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REVIEW: Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Xtreme

By Antony Leather. Posted

Recommending any motherboard that costs more than twice the price of your typical premium model is always tricky, but the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Xtreme also has to justify this when the very latest mainstream flagship CPU from Intel only has eight cores.

That’s not to say the Core i9-11900K is an easy beast to tame. Enabling Adaptive Boost Technology or overclocking it to its limit still requires high-quality power circuitry, and the Z590 Aorus Xtreme has eight PCB layers compared to six in many other Gigabyte Z590 boards. It also has 20 power phases rated at 100A. Comparatively, that’s eight more than Gigabyte’s Z590 Vision G.

The VRMs are cooled by two massive finned arrays of heatsinks, linked by a heatpipe and further aided by a backplate covering the entire rear of the PCB. There’s no active cooling, but few Z590 boards have this. Despite the enormous cooling arrangement, there’s also plenty of space around the CPU socket, thanks to the board extending out to E-ATX dimensions.

The board also looks fantastic, with most of the PCB covered in shrouds or massive heatsinks, while reflective plates offer two RGB lighting zones. It’s one of the best-looking boards we’ve seen.

Meanwhile, a full-length shroud runs top to bottom on the right, housing six right-angled SATA 6Gps ports, seven 4-pin fan headers, the 24-pin ATX connector, USB headers and even right-angled RGB connectors. The latter two use proprietary cables to connect to your case to save space.

There's a healthy tally of eight USB Type-A ports, all of which are USB 3.1, plus two Thunderbolt 4-enabled Type-C ports

As a result, the rest of the board can be covered up, with just a small cap covering the audio header and dual BIOS switches below the third PCI-E slot. With such huge heatsinks covering the three M.2 slots, and all potentially being covered by PCI-E devices, accessing the M.2 slots once your devices are installed might be tricky.

Thankfully, Gigabyte has also included a dual M.2 slot expansion card that not only adds two more PCI-E 4-capable M.2 ports, but is also equipped with a large heatsink – it makes for easy SSD access once your system is up and running. You also get an ESSential USB Type-C external DAC in the box, which costs nearly £90 to buy separately. You get all the usual overclocking and testing tools as well, with the power and reset buttons integrated into the shroud next to the DIMM slots.

Move around to the rear I/O panel and you’ll find a healthy tally of eight USB Type-A ports, all of which are USB 3.1, plus two Thunderbolt 4-enabled Type-C ports.

You also get a pair of LAN ports offering 10 Gigabit and 2.5 Gigabit maximum speeds respectively, courtesy of Aquantia and Intel networking controllers, while 802.11ax Wi-Fi is also included. Finally, the EFI and software make it easy to apply overclocks and fine-tune your fans and pumps, with thermal probe inputs enabling you to control fans on radiators if you hook them up to coolant probes.

Most of the PCB is covered in shrouds or massive heatsinks, while reflective plates offer two RGB lighting zones

Performance

The PCI-E expansion card kept our PCI-E 4 SSD below 63°C in our stress test, but this only rose to 68°C in the board’s own PCI-E 4 M.2 slot, so either option will keep you well clear of any throttling. Even after back-to-back stress tests, our SSD still hit its peak read and write speeds of 4,997MB/sec and 4,275MB/sec respectively. The audio put in an excellent performance too, with a dynamic range of 110dBA and noise level of -111dBA.

With Adaptive Boost Technology enabled, the VRMs peaked at just 53°C, so the heatsinks and power circuitry do a great job of coping with the power-hungry Core i9-11900K; however, you’ll need to turn off Thermal Velocity Boost frequency clipping in the EFI to get the most out of an overclock. Not doing so saw our usual 5.1GHz settings fall back to 4.7GHz. With that setting switched off, the board ran happily at 5.1GHz across all eight cores with a vcore of 1.38V.

The multi-threaded Cinebench R23 score rose from 15,540 at stock speed with Adaptive Boost Technology enabled, to 16,458 with the manual overclock. With a lower voltage being pumped through the CPU, it was much cooler too. The biggest gain was in our heavily multi-threaded video encoding test, with the score from 674,354 to 725,051 with all eight cores fixed at 5.1GHz. This is all good, but you can get similar performance from a board that costs half the price.

Conclusion

Apart from some cool-running SSDs and VRMs, you won’t get more performance benefit from the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Xtreme compared with other good-performing and cheaper Z590 boards. Instead, your cash goes towards Thunderbolt 4, an M.2 expansion card, an external USB DAC, right-angled connectors and lashings of aesthetic prowess. It’s a beautiful motherboard, and if were money no object, we’d jump at the chance to own it. For those with more sense than money, though, it remains the stuff of dreams.

Verdict

One of the best-looking, feature-packed motherboards we’ve ever reviewed. Just don’t look at the price tag.

Price
£680 inc VAT

Scores
PERFORMANCE 33/35 | FEATURES 34/35 | VALUE 10/30 | OVERALL SCORE 77%

RIGHT ANGLING
+Beautiful design
+Feature-packed
+Excellent VRM and M.2 cooling

RIGHT MANGLING
-Hugely expensive
-Potentially tricky access to main M.2 ports
-Core i9-119900K isn't exactly high-end

SPEC
Chipset Intel Z590
CPU socket Intel LGA1200
Memory support 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 5400MHz)
Expansion slots Two 16x PCI-E 4, one 16x PCI-E 3
Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1220, ESSential USB Type-C external DAC
Networking 1 x Aquantia 10 Gigabit LAN, 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
Cooling 10 x 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, M.2 heatsinks
Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps, 3 x M.2 PCI-E 4 (two via PCI-E expansion card), 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3/SATA 6Gbps, 8 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 2 x USB 3.1 Type-C (Thunderbolt 4 compatible), 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C header, 2 x LAN, 3 x surround audio out
Dimensions (mm) 305 x 270

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