ASRock Z690 Aqua Motherboard Review

A handsomely equipped Z690 flagship with an integrated water block for $1,149.99.

ASRock Z690 Aqua
(Image: © Tom's Hardware)

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ASRock’s BIOS on the Aqua follow a different theme than the Z690 Taichi or PG Velocita we reviewed previously. Gone is the black and red from that line, replaced by black, white and light blue highlights that match the board’s theme and the Steel Legend SKUs. The colors present a good contrast and are easy to read.

An EZ Mode displays high-level information, including CPU clock speeds and temperatures, fan speeds, storage information, etc. Advanced Mode has several headers across the top that drop down additional options. The BIOS is easy to maneuver in and laid out logically. There is a bit of digging involved for some overclocking options, but overall, it’s a user-friendly BIOS with more options than most will ever use.


Unlike some other board partners, ASRock doesn’t combine most of its utilities under a larger application. Instead, they are all standalone programs, which can lead to clutter, but they cover a wide gamut of functionality. From overclocking and monitoring (A-Tune) to audio (Nahimic), networking (Killer Dashboard), and RGB lighting (Polychrome), all of the applications for this board worked without issue.

Test System / Comparison Products

As of October 2021, we’ve updated our test system to Windows 11 64-bit OS with all updates applied. We kept the same Asus TUF RTX 3070 video card from our previous testing platforms but updated the driver to version 496.13. Additionally, our game selection was updated, as noted in the table below. We use the latest non-beta motherboard BIOS available to the public unless otherwise noted. The hardware we used is as follows:

Test System Components

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CPUIntel Core i9-12900K
MemoryKingston Fury DDR5 5200 CL40 (9KF552C40BBK2-32)
Row 2 - Cell 0 GSkill Trident Z DDR5 5600 CL36 (F5-5600U3636C16GX2-TZ5RK)
Row 3 - Cell 0 ADATA XPG DDR5 6000 CL40 (AX5U6000C4016G-FCLARBK)
GPUAsus TUF RTX 3070
CoolingMSI MEG Coreliquid S360
PSUEVGA Supernova 850W P6
SoftwareWindows 11 64-bit (21H2, Build 22000.282)
Graphics DriverNvidia Driver 496.13
SoundIntegrated HD audio
NetworkIntegrated Networking (GbE or 2.5 GbE)

EVGA supplied our Supernova 850W P6 power supply (appropriately sized and more efficient than the outgoing 1.2KW monster we used) for our test systems, and G.Skill sent us a DDR5-5600 (F5-5600U3636C16GX2-TZ5RK) memory kit for testing.

Benchmark Settings

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Synthetic Benchmarks and SettingsRow 0 - Cell 1
ProcyonVersion 2.0.249 64
Row 2 - Cell 0 Office Suite, Video Editing (Premiere Pro), Photo Editing (Photoshop, Lightroom Classic)
3DMarkVersion 2.20.7290 64
Row 4 - Cell 0 Firestrike Extreme and Time Spy Default Presets
Cinebench R23Version RBBENCHMARK330542
Row 6 - Cell 0 Open GL Benchmark - Single and Multi-threaded
BlenderVersion 3.0.1
Row 8 - Cell 0 Full benchmark (three sub-tests)
Application Tests and SettingsRow 9 - Cell 1
LAME MP3Version SSE2_2019
Row 11 - Cell 0 Mixed 271MB WAV to mp3: Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 1.2.2
Row 13 - Cell 0 Sintel Open Movie Project: 4.19GB 4K mkv to x264 (light AVX) and x265 (heavy AVX)
Corona 1.4Version 1.4
Row 15 - Cell 0 Custom benchmark
7-ZipVersion 21.03-beta
Row 17 - Cell 0 Integrated benchmark (Command Line)
Game Tests and SettingsRow 18 - Cell 1
Far Cry 6Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080, HD Textures ON
F1 2021Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080, HBAO+, RT Med, TAA + 16xAF, Bahrain, FPS Counter ON

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Joe Shields
Motherboard Reviewer

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

  • drtweak
    How is "Only 3 M.2 Slots) a Con? Like unless you getting high end stuff you'd be lucky to have 2.
  • escksu
    Wow, $1150 for a

    3 slots I think its pretty decent already. This is because there is only 4 x PCIE 4.0 lanes direct to the CPU. This means only 1 SSD will have direct path the CPU while the rest have to go through the chipset.

    The chipset has 8x DMI 4.0 lanes (equivalent to 8x PCIE 4.0), so under certain situations, it may become a bottleneck.
    drtweak said:
    How is "Only 3 M.2 Slots) a Con? Like unless you getting high end stuff you'd be lucky to have 2.

    Was going to post the exact same thing, two is plenty and luxury enough.

    They are either nitpicking just to nitpick or wanted to has 3 pros and a matching 3 cons.
  • coromonadalix
    Well i'm waiting for an 2k$$ gold plated motherboard, or one with titanium block on it ??
  • drtweak
    sycoreaper said:
    Was going to post the exact same thing, two is plenty and luxury enough.

    They are either nitpicking just to nitpick or wanted to has 3 pros and a matching 3 cons.

    Right? Like I just upgraded my Plex server motherboard. I was using my old board and cpu (x570 and 3600 as my server and PC use to be one and not they are not) and the board i got, even though open box from Microcenter which I have had zero issue with, has 3 M.2 slots at PCIe 4.0. I mainly needed to have 3 x16 slots (with the last being only 4x wired which was better than 1x i was getting for one raid card and the other was only getting 4x) and now i got my GPU on 8x, RAID 1 8x RAID 2 4x and there is a huge speed difference even though the cards are only PCIe 2. But now i have 2 M.2s of the 3 slots i have and still PCIe to go around.