ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 Motherboard Review: Price/Performance King Again?

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Today we will be looking at another motherboard in the Z390 series, this time from ASRock. The last time we connected with them was in January where the X399 Phantom Gaming 6 motherboard for Threadripper was reviewed, and positively. This time around, we have something from the mainstream platform and likely a fairly familiar name if you have been reading our forums over the past few years in the Z390 Extreme 4. The Extreme 4 was typically highly regarded as one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ type motherboards with a solid feature set as well as capable power delivery for overclocking the CPU. We will break it down in this review and see if it is still able to maintain that crown of being one of the better Z390 boards without paying a premium.

Specifications and Features

ASRock sports 11 boards in the Z390 platform covering all form factors from ITX to full ATX. As noted above, the ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 hails from the more budget-friendly portion of their lineup and is priced currently on Newegg for $155. Price wise, there are still a few boards below it from the Phantom series as well as the Pro4 series, but these are true budget variants. They also have the very popular and mid-range priced Z390 Taichi @ $210, the Phantom Gaming 9 ($233) and their flagship Taichi Ultimate ($299) above the Extreme 4 (among others around it) to complete their lineup – a full range of boards.

Using the Z390 chipset, we know the board is both 8th and 9th generation Intel processor compatible able to run the likes of the 8 and 9 series processors such as the i7-8700K and i9-9900K (see CPU support list for details). The VRM is set up in a solid 10+2 phase configuration and should handle ambient overclocking with relative ease with its Digi VRM, 60A chokes, and dual-stacked MOSFETs. ASRock uses “XXL” heatsinks on both VRM banks to help keep them cool.

The board has a total of four DIMM slots capable of supporting up to 64 GB of DDR4 RAM in dual channel configuration with speeds up to DDR4 4300+ which is a bit above the average support for DDR4. ECC DIMM support is found on this board however they will have to operate in non-ECC mode. ASRock uses their POOL technology (Planes On Out Layers) which they say allows 4-layer boards to utilize a different routing method (stripline) instead of microstrip router which gives the motherboard better electrical properties and performance.

The board has a total of three full-length PCIe slots of which two have additional metal supporting them and supports both AMD Crossfire and NVIDIA SLI as the lanes break down to x8/x8. The last full-length slot receives x4 bandwidth fed from the chipset and can be used for 3-way Crossfire. There are also three x1 slots on the board as well. Like the AORUS Z390 Master we reviewed a few weeks ago, it is good to see both SLI and CFx supported.

On the storage side of things, the Z390 Extreme 4 has a total of eight SATA ports (2 of which are provided by an ASMedia controller), supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10. For M.2 storage, the board offers two slots capable up supporting up to 80 mm drives with the bottom slot including its own heatsink for the drive. Both slots run at PCIe x4 speeds and support both SATA3 and PCIe x4 modules. As is typical for this platform, there is some lane sharing involved. If M2_1 (top slot by the CPU) is populated, SATA ports 0 and 1 are disabled. If the bottom M.2 slot is used, SATA ports 3 and 4 will be disabled.

USB support on the back panel IO consists of two USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps) ports, a Type-A and Type C. In addition, it also includes four more USB 3.1 Gen1 ports totaling six on the back. On the board are two USB 2.0 headers (for 4 ports) as well as two USB 3.1 Gen1 (5 Gbps) headers driven by an ASMedia hub giving an additional four ports there. There is also a front panel USB Type-C Gen1 header. The board has a lot of USB support, particularly in the form of internal headers.

Networking capability on this board out of the box is limited to a single Intel I219-V Gigabit port. The board does not come with Wi-Fi capabilities however it does have a separate M.2 Key-E slot to install a CNVi based Wi-Fi module which would save a PCIe slot (sold separately).

Audio support is handled by the popular Realtek ALC1220 codec which is the higher-end of integrated audio. Complementing the codec is ASRock’s Purity Sound 4 suite which is a “combination of several hardware and software audio solutions. This includes the 7.1 audio from the chip, individual PCB layers for L/R audio channels, a Texas Instruments NE5532 headset amp, and Nichicon Fine Gold Series audio caps.

Last but not least, RGB. The board itself has a tasteful implementation of RGB LEDs under the rear IO shroud and audio as well as below the chipset heatsink. If more RGB LEDs are in the plan, the board includes two RGB LED headers as well as one addressable LED header. The non-addressable RGB headers can support up to 36W (12 V/3 A) while the addressable header us 5 V/3 A. All RGBs can be controlled through the ASRock RGB LED application and works with their Polychrome RGB environment.

Below is the specification list from the ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 webpage.

ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 Specifications
CPU Intel 8th/9th Generation Processors, Socket LGA 1151
Chipset Intel Z390
Memory Supports up to 64 GB Dual Channel DDR4 @ 4300MHz+
Also supports ECC UDIMM modules (non-ECC mode)
Expansion Slots

3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots

3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots

Multi-GPU Support AMD CrossfireX / NVIDIA SLI
Storage

6 x SATA3 (6Gbps) ports (Support for RAID0, RAID1, RAID5, and RAID10)

2 x SATA3 (6Gbps) ports (via ASMedia ASM1061)

2 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slots (Supports Intel Optane, RAID 0,1)

LAN 1 x Intel i219V Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet Port
Audio Realtek ALC1220 HD Audio (7.1 channels) w/SPDIF
USB

2 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (1 Type-C, 1 Type-A port)

6 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (4 Type A ports, 2 through header)

2 x USB 2.0 (header)

Fan Headers 5 x 4-pin headers (PWM and voltage control)
OS Support Supports Windows 10 64 bit
Form Factor ATX
Price $179.99 (Newegg), $181.99 (Amazon)

 

We have also included a list of features sourced from the ASRock website for the board:

ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 Features

Fully Supports 9th Gen Intel® Core Processors

The motherboard is designed to make the best out of 9th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, the sturdy VRM design provides extreme overclocking potential, lower temperature during gaming and reinforced system stability for taking on all sorts of arduous computing tasks.

Digi Power

Unlike traditional motherboards that use analog power, this motherboard uses a next generation digital PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation) design, which provides CPU Vcore voltage more efficiently and smoothly, so that the stability and lifespan of the motherboard are greatly enhanced.

Premium 60A Power Choke

Compared to traditional chokes, ASRock’s premium 60A power chokes effectively make the saturation current up to three times better, thus providing enhanced and improved Vcore voltage to the motherboard.

Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM)

Dual-Stack MOSFET (DSM) is another innovative MOSFETs design by ASRock. The silicon die area is increased by stacking two dies into one MOSFET. The larger the die area, the lower Rds(on). Compared to traditional discrete MOSFET, DSM with larger die area provides extreme lower Rds(on) 1.2 mΩ, so the power supply for the CPU Vcore is more efficient.
XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink

Extra large aluminum alloy heatsinks that effectively take away heat from the MOSFET and chipset so that your whole system may perform more stable.
Water Pump Header

This is not only a standard CPU fan header, but also supports water pumps! This header provides a maximum of 2A power for supporting the most popular water pumps. The user also can adjust the voltage of the water pump to get higher cooling performance with lower noise.
M.2 (Key-E) For WiFi

Besides the onboard LAN port, users may also choose 802.11ac wireless connections by M.2 (Key E) slot.

*Wi-Fi module is not included.
Polychrome RGB

In addition to the built-in RGB illumination, it also features onboard RGB headers and an addressable RGB header that allow the motherboard to be connected to compatible LED devices such as strip, CPU fans, coolers, chassis and so on. Users may also synchronize RGB LED devices across the Polychrome RGB Sync-certified accessories to create their own unique lighting effects.
Nichicon Fine Gold Series Audio Caps
TI® NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier

Retail Packaging and Accessories

The retail packaging for the Extreme 4 follows its black, silver, and blue theme with lines traveling diagonally across the front of the primarily black box. At the bottom left, we are able to see the model of the board along with some high-level features listed at the bottom. The ASRock name is positioned in the upper right-hand corner.

ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 – Box

Below is a slideshow of the retail packaging as well as the included accessories.

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Meet the ASRock Z390 Extreme 4

 

The Extreme 4 is a fairly non-descript board using a black PCB along with black shrouds and gunmetal like heatsinks on the chipset, VRM, and one of the M.2 slots. Between these heatsinks is a grey line that has a ‘lined’ look traveling through the middle of the board and around the CPU socket. Two of the three full-length PCIe slots are both fortified but the x1 slots and DRAM are not which is typical across any class board.

Flipping the board around to the back side, we don’t see too much going on. Blowing that picture up and look around the socket users will find the phase doublers. Meanwhile, in the PCIe area, we can see how the slots are wired with one x16 and the other x8.

A Closer Look

The top half of the board uses a grey shroud sporting the ASRock logo covering the IO area along with the larger grey VRM heatsinks around it. Power is fed through an 8-pin EPS connector with an optional 4-pin for pushing an overclock further. These are good size heatsinks and managed to keep cool even during our 5 GHz stress testing.

The board has four slots for DRAM with a capacity of up to 64 GB. When looking closely we are able to see three fan headers up top – a CPU fan header, water pump, and one of three chassis headers. Both the water pump and chassis/water pump headers here are capable of delivering 2 A(24 W) to whatever is attached (CPU and all others are 1 A(12 W). All headers are able to control both PWM and voltage controlled fans.

In the lower right-hand corner of the image (middle right on the board) we can see the two front panel USB 3.1 (Gen1) ports and a single USB 3.1 Gen2 port. We typically see one of each if we are lucky so it is nice to see an additional 3.1 (Gen1) header for any front panel USB needs. Sliding a bit over to the left the first M.2 slot is pictured and we can see the primary full-length PCIe slot as well as an x1 slot.

Top Half

The bottom portion of the board contains the audio, PCIe connections, chipset, and SATA ports along with a slew of inputs across the bottom. Hidden under the shroud on the left is the Realtek ALC1220 audio codec along with the Texas Instruments NE5532 headphone amplifier. Poking out through the shroud are the Nichicon Fine Gold capacitors while the Texas Instruments amps are hidden under the shroud.

The PCIe area consists of three full-length slots with the top two intended for video cards as well as being shielded for extra support. These slots break down to x8/x8 when using dual GPUs and support both Crossfire and SLI. The bottom slot is an x4 slot along with three x1 slots spread out above it, all connected via the chipset. In between the two primary PCIe slots is where the M.2 Key E slot is located for those who would like to add Wi-Fi to the board and use the integrated CNVi abilities of the Z390 chipset. Below that between the lower shielded PCIe slot and the bottom full-length slot is the second M.2 slot. This includes a heatsink on it to help keep some of these hot running drives cooled. To the right of that are eight SATA ports.

Across the bottom, we see a ton of headers. We’ll just put these in a bulleted list for ease of reading (from L to R).

  • Front Panel Audio header
  • Addressable RGB header (grey)
  • 2x RGB Headers (white)
  • Thunderbolt AIC connector
  • Chassis/Water Pump header
  • TPM header
  • COM port
  • 2x USB 2.0 ports
  • System Panel headers
  • Chassis fan

Bottom Half

The rear IO is of typical fare offering owners a fair amount of connectivity including a legacy PS/2 port, three video outputs including HDMI, D-Sub, and DisplayPort, a total of six USB headers (4x 2.0, 2x 3.1 Gen2). We can also find the Intel I219-V ethernet port as well. Last is the audio stack with 5-plugs as well as an S/PDIF. There is also a port for Wi-Fi antennas in case users choose to add this feature.

The ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 has a total of eight SATA ports which is two more than the chipset offers natively. The other two ports are provided by an ASMedia controller. As far as port sharing goes with the M.2 slots, M2_1 (top slot) is connected to SATA 0/1 ports while SATA 4/5 are connected to M2_2 (bottom slot w/heatsink). If any M.2 module is installed, these SATA ports will become unavailable.

As far as the power bits go, ASRock uses a 10+2 configuration here for both the CPU and iGPU. The CPU uses dual N-channel SinoPower SM7342EH 25A MOSFETs along with a high current inductor. Controlling the bits is a UPI Semiconductor UP9521 in 5+2 mode. Each phase then goes to a UP1965 driver which sends it to two phases. This setup worked well with our 5.1 GHz 9900K.

EDITORS NOTE: The OnSemiconductor UP1965 is NOT a phase doubler. Changed the wording for accuracy.

“12-Phase” Power

Below are images of some of the IC’s found on the board.

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Below is a picture of the board on the test bench!

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

ASRock’s UEFI BIOS, like most others, includes an EZ Mode as well as an advanced mode giving users a more informational type screen with a few adjustments keeping the UI simple, as well as the advanced mode that can edit just about anything associated with the board. The overall theme here matches the retail packaging and designs on the board with the grey/blue lines in the background.

Within easy mode, XMP profiles, RAID mode, preset fan speeds (profiles too!) can be set as well as adjust the boot priority. For monitoring and information, the BIOS displays the CPU and RAM installed, as well as showing the fan status/speed, CPU and Motherboard temperatures, as well as the CPU voltage.

Once in advanced mode, we’re greeted by the familiar menu across the top with six sections: OC Tweaker, Advanced, Tool, H/W Monitor, Security, Boot, and Exit. Most will spend time in the OC Tweaker section, where the ability to adjust overclocking parameters including multiplier, voltage, power limits, and a whole lot more are found. Inside the Advanced section is the location for tweaking things such as CPU, chipset, storage, and NVMe configurations among various other items. The Tools section of the BIOS is where we can find adjustments for the RGB LEDs, install RAID, as well as flashing the BIOS. Inside the H/W Monitor section is we are able to get a system status of temperatures and voltages as well as setting up fans through manually or through their FAN-Tastic Tuning application which finds the slowest/fastest speeds for the attached fans.

Overall the BIOS is intuitive and easy to move around. Overclocking and finding the options to change was easy, though it did require going through multiple sections to adjust some of the basics (each has its own section). For convenience sake, I would prefer to see these consolidated if possible or at least a favorite’s page where users are able to customize their own UEFI page.

Below is a slideshow of the remainder of the BIOS.

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Overclocking Software – A-Tuning

ASRock also includes windows based software for monitoring and tuning the system called A-Tuning. The A-Tuning app is able to overclock from within windows allowing users to adjust several voltages as well as the CPU multiplier and BCLK. It also includes a GUI version of FAN-Tastic Tuning as well for fan control. If tweaking isn’t your thing, the main page also has three different modes from performance to quiet.

Using the A-Tuning application went without a hitch and allowed us to manipulate several system parameters without the more time-consuming route of BIOS changes and reboots.

ASRock A-Tune

ASRock also includes their RGB LED application as well as the Appstore for easy application download and installation.

ASRock RGB LED

App Shop

Test Setup and Performance

Here we take a slightly different approach to CPU testing with ours based on a lot of Hwbot.org benchmarks since that is what we are known for, overclocking and benchmarking. We use real-world testing as well with Cinebench, x265, POV-Ray, and 7Zip in order to give readers a good idea of the general performance of the product tested.

Test System Components
Motherboard ASRock Z390 Extreme 4
CPU Intel i9 9900K
CPU Cooler EVGA CLC 240
Memory 2×8 GB G.Skill Trident Z 3200 MHz CL15-15-15-35
SSD Toshiba OCZ TR200 480 GB (OS + Applications)
Power Supply EVGA 750W G3
Video Card NVIDIA RTX 2080 (417.71 drivers)

Thanks go out to EVGA for providing the CLC 240 CPU Cooler and 750 W G3 Power Supply to cool and power the system, G.Skill for the Trident Z DRAM, and Toshiba OCZ for the 480 GB TR200 SSD storage running the OS, benchmarks, and games. With our partners helping out, we are able to build matching test systems to mitigate many differences found between using different hardware. This allows for multiple reviewers in different locations to use the same test system and compare results without additional variables.

We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks, we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime and Intel XTU. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against the AIDA64 test suite. For encoding, we use x265 (HWBOT Version) and PoV Ray. A more real-world test is included in 7zip. Testing is performed with the CPU at stock speeds (set BIOS optimized defaults, XMP only no MCE) stock BIOS options. Memory speed is 3200 MHz unless otherwise specified.

Performance

AIDA64 – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput

AIDA 64 Memory Tests

AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark – Raw Data
Motherboard Read Write Copy Latency
ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 47825 47818 44069 41.6
Z390 AORUS Master  47356 47864 43421 42.8
Supermicro C9Z390-PGW 47350 46159 44204 41.9
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC 47163 46232 42230 44.0

AIDA64 – CPU Tests

AIDA 64 CPU Tests

AIDA64 CPU Benchmark – Raw Data
Motherboard Queen Photo ZLib AES Hash
ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 100928 23483 837 42835 10783
Z390 AORUS Master 100686 23262 836 42830 10783
Supermicro C9Z390-PGW 100923 22918 839 42852 10782
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC 101379 23297 843 43137 10854

AIDA64 – FPU Tests

AIDA 64 FPU Tests

AIDA64 FPU Benchmark – Raw Data
Motherboard VP8 Julia Mandel SinJulia
ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 8995 79979 43033 11333
Z390 AORUS Master 9075 80001 43032 11336
Supermicro C9Z390-PGW 8741 79975 43034 11340
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC 6830 80539 43140 11411

Real World Tests

Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265, 7Zip

Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265 (HWBot), 7Zip – Raw Data
CPU R11.5 R15 POVRay X265 7Zip
ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 22.3 2050 4301 67.0 70323
Z390 AORUS Master 22.3 2067 4274 67.0 69672
Supermicro C9Z390-PGW 22.1 2058 4305 64.8 65997
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC 22.3 2054 4350 67.3 69831

Pi and Prime Based Tests

Super Pi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M, Intel XTU

SuperPi and wPrime Benchmarks – Raw Data
Motherboard Spi 1M SPi 32M WPrime 32M WPrime 1024M Intel XTU
ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 7.405 407.8 2.593 68.429 3253
Z390 AORUS Master 7.427 412.6 2.594 68.765 3253
Supermicro C9Z390-PGW 7.404 405.7 2.562 68.308 3263
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC 7.407 410.9 2.563 71.825 3254

In our testing, the ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 performed well with all benchmarks falling within the expected range. As we know with motherboards, in most cases, there is little difference in performance between them and that theme remains consistent here. No outliers, good average performance.

Gaming Results

Ashes of the Singularity: Escalation and Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Our gaming benchmarks showed very little difference here between the boards we have tested so far. The ASRock Extreme 4 hit almost 84 FPS in AOTSe while Shadow of the Tomb Raider it hit 122 FPS.

Power Consumption

Power Consumption

Power consumption is about the only place where this board stands out and in this case, not in a good way. At idle, the boards we have tested so far are all in the ballpark of each other. However, when putting a load on the CPU, power use in our testing was notably higher than the other boards. In the basic AIDA 64 testing, we saw a 240 W peak value where others were much closer to 200 W. When using FPU only testing, the board peaked at 331 W while the next closest was 275 W, a big difference. The same story read true for Prime95 Small FFT as well with the system peaking at 380 W (and showed throttling) with the next highest value at 322 W. For whatever reason, this board uses a lot more power on load comparatively.

Overclocking

Overclocking on this motherboard was simple and straightforward as expected. We cranked all the power and current limits started at 5 GHz and pushed up to the limits of our cooling. The board did have some vdroop with it when under load with the system set to auto (mode 4 is default). Adjusting this to LLC 1 will yield the least amount of vdroop. In this case, setting it to LLC1 still had a bit of droop, we set 1.33 V in the BIOS and under load ended up at 1.312 V. I prefer it to be exact (and have headroom for ‘vraise), but even cranked it wouldn’t quite match.

The board handled overclocking without issue once LLC and power limits were set properly. The large heatsinks used on the VRMs provided good cooling throughout the testing in an open-air environment with little airflow. So long as we are working with ambient cooling, the board will not have issues overclocking.

5/1 GHz 1.31V

Conclusion

The ASRock Z390 Extreme 4 offers users a lot of features from a solid (though not superior) VRM, Crossfire and SLI support, eight SATA ports, as well as a spare Key-E M.2 slot for Wi-Fi (module purchased separately). USB support is covered well with several ports out back including USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C ports along with an internal 3.1 Gen 2 header and USB 3.0 headers. The overall design should fit in with most build themes and the RGB implementation is tasteful onboard with plenty of options to expand and create a disco inside the chassis.

Overclocking went smooth and the board handled things well overall. I do wish the BIOS options were combined a bit better or a favorites page available to customize the screen. Vdroop mitigation worked well bringing the readings within .02 V from what was set in the BIOS to load. Typically we see the higher LLC settings overshoot, but this is all it had (which is enough). Power consumption on this board was higher than the rest here by a fair amount. So if being green is a goal, other boards will be better on that metric.

The Extreme 4 is currently priced at $180 on Newegg (on sale for $154), and sits in the middle of all 390 boards available. There are plenty that cost more and plenty less expensive. Sitting directly around that price point are the GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS Pro ($180), the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC ($180), and the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-H ($190). The ASRock board offers more SATA ports than the others as well as USB ports. At $180 the board needs to be a serious consideration in that price bracket. Its currently on sale for $154 which makes it a really good deal at that price. The ASRock board showed overall good performance, and a solid feature set to make it one of the more attractive boards on the market, in particular at its middling price point. We haven’t had a chance to compare other boards at that price point yet, but the board does have a solid bang for the buck, especially at the $154 price point.

Click to find out what this means

Joe Shields (Earthdog)

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