With Intels new ‘Comet Lake’ CPUs comes a move to the LGA1200 CPU socket and a new chipset – the Z490. This top-end Intel chipset allows a high degree of behind the scenes tweakability and some very nice overclocking features. In this article we’ll take you through some of those features and make some recommendations for the best board to complement a Comet Lake series CPU in a number of scenarios.
The Z490 chipset: What’s new?
Intel has moved to a new socket for this iteration of processors, which won’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows their business model. Whilst it limits upgrade options from older platforms it does at least ensure compatibility and any Çomet lake’10th series CPU or the upcoming ‘Rocket Lake’ CPUs will be compatible. The socket is similar in dimensions and identical in mounting hardware to the outgoing LGA 1151 socket so at least any CPU coolers you may have will still work – provided they’re up to cooling some of the hottest-running CPU’s released in recent times. Likewise RAM remains DDR4 specification so you can stick with your existing memory should want to make the jump onto this platform from a relatively current build.
The feature set of Z490 in broad terms includes full overclocking freedom on both CPU and RAM, including per core disabling of multithreading which can assist performance in some benchmarks or applications. Most of the higher end motherboards have enhanced CPU power delivery to allow you to make the most of an overclock on your CPU. This has been made necessary by the prodigious power demands of the higher end chips when overclocked.
Other features include baked in Wifi 6 support but note that the manufacturer has to enable this so not all motherboards have WiFi. Most Z490 motherboards come with 2.5Gb Internet for high-speed network transfers.
The Chipset specification keeps the same 16 and 24 Pcie lanes direct to CPU and via the chipset respectively as on Z390 and Z370 motherboards but the big news is there is capacity for PCie 4.0 support (to take advantage of blazing-fast PCie 4.0 NVMe SSDs) – but not yet: It’ll take Intels next round of CPU’s (dubbed Rocket Lake) to enable this facility on the primary PCIe slots and an M.2 slot. If this feature is vital to you then consider MSi’s and Asus’s boards as well as Gigabytes higher-end lines as they have this support built-in for the future.
Memory speed compatibility is also expanded from the 2666Mhz stated for previous intel CPUs up to 2933Mhz but even this is highly conservative. The enhanced overclocking features of these boards allows speeds of over 4000mhz and will approach 5000Mhz in some cases with the right memory kits and overclocking skill.
So let’s take a look at the best boards available with this new high performance chipset:
How many Z490 motherboards have been announced?
The motherboard manufacturers have gone full force with offering plenty of models to support the Z490 chipset and the 10th generation Comet Lake processors. Right now, there are over 40+ models that have been announced from the likes of ASRock, ASUS, Biostar, EVGA, Gigabyte & MSI – of which we will show you below and begin to paint a picture of which models are likely to be worth considering for your (potential) upcoming Comet Lake PC build in 2020.
This article is part of a series focused on comparing the new 10th generation ‘Comet Lake’ processors to the 9th generation line, and working out which ones will provide the best value in 2020 – for a variety of builds. I have linked them below, so feel free to check those out if you wish.
- i9-10900K vs i9-9900K vs Ryzen 9 3900X
- i7-10700K vs i7-9700K vs Ryzen 7 3800X
- i5-10600K vs i5-9600K vs Ryzen 5 3600
Z490 ATX Motherboard List
|ASRock||ASRock Z490 Taichi||Z490||ATX||$370||12+2+1+2|
|ASRock Z490 PG Velocita||Z490||ATX||$260||10+2+1+2|
|ASRock Z490 Extreme4||Z490||ATX||$195||8+2+1+1(?)|
|ASRock Z490 Steel Legend||Z490||ATX||$185||8+2+1+1(?)|
|ASRock Z490 Pro4||Z490||AtX||$170||8+2+1+1|
|ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 4/2.5G||Z490||ATX||$160||8+2+1+1|
|ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming 4||Z490||ATX||$150||8+2+1+1|
|ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming 4SR||Z490||ATX||-||8+2+1+1|
|ASUS||ASUS ROG Maximus XII Formula||Z490||ATX||$500||16+0+2+2|
|ASUS ROG Maximus XII Apex||Z490||ATX||-||16+0+2+2|
|ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero WiFi||Z490||ATX||$399||14+2+2+2|
|ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming||Z490||ATX||$300||14+2+2+2(?)|
|ASUS ROG Strix Z490-F Gaming||Z490||ATX||$269||12+2+2+2(?)|
|ASUS ROG Strix Z490-A Gaming||Z490||ATX||-||12+2+2+2(?)|
|ASUS TUF Z490-Plus||Z490||ATX||-||12+2+2(?)+1(?)|
|ASUS Prime Z490-A||Z490||ATX||$200||12+2+2(?)+2(?)|
|ASUS TUF Z490-Plus WiFi||Z490||ATX||$230||12+2+2(?)+1(?)|
|ASUS Prime Z490-P||Z490||ATX||$160||10+1+1+1|
|ASUS ProArt Z490-Creator 10G||Z490||ATX||-||12+2+2(?)+1(?)|
|Biostar||Biostar Racing Z490GTA Evo||Z490||ATX||$239||14+2+1+1|
|Biostar Racing Z490GTA||Z490||ATX||$209||12+2+1+1|
|EVGA||EVGA Z490 FTW WiFi||Z490||ATX||12+2+1+1|
|Gigabyte||Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master||Z490||ATX||$389||14+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra||Z490||ATX||$299||14+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Vision D||Z490||ATX||$299||12+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Pro AX||Z490||ATX||$269||12+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Elite AC||Z490||ATX||$219||12+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Gaming X||Z490||ATX||$200||11+1+1+2(?)|
|Gigabyte Z490 Vision G||Z490||ATX||$199||12+1+1+2|
|MSI||MSI MEG Z490 Ace||Z490||ATX||$400||16+0+1+2(?)|
|MSI MEG Z490 Unify||Z490||ATX||-||16+0+1+2|
|MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WIFI||Z490||ATX||$270||12+1+1+2|
|MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WIFI||Z490||ATX||$200||12+1+1+2|
|MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk||Z490||ATX||$190||12+1+1+2|
|MSI Z490-A Pro||Z490||ATX||$160||12+1+1+2|
Best Z490 Motherboard for Overclocking – MSI MEG Z490 ACE
This MSI Z490 Flagship Z490 motherboard, the MEG Z490 ACE, is one step down from the range-topping ‘GODLIKE’ but nearly halves the price tag of that option.
The board is equipped with 16+1 Phase VRM layout including 90 Amp rated mosfets and dual 8 pin CPU power sockets. They’ve taken cooling seriously with VRM heat pipes and backplates to maximise heat sinking away from the components. There’s a Debug LED and Bios flashback to ease diagnosis and rectification of any issues whilst hunting out the best settings although there isn’t a multiple BIOS switch.
MSI also has good memory overclocking reputation which comes down to solid trace design on the motherboard itself as well as inbuilt BIOS settings for non-user accessible RAM timings that seem to get the job done better than the competition in most cases. MSI held the Z390 record with the Godlike clocking an i9-9900K to nearly 7.5Ghz (under Liquid Nitrogen) and there’s nothing to stop this board allowing extensive overclocks on the Comet Lake CPU’s except your talent and the quality of the silicon in the CPU you get hold of.
For an enthusiast Z490 offering, we think the MSI MEG Z490 ACE hits the sweet spot of feature set, engineering and a competitive $399 price point.
Best Budget Z490 Motherboard – Gigabyte Z490 UD AC
Z490 motherboards start at $149 but for a few dollars more the $169 Gigabyte Z490 UD AC takes our pick as the best budget Z490 motherboard.
This Z490 motherboard sports a strong 11+1 VRM configuration as well as built in 802.11 ac Wifi and Bluetooth 5. Two m.2 slots are present making NVME drives a cinch to fit and easing upgrades in future when prices inevitably drop.
The I.O provides 8 USB ports total as well as audio and Wifi output and legacy PS/2 mouse and keyboard support. Costs have been kept down with an entry level Realtek 1Gb Lan chip and Realtek ALC887 Audio codec chip but neither of these are inadequate. There’s also no USB Type C on the back panel although there is both a USB 3.2 Gen2 Type A socket on the back panel and a USB 3.2 Header on the motherboard for compatible front panel connectors.
Whilst we wouldn’t recommend this board for overclocking the high end Comet Lake CPUs, pairing it with an i3-10300K or i5-10600K provides an excellent high fps Gaming platform at an affordable entry point without sacrificing features or connectivity.
Our other recommendation for a sub $200 Z490 motherboard is the Gigabyte Z490 Vision G, which is one of the only motherboards in this price range to feature Intel 2.5 GbE LAN, plus has a (on-paper) decent 12 phase VRM utilising 50A power stages, as well as dual M.2 and 14 USB headers/ports (with USB Type C on the rear I/O).
Best Mid-Range Z490 Motherboard for Gaming – Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Elite
Gigabytes AORUS motherboard line up has established itself as a gaming stalwart in the Z390 Chipset and continues the trend with this Z490 board. Pitched firmly at the middle of the market with a $199 price point, the Z490 AORUS Elite motherboard offers a good 12-phase VRM configuration with 50 Amp mosfets.
It has a wealth of I/O ports including 2 m.2 slots. The Audio chipset is the high quality ALC 1200 and provides for optical audio out, whilst networking is handled via a 2.5Gb LAN port and Realtek controller. USB Support is comprehensive with 8 total ports on the back panel although if you want USB C you should use a case with that functionality as it will need to come from the on board USB header. It boasts 5 fan/pump headers and 6 on board temperature sensors which will allow for a comprehensive cooling set up.
Cosmetically the board has an easy to match brushed and anodised aluminium scheme and discreet RGB highlights. If you’re after a different aesthetic Gigabyte offer the almost identically specified ‘Vision G’ which sports silver brushed aluminum heatsinks and a somewhat retro space-themed styling also at $199.
Overall the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Elite is a solid mid-range gaming motherboard that would make a great pairing with the i5-10600K.
Best Value Z490 Motherboard – MSI Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi
With the feature rich specification of most Z490 motherboards finding the best value involves considering the widest and most useful feature set balanced with quality under $200.
The MSI MPG Gaming Edge Wifi is a slightly stripped down version of their popular ‘Gaming Carbon’ line. This motherboard offers excellent I/O options on the back panel, a pair of M.2 Slots, Strong 12+2 Phase 60 Amp voltage delivery circuitry and Wifi 6 and 2.5Gb LAN. The $70 additional on an MSI Gaming Carbon appears to buy more expensive (but largely cosmetic) heat sinking and a Mosfet Heat-pipe.
If you’re not looking for extreme overclocks and just want a solid well-specified all-rounder the MSI MPG Gaming Edge has that market covered at an attractive price.
Micro ATX Z490 Motherboard List
|ASUS||ASUS ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming||Z490||Micro ATX||-||12+2+2+2(?)|
|ASUS ROG Strix Z490-G Wi-Fi Gaming||Z490||Micro ATX||-||12+2+2+2(?)|
|ASUS Prime Z490M-Plus||Z490||Micro ATX||$150||8+1+1+1(?)|
|Gigabyte||Gigabyte Z490M Gaming X||Z490||Micro ATX||-||8+2+1+2(?)|
|MSI||MSI MPG Z490M Gaming Edge WIFI||Z490||Micro ATX||-||12+1+1+2|
Best Micro ATX Z490 Motherboard – Asus ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming (Wi-Fi)
The mATX form factor has often been overlooked as a budget offering in manufacturers eyes with only sparse and entry level boards appearing in this format. The Z490 refresh looks to be addressing that somewhat with a number of interesting options available.
When there’s limited requirement for a third full-length PCIe Slot due to the death of SLI GPus, and with many functions now inbuilt an mATX Z490 board can offer you a more compact but still powerful and versatile basis for your build.
The Asus ROG Strix Z490G Gaming appears to be one of the best-balanced offerings from the Z490 mATX bunch. This cut-down board doesn’t skimp on features. It has a strong 12+2 phase VRM configuration replete with heavy anodised heatsinking, and BIOS Flashback. There’s Wifi 6 and 2.6Gb Ethernet and a high-quality audio solution with optical output and a SupremeFX 1200A audio chip. It’s rounded off with a full suite of 6 SATA ports and importantly 2 M.2 slots for NVME SSD’s. With understated looks and relatively discrete holographic ‘ROG’ branding, it should integrate well into most PC builds.
We consider the ASUS Z490-G to be the strongest mATX Z490 offering to date and at $240 it won’t divert too much of the budget from other components.
Mini ITX Z490 Motherboard List
|ASRock||ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3||Z490||Mini ITX||$280||6(?)+2(?)+1+1(?)|
|ASRock Z490M-ITX/ac||Z490||Mini ITX||$160||5(?)+2(?)+1(?)+1|
|ASUS||ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming||Z490||Mini ITX||$300||8+2+2(?)+2(?)|
|Biostar||Biostar Racing Z490GTN||Z490||Mini ITX||$199||6+2+1(?)+1(?)|
|Gigabyte||Gigabyte Z490 I Aorus Ultra||Z490||Mini ITX||$269||8+1+1+2|
|MSI||MSI MEG Z490I Unify||Z490||Mini ITX||$269||8+1+1+2|
Best Z490 Mini ITX Motherboard – Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming
The Z490 mITX market is a small affair with just one offering from each of the five major manufacturers. The Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming stands out at present due to its slick looks and the active fan cooling of the VRMs along with bulky heat sinks and an integrated heat pipe.
The 8+2 Phase Voltage delivery hardware will run all Comet Lake CPUs well but temperatures are likely to get concerning if you attempt hard overclocks on the more demanding CPU’s. That’s an unfortunate side effect of pairing processors with very high power requirements with a small form factor motherboard when there are so many other components to squeeze in.
The Asus Z490-I also offers 2 M.2 slots and Wifi, 2.5Gb Lan, and bios flashback functionality. Double Capacity Ram compatibility allows up to 64Gb of ram to be fitted via a pair of 32Gb DIMMs whilst if you’re looking for fast memory ASUS claim up to DDR4 4800Mhz is supported Via OC but be sure that your chosen ram appears on their QVL list if achieving those speeds is important to you.
ASUS has one of the more intuitive and full-featured software suites which can auto-tune everything from your system fans to your CPU overclock if you want to hand those functions off to their algorithms rather than get your hands dirty tinkering yourself.
The ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming offers a good looking and well specified Z490 ITX motherboard for a small form factor builds based around the Comet Lake CPUs.
Alternative Z490 Mini ITX Motherboard – ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3
Looking at all the mini-ITX Z490 motherboards on paper, the specifications all seem very similar – with ASRocks $150 option, the Z490M-ITX/ac not being that far off from our recommended ITX board, the ASUS’s ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming.
Another mini ITX Z490 motherboard that has particularly caught our eye is ASRock’s Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3, which includes a Thunderbolt 3 port on the I/O. This ITX motherboard supports 4x SATA3 ports, 2 M.2. ports (finally!), WiFi 6, 2.5GB LAN + BT 5.1, ALC1220 audio and a total of 3 fan headers for cooling. The VRM features a chunky heatsink with a 9 phase design – though many are complaining the heatsink is actually too large and may create many space problems within peoples ITX systems and cooling setups.
Because this is the only ITX Z490 motherboard that offers a Thunderbolt 3 port, as well as an optical out port, the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 gets our recommended pick if Thunderbolt is a necessary feature in your upcoming Comet Lake SFF build.
Extended ATX Z490 Motherboard List
|ASRock||ASRock Z490 Aqua||Z490||Extended ATX||$1100||?|
|ASUS||ASUS ROG Maximus XII Extreme Glacial||Z490||Extended ATX||-||16+0+2+2|
|ASUS ROG Maximus XII Extreme||Z490||Extended ATX||$750||16+0+2+2|
|EVGA||EVGA Z490 Dark||Z490||Extended ATX||-||12+2+1+1|
|Gigabyte||Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce||Z490||Extended ATX||$1299||16+1+1+2|
|Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Xtreme||Z490||Extended ATX||$799||16+1+1+2|
|MSI||MSI MEG Z490 Godlike||Z490||Extended ATX||$750||16+1+1+2(?)|
Best Flagship Z490 Motherboard – ASUS ROG Maximum XII Extreme
When we enter the realm of Z490 extended-ATX (eATX) motherboards, we are mainly referring to the manufacturers’ flagship models – such as the colossally expensive ASRock Z490 Aqua, priced at an eye-watering $1100 RRP!
The cheapest eATX motherboard right now is the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike, but we if you’re planning on taking overclocking that stage further and running a rig on a bench with sub-ambient cooling, you should consider the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme.
This flagship Z490 motherboard is equipped with ASUS’s range-topping 16 phases 90 Amp VRM set up and has a range of features that make hands-on overclocking more convenient. These include a ‘slow mode’ switch, onboard power button and BIOS switch all of which assist experienced overclockers to achieve the ultimate overclock – you will pay a hefty price for the functionality though with this board retailing at $750.
If you’re comfortable with your bank balance then there’s also the water cooling ready ‘Extreme Glacial’ which has been teased and rumoured to have integrated waterblocks for active VRM Cooling. The price is as yet unannounced….