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    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master Review: Overbuilt, M.2 Abundance

    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master Review: Overbuilt, M.2 Abundance

    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master

    OUR VERDICT
    The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master sits in the upper mid-range of overclockable Alder Lake boards at $469.99. While far from cheap, it comes with five M.2 sockets, 10 GbE and integrated Wi-Fi 6E, overbuilt VRMs, and an updated premium appearance.

     

    PROS

    CONS

    • Overbuilt 105A power delivery

    • Five M.2 sockets

    • 11 total rear USB ports

    • Last-gen audio codec

    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus masters fired up our test bench with a statement from Gigabytes calling it “the new king of gaming.” Alongside this coronation, they’ve updated their features list and included one that has all potential builders need: a VRM capable enough for any high-end setup while still being affordable.

    The Z690 Master not only has the look to be an excellent base for your new Alder Lake build, but it also provides all of that necessary hardware. With five M.2 sockets and 10 GbE and WiFi 6E capabilities along with an updated appearance, this mid-range board is sure to make any builder happy!

    Gigabyte has finally ditched their signature orange and black colour scheme for something more generic, but still very appealing. The new Aorus Master looks to be a great replacement that will surely please fans of the older style designs! The last generation of the specification was already impressive, but it’s been taken up a notch with this new model. The new M.2 socket count is a welcome addition to this board, increasing the number of available ports by one. The power delivery also got an upgrade with higher quality parts being used which should provide better performance when gaming or rendering videos on graphics software such as Adobe Lightroom. The multi-faceted improvement from the last generation has been improved even further in terms of number additions rather than just adding more capabilities onto what was already there before. It’s reasonable compared to the existing market and similarly priced Z690 options.

    The Aorus Master performed well across most benchmarks, with an average or slightly faster than normal result in all but one test. Gaming performance was solid overall and comparable to last generation’s top-of-the-line model; however, it did struggle when compared against other Z690 boards while running Procyon Office Suite tests that rely more heavily on DDR5 memory types rather than DDR4 boards. Outside of that, it’s just as or slightly better performing than its peers.

    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master is a high-end motherboard that offers great performance and features. This article will cover its specifications, which include overclocking adventures as well!

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    PREVIEW

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    1

    Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master

    Specifications – Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master

    Socket

    LGA 1700

    Chipset

    Z690

    Form Factor

    E-ATX

    Voltage Regulator

    22 Phase (19+1+2, 105A MOSFETs for Vcore)

    Video Ports

     (1) DisplayPort (v1.2)

    USB Ports

    (1) USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C port (20 Gbps)
     
    (1) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port (10 Gbps)
     
    (5) USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)

    (4) USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)

    Network Jacks

    (1) 10 GbE

    Audio Jacks

    (2) Analog + SPDIF

    Legacy Ports/Jacks

    PCIe x16

    (1) v. 5.0 (x16)
     
    (2) v. 3.0 (x4)

    PCIe x8

    PCIe x4

    PCIe x1

    CrossFire/SLI

    AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire and 2-Way Crossfire

    DIMM slots

    (4) DDR4 6400+(OC), 128GB Capacity

    M.2 slots

    (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 110mm)
     
    (2) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 110mm)
     
    (1) PCIe 3.0 x4 (32 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)
     
    (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe + SATA (up to 80mm)

    U.2 Ports

    SATA Ports

     
    (6) SATA3 6 Gbps (Supports RAID 0/1/5/10)

    USB Headers

    (1) USB v3.2 Gen 2x2, Type-C (20 Gbps)
     
    (2) USB v3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
     
    (2) USB v2.0 (480 Mbps)

    Fan/Pump Headers

    (10) 4-Pin (CPU, Water cooling CPU, System, System/Pump fans)

    RGB Headers

    (2) aRGB Gen2 (3-pin)
     
    (2) RGB (4-pin)

    Diagnostics Panel

    2-character debug LED

    Internal Button/Switch

    Reset button

    SATA Controllers

    Ethernet Controller(s)

    Marvell AQtion AQC113C (10 Gbps)

    Wi-Fi / Bluetooth

    Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E (2x2 ax, MU-MIMO, 2.4/5/6 GHz, 160 MHz, BT 5.2)

    USB Controllers

    Realtek RTS5411 (2)

    HD Audio Codec

    Realtek ALC1220

    DDL/DTS Ultra

     / Yes

    Warranty

    3 Years

    After opening the box and taking the board out, you’ll find the accessory stack hidden under a cardboard partition. The Aorus Master includes all of the basics and more. Below is a list of everything included with this board.

    • (6) SATA 6Gb/s cables
    • Wi-Fi antenna
    • (5) M.2 screw sets
    • Microphone
    • User Manual / Guide
    • Stickers
    • G-connector
    • (2) Temperature probes
    • RGB extension cable

    After removing the board out of the box and getting a good look at it, we see with more detail how Gigabyte changed the styling in color from grey with orange highlights to something more agnostic is very apparent when you first look at the board. The black 8-layer PCB stands out against its surroundings and has a great design that will not be seen anywhere else but on your own personal computer!

    The left side of the socket has a plastic cover that reaches out over to VRM heatsink with Aorus branding and an RGB element. The chipset’s heat sinks cove most parts on bottom half, sporting unique design made up lines running through them for more surface area than usual which makes it stand apart from other motherboards like Gigabyte or MSI models we’ve seen before . Their logo can also be found here in this spotlights their brand name “AORUS”.

    Gigabyte made some changes to their Z690 Master motherboard that I think are for the better. The RGB lighting on this board is bright and saturated, but won’t steal attention from your other components no matter how much you may want it too! It’s also still very reminiscent of a high-end product without being overbearing or flashy in any way at all which makes me happy as someone who likes cleaner builds with lots going on under the hood.

    The bottom half of this board is all aluminum, with various Aorus branding on it. The plastic cover that reaches out from underneath to partially cover up the VRM heatsinks also has a brushed finish. The Top half of this picture is where things really start to get interesting. We can see all sorts on heatsinks and shrouds, with a plastic cover that reaches out towards them in an effortful manner as if trying not only protect but also maintain their pristine state at any cost necessary!

    The VRM heatsinks themselves are heavy and use fins to get rid of the heat from below. The additional surface area does an excellent job at keeping all those bits cool, as there are two 8-pin EPS connectors between the two heatsinks (one required). Both EPS connectors have shielding on them as well.

    To the right of the socket, Gigabyte’s latest Memory HDR platform supports up-to DDR5 6400(OC), one of the more common values we’ve come across. To either side are four reinforced DRAM slots that can hold 128GB kits for your system’s performance needs – perfect if you want speed without having too many modules installed!

    Just above the DRAM slots are four 4-pin fan headers (of 10 total). We run into the CPU_FAN and CPU_OPT headers along with two SYS_FAN headers in this area. The manual says that each fan header can support 2A/24W of power, which should be more than enough for piggybacking a couple fans or powering most pumps. Make sure you check the consumption before connecting this cable to your motherboard though!

    If the integrated RGB lighting isn’t sufficient, there are two headers for additional RGB lighting in the upper-right corner (2 more on the bottom edge). There are also two 3-pin ARGB and two 4-pin RGB headers. The lighting is controlled through the RGB Fusion application, which provides ample connectivity for your lights.

    There are so many USB ports on this board! Moving down the right edge, we run into the 24-pin ATX connector for board power, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 front-panel connector. The board has so many USB ports, you’d be hard-pressed to run out. There are 11 total in the rear IO area and all headers too!

    Gigabyte’s VRM has a 22-phase setup, with 19 of those being dedicated to Vcore. The power is sent from the EPS connector(s) onto a 20-channel Renesas RAA229131 PWM controller. Then, the power is sent to your 19 105A RAA2210540 SPS MOSFETs.

    The 1,995 Amps is one of the highest I recall seeing on any motherboard in this class. It should go without saying that it’s easily capable of handling our Intel i9-12900K processor at stock and while overclocked using ambient cooling methods. If you’re into sub-ambient cooling normality for sport then this board won’t limit your power delivery.”

    The bottom half of the board is mostly an expanse for heat sheets and three PCIe slots. Hidden below all that junking are five M2 sockets, as well as some audio bits from the Realtek ALC1220 chip which sits on the left side under shroud with ESS SABRE ES9118 DAC behind it. Last but not least are the WIMA and Nichicon audio caps. I would like to see an ALC4080 codec here, but in reality, few will miss its marginally improved newer one with the better sound quality for less money spent on your behalf!

    In the middle of the board are three full-length reinforced PCIe slots. The top connector (primary GPU) is your PCIe 5.0 x16 slot and connects directly to the CPU. The bottom two slots connect via the chipset and run at PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds. This configuration supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire and 2-Way AMD Crossfire.

    Locating above and between the PCIe slots are five M.2 sockets. The connector on top, M2A_CPU with its larger heatsink supports PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) devices up to 110mm in size – you may have guessed from the name it’s for your CPUs! Four others, M2P_SB, M2Q_SB, M2C_SB and M2M_SB, connect through the chipset. M2P and M2Q_SB support PCIe x4 devices up to 110mm, while below those, M2M_SB also runs PCIe 4.0 devices up to 80mm. Last, M2C_SB runs PCIe 3.0 x4 (32 Gbps) based modules. Gigabyte lists support for RAID 0/1/5/10 modes.

    Along the right edge of this motherboard are two Thunderbolt headers that can be used for add-in cards and six SATA ports. When it comes to lane sharing M2A/M2P/M2Q connectors do not affect other slots on your device so you don’t have any worries about being left out!

    If a PCIe-based module is installed in M2C PCIEX4_1 (middle slot), it will disable all other modules. Last, if you’re using an SSD with the same ports as SATA 2/3 and want to use them too – don’t! As it will also get disabled. When you use all M.2 sockets, four SATA ports are available with the middle PCIe slot unavailable. If you need more storage than this, you may want to look into the HEDT platforms or servers.

    Along the bottom edge of this board, you’ll find headers ranging from USB to RGB and even some sensors in between. Here’s a complete list ordered left-to-right:

    • Front panel audio
    • 3-pin ARGB header
    • 4-pin RGB header
    • Noise sensor
    • System fan header
    • (2) USB 2.0 headers
    • Temperature sensor header
    • (2) System fan headers
    • TPM Header
    • Front panel header

    The IO plate at the back is an elegant match for Aorus Masters’ black theme. The pre-installed metal piece has grey writing on it, making port information easy to read without any guesswork involved! There are 11 total USB ports around the back: two USB 3.2 Type-C ports (20 Gbps and 10 Gbps), five USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) ports, and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) ports. The nine USB Type-A ports should be plenty for most users. If you plan to use the integrated video on some of the Alder Lake processors, there’s a DisplayPort connector for that purpose. On the left, we spy the Q-Flash+ and Clear CMOS buttons to flash the BIOS and reset it. The audio stack consists of five analogue plugs and a SPDIF port. Last but not least are connections for the Wi-Fi 6E antenna.


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