Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master Review: USB Party in a Box

14 USB ports, but no USB 4

Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master
(Image: © Gigabyte)

Tom's Hardware Verdict

Overall, the Aorus Master is a good-looking option in the$500 Z790 price ranget. You get an incredible 14 USB ports on the rear IO, solid power delivery, a PCIe 5.0 M.2 socket, a 10 GbE port and Killer-based Wi-Fi 6E. It also performs well against its peers, but there are no USB 4 ports, and you don’t get the latest audio codec.

Pros

  • +

    14 USB ports on rear IO

  • +

    10 GbE LAN

  • +

    PCIe EZ Latch release button

  • +

    Highest listed memory support

Cons

  • -

    No USB4 (40 Gbps) ports

  • -

    Just four SATA ports

  • -

    Last-gen flagship audio

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Intel just released the highly-anticipated Intel Raptor Lake i9-13900K processor (alongside a couple lesser i7 and i5 CPUs). For details on the CPUs, check out our reviews. But in short, the new flagship processor brings more E-cores to the table, increases clock speeds, and has other notable improvements. And as with most new CPU generations, the chips arrive alongside a new chipset, Z790 this time around, which includes native support for the new processors, a PCIe 5.0  slot and M.2 socket, additional USB connectivity including the new USB 4 (40 Gbps), improved power delivery, and an updated aesthetic. Below, we’ll cover all the details on the Z790 Aorus Master and try to get answer the question of whether a Z790 board (or at least this board) is worth buying when so many Z690 boards are already available that also support Raptor Lake CPUs.

Gigabyte’s website lists 10 Z790 motherboards at launch, which covers a wide variety of ATX-size SKUs and price points. You’ll find familiar branding, including the Aorus branded Master and Elite, an Aero board (Aero G) for creatives/productivity, and the more budget-conscious UD (Ultra Durable) boards. Z790 also supports DDR4 on some models, and you’ll find a couple of options for those as well. Currently missing are any Micro-ATX or Mini ITX boards, but we hope to see those and the flagship Extreme/Extreme Waterforce down the road. Prices range from $169.99 (opens in new tab) for the UD DDR4, up to $499.99 (opens in new tab) for the Aorus Master. 

New Platform and Gigabyte product stack details aside, the new Z790 Aorus Master offers all the goodies from the new platform. You get a PCIe 5.0 x16 slot, a PCIe 5.0 M.2 socket, more robust power delivery, 14 USB ports including three 20 Gbps Type-C ports, a 10 GbE port and an updated appearance, with the black-on-grey theme moving up the product stack a bit (the Z690 Master was black). Tested performance on our Aorus Master mixed in with our two other tested Z790 boards, so there are no issues there. We don’t expect it to change much with more datasets, but it is still early in the life cycle of this platform.

Below, we’ll dig into the details of the board and see how it compares to the competition. As time goes on, we’ll review more boards and add to the list, giving us a better idea of how each board performs. Before we get into the details though, we’ll start by listing the specifications from Gigabyte’s website.

Specifications: Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master

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SocketLGA1700
ChipsetZ790
Form FactorE-ATX
Voltage Regulator23 Phase (20x 105A SPS MOSFETs for Vcore)
Video Ports(1) DisplayPort (v1.2)
USB Ports(2) USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C (20 Gbps)
 (7) USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)
 (1) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C (5 Gbps)
 (4) USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Network Jacks(1) 10 GbE
Audio Jacks(2) Analog + SPDIF
Legacy Ports/Jacks
Other Ports/Jack
PCIe x16(1) v5.0 (x16, x8 w/device in M2C-CPU socket)
 (2) 3.0 (x4, x1)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4
PCIe x1
CrossFire/SLIAMD CrossFire
DIMM Slots(4) DDR5 8000+(OC), 128GB Capacity
M.2 Sockets(1) PCIe 5.0 x4 (128 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)
 (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)
 (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 110mm)
 (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)
 (1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe + SATA (up to 110mm)
 Supports RAID 0/1/5/10
U.2 Ports
SATA Ports(4) SATA3 6 Gbps (Supports RAID 0/1/5/10)
USB Headers(1) USB v3.2 Gen 2x2, Type-C (20 Gbps)
 (2) USB v3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
 (2) USB v2.0 (480 Mbps)
Fan/Pump Headers(10) 4-Pin (CPU, Water cooling CPU, System, System/Water)
RGB Headers(2) aRGB (3-pin)
 (2) RGB (4-pin)
Diagnostics Panel(1) Debug LED
 (1) POST LEDs
Internal Button/SwitchPower and Reset buttons
SATA Controllers
Ethernet Controller(s)(1) Killer E3100G (2.5 GbE)
Wi-Fi / BluetoothKiller AX1690 Wi-Fi 6E (2x2 ax, MU-MIMO, 2.4/5/6 GHz, 160 MHz, BT 5.3)
USB Controllers(2 each) RealtekRTS5487, RTS5411
HD Audio CodecRealtek ALC1220-VB (ESS ES9118 SABRE DAC)
DDL/DTS✗ / DTS:X Ultra
Warranty3 Years

Inside the Box of the Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master

Along with the motherboard, Gigabyte includes several accessories intended to get your system up and running without a trip to the store or ordering extra parts online. The Aorus Master’s accessory stack includes all of the basics, but not much more. Below is a complete list of the included accessories.

  • (2) SATA cables
  • Wi-Fi antenna
  • PC Speaker
  • 4-pin RGB extension cable
  • (2) temperature sensors
  • User Guide
  • Gigabyte Stickers
  • Q-Connector

Design of the Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master

The Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master doesn’t look significantly different than the Z690 Aorus Master. Where the last-gen Z690 sports an all-black appearance, the Z790 Master sports a black-and-grey theme with a black 8-layer PCB and black VRM heatsinks. The grey accents come from the heatsinks and shrouds covering the M.2 sockets, chipset, and audio on the bottom half of the board. Hailing from the premium mid-range segment, all slots (Memory and PCIe) are also reinforced.

Gigabyte chose the less is more method for RGB here, with the only implementation located above the IO cover. From below, it lights up the Aorus falcon outline, the Aorus motto (Team Up, Fight On), and a unique design element. Overall, the Aorus Master has a premium design and would be a great centerpiece for your new build.

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

Zooming in on the top half of the board, we’ll first focus on the VRM heatsinks. They are heavy and have a lot of surface area to dissipate heat with what Gigabyte calls a “Fins-Array III” configuration with a fancy NanoCarbon coating. Gigabyte connects to two large hunks of metal together with an 8mm heatpipe that shares the thermal load between them. They also use an efficient 12 W/mk thermal pad between the MOSFETs/Chokes to remove the heat from the components. Above the socket are two 8-pin EPS connectors (one required) to feed the processor power.

Also found in this area are the first two (of 10) 4-pin fan/pump headers. All fans output up to 2A/24W, so you shouldn’t run into any issues on the power side of things. If you’re inclined, running your entire water cooling system and fans is easily accomplished on this board. In most configurations, you won’t need to piggyback devices on headers because there are so many and each capable of more than the basic 1A/12W output we’re used to. The headers also detect if the device is PWM or DC, or you can manually select it from the BIOS. The worst case is that you’d have to manually set it in the BIOS or Gigabyte’s App Center software.

To the right of the socket area, we run into four reinforced DRAM slots capable of supporting up to 128GB of RAM and speeds listed to an incredible DDR5-8000(OC). Of course, reaching those speeds falls under the ‘your mileage may vary’ mantra, but the other comparable boards (by price) list up to DDR5-7600 (others DDR5-7000). The system didn’t have any issues with either of our memory kits, but we’re only working with the max specification of the platform (DDR5-5600) and a ‘sweet spot’ of DDR5-6000. Above the DRAM slots are three more fan headers (the rest are located across the bottom edge).

If the minimalistic RGB approach isn’t enough, you’ll find the first two (of four) RGB headers along the top right edge. In this case we see one of each, a 3-pin ARGB and a 4-pin RGB. The other two headers are also found on the bottom edge of the board. Additionally, we run into the power button and Debug LED. Continuing down the same edge, we spy the 24-pin EPS connector, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 (10 Gbps) headers, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20 Gbps) front panel header. Last but not least, Gigabyte installed a PCIe EZ-Latch (square button) to help unlock the top PCIe slot, as the large M.2 heatsink doesn’t allow easy access to the traditional locking mechanism.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Power delivery on the Z790 Aorus Master consists of a 23-phases, with 20 dedicated to Vcore. Power comes from the EPS connector(s) onto a 20-channel Renesas RAA229131 PWM controller. From there, it moves to the 20x 105A Renesas RAA22010540 SPS MOSFETs to take care of the processor. The VRMs have plenty of capability to support the flagship Intel Core i9-13900K without worry.

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

Starting with the audio section on the bottom left of the board, hidden below the shroud, is a Realtek ALC1220-VB codec and a few gold Nicihicon and red WIMA capacitors dedicated to the audio bits. With a premium mid-range class board, I would like to have seen the Realtek 40xx series codec implemented, as the competition does. Still, most people find the last-gen codec more than acceptable. So unless you’re an audiophile with high-end equipment, I doubt you’d notice a difference–or if integrated audio was at all an issue, you’d probably use a sound card or an external DAC, anyway.

Three PCIe slots are in the middle of the board, all of which are reinforced to prevent shearing (and some EMI mitigation). The top slot (primary for graphics) gets all of its sixteen lanes of PCIe 5.0 bandwidth from the CPU if nothing is populating the M2C_CPU socket. The bottom two full-length slots both run at PCIe 3.0 speeds, with the upper one running a maximum of x4 and the bottom x1.

Specs aside, if a device plugged into the PCIe 5.0 socket (regardless if it’s a 4.0 or 5.0 device), the PCIe x16 5.0 slot operates at 5.0 x8 mode. With the amount of PCIe 5.0 lanes available on this platform (16), that’s a certainty if there’s a PCIe 5.0-capable M.2 socket in use. But for those concerned about performance losses because of PCIe bandwidth for graphics cards, remember PCIe 5.0 x8 is equivalent to PCIe 4.0 x16. In other words, you won’t lose performance with this generation of graphics cards (or likely the next) while running at 5.0 x8 speeds.

The Aorus Master has five total M.2 connections on board, with two connected directly to the CPU. We mentioned the PCIe 5.0-capable socket earlier and there’s a PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) socket connected as well. Both hold up to 110mm modules. The three remaining sockets all run up to PCIe 4.0 speeds, with slot M2M-SB able to run SATA-based M.2 modules. Gigabyte now uses a quick latch mechanic on all M.2 sockets, so we don’t have to fumble around with the tiny screws – a nice value add.

Skipping over the Aorus-branded chipset heatsink, the right edge of the board holds four SATA ports, while two more fan headers are below that. Just past the Thunderbolt header are the Status LEDs that light up during the POST process. If there is a problem, the LED where the problem lies (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot) remains lit. This coupled with the Debug port in the upper right-hand corner, lets you dial in a problem before booting into your OS of choice.

Across the bottom of the board are several exposed headers. You’ll find the usual, including additional USB ports, RGB headers, and even a header for temperature probes. Below is a complete list from left to right.

  • Front panel audio
  • 3-pin ARGB header
  • 4-pin RGB header
  • Noise sensor
  • System Fan 3 header
  • (2) USB 2.0 headers
  • Reset button
  • System Fan 4/5
  • TPM header
  • Clear CMOS header
  • System panel header

(Image credit: Gigabyte)

The Rear IO comes with a pre-installed IO plate that sports a black background with grey labels and Aorus branding in the upper left corner. However, the grey-on-black doesn’t make for easy reading in low-light situations. One of the first things you’ll notice here are the copious number of USB ports – a mind-blowing 14 in total, with three of the USB Type-C variety. The rest of the Type-A ports are a mix of 10 Gbps (x7) and 5 Gbps (x4). The Clear CMOS and Q-Flash+ buttons and the Wi-Fi antenna headers are on the left side. There’s a single DisplayPort for integrated video output and the 2-plug analog plus SPDIF output for audio. Last but not least is the 10 GbE Aquantia port.

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Joe Shields
Motherboard Reviewer

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

  • jonathan1683
    worth it just for the 10Gbe
    Reply
  • dstarr3
    I'll be picking up a 13900k and a Z790 Aorus Master this holiday season. Can't wait
    Reply
  • Co BIY
    For me the DDR4 board numbers stand out. Not much loss from DDR5.

    I would love this board but $500 ? - too rich.


    Also:

    Real link for Gigabyte Z790 UD at $199 - https://www.newegg.com/p/N82E16813145420?quicklink=true
    Article link hits the Z690 - which might be the better deal.
    Reply
  • johanpmeert
    jonathan1683 said:
    worth it just for the 10Gbe
    Exactly.
    And add a GC-MAPLE RIDGE card and you get 2x TB4 ports. Since it has to be slotted in the chipset slot, it's far enough from the graphics card to not impede the cooling.

    Note to editor: there's a mistake in the specs of the mobo on top: it lists a 2.5Gbe NIC
    Reply