The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master hits our test bench with a statement from Gigabyte calling it “the new king of gaming.” Along with the title, the new Aorus Master gets an updated feature list and includes one of the most capable VRMs, all from a $469.99 motherboard. The Z690 Master has a whopping five M.2 sockets, 10 GbE and Wi-Fi 6E, along with an updated look. Not only does this mid-range board look like a great foundation for your new Alder Lake build, but it also has the hardware to back it up.
Looking at the last-generation Z590 Aorus Master, Gigabyte sticks to the black-orange theme that we’ve known for the past few years. The new board picks up on that and gives a more generic yet premium look. Aside from the looks, one of the main differences between the last generation and this board is the number of M.2 connections (out of three) and the power delivery (increase in quantity and quality). Overall, this is a multifaceted improvement over the previous generation. And while the $469.99 price tag is high for what many would consider a mid-range or upper mid-range board, it’s reasonable compared to the existing market and comparably priced Z690 options.
Our Aorus Master performed well overall in terms of performance, with most benchmarks running average or slightly faster than average. Game performance was solid overall, but if it crowns this board king, that’s compared to the last generation Master. Compared to other Z690 cards, the only tests where it was slower than average were in the Procyon office suite. That said, the difference wasn’t huge in this test line, but it did match the DDR4 cards better than the DDR5 options we tested. Other than that, it performs just like or slightly better than its peers.
Read on for much more, including overclocking adventures, features, and all the details that can set this board apart from the rest. Before we get started, though, here’s a full list of the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master specs from the Gigabyte website.
Specifications – Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master
|Wall outlet||LGA 1700|
|Voltage regulator||22 Phase (19+1+2, 105A MOSFETs for Vcore)|
|Video ports||(1) DisplayPort (v1.2)|
|USB ports||(1) USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port (20 Gbps)|
|(1) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port (10 Gbps)|
|(5) USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)|
|(4) USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)|
|Network connections||(1) 10 GbE|
|Audio connections||(2) Analog + SPDIF|
|PCIe x16||(1) v 5.0 (x16)|
|(2) v. 3.0 (x4)|
|CrossFire/SLIE||AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire and 2-Way Crossfire|
|DIMM slots||(4) DDR4 6400+(OC), 128GB capacity|
|M.2 slots||(1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 110mm)|
|(2) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 110mm)|
|(1) PCIe 3.0 x4 (32 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)|
|(1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe + SATA (up to 80mm)|
|SATA ports||(6) SATA3 6Gbps (supports RAID 0/1/5/10)|
|USB headers||(1) USB v3.2 Gen 2×2, Type-C (20 Gbps)|
|(2) USB v3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbps)|
|(2) USB v2.0 (480Mbps)|
|Fan/Pump Heads||(10) 4-pin (CPU, water cooling CPU, system, system/pump fans)|
|RGB headers||(2) aRGB Gen2 (3 pin)|
|(2) RGB (4 pin)|
|Diagnostic panel||2-character debug LED|
|Internal Button/Switch||Reset button|
|Ethernet controller(s)||Marvell AQtion AQC113C (10 Gbps)|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E (2×2 axes, MU-MIMO, 2.4/5/6 GHz, 160 MHz, BT 5.2)|
|USB controllers||Realtek RTS5411 (2)|
|HD audio codec||Realtek ALC1220|
|TTL/DTS Ultra||/ Yes|
After opening the box and taking the board out, you’ll find the accessory stack hidden under a cardboard divider. The Aorus Master contains all the basics and more. Below is a list of everything that comes with this board.
- (6) SATA 6Gb/s cables
- Wi-Fi antenna
- (5) M.2 screw sets
- User Manual / Guide
- G connector
- (2) Temperature probes
- RGB extension cable
After taking the board out of the box and taking a closer look, we see in more detail how Gigabyte changed the styling from gray with orange highlights to something more agnostic, with the black 8-layer PCB. On the left side of the socket is a plastic cover that extends over the left VRM heatsink with the Aorus branding and an RGB element. Heat sinks cover most of the bottom half of the board and have a unique design with lines running through them for more surface area. The chipset heatsink has the second RGB lightning source and highlights the Aorus Falcon branding in this area.
Overall, I’m happy with the aesthetic changes Gigabyte has made to the Z690 Master. The RGB lighting is bright enough and saturated, but doesn’t draw attention from the rest of your build. This is definitely a visual improvement over the Z590 version and still gives the feel of a premium motherboard.
Focusing on the top half of the board will give us a better view of all the heatsinks and shrouds in the area. There is a plastic cover that sticks out and partially covers the VRM heatsinks on the left side. The lower section has a brushed aluminum finish and carries various Aorus branding. The VRM heatsinks themselves are heavy and use fins to dissipate the heat from below. The extra surface keeps all pieces excellently cool. The processor is powered by two 8-pin EPS connectors between the two heatsinks (one required). Both EPS connectors are also shielded.
To the right of the socket we come across four reinforced DRAM slots (locks on both sides) that support up to 128 GB of DDR5. Gigabyte lists support for speeds up to DDR5 6400(OC), which is one of the most common values we’ve come across.
Just above the DRAM slots are four 4-pin fan headers (out of 10 in total). We come across the CPU_FAN and CPU_OPT headers along with two SYS_FAN headers in this area. According to the manual, each fan head supports 2A/24W of power, which is enough to lift a few fans or power most pumps. As always, check the fan/pump power consumption before connecting it to a motherboard.
If the integrated RGB lighting isn’t enough, there are two headers for additional RGB lighting in the top right corner (2 more at the bottom). There are also two 3-pin ARGB and two 4-pin RGB headers, which should be enough connectivity for lighting. You can control all connected RGBs through the RGB Fusion application.
Moving to the right, we come across the 24-pin ATX connector for on-board power, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers, and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 connector on the front panel. If there’s one thing this board has a lot, it’s USB ports. Between the 11 on the back IO area and all the headers it would be hard to run out.
Gigabyte continued with the VRM and reached a 22-stage lineup, with 19 stages dedicated to Vcore. Power is sent from the EPS connector(s) to a 20-channel Renesas RAA229131 PWM controller. The current is then sent to the 19 105A RAA2210540 SPS MOSFETs. The 1,995 amps is one of the highest I remember on any motherboard in any class. It should go without saying that it is easily able to handle our stock Intel i9-12900K processor and while being overclocked using ambient cooling methods. If you like sub-ambient cooling for sports, the power delivery of this board won’t be the limiting factor.
Shifting to the bottom half of the board, about the only visible things are the three PCIe slots. Hidden beneath a host of shrouds and heatsinks are five M.2 sockets and the audio bits. The Realtek ALC1220 audio codec is located on the left, hidden under the shroud. Complementing the Realtek chip is an ESS SABER ES9118 reference DAC. Last but not least are the WIMA and Nichicon audio caps. I’d love to see the ALC4080 codec here, but in reality few will miss the marginally improved, newer codec.
In the center of the board are three full-length reinforced PCIe slots. The top connector (primary GPU) is your PCIe 5.0 x16 slot and connects directly to the CPU. The bottom two slots connect through the chipset and operate at PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds. This configuration supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire and 2-Way AMD Crossfire.
Above and between the PCIe slots are five (yes five) M.2 connections. The top connector (M2A_CPU) with the larger heat sink supports PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) devices up to 110mm. You may have guessed from the name that it is a CPU connection. Four others, M2P_SB, M2Q_SB, M2C_SB and M2M_SB, connect through the chipset. M2P and M2Q_SB support PCIe x4 devices up to 110mm, while M2M_SB below also supports PCIe 4.0 devices up to 80mm. Finally, M2C_SB runs on PCIe 3.0 x4 (32 Gbps) based modules. Gigabyte supports RAID 0/1/5/10 modes.
Moving past the chipset to the right edge of the board, we come across two Thunderbolt plug-in headers and six SATA ports. As for lane sharing, M2A/M2P/M2Q connectors do not affect other ports or slots. If a PCIe-based module is installed in M2C PCIEX4_1 (middle PCIe slot), it will be disabled. Finally, using a PCIe based SSD in M2M will disable SATA ports 2/3. In the worst case scenario, when you use all M.2 sockets, four SATA ports are available and the middle PCIe slot is not available. If you need more storage space, you can look to the HEDT platforms or servers.
Finally, at the bottom of the board we find a whole series of headers ranging from USB to RGB and even some sensors in between. Here’s a full list, arranged from left to right:
- Front panel audio
- 3-pin ARGB header
- 4-pin RGB header
- Sound sensor
- System Fan Head
- (2) USB 2.0 headers
- Temperature sensor header
- (2) System Fan Heads
- TPM header
- Front Panel Header
Returning to the back IO area, we have a pre-installed IO board to match the black theme of Aorus Masters. It has a black background with gray letters so that the port information is easy to read. There are a total of 11 USB ports on the back: two USB 3.2 Type-C ports (20 Gbps and 10 Gbps), five USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) ports, and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps) ports . The nine USB Type-A ports should be enough for most users. If you plan on using the integrated video on some Alder Lake processors, there is a DisplayPort connector for that purpose. On the left, we spy the Q-Flash+ and Clear CMOS buttons to flash and reset the BIOS. The audio stack consists of five analog plugs and an SPDIF port. Last but not least, there are connections for the WiFi 6E antenna.
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