In the coming weeks, Intel’s new Comet Lake-S desktop CPUs are landing, but today the company is taking the wraps off its new Z490 chipset, with the usual board partners releasing a cadre of corresponding motherboards--some of which are likely at some point to land on our best motherboards page.
Below, we’ll detail what we know about all the new boards and the chipset so far -- including PCIe 4.0 capabilities on some models with future processors, and trends towards faster Ethernet and memory support. Additionally, there is better power delivery designed to handle the higher TDP’s of these new juiced up CPUs, which are still effectively Skylake with more cores and faster clock speeds.
Where the previous generation stopped at eight cores/16 threads (8c/16t), the new Intel CPU flagship, i9-10900K (125W), brings 10 cores and 20 threads to the table, dropping down to 4 cores and eight threads with i3-103xx SKUs at a much lower wattage. The new i9-10900K has a base clock of 3.7 GHz with thermal velocity boost listed at 5.3 GHz. At this time, all SKUs haven’t been identified, but it’s likely we’ll see 8-core/16-thread and 6-core/12-thread variants once the product line fills out. When the time comes, we’ll also have a full CPU review as well as a fully updated product list. For now, there are plenty of new motherboards to dive into, along with the updated Z490 chipset.
Intel Z490 Chipset: New Socket, (Slightly) Different Features
There are several fine details that differentiate Z390 from Z490, but the most obvious is the socket. Whereas Z390 (and a couple of generations prior) used the LGA 1151 socket, Z490 shifts to LGA 1200 for the new Comet Lake-S CPUs. This means previous generation processors, including Coffee Lake Refresh, will not work in LGA 1200-based motherboards. The good news here is that Intel’s future architecture, Rocket Lake, is supported on this chipset and will enable PCIe 4.0 capabilities on motherboards labeled PCIe 4.0 ready. For those waiting for this implementation on an Intel platform, the boards are arriving, but the supporting CPUs aren’t yet. According to recent leaks, we expect Rocket Lake desktop processors either sometime very late in 2020, or sometime next year.
Board partners are including next-gen PCIe support on some boards by installing clock generators and the proper re-drivers and switches. PCIe 4.0 support will vary by partner and board, but typically both the GPU PCIe slot(s) and one M.2 slot will end up capable with Rocket Lake CPUs. All of the new MSI and ASRock’s product stack supports PCIe 4.0. Gigabyte’s coverage extends to the Aorus and Vision lines, while Biostar and Supermicro boards will not support it at all--at least according to the info we have as of this writing.
Outside of the socket change and PCIe 4.0 support on some boards, other differences are more subtle. Here’s a look at how Z490 compares with Intel’s previous mainstream flagship chipsets.
|Socket||LGA 1200||LGA 1155||LGA 1155|
|PCH PCIe 3.0 Lanes (CPU/PCH)||16/24||16/24||16/24|
|PCIe Configuration||x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4||x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4||x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4|
|USB 3.2 (Gen2/Gen1)||6/10||6/10||0/10|
|SATA 3.0 Ports||6||6||6|
|HSIO Lanes (CPU + PCH)||30||30||30|
|Memory Channels||Dual (DDR4 2933)||Dual (DDR4 2666)||Dual (DDR4 2666)|
|Intel Smart Sound||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel RST Technology Port Count||3 (PCH)||3 (PCH)||3 (PCH)|
|Integrated Intel Wi-fi 6||Yes||Yes||No|
With the increase in TDP of the higher-end CPUs, motherboard makers have also improved power delivery, focusing on increased VRM capabilities across all models. We’ll see board partners using up to 16-phase VRMs and 90A MOSFETs for the CPU in order to support the 125W-TDP chips and any overclocking. With how Intel measures TDP and the new chips boosting as high as they are, this is a welcome sight, especially for the hardcore overclockers. Due to the higher power draw, many Z490 boards are using larger heatsinks, and some include active cooling.
Maximum memory support on Z490 receives a slight increase from DDR4 2666 to DDR4 2933 for the new Core i7/i9 CPUs. While this is still less than AMD’s maximum official DDR4 3200 support, headroom on Z490 increases as well, with many boards supporting DDR 4700(OC) and several premium boards listing support for up to DDR4 5000. As usual, your mileage may vary, and choosing the correct CPU (or luck with a good IMC) and memory kit are critical in that quest for high memory clocks. Overclockers will like the increased headroom on the memory front, but keeping some of the High Core Count (HCC) CPUs cool will likely be a challenge.
A common denominator on many of the new Z490 boards is the use of 2.5 Gb NICs. In fact, we find most Z490 boards not in the value segment will include 2.5 Gb NICs. Most users don’t have a fast enough internet connection to saturate 1 Gb (that’s 125MB per second). But faster ethernet is still valuable for transfers within your own network (assuming your other hardware is capable of similar speeds). Along these lines, the Z490 PCH also supports Intel Wireless CNVi (802.11ax) natively, as does Z390, for ultra-fast Wi-Fi 6 capabilities.
On the USB front, Z490 supports up to six USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) ports. In addition to the USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, support for up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) ports carries over from Z390, along with six native SATA3 ports. Some Z490 boards include USB 3.2 Gen 2 2x2 (20 Gbps) as well, but those ports are managed with a 3rd party controller (ASMedia) and aren't native to the chipset. Intel IRST 17 for PCIe storage and RAID and CPU (and PCH support) is also baked in.
For many enthusiasts, the most-exciting new feature with these boards will support for PCIe 4.0 with future CPUs (again, on many but not all models). Maximum memory speed has also increased, and many of the new motherboards support even higher speeds than the previous generation.
That said, PCIe lane counts do not change, nor do HSIO lanes -- which is fine for most users, but still behind X570 on the AMD side. If you need that kind of flexibility, your choice is either to jump to Intel HEDT, or move over to AMD. Beefing up the VRMs is more of a requirement than it is anything else, but it’s good to know most boards should be able to handle Comet Lake-S CPUs from the top down, including overclocking. The introduction of 2.5 GbE LAN ports is a plus for those able to utilize the bandwidth.
Now that Z490 has arrived, we still have to wait a bit to see how impressive the new CPUs are. And lesser H- and B-chipset boards are of course also likely to arrive down the road. But at the time of this writing, there are roughly 50 Z490 boards to choose from. So if you’re looking to build a new system based on Intel’s latest, there should be something for everyone.
Z490 Motherboards: The Full List (So Far)
With the chipset details out of the way, below is a list of all Z490 motherboards that have been announced. Many will be available shortly, while others will come out over the coming weeks and months. Board partners provided the information listed in the following tables. Prices listed with a “~” denotes approximate price (in MSI’s case, they said pricing would be similar to X570 boards). On the following page, we’ll break things out by company and offer up some thoughts on the respective launch lineups.
|Size||Price (MSRP)||Price (Amazon/Newegg)|
|ASRock Z490 Taichi||ATX||?||TBD|
|ASRock Z490 PG Velocita||ATX||?||TBD|
|ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX TB3||mITX||?||TBD|
|ASRock Z490 Steel Legend||ATX||?||TBD|
|ASRock Z490 Extreme 4||ATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme||E-ATX||$750.00||TBD|
|Asus ROG Maximus XII Formula||ATX||$500.00||TBD|
|Asus ROG Maximus XII Apex||ATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Maximus XII Hero||ATX||$399.99||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming||ATX||$299.99||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-F Gaming||ATX||$269.99||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-A Gaming||ATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-H Gaming||ATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming (Wi-Fi)||mATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming||mATX||?||TBD|
|Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming||mITX||$299.99||TBD|
|Asus Prime Z490-A||ATX||$229.99||TBD|
|Asus Prime Z490-P||ATX||$159.99||TBD|
|Asus Prime Z490M-Plus||mATX||$149.99||TBD|
|Asus TUF Gaming Z490-Plus||ATX||?||TBD|
|Asus TUF Gaming Z49-Plus (Wi-Fi)||ATX||$199.99||TBD|
|Asus ProArt Z490-Creator 10G||ATX||?||TBD|
|Biostar Z490GTA Evo||ATX||?||TBD|
|Evga Z490 Dark||E-ATX||?||TBD|
|Evga Z490 FTW||ATX||?||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Xtreme Waterforce||E-ATX||$1,299||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Xtreme||E-ATX||$799||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Master||ATX||$389||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Ultra||ATX||$299||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Pro AX||ATX||$269||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 AORUS Elite AC||ATX||$219||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490-I AORUS Ultra||mITX||$269||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 Vision D (Designare)||ATX||$299||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 Vision G (Gaming SLI)||ATX||$199||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 Gaming X||ATX||?||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 UD AC||ATX||?||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 UD||ATX||?||TBD|
|Gigabyte Z490 M Gaming X||mATX||?||TBD|
|MSI MEG Z490 Godlike||ATX||~$699.99||TBD|
|MSI MEG Z90 Ace||ATX||~$369.99||TBD|
|MSI MPG Gaming Carbon Wi-Fi||ATX||~$259.99||TBD|
|MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge Wi-Fi||ATX||~$209.99||TBD|
|MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Plus||ATX||~$169.99||TBD|
|MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk||ATX||~$119.99||TBD|
|MSI Z490-A Pro||ATX||~$159.99||TBD|