though perhaps that’s jumping the gun a bit with Intel not commenting on future compatibility or support at this time. It has a solid backplate and Asrock has redesigned the audio solution with an ESS DAC and WIMA capacitors all aimed at improving the SNR and performance with headphones.

High-end Z490 boards impress with their strong networking capabilities. The Z490 Taichi features Realtek 2.5G and Intel 1G LAN along with WiFi 6 to provide excellent networking flexibility. There’s plenty of USB ports along with a PS/2 port and welcome HDMI and a DisplayPort. Though you probably won’t use Integrated graphics on a $700 motherboard, it’s good to have options.

The performance of the Taichi was interesting. It scored very well in bandwidth-sensitive applications, indicating that it sets aggressive memory sub timings. Our DDR4-4000 C16 test required a voltage bump in order to achieve stability too. The board easily pushed our 10900K to 5.2GHz on all cores, 5.3 is possible, though the heat from the CPU prevents stability, not the board itself.

At $689 it ticks almost all the boxes. It’s got an intuitive, easy to navigate BIOS and a typically strong Taichi feature set. Its VRM isn’t as strong as the other boards in the test and it’s perhaps a BIOS update away from feeling really polished. Saying that is being tough on it, though. The Taichi is a strong offering.

It continues to offer good value and at $689 it’s over a hundred dollars cheaper than the other boards in the test. That kind of pricing does erode a little of the Taichi’s reputation as a mainstream value for money offering. Its competition isn’t so much from above, as it is from below. When compared to strong contenders in the $500 to $600 range, the Taichi faces a different battle.

Conclusion

The Z490 Taichi is a very good motherboard, but it doesn’t offer the killer value we’ve been spoiled with.


Z490 Motherboard Labs Results

Final Words

If you’ve made the decision to jump onto the Intel 10th Generation train, then you’ll need a Z490 motherboard to go with it, at least until the budget chipset ranges are released. Z490 boards are equipped with the new LGA 1200 socket, and even the more affordable ones feature improved connectivity, networking, power delivery components and (take this with a grain of salt) future 11th generation CPU compatibility.

10th Generation CPUs may not have shaken the foundations of the tech world, but they are faster. It’s important to consider the average consumers’ point of view. Not everyone upgrades every year. If you’re coming from something that’s several years old then upgrading will get you a faster system in every way. Faster cores and more of them, faster networking, faster and higher capacity memory, faster storage and faster USB amongst other things. Upgrading from the 7th, 8th or 9th to 10th generation might not be a big leap, but 2nd to 10th generation sure is!

The K CPUs have 125W TDPs, though the higher core count models will actually pull a lot more power than that. This means that even budget Z490 motherboards are built with robust power delivery circuitry. Official memory support has been increased up to DDR4-2933 depending on the CPU model, though as we’re dealing with a Z chipset, unlocked CPUs can run much higher than that. 2.5GB LAN and Wi-Fi 6 is also common across a lot of the range. It’s about time too. Gigabit networking has been with us for well over 15 years!

One of the areas that Z490 might be seen as lacking is official PCIe 4.0 support, which is present on AMD’s competing X570 platform. Some manufacturers are claiming PCIe 4.0 support on their Z490 boards, even though it is not supported by 10th generation CPUs and hence cannot be validated.

Intel won’t confirm any details one way or the other about its future products. When it is relevant, you’ll probably see a Z590 chipset that’s been designed and properly validated. PCIe 4.0 support on Z490 seems sketchy and it shouldn’t factor into a purchase decision at this point in time.

What we’re not impressed with is the upward trend in pricing. Just a year or so ago we were shocked to see a $1,000+ HEDT motherboard. Motherboard manufacturers are clearly happy to push the envelope with the big four manufacturers all offering boards valued at $1,500 or more. Z490 is still a mainstream chipset. We’re not dealing with quad channel memory or a ton of PCIe lanes. Put simply, $1,000+ consumer motherboards are crazy. Still, people out there are buying them!

Moving on to the roundup, we have to say that choosing between motherboards in this class was very difficult. They all have their strengths and few weaknesses. Brand loyalty will perhaps be the deciding factor for many. We did pick a winner though! Read on as we look at some of the best Z490 motherboards on the market.

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