MotherboardsTech Review

Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X : Flawed design?

Key Features

  • Price: $499 (USD)
  • Release Date : 22nd October 2023
  • ATX Form Factor / 8 PCB layers + 2 Ozz copper layers
  • Intel Z790 chipset
  • LGA 1700 CPU socket
  • CPU Support
    • 12th Intel Core CPU
    • 13th Intel Core CPU
    • 14th Intel Core CPU
  • 4x 48GB 8,266 MHz DDR5, maximum 192 GB
  • 3x PCIe x16 ( 1x PCIe 5.0*16, 1x PCIe 3.0*4, 1x PCIe 3.0*1 )
  • Back IO :
    • HDMI 2.1
    • DP 1.4
    • 4x USB 3.1 RX/TX 5 Gbps
    • 2x USB 3.2 2nd gen. Type-A + TYPE-C RX/TX 10 Gbps
    • 2x USB 3.2 2nd Gen 2×2 Type-C RX/TX 20 Gbps
    • 1x USB 3.2 2nd Gen Type-C RX/TX 5 Gbps
    • Surge protected 10Gbs LAN controller
    • WiFi 7 / BT 5.3
    • Realtek ALC 1220-VB Codec 7.1 channels audio,
  • STORAGE
    • x5 M.2 SSD (x1 PCIe 5.0*4 || x4 PCIe 4.0*4)
    • x4 SATA 3 — RX/TX 6 Gbps
  • Excellent VRM
  • Excellent cooling components
  • Back plate
  • No DUAL GPU Support
  • PSP placed below M.2 SSD connectors
  • Not enough differences with its Z790 AORUS MASTER twin to motivate a $100 premium

AORUS is GIGABYTE’s more premium/gaming focused product and the MASTER where serious premium usually takes place.

The X line up is the AORUS refresh family of boards Gigabyte has released to accommodate the new 14th Gen of Intel CORE processors. And it does show-off some features which were believed to be reserved for the next generation of boards. So, exciting stuff indeed.

Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X naked
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X naked
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X cooling components
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X cooling components


PCB
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCB
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCB
We are dealing with a very premium 8 PCB layered ATX board, which is what you want to see low cross component and PCIe signal bleeding. It costs more, adding PCB layers is probably the most expensive thing a manufacturer can do, but its repercussions are deep and touches about every fundamentals on your board:

  • Heat dissipation
  • Signal interferences and hence system stability
  • And the overall motherboard lifespan.
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK PLATE
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK PLATE

In addition we do have a rather premium back plate protecting our circuitry and adding to the board robustness.

Clearly we are beyond fundamentals. In terms of solidity and longevity we are in the presence of a luxurious piece of tronics.

LGA 1700

Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X CPU SOCKET
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X CPU SOCKET

Our LGA1700 socket can support :

  • 12th Gen Intel CORE CPU
  • 13th Gen Intel CORE CPU
  • 14th Gen Intel CORE CPU

As CPU socket goes, we have our usual LGA 1700 Foxconn ILM, which allowed the introduction of both PCIe 5.0 and DDR 5 standards, and on this board, officially supports the brand new 14th Gen of Intel Core processors!

For the first time in a very long time (if not ever), Intel has a CPU socket which did support 3 consecutive generations of processors, which I hope is a trend we will keep seeing on future generations of motherboards!

Little kudos to FOXCONN for finally trying to improve the CPU locking mechanism and featuring a longer and better locking lever.

 


VRM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
  • CPU : x20 105 AMPS RENESAS RAA22010540 power phases organized in a 8 parallel phase configuration
  • VCCAUX: x2 105 AMPS RENESAS RAA22010540 power phases
  • VCCGT: x1 105 AMPS RENESAS RAA22010540 power phase
  • VRM CONTROLLER : RAA 229130
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM

We have a very near identical power solution than see on its Z790 AORUS MASTER predecessor, meaning an imposing 23 105 AMPS direct phases solution organized in a 20 + 2 +1 configuration.

That’s 2,100 of CPU CENTRIC AMPS here to impregnate your CPU with severe overclocking juice. And I need to say, there is nothing Intel will ever produce which will shame this power delivery. I love the 105 amps PSPs. I mean this is the very top of what the industry can produce today. I love the fact that we have 210 amps almost dedicated to RAM clocking. All that is beyond fancy.

What I love less, and Gigabyte should really listen to this next part, is 2 have power stages placed and hidden under what could be the hottest sensitive components in our board, the CPU connected, PCIE 5 enable M.2 SSD thermal floor padding.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM

Power stages can get hot, and even though there are only 2 of them, and there is a metallic plate between the M.2 SSD floor padding and the PSPs, even though in this case there is not much thermal bleeding if at all, I do not like this evolution and really encourage Gigabyte not to continue in this direction.
I’d rather have less power stages than having a potential design habit which could evolve into a real thermal flaw.

VRM Cooling

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks
We have this exceptionally premium 2-stages VRM block linked by a 8mm wide copper pipe to ensure an homogenous heat spread.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM blocks

 

 

 


VRM MAIN COOLING BLOCK

The main one is this rare fin-array bock topped by a massive extended plate. Having a fin array cooling solution is more expensive solution, only Gigabyte has been using on their more premium boards.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X MAIN BLOCK
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X MAIN BLOCK

It provides an obscene amount of radiating area and have a much higher heat dissipating ratio than heat blocks. Absolutely delighted to see it here.

IGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM main block
IGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM main block
The all topped by a rather large roof area further adding radiating surface to our main block.


VRM SIDE COOLING BLOCK

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM side block
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM side block
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM side block
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM side block

 

 

 

 

 

 

The side block is a no less impressive aluminum block, with radiating winglets protonating on both of its sides,

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM double contact design
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM double contact design

It also feature a double contact design, providing an intimate thermal pad heat relief to both PSPs and chokes.

I do want to note the thick thermos pads sandwiched between the back PCB and the back plate, which are here to provide an additional heat relief on the PSP solder points. Rare and premium feature indeed.

An absolute master class in terms of VRM cooling design! It does an absolute gorgeous job at keeping this army of 105 amps power stages!


VRM TEMPS

And results are naturally good!

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM TEMPS
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X VRM TEMPS

With an i9-14900K continuously running at 5.9 GHz for a full hour, both block stay nicely close to the 50c symbolic bar, which again, coming from 20+ 105 amps PSPs and an extravagantly demanding processor, it is extremely impressive.

Overall, I am giving the MASTER X VRM a 8 out of 10 score. I was going to give it 9 but im deducting design point for adding power stages below the CPU linked M.2 SSD. It is hard to know what that will entail on the long run, and I just find this move a poor precedent.

Obviously, I do not expect this board to be coupled with anything less than an K class, i7 or i9 CPUs, anything less would be a waist of money.


RAM

The MASTER X supports 192 GB of DDR5 RAM organized in a dual channel configuration, “clockable” upto a not very realistic 8,266 MHz.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RAM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RAM

By design actual boards cannot achieve anything beyond 6.5 GHz on a fully populated dual channel. You will have much more chances to get around the 7 / 8 GHz upper limits with a single stick configuration.

Anyhow, you will need to show some patience since there are very few sticks able to reach these kind of speeds currently.

For the rest, the board does provide some solid RAM futureproofing.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RAM
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RAM


M.2 SSD

Our board shows-off 5 M.2 SSD connectors,

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD

Only the closest one to the CPU is PCIe 5.0 enabled and can potentially peaks at a blazing fast 128 Gbs, and precisely why it has received the bulk of the cooling focus here, and for good reasons.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X

On top of dealing with a notoriously hot component, ( PCIe 5 enabled sticks ), the cooling system has to account for the additional heat bleeding the 2 VRM POWER stages gigabyte hid under the connector.

 

 

 

 

 

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X DOUBLE THERMAL-PADS
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X DOUBLE THERMAL-PADS

Result is a massive, and I don’t think I have ever seen one that big! In addition it does benefit from a dual thermal pad treatment, which all work rather well at keeping the stick cool at all time.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X

It is about 3cm high and features a 5 level winglet structure to dissipate more heat than a 4 lanes PCIe 5.0 M.2 stick would ever produce. A little over the top in my opinion (pun intended).


The 4 other connectors are all running at 4 lanes at PCIe 4.0 standard which is plenty fast and plenty hot as well.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD plate
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD plate
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD plate
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD plate

 

 

 

 

Luckily they also all benefit from a double thermal pads and are cooled by a single, large and thick single heat plate.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD

Worth noting, all of our m.2 SSDS do come with a screwless locking latch, which, in my opinion, has become the most sturdy, and easy to use , in the industry today

Obviously coming from a Z790 powered board, and the limited amount of PCIe 5 lanes available here, we do have the same PCie Bifurcation scheme we have seen on the PRO X,

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD

 

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD

 

 

 

 

Meaning that if you do dare to use the PCie 5.0 enabled connector, the GPU Expansion slot will see its bandwidth divided by two, which is the price to pay to use a PCIe 5 enabled stick on a Z790 powered board in general.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD heat plate
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X M.2 SSD heat plate

Finally, and to end this section on a positive note, we have the screwless plate locking mechanism introduced on the X refresh line up, which is a sizeable innovation and which I totally fell in love with !


Chipset

Our board is powered by Intel’s now aging Z790 chipset, which still runs on a low 6 Watts, allowing it to keep cool even with a somewhat reduced heat shield.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCH HEAT PLATE
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCH HEAT PLATE
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCH HEAT PLATE
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCH HEAT PLATE

 

 

 

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CHIPSET
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CHIPSET

 

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CHIPSET
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CHIPSET

Other than that, we are dealing with a very similar bandwidth menu than seen on its Z690 predecessor. Most of the novelty this year, coming from the 13th and 14th Gen intel CPUs which does provide the only PCie 5.0 lanes you’ll ever see available on a Z790 powered motherboard.


SATA 3.0

For a more classical storage solutions, we have our usual SATA 3.0 plugs. 4 in total, with a transfer rate of 6 Gbps each. They can be configured to run into a 0,1, 5 or 10 RAID configuration.


PCIe Slots

We have 3 x16 slots with different speeds.

Only the CPU linked one gets the future proofing PCIe 5.0 treatments on every single of its 16 lanes, allowing a 64 GBs bandwidth in both directions. This is obviously where you’d want your GPU placed for optimal performances hence the metallic re-enforcements.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCIe Export
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCIe Export

The 2 remaining PCIe exports are a bit deceptive. They both at 16 slots, and metallic re-enforced which suggest a multiple GPU support which would go hand in hand with both the MASTER Pricing and its long history of DUAL GPU support. Unfortunately nothing could be further away from the truth.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCIe Export
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X PCIe Export

The metallic reinforcements are strictly for show.

They are both running at the slow legacy PCIe 3.0 standard giving in best cases a cruelly slow 4GBs with of bandwidth. Absolutely inadequate for any respectable modern GPUs, for the ones you’d use with a a premium board anyways. Still Great for addons, such as capture card and even maybe an old M.2 SSD but that’s it.

Clearly GIGABYTE tried to advertise something they could not provide, and quiet disappointing so.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X

Not able to propose a dual GPU model here is problematic and does give quiet a big advantage to its natural competition which does, and might reduce the professional / production appeal of a rather very expensive single GPU, very gaming focused product.

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X

On the good side of things, we do have a GPU eject button, which will ease greatly your GPU adventures.

Overall, I am disappointed to see this brand using these kind of cheap tactics, and performance wise, we are finding ourselves with the expansion abilities of Z790 entry level. Nothing more.


Back IO
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO

First let me note the integrated and padded back IO which has been punctured and now serves as an Exhaust for the VRM!

GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO
GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO

Another little innovation when compared to its Z790 MASTER twin, and a Nice imaginative thermal improvement! Does it really make a whole lot of difference? Not sure, but I do like the effort!

  • Our accessible troubleshooting features, clear CMOS and BIOS button for a CPU-less BIOS UPDATE
  • x4 USB 2.0 Gen (480 Mbs)
  • x3 USB 3.1 Gen (5 Gbs)
  • x5 USB 3.2 2nd Gen all able to transfer data upto 10 Gbs including 1 TYPE-C
  • x1 USB 3.2 2nd Gen 2×2 able to transfer data upto 20 Gbs (TYPE-C)
  • WiFi 7 (802.11Be / 320 MHz) with a subsistentially higher 48 Gbs transfer rate and a very low latency ( almost fiber grade)
  • x1 DisplayPort 1.2 4096×2304@60 Hz HDCP 2.3
  • x1 very premium, speed modulated 10 GbE LAN plug, which, on this aspect, firmly places the MASTER X above its natural competition (i.e.: ROG MAXIMUS Z790 DARK HERO / 2.5 Gbs)
  • ALC 1220-VB from Realtek (ageing but still very premium), serviced by only 300 Microfarads of capacitors but most importantly, refined 4 film based WIMA capacitors, which will bring the audio solution to absolute excellence, both in play back and recording. By far one of the best integrated AUDIO solution you can hope for gamers and streamers alike!
WiFi 7

Capacitors

ALC 1220-VB

     

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X BACK IO

     

    Overall, I do love the bandwidth abundance, the connectivity is simply the very best you could hope for, and we just witness an innovative move on the back io plate, something we never see!


    Front Panel Connectors
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
    • x2 USB 2.0 (480 Mbs)
    • x2 USB 3.0 (5 Gbs)
    • x1 USB 3.2 2nd Gen 2×2 (20 Gbs) + fast charge upto 30 watts
    • x1 Thunderbolt 4.0 card connector (40 Gbs)

    Adequate.

    Cooling connectors


    Cooling wise,

    We have 9 fan connectors, 4 of which (!) are water pump compatible. I would be happy and glad to see such a generous water cooling support, but coming from a single GPU board, I find it a bit over the top, in addition we have no flow sensor, so if you are going toward the dual loop water cooling solution, it would be an imperfect one at best.

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CONNECTORS
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X CONNECTORS

    For some reasons gigabyte is departing the hybrid connectors realm they use to have which gave such versality to their boards and reverted back to a more classic individual use connectors. Something I regret and hope to see hybrid connectors back soon!


    TROUBLESHOOTING

    Finally troubleshooting wise, we do have everything a 500 bucks mobo entice, meaning:

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X EZ DEBUGGER
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X EZ DEBUGGER

    Our first aid EZ debugger for a lazy try to guide your troubleshooting issues in to the right direction,

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X ERROR CODE
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X ERROR CODE

    More importantly we do have an ERROR code screen which will refine that quest, to the very reason why, this thing refuses to pleasure your gaming needs 😉.

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X Buttons
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X Buttons

    Other than that we got our nice power and reset soledered buttons as well as the already mentioned cleam cmos and flash back buttons.


    RGB FUSION Sync Effect
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X

     

    RGB wise, we do have a beautiful, precise, homogenously lid AORUS LOGO scene, which does re-inforce that premium feel.

    And if that is not enough shine, we got our FUSION connectors for a maximal level of satisfaction.

    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RGB CONNECTORS
    GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS MASTER X RGB CONNECTORS
    • x1 classic RGB Connectors
    • x3 addressable RGB Connectors

    All of the above are obviously fully customizable (and sync-able) through GIGABYTE very own FUSION software.


    CONCLUSION

    the Z790 AORUS MASTER X will cost you anywhere around 500 bucks before taxes which is a solid 100 premium over its VERY similar Z790 AORUS MASTER.

    Is that price difference worth it. Short answer: NO!

    The VRMs are near identical, the evolutions too gradual, and apart from the WiFi 7 upgrade, I could not see why on earth I’d spend a hundred bucks for what is sensibly the very same board we had availed to us a full year ago.

    On its own merit and compared to the competition, is it a viable choice? NO as well!

    Despite benefiting from an extremely robust, eye pleasing design, an overcharged and what might be one of the most powerful VRMs out there, it fails in a couple of key aspects.

    It does not propose the dual GPU support the ROG MAXIMUS Z790 HERO purposes, and still tries to advertise it through the cunning presence of the metallic plate, something which disqualifies this board for many Pro focused clients,

    And Even though I could not detect obvious heat bleeding, seeing power stages placed below a M.2 thermal floor really alarmed me, and I do regard this as a serious design flaw.

    All things considered, unless you find this board below the 400 mark up, and truth be told am not certain this is where your money wants to spend its holiday season… sorry Gigabyte.

     

    QUICK OVERVIEW

    CPU & northbridge support

    Supported Processor
    12th,13th and 14th Gen of Intel CORE CPUs
    Chipset
    Z790
    CPU socket
    LGA1700

    Memory

    Slots
    4 (dual channel)
    Max System Memory (Gigabytes)
    192
    Memory Technology
    DDR5
    Maximum Clock (MgHz)
    8,266 GHz

    Connectors

    USB 2.0
      2 on-board
    USB 3.2 (1st Gen)
    4 on back IO + 2 on-board
    USB 3.2 (2nd Gen)
    10 on back IO + 1 on-board
    Thunderbolt 4.0
    1 card connector
    LAN
    10 GbE
    WiFi
    WiFi 7

    Expensive and flawed

    PERFORMANCES - 9
    VRM - 8
    OVERCLOCKING - 9
    DESIGN - 8
    DURABILITY - 8.5
    PRICE - 4
    ACCESSORIES - 6.5
    LOOKS - 6.5
    CUSTOM WATER COOLING - 6.5
    TROUBLESHOOTING - 8.5
    CONNECTIVITY - 8
    EXPORTS - 5
    STORAGE - 8

    7.3

    Expensive and flawed

    User Rating: Be the first one !

    Laurent

    The never aging alpha geek is still here! Don't you dare question me!

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