As technology progresses, features we once only saw on the highest of high-end hardware are not only becoming affordable but in some cases, standard. Remember the days when to obtain a motherboard with features such as WIFI, you’d have to spend as much as some people pay for rent? Well, those days a far gone and in the past. Over the last few generations, both Bluetooth and WiFi have started to pop up on even the most budget oriented motherboards. These days, you can get away with putting an I7 or even now an I9 on a less expensive motherboard and still get
The rear of the box is where most of the information can be found. The Z390 and Phantom Gaming SLI/ac branding in on the top left-hand corner of the back of the box. Directly below that is an image of the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac and a depiction on the IO of the motherboard just below that. On the bottom left, there are the technical specifications of the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. To the right is a list of some of the key features of the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. Some of these features include the Phantom Gaming 2.5 Gb/s LAN, dual-band 802.11 ac WiFi and dual Ultra M.2 slots.
The ASRock Phantom Gaming SLI’ac comes wrapped in an anti-static bag and packed with an array of accessories. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac comes packed with a user manual and quick start guide. The board also comes with the WiFi antennas, SATA cables, an HB, or high bandwidth SLI bridge, M.2 mounting screws, I/O shield and a coaster in the form of a driver disk.
A Closer Look at the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac is an ATX form factor motherboard measuring 12.0-in x 8.8-in or 30.5 cm x 22.4 cm. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac supports both 8th and 9th generation Intel Core Processors. Although this The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac supports both 8th and 9th generation Core Processors, this board is designed for use with Intel’s 9th generation processors. The beefed up VRM is designed to get the best overclock possible on 9th gen processors. The Z390 platform uses the same LGA 1151 socket that has been in use since the Z170 chipset launched. However, like the Z370 platform, you can’t use 6th or 7th generation processors on the Z390 platform. For the specifications of the Z390 chipset, click here; https://ark.intel.com/content/www/us/en/ark/products/133293/intel-z390-chipset.html. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac supports DDR4 4300+ (OC) MHz as well as Intel XMP or Extreme Memory Profile.
The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac offers support for both NVIDIA Quad SLI and AMD Quad CrossFireX. This board also has support for Intel’s HD, onboard graphics. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has both a DVI-D out and HDMI out for when running the onboard audio. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has six SATA 6Gb/s ports and two Ultra M.2 slots. The bottom Ultra M.2 slot has a full cover M.2 heat sink. For audio, The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac uses Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps for the 7.1 channel HD Audio. The Purity Sound 4 HD Audio uses the Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec. To learn more about the Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec click here: https://www.realtek.com/en/products/computer-peripheral-ics/item/alc892.
The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac uses ASRock’s Phantom Gaming 2.5 Gigabit LAN as well as dual-band 802.11 ac WiFi plus Bluetooth 4.2. The dual-band WiFi runs on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi. The intelligent Phantom Gaming 2.5Gb/s LAN platform is designed for maximum networking performance for any home network, content creator, online gamer or just high-quality streaming media. The Phantom Gaming 2.5 Gigabit LAN also comes with a utility that will prioritize gaming traffic over other types of internet traffic. More on that later in the review.
Going from left to right, the IO on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac starts with an HDMI 1.4 port that supports a maximum resolution up to 4096×2160 at 30Hz. Next is the antenna for the 802.11 ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.2. Next, we find two USB 3.1 gen 1 ports and a PS/2 port. I absolutely love seeing a PS/2 port. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has a DVI-D port with a max resolution of 1920 x 1200 at 60 Hz. There are two USB 3.1 Gen 2. One is type A, the other is type C. Next we find the Phantom Gaming 2.5 Gigabit LAN and two more USB 3.1 gen 1. But really they USB 3.0. Last, there is are 5 3.5 mm jacks for the 7.1 audio and a SPDIF, or optical port. I really like the IO cover on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. On top of protecting the components of the IO, it just looks good.
At the top of the motherboard, The Z30 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has a single 8-pin power connector for power to the VRM and CPU. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac features a digital PWM with a 10 phase power DIGI power design and premium 45A power choke. The all-digital PWM design provides the CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly. This helps to increase the lifespan and stability of the motherboard. ASRock’s premium 45A power chokes effectively make the saturation current up to three times better when compared to traditional chokes found on similarly priced motherboards. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac uses Nichicon 12k black capacitors. The 12k black capacitors have an estimated life span of 12,000 hours. That is 20% longer than the average 10k caps on other motherboards. The 12,000-hour rating is estimated at a temperature of 105°c. So with average running temps, they will last much longer than 12,000 hours.
On the right side of the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, we, of course, have a 24-pin connector followed by one of the boards two USB 3.0 headers. Next, to this USB 3 header are six SATA 6 Gb/s ports. However, using the boards two Ultra M.2 slots with SATA M.2 drives will disable a couple of these SATA 6 ports. So, if you have M.2 slot number 1 occupied by a SATA-type M.2 device, SATA3_1 will be disabled. Also, if you have M.2 slot number 2 occupied by a SATA-type M.2 device, SATA5_1 will be disabled
The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has two M.2 slots that are Optane ready. The dual Ultra M.2 slots support M Key type 2230,2242,2260 and 2280 M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s SSDs and PCIe Gen3 x4 SSD. The bottom slot also supports M Key type 22210 M.2 SSDs. The bottom M.2 slot also has an M.2 heatsink that comes on the motherboard. In the past, we’ve tested other boards with similar solutions. M.2 heatsinks have on average saved about 5°c from the temp of the drives we’ve tested. This doesn’t really affect performance. However lower temps over the life of the drive can help to extend the lifespan of the drive. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac is compatible with ASRock’s U.2 Kit for installing U.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 SSDs. There also a vertical, E key M.2 socket on the board. This is where the 802.11 ac WiFi card is located.
There two PCIe 3.0 X16 slots on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. When the top slot is occupied, the slot is an X16 slot. However, if both slots are occupied, they will both run in x8. In addition, there are four PCIe X1, or flexible PCIe slots on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. The PCIe X16 slots are both “PCIe Steel Slots.” This means the PCIe X16 slots are covered by a steel cover to enforce the slot which helps to prevent even the heaviest of cards from sagging. This also helps to prevent possible signal interference with graphics cards.
In addition to the 8-pin power and 24-pin ATX connectors, there are plenty of connectors on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac. In total, there are five fan headers. These include one CPU fan header, on CPU fan/Water Pump Header and three Chassis fan/Water Pump headers. There are two RGB headers and one addressable LED headers that are controlled by ASRock’s Polychrome software. There are the front panel connectors on the bottom right-hand corner. There is also a COM Port header, as well as a TMP header along the bottom of the board. The bottom is where the second of the USB 3.1 and one (USB 3.0) header can be found. Each of the USB 3.1 gen 1 ports can support two USB ports for a total of four. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac has a Performance Mode/ Easy OC Header. Last but most certainly not least is the single Thunderbolt AIC header.
The PCB is using what ASRock calls their Sapphire Black PCB. This is essentially what they are calling the color they use for the PCB. I’ll admit, I do love the color of the motherboard. My X99 system has the ASRock X99 Extreme4 in it currently and as much as I love the board, I wasn’t a fan of the bright blue accents. I’m happy to see more neutral colors on motherboards these days. The PCB on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac is made from high-density glass fabric. This helps protect the board against electrical shorts by reducing the gaps between PCB layers.
UEFI BIOS and ASRock Software
Like any other motherboard, you can enter the BIOS by mashing F2 or Delete to interrupt startup. However, ASRock motherboards have what is one of my favorite features of any board ever. The Restart to UEFI desktop icon. Open up this simple program and simply flip the switch to “Enter UEFI setup on next boot” and you’ll just boot into the UEFI on your next restart or boot up. I so wish every company had a feature like this. How many times have you spaced out and forgot you were going into the BIOS, only to have to reboot and try again. With this feature, this is no longer an issue.
Like most other modern UEFI BIOS, the BIOS for the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac starts off on easy mode. Here you can change the boot order, monitor fans speeds and enable XMP Mode. You can also see your SATA configuration and enable and disable RAID mode. You can see the date and time. You can also view the temps for your motherboard and CPU, as well as CPU voltage.
With advanced mode, you have far more options in the UEFI BIOS. Advanced mode has eight separate menus. These menus are Main, OC Tweaker, Advanced, Tool, H?W Monitor, Security, Boot, and Exit. We’re going to go through each section and give a brief overview of the UEFI Bios on the Phantom Gaming SLI AC. The Main section tells you the board, CPU installed, CPU frequency and the cache size of the CPU. It also tells you what memory is installed in what slots. In our case, this is the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac with an I7 8700k installed running at 3.7 GHz base clock with 12 MB of cache. With have out memory installed in slots A2 and B2 and our memory is running in dual channel mode at 3200 MHz in XMP Profile #1.
The OC Tweaker Section is where you can overclock both your CPU and memory. There are five user profiles that can be set to different overclocking profiles. You can adjust target CPU, cache, BLCK, AVX2 and memory speeds in the OC Tweaker. Once you have a stable overclock on your CPU and memory, simply save it to one of the five user profiles.
The advanced section of the UEFI BIOS is where you can get into the deepest settings of your motherboard. This includes everything from CPU and Chipset settings to Storage, NVMe and USB configurations. You can also set your BIOS to open to ether easy or advanced mode. There are even optimized overclocking profiles you can load.
The Tool section of the BIOS is where you can set up Easy Raid or securely wipe an SSD. This is also where the Instant Flash for the BIOS can be found.
The H/W, or Hardware Monitor sections does exactly that. This is where you can measure the temperature and voltage of the various sensors on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac.
The Security section is where you can set and change supervisor and user passwords, as well as the HDD Security Configuration. This is also the section that most people will never touch.
The Boot section of the BIOS is where you can set the boot order of your drives. You can enable fast boot and the ability to boot from the onboard LAN as well.
The final section is the save and exit section. Here you can save your current configuration, load optimized defaults and override your boot order.
ASRock Polychrome Sync Software
ASRock Polychrome Sync is their own RGB Software for controlling the RGB lighting on their motherboards, as well as supported peripherals. The Fist section in Polychrome Sync is the onboard section. Here, you can control the different zones and headers on the motherboard. On the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, these zones include the PCH heatsink, the two RGB headers, and the single Addressable LED header. There are seven different settings in the Polychrome Sync software. These settings are Static (one color, no effect), Breathing, Strobe, Cycling, Random, Music, and Wave. If you go with a static color, there is a color wheel and three sliders. One slider for Reds, one for Greens and one for Blues.
The second section is for component section. Here, you can sync the RGB lighting on everything from memory to peripherals. As long as they are compatible with the Polychrome Sync software. In our case, our memory was compatible with the Polychrome Sync software. You can also set the Polychrome Sync software to autorun when Windows starts.
I had to briefly touch on ASRock’s Phantom Tuning Utility. I love utilities that allow you to tune your CPU without going into the BIOS. It works very much as Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility does. It even has the same OC Tweaker that is present in the UEFI BIOS.
You can switch between Performance Mode, Standard Mode and Power Saving Mode with one click. Or, jump into the OC Tweaker and bump up the Base Clock, or BLCK Frequency, the CPU Ratio, cache ratio and even the CPU, DRAM, and PCH voltages.
The System Info section allows you to monitor temperatures and voltages of the different sensors on your motherboard. The Fantastic-Tuning section allows you to set different fan curves to the different fan headers on your motherboard. Basically, the Phantom Tuning app brings parts of the UEFI BIOS to the desktop.
Test System and Testing Procedures
For this review, we compared the results from the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac with our I7-8700k to the Aorus Z390 Pro with the same i7-8700k. Other than the motherboard, both systems were identical. With every product we test, whether we are reviewing them or not, we do our best to keep the testing methods and conditions the same. Ambient temperature is kept as close to 20°c (68°f) as possible. When the system was first turned on, it sat idle for about 20 minutes or so before any benchmarks were run or results recorded. We waited in between each benchmark no less than 20 minutes to give the system time to cool down a bit. Both processors were cooled by a modified Swiftech H320 X2 Prestige. The Apogee waterblock that came on the cooler was swapped out for an EK Supremacy EVO and use Noctua NF-P12 fans.
For each and every motherboard review we test everything from CPU and memory performance to gaming, audio, and networking. All benchmarks were run with both the CPU and GPU at their stock speeds. The I7-8700k we used, on average, boosted to about 4.3 GHz. The test results from the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac were compared to the results from the Z390 Aorus Pro. Both had the same kit of G. Skill Trident Z memory running at 3200 MHz and used the same power supply. Both systems used the Praxis Wetbench from Primochill as this is the test bench I use. Each benchmark was run three times and we went with the best overall results.
||Product Name||Provided By|
|Processor||Intel Core I7-8700k||Intel|
|Motherboard||Z90 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac||ASRock|
|Memory||G.Skill Trident Z RGB DDR4 3200 MHz CAS 16 32 GB||Retail Purchase|
|Drive||512 GB Intel SSD 6 660p NVMe M.2 SSD||Retail Purchase|
|Video Card||MSI Gaming X Trio 2080 ti||Cutting Edge Gamer|
|Monitor||LG 27UL500-W 27″ 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz||Retail Purchase|
|Case||Primochill Praxis Wetbench||Primochill|
|Power Supply||850 Watt EVGA Super Nova Ps 80+ Platinum Power Supply||EVGA|
|Cooler||Swiftech H320 X2 Prestige (modified with an EK Supremacy EVO Waterblock)||Swiftech|
General Performance Benchmarks
AIDA64 has a set of several 64-bit benchmarks to measure how fast the computer performs various data processing tasks and mathematical calculations. Multi-threaded memory and cache benchmarks are available to analyze system RAM bandwidth and latency. Benchmark pages of AIDA64 Extreme provide several methods to measure system performance. These benchmarks are synthetic, so their results show only the theoretical maximum performance of the system. The AIDA64 suite has various benchmarks for CPU, FPU, GPU, storage and memory testing.
The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac had lower memory latency at 51.4 MS to the 52.4 MS on the Z390 Pro. On memory bandwidth, it was a mixed bag/ the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac did better on the read and the copy where on the write, the Z390 Pro came out on top.
For L1, L2 and L3 Cache, the results were nearly identical. On the L1 cache, the Copy was the same for both at 1602. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac came out ahead 505 to 804 on the write and the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac fell behind on the read 1577.2 to 1594.7 on the Z390 Pro. The L2 and L3 cache had very similar results.
CPU Queen is an integer benchmark that tests branch prediction and misprediction penalties. CPU PhotoWorxx tests the SIMD integer arithmetic execution units of the CPU and the memory subsystem. CPU ZLib is a compression benchmark that tests the combined CPU and memory performance. CPU AES is a multi-core encryption benchmark that uses Advanced Encryption Standard data encryption. CPU Hash is an integer benchmark that measures performance using the SHA1 hashing algorithm. FPU Julia measures single precision FP, FPU Mandel measures double precision FP, FPU Sin Julia measures extended precision FP while FPU VP8 is a video compression test utilizing the FPU Julia fractal module. On both the AIDA64 CPU and FPU testing, our 8700k had nearly identical scores on both the Z390 Pro and Z390 Phantom gaming SLI/ac. The 8700k did better in some cases on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac and in others on the Z390 Pro. For example, in CPU Queen, the Z390 Phantom Gaming scored 72254 to the 72016 on the Z390 Pro. Then on CPU HASH, the Z390 Pro did better with a score of 7382 to the 7376 on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac.
Based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software Cinema 4D, CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. It has both the single thread and full performance test for your CPU, as well as an Open-GL test for your GPU. Cinebench R15 is one of the most widely used benchmarks used to test the performance. It puts the CPU under 100% load, but only for a very short time. It gives a good baseline for your CPU. However, I wouldn’t use it for testing the stability of an overclock. Although our m8700k hit 4.8 GHz on both motherboards, it achieved higher Cinebench scores all around on the Z390 Pro. On the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, out 8700k hit 1338 CB at stock to the 1365 CB on the Z390 Pro. While overclocked, our 8700k hit 1461 CB on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac to the 1553 CB on the Z390 Pro.
PCMARK 10 is the successor to PCMark 8 and the latest complete system benchmark from UL, formerly Futuremark. In their own words “PCMark 10 features a comprehensive set of tests that cover the wide variety of tasks performed in the modern workplace. With express, extended, and custom run options to suit your needs, PCMark 10 is the complete PC benchmark for the modern office.” We ran the complete PCMark 10 benchmark. In 8 out of the 11 tests in PCMark 10, the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac came out ahead of the Aorus Z390 Pro. In the Productivity, Video and Spreadsheet tests, the Aorus Z390 Pro beat out the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac.
Multimedia, Compression and Semi-Synthetic Benchmarks
x264 is a free software library for encoding video streams into the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format. x264 FHD measures how efficient a system is in encoding H.264 video and produces results in frames-per-second. H.265/HEVC video encoding is the future of video able to compress significantly larger resolution videos including 4K and make streaming a possibility. There was a larger difference between the two motherboards on the X.264 FHD benchmark than I had expected. The Z390 pro achieved 58.1 frames per second to the 45.5 frames per second on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac.
x265 is an open-source implementation of the H.265 standard and x.265 HD benchmark tests the CPU’s ability to process an HEVC video. This benchmark is run by the processor alone. In X265, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac achieved a speed of 32.84 frames per second. This was a bit behind the 35.96 frames per second on the Z390 Pro.
The 7-zip benchmark shows a rating in MIPS (million instructions per second). The rating value is calculated from the measured speed, and it is normalized with results of Intel Core 2 CPU with multi-threading option switched off. So, if you have modern CPU from Intel or AMD, rating values in single-thread mode must be close to real CPU frequency. There are two tests, compression with LZMA method and decompression with LZMA method. Once the total passes reach 100, the score is taken. 7-Zip gives the resulting score for decompressing, compressing and an overall score. In 7-Zip, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac came out ahead of the Z390 Pro in all areas; decompressing, compressing and total rating.
WinRAR is a file archiver utility for Windows, developed by Eugene Roshal of win.rar GmbH. It can create and view archives in RAR or ZIP file formats and unpack numerous archive file formats. The Z390 Pro beat out the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac by far more than I had expected. On the Z390 Pro, the 8700k had a resulting speed of 21373KB/s. Where on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, it achieved a resulting speed of 18875 KB/s. I had expected them to be closer.
HandBrake is a free and open-source video transcoder, originally developed in 2003 by Eric Petit to make ripping a film from a DVD to a data storage device easier. Essentially, it can convert video to almost any modern format. HandBrake is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. The workload video file is a ~6.27 GB, 3840 x 1714, 73.4 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mov video file that is transcoded to a ~1480 MB, 1920×858, ~17.1 Mbps, 24fps, H.264, .mp4 video file. On both the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac and the Z390 Pro, our 8700k achieved similar times in Handbrake. On the Z390 Pro, out 8700k transcoded the file in 7 minutes and 22 seconds. On the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, our 8700k transcoded the same files in 7 minutes and 28 seconds.
Sub System Benchmarks (Storage, Audio and Networking)
For Storage benchmarks, We used two different benchmarks. The first being the ATTO Disk Benchmark. The other is CrystalDiskMark5. ATTO and CrystalDisk Mark were used to test two drives. We tested both an NVMe M.2 and a 2.5″ SATA 6 SSD. The first drive we tested was the 512 GB variant of the Intel SSD 6 660p NVMe M.2. This was the first M.2 SSD to use Micron’s 3D NAND technology. The SATA drive we tested was the 960 GB Crucial BX500. We recently did a review of this drive which can be viewed here: https://www.modders-inc.com/crucial-bx500-960-gb-ssd-review/
ATTO Disk Benchmark
The ATTO Disk Benchmark utility was designed to measure regular disk drive performance. However, its more than capable of measuring both USB flash drive and SSD speeds as well. The utility measures disk performance rates for various sizes of files and displays the results in a bar chart showing read and write speeds at each file size. The results are displayed in megabytes per second. The Intel SSD 6 660p achieved 1791 MB/s on the read speed and 979 MB/s on the write speed. This is just about where it’s advertised to run at. The BX500 hit a max of about 559 MB/s on the read speed and a max of about 516 MB/s on the write speeds, almost saturating the SATA 6 interface.
“CrystalDiskMark 5 is designed to quickly test the performance of your hard drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds.” It’s one of the most commonly used utilities for testing drives. Both the Intel 660p and BX500 did better on Crystal Disk Mark 5. The Intel 660p hit 1598 MB/s on the read speed and 945 on the write speeds. This is a bit lower than the advertised speeds of 1700 MB/s on the read and 1000 MB/s on the write. The BX 500 did much better in Crystal Disk Mark 5 than it did on ATTO. The BX500 hit 559.42 MB/s on the read and 520.8 on the write speeds.
To test the onboard audio on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, we use the Rightmark Audio Analyzer benchmark. However, before we run the benchmark, we must test the DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency. The DPC is checked to ensure the audio can produce useable results in Rightmark. DPC, or Deferred Procedure Call latency, is a Windows function that handles driver efficiency and allows high-priority tasks to defer required, but lower-priority tasks for later execution. We use LatencyMon to test the DPC Latency.
We had LatencyMon run for a little over 5 minutes. The highest reported ISR routine execution time was 170.55. The highest reported DCP routine execution was 553.13. This is higher than I’ve seen in previous reviews but still acceptable. At the 4000 microseconds, the system will be unsuitable for real-time audio playback. Since both results were under this range, we can continue to Rightmark Audio Analyzer.
To test with Rightmark, you must first plug into both the rear headphone jack and the rear mic jack using a double-ended 3.5 mm jack cable. This creates an audio loop to test the internal audio performance of the onboard audio. We tested using both 16 and 24-bit settings through a range of frequencies from 44 kHz up to 192 kHz. On both the 16 and 24 bit testing, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac had acceptable results. The chart below is to give an idea of what very good and excellent results for the Rightmark benchmark look like. The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac slotted in just below the Very Good results. Given these are just numbers in a benchmark. The On-board audio on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac actually sounded very good.
For network testing, I used my Comcast Business class router from Motorola. The server PC was my standard test bench. This server PC consists of an I7 8700k on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, the Client PC was the Z390 Pro running an I9-9900k. This was the one test we ran where the 9900k was used. This is due to the fact the networking test requires two systems each running the Performance Test 9 networking test simultaneously. The system We use the Networking Test in the PassMark Performance Test 9. For this review, we ran both the TCP and UDP Networking tests. Both tests were run on WiFi and Ethernet. As the charts show, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac did outperform the Z390 pro on the networking test.
The results for both the Z390 Pro and the Phantom Gaming SLI AC were very similar. However, the Phantom Gaming SLI ac achieved better results on the TCP test on both Ethernet and over WIFI. The Z390 Pro achieved better results on the UDP Test both over WiFi and hard-wired through Ethernet.
Since this motherboard has 802.11 ac WIFI, it wouldn’t be a full review if we didn’t run a speed check on the WIFI. My office has Comcast Business class internet. The plan is 150 Mbps download by 30 Mbps upload. The 802.11 ac WIFI on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac hit 170.1 Mbps download and 23.3 Mbps upload. Through Ethernet, the speeds test results were 178.3 Mbps download and 23.2 Mbps upload. The WIFI on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac isn’t far off from the results through Ethernet. However, depending on your internet connection, results will vary. The WIFI on this board is more than suitable for gaming, streaming or uploading to YouTube. The limit is going to be your connection to the internet.
The GPU used in this review was the MSI Gaming X 2080 ti. For gaming, we tested three games out of our normal suite of games used for GPU reviews. However, games were only tested at 1080p. This puts less of a strain on the GPU, allowing the CPU to do more of the work. Both 1440p and 4k puts more of a strain on the GPU as opposed to the CPU. The games were benchmarked at the highest presets. The three games we tested for this review were Far Cry 5, The Witcher 3and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Each benchmark was run three times. We then averaged out the minimum, maximum and average frames per second. The results in the chart are the average of the three runs.
Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 is the latest is the far cry series. It takes place in the fictional Hope County Montana. You play the role of the un-names deputy who’s sent to arrest Joseph Seed, the leader of the dangerous Edens Gate Cult. However, things do not go as planned and you spend the game trapped in Hope County attempting to take out Joseph and the rest of his family as they attempt to take over the entire county. Far Cry 5 was released in 2018. Ubisoft has developed a beautiful open world with amazing visuals. However, the game is very demanding on even the most powerful systems. This game was tested with the in-game benchmark, as well as near the beginning of the game when you first leave the bunker owned by Dutch as you attempt to clear his island of cult members.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is set to be the third and final game of the rebooted trilogy developed by Eidos Montréal in conjunction with Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you continue your journey as Lara Croft as she attempts to finish the life work of her father. Her in a journey that takes her from Central America to the hidden city of Paititi as she attempts to stop Trinity in their attempt to gain power. Section benchmarked was near the beginning of the first section that takes place in the hidden city. This was compared to the in-game benchmark which seems to be an accurate representation of the gameplay.
The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is an action role-playing game developed and published by CD Projekt. Based on The Witcher series of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. This is the third game in the Witcher Series to date and the best so far. You play as Geralt of Rivia on his quest to save his adopted daughter from the Wild Hunt. At its release in 2015, The Witcher 3 has some of the most beautiful graphics ever seen in a game, as well as some of the most demanding. Even today, almost 4 years later, the Witcher 3 still holds up very well and brings even the most powerful systems to their knees. The game was benchmarked during the hunt for and battle with the Griffin near the start of the main story.
It goes without saying that the MSI Gaming X 2080 TI is a bit overkill for 1080p gaming. With that, our results look a bit absurd. But as we said early, we’re more trying to stress the CPU rather than the GPU. All three games were tested at their highest presets and all three averaged 100 frames per second or better. Even with DXR enabled and set to ultra, Shadow of the Tomb Raider averaged 100 FPS. With DXR disabled, Shadow of the Tomb Raider averaged 145 FPS. Next was the Witcher 3. Even with the games being over 4 years old now, The Witcher 3 still has some of the best graphics out there and puts a strain on most systems. The Witcher 3 averaged 132 FPS. Last was Far Cry 5 with an average of 109 FPS.
Overclocking and Temperatures
While testing the overclocking on both motherboards, we do our best to keep the ambient temperature as close to 20°c (68°f) as possible. Where the I7-8700k used in this review is technically a retail sample, it was provided by Intel. On both the Z390 Pro and the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, our retail i7 8700k overclocked no higher than 4.8 GHz. In fact, I’ve not gotten this 8700k past 4.8 GHz on any board. If I set the voltage higher than 1.30 volts, it instantly crashes. On the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, our 8700k hit 4.8 GHz at 1.312 volts. In the Z390 Pro, the same processor hit 4.8 GHz at 1.308 volts.
For temperatures, the I7 8700k that was tested on both motherboards had very similar temperatures during the AIDA64 Stability test. On the Z390 Pro, our max temp under load, on the CPU Stability test was 66°c. While idling, on the Z390 Pro, our 8700k averaged 29°c at stock and 33°c while overclocked. On the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, the max temp under load on the SPU Stability test was 67°c. While overclocked to 4.8 GHz, our 8700k idled at 35°c and 31°c at stock speeds.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac performed better than I had originally expected. Sure it fell behind the Z390 Pro in a few tests. But that was expected as the Z390 Pro is a slightly more expensive motherboard. In my opinion, hitting 4.8 GHz on a budget-oriented motherboard is pretty impressive. Temperatures stayed very reasonable and very close to its competition. The Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac ran neck and neck with the Z390 Pro. It makes me want to test out some of higher end boards ASRock has to offer as this was my first experience with a consumer grade ASRock motherboard since the Z97 days. The WiFI on the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac achieved results almost identical top the Ethernet results. It goes to show how far WiFi has come over the last several years. Both of the SSDs we tested did very well on both the ATTO Disk Benchmark and on Crystal Disk Mark 5. Both performed near to or above their advertised speeds. The MSI Gaming X 2080 ti did excellent in gaming on the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, to no one’s surprise.
The Phantom Gaming SLI/ac is very aesthetically pleasing. I absolutely love the neutral color scheme. This allows the Phantom Gaming SLI/ac to easily fit into any color themed build. and the price allows the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac to fit into just about any budget. The RGB lighting is subtle, but also there. The Polychrome Sync software is simple and very user-friendly. However, I wish my keyboard was able to sync with the software. That being said, I’ve only found one RGB software that allows my Creative keyboard to sync with the rest of the system. So It wasn’t a huge surprise it didn’t sync with Polychrome Sync. At the time of writing this review, we found the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac on Amazing for around $165-$170 USD. However, It has been as cheap as $149.99 on both Amazon and Newegg. Whether it’s $165 or $150, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac is a really good motherboard, at a really good price. Having been a hardware snob my entire life, ASRock is getting me to think twice about the budget motherboard.