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Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme Review

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme Review

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme 1The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Extreme is one of the most expensive motherboards that you can buy for an Intel Z390 system. It’ll set you back a vast $550 in the US and £500 in the UK – which makes it more expensive than many of the processors, GPUs and other components that you may end up installing into a build. Can it possibly be worth so much? Read our Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme review to find out.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme Review – Design & Layout

The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme has fantastic, eye-catching physical design. It’s certainly more extravagant than its big rival – the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike, which costs a similar $599 in the US and £545 in the UK.

Large heatsinks dominate the board. The rear IO cover is built from layers and sections of metal in different grey tones. Lighter heatsinks cover the VRMs and chokes that surround the LGA 1151 CPU socket.

There’s another large slab of metal covering the southbridge, and more heatsinks emerge from that piece of metal to cover the M.2 slots. Those latter heatsinks have a glossy camouflage pattern. A huge slab of metal on the back of the board adds more cooling.

And, because the Gigabyte is an expensive gaming motherboard that’s been released in 2019, you also get loads of RGB LEDs.

The Aorus logo on the main I/O cover has RGB LEDs, and there is more lighting up the Aorus lettering on the southbridge. The three M.2 covers also have RGB LEDs, and there are more in the cover that protects the audio circuitry.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme 8Those RGB LED locations are all pretty conventional, though. Gigabyte goes one further than this by installing a solid strip of lighting in the metal that covers the back of the board. The lighting extends down the entire right-hand side of the board.

There are four connectors on the board for installing extra lighting strips. There’s also more hardware for lighting, which we’ll cover later.

Elsewhere, the Aorus has a decent layout. The bottom row of the board has a POST display, bios switches and loads of connectors. The top-right corner has the power button, OC switch and a couple of other buttons. You also get a six-pin power connector to deliver extra PCI power and four LEDs that indicate component status during booting.

Handily, all of the ports and connectors on the right-hand side of the board are installed perpendicular to the PCB.

The two eight-pin CPU power connectors are tucked awkwardly beneath a heatsink and next to a fan connector that’s tricky to reach. The bottom row of the board is a tad too busy as well.

Also bear in mind that the Gigabyte isn’t just heavy due to its huge heatsinks and rear metal panel – it’s physically very wide, too. The Aorus is 270mm wide, which makes it girthier than most ATX motherboards. Make certain that it’ll fit inside your case before you buy.

For what it’s worth, MSI’s competing board is virtually the same size, so the Gigabyte isn’t the only ATX board that will need a huge case.

Need a new PC? Here’s our ultimate guide to the best desktops for every price and scenario.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme Review – Specification

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme 6The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme has three PCI-E x16 slots. They’re all surrounded by steel in order to better support heavy graphics cards. The top two slots can run at 8x speed to take advantage of Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFire, but the third slot only runs at 4x speed so it’s not suitable for use with a graphics card.

The trio of PCI-E x16 slots and three M.2 connectors mean that there’s only room on this board for two PCI-E x1 sockets.

That third slot shares bandwidth with one of the M.2 slots. The other two M.2 connectors on this board are able to exploit their full allocation of PCI and SATA bandwidth without interfering in other areas of the board’s operations.

The shared bandwidth and sluggish third PCI-E x16 slot, along with the inclusion of just two PCI-E x1 sockets, means that you may have to be careful about how and where you install your storage and expansion cards if you’re going to be building a particularly ambitious machine – although happily most people won’t hit this board’s limits.

The MSI goes one further by including four PCI-E x16 slots, although only those top two slots run at 8x speed when populated. The bottom two are slower, so that board is only suitable if you have loads of PCI-E expansion cards. You also only get one PCI-E x1 slot in the MSI.

The Gigabyte supports 128GB of DDR4 memory with a peak speed of 4,400MHz. That’s the same amount as the MSI, although that board peaked at 4,600MHz. And, alongside the Gigabyte’s three M.2 connectors, you get six SATA 3 ports – but no U2 connector. The MSI does include that latter port.

Audio is covered by a Realtek ALC1220 chipset that is enhanced with a 32-bit ESS ES9018K2M DAC. It’s a very good bit of kit, but it only has a two-channel output. The MSI board had the same basic chipset, but it includes an ESS ES9018 8-channel 32-Bit DAC that’s better than the Gigabyte’s offering.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme 10Networking is better. You get one Ethernet port that supports lightning-fast 10Gbps internet alongside one Gigabit Ethernet socket. The MSI has wired and wired internet from Killer, but no 10Gbps connection.

The rear IO is excellent, too. There are four USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectors – one more than the MSI – alongside pairs of USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 2 ports. In total, that’s three more full-size USB ports than the MSI. You also get two Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 3, five audio jacks, an optical S/PDIF connector and two antenna connectors. The only thing you don’t get is the 6.3mm audio output that the MSI includes, but the latter board is positioned as a creative and audio product and so it makes more sense there.

We’ve already mentioned the Gigabyte’s pertinent on-board features. You get a POST display, power and reset buttons, a CMOS clearing switch and a quick overclocking button, but that’s not the only bit of hardware you get for tweaking.

An extra circuit board called the Gigabyte OC Touch is included with the Z390 Aorus Xtreme. It also has power, reset and CMOS clearing buttons, but it’s designed for extreme overclocking – so it has loads of extras, too. There are six additional fan headers, thirteen voltage-reading headers, and a row of five buttons for tweaking the CPU’s base clock speed and ratio. There are also buttons to disable integrated graphics and switches to clear the firmware and the real-time clock settings.

Gigabyte11This extra board will be baffling to many users, but it’s great for enthusiasts. The only downside is that there’s no way to mount it to the motherboard itself, and no way is included for mounting on a case either.

And, happily, the board itself has a 16-phase voltage regulator that will be far more adept with overclocking. Most other high-end boards have 12-14 phase regulators.

You also get Gigabyte’s RGB Commander in the box. It attaches to the inside of a case and has eight connectors that can be used to synchronise RGB LEDs between different bits of hardware. And, elsewhere, the box includes loads of cables and a selection of Velcro fan ties.

It’s generally a good bill of health so far for the Gigabyte, but there are a few peripheral areas where it does fall behind the MSI.

It has eight fan connectors, for instance, which is ample for most people – but it’s two fewer than the MSI. And, while the Gigabyte has single front-panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Type-C connectors on the board itself, the MSI included two of each. The Gigabyte includes dual-BIOS support, but you don’t get a switch to activate or disable PCI slots like you do on the MSI.

Click here for all of our in-depth graphics card reviews – including the RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080!

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme Review – Performance

The Gigabyte is crammed with features, but its performance levels were sometimes a little inconsistent and disappointing.

Take gaming, for instance – one of the key reasons that this board exists. Its Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor average of 145fps is good, and two frames better than the MSI. However, its minimum of 83fps is one frame behind. It only opened a slim lead in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Its minimum and average results of 74fps and 101fps were both one frame faster than the MSI.

The Gigabyte fell slightly behind the MSI in both 3D Mark tests. In Fire Strike its result of 17,742 was around 150 points behind, and its 7,603 score in Time Spy was about 50 points slower.

None of these results are ruinous. The Gigabyte will still be exceptionally quick in games. That’s because these results are good when placed against the rest of the market. But the Gigabyte won’t provide a significant leap in gaming performance when compared to other boards like the MSI.

Unsurprisingly, the Gigabyte couldn’t open up a lead in application tests either. Its Cinebench score of 1,514cb is good in the wider market. However, the MSI led the way with a result of 1,539cb. The Gigabyte scored 6,058 and 28,897 in Geekbench’s tests, but the MSI was faster in both of those benchmarks too.

The Gigabyte’s storage and memory performance was a little inconsistent. Its NVMe read and write speeds of 3,571MB/s and 3,283MB/s are both better than the MSI. Its SATA read speed of 561MB/s is also faster – but its SATA write result of 407MB/s is poor. And, while the Gigabyte was a little quicker with multi-threaded memory bandwidth, its single-threaded pace was a tad slower than the MSI.

And, finally, there’s power draw. The Gigabyte required 61W at idle and 122W at load. Both of those figures are higher than the MSI.

Check out our guide to the best laptop for all situations!

Conclusion

Gigabyte 3Of course, when dealing with motherboards, the benchmarks always involve tiny margins. It’s the other components that will make a more substantial difference. The Gigabyte will never slow down your PC in a noticeable way.

However, the Gigabyte never took a definitive lead in our tests. This is a gaming board, but it didn’t overhaul the MSI in some benchmarks, and never opened a decent lead. It was never quicker in application tests, either, and inconsistent elsewhere.

It’s a shame, because in other departments the Gigabyte is superb. Its rear IO is packed, its networking is excellent, and it’s got loads of overclocking features and excellent physical design. The core specification is generally great, too, although the MSI has more storage and audio versatility.

If you want to build a high-end gaming PC with loads of RGB LEDs – or if you want a board for overclocking and tweaking – then the Gigabyte is a good option that has enough features to justify its price. But if performance is important, or if you want to handle creative work or other productivity tools, then the MSI is better.

The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme costs $550 in the US and £500 in the UKDiscuss our Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Decent gaming performance
  • Bright, loud physical design
  • Fantastic rear connectivity
  • Loads of enthusiast and tweaking features

The Bad

  • Not always fastest in gaming
  • A little average in applications
  • Less storage and PCI versatility than some rivals

The Specs

Socket: LGA 1151
Chipset: Intel Z390
Memory: 4 x 4,400MHz DDR4, maximum 128GB
PCI: 3 x PCI-E x16, 2 x PCI-E x1
Ports: 6 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x HDMI, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 5 x audio
Storage: 3 x M.2, 6 x SATA 3
Audio chipset: Realtek ALC1220, ESS ES9018K2M DAC
Networking: Aquantia 10Gbps LAN, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5

 

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme

About Author

Darren Roberts

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