ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming – Overclockers Club
ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming Introduction:
Intel launched the 9th Generation Core i7 9900K in mid-October to much fanfare as the first 8-core, 16 thread processor Intel processor for a mainstream platform. In the past core counts above four were usually run on Intel’s High-End Desktop platform motherboards and came with an exorbitant price point. All to get the higher core counts. Things have changed for quite the better for the mainstream consumer since AMD upset the apple cart with the introduction of its 1st and 2nd Generation Ryzen processor stack.
Of course with a new processor and unique features comes a new chipset and a plethora of motherboards to choose from as the consumer. You can go all out and spend $500 on a board or spend significantly less and still get a motherboard that performs well and delivers all the things you expect from it. That being said, the motherboard I am looking at today is from ASUS ROG lineup, the ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming.
As most of you are aware ASUS ROG product stack is pretty deep when it comes to motherboards. The STRIX series is meant to enable the gamer to have the tools necessary to excel in every situation, from the Supreme FX sound solutions to the DIY design and plethora of ROG tweaks.
At $239 the ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming is in a nice mid-range price point. Let’s see if it performs above its weight.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming Closer Look:
ASUS ROG packaging is easily identified on the shelves of your local brick and mortar retailer. The front panel features the ROG logo at the top left with a picture of the Z390-E Gaming on the right. The name of the board occupies the midpoint of the package and highlights the ASUS AURA RGB lighting capabilities of the board. Along the bottom, you get a listing of basic hardware support in the form of Intel processors and multi GPU support for both NVIDIA and AMD graphics solutions. The last logo at the bottom right shows that, like most ROG boards, there is support for 3D printing heat sink covers and more from ASUS.
The back panel of the package again highlights the ROG heritage of the board and the specifications of the board so you know what you are getting into. The special features highlighted include a Fan optimized cooling solution for the VRM, AURA Sync functionality, dual M.2 heatsinks, and RGB addressable headers. Inside the package, the board and accessories are stacked to maximize the space inside the box with some of the overflow in a form fitted box above the ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming. The layer under the board holds the bulk of the accessory package. Since this is a ROG board, you know it will be pretty substantial.
As expected, the accessory package that ASUS includes with this board is what you would think would be included. You get all the parts you need to use all the capabilities of this board. From the pair of SATA 6Gbps data cables to the RGB header extensions, a unique Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant 2T2R dual-band WiFi moving antennas, a single thermister, VRM cooling fan, NVIDIA SLI Bridge, and M.2 screw kit, you get what you need to get the motherboard operating.
While the hardware package is pretty stout, ASUS loads up with the documentation and soft parts as well. You get a ROG Do Not Disturb door tag, sticker pack, 20% off coupon for CableMods products, a thank you card, driver and program disc, and last but not least a detailed manual. ROG bundles are the standard others strive to achieve.
The ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E Gaming is an ATX form factor board in the mid-level of ASUS ROG Z390 product stack. It is built around the Intel Z390 PCH for use with both 8th and 9th generation Intel Core series processors including the Core i9 9900K I will be testing this board with. This board has a black and argent theme that allows the RGB feature set to shine through when applied. This ATX form factor board will fit in any chassis designed for use with the ATX form factor.
The layout is standard for Intel-based boards using the 1151 socket. The rear of the PCB is the motherboard logo as well as some ASUS feature sets in additional languages. On the right-hand side of the PCB, you can see the dividing line that separates the audio circuitry from the rest of the PCB circuits. This is an integral part of ASUS Supreme FX audio design.
Let’s start the look around the board at the integrated I/O plate. The integrated I/O plate is an ASUS exclusive that eliminates the need to work with a sharp I/O plate and reduce some of the opportunity for a short due to an incorrect I/O plate install. Starting from the left is a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port with a pair of Z390 controlled USB 2.0 ports underneath. Next is a pair of the four USB 3.1 Gen 2 port on the I/O in Red; three are Type A ports and one is a Type C port. Display connectivity comes in the form of a single DisplayPort 1.2 port and a single HDMI 1.4 port to use with the Intel HD 630 integrated graphics processor on the latest socket 1151 8th and 9th Gen processors. A pair of Z390-based USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports sit under the Intel 1219V-based and ASUS LANGuard protected RJ45 Gigabit LAN port.
Wireless connectivity is controlled by an Intel® Wireless-AC 9560 controller with dual-band support and WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac compatibility. The outputs connect to ASUS own unique 2TR antenna. Last up are the audio outputs for the SupremeFX S1220A 8 channel sound solution including both an Optical S/PDIF and the analog connections.
Underneath the rear, I/O are the expansion slots. ASUS includes two ASUS SafeSlot equipped Gen 3/2 16x PCIe slots that can run at 16x or 8x by 8x when running dual cards from AMD or NVIDIA. A single 16x Gen 3/2 that runs at 4x sits at the bottom of the PCB while a trio of 1x PCIe Gen 3 slots rounds out the expansion package.
The majority of ASUS Supreme FX S1220A equipped sound solution resides at the bottom left of the PCB. ASUS’ audio package borders on the verge of enthusiast audio onboard with the use of Nichicon caps, dual op-amps, depop circuitry, audio shielding, and impedance sensing to maximize the signal quality to your headphones. A pair of M.2 slots sit above the top SafeSlot equipped 16x PCIe slot and one sits between the bottom two 16x slots.
Along the bottom connectivity starts with the front panel audio header, a serial port connection, one of two ASUS AURA RGB LED headers that support 5050 style LED strips up to three amps, the node connection, TPM header, external fan header for an external fan extension card, a USB 2.0 header that supports two ports, a USB 3.1 Gen1 header, another USB 2.0 header, and the clear CMOS jumper sitting somewhere easily accessible right next to the front panel header.
Along the right side of the board, ASUS started with a trio of fan headers including one designed for use with AIO water pumps in mind. Right next to the first header is the Thermistor connection that allows you to measure the temperature of any device or area the thermister will reach. The bottom header is for cooling the M.2 slots and is a 1A Q-Fan controlled header. The next socket is a 3A header set to run full speed and the last is a standard 1A Q-Fan controlled header. The white header next to the SATA 6Gbps ports is the header is an addressable RGB LED header that supports 5v WS2812B LED strips of up to 120 LEDs or three amps worth of current draw.
A total of six SATA 6Gbps ports are included on the STRIX Z390-E Gaming that supports RAID 0, 1, 5, 10. Additional storage options come by way of the pair of M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 in the top slot and M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 devices in the bottom slot. A vertically oriented USB 3.1 port sits next to the EATX 24-pin power connection. A trio of Q LEDs is used to identify the systems enabled as they start in the post sequence and are useful for diagnostic purposes in lieu of a true diagnostic LED. Up next would be the Mem-OK switch that allows you to troubleshoot memory related issues by running through a testing algorithm to see if the system will boot.
Behind the power connection is the four ASUS Q-DIMM slots that feature overcurrent protection for the memory. ASUS uses its T-Topology to reduce signaling losses to improve overclocking margins. Of course, as an Intel-based board, ASUS supports Intel XMP profiles on modules with an XMP profile. The STRIX Z390-E Gaming supports up to 64GB of dual channel memory natively to speeds of 2666Mhz and speeds up to 4266Mhz when overclocked.
Rounding the corner to the top of the PCB is another pair of 1A Q-Fan controlled fan headers next to the Q-DIMM slots. Here you get the CPU and the Optional CPU fan headers. The second ASUS AURA addressable fan header sits on the top of the board. The cooling package is up next and sits over the Digi+ VRM circuits that supply power to the CPU. The ProCool 8-Pin auxiliary power connection for the CPU sits in the standard location.
Near the ProCool 8-pin power connection is the MOS fan mount where you can install the included accessory fan to help improve the cooling performance of the VRM heat sinks. This should be quite helpful when running an AIO cooler that does not really send a lot of air over the VRM heat sinks. Especially if you move up to the I9 9900K. ASUS’ ProCool socket is designed with tighter tolerances to ensure better contact between the power pins in the socket and connector.
The ASUS STRIX Z390-E Gaming is built to use Intel 8th and 9th Generation processors that fit in the LGA 1151 socket. ASUS continues to use its tried and true Digi+-VRM design utilizing DRMOS power stages along with chokes that have improved surface contact with the VRM cooler and uses chokes that offer better performance than industry standard. The cooling package on the STRIX Z390-E Gaming is capable of handling the thermal load. If you plan on pushing the limits with a 6 or 8-core processor ASUS built in a mounting bracket for its MOS fan to add additional cooling. The heat sink over the Z390 PCH features the STRIX logo while the I/O heat sink shroud features RGB accents that can be controlled via ASUS AURA software.
On the side of the PCH cooler is a cloth tag with the ROG logo on it. Not too sure that I like the look of this piece. With M.2 storage, cooling is an ever increasing concern as adoption rates increase in the usage of these storage options. ASUS is a bit ahead of the curve here and includes heat sinks for both slots to maximize performance as the thermal load increases. As newer video cards are still pushing higher thermal loads for top end cards, this helps improve the situation.
History has shown that ASUS puts all its technology into each package from the top to the bottom of the product stack. With the all black and argent theme of the board the RGB highlights should offer a good look to go along with the feature set.