About the Intel i9-9900K
Intel has not only caught up with AMD’s Ryzen 7 2700X in all areas with the Core i9-9900K AMDs, but also clearly overtook it in some parts. The flagship of consumer desktop CPUs is at the top of the table in almost every conceivable application thanks to many cores, many threads and excellent clock speeds. The chipset update also brings some worthwhile new features.
Intel Core i9-9900K in review: Refined espresso
With the ninth generation of the Intel Core series, Intel introduced the refresh of the Coffee Lake architecture. This means that there will be no hefty new features since 2015, because Coffee Lake was already a refresh from Kaby Lake, which in turn was a refresh from Skylake. This means that the company will continue to use the 14-nanometer (nm) process technology, while AMD will switch to 7 nm next year. With all this status quo, you shouldn’t think that the i9-9900K doesn’t have any new features or improvements – there’s been a lot of them for the last two years.
8 cores from Intel: Like AMD Ryzen, only better?
After Intel was caught off guard by the popularity and performance of AMD’s Ryzen eight-core AMD four years ago, the company got its act together and was finally able to follow the trend: Even Intel’s mainstream top CPU now has eight cores and juggles up to 16 threads simultaneously. In contrast to the competition, however, no cutbacks in clock frequency are being accepted: Like the limited Hexacore i7-8086K, the i9 reaches up to 5 GHz without overclocking – on up to two cores simultaneously. The base clock is 3.6 GHz (lower than the Ryzen 7 2700X), but the boost over all cores provides a powerful 4.7 GHz. An ambitious cooling solution can therefore also be worthwhile for non-overclockers, so that the CPU can use the turbo for as long as possible, if necessary.
Intel Core i9 -9900K: Solder instead of thermal paste
But also overclockers get a lot of potential. After a bit of oil from the enthusiast scene, Intel has now soldered the CPU’s heatspreader back to the die. Solder tin dissipates heat much better than the previously used conductive paste. As a result, professional overclockers were able to achieve frequencies of 6.9 GHz under liquid nitrogen at the presentation event. With time, luck and experience, this record should soon be broken several more times.
Lots of RAM
But if you don’t have anything to do with overclocking, you’ll benefit from Turbo Boost 3.0. As no two CPUs are alike, the Core i9 selects the fastest two cores of each model and assigns the critical processes to them. This feature has been known since Skylake-X for workstation systems. New, however, are security features built into the hardware, along with firmware updates against the notorious Meltdown and Spectre attack scenarios. Also not yet available: The Coffee Lake Refresh now supports DDR4-2666 memory up to 128 GByte. So you can use up to 32 GByte per slot in your dual-channel mainboard.
Z390 Chipset: Everything in it
Also the updates of the new mainboard chipsets are significant. While Intel with the Z370 (and most other 300 series chipsets) and the LGA1151v2 socket has cheekily forced a board update without significant improvements, the new Z390 actually brings a breath of fresh air. Thus, USB 3.1 Gen 2 with up to 10 Gb/s is now natively supported, and WLAN-ac and Bluetooth 5 are also on board. The latter features have to be built in explicitly by the motherboard manufacturer and should make these boards a bit more expensive.
The extra should cost buyers less than previous components with integrated wireless features. As a result, customers will have much more choice from various USB and WiFi combinations. All ninth generation CPUs are compatible with all 300 series chipsets.
Benchmarks of the Intel Core i9 9900K: Outstanding performance
In our benchmarks, we were able to marvel at the best scores by the bank with the Core i9-9900K provided by Intel. No matter if PCMark 8, our Excel scenario, encryption with TrueCrypt, transcoding with Handbrake or rendering with POVRay – in every single benchmark the Core i9 9900K puts itself at the top of the ranking.
It’s no surprise, of course, that the Core i9 9900K is more than six points ahead of the second placed AMD Ryzen 7 2700K in the overall ranking. However, at the time of the test almost 520 Dollar more will be due – that is already an enormous surcharge, but you get one of the best CPU on the market.
Motherboard Test Result
Ranking First: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero
- Excellent performance with a very good CPU power supply
- Good energy efficiency
- Four M.2 interfaces incl. passive cooler
- High price
ASUS saved the Maximus Extreme model for the Coffee Lake S processors for the more modern Z390 chipset and left the re-labelled Z370-PCH out. While in the tenth Maximus series (Intel Z370) the ROG Maximus X Formula was the highest of feelings, in the eleventh Maximus series (Intel Z390) it is clearly the ROG Maximus XI Extreme. And except for a VRM water cooler, which is reserved for the ROG Maximus XI Formula, ASUS has equipped the E-ATX board accordingly.
The VRM range matches that of the ROG Maximus XI Gene (Micro-ATX), which is often referred to as “Mini-Apex”, and thus provides more than a good basis for CPU overclocking. Two 8-pin EPS12V power connectors are therefore also provided on the ROG Maximus XI Extreme. Of course, the user is again provided with a lot of functions for this purpose. In our overclocking test it was no problem for the board to run the Core i7-8700K stable at 5 GHz. The Core i7-9700K or even the Core i9-9900K should provide the right fodder here.
However, the further equipment also turns out neatly. Due to the platform, a maximum of four DDR4 UDIMM memory banks for a maximum of 128 GB RAM have been released by ASUS up to effective 4.400 MHz. Two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (mechanical) contact the LGA1151v2 CPU, so that the limited 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes are distributed with x16/x0 or x8/x8. In addition, the chipset was used to implement PCIe 3.0 x16 (mechanical, electrical with max. x4) and PCIe 3.0 x1 once each.
Six native SATA 6GBit/s ports are available for standard SATA devices, and two M.2 M key interfaces are also available directly onboard. If this should not be enough, you can use the supplied DIMM.2 module, which can accommodate two additional M.2 M Key SSDs. However, the dedicated graphics card is then supplied with a maximum of eight Gen3 lanes from the CPU. Passive cooling is included with all M.2 connectors. For the USB area, five USB 3.1 Gen2s, ten USB 3.1 Gen1s and four USB 2.0s are available for use.
Luxuriously it continues then in the matter of network. In addition to the Intel I219-V (1 GBit/s), ASUS has also soldered the Aquantia AQtion AQC111C (5 GBit/s), with which five times the data transfer speed is possible. In our opinion, ASUS could also have chosen the 10 Gbps chip. If the network connection should rather be wireless instead, ASUS has built in the Intel Wireless-AC 9560 (CNVi) with the matching Wifi-ac and Bluetooth 5.0 module. The SupremeFX feature takes care of all audio tasks. For this purpose, the usual connections are located on the I/O panel.
On the E-ATX-PCB a lot of onboard comfort was left behind besides some RGB LED elements: Power, Reset, Retry and Safe-Boot buttons are only a small part of this. Also on board are a debug LED, four status LEDs, a slow mode switch, an LN2 jumper, a MemOK-II switch and also voltage measuring points for the most important voltages. But even a BIOS switch for switching between the two BIOS ROMs and a CMOS clear and USB BIOS flashback button are included.
As a gimmick, the Live Dash OLED display known from the ROG Maximus XI Formula is also included. In general, numerous fans and water pumps can be connected, but if this is not enough, the included FAN expansion module can also be brought into play. On the positive side, we would also like to mention the good energy efficiency in all load situations, which is absolutely within the green range for a high-end mainboard.
Overall, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Extreme made a good impression, so that the only counterpoint is the undoubtedly high price of around 500 Dollar. But if you want to own a luxurious equipment, you have to be willing to pay a little bit more money. But if some features can be waived, there are of course a lot of options downwards. But from the technical side, there is nothing to complain about from our side.
Second: Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Xtreme
- Extremely high quality and performant
- Extremely large scope of delivery
- Eight fan connectors
Gigabyte has introduced the Z390 Aorus Xtreme, the new top model that is supposed to replace the Z370 Gaming 9. The device’s equipment is on par with the competition from Asus and MSI, although there are of course minor differences. For example, Gigabyte’s top model offers a 10 Gbit LAN port in opposition to the competition, while MSI and Asus allow a higher RAM clock rate.
Gigabyte introduced the Z390 Aorus Xtreme, which is supposed to be the top model of the Aorus models for the 1151 socket. As the Z390 chipset already suggests, the motherboard is suitable for Intel’s 9th generation processors, like the i9-9900K. Up to now, the company has only offered the Z390 Aorus Master, which currently costs a good 270 Dollar.
As a reminder: Gigabyte has changed the old naming scheme of the Aorus mainboards. Gaming 3 becomes Elite, Ultra Gaming becomes Pro. Gaming 5 is now called Ultra, Gaming 7 was named Master and the top models are now called Xtreme instead of Gaming 9.
Better and worse than the competition
Gigabyte advertises the Z390 Aorus Extreme with 16 phases, numerous interfaces and RGB lighting. For example, two LAN ports, each powered by an Intel and an Aquantia chip, and Wi-Fi via an Intel chip are included.
Three M.2 slots and six SATA 3 ports are available for system storage. The company also advertises with mechanically reinforced RAM, PCIe and ATX connectors. For overclockers there are buttons on the E-ATX mainboard for manual setting of BCLK and multiplier as well as a BIOS reset button. Also a BIOS update without built-in processor should be possible.
Many of the functions and connections can also be found in the competition, so the details and the price should be decisive here. So far, the Z390 Aorus Xtreme hasn’t yet been found in the PCGH price comparison. The predecessor, the Aorus Z270X Gaming 9, came on the market for over 400 Dollar, though. This would also fit the competition well: The top models from MSI and Asus can also be found in this area.
These motherboards also offer numerous connections and functions, but there are still differences between the manufacturers: For example, Asus only offers two M.2 slots, but the maximum allowed RAM clock rate of 4.266 MHz is lower than the competition. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme has a unique selling point with the Aquantia LAN port: It offers 10 Gigabit Ethernet, whereas Asus provides a maximum of 5 Gbps and MSI a maximum of 1 Gbps for the respective top model. The Z390 Aorus Xtreme is very well suited for the i9-9900K CPU.
Third: MEG Z390 Godlike
- Unmatched fit and finish
- Excellent overclocking
- Native USB 3.1 gen 2
- Excellent audio
- Very expensive
- Storage performance
- No 10Gbps ethernet
With the Z390 chipset on the MEG Z390 Godlike from MSI, Intel is replacing the Z370 chipset for its eighth generation high-end processors. In addition, Z390 mainboards supported Intel’s ninth generation core processors (Coffee Lake-S Refresh), like the i9-9900K CPU. Also included are chip-side Wifi support – although a WiFi module must still be present – and native USB 3.1 support so that these no longer need to be provided via additional chips.
The MEG Z390 Godlike in detail
The MEG Z390 Godlike motherboard (E-ATX) provides a total of five PCIe x16 slots, one of which is connected to the chipset with full 16 lanes, while the others are connected with four or eight data lines. For additional plug-in and expansion cards, the motherboard offers a PCIe x1 slot. In addition, the motherboard allows multiple graphics cards to be used simultaneously and supports AMD CrossFire and NVIDIA SLI.
The four DIMM slots support up to 128 GB DDR4 memory in dual channel mode. Native the Z390 chipset supports clock rates up to 2.666 MHz, but by means of OC the MEG Z390 Godlike also allows the operation of RAM kits up to 4.600 MHz. Six SATA 6G connectors and three M.2 slots are available for hard disks and SSDs. Two of these M.2 slots are connected to the chipset with four PCIe lanes and support the NVMe protocol, which enables data transfer rates of almost 4 GB/s. This makes M.2 PCIe SSDs up to eight times faster than SATA 6G SSDs!
At the I/O panel the MEG Z390 Godlike has a USB 3.1 connector with type C socket. This innovative USB type C port is especially thin and can be plugged in on both sides. USB 3.1 or USB 3.1 Gen 2 reaches maximum speeds of 10 Gbit/s per port and USB ports with this standard usually support the fast charging function of smartphones and tablets. In addition to three further USB 3.1 interfaces of type A, the I/O panel also features two USB 3.0 ports. Internally, the mainboard provides a wide range of connectors and headers.
Special features of the MEG Z390 Godlike include the striking cooler design and the integrated digital RGB LED lighting. In addition, there is a U.2 slot, which is also accessed via PCIe 3.0 and NVM Express. In addition, the motherboard offers two GBit-LAN connections and WLAN ac. A capture card for streaming and an external M.2 expansion card with two slots are also included. The board provides a total of ten connections for fans and pumps.
The MEG Z390 Godlike motherboard offers extremely high quality and performance. This makes it a graet fit for the Intel i9-9900K Processor. High qualiyt has its price though. However, we think that higher price is worth it as you get offered a lot.
Fourth: AsRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7
- Reinforced PCIe slots
- Customizable RGB lighting
- Solid equipment
- Good onboard audio chip
- More complex installation of drives in the upper M.2 slot
- PCIe 3.0 x1 slots covered
The Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 settles in the midfield of the Phantom Gaming series. Only the Phantom Gaming 9 and the Phantom Gaming X offer a larger range of functions. We were able to watch the latter at Computex 2019, the matching video can be found directly below these lines.
Design & Features
Asrock gives the Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 an almost colorful design compared to the competition. The dark PCB is painted silver over a large area, black slots provide the right amount of contrast. The heat sinks are also kept in silver or black, and the design is rounded off by red decorative stripes, which are distributed over the entire mainboard including covers.
When in use, the appearance can still be designed according to your own preferences with Asrock Polychrome Sync RGB lighting. Asrock integrates the lighting on the chipset cooler and the cover of the rear connectors. Other RGB components such as LED strips or illuminated fans can be integrated into the lighting spectacle via the addressable or the two RGB connectors and synchronized with each other.
Asrock reinforces all three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots with metal cladding so that the slots are not damaged when using heavy graphics cards. The Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 supports both 3-way CrossFireX and 2-way SLI. There are also three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, two of which are located below the top PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. However, this means that larger graphics cards cover both slots, so that only the third and lowest slot can be used.
CPU & Memory
The Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 supports Intel processors of the eighth and ninth generation and accordingly relies on the LGA 1151 socket. 10-Phase VRM design supplies CPU and RAM with the necessary voltage. This makes it a good fit for the Intel i9-9900K Processor.
The four DIMM banks can hold a total of 128 gigabytes of DDR4 memory. Modules with up to 4,300 Megahertz are supported. In the test, we used a 3,000 MHz fast 16 gigabyte kit as standard, but we were also able to use a kit with 4,000 MHz clock speed without any problems.
Onboard buttons & connectors
As expected, the Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 offers only the most important onboard buttons for a midrange mainboard. These include the power and reset buttons, but an easily accessible button for resetting the BIOS is missing. Instead, Asrock uses a classic jumper, which is located between the two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. This means that the graphics card must also be removed for resetting.
The Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 is equipped with eight SATA ports, two of which are controlled by an ASMedia controller. There are also two M.2 slots, both covered by a heat sink. The installation of a drive in the upper slot is a bit more complicated, since the cooler also cools the chipset.
Two RJ45 ports are used for the network connection, one of which is powered by an Intel i219V controller. The second port uses a Realtek Dragon RTL8125AG controller, which allows transfer speeds of 2.5 Gbps. WLAN is only available as an option, a matching M.2 slot for a module is available as well as two cutouts on the pre-installed I/O shield.
The rear connectors include four USB 3.2 Gen1 ports and two USB 3.2 Gen2 ports. The latter are divided into a type A and a type C connector. There is also a DisplayPort and HDMI connector for the CPU’s internal graphics unit. Last but not least, the classic port is the PS/2 port for those who don’t want to say goodbye to their old mouse/keyboard.
The Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 proves to be a good Z390 board in the test, which leaves nothing to be desired and offers a solid configuration. Multi-GPU setups are no problem with the motherboard, and you don’t have to worry about slot damage due to the metal reinforcement. Three PCIe slots are intended for expansion cards, but Asrock should have arranged them differently. With wide graphics cards, two of the three slots can easily be lost.
SATA and M.2 drives are sufficiently supported with eight and two connectors respectively. Heat sinks also ensure that M.2 SSDs don’t slow down their performance due to high temperatures. The other side of the coin: the upper slot cooler forms a unit with the chipset cooler, so both must be removed to install a drive.
A fast network connection is ensured by a 2.5 Gigabit and a 1 Gigabit connection. WLAN and Bluetooth can be retrofitted with an M.2 module – or you can directly access the Z390 Phantom Gaming 9, which also costs around 200 Dollar at the time of testing. In comparison to the Asus ROG Strix Z390-F Gaming, which also costs around 200 Dollar, we would have liked a somewhat larger number of rear USB ports. The Asrock Z390 Phantom Gaming 7 is available at a price of about 200 Dollar.
Fifth: ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming
- Many setting options
- Many connections
- No USB 3.1 header
The ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming is again very futuristically designed. The black PCB is printed with light gray and yellow designs and has large heat sinks on the voltage converters. A massive cover with the TUF Gaming logo stretches over the external connections of the motherboard. In addition to the current socket 1155 v2, it also has three PCIe x16 and two PCIe x4 connectors. Above the first PCIe connector and above the lower PCIe connector there are M.2 slots for corresponding SSDs. The lower slot has a cover that also serves as a passive cooler for an M.2 SSD. Around the socket there are two 4 pin PWM fan connectors. The power supply has been improved compared to its predecessor, the TUF Z370-Pro-Gaming.
The four RAM banks can hold up to 64 GB DDR4 memory. Next to it is the 24 pin ATX slot and a USB 3.0 header. Underneath it follows a big cooler which is equipped with the model name and the TUF logo. At this cooler, two SATA connectors go off to the side. Below the cooler there are four more SATA connectors. Here you will also find the RGB header and a 4 pin PWM fan connector.
In the lower area you will find another USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 headers as well as the connector for front audio. The ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming does not have a USB 3.1 header.
We find a familiar interface in the BIOS or UEFI. The user interface has been given a TUF gaming design and, as usual with ASUS, the UEFI starts in EZ mode. All important parameters and states are clearly displayed on one page. In the advanced mode we go into the deeper settings. Typical for a Z390 motherboard, values for processor, memory and many other components can be set here. So also values by which processor and RAM can be overclocked.
The M.2 SSD installed by us reaches the performance values specified by the manufacturer. Since the M.2 port is connected with PCI-Express-x4 and this reaches a theoretical bandwidth of 3938 MB/s, it rarely happens that this limits the M.2. On the SSD is our operating system and some programs – the tool shows us that about 39% of the ADATA SX8000 NP’s memory is occupied. In the best run, the factory specification is even exceeded by 2 MB/s, which we consider to be a measuring tolerance, however. The situation is quite similar here with sequential writing. The built-in M.2 SSD gets a maximum of 41 °Celsius with the M.2 cooler. The temperature was 6 °Celsius higher without the M.2 cooler.
We installed an Intel Core i9-9900K in our test system. A total of 16 GB RAM from KLEVV is at its side. With the help of the loaded XMP profile, it clocks with 3200 MHz. With the default settings of the mainboard, the CPU clocks with 4810 MHz.
The temperatures of the MOSFET coolers are at a maximum of 60 °Celsius and are, as before with the ASUS TUF Z370-Pro, in a good range. Since the power supply was removed, we would have been surprised if this wasn’t the case. We could overclock the built-in INTEL CORE i9-9900K to a maximum of 5200 MHz.
The ASUS TUF Z-390 PRO Gaming is currently available in stores from 100 Dollar. This puts it slightly lower price range for motherboards. The equipment is very neat in terms of both settings and connections. The only thing missing on the mainboard is a USB 3.1 header. We give 8.5 out of 10 points and our recommendation.