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Z390 on the Cheap: Overclocking a Core i5 With Three Budget Boards

Editor's Choice


Bottom Line

We formulated this article to show the worth of less-expensive boards that failed to fully support the power load of Intel’s Core i9-9900K, but Gigabyte’s sample came later and surprised us by being the only $160 board not to fail. Sure its voltage regulator ran so hot with the i9-9900K under extended full load that we needed to choose between adding a fan or reducing our room temperature to prevent throttling, but even those methods wouldn’t fix the thermal issues of its two competitors. Yet it remains true that most buyers in the market for a cheap overclocking board will not use so expensive a processor, so we had to give the Z390 Extreme4 and MAG Z390 Tomahawk a retest under a more-realistic load. Yet while both boards passed our Core i5-9600K validation, neither worked particularly well under that compromise.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

We were hoping for different winners for the features, overclocking, and performance aspects that would give us additional reasons to consider both the MAG Z390 Tomahawk and the Z390 Extreme4, but only one of those two achieved a single victory: The Z390 Extreme4’s combination of CPU PCIe bifurcation (for running multiple high-bandwidth devices), added controllers, and full RGB control gave it a single edge over the Z390 Gaming SLI’s sole feature of CPU PCIe bifurcation. The MAG Z390 Tomahawk didn’t even have that, though it did have a second network controller.

Rounding makes the performance difference between the ASRock Z390 Extreme4 and Gigabyte Z390 Gaming SLI appear as 4 percent. And just to put another nail in the coffin of an ASRock victory, the slightly-cheaper MAG Z390 Tomahawk outperformed it by nearly 3 percent.

Thus, even as we’d love to award the Z390 Extreme4’s extra features for added value, it simply didn’t perform competitively enough. And if we jump back to the efficiency chart, we can see that it really did produce terrible overall results.

Gigabyte already received Editor’s Choice praise in its review, but that decision was based primarily upon improved support of a CPU that most buyers in its price range won’t buy. Today’s test further justifies our earlier decision.

Gigabyte Z390 Gaming SLIASRock Z390 Extreme4MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk
Features Winner
Overclocking Winner
Performance Winner
Overall Winner

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Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.