GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master Review

👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅14-12-21
Board layout and features

MASTER is a regarded as a high-end motherboard in the AORUS division, as such the accessories bundle is exhaustive. Gamers can expect a plethora of items to get the most out of this model and maximise on the user experience. NOTABLY:

MASTER conforms to the E-ATX Form Factor and is therefore wider than a standard motherboard. With this model being wider, the designers are able to include more features.

The design of MASTER is fairly minimalist, it adopts a two-tone theme and looks very professional.

Being a Z690 motherboard, the socket is LGA 1700 and has support for Intel 12th Gen. Processors (Alder Lake). MASTER comes in with a phenomenal 19 + 1 + 2 digital phase design with the inclusion of 105A power stages and black solid caps. There are two gigantic heatsinks which cover the VRMs – and as we discovered in our testing, the thermal design is exceptional – keeping temperatures well within the realms of adequate. Behind these heatsinks we have twin 8-pin CPU connectors.

There are 10x 4-pin fan headers spread out at the top, side, bottom and middle of the board with designated compatibility for water pumps. 4 RGB LED headers are also present for additional lighting and these come in the form of 2x RGB LED and 2x addressable LED. This will link up to the RGB Fusion software. MASTER’s integrated RGB lighting involves the rear panel cover and the Z690 heatsink.

Memory support sees us able to use up to 128GB of DDR5 and up to 6400MHz and the slots have steel reinforcement for longevity. In the memory region there is also Debug LED panel which is a handy diagnostic feature identifying any problems on bootup and an onboard power button which is useful if you have this board on a test bench.

Connectivity for your computer case comes in the form of 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 header and 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 header for the front panel. In terms of storage, there are up to 6 SATA 6GB/s ports and a whopping 5x PCIe M.2 slots – 4x are PCIe 4.0 and the remaining is PCIe 3.0. All M.2 slots feature a corresponding heatsink to control temperatures – the upper slot has been given it’s own supersized aluminium fin stack.

For graphics delivery there is 1x PCIe 5.0 X16 slot and 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. The upper slot is Gen5 and should be used if a single graphics card is operating – it operates at the full 16 lanes and features enhanced steel slot protection. The other PCIe are wired for just 4 lanes but still benefit from the steel reinforcement.

For audio, E uses the Realtec ALC 1220-VB processor. Most boards are using the newer 4080 but in our testing we struggled to see a performance difference. The audio package itself includes:

• ESS SABRE Hi-Fi 9118 DAC
• ALC1220-VB Audio
• Audiophile Grade WIMA Capacitors

The back panel of MASTER is jam-packed with features and connectivity – Available we have:

1 x Q-Flash Plus button
1 x Clear CMOS button
2 x SMA antenna connectors (2T2R)
1 x DisplayPort
1 x USB Type-C® port, with USB 3.2 Gen 2 support
1 x USB Type-C® port, with USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 support
5 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red)
4 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports
1 x RJ-45 port
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks

Most notable is the inclusion of AQUANTIA® 10GbE BASE-T LAN for the wired network connection, this steps above the competition to offer 10 Gigabit ethernet possibilities. It’s wonderful to see so many USB 3.2 Gen 2 on this back panel!

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