Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard Review

What we have today is the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review. Here, we’ll focus on this product that brings the power of Alder Lake to new heights. 

It’s a board with one of the best connection capacities, taking advantage of its five built-in M.2 slots. Also, it even features a USB Gen 2×2, three PCIe slots, a 10G LAN + WiFi 6E and lots more.

All of these excellent elements come in one package, and we’ll learn all about it in this review. 

Before we look into what makes it the best around, let’s start off with its packaging and contents. 

Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard Packaging

The board for our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review arrived in a typical AORUS-looking box. In front, you’ll see a huge image of AORUS’ branding, and its name is written on the box’s upper-left corner. 

Below the huge branding, the name of the unit is written in bold letters so you definitely won’t miss it. To its right, you’ll find what the product is for, as well as its primary features. You’ll see the latest technologies including PCIe 5, DDR5, and Intel Z690 chipset indicated in this section.

The box’s rear features more details about the motherboard. Plus, there are a couple of close-up photos of the board’s design. AORUS even included a detailed breakdown of its overall connectivity and the VRM configuration as well. 

Inside the package, you’ll find the Z690 AORUS Master motherboard along with other inclusions. These are the user’s manual, a quick installation guide, an antenna, six SATA cables, and an RGB LED strip extension cable. You’ll even find a noise detection cable, two thermistor cables, M.2 screws, and a G connector. 

Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard Review – Design and Functionality

While creating our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review, we saw several enhancements on this board. The most evident is that it enhanced the design of earlier generations by featuring more glass-type elements and bigger heatsinks. 

It sports an E-ATX format that’s 12” high and 10” wide. This measurement is big enough to make room for five M.2 slots. 

To note, the Z690 AORUS Master motherboard won’t be that different compared to the rest of the high-end models around. That’s because it will still rely on the same platform. 

It has an expanded and renewed LGA-1700 socket with a better and more secure anchoring system. This provides compatibility with the 12th gen Intel Core, Celeron, and Pentium processors. Additionally, it will also guarantee compatibility with the 13th gen ones.  

You won’t see much of the components on the upper section of the board. That’s because the VRM area is entirely concealed by heatsinks and a big plastic cover that’s reaching the socket’s limits.

There’s a combination of a methacrylate surface and black plastic, allowing you to see bits of the built-in RGB area. In addition, the plastic cover is independent of the heatsink. 

The Z690 AORUS Master has one of the most powerful and reliable VRMs coming from the latest generation of motherboards. Because of this, you won’t have to opt for the most expensive and over-the-top boards around. 

The VRM’s heatsink system consists of two huge Fins Array III blocks that are made of copper and aluminium. It has dense grooves to guarantee full dissipation of heat. 

Its size considerably increased compared to the Z590 socket, so it mostly takes up all the space around. You can expect better performance because of the new 105A Mosfets. And, both blocks will be linked via a DirectTouch system with a copper heat pipe using 9W/mK thermal pads. 

The presence of these thermal pads is to gather heat around. 

Shifting to the memory slots, you’ll find the standard AORUS receptacles that are reinforced with steel plates. It’s there to withstand torsion with about 130% more rigidity.

The rear clamping system is fixed into the PCB beneath a thick layer of insulation. It’s to decrease external noise while strengthening the bonds of electrical tracks in the DDR5. 

Next to the memory banks is a panel with voltage tap points. There’s also a debug LED panel for displaying the BIOS codes, plus an on-board power button. 

Shifting to the lower-half section, you’ll see a Boot Post panel situated next to the SATA ports. There’s also a MultiKey button here that can be configured from the BIOS. Here, you’ll find the Reset, Direct-to-BIOS, RGB, and boot in Safe Mode switches. 

Lastly, it comes with four built-in lighting components, another two 12V RGBs, and two 5VDGs. 

Let’s now look at the PCIe and M.2 slots in our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review. Close to the board’s base, you will see the three PCIe slots in a x16 layout. Also, you’ll find steel covers to enhance durability and resistance. 

The primary one is the Ultra Durable certified with additional thickness for its connection. As for the sound card area, it’s covered by a huge aluminium block that isolates the components adequately. 

The key features of the board are the heatsinks for the five M.2 slots. It even has a huge block for the primary slot. And, it’s linked to the CPU that’s used as the first option for gen 4×4 SSDs. 

The other four are cooled using an integral block that’s fixed using four screws which also conceals the chipset. However, it does come with an independent passive inner block. 

Along the area where AORUS’ branding can be seen, you’ll find RGB Fusion lighting beneath another type of methacrylate housing. To note, you should be extra careful with these since they aren’t glass. That means, they will scratch easily. 

Only the SATA ports are oriented at 90° with reference to the board. It’s to facilitate connections in modern PC cases. We think that this is something Gigabyte should’ve implemented with the USB connectors, thus, representing a small hiccup. 

Lastly, at the back of the Z690 AORUS Master, you’ll find an insulating Nanocarbon cover. It extends throughout most of the motherboard. This specific element also acts as a heatsink for the 10G chip and the VRM through thick thermal pads. 

This specific kind of installation makes it a bit challenging to disassemble. That’s because the VRM heatsinks or covers overlap a couple of the screws. So, they end up getting concealed under these.

Key Features of the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard

Here are the Z690 AORUS Master’s key features that make it stand out from the rest of the motherboards around. 

Xtreme Memory

Gigabyte’s Z690 motherboards feature the latest DDR5 memory architecture and support XMP 3.0. With DDR5, the Z690 AORUS Master offers 50% more bandwidth to the platform and significantly improves system performance. This technology makes this possible by implementing Xtreme Memory Routing, Unlocked Native DDR5 Voltage, and the reliable SMD slot.

Aside from hardware upgrades, the motherboard’s features the exclusive DDR5 tuning capability, offering full functionality in higher overclocking.

Thermal Reactive Armour

Like the other Z690 motherboards of Gigabyte, the Z690 AORUS Master delivers unthrottled performance. Its optimised and innovative thermal design guarantees chipset, SSD, and CPU stability while maintaining low temperatures under the heaviest loads.

Smart Fan 6 for Superior Cooling and Quiet Operation

Smart Fan 6 offers exceptional cooling features that allow quiet operation while maintaining the performance of gaming PCs. With multiple fan headers, the Z690 AORUS Master motherboard supports PWM/DC fan and pump. Users can also define the fan curves with ease, depending on temperature sensors via the intuitive user interface.

The New Generation Fins-Array III

Gigabyte’s Fin-Array III offers optimum thermal performance by using extended irregular fins. These fill all available space and increase the surface area. A single Fins-Array III heatsink surface area is bigger than the full size of two ATX motherboard PCBs.

Since the motherboard features Fins-Array III, it delivers boosted heat exchange performance and thermal efficiency.

3% Cooler with 2X copper PCB Design

By using 2X copper on the PCB inner layer, the components stay cooler by at least 3%. It effectively dissipates heat from components due to its lower impedance and high thermal conductivity.

The Newest Wireless Solutions

Intel’s latest wireless connectivity, 802.11ax WIFI 6E, comes with a new dedicated 6GHz band. This allows gigabit wireless performance, resulting in a better gaming experience and seamless video streaming. With few dropped connections and up to 2.4 Gbps speeds, your online experience will be better than ever.

Aside from WiFi 6E, the Z690 AORUS Master supports Bluetooth 5.2. This new version transmits data four times faster than the previous 4.2.

AQUANTIA 10GbE BASE-T Ethernet Controller

The Z690 AORUS Master is equipped with the AQUANTIA AQC-113C. This ethernet controller delivers high performance and is backward compatible with 10G / 5G / 2.5G / 1000BASE-T and 100BASE-TX. 

It can offer network connectivity of up to 10 GbE which has 10 times faster transfer speeds than 1 GbE. With AQUANTIA AQC-113C, the Z690 AORUS master is excellent for media centres, gaming, and workstations.

Multi-Zone Lighting

The Z690 AORUS Master offers more LED customisations so you can make your PC more stylish than ever. The motherboard fully supports RGB lighting. And with the redesigned RGB Fusion 2.0 app, you can completely control the LEDs surrounding the motherboard.

When we tried the product for our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review, we noticed some differences in its lighting. So take note that lighting effects may differ from what’s demonstrated in the official site.

Solid Pin Power Connectors of the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard

All AORUS motherboards have solid-plated pin power connectors. These maintain power supply stability when you’re overloading your CPU. 

Other advantages that solid pin power connectors offer include larger contact area for electricity and extreme durability for a longer lifespan. Plus, these offer increased metal quantity which sustains high power and generates heat.

DTS :X Ultra

DTS :X Ultra recreates an authentic and spatially accurate 3-dimensional audio. This makes every gaming experience highly immersive when using any headphones or speakers. This technology supports channel-based, object-based, and scene-based audio. 

Also, it’s calibrated out of the box for a wide range of headphones and speakers.

For DTS codecs, DTS :X Ultra provides post-processing enhancements and device level tuning. The DTS Sound Unbound uses Microsoft Spatial to enable the most realistic audio experience in gaming.

With DTS Headphone:X immersion, stationary and moving sounds in the sonic landscape are audible from above, below, and around. The sounds will pass around you with accurate localisation and great externalisation.

Hi-Res Audio Certification

The Z690 AORUS Master is Hi-Res Audio certified. With that, it’s capable of reproducing up to 40 kHz or higher frequencies. This results in the best audio quality at all times.

Specifications

This is another important part of our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review. A lot of people want to know what the product has in store for them. And, it’s also a way for them to determine if it will work effectively for their build. 

Here are the specifications of the motherboard that you can refer to, to determine if it’s something you really need. 

Network and Connectivity

The Z690 AORUS Master’s ethernet controller is a Marvell AQtion AC-113C LAN chip. It offers up to 10 GbE network connectivity while its wireless connectivity is an Intel WiFi 6E 802.11ax 2T2R. When it comes to its Bluetooth connection, it works with the latest version, Bluetooth 5.2. 

Audio Specifications

In terms of the motherboard’s audio specifications, it makes use of the Realtek ALC-1220-VB. Its front panel line out jack supports the Direct Stream Digital audio or DSD. Then, it uses the ES-9118 DAC chip and support for the DTS:X Ultra. 

Storage Interface & Multi-graphics Technology

The Z690 AORUS Master comes with five built-in M.2 slots: four PCIe 3.0 or two SSD support slots. It has six SATA 6 Gbps connectors while supporting RAIDs 0, 1, 5, and 10 as well. 

Additionally, the motherboard has support for AMD quad GPU CrossFire and two-way AMD CrossFire technologies. 

Expansion Slots of the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard

When it comes to this, the Z690 AORUS Master has one PCI Express x16 slot that’s running at x16 (PCIEX16). To get optimal performance, if only a single PCI Express graphics card is installed, ensure to install the PCIEX16 slot. This is because the PCIEX16 slot adheres to the PCI Express 3.0 standard. 

Two PCI Express x16 slots run at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2) as well. The PCIEX4 slots also conform to the 3.0 standard we’ve mentioned earlier. 

Memory Specifications

Memory-wise, the motherboard supports DDR5 memory modules with overclocking speeds of 6400, 6200, 6000, 5800, 5600, 5400, and 5200 MHz. It also works with 4800 and 4000 MHz. 

Additionally, four DDR5 DIMM sockets are available, and these support up to 128GB of system memory. And, it comes with a dual-channel memory architecture too. What we like about the product is that it even supports Extreme Memory Profile or XMP memory modules. 

USB Ports

On the motherboard, you’ll find five USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (red), and eight USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports. There are four USB 2.0/1.1 ports/connectors for the RGB strips. To be specific, these are two 5VDG A-RGBs and two 12V RGB RGBs. 

Lastly, there are two USB 3.2 Gen2x2 TypeC and one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C USB ports available.

Hands-on with the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard

This is the part that gets more interesting since we’ll discuss how the Z690 AORUS Master performed. We’ve tried using it for weeks to see just how good this motherboard is. But before getting into that, let’s discuss the motherboard’s BIOS. 

While we tested the product for our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review, we also accessed the AORUS BIOS. Technically, it’s the same version that we’ve been encountering from earlier models. However, it comes with a number of interesting updates that are linked to Alder Lake and the DDR5 platform. 

We have the “Simple Mode” that has direct access to various options like Smart Fan 6, XMP, or configuration profiles. When it comes to the “Advanced Mode”, you’ll get to access the platform and overclocking options here. 

One of the specific features of BIOS is the “Hybrid Cores Optimisation”. It adds two CPU upgrade profiles that fine-tune E and P-cores to different scenarios based on their voltage and activation. This feature allows better management of power consumption and CPU performance, disabling all E-cores to acquire the classic 8C/16T. 

We found the DDR5 XMP Booster interesting since it included a database of preset memory profiles from various Die providers. This list will likely be updated with the new BIOS when more memory chips are released.

Another great option was the DDR5 Auto Booster that allowed automatic memory overclocking from 4800 MHz to 5000 MHz.

For the remaining features of the firmware, you’ll find the same elements that are present in other AORUS BIOS versions. These include a complete ventilation tool, an OC profile management, and a simple BIOS updating tool. Moreover, there’s a fairly intuitive overclocking portion specifically for the manual procedure.

If we opt to manually overclock the CPU through BIOS, AORUS offers a simple guide on their product page

We let the motherboard go through numerous tests for our Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master motherboard review. And based on how it performed, it’s close with other Z690 motherboards we’ve tried. Despite the slim gap between motherboards, the Z690 AORUS Master is, on average, towards the top of performance charts. 

For the CPU temperature, this reached a maximum of 83°C during our tests. This wasn’t a surprise to us since the latest Intel processors really quite hot. 

Take note that you’ll need a sturdy and efficient cooling solution especially if you’re using a Core i9 processor.

Our DDR5 MEmory ran really well, we didnt see any ground breaking performance difference compared to DDR4 but it certainly ran better and gave us some FPS boost in games.

Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master Motherboard Review Summary

Once again, Gigabyte has created an impressive high-end motherboard. It’s rich in excellent features like its cool aesthetics, connectivity options, 8-layer construction, RGB lighting, and various new technologies. And, you get all of these for a slightly lower price than its direct competitors.

This motherboard also comes with the latest chipset, DDR5 memory, and a comprehensive BIOS for overclocking and optimisation.

As expected, the Z690 AORUS Master performed excellently. The results it delivered were about the same as other Z690 motherboards, especially in terms of gaming. But in some tests like its power consumption, it was one of the Z690 motherboards that delivered the best performance.

It’s vital to invest in a premium motherboard with heatsinks that can handle sustained loads. That’s especially when you’re building a PC that will render high-resolution video at all times and push maximum boost clocks.

With that, we highly recommend the Z690 AORUS Master from Gigabyte. This motherboard delivered excellent performance in all of our tests. So it’s one of the highest quality motherboards that you should consider when upgrading your PC.

If you want this motherboard for your Z690 system, check out Gigabyte’s store locator to find authorised shops and sellers.