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Shootouts

Intel Z390 motherboard shootout: Which flagship board should you get?

By Koh Wanzi - 26 Dec 2018,11:56pm

Conclusion

Conclusion

The Z390 chipset isn't a whole lot different from what Z370 offers, which puts the onus on board manufacturers to switch things up with new designs and more features to entice users. This takes many forms, so you could see everything from additional expansion card options to fancy OLED displays and even more RGB LEDs. It's especially important to form a compelling argument with beefed-up power delivery circuits as well, since the Core i9-9900K will also work with more affordable Z370 motherboards. 

Still, when comparing high-end motherboards like the ones reviewed here, the performance numbers barely tell the full story. They're all neck-and-neck in the benchmarks, so the best board is really the one that offers the most compelling mix of features and performance for power users. 

Ratings Breakdown
Model Features Performance Value Overall Price (S$)
ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate 7.5 8.0 8.0 8.0 $499
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme 8.5 8.5 7.5 8.5 $739
Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme 9.0 8.5 7.5 8.5 $799
MSI MEG Z390 Godlike 9.0 8.5 7.0 8.5 $859

 

And the winner is...

 

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme

Image Source: Gigabyte

The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme just screams quality. From its tank-like construction to its beefy, finned VRM heatsinks, the board just feels like an excellent product that's armed to the teeth with useful features. There are thoughtful inclusions like the front USB connector that supports fast charging, in addition to a convenient one-touch OC button and two Thunderbolt 3 ports. The plethora of fan headers and temperature and flow sensors also means that you have plenty of tools to get a custom liquid-cooling setup going, which will pair nicely with the board's strong overclocking capabilities. To cap things off, it also has additional power connectors for both the CPU and graphics cards to better support high overclocks. It's expensive at S$799, but it more than justifies it with good design and performance, which is why we're making it the winner of this shootout.

 

ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate

Image Source: ASRock

At S$499, the ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate is the most affordable motherboard in this shootout. However, you do get what you pay for, so the Taichi Ultimate isn't as feature-rich as its rivals. For starters, it has a more modest 12-phase power design and is missing small luxuries like an integrated I/O shield, a dedicated heatsink for each of its M.2 sockets, or onboard overclocking buttons and switches. It's also considerably plainer than the others, and you're not getting any snazzy OLED displays or infinity mirror effects. However, its strength lies in its networking and storage expansion options, including eight SATA 6Gbps ports and three M.2 sockets. It also has three RJ-45 ports, comprising two Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports and one Aquantia 10G port. If overclocking is not a priority for you, this board is a pretty value-for-money option. 

 

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme

Image Source: ASUS

The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme was designed with extreme overclocking in mind. Everything was designed to make it easier for LN2 overclockers, which is why ASUS stripped the board of the "armor" found on the Formula model. There's also an area on the board dedicated to all the overclocking controls and DIP switches, including Safe Boot and ReTry buttons, a Slow Mode switch, and an LN2 mode jumper. However, it wasn't the best performer in the overclocking department, and it doesn't really stand out in any particular way from the competition other than its polished BIOS made for overclockers. The LiveDash OLED display is pretty neat, but the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike has something similar as well. It may be crammed with a ton of features, but at this price point, the same goes for the Gigabyte and MSI boards. At S$739, it's somewhat more reasonably priced than the latter two motherboards, but if you just need a board that gets the basics and core overclocking tools pat down, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme is a pretty good option considering its asking price.

 

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

Image Source: MSI

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike lives up to its name in more than one way. Its S$859 price tag is not for the faint of heart, and MSI has thrown in just about every feature it can think of. It has an impressive 18-phase VRM, additional power connectors for both the CPU and graphics cards, and plenty of storage expansion options, including a U.2 connector. MSI is also bundling two expansion cards with the M.2 Xpander-Z and the Streaming Boost capture card, a nice attempt at appealing to storage fiends and streamers. The Game Boost knob is also pretty unique, but most enthusiasts will opt to overclock manually anyway. There's no denying that this is a spectacular specimen of a motherboard, but its approach to feature inclusion feels slightly ham-handed, and it seems like Gigabyte has a better selection of features that more users will be able to take advantage of. 

Our Final Ratings

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme.

Click here for rundown of pros/cons

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme.

Click here for rundown of pros/cons

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike.

 

Click here for rundown of pros/cons

ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate.

Click here for rundown of pros/cons

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