If motherboards were classified according to their economic status, Asus’ $299.99 ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming will be an upper-middle-class aspirant driving an imported SUV with golf clubs in the back. Even if it can’t quite fit sophisticated premium boards like Asus’ own Maximus XII series motherboards in terms of functionality, this aspirational ATX board is perfect for gaming and overclocking. It is, however, far less expensive, making it an excellent option for anybody who needs the effect of a high-end board without paying top dollar. However, in order to compete with boards like Asrock’s Z490 Phantom Gaming Velocita, the ROG Strix would have to put in a lot of effort if it wants to win this segment of the business. Warning: This is a spoiler alert: hard work pays off.
The Board’s Layot
Rather than the traditional Republic of Gamers (ROG) red-and-black color scheme, the ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming is almost completely black, with just a few accents to break up the look. You’ll see some RGB LEDs placed over the chipset heatsink and the rear I/O panel until this ATX-size board is powered up. When they’re turned on, they bring some much-needed colour.
Three heatsinks are arranged around the CPU socket to provide cooling for the control circuitry on this board. Between these heatsinks, a single long heatpipe keeps the 14+2 power stages from overheating. A fan bracket was also attached to the heatsink to the left of the CPU socket by Asus. This allows you to place the included miniature (40mm) fan above the heatsink to force more air into it and improve cooling.
This fan could come in handy if you intend on doing some serious overclocking, but it’s still a safe idea to keep these vital components as cool as possible, so I’d advise everybody to use it. In my trial, the fan was quiet enough that I couldn’t tell if it was spinning or not as compared to the other chassis fans, so there’s no particular drawback to using and using it.
A sprawling heatsink covers the motherboard, and allows contact with a pair of external heatsinks that occupy two M.2 SSD slots.
A Quick Look at Networking, Audio, and Ports
A 2.5Gbps Intel i225-V Ethernet processor is featured on the ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming, which is becoming more popular on higher-end motherboards. With 2.5 times the capacity of the single-gigabit chips they replace, these modern chips are a powerful improvement if you have the pipeline to take advantage of them.
On this board, Asus also included an Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless controller, which can transmit data almost as quickly as the wired NIC. To take advantage of this chip, you’ll require 802.11ax-compliant hardware, such as a Wi-Fi 6 router capable of 2.4Gbps or faster data transmission speeds.
Asus has used its ROG SupremeFX audio solution, which comprises of a Realtek ALC S1220A audio codec with certain enhancements, to move audio on this board. Dual OP-amps, gold-plated jacks, premium Japanese audio capacitors, and EMI shielding have also been added to the audio solution.
Asus jammed nine USB Type-A ports and a single Type-C port into the rear I/O frame, taking advantage of every centimeter of capacity. The first four are USB 2.0 ports, which are better used for keyboards, mice, and other low-bandwidth peripherals, whilst the remaining six use USB 3.x. Few customers may be annoyed by the existence of USB 2.0 ports, but these ports are perfectly adequate for input devices and printers, and they seem to be less fussy for identification at bootup and in the BIOS, so I don’t mind them at all.
There are HDMI and DisplayPort outputs (at far left), an RJ-45 jack, two Wi-Fi antenna links, and the standard audio jacks arranged along the USB ports. (If you choose to use a 10th Generation CPU with onboard graphics rather than a dedicated video card, pay attention to the video outputs.)
There’s even a BIOS flashing tab here. It’s positioned between two USB-A ports, and after giving it some thought, I think it’s a great choice. Since the button is tiny but not recessed, it could be easily pressed by accident. But, with a few USB devices strategically plugged in, I discovered that the USB connectors protected the button and stopped me from inadvertently pressing it, while still making it easy to access on the occasional occasions when I might require it.
The Construction Process
The installation of the Asus ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming into an ATX-compliant case went relatively smoothly, but I did encounter a few minor issues while plugging in cables and dealing with the VRM heatsink fan.
If you’re not planning on using the VRM heatsink fan, you should have no trouble keeping anything on this board linked. If you want to use the fan, this will render plugging in the CPU power connector a little more difficult. If you choose to use the fan, make sure it’s mounted on the motherboard before placing it in a case. This is because the fan mounting bracket is bolted on at the very top of the frame, and accessing this screw after the board has been assembled is challenging, if not impossible. It depends on the case design, but I don’t think most traditional chassis would make it easy.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to M.2 storage units. Just two screws hold the bottom-most M.2 heatsink in place, making it simple to cut. Because of its location at the bottom of the board, you should be able to use this port even though your device already has a graphics card installed.
The upper M.2 slot is a little more difficult to get to. If you have a video card installed, you won’t be able to access it, but that’s usual and unavoidable. The bigger problem is that accessing the M.2 port underneath would include removing a plastic cover that sits over the chipset heatsink and part of the upper M.2 heatspreader. It’s not a major problem, but it does necessitate removing and installing some extra screws, so it’s not the best option.