Features and Layout
If it’s just high-end quality and commonly used features you’re looking for in an AMD-based X570 motherboard, you can probably find a board with most of them for half the price of ASRock’s $1,000 X570 Aqua. But then you won’t get a built-in monoblock (multi-device liquid cooling water block) at that price, or likely Thunderbolt 3. The X570 Aqua is designed for custom cooling enthusiasts who want to flaunt their expensive high-end components, and being the best product is only half that battle. Aesthetics matter when you’re spending this much on a motherboard.
ASRock X570 Aqua Specifications
|Form Factor||"EATX" (10.5"-deep)|
|Voltage Regulator||14 Phases|
|Video Ports||HDMI, DisplayPort IN, Thunderbolt 3|
|USB Ports||10 Gbps: (2) Type-C (via Thunderbolt 3)5Gb/s: (6) Type A|
|Network Jacks||10GbE, Gigabit Ethernet, (2) Wi-Fi Antenna|
|Audio Jacks||(5) Analog, (1) Digital Out|
|Legacy Ports/Jacks||(1) PS/2|
|Other Ports/Jack||Thunderbolt 3 (40Gb/s), BIOS Flashback|
|PCIe x16||(3) v4.0 (x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4)|
|PCIe x1||(3) v2.0|
|CrossFire/SLI||3x / 2x|
|DIMM slots||(4) DDR4|
|M.2 slots||(2) PCIe 4.0 x4 / SATA|
|SATA Ports||(8) 6Gb/s (four via ASM1061 controllers)|
|USB Headers||(1) v3 Gen2(2) v3 Gen1(1) v2.0|
|Fan Headers||(5) 4-pin|
|Legacy Interfaces||System (Beep-code) Speaker|
|Other Interfaces||FP-Audio, ARGB LED, (2) RGB LED|
|Internal Button/Switch||Power, Reset, CLR_CMOS / ✗|
|SATA Controllers||(2) ASM1061 PCIe 2.0 x1, Integrated (0/1/10)|
|Ethernet Controllers||Aquantia AQC107 PCIe x4, WGI211AT PCIe|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Intel AX200 802.11ax (2.4 Gb/s) / BT 5.0 Combo|
|USB Controllers||JHL7540 Thunderbolt 3 PCIe 3.0 x4|
|HD Audio Codec||ALC1220|
|DDL/DTS Connect||DTS Connect|
So few motherboards include a monoblock for custom liquid cooling that it’s not even addressed in our standard specs template, yet it’s the most expensive feature to be found on the X570 Aqua. These low-volume parts are individually machined on CNC equipment rather than being cast or cut from extrusions, which is why the ones we’ve seen for previous products typically start at $200. Such an item would almost double the price of a typical X570 board, so if this were merely a $500 motherboard, some of you could just read the Pros/Cons/Verdict and click the buy button. But, of course there’s much more to the X570 Aqua than its custom cooling abilities.
To begin with, all the stuff that looks like silver-painted plastic isn’t -- it’s aluminum. Everything from the decorative port shroud to the filler panel that fits between the M.2 heat spreaders is, at least in part, aluminum. The decorative pieces are covered in the stuff (over a plastic frame), while the functional pieces are aluminum throughout.
Peeling away two of those pieces, we find the X570 Aqua’s other two headline features, its AQC107 10Gb Ethernet connection and the JHL7540 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 controller. Intel’s i211AT Gigabit Ethernet controller sits between them, and a special DisplayPort pass-through connector for Thunderbolt video (more on that later) is seen above the Aquantia controller.
While M.2 heat spreaders are generally optional and typically don’t substantively alter drive performance (NAND actually runs better warm), the upper M.2 slot cover (shown center in photo below) is also the heatsink for the 10GbE controller, and that makes it a mandatory part. If your drive doesn’t fit under a heat spreader (typically because it already has one), it will need to go into the lower M.2 slot. And that slot is limited by both its shorter 80mm exposed length and its PCH-based connection. Only the top slot gets 120mm support and the CPU I/O’s four direct pathways.
The custom monoblock is also seen above, where we find that everything but the CPU interface has a mirror finish. The CPU portion itself has a fine grain to better-hold thermal pastes that might otherwise pull away as it shrinks: we’ve seen this on untouched three-year-old builds, and most users will probably want to keep such a complicated installation together for a long time. We noticed that ASRock’s technicians had some difficulty with the thermal pads that cover the MOSFETs, so we made sure to reposition everything perfectly before doing our installation upside down to avoid similar issues.
Even the DisplayPort on the I/O panel is an input for Thunderbolt pass-through, as ASRock sells the only graphics cards that have an internal Thunderbolt output, and those cards are designed for this board. Other I/O features include two Type-C connectors with full Thunderbolt 3 support, six USB3 Gen1 outputs (5Gb/s), the network ports for those above-mentioned Ethernet controllers, a pair of Antenna jacks for the factory-installed AX200 Wi-Fi 6 module, five analog audio jacks, a digital optical audio output, a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, a USB BIOS Flashback button, and an HDMI port that is an actual output for AMD’s Socket AM4 APUs.
The top view presents a familiar layout with three PCIe x16 slots, three PCIe x1 slots, and triple-slot spacing between the first two x16 slots to support oversized graphics card coolers that are more than two slots thick. The sixteen CPU pathway division also applies in the usual x16 to x8/x8 modes if cards are detected in the second long slot, but ASRock went out of its way to make sure that the third slot’s four PCH lanes didn’t exclude any of the motherboard’s other features. The first step in that direction may have been to eliminate the third M.2 storage slot seen on a few other boards, but those four lanes were already needed by the Thunderbolt 3 controller. What to do?
ASRock starts by reducing its eight SATA ports to six PCH lanes by putting four of its ports on a pair of legacy ASM 1061 PCIe 2.0 controllers. Yes, that means that only the other four ports can support four devices at full speed, and it also means that only those four ports can be RAIDed together, but the next step is an even bigger potential complication.
The real trick to how ASRock serves so many slots simultaneously, and the real reason why its x1 slots and SATA controllers are PCIe 2.0, is that the firm uses ASM1187e PCIe 2.0 x1 to x7 smart switch to connect all of these. While the lack of a suitable PCIe 4.0 replacement isn’t surprising (given the thermal problems we’ve seen on AMD’s own controllers), we were surprised not to see ASRock use a PCI 3.0 version such as the ASM2812 for this task. Had the upper x1 slot been eliminated (since it’s rarely used due to being so close to the primary graphics card slot) we would think that even the four-device ASM2806 may have sufficed.
The X570 Aqua’s bottom edge features front-panel audio, trusted platform module, RGB, addressable RGB, front-pane USB 2.0 and 3.0, PWM fan, and legacy PC speaker/3-pin power LED headers, plus a status code display and buttons for power/reset/CLR_CMOS. A second USB 3.0 is found beside a USB3 Gen2 front panel and another four-pin fan header at the middle of the board. Three additional fan headers are placed along the board’s top edge, and a second RGB header is located at the top/front corner.
One thing you’re not paying for here is a back plate. Reviewers tend to like these because they ease testing outside of a case, but the practical function for completed builds is limited at best.
The X570 Aqua includes a driver/application disc, documentation, a legacy SLI bridge, a tube of thermal paste and replacement thermal pads, a dual-band Wi-Fi antenna, four SATA cables, M.2 and several replacement monoblock screws, and a special internal cable for DisplayPort to Thunderbolt passthrough using one of ASRock’s specially-designed graphics cards. Depending on whether or not the special ASRock cable fits their card's Mini DisplayPort output in the correct orientation, users who decide to do that passthrough externally may need to supply their own cable.
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