Gigabyte has confirmed, via its Aorus livestream (opens in new tab), that the recently launched Z490 motherboards come with support for Intel's future 11th-gen Rocket Lake-S processors.
Comet Lake-S (opens in new tab) just landed yesterday, so it might seem weird that there are already murmurs of its successor. Comet Lake-S marks the turning point for Intel since it's the first time that the Intel is introducing a 10-core processor on a mainstream platform, but that news isn't very exciting for most enthusiasts in light of AMD's impressive Ryzen 9 3950X (opens in new tab) that debuted with 16 cores and cutting-edge I/O, too. Intel is a step behind AMD in terms of adopting the PCIe 4.0 interface, a feature which the Red Team already supports on the Ryzen 3000-series (opens in new tab) (codename Matisse) chips. Ultimately, this is the reason why there's already plenty of interest in Rocket Lake-S.
Rocket Lake-S (opens in new tab), which is rumored to arrive later this year to replace Comet Lake-S, will usher in a plethora of interesting improvements. Gigabyte's latest statement confirms that the Rocket Lake-S will indeed drop into the LGA1200 socket. Among the list of Rocket Lake-S improvements is alleged support for PCIe 4.0. Word on the street is that Intel was going to adopt PCIe 4.0 (opens in new tab) with Comet Lake-S, but things went sideways with the 400-series chipset, and the chipmaker eventually scrapped the feature.
That makes it necessary to clarify why many Z490 motherboards (opens in new tab) on the market are PCIe 4.0 ready, but there won't be full support for the feature. The 400-series chipset doesn't natively support PCIe 4.0, so motherboard vendors resorted to incorporating PCIe 4.0 timers, drivers, and re-drivers to enable the feature for future processors. At the end of the day, Rocket Lake-S will likely supply the PCIe 4.0 lanes. You can expect full PCIe 4.0 support on the direct PCIe lanes, but only some motherboards will enjoy the functionality on the first M.2 slot.
Intel has a policy of not commenting on future products, so we don't expect the chipmaker to make any statements about Rocket Lake-S or its compatibility with Z490 motherboards anytime soon. However, limited support on Z490 motherboards would give Intel the chance to launch new motherboards to bring complete support for PCIe 4.0, say Intel 500-series.