ASRock announced its luxurious Intel Z490 Aqua motherboard on Tuesday. It stands out with built-in water cooling, PCIe 4.0 support, overclocking proficiency and a jaw-dropping design. The catch? Like the AMD-powered X570 Aqua motherboard from last year, the company’s only making 999 units.
Newegg lists the ASRock Z490 Aqua for a hefty $1,099.99 with a May 20 release date. That’s $100 over the AsRock X570 Aqua released for AMD CPUs last year, but such is the life for Intel devotees. ASRock advertises this as its new flagship motherboard, but the limited quantity and high price tag make it clear -- this is a status symbol.
The Z490 Aqua is as much a statement piece as it is high-end equipment. Featuring copper PCBs, PCIe 4.0 and “up to 95% VRM efficiency,” the key feature here is the built-in Aqua Cooling Armor water cooling heatsink.
Encased in a white aluminum shell to evoke glaciers, the Z490 Aqua also has programmable RGB lighting that follows and highlights the water flow.
Tucked alongside the I/O shield’s internals is an OLED display for reading motherboard stats, like fan speed and CPU temperature, which users can configure in the BIOS. There’s also what looks to be an extension of the armor on the bottom right of the motherboard over the Z490 chipset that's fully decked out in RGB.
A metal backplate covers most of the motherboard’s backside, while a similar metal plate surrounds the PCIe slots, three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that are PCIe 4.0-ready (and, therefore, will be limited to performance of the PCIe 3.0 interface) and two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots.
A PCIe 4.0 external base clock generator also aids in overclocking, while a PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD slot helps boost SSD speeds. Two M.2 SATA slots provide additional storage, and you get four DDR4 RAM slots.
With a board this elite, the connectivity options keep coming. You get a USB 2.0 header (two ports) and two USB 3.2 headers (four ports total), giving the back I/O shield eight USB Type-A connections total. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports bring USB Type-C connectivity. A front USB 3.2 Type-C header provides a data transfer rate of to 10 Gbps.
The Z490 Aqua can also help you bring Wi-Fi to your PC build with Intel 802.11ax WiFi and two Ethernet connectors with varying speeds.
Besides its strong specs, visual appeal is clearly a chief motivating factor here, so we recommend your best PC case with a transparent panel for this motherboard. That is assuming you like the GLaDOS / PS5 controller style here.