ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II motherboard review: timely reinforcement
Intel has recently introduced a new line of 14th generation Core desktop processors. The updated series of chips codenamed Raptor Lake Refresh is designed for the existing LGA1700 platform and works with motherboards based on Intel 600/700 chipsets. However, the new enthusiast models with unlocked multipliers have a considerable power “appetite”, and to get the best performance without additional restrictions, reinforced platforms with a certain power reserve are desirable. It is not surprising that motherboard manufacturers simultaneously with the presentation of the 14th generation Intel Core offered new models with the requirements of top CPUs and additional functionality. Today we are reviewing ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II, an updated version with interesting changes in hardware.
|ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II
|Intel Core 12/13/14th generations, Pentium Gold, Celeron
|m-ATX, 305×244 mm
|4×DIMM DDR5, up to DDR5-8000+; 196 GB max.
|1×PCI-E 5.0 x16; 2×PCI-E 4.0 x16 (x4 mode)
|1×M.2 PCI-E 5.0 x4; 4×M.2 PCI-E 4.0 x4; 4×SATA 6 GB/s
|1×2,5 GbE LAN (Intel i226-V); 1×Wi-Fi 7 (Intel BE202, 802.11be, Bluetooth 5.4)
|Elements of the interface panel
|10×USB 3.2 Gen2 (Type-A); 1xUSB 3.2 Gen2x2 (Type-C); 1xUSB 3.2 Gen2 (Type-C); 1×HDMI 2.1; 1×DisplayPort 1.4; 2× Wi-Fi antenna; 5× audio; S/PDIF; Cler CMOS button; BIOS Flashback button
|8×4 foam (PWM/DC)
|Realtek ALC4020 codec; Savitech SV3H712 amplifier
|23 000 UAH (~$605)
The scope of delivery
In our case, the motherboard was tested as part of an ultra-modern gaming system, while usually ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II will be offered to potential buyers in a slightly more modest configuration.
Specifically, the box contains an additional ASUS WiFi Q-Antenna, two SATA interface cables, a set of Q-Latch mounts and additional rubber gaskets for installing M.2 drives, a set of plastic ties to organize cables in the system, a ROG branded fabric keychain, a set of stickers, and a quick installation guide.
Design and layout ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II
We are dealing with a full-size ATX board with overall dimensions of 305×244 mm. The model uses an 8-layer printed circuit board.
Recently, ROG devices have mostly been designed in restrained dark colors, and ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II is no exception. The board has a black PCB, connectors, and cooling system elements. When switched off, only the decorative plexiglass molding in the form of ROG on the chipset heatsink contrasts against the general background.
When the platform is in operation, the large-scale logo of the game series is highlighted on the casing of the interface panel.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II is based on the already well-known Intel Z790 chipset. Therefore, the capabilities of the PCH itself do not raise any questions, but there are a lot of changes in the equipment of the board itself. As usual, the model supports the entire range of processors available for LGA1700 – Intel Core of the 12th, 13th and 14th generations. Given that the updated model was released simultaneously with the launch of Raptor Lake Refresh, the board initially supports work with these CPUs without the need to update the firmware first.
One of the significant updates was an increase in the power of the CPU power stabilization unit. The current VRM phase scheme has a 18+1+2 configuration, while the circuit uses power assemblies with a declared operating current of up to 110A. Whereas the base version of ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI uses the 18+1 option with 90A assemblies.
Intel’s iconic 6GHz chips are not as easy to handle as we would like. For higher operating frequencies, the supply voltage has to be raised, and in combination with considerable temperatures, the total power consumption of the CPU with the limiters removed under maximum load exceeds 350 watts. These values were obtained during the first acquaintance with the Core i9-14900K.
Massive radiator structures are provided for cooling the power elements. On the assemblies located closer to the interface panel, a giant block is fixed, which also serves as a protective decorative cover. This dual model of using this element has already become quite popular for high-end boards.
Two 8-pin connectors are provided for connecting additional power. One of the indicators of models designed to work with high-power chips.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II offers four slots for RAM modules. Just like Intel itself, the motherboard developers have worked to improve the work with high-speed kits and DIMMs of “non-standard” capacity. The board supports up to 196 GB (4×48 GB), with the declared ability to work in DDR5-8000+ modes.
When operating at maximum frequencies and high supply voltages, DDR5 modules can become noticeably hot, which affects their performance. Taking into account this feature of the new standard memory with integrated PMIC, ASUS engineers offer a special DIMM Flex mechanism that allows you to dynamically adjust the parameters of the modules depending on the temperature of the memory strips. Additional thermal sensors are provided on the board, as well as a controller that independently monitors and responds to changes in the temperature of the DIMM.
So far, only six new ASUS boards based on the Intel Z790 chipset support DIMM Flex technology. The list of modules that have been validated includes DDR5-6800+ kits, so it is obvious that this mechanism will be useful primarily when using the fastest kits.
Among the interesting new developments related to the memory subsystem is the Memory Detect technology. The board automatically detects if the modules are installed correctly in the DIMM socket before the system is turned on. If there is a bad contact or the module is not fully seated, the corresponding LED in the Q-LED indicator line will light up. For Memory Detect to work, a 24-pin ATX power connector must be connected to the board and the system must be in S5 state. After the PC is turned on, the Q-LED diagnostic mechanism starts working in the usual mode, identifying possible problems with key subsystems at the start.
The board has three full-size PCI-E x16 expansion slots. The main connector supports PCI Express 5.0 processor lines. The connector itself has additional metal reinforcement, which increases protection against mechanical damage when using massive video cards.
It is when removing a large graphics adapter that the additional Q-Release fastening mechanism will help. By pressing the additional button, which is relatively easy to access, the video card is loosened in the slot.
Returning to the layout of the expansion slots, it should be noted that both lower connectors operate in PCI-E 4.0 x4 mode and are implemented by the chipset. The presence of sufficiently fast additional slots can be useful when connecting controllers that require increased bandwidth. Of course, backward compatibility is maintained, so if necessary, the slots can also be used for any expansion cards with a PCI-E x1 connector.
We should also pay attention to the location of the slots – there is a distance of two conventional slots between the first and the second, so the second slot will remain available when using a three-slot video card.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II is a pleasant surprise with the ability to connect M.2 drives. The board allows you to equip the platform with five SSDs of this format at once. If you look at the photo, the platforms for M.2 devices occupy almost a third of the total PCB area. This is quite an achievement, especially considering the equipment and overall density of the board layout.
M.2 drives are clearly becoming more and more commonly used, even in applications where there is no pursuit of maximum performance. So it’s no surprise that even if the total capacity of the drives is a priority, multiple SSDs require a corresponding number of suitable connection slots.
In addition to the number of available M.2 ports, the board also has an interesting functionality. ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II allows you to connect the most productive PCI-E 5.0 drives, and such features are rather an exception for the LGA1700 platform. Usually all 16 processor lines of this standard are used for the main PCI-E x16 slot. But in this case, the board allows you to split the lines by allocating PCI-E 5.0 x4 for one of the M.2 ports. In this case, the board can be used with the fastest SSDs, which are already gradually appearing on the market.
PCI-E 5.0 drives, in addition to their impressive transfers, also get very hot under load and are virtually useless without additional cooling. Therefore, to remove heat from such models, ASUS developers have provided a massive cooler with an additional finned design. Moreover, in this case, cooling of the elements on the back of the SSD is also provided.
When using the M.2_1 connector, the PCI-E x16 slot will operate in PCI-E x8 mode, regardless of which interface standard the SSD supports. Therefore, M.2_1 is a priority when connecting M.2 PCI-E 5.0, and for slower models, other M.2 ports can be used first. Among the interesting features, we note that it is the PCI-E 4.0 x4 processor lines that are dedicated to M.2_3, while the other connectors (M.2_2, M.2_4, M.2_5) are serviced by the chipset.
Additional cooling is provided for all M.2 ports, and the drives are mounted using a screwless mechanism with plastic Q-Latch latches.
The general M.2 configuration is as follows. As you can see, one of the ports also allows you to connect an M.2 drive with a SATA interface.
As for the connection of other SATA devices/drives, the board has four corresponding ports that are oriented perpendicular to the PCB, and the panel with connectors is located next to the chipset cooler.
Both PCI-E and SATA drives can be combined into RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays as needed.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II is well equipped in terms of cooling system organization – there are as many as eight 4-pin connectors on the board. Two of them are nominally designed for the CPU cooler (they have one control channel), and five more are for case fans. There is also one connector for the liquid cooling system pump.
Despite the conditional distribution of “roles”, all connectors are designed for power up to 12 W.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II has some additional equipment, although it is not positioned as a platform for overclockers. There is a massive power button on the board. In this case, it’s more of a decorative element, and a certain tribute to belonging to the line of usually unassuming ROG products. It’s unlikely that this board will work in an open stand, but if you do get the chance, it will be convenient to start the system without additional manipulations with a screwdriver.
More useful in all cases will be the Q-Code segment indicator, which displays the error code of a particular subsystem if there are any difficulties with the platform at the start. Recently, manufacturers have not been equipping boards with such an indicator very often, except for top-of-the-line models, but this is exactly the option that would be useful for more affordable boards.
Right next to the Q-Code is the Q-LED line of LED indicators, which we have already mentioned. The usefulness of this rapid diagnostic mechanism is beyond doubt, except that in the presence of Q-Code, it may already be a certain duplication. However, considering that these LEDs in this case are also responsible for tracking the correct connection of DIMM modules (Memory Detect), the presence of Q-LED does not seem redundant. There is never too much diagnostics.
In addition to additional functional equipment, the board is not deprived of additional lighting. Fortunately, the days when developers considered it appropriate to “hit the ground running” by flooding all the elements of motherboards with colorful illumination are long gone. In this sense, a restrained approach with an elegant implementation is impressive, when the backlight really enlivens the interior space and organically fits into the overall visual composition.
The ROG series logo on the front panel casing, cut within a segmental parallelogram, looks like a sufficient RGB emitter that is clearly visible through the side panel of the case and does not look excessive. As you can see in the photo, the board supports the ability to synchronize the backlighting of different backlight components. In our case, the logo gets into the color light wave together with the fan mounted on the back of the case.
If you want to add more intensity to your lighting, ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II offers three 3-pin connectors for connecting second-generation addressable aRGB LED strips, as well as one for connecting a 5050 RGB LED light bar. So you can “light up” in a serious way.
With the release of the 14th generation Core chips, Intel has also given the go-ahead to equip new motherboards with the latest Intel Wi-Fi 7 BE202 (802.11be) controllers. ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II became one of the first models to support the next wireless network protocol. The protocol is tri-band (2.4/5/6 GHz), with the ability to expand the bandwidth from 160 to 320 MHz. Additional optimizations also increase the data transfer rate. The Wi-Fi 7 standard will actually begin to be massively implemented in 2024, so there will likely be improvements for the future. Key features of the new standard are available for preview on the ASUS website.
As for the practical aspects, it should be noted that the board is equipped with an ASUS Wi-Fi Q-Antenna with specific connectors that are easier to connect, although the original connectors affect the overall versatility of the solution.
The standard antenna has improved characteristics. In the settings of the proprietary Armory Crate utility, the Fast Check mechanism is available, which allows you to determine the location of the antenna where the strongest signal is observed. Direction Finder helps to optimally orient the antenna direction.
To connect to a wired network, an Intel i226-V controller is used with support for data transfer at speeds up to 2.5 Gbps.
The ROG SupremeFX sound subsystem is based on the Realtek ALC4020 audio codec with additional metal shielding. As usual, the audio path is separated from the main PCB array. The circuit uses specialized capacitors. An additional Savitech SV3H712 amplifier is provided to “drive” high-impedance headphones/headsets connected to the jacks on the front panel of the case.
The general impression of the subsystem operation is that the sound is bright and transparent. The high frequencies are very detailed and do not suffer from either unpleasant “harshness” or excessive softness. The bass is accentuated, it does not turn into “mush” on fast compositions, but in some genres it may seem a little too much. However, a lot depends on the capabilities of the connected acoustic system.
For additional customization, you can use options from Realtek Audio Control.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II offers a high-speed internal USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port with a bandwidth of up to 20 GB/s. At the same time, the power of the connector has been increased to 30 W and support for Power Delivery 3.0 (5/9 V to 3 A, 12 V to 2.5 A) with the ability to quickly charge devices connected to the USB Type-C connector on the chassis panel.
We tested the technology by connecting a Google Pixel 7 smartphone to a PC. Indeed, fast charging works.
In addition, the manufacturer offers the USB Wattage Watcher utility, which displays the current level of power consumption of the USB port. In the case of the Google Pixel 7, the consumption was at 20 watts, which is the fastest charging for this model.
When the system is turned off (S5 state), the external Type-C charging port remains at 7.5W, so devices can be powered in this case, but for maximum battery recovery, the PC must be turned on.
The interface panel is very rich. We should also note that it is initially covered with a metal cap, so you will definitely not forget to insert it into the case when assembling the system. As for the composition of interfaces, it is a real paradise for “peripheralists” with a bunch of external devices. The panel has 10 (ten!) USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 GB/s) ports in Type-A format at once. In addition, there are two USB Type-C ports, one of which corresponds to USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gb/s), the other to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gb/s). There is also an Ethernet socket, Q-Antenna connectors for an external antenna, five 3.5 mm audio jacks, and an optical S/PDIF.
Full-size HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 outputs are provided for connecting screens. In addition, the panel also has buttons for clearing CMOS memory and activating BIOS Flashback, a technology for offline firmware updates from a USB drive.
There are almost no surface mount elements on the back of the board. As you can see, all the radiator structures on the board are screw mounted.
BIOS and service software
The UEFI functional shell is provided to configure the platform’s operating parameters. During the first startup, it opens EZ Mode with key parameters. Advanced Mode is offered for detailed configuration of options.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II offers quite a bit of room for experimentation with optimizations. Of course, the Intel Z790 board supports overclocking, but the top-end Core chips of the 13th/14th generations already require considerable effort to cool under maximum load in normal mode, so experienced overclockers with the appropriate knowledge and equipment usually play with additional overclocking. For the rest of us, “underclocking” is more likely to be a popular option. The board usually allows for such optimizations.
The Armory Crate program is offered in the operating system to customize the operation. In fact, this is a comprehensive package with a set of options for monitoring parameters and activating the proposed functions. Thematic parameters are grouped in different sections. Here you can find temperature readings with the adjustment of cooling system algorithms, backlight synchronization, and activation of the Two-Way AI Noise Cancellation system. Network settings with traffic prioritization (Game First) and options for adjusting the superposition of the wireless module’s antenna for the best signal quality are also concentrated here.
Test bench configuration
Processor: Intel Core i9-14900K (8/16+16; 3.2/6.0 GHz + 2.4/4.4 GHz)
Cooling system: ASUS ROG RYUJIN III 360 ARGB
RAM: G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB DDR5-6000 64 GB (2×32 GB) (F5-6000J3040G32GX2-TZ5RK)
Video card: ASUS TUF-RTX4090-O24G-GAMING (GeForce RTX 4090 24 GB)
Storage devices: Samsung 980 Pro 1 TB; Samsung 870 QVO 2 TB
Power supply: ASUS ROG STRIX 1000W GOLD (1000W)
Case: ASUS ROG Strix Helios GX601
To review the ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II, we used a very powerful platform based on the Core i9-14900K processor with a 24 GB GeForce RTX 4090 graphics card, which was assembled by Artline. Such a “charged” system is a good opportunity to test the capabilities of the motherboard in real conditions, not on a test bench.
In the process
It was ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II that we used during the first acquaintance with the capabilities of the older model of the new 14th generation Intel Core desktop chips. This time, formally, the next generation of processors was more of an additionally boosted version of the previous generation.
Higher frequencies on the supply voltage along with performance promise an increase in the load on the motherboard. It is not surprising that manufacturers have upgraded power stabilization units in the updated models on Intel Z790. This will definitely not be superfluous when it comes to working with the top-end Raptor Lake Refresh processors.
Returning to the Core i9-14900K, we can only say that it is very fast, powerful, but hot and power-hungry. It seems that Intel has already used up all the available resources of silicon wafers made using 10-nanometer technology. However, this applies only to the use of CPUs in normal consumer conditions. If enthusiasts get down to business, it turns out that there is still room for growth. Hard-core overclockers have already managed to set another world record with the Core i9-14900K, raising the chip’s operating frequency to 9043 MHz. Although this did not even require nitrogen, but liquid helium and the new ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Apex Encore board, but that’s a nuance.
We return to our conditions and check the CPU consumption, having previously removed the limits (activating ASUS MultiCore Enhancement – Remove All limits). We create a load using the multi-threaded rendering mode in Cinebench R23.
In such conditions, the processor’s power appetite is frankly immodest. The maximum consumption of a 24-core CPU rises to 374 W, with an average of 316 W in the process. This is a clear explanation of why new motherboards need to increase the power of the VRM power module. This is not just another whim of developers trying to “up the price” of their products (of course, this is not without its share of problems). The technical specifications of the top chips force them to take such steps.
In the absence of energy limits, even when using a liquid cooling system under high load, the CPU temperature can rise to 100C. It was under these conditions that we also checked the operation of the VRM unit and chipset. The available temperature sensor in the area of the power elements signaled an increase in the heating of the assemblies up to 58C, while the PCH chip warmed up to 47C.
When using ASUS MultiCore Enhancement, the board allows you to limit the temperature limit of the processor to 90C. In this case, the maximum power consumption under a multi-threaded load dropped to 320W, and the average power consumption dropped to 277W. The operating frequencies of the productive and energy-efficient cores were only ~100 MHz lower, so the final result of almost 38,000 points looks pretty decent against the 38,900 without restrictions.
By disabling the additional acceleration technology, we got less impressive power consumption figures. Under load, it was already 275W peak and 248W average. At the same time, the processor temperature remained in the range of 81-85C, and the average operating frequencies of the P/E-cores were 5200/4200 MHz. By the way, 37,300 points in Cinebench R23 is a pretty decent result if you don’t try to get the maximum performance. Additional steps come at a very high price.
Artificial intelligence is penetrating the most unexpected areas, and processor overclocking is no exception. Intel has trained a model that allows you to select the optimal parameters for specific processor instances, taking into account the capabilities of the cooling system. The option is available for Core i9-14900K/KF chips, which can be accelerated in this way using an updated version of the Intel XTU utility with AI Assist.
According to the results of diagnostics and rapid testing, the system determined the stability of the platform with an additional increase in the operating frequencies of all processor cores by an additional 100 MHz without increasing the supply voltage.
According to the results of an internal test, after overclocking, the performance increased by almost 4.5%, which is even more than one would expect. That is, there is still some potential, but you shouldn’t expect any frequency feats without additional training and equipment.
The test system was equipped with a dual-channel G.Skill Trident Z5 RGB DDR5-6000 RAM kit with a total capacity of 64 GB. The available XMP profile provides for the set to operate with a delay formula of 30-40-40-96 at a supply voltage of 1.4 V.
In this mode, the kit provided throughput at the level of 88-94 GB/s, with total delays of about 70 ns.
Having access to a system with Core i9-14900K+GeForce RTX 4090 24GB, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to at least superficially evaluate the gaming potential of such a setup.
Beforehand, there is a minimum of visual synthetics from 3DMark Time Spy.
To get the maximum performance and increase the CPU load, we used Full HD mode with medium quality settings. In this case, the number of fps is simply sky-high. We’ve attached a confirmatory screenshot.
Manufacturers do not yet offer monitors with a refresh rate of 650 Hz, so in certain projects, you will have to improve the picture quality. But that’s just a pleasant hassle.
The GeForce RTX 4090 24GB won’t be scared by 4K mode with maximum quality settings. The system “pulls” heavy projects, providing very comfortable performance, including after activating ray tracing. There is only one caveat here – do not run Cyberpunk 2077 with Path Tracing without DLSS.
The cost of top motherboard models has increased significantly in recent years. As in the case of video cards, the perception of price categories of devices is constantly changing. Entry-level models are gradually drifting towards $100-150, manufacturers are already offering the conditional middle class for $200-300 without hesitation, the older ones are just starting at $400-500, while the ultra-high-end ones are asking $1000-1500. Moreover, the cost does not fundamentally depend on the platform, such price tags are found in both the Inte LGA1700 and AMD AM5 ecosystems.
The expected retail price of the updated ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI II model is 23,000 UAH (~$600), which is ~1800 UAH more than the current price of the first modification of the ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-E GAMING WIFI board. The new version should be available in Ukraine in the near future.