We’re taking a look at some shiny new LGA 1200 motherboards based on Intel’s new Z590 chipset. We’ve Picked six boards that cost between $200 and $440, to see what sort of features and performance is available across a range of prices and determine which is worth your cash if you’re planning on buying one of Intel’s new Rocket Lake-S CPUs.
Our test kit includes 16GB of 3466MHz Corsair Vengeance RGBPro RAM and an Nvidia RTX 3070 Founders Edition graphics card. Windows 10 is installed on a 2TB Samsung 970 Pro SSD along with a Corsair MP600 PCI-E 4 SSD, and these are also used to test the speed of any M.2 ports as well as heatsink performance. The SSDs’ internal temperature sensor is used to see how well any M.2 heatsink performs under load using back-to-back runs of CrystalDiskMark’s entire battery of tests.
Our motherboard and CPU cooling rig uses a Barrow Ropilematest bench with a full custom water-cooling loop, which includes two 240mm radiators and a Laing DDC pump in order to eliminate any cooling bottlenecks.
Tests include our RealBench suite of benchmarks, Far Cry NewDawn, Cinebench R23’s single and multi-threaded tests, and total system power consumption, which is measured at both stock and overclocked speeds. We also use RightMark’s Audio Analyzer software to measure the dynamic range, noise level and total harmonic distortion of the on-board audio.
Our scores are based on a weighted calculation including performance, features and value with the overall score being the sum of those three values. Testing is performed using the latest BIOS versions available at the time of writing.
List of Best Z590 Motherboards
- ASRock Z590 Extreme Wi-Fi 6E Motherboard
- ASRock Z590 PG VELOCITA LGA 1200 ATX Motherboard
- Asus ROG Strix Z590-E WiFi ATX Gaming Motherboard
- ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WiFi 6 Motherboard
- MSI MAG Z590 Tomahawk Motherboard
- MSI MEG Z590 ACE Gaming Motherboard
1. ASRock Z590 Extreme Wi-Fi 6E Motherboard
We’ve been impressed by ASRock’s Extreme motherboards over the years, thanks to their balance of premium features and affordability, and the Z590 Extreme is no different. For a start, the price is right – it’s the only board on test to come in at under $200, even if it is only by $5. Aesthetically, it’s a winner too, with a snazzy cut-out on one side that also plays host to a GPU support bracket.
You get power and reset buttons too, which is very rare on sub-$200 boards, and even the VRM heatsinks, which sit on top of a 14-phase power delivery, include a heatpipe to spread the load. There are splashes of RGB lighting on the PCH heatsink and VRMs plus a USB 3.1 Type-C header too.
So far so good, but inevitably some cuts have been made. There’s no Wi-Fi, but if you want to add it, ASRock includes an M.2 port just for Wi-Fi modules, with aerials included in the box. There are three M.2 ports, but only the top slot supports PCI-E 4 and it will be disabled if you use a 10th-gen Comet Lake CPU. Thankfully, you can move the heatsink from the top slot to the second slot if you want, and this heat sink made a big difference to the peak temperature of our test M.2 SSD, dropping it by 24°C.
There’s no Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port – most other boards lack them too – but it still includes a header for use with add-in cards if needed. There’s also 2.5 Gigabit LAN and seven 4-pin fan headers too, although ASRock’s BIOS and software-based fan control is quite basic compared with the rest of the field. The audio is basic too, but Realtek’s ALC1220 codec is still very capable.
Updating the BIOS was a simple process, with the update feature scanning your USB drive for a compatible file and finding it instantly. However, while we managed to overclock our Core i9-11900K to 5.1GHz using a vcore of 1.38V, this showed up as 1.28V in CPU-Z and other monitoring software, even if we had maximum load line calibration enabled, which was a little concerning.
Still, it proved stable, except in Cinebench, where for some reason the CPU would clock down to 2.5GHz despite its temperature sitting under 90°C. We lifted all the power and thermal restrictions in the EFI we could find, but couldn’t fix it, so this result was slower than stock speed.
In other tests, stock and overclocked performance was right on the money, and it was the most power-frugal board under load at stock speed too. There’s no VRM temperature output, so we can’t comment on that, but given that the issue above happened within a minute of starting the Cinebench test, we doubt they’re getting too toasty.
Apart from a slight wobble in one of our benchmarks once overclocked (which is most likely due to the very early BIOS version we’re using), the ASRock Z590 Extreme is a solid motherboard for the cash. It has all the gear you need to build a high-end Rocket Lake-S system with PCI-E 4 – only the slightly tricky overclocking, and average BIOS and software cost it an award. A solid effort but the early BIOS we used handsome teething issues.
2. ASRock Z590 PG VELOCITA LGA 1200 ATX Motherboard
We love the design of the ASRock Z590 PG Velocita, with its raised circuit board window feature and subtle but vivid RGB lighting. Plus, while it’s not exactly wallet-friendly at 276, it’s still far from the most expensive offering and it includes loads of features too.
The 14-phase power delivery is cooled by two Large heat sinks connected with a heat pipe and one sports a small, embedded fan with a second fan included in the box. However, even in its out-of-the-box configuration, the VRMs only hit 53°C in our stress test. The embedded fan was quiet too, and both it and the optional included fan can be controlled via the EFL.
There’s a trio of M.2 ports, one of which supports PCI-E 4 SSDs, but unlike its cheaper sibling, all three slots include heatsinks. The all-important one for PCI-E 4 SSDs did a great job at cooling our SSD, with the temperature falling from a peak of 88°C to just 57°, although there’s no underside cooling as you get with the Asus ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming motherboard.
Further premium extras include an LED POST code display, along with power, reset and clear-CMOS buttons, and if you want to add extra lighting to your system, you get pairs of 4-pin and 3-pin RGB headers as well.
Like the Z590 Extreme, you get a graphics card support that prevents heavy cards from sagging, although you’ll need to check there’s clearance in your case, as it protrudes by a couple of inches. There’s no Thunderbolt 4 port on the rear I/O panel, but there’s a header on the motherboard if you want to use an add-in card. The panel offers a total of seven Type-A USB ports and a single Type-C port as well, but only the Type-C header on the PCB supports full 2×2 20Cbps speeds.
The extra cash also gets you 802.11ax Wi-Fi and an extra Gigabit Ethernet port, with the primary port offering up to 2.5 Gigabit speeds. Display outputs are also included, so if your best CPU has integrated graphics and your best graphics card fails, you won’t be without a PC. There’s also an impressive count of eight fan headers, but ASRock’s fan control features are a little limited compared with the competition, especially when it comes to its Windows Based software.
Thankfully, there was none of the CPU throttling once overclocked that we saw with the cheaper ASRock board, although the voltage did appear to drop under load despite load line calibration being set to a high level. Thankfully, this didn’t result in temperatures or power consumption that were abnormally high and our CPU sat happily at 5.1GHz with1.38V applied and 1.3V reported in CPU-Z.
Performance was solid across the tests at stock speed and when overclocked, and the audio performance was excellent too.
If you have between $250 and $300 to spend on a Z590 motherboard and you don’t mind the lack of a Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port, the ASRock Z590 PG Velocita Strikes an excellent balance of features, overclocking performance and value, and it looks great too. Attractive, with plenty of features, and it held your CPU to a steady 5.1GHz all-core overclock.
3. Asus ROG Strix Z590-E WiFi ATX Gaming Motherboard
There’s plenty to drool over with the Asus ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi, which is just as well considering it costs $340. One of the standout highlights is its M.2 SSD support. There are two slots that support PCI-E 4 SSDs and an additional two slots that support PCI-E 3 SSDs, with one also offering a home to SATA M.2 SSDs. They all feature a simple tool-free latch securing mechanism that takes seconds to install an SSD.
All four are covered by large heatsinks and the primary slot not only includes a snazzy RGB-illuminated logo, but has a thermal pad that cools the underside of M.2 SSDs as well. This resulted in the lowest M.2 SSD load temperature on test at just 55°C. However, the heatsink sat so close to our backplate-fitted graphics card that we couldn’t access the release catch without a screwdriver, so we’ve docked a couple of points from Asus here. You can run two GPUs in PCI-E 4 mode thanks to two slots supporting this faster standard rather than just one, although you’re still limited to eight PCI-E lanes apiece.
The rest of the board is beautiful, with an illuminated ROG logo and acrylic strip on the I/O shroud and an all-black design that’s mostly color-neutral. You don’t get the full complement of on-board overclocking and testing tools, but there is a clear-CMOS button, LED POST code display and a USB BIOS FlashBack button. Both air and water-cooled systems will benefit from its feature set too, with eight 4-pin fan headers and a thermal sensor, so you can control fans based on coolant temperature. Despite the price tag, there’s no Type-C Thunderbolt port – only a header as with most of the other boards.
Meanwhile, the VRM heatsinks are huge and linked with a heatpipe, plus there’s an optional fan you can attach for extra cooling. However, the latter isn’t really needed, seeing as the highest temperature we saw during our stress test was 59°C. This board also has display outputs, so if you end up without a graphics card, you can at least use your PC.
You also get a pair of 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 802.11ax Wi-Fi and Asus has added Realtek’s ALC 4080 audio codec. The audio performance was a little disappointing, but this could be down to the early software and drivers we used.
The ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi hit the top RealBench system score at stock speed in this test, and had the highest Cinebench single-threaded score too, without topping the power consumption graph. Overclocking wasn’t as slick as the MSI boards, though, requiring a lot more tweaking and Asus’Al Suite Software was a little hit or miss as to whether it applied the set vcore or not. However, in the end we managed a 5.1GHz all-core clock with 1.34V, again achieving the highest system score.
The ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi is beautiful, loaded with features and it offers better value than the MSI MEG Z590 Ace. It’s clear there’s still some fine tuning to be done in the weeks before the official Z590 launch, but they’re minor and if we had around $300 to spend, this is the board we’d buy. A gorgeous motherboard that’s dripping with features
4. ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WiFi 6 Motherboard
Among the more affordable of Asus’ motherboards, the TUF range has tended to look and feel quite low- end before now, but the TUF Gaming Z590- Plus WiFi feels far more grown-up. There’s a 14+2 phase power delivery, enormous passive heatsinks and all three of its M.2 ports are equipped with heatsinks too, with a peak VRM temperature in our stress test of 56°C.
They also sport Asus’ new securing latches, which remove the need for the tiny, fiddly screws we usually use with M.2 SSDs. Unlike the ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi, though, only the top M.2 slot supports PCI-E 4 SSDs and if you use an older Comet Lake CPU in the board, this slot will be disabled too. That still leaves a pair of other slots that support either PCI-E 3 or SATA M.2 SSDs. Despite its price, you also get a Thunderbolt 4 header, albeit not a Thunderbolt port, as well as 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ax Wi-Fi.
The rear I/O panel offers six Type-A USB ports, four of which are USB 3 or faster, while there’s also a Type-C 2×2 port that offers 20Gbps of bandwidth as well as a Type-C header on the PCB for compatible cases. The usual Realtek ALC1220 audio codec is included rather than the ALC 4080 codec of its bigger sibling, with the full complement of audio inputs and outputs too. Sadly, there are no overclocking and testing tools such as clear-CMOS buttons or power switches, which were included on the cheaper ASRock Z590 Extreme.
Overclocking was a similar deal to the ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi, with us needing to tweak various power limits and load line calibration to get a stable all-core result of 5.1GHz with 1.36V, which was far more involved than with the MSI MAG Z590 Tomahawk.
Meanwhile, the PCI-E 4 M.2 port heatsink did a reasonable job at cutting the SSD temperature from 88°Cto 67°C. This was the joint-highest result on the test, but it’s enough to prevent your SSD from throttling under sustained heavy loads.
The stock speed performance was a little slow in RealBench and Cinebench, but Far Cry New Dawn saw the highest stock speed result on the test. Overclocking saw similar gains to the rest of the boards, but again this board was towards the lower end of key graphs. We also spotted an issue with the EFI, which would repeatedly fail to POST, reporting a missing CPU fan, although the splitter cable we used may have caused the issue, and this could well be explained by the early BIOS we used.
This is the most grown-up TUF board we’ve seen and the Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WiFi has plenty going for it as well as an attractive price tag. It has decent VRMs, good M.2 cooling, plenty of fan headers and USB ports, and Asus’ EFI and software is mostly excellent. However, the MSI MAG Z590Tomahawk is a slightly better buy, especially if you’re overclocking, while the ASRock Z590PG Velocita is worth the extra cash if you want more premium features. Slightly wobbly EFI and overclocking, but it’s a decent board for the cash.
5. MSI MAG Z590 Tomahawk Motherboard
The MAG Z590 Tomahawk has a lot to live up to given the prowess of MSI’s B450 and B550 chipset based siblings. With a price of $235, it’s just about the right side of $250 and cheap enough to be compared with the Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WiFi and ASRock Z590 Extreme.
You get 14+2+1 power phases, two separate and enormous VRM heatsinks and a trio of M.2 heatsinks catering for the single PCI-E 4 and additional pair of PCI-E 3 M.2 ports too. The former’s heatsink kept the SSD temperature at no more than 70°C under load, although this was the highest result on test and 13°C warmer than the ASRock Z590 PG Velocita.
There’s only a small amount of RGB lighting, so if you prefer function over form, you won’t get any arguments from this board, although you do get3-pin and 4-pin RGB headers if you need more pizzazz. Despite the price, you also get Realtek ALC4080 audio, Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN and 802.11.ax Wi-Fi.
MSI has nailed its audio implementation too, as we saw a dynamic range of 113dBA, which although not quite as good as the more expensive MSI MEG Z590 Ace, is still very good for a cheaper board.
The rear I/O panel offers display outputs, so if your CPU has on-board graphics, you’ll be able troubleshoot a flaky graphics card or even use your PC without one. There’s a generous total of seven Type-A USB ports, five of which are USB 3 or faster, plus there’s a USB 3.1 Type-C 2×2 port with a Type-C header on the PCB as well. Sadly, there’s no Thunderbolt support whatsoever, which is in stark contrast to its more expensive sibling in this Labs test, but then no other board on test has Thunderbolt ports on the rear I/O panel either.
There aren’t any on-board overclocking and testing tools, although for some reason, MSI includes a USB BIOS FlashBack button even though there are unlikely to be any more CPU generations launched on LGA1200. Thankfully, overclocking itself was blissfully simple and in stark contrast to the ASRock and Asus motherboards. We just had to input a vcore of 1.36V to get a stable all-core overclock to 1.51GHz, with no other tweaking necessary.
Meanwhile, the VRMs were kept fairly cool at a peak of 58°C in our stress test, and while the EFI was excellent, MSI’s software is very disjointed and clunky, and hasn’t improved much compared with the B550 and Z490 boards we reviewed a while ago.
There were no issues with performance, though, with the MAG Z590 Tomahawk sitting near the top of the graphs in every test; the only issue was very high power consumption under load at stock speed.
If you need a Z590 motherboard but don’t fancy spending much more than $200, then the MSI MAG Z590 Tomahawk is a good buy, especially if you want to overclock your CPU. Our only concern is that paying an extra $30- $40 would enable you to bag the ASRock Z590 PG Velocita, which is better-looking and has more features. A great motherboard for the cash that’s easy to overclock too.
6. MSI MEG Z590 ACE Gaming Motherboard
There’s no way around it; $440 is a lot to spend on a motherboard, but the MSI MEG Z590 Ace does it best to justify its cost thanks to its gorgeous looks and masses of features.
It’s also the only board on test to actually include full-fat Thunderbolt 4 ports – two of them – on the rear I/O panel. This means connecting the latest thunderbolt 4 docks and monitors, or charging Thunderbolt-enabled devices with a maximum 15W output, are all a possibility and there are mini-DisplayPort connectors here too.
The massive VRM heatsinks are linked via a heatpipe, and while they lack the fans included on other boards, its VRMs only peaked at 54°C in our stress test and only the fan-assisted ASRock Z590 PG Velocita was cooler. There’s a 16-phase CPU power delivery with 19 phases in total, plus a quartet of M.2 ports, one of which supports PCI-E 4 SSDs. There’s a pair of 16x PCI-E 4 slots too, with a third 16x slot and two 1x PCI-E slots all supporting PCI-E 3.
As you’d expect at this price, you get power, reset and clear-CMOS switches, dual BIOS and an LED POST code display. Unlike its software, which is best avoided, MSI’s EFI is excellent and just like the MSI MAG Z590 Tomahawk, overclocking was a simple case of applying a 1.33V vcore and getting a stable all core overclock to 5.1GHz. However, even a 5.2GHz clock got us into Windows and halfway through a Cinebench run – given more tweaking time we’re fairly sure that would have been achievable.
MSI’s fan control in the EFI is fantastic too, and there’s a thermal probe included in the box that will allow you to control fans based on coolant temperature. The rear I/O panel offers connectors for the 802.11ax Wi-Fi as well as a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port plus the usual audio ports for the ALC 4081 codec. There are eight USB Type-A ports here as well, plus a single HDMI output.
Performance was solid in all our benchmarks with the best results in Far Cry New Dawn and Cinebench once overclocked. Our tweaking efforts saw sizable gains in the RealBench system score and gaming results too. This was backed up by stellar audio performance with a dynamic range of 118dBA and noise level of -117.8, although the M.2 temperature of our PCI-E 4 SSD hit 67°C; while nowhere near throttling, this is a way off the best results we’ve seen in this test.
The good news is that, if you can afford the MSI MEG Z590 Ace, it has practically everything you could want from a high-end motherboard that you plan to keep at the h ea rt of your P C f o r the next few yea rs. 11 looks fantastic, has dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, plenty of M.2 ports with effective SSD and VRM cooling, plus an excellent EFI, fan control and thermal probe inputs, as well as eight fan headers.
The Asus ROG Strix Z590-EGaming WiFi is significantly cheaper and does sport many of the same features, but if you need the latest cutting-edge technology and a board with excellent overclocking credentials, the MSI MEG Z590 Ace is a fantastic choice if you can afford it. Fantastic from head to toe, but Thunderbolt 4 support comes at a price.