Benchmark Results & Final Analysis
Most performance-oriented boards have a default setting to force the CPU’s higher “two cores loaded” multiplier when all eight cores are loaded. Since that type of overclocking causes inconsistencies in our power and heat readings while also violating CPU spec, we disable it for our performance and efficiency evaluations. We also disable XMP, since enabling it will re-enable the default overclocks employed by some boards. We also enable the CPU’s basic power-savings features for this same group of tests.
We use synthetics primarily as a diagnostics tool, and differences this small don’t warrant a deep-dive search for configuration issues.
The greatest performance deviation came from the older Z370 Taichi in Cinebench, leaving the Z390 Taichi unscathed. The competing Z390 Aorus Master fell behind slightly in the Sandra Memory Bandwidth and Cryptography tests, so our larger interest is in whether the Z390 Taichi can beat it in real-world tests.
Better memory bandwidth didn’t appear to help the Z390 Taichi in our memory-constrained F1 2015 bench, and the board fell to last place overall by a difference of less than half of one percent. We’ve given up on arguing over whether anyone can see a difference of less than one FPS, and will state simply that all four boards perform too closely for any of us to see a difference.
The Z390 Taichi also takes small losses in Handbrake, Adobe Illustrator, and MS Word. That combination is enough to ding the board by a grand total of about 1 percent in our performance averages, which still isn’t enough to sway us.
Power, Heat, & Efficiency
The Z390 Taichi’s fully-loaded power reading is simply terrible, and if ASRock is looking for one place to optimize its firmware, the company should start here.
The Z390 Taichi’s oversized heat sink on its voltage regulator did a great job of preventing high energy from turning into high temperatures. Meanwhile, the previous-generation Z370 Taichi ran so hot that we had to put a 158 CFM fan over its voltage regulator simply to complete the power tests.
Drawing an extra 5 percent in power predictably dings the board 5 percent in efficiency. The Z390 Taichi’s performance difference was too little to move the efficiency bar by even one percent.
The old Z370 Taichi had enough juice to push our Core i9-9900K to 4.9 GHz, at which point we couldn’t add enough cooling to its voltage regulator to try for a higher frequency. The Z390 Tachi beat it by not overheating, but CPU core voltage fluctuated too much to push for a higher frequency. Knowing that the board was capable of more, ASRock recommended a higher core voltage than our CPU cooler could keep up with--at least when running Prime95 small-FFTs for our stability test.
The Z390 Taichi had the highest DRAM overclock we’ve yet seen on this Core i9-9900K sample, and it also reached the highest bandwidth when overclocked. Previous boards had often used excessively slow advanced timings to boost overclocking capability at the cost of performance, but that wasn’t a problem for the Z390 Taichi.
With dual Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi, the Z390 Taichi has the feature set to place it directly between the compared MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon and Z390 Aorus Master. The price $239 also puts it dead center between these boards.
Considering how the previous Z370 Taichi required a high-powered fan over its voltage regulator simply to run the new Core i9 CPU at stock speed, it’s not even in the running here, despite its slightly lower price. Users who don’t already own a high-quality Z370 board have no reasonable excuse not to jump past those and go straight to the Z390 chipset to support their Core i9-9900K purchase. But those with lesser 9th Generation CPUs and who don't plan on extreme overclocking still may want to consider those older boards if the price and feature set are enticing.
Three small marks against the Z390 Taichi are that it’s around a percent slower than competitors, that it consumes around 10 percent more peak energy compared to those competitors, and that it comes up 50MHz short of the CPU overclocks of those competitors, when using the firmware available when we wrote this.
As we were wrapping up this review, ASRock provided updated firmware designed boost 3DMark scores. But the real focus should probably be on getting rid of those peaks and valleys in the board’s power regulation. We find no issue with the hardware, so potential buyers will do best to track changes in future firmware.
The Z390 Taichi already has the best DRAM overclock of the three boards we’ve tested, from both a data rate and performance standpoint, and the normal trend for firmware development would be that things should get even better over time. But as for right now, the Z390 Taichi is a decent board for buyers of the new Core i9-9900K. But it doesn't impress us enough to earn an award.
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