Today we're taking a look at the VRM thermal performance of 8 entry-level Intel Z590 motherboards. This doesn't mean these are affordable for everyone, but they are considered budget-conscious Z590 motherboards with prices starting at $ 170. Whenever you are spending your Z590 money make sure you are getting a good one. As you'll see in a moment, there are some models that go beyond the spec sheet and VRM performance and certainly fall short of the package.
Asrock Z590 Phantom Game 4
Starting with the cheapest board, the Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4 costs $ 170. It's cheap at least when compared to other Z590 boards, but even then I don't feel like you're getting much motherboard. I've seen better equipped I / O on an Intel NUC, so it's pretty awful for an ATX motherboard. You get a handful of USB ports, three audio jacks, a PS / 2 port, and an HDMI out. But we're here for the VRM and I can tell you that isn't much better, and neither is the cooling.
Installed over the discrete Sino Power MOSFETs are two of the smallest VRM heat sinks you will likely ever find on an ATX motherboard. Removing them will show a 6 phase Vcore, with each phase containing two Sino Power SM4508 Fets on the low side and two SM4503 Fets on the high side, each fed into a pair of inductors. There are at least a dozen low & high side fets, but I still don't expect good things from this board.
Asrock Z590 Pro4
For an additional $ 15, the Z590 Pro4 looks a bit better, though strangely, this board removes the need for the USB Type-C connector on the I / O panel. The upgrades include a DisplayPort out and perhaps more importantly a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port with the Realtek Dragon RTL8125BG controller, which I admit I have no experience with.
In terms of board features, the Pro4 is a reasonable upgrade for $ 185. The biggest upgrade was done to the VRM, and that's important for our testing. The board has a 6 core Vcore VRM but this has been upgraded with 50A Vishay SiC654 power stages and we get two per phase fed into a pair of inductors.
Not only have Asrock improved current handling skills, but they are also attached to some decent heat sinks that are clamped in place with screws instead of plastic clips, which increases the mounting pressure dramatically. The Pro4 looks decent, but let's move on.
Asus Prime Z590-P
If we look at Asus boards now, we have the cheapest ATX model, the Prime Z590-P. At the time of writing, it's only $ 5 more than the $ 190 Asrock Pro4. The I / O panel isn't particularly impressive, although it's a bit better than the Pro4.
The cooling appears more substantial even with two rather large heat sinks and the board itself is noticeably heavier. However, among the heat sinks we find a pretty mediocre Vcore VRM made up of Alpha & Omega AOZ5316 50A power stages. There are a total of ten that have been put together in pairs for a 5-phase Vcore.
If Asus had included a 6th phase, this board could be fine at $ 190, but with only 10 power levels, I don't expect such a good performance despite the large heat sinks.
Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus
The TUF Gaming jumps to $ 240, or $ 50 more than the Prime Z590-P. There's also a $ 260 version that has Wi-Fi support, and that's actually the model we have to test out. Since VRM, cooling, and the rest of the board stay the same, we're pricing the base model as we're not interested in wireless support.
In terms of rear I / O, TUF gaming isn't a huge upgrade over the Prime Z590-P – without the Wi-Fi option, it's essentially the same, although there are some upgrades to existing features, the 2.5 For example, -Gbit LAN now uses an Intel controller instead of Realtek.
However, it is the VRM that we are most interested in and this is where we find a significant upgrade. Asus is still using 50A Powerstages but they are on Semi NCP302150 and there are 14 total of these configured in pairs for a 7 phase Vcore. This is a significantly higher power capacity that should dramatically improve the VRM thermal output for this model.
MSI Z590-A Pro
Next up we have the MSI Z590-A Pro and since MSI potted the Z390 version of this board, MSI has made sure the entry-level model isn't embarrassing. It's priced at $ 190 and is on par with other boards we have for testing such as the Asus Prime Z590-P, Asrock Z590 Pro4, and Gigabyte Z590 UD.
In terms of features, the board is surprisingly good. Not only do you get Intel 2.5Gbps LAN, but you also get 8 USB ports on the I / O panel, half of which is USB 2.0. However, it's also nice to see more than half a dozen ports on offer.
The Z590-A Pro is also equipped with an impressive VRM. The vcore part contains a dozen Alpha & Omega 55A power levels. These are more powerful and efficient power levels than the ones Asus used for the similarly priced Prime Z590-P, and there are two more. MSI also put in some pretty large heat sinks, so this should be an entry-level Z590 board to look out for when we get to the thermal tests anytime soon.
MSI Z590 torpedo
We find that MSI is jumping quite a bit in price for the next best model, just like Asus. The MSI Z590 Torpedo costs $ 240 and is the same as the Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus.
Compared to TUF gaming, the Torpedo offers an additional USB 3.2 port on the I / O panel and a second LAN port, although it is only a 1 Gbit connection. However, this is in addition to a 2.5 Gbit port controlled by an Intel controller.
The Torpedo is a premium board and should be available at this price. While I'm not sure how popular the blue heat sinks will be, it's nice to see a motherboard with some character. The blue heat sinks are huge indeed, and underneath them is an impressive 7-phase Vcore VRM. MSI used two On Semi 60A power levels per phase, which means there are 14 only for the vcore part of the board. With that, we expect this to be one of the best performers on the summary.
Gigabyte Z590 UD
Gigabyte's entry-level ATX Z590 motherboard is the Z590 UD, which will get you back $ 190. Compared to the MSI Z590-A Pro, the I / O panel is similar, although USB Type C and a number of audio jacks are omitted, but the I / O shielding is pre-installed.
The board looks decent and shows the typical black and gray theme. The VRM heat sinks look decent, although only the larger primary heat sink is secured with screws for maximum mounting pressure.
Of course, what's under the heat sinks is the most important thing. Here we find a massive 12 phase Vcore VRM with each phase powered by a Vishay SiC651A 50A power stage. There are a total of 12 power days. While this isn't the most extreme Vcore VRM we've seen so far, it's still impressive for the price.
Gigabyte Z590 Gaming X.
Finally, we have the Gigabyte Z590 Gaming X, which lets you get a much better motherboard ($ 210) for just $ 20 more than the UD. The I / O panel has been expanded to include a USB Type-C connection and 6 audio jacks, and of course the I / O shielding is still pre-installed.
The VRM heat sinks have also been upgraded and are bigger, which is a bit ironic as the power levels have been upgraded which makes them more efficient which means they give off less heat, but this is how these things seem to work.
The Gaming X still uses a dozen Vishay power levels in a 12-phase configuration, but we're finding 60A versions so this board should do a little better than the UD in terms of VRM thermal performance.
Before we get to the graphs, let's talk about the test conditions. For these tests and all future LGA1200 VRM thermal tests, we have built a special system into the Corsair 5000D Airflow housing. We supply power to the Corsair RM850x power supply and the Corsair iCUE H150i Elite Capellix White, which keep things cool.
The 5000D was configured with a single 120mm exhaust fan in the rear and a single 120mm intake fan. On the top of the case is the 360 mm cooler H150i with three 120 mm exhaust fans. This is a standard configuration, the airflow is good and in a 21 degree room this is an optimal setup.
We use a digital thermometer with K thermocouples to record the temperature. We will report the maximum temperature of the rear PCB. After all, we do not report Delta T via ambient temperature, but maintain a room temperature of 21 degrees. To ensure a constant ambient temperature, a thermocouple is positioned next to the test system.
For testing the motherboards, we have three configurations with two different 11th generation Intel Core processors. The first test uses a standard Core i9-11900K as we are interested in how each of these cards configures that processor. Then of course we overclock the 11900K for a stress test and also the 11600K for a more relaxed stress test, both of which are overclocked with 1.35 V to 4.9 GHz.
To put a load on the system, we are using the Blender Gooseberry workload which will run for an hour. From this point on, we will report the maximum PCB temperature recorded with type k thermocouples.
Here is a look at the VRM thermal output with a standard Intel Core i9-11900K processor. The first thing you should note is that this is not an apple-to-apple test. The sustained CPU all-core frequency can vary widely, with the Asrock boards being by far the worst, despite running within spec.
Basically, Asrock has decided to limit its entry-level Z590 motherboards to the Intel base specification (125 W TDP). They're the only manufacturer to do this with Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI, all of which run the 11900K at 4.7 GHz to 4.8 GHz, depending on the board model.
Usually Asrock doesn't limit the performance of their boards and I believe the more expensive models don't, even though I haven't tested them yet. Has Asrock just decided to follow Intel specs or are they lacking confidence in their design?
Out of interest, I lifted the performance limits with the Intel XTU software and raised the 11900K to an all-core frequency of around 4.8 GHz for the Phantom Gaming 4. The only problem was that the saw temperatures jumped to 101 degrees. a 28 degree increase over what the board immediately did with the enforced 125 watt TDP limits.
So if you want the same unparalleled experience that you get with the Asus Prime Z590-P, Gigabyte Z590 UD, or MSI Z590-A Pro with Phantom Gaming, then you have to be okay with dangerously high VRM temperatures.
Even the Asus Prime Z590-P wasn't particularly impressive at 78 ° C, but at least the 11900K wasn't limited in performance here. Still, that operating temperature of almost 80 ° C looks pretty bad next to the Gigabyte Z590 UD and MSI Z590-A Pro, which both ran at around 60 ° C, despite making the 11900K run 100 MHz slower. To compare apples to apples, let's move on to the OC results.
Since all motherboards were overclocked to 4.9 GHz, the power consumption for the CPU only increased to 219 to 229 watts, depending on the model.
It's worth noting that none of these boards throttled the 11900K after an hour of stress testing in Blender, which is pretty impressive, although for some reason the Asrock boards struggled to accurately maintain 4.9GHz even though they weren't throttling. Of course, the operating temperature of Phantom Gaming 4 is not optimal and reaches 112 ° C on the back of the circuit board. This is not the internal component temperature, which must be at least 10 degrees higher.
The Asus Prime Z590-P, which wasn't exactly impressive, was significantly better than the Phantom Gaming 4 at 96 ° C. The Asrock Z590 Pro4 was cooler again at 86 ° C and while this is an acceptable result, it's not great especially when compared to similarly expensive Z590 boards such as Gigabyte and MSI.
The Gigabyte Z590 UD only reached 74 ° C, while the Gaming X version was only marginally better at 73 ° C. The MSI Z590-A Pro peaked at 70 ° C while the torpedo only reached 68 ° C. The Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus achieved the best result with a maximum value of 67 ° C.
To be fair, all the boards that ran between 67 ° C and 74 ° C were excellent, and those results are close enough to call for a tie. When it comes to VRM thermal performance they are all a great deal and you buy them based on board features, design, price, etc. Before we wrap up the tests let's see how they fare on an overclocked 11600K.
For those of you who never intend to pair your Z590 motherboard with a 11900K, or don't plan on putting the CPU under stress for an extended period of time, this is why the Core i5-11600K can get you by. Basically, all boards passed relatively easily, even the Phantom Gaming 4 reached a maximum of just under 80 ° C. The rest of the package ran at well below 70 ° C, which is a very comfortable result, and you would have no problem keeping these boards around to run the watch with an overclocked 11600K.
What we learned
This is how the cheapest Intel Z590 motherboards from top manufacturers work and are surprisingly good overall. The only awful board to avoid is the Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4, and while I would normally take the cheapest deal a little looser, I think Asrock needs to stop.
We assume that they are trying to attract buyers by offering the cheapest Z590 board, but ultimately they use their customers. The Phantom Gaming 4 should at best be a B560 board, not a Z590. The idea of the Z590 is to offer CPU overclocking for flagship parts, and it is totally unacceptable to work in a cool room with a well-ventilated case well above 100 ° C.
Hence, if you come up with the extra $ 20 for landing the MSI Z590-A Pro or Gigabyte Z590 UD, you are always much better off, even if you only want to use a Core i5 part, they are just out of a lot better quality boards.
The other problem I have with these Asrock boards is that they enforce the 125 watt TDP limit right away. I was wondering if this is the case with all Asrock Z590 boards or just the cheapest models. I don't have an answer to that yet, but I bought the more expensive models so I will be able to test these out shortly.
When Asrock has lifted the performance restrictions on the more expensive Z590 boards, an unfortunate scenario emerges where you don't know exactly what kind of performance the Z590 boards will deliver right away. It could be an all-core frequency of 4.3 GHz or 4.8 GHz, or something in between.
Thankfully, the Asrock Z590 Pro4 is a lot better, at least when compared to the Phantom Gaming 4, but alongside competing MSI and Gigabyte motherboards, it's a tough pass. In terms of value, the Gigabyte Z590 UD and MSI Z590-A Pro are hard to beat, and I'd argue they can't be beat. At $ 190, the Asus Prime Z590-P is not exactly convincing with its weak features and inconspicuous VRM performance.
On the other hand, the Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus is excellent. It's also pricey at $ 240, although that seems like the usual price for a decent Z590 board. The MSI Z590 Torpedo was also very competitive at this price point, while the Gigabyte Z590 Gaming X is undisputed at $ 210.
If you're looking for an affordable, yet high-quality Z590 motherboard, I recommend the MSI Z590-A Pro and the Gigabyte Z590 UD as a backup option. If you're looking to spend a little more money and want a few extra features and a better quality VRM, the Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus or MSI Z590 Torpedo is our first choice.
- Gigabyte Z590 UD on Amazon
- Gigabyte Z590 Gaming X on Amazon
- MSI Z590-A Pro on Amazon
- MSI Z590 Torpedo on Amazon
- Asus Prime Z590-P on Amazon
- Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus on Amazon
- Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4 on Amazon
- Asrock Z590 Pro4 on Amazon