It’s been a while since I had a chance to take a look at something new from Intel, like a really long while, so I’m ecstatic to see something new finding its way to my table, like this Z490 motherboard.
I assume that your subscription box was recently lit up with Intel’s 10th Gen CPU reviews, but I’ll have to disappoint you a bit because I’m still waiting on my sample. With that said, I won’t go deep into CPU analysis, plus I assume you’re all pretty much by now familiar with Intel’s 10th gen Comet Lake offers. We are getting up to 10 core 20 thread CPUs, followed by new chipsets, which at first glance are not that much different from the previous generation, but bottom line, Intel is trying to do everything in order to catch up with AMD.
Be sure to subscribe to my channel, because as it seems I will probably get the 8 core 16 thread i7 10700K model, which I’m then planning to compare with my Ryzen 7 3700X, and that’s going to be a pretty interesting match-up for sure.
Anyhow, as you’ve probably seen, Gigabyte has a plethora of motherboard models in their offering, starting from the lower end chipsets like H410, B460, and H470, which also support LGA1200 socket CPU’s, all the way up to Z490 where they also have their portfolio divided across Aorus, Ultra Durable and Gaming sub-brand range, where they count a total of 17 different models at the moment, just for the Z490 chipset, one which is the Z490 Gaming X that I have here with me.
Gigabyte Z490 Gaming X – value contender
Just to put upfront once again, this is not going to be a review of this motherboard, just an in-depth overview, since as I said I still don’t have any 10th gen Intel’s Comet Lake CPU’s on my hands, but hopefully soon. If not with this particular model, with some other for sure, but either way I’m really excited to check what’s under the hood of this model component-wise, there’s a lot to read from that, especially since this is going to be a more value-oriented contender, bottom line a budget Z490 motherboard.
Taking a closer look at this ATX motherboard, the Z490 Gaming X boasts a really clean black and gray design, which may be at first glance doesn’t look to be that much interesting, but it actually has a lot of cool subtle details once you dig into it. I really like how these graphics turned out on the chipset’s heat-sink, and how they finned their physical design like this, most likely for better heat dissipation of the components below them, and they did the same with the passive heatsink for cooling off the power design.
Speaking of the power design, this model has a 12 phase digital power design built with their DrMOS solution. Underneath the heatsink we have an 11+1 phase configuration, consisting out of Vishay’s SiC651A 50A Power Stage and Intersil’s ISL69269 PWM controller.
The heat-sinks themselves seem to be pretty chunky, and they have a thick thermal pad below them, it will be interesting to see how all of this will cope temperature-wise with a more power-hungry CPU, like the Core i7 10900K, especially since this motherboard has two EPS power connectors in an 8+4 configuration, so you can imagine how much current will flow through all of these components once it tries to power up a 10 core 20 threaded beast. If you put in a chassis like Fractal Vector RS, together with some exhaust fans on top of it, I don’t think it will be a problem.
It’s not all bells and whistles with Z490 Gaming X
Gigabyte actually proudly points out a total of six internal thermal sensors that are placed around the motherboard, including for VRM and CPU of course and few other spots. This is accompanied by a total of five 4-pin PWM hybrid fan headers which are able to detect what kind of device is connected to them, is DC or PWM controlled. Similar to what you see on graphics cards, they also implement fan stop technology, so you can have chassis or CPU cooler fans stop completely if the temperature is low enough, and all of this can be the control using their Smart Fan 5 software.
As for the rest of the headers, around the motherboard, mostly on the bottom edge of it, you’ll find your usual suspects, like front panel audio header and the rest of the front panel connectors, USB 2.0 headers, other COM ports, USB 3.2 Gen 1 header on the right edge right next to the 24-pin ATX power connector, a total of 6 SATA 3 ports next to that, with which you’ll get 2 SATA cables in the bundle, and most importantly for all the RGB enthusiast out there, two 5V addressable RGB and two 12V RGB headers, a pair of them on the bottom and a pair in the right top corner. This can be used in conjunction with their RGB Fusion 2.0 software, while the board itself actually doesn’t carry any RGB lightning.
And what’s this blank space you’re looking at right now, well, it’s actually the shield for the back I/O ports, which on this particular model comes preinstalled, together with the plastic cover surrounding it all around, and like this, it looks kinda non-populated at first. Here you’ll find Intel’s Gigabit LAN port, HDMI out, combo P/S2 port, and set of 3,5 mm audio input and outputs. It also carries a total of 8 USB ports, two of them 2.0 the rest of the USB 3.2. But, don’t get overly excited, because only one is USB 3.2 Gen 2, the rest of the USB 3.2 Gen 1, while as you can see there are no Type-C connectors. I’m not sure why they don’t use the more of the USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, because this chipset supports up to 6 of them. It’s a bit odd, but then again, they did the exact same thing with their last-gen version of this particular model. I don’t know if that’s just their strategy and product position, or if it has to do something with licensing, it’s a missed opportunity nevertheless. The that is colored red is USB 3.2 Gen 2, while the white one for their on the go Q-Flash Plus BIOS update feature.
And that’s another feature that I personally like, the ability to update a BIOS without necessarily booting the motherboard itself or needing to have a CPU, memory or graphics card installed on it. There’s a dedicated switch on this model, you only to plug the power supply to the motherboard, put a USB thumb drive with the BIOS file into that white USB port, press this button and that’s it. Very useful for possible future CPU upgrades, even more so since this is their entry-level model, I wasn’t expecting this on a motherboard that’s based on Z490 under 200$.
A decent example of a budget Z490 motherboard
Since I’m already here, right next to the CPU socket, we have four DDR4 slots for putting up to 128 GB of RAM, supporting speeds up to 4600 MHz using XMP profiles. You can also notice that two of the slots, the ones you populated first, have additional stainless steel support so the PCB doesn’t bend during the process of slotting them in, plus it also additionally prevents any electrical interference. Memory traceroute also has an extra inner PCB layer that’s shielding them from any external interference, while something similar is done with the audio circuit, where we have a separation between two parts of the motherboards PCB. Speaking of that, Gigabyte put Realtek’s ALC1200 audio codec, alongside Nippon chemicon caps, supporting 7.1 channel audio, but as you saw just a minute ago, unfortunately it doesn’t have optical out on the back I/O, only over the internal header. For other slots on the motherboard we have two full-length PCI-express x16 slots, first one running at x16 and also has this more beefed-up construction, while the second runs at x4. Besides them we have three PCI-express x1 slots, all of them being PCI-express 3.0 standard.
In between them, you’ll find a total of three M.2 slots, one in the middle that has a heat-sink dissipation plate with a thermal pad on it, the other one is completely opened up and placed on the far bottom, both supporting SATA and PCI-express 3.0 x4 speeds, while the last one, placed just above the first PCI-express x16 slot, initially came with an interesting sticker that refers to motherboards manual, plus a notion printed on the motherboard – “Reserved for future.” And no, this not a movie reference, but it is where things start to get interesting. If you look at specifications they don’t mention that third one at all, in the manual of the motherboard you can see that the other two are marked with SB letters, that probably refers to the south-bridge chipset and PCI-express lanes coming from it, and the first one is labeled M2P_CPU, hinting that this one will use PCI-express lanes coming from the CPU. Since they are not 100% officially clear in the manual and specifications for what it is for, I can only guess what that future purpose might be, although that’s not that hard because there are some indicators stating that this model inherently supports PCI-express 4.0, for which we have few hints, like this mysterious M.2 slot before all, while Gigabyte is pointing out the so-called “PCI-e 4.0 hardware design“ on their product boxes, and this model has that too on the back of the box, so I assume we’ll have to wait on that to be unleashed together with the release of the Intel’s 11th gen desktop CPU line-up, code-named Rocket Lake.
Nevertheless, it’s a bit weird why they don’t mention this anywhere on their website or in the manual, they’re sort of like not talking about it, don’t want or can, but on the other they still are, probably because Intel still didn’t officially confirm this yet.
Allegedly, Intel was planning to put PCI-express 4.0 support onto the Z490 chipset, but there was a sudden turn of events for some reason, which left the next 11th gen CPU’s to handle this task of bringing PCI-express 4.0 support to the table. This situation, with having an M.2 slot on this motherboard that’s currently not usable, is probably the end result of that.
Other than that, all in all, this seems to be a pretty well-balanced motherboard feature-wise, especially since it falls under a more affordable category of Z490 models, so I can easily see it being a common choice among users who are in search for a more value-oriented model. It’s currently priced at around 180$ dollars, while its predecessor, the Z390 Gaming X was a bit cheaper at the launch. Gigabyte also offers a micro ATX version of this particular model, and it expectedly has a lower price tag, but of course, that Is followed up with fewer features since the motherboard is physically smaller.
That’s it for this time, thanks for checking out my Gigabyte Z490 Gaming X preview and if you have any question feel free to hit me in the comments section of my YouTube video listed above, you can contact me via my social media channels!