The Z390 Aorus Extreme Waterforce motherboard comes is a massive, and heavy box. This is due to the Monoblock being packaged with the motherboard, each in a separate box. The main box is simple. The Aorus falcon head logo is ion the center of the box, with the Z390 Aorus Extreme Waterforce branding printed below. It’s the same on the right and left sides of the box.
On the back of the box, there is the same falcon head Aorus logo, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce branding and two Intel badges across the top. These badges are the Z390 chipset and the Core 9th gen processor badges. Across the middle of the back, there are depictions of some of the main features of the board such as the 16 Phase IR Digital VRM, All-In-One Monoblock, and Aquantia 10 GbE LAN to name a few. Across the bottom of the back, there is a list of specifications of the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce motherboard. Next to the specifications is a depiction of the I/O of the motherboard. The last thing of note is several badges for features of the motherboard. These include RGB Fusion, Smart Fan5, and Dual Bios to name a few.
Inside the very large box, there are two smaller boxes. The larger of the two holds the motherboard and the smaller box holds the All-In-One Monoblock. Also packed in with the Z390 Aorus Xtreme motherboard is the Aorus RGB Commander RGB controller.
Both the Z390 Aorus Extreme and the All-In-One Monoblock come packed in soft foam. This offers far better protection in shipping than hard foam or plastic. In fact, even the RGB Commander is packed in soft foam.
A Closer Look at the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is an EATX motherboard and has as many features packed onto a motherboard that I’ve personally ever seen. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme comes in two flavors. First is the standard edition with all components passively cooled with heat sinks. The second version and the one we’ll be featuring in this review is the Waterforce Edition that comes packed with an All-In-One Monoblock to water cool the entire motherboard.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has the same LGA 1151 socket that Intel has been using on their consumer motherboards since they 6th generation of Core Processors. However, the Z390 chipset only supports 8th and 9th generation Core Processors. So, your I7 7700k unfortunately will not work in the board.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, like other consumer boards, has four DIMM slots that support DDR4 memory. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce supports up to 128 GB of dual-channel DDR4 2666 MHz, or up to 4400 MHz (OC). This board does support 32 GB memory modules, which is exciting. The board has support for non-ECC Un-buffered DIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx16 memory modules. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce also has support for Intel’s Extreme Memory Profile or XMP.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has a beefed up power delivery. It’s sporting a 16 Phase IR Digital VRM Solution with PowIRstage. With 16 power phases, a 37% larger power plane and a copper PCB two times thicker than average, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is designed for your processor to hit 5 GHz or higher on all cores.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has two 8-pin power connectors with metal shielding to deliver plenty of power to the motherboard and it’s most power-hungry components. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme features an IR Digital PWM Controller. Each of the 16 PowIRstage Mosfets is capable of providing up to 60A of power from each phase. Providing a total of 960A of total power to the CPU. This much power will allow you to get the most performance possible out of your CPU.
Internally, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme is packed with connectivity. It has the basics that an EATX motherboard would have such as a 24-pin connector and not one, but two 8-pin power connectors. Both the 24-pin and both 8-pins feature Gigabytes Solid Pin Power connectors. Unlike traditional pin connectors, the pins on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce have a larger contact area and are more durable. Also, having more quality metal will allow the connectors to sustain higher levels of power and the heat that it generates. Directly next to the 24-pin connector is a front panel USB 3.0 header.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme has a total of 16 hybrid fan headers that allow you to power anything from pumps to system fans. There are also two temperature sensor headers, two addressable LED headers, and two RGB LED headers for RGB strips.
Next to the 24-pin connector are both front USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 headers. Continuing down the right side of the motherboard, next we find six SATA 6 Gb.s connectors and the swappable BIOS chip. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme is a dual bios motherboard. However, in the rare situation that both BIOS are corrupted, you can contact Gigabyte and get a new BIOS chip.
Right next to the bios chips is a 6-pin PCIe connector. This is designed as auxiliary power for the PCIe X16 slots. Its recommended this be used when you have two or more graphics cards installed. Continuing along the bottom of the motherboard, on the right corner is the front panel headers for the power and reset and speaker. Nest to the front panel headers are three system fan headers and the debug display that will display post code errors.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme has two USB 2.0 headers centered along the bottom of the board. The next port is labeled OCT_CON. This connection is for the Gigabyte add in the GC-OC Touch panel. The GC-OC Touch panel is a small add-in that allows you to overclock the processor at the touch of a button. There is a proprietary cable packed with the motherboard to connect the GC-OC Touch panel top the motherboard. This is a feature more for enthusiasts. But then, this is also an enthusiast motherboard. Next, you’ll find a TMP, or Trusted Platform Module header. A TMP chip is an add-in chip that provides various securities for your computer. A TMP chip can store things such as passwords and encryptions. Still going along the bottom of the board, there is a BIOS_SW switch and an SB switch, like on the GC-OC Touch panel. The SB switch will allow you to go into single bios mode. The BIOS_SW switch will allow you to switch to the operational BIOS if one is corrupted. There are both an RGB Strip header and an addressable LED header along the bottom, followed by the front panel HD Audio header.
The GC-OC Touch panel has several headers, switches, and buttons. For starters, there are six fan headers on the GC-OC touch panel. These six fan headers are powered by a 4-pin Molex connector on the left of the panel. Next, there are three small buttons. The first is the CLEAR_BAT button. This button does the same thing as removing the battery on the motherboard. Next is the CLEAR_CMOS button that does just that, it clears the CMOS. The last of the three small buttons is the RESET button that resets the system.
Next to the reset button it the first large button. This is the power button that will power on the system. Just below the fan headers are five more large buttons. In order from left to right, they are BCLK-, BCLK+, GEAR, RATIO- and RATIO+. The BLCK- reduces the base clock of the CPU and the BLCK+ increases the base clock of the CPU. The GEAR button is a toggle switch and changes the BLCK stepping to either 0.1 MHz or 1 MHz. The RATIO- button reduces the CPU ratio and the RATIO+ button increases the CPU ratio.
To the far right of the GC-OC Touch, panel are three switches. There are the SB switch, the IGPU switch, and the TGR switch. The SB switch switches between single and dual BIOS. The IGPU Switch enables or disables the IGPU on the Processor. The TGR switch toggles between the target CPU frequency set in the BIOS and the “Safe Frequency” which is the lowest frequency the CPU can run at. The last this on the GC-OC Touch Panel is onboard voltage measurement modules. There are 13 of these modules. They are used to test various voltages on your motherboard using a multimeter. The GC-OC Panel isn’t something even the most hardcore enthusiast will use all the time. However, for those who are really into extreme overclocking, this is a great addition to the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce motherboard.
Now we get into the on board audio on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. In the past several generations, on-board audio has come a long way. The 127dB SNR AMP-UP Audio with High-End ESS SABRE 9018K2M DAC on the Z390 Aorus Extreme is proof of that. The Realtek ALC1220-VB codec offers true hi-fidelity surround sound audio and enabled DSD music playback. DSD stands for Direct Stream Digital. This is a method of converting analog sound to digital.
The 32-bit, 192KHz ESS Sabre reference DAC offers a dynamic range (DNR) of 127dB (decibels) and the world’s best total harmonic distortion plus noise (THD+N) of -120dB. Both the left and right channels are processed separately for maximum stereo sound quality and the high-quality signal strength.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce uses the best quality audio components on the market. Gigabyte uses audiophile grade, WIMA capacitors are used for feedback signal processing. This insures the on-board audio delivers crystal clear and balanced sound. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme also uses an NEC.TOKIN UC2 relay to prevent popping noise when you plug in or remove your headphones.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme also uses the TXC Oscillator to provide precise times for the digital-analog converters. The board also uses auto impedance sensing. This allows the Z390 Aorus Xtreme to automatically adjust the proper power output to your headphones 6 to 600 Ω. This makes sure your headphones are properly powered and cuts back on distortion.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme uses TI Burr-Brown Audio OP Amps for low stereo cross talk and high operational power output. The audiophile grade capacitors on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme deliver amazing acoustic sound. The 3.5 mm jacks on the I/O are gold plated. This offers excellent resistance to oxidation and corrosion, extending their lives.
The LME49720 from Texas Instruments featured on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme is a high-performance dual op-amp drives clean analog power for audio components to ensure minimal noise. TI TPS series Regulator is a low voltage, linear regulator that provides undisturbed power to the digital-analog converters. Basically, the Z390 Aorus Extreme has a high-end sound card built right on the motherboard
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme has what Gigabyte is calling “Next Generation Connectivity.” Where the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is a large investment, it’s also something you’d want to keep around for quite a while. So, Gigabyte did its best to “future proof” this motherboard to allow you to do just that.
The rear I/O consists of dual LAN ports/ The first being an Intel GbE LAN and the second an Aquantia 10GbE LAN. There are two USC Type-C ports with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support and Intel Thunderbolt 3 support which has transfer speeds of up to 40 Gb/s. There are also eight USB ports that two are USB 2.0, two are USB 3.1 gen 1 (3.0) and four are USB 3.1 gen 2. One of the USB ports on the rear I/O doubles as a Q-Flash Plus port. This allows you to update the BIOS from a thumb drive without the need for a CPU or memory installed. Just plug in the flash drive with the update BIOS and if done correctly, an LED will notify you of success.
For wireless connectivity, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme is sporting an Intel CNVi interface 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, supporting 2.4/5 GHz Dual-Band Gbit WIFI and BLUETOOTH 5. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce features Gigabytes all-new Aorus Antenna. It’s essentially two separate antennas that each screw into their own port. This will prevent the cable for the antenna from getting all twisted up when it’s installed. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme also has support for USB Turbocharge. Last, there are 5 3.5 mm jacks with support for 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel surround sound and an S/PDIF Out for an optical cable.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme has three PCI Express x16 slot. The top slot running at X16, the second slot running at X8 and the third running at X4. However, the second slot shares bandwidth with the top slot. So, when both are populated, they’ll both run at X8. Also, the PCIe X4 slot shares bandwidth with the M2P slot (bottom M.2 slot). When the M2P slot is populated, the PCIe X4 slot runs in X2, as does the M2P slot. There are also two PCIe X1 slots. The PCIe X16 slots are PCIe 3.0 and the X1 slots are PCIe 2.0.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce features Gigabytes Ultra Durable PCIe Armor. This is a single piece, stainless steel shielding that covers the PCIe X16 slots. The PCIe Armor provides extra support for heavy graphics cards to help prevent GPU sag. The PCIe Armor also provides extra anchor points for the PCIe lanes. In testing, the retention force is up to 3.2 times stronger than the average PCIe slot and in shearing tests, up to 1.7 times stronger.
Not only do the PCIe slots have armor, but the DIMM slots do as well. The memory slots are affixed with Gigabytes Ultra Durable Memory Armor. The Memory Armor is a single piece of stainless steel that covers all four DIMMs. It also works as an anti-bending plate/ This helps protect the PCB from bending and distortion when installing the memory. It also protects from possible ESD, or electro-static discharge interference.
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has three M.2 slots, all of which are covered by thermal guards as part of the All-In-One Monoblock. In the previous testing, the thermal guards have lowered the temperature of an M.2 by about 5°c. All three M.2 slots take socket 3, M key M.2 SSDs. The top slot (M2M) can take type 2242,2260,2280 and 22110 SATA and PCIe x4/x2 SSDs. The second slot (M2A) can take type 2260, 2280 and 22110 SATA and PCIe X4/X2 SSDs. The bottom slot (M2P) can take type 2242, 2260 and 2280 SATA and PCIe X4/X2 SSDs. This is the slot that shares bandwidth with the bottom PCIe x16 slot that runs in X4. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10.
The biggest thing that sets the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce apart from the normal Z390 Aorus Xtreme is the All-In-One Monoblock that comes backed with the motherboard. This is the first time Gigabyte has produced anything like this. The All-In-One Monoblock covers both the CPU and the PCH. It also has three built-in thermal guards for the three M.2 slots on the motherboard. There is a leak detection circuit around the entire monoblock which will automatically trigger a shut down if it detects leaking. The monoblock uses G ¼ threads, so it’s compatible with any fitting you like to use. It has fully addressable RGB lighting, 51 LEDs in total, and is compatible with RGB Fusion 2.0. The monoblock comes with pre-applied thermal paste over the CPU and thermal pads over the Mosfets, Chokes, LAN and PCH. There are also additional thermal pads packed with the monoblock.
Since the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce does come with a full cover monoblock, the board obviously doesn’t come with heatsinks for the power delivery or PCH. So the monoblock is required to use the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. However, if water cooling isn’t your thing, you can still get the feature set of the Z390 Aorus Xtreme. Gigabyte does sell the Aorus Xtreme separately without the monoblock and with the heatsinks installed.
The z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce also comes packed with Gigabytes RGB Commander. The RGB Commander an RGB controller and fan hub. The Gigabyte RGB Commander has 8 ports for either fans, RGB fans or RGB lighting. You could also run 8 fans and 8 RGB LED strips if you wanted to. There are also two temperature sensors that can be placed anywhere throughout your system. The RGB Commander is powered by a single USB 2.0 header from the motherboard. My favorite part of the RGB Commander are the two USB 2.0 out headers on the side. So although the RGB Commander does take up a USB 2.0 header on the motherboard, it gives you two more that are available for any other peripherals or just to use as USB ports.
We always use the most up to date BIOS for all testing. In the case of the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, that was BIOS version F3 released on March 15th, 2019. Bios F3 added support for future 9th generation Core Processors such as the I9 9900 and I7 9700 non-K SKU processors. These processors were recently announced by Intel on April 23, 2019. Bios F3 also updated Intel IRST version and the CPU microcode. Bios F3 also added support for Intel Optane H10 and 32 GB memory DIMMs. UEFI, or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, a software interface between an operating system and platform firmware. UEFI replaces the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) firmware interface used in older motherboards. In the UEFI, you can set the basic and advanced functions of your motherboard, as well as update the BIOS. You can set the boot order of specific drives, set fans curves for fans plugged directly into your motherboard and my favorite past time, overclock your CPU to name a few.
I’ve always been a fan of Gigabyte motherboards and a huge part of that is their BIOS. It’s very easy to navigate. When your first set up your system, the BIOS is in Classic Mode. However, dragging the pointer to the bottom of the screen will pull up another menu with a few options. These options are Easy Mode, language select, Q-Flash, and Smart Fan. There is another pop-up menu to the right of the screen. This pop up displays the current frequency and voltage of the CPU and the memory.
The Q-Flash menu can be accessed through a pop-up menu on the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. Here is also where you find Easy Mode, the language selection, and the Smart Fan 5 menu. The Q-Flash section is where you update the BIOS. There is also a section where you can save different BIOS settings.
The Classic mode gives you far more options. You can dig into the deepest depths of your motherboard and change settings for just about every part of the board. The first section in Classic Mode is the M.I.T. This is where you can set frequency and BLCK settings for the CPU. Essentially, this is the section of the BIOS where you can overclock your CPU. This is also where you can enable or disable X.M.P. profiles, adjust memory timings and frequencies and adjust the voltages. You can also get to the Smart Fan 5 menu from the M.I.T. section as well.
Next is the System section. The system section displays basic system information including the date and time. The system section also displays the model number of the board, the BIOS version, BIOS date, and BIOS ID.
The BIOS section allows you to set boot priorities for the different drives detected by the motherboard. You can also enable or disable fast boot as well as set the mouse speed for the BIOS. The next section is the peripheral section. This is where you can configure basically anything connected to your motherboard. For example, SATA, USB and NVME configuration just to name a few.
In the Chipset section, you can enable or disable things such as the onboard audio, the internal graphics, and the different LAN controllers. The Power section has exactly what is say, several different power settings. The Save & Exit section is how you exit the BIOS. However, they give you several options before you do. This is also where you can override the boot priority, but just this one time. The next time you boot, it’ll go right back to your first in the boot order. The final section allows you to save your current configuration, set up profiles and load optimized defaults.
Gigabyte App Center
Gigabytes App Center is an application that stores all of your Gigabyte applications in one place. There are a ton of useful applications that come bundled with Gigabyte motherboards in the App Center. For example, this is where you can find the RGB Fusion software. Gigabyte Easy Raid and EasyTune are a couple more of the numerous applications found in the App Center. There is also a section for Windows applications such as sound settings, Windows Firewall, Devices and Printers and several others. It can be easier for the more casual user to find some of the Windows applications within the App Center. Rather than digging through the control panel to find devices and printers. Last, there is a third party section for applications such as Intel’s XTU, or extreme tuning utility.
Gigabyte has completely redesigned their RGB Fusion software to give us RGB Fusion 2.0. RGB Fusion 2.0 provides you a better solution for customizing the lighting effects across all supported devices. For example, with the original RGB Fusion, my Creative Labs Sound Blaster Vanguard K08 keyboard was not supported. Now, it is fully supported by RGB Fusion 2.o. RGB Fusion 2.0 controls the lighting on the motherboard, monoblock, memory and a vast array of peripherals. You can even sync all compatible devices with one click in the software. RGB Fusion 2.0 has a far better layout and user interface when compared to the original software. There are nine different preset effects to chose from. These effects are Static, Pulse, Flash, Double Flash, Color Cycle, Music, Random and Game. RGB Fusion 2.0 allows you to really customize the aesthetics of your system.
Test System and Testing Procedures
Motherboard reviews are usually the most in depth reviews we do as they incorporate a little of everything. Especially when you’re working with a flagship motherboard as packed with features as the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. As with any review, we do our best to keep things as even as possible from review to review. Ambient temperature is kept as close to 20°c (68°f) as possible. When the system was first turned on, it sat idles 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.
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 I9 9900k we used, on average, boosted to 4.7 GHz. The test results from the Z390 Aorus Xtreme were compared to the results from the Z390 Aorus Pro. Both boards were tested with the same i9 9900k. Both had G. Skill Trident Z memory running at 3200 MHz and used the same power supply. Both systems used open air cases. The standard test bench is on the Praxis Wetbench from Primochill and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce was installed on the Thermaltake Core P5. Each benchmark was run three times and we went with the best overall results.
||Product Name||Provided By|
|Processor||Intel Core I9-9900k||Intel|
|Motherboard||Z90 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce||Gigabyte|
|Memory||G.Skill Trident Z DDR4 3200 MHz CAS 16 32 GB||Retail Purchase|
|Drive||Crucial P1 500 GB NVMe M.2 SSD||Crucial|
|Video Card||MSI Gaming X Trio 2080 ti||Cutting Edge Gamer|
|Monitor||LG 27UL500-W 27″ 3840×2160 @ 60 Hz||Retail Purchase|
|Case||Thermaltake Core P5||Retail Purchase|
|Power Supply||1600 Watt EVGA Super Nova Ps 80+ Platinum Power Supply||EVGA|
|Operating System||Windows 10 x64 Pro with latest patches and updates|
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 same 32 GB kit of G. Skill Trident Z RGB 3200 MHz memory was used on both the Z390 Aorus Pro and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. As the charts show, the memory performed almost identically on both motherboards. The one exception was on the memory bandwidth test where our kit of G. Skill Trident Z RGB did far better on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce.
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 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.
Although the results were very close on the AIDA64 CPU testing, our 9900k did slightly better on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. You could say the results were with in margin of error. However, you could also say the lower temperatures on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce allows the 9900k to perform slightly better.
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.
The I9 9900k we used did well in Cinebench R15 on both boards. However, the scores were a bit higher on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. One both boards, the 9900k broke 2000 points at stock. On the Z390 Pro, it scored 2001 CB. On the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, our 9900k scored 2012 CB at stock. Overclocked to 5.0 GHz on the Z390 Pro, the 9900k maxed out at 2129 CB. On the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, the 9900k we tested hit 2137 CB while overclocked to 5.1 GHz. The score of 2137 CB is the best score we’ve achieved with this particular 9900k.
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. Like other benchmarks we ran on both the Z390 Aorus Pro and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, our 9900k did ever so slightly better on the Waterforce board. However, some of the results were so close, it could be considered within the margin of error. That being said, the results for the 9900k and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce were higher none the less.
Like in other testing, the 9900k on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce did slightly better on PCMark 10 than it did on the Z390 Aorus Pro. There was one exception on PCMark 10 with the 9900k performed better on the Z390 Aorus Pr0. This was the writing benchmark. Initially, I thought this may have been a fluke. But on two of the three test runs, this was the case. Other than the writing section, the 9900k on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce performed better than it did on the Z390 Aorus Pro.
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 Crucial P1. The P1 is the latest NVMe M.2 SSD from Crucial, using Micron 3D NAND technology. The BX500 is also from Crucial. We recently did a review of their 480 GB version you can check out here: https://www.modders-inc.com/crucial-bx500-480gb-sata-ssd-review/ In the review, we tested the 960 GB version of the BX500 using 96 layer nand. The full review on that drive is coming soon.
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 Crucial P1 did as expected on this Z390 Aorus Xtreme, if not a bit better. On the ATTO Disk Benchmark, the Crucial P1 maxed out at about 1860 MB/s on the read speed and about 1580 MB/s on the write speed. This was slightly slower than the advertised speeds of 2,000 MB/s read and 1,700 MB/s write. But respectable enough. The BX500 hit a max of about 532 MB/s on the read speed and a max of about 485 MB/s on the write speeds. The reads were decent, but the writes were slower than I expected in the ATTO Disk Benchmark.
“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 Crucial P1 and BX500 did better on Crystal Disk Mark 5. The Crucial P1 hit 1953 MB/s on the read speed and 1505 on the write speeds. Still a bit slower than the advertised speeds of 2,000 MB/s read and 1,700 MB/s write. The BX 500 did much better in Crystal Disk Mark 5 than it did on ATTO. The BX500 hit 558/2 MB/s on the read and 510.4 on the write speeds.
To test the on-board audio on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme, 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 12 minutes. The highest reported ISR routine execution time was 136.24. The highest reported DCP routine execution was 140.34. 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 on-board 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 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce did very well. In fact, it has the best on board audio I’ve personally ever tested. At least according to the Rightmark Audio Analyzer. The chart below is to give an idea of what good results for the Rightmark benchmark look like.
For network testing, I used my Comcast Business class router from Motorola. The server PC was my standard test bench. This consists of an I7 8700k on the Z390 Aorus Pro. The Z390 Aorus Pro features an Intel Gigabit LAN. The Client PC was the Z390 Aorus Xtreme running the I9 9900k. 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. As the charts show, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce did out perform the Z390 pro on the networking test.
Since this motherboard has 802.11 2×2 WAVE 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 Aorus Xtreme hit 174 Mbps download and 23 Mbps upload. Through Ethernet, the speeds test results were 176.6 Mbps download and 23.8 Mbps upload. The WIFI on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is really no different than if it were running wired. At least in my case, that is. 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.
Overclocking and Temperatures
While overclocking, the ambient temperature was kept at a constant 20°c (68°f). Our engineering sample 9900k was the same chip used on both the Z390 Aorus Pro and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme. A quick side note. Not all “confidential” processors are binned as so many believe. In fact, our 9900k doesn’t do the best with overclocking. In fact, it hates taking the extra voltage. On the Z390 Aorus Pro, the best we could manage was 5.0 GHz at 1.344 volts. With the same 9900k installed on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, we managed to get the chip to 5.2 GHz at 1.308 volts. When we tried to pump more voltage to the processor, the system crashed.
Gigabyte has released an official overclocking guide for the 9900k and recommends setting T junction to 110°c. This will help to prevent some crashes due to thermal limits while overclocking. There are several other steps Gigabyte recommend you take as well and we highly recommend following their overclocking guide if you want to get the most out of you I9 9900k whiles it’s on an Aorus Z390 motherboard. To check out that guide, click here; https://www.gigabyte.com/FileUpload/Global/multimedia/2/file/525/946.pdf.
To validate our overclock, we use the AIDA64 Stability Test. This test puts a 100% load on your CPU and isn’t exactly representative of an everyday work load. First, the results from the Z390 Aorus Pro. On the Aorus Pro, the 9900k was cooled by a modified Swiftech H320 X2. By modified, it has an EK Supremacy EVO waterblock and EK coolant running in the cooler. At its stock speeds on the Aorus Pro, the I9 9900k idled between 30°c When we overclocked the processor to 5.0, the idled temperature went up to around 35°c on average. When we ran the CPU test, it did fine and hit only 72°c after a 15-minute test. However, when I ran the FPU test at anything over 4.8 GHz, it hit thermal limits and began to throttle after about 5 minutes. Even running at stock speeds on the Aorus Pro, our 9900k would hit well into the 90s after a few minutes and began to throttle.
On the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, the results were much different. The system was cooled buy an XSPC D5 Photon 270 Reservoir and pump combo and a 360 x 60 mm EK radiator running in a push-pull configuration with EK Vadar Fans. So, plenty of cooling. Right away, the idle temperature at the processors stock speed was at 25°c. This temperature was recorded about 20 minutes from a cold boot. Even when overclocked, the idle temperature never went above 29°c. When running the AIDA64 Stability Test, the 9900k with the full cover monoblock hit only 66°c after about 15 minutes running the CPU stability test. During the FPU test, the processor did not throttle. Even though it did get into the lower 90s, the I9 9900k stayed at 5.0 GHz during the FPU stability testing and at 5.2 during the CPU stability testing. The difference in the results of the two motherboards goes to show not only how good cooling will boost your performance, but also how well the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce can cool even the I9 9900k, a chip known to run hot.
A quick side note regarding the M.2 Thermal Guards. For this review, only the top M.2 slot was occupied. However, the same Crucial P1 M.2 was tested on both the Z390 Aorus Pro with no thermal guard and on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. There was about a 6°c difference in temperature between the Z390 Aorus Pro with no thermal guard and the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce surely lives up to its name. The board not only looks amazing, but it performs like a top tier, flagship motherboard should. I love that the trend of using more neutral colors has continued. For many years, I’ve been firmly against RGB lighting. However, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has begun to change my views on RGB lighting. The amount of customization available through the RGB Fusion 2.0 software is amazing. As is the amount of RGB lighting on the board itself. The ability to not only sync your board and graphics card but also your memory and peripherals is a nice touch and allows for some amazing effects. A little side note, the monoblock packaged with our sample has some issues. The RGB lighting on the top part of the block did not work. However, Gigabyte quickly replaced the monoblock for us.
The Gigabyte RGB Commander is hands down the best RGB controller I’ve personally ever used. The 8 RGB headers adds an additional 8 fan headers to the already 16 hybrid headers the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce has to offer. My absolute favorite part of the RGB Commander are the two USB out headers. I love this feature as other RGB controllers just use up your USB headers on the board leaving you to chose between the RGB controller or front USB ports. Just another reason why the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is a true no-compromise motherobard.
The performance of our 9900k on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce was stellar, to say the least. When the 9900k first launched, we had several issues with how hot the processors ran. With the fact the heat spreader on the 9900k was soldered, it eliminated the possibility of delidding, at least for me doing it. Lapping the processor did next to nothing. Although we were able to get the processor to 5.0 GHz on the Z390 Aorus Pro, when we attempted to run any heavy tasks, the processor would throttle. Really any thing about 4.7 GHz and it would throttle on the Z390 Aorus Pro. But on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, throttling wasn’t an issue at all. Even when we ran Cinebench R15 and the Aida64 CPU Stability Test with the processor running at 5.2 GHz, our 9900k did not thermal throttle. It wasn’t until we ran the FPU Stability Test that we saw the 9900k start to thermal throttle.
As for features, you really couldn’t ask for more. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce even supports 32 GB DIMMs now. SO, for the first time ever, you can run 128 GB of memory on a consumer motherboard. With the Gigabit WIFI on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce, there was almost no difference between running wired internet or WIFI. The on-board audio on the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is excellent. The audio is near perfection. The three M.2 slots is another great feature. Eventually, I’ll get enough NVMe M.2’s to test NVMe raid I love the inclusion of the built-in thermal guards for all three M.2 slots. On average, the M.2 Thermal Guard saves about 5°c on your M.2 SSD. The difference in temperature doesn’t really impact performance. However, lower temps over extended periods of time can extend the life of your drive.
The idea to bundle a full cover monoblock with the Z390 Aorus Xtreme was an excellent idea. Especially with how hot the 9900k is known to run. In fact, it was such a good idea, Gigabyte is taking it another step. Gigabyte has partnered with Intel to offer the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce bundled with a 9900k. However, this isn’t just any old retail 9900k. They are pairing the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce with a binned I9 9900k that Intel guarantees will run at no less than 5.1 GHz. For more information, click here: https://www.aorus.com/product-detail.php?p=956&t=53&t2=&t3=
Overall, the performance of the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce was excellent. The monoblock lowered idle temperatures by on average about 5°c from the Z390 Aorus Pro with the modified H320 X2 cooling the same 9900k. Needless to say, this board is not for the average consumer. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is designed with the hardcore PC and water cooling enthusiasts in mind, and the price reflects itthat. At the time of this review, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is nowhere to be found on Amazon. However, on Newegg, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce is selling for $899.99. You can also get the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce bundled with a binned I9 9900k for $1599.99 on Newegg right now. I know, this seems high. However, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme is going for about $550, if you can find it. So, the extra $350 dollars get you a full cover monoblock, with RGB lighting. So move over ASUS! If you’re looking for the best quality motherboard money can buy, look no further than the Z390 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce.