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ASRock Z490 Aqua Review: Testing ASRock's Water-Cooled Flagship

A Monoblock for the CPU and VRMs, plus a sink full of features.

ASRock Z490 Aqua
(Image: © ASRock)

Software

On the software side, ASRock includes programs for a variety of applications including RGB lighting control, overclocking and an App Shop designed to download and update your applications and drivers. ASRock doesn’t have a single program to house all of these applications, so you will have to download them separately. Below we’ve captured several screenshots of the App Shop, Polychrome Sync, A-Tune, and the Nahimic 3 audio program.

Firmware

To give you a sense of the Firmware, we’ve gathered screenshots showing a majority of the BIOS screens.

ASRock’s BIOS is one of the more user-friendly and good-looking UEFIs out of the major brands. Using a black background with white writing and sky-blue highlights, it’s easy to read. The Taichi’s gear/clockwork theme also finds its way in here.

At first boot, you’re greeted by Easy Mode, a more information-based page than tweaking, though you can adjust some things (XMP profiles, canned fan settings, etc). Going into the Advanced Mode, we see several headings across the top. The BIOS is deep and includes a lot of functionality, with the most frequently used items easily accessible and not buried within sub-menus.

Test System and Comparison Products 

Our test system uses Windows 10 64-bit OS (1909) with all threat mitigations applied. The motherboard BIOS used is the latest non-beta available to the public, unless otherwise noted. The hardware used is as follows: 

CPUIntel i9-10900K (opens in new tab)
MemoryG.Skill Trident Z Neo 2x8GB DDR4 3600 (F4-3600C16D-16GTZNC) (opens in new tab)
Memory 2G.Skill Trident Z Royale 4x8GB DDR4 4000 (F4-4000C18Q-32GTRS) (opens in new tab)
GPUAsus ROG Strix RTX 2070 (opens in new tab)
CPU CoolerCorsair H150i (opens in new tab)
PSUCorsair AX1200i (opens in new tab)
SoftwareWindows 10 64-bit (opens in new tab) 1909
Graphics DriverNvidia Driver 445.75
SoundIntegrated HD audio
NetworkIntegrated Networking (GbE or 2.5 GbE)
Graphics DriverGeForce 445.74

For this review, we’ll be directly comparing the ASRock Z490 Aqua ($1,105.99 (opens in new tab)) to the other flagship Z490 boards we’ve tested, Asus’ ROG Maximus XII Extreme ($849.99 (opens in new tab)), the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike ($749.99 (opens in new tab)), and Gigabyte’s Z490 Aorus Extreme ($799.99 (opens in new tab)). 

Benchmark Settings

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
PCMark 10Version 2.1.2177 64
Essentials, Productivity, Digital Content Creation, MS Office
3DMarkVersion 2.11.6866 64
Firestrike Extreme and Time Spy Default Presets
Cinebench R20Version RBBENCHMARK271150
Open GL Benchmark - Single and Multi-threaded
Application Tests and Settings
LAME MP3Version SSE2_2019
Mixed 271MB WAV to mp3: Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 1.2.2
Sintel Open Movie Project: 4.19GB 4K mkv to x264 (light AVX) and x265 (heavy AVX) 
Corona 1.4Version 1.4
Custom benchmark
7-ZipVersion 19.00
Integrated benchmark
Game Tests and Settings
The Division 2Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080
Forza Horizon 4Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080

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Joe Shields
Joe Shields

Joe Shields is a Freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He reviews motherboards.

  • evolvedpc
    Given this board is all about water cooling, it would have been good to see more detail on the cooling performance. Water temps? How good is the waterblock? The monoblock design leaves you with no other option but to use it, so knowing how good it is arguably the most useful thing any review could cover.
    Reply