Today we’ll take a look at our first DDR4 LGA 1700 motherboard, the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie. The Valkyrie sits at the top of Biostar’s Z690 product stack and is available in DDR4 (Z690A) and DDR5 (Z690) layouts. At this time, Biostar only has three offerings for Z690 motherboards. Aside from the pair of Valkyries just mentioned, they have the Biostar Z690GTA from their racing series that is also DDR4 compatible.
Specifications and Features
The Biostar Z690 Valkyrie (DDR5 version) is Biostar’s flagship Z690 motherboard priced with an MSRP of $599. The Z690A Valkyrie, which we are reviewing, is slightly less at $579 MSRP. After a bit of searching, we were able to find one on Amazon listed at $525. Biostar also has one other Z690 motherboard available in the “Racing” line, the Z690GTA Racing, with an MSRP of $399 listed on Amazon at $329.99.
The Biostar Z690A Valkyrie supports the twelfth generation Intel processors using the LGA 1700 socket. The board boasts 20-phase (19+1) VRMS to handle the power requirements of the flagship 24-thread Intel Core i9-12900K. To cool the VRM, Biostar has once again added active cooling: two 25mm fans on each VRM heatsink along with a solid copper base. These fans can be audible (especially under load), but you can control them through the BIOS and Biostar’s Aurora software. Also helping with heat dissipation is an 8-layer PCB sporting three layers of copper and a moisture-proof barrier to help prevent oxidation.
The Z690A Valkyrie has four DIMM slots that support up to 128 GB of dual-channel non-ECC memory with speeds up to 5000 MHz. However, there are only a couple of higher-rated kits on the QVL at 4600 MHz at this time. We first saw Gear settings with the eleventh-generation Intel CPU, which controls the IMC (internal memory controller) speed. With an updated BIOS, we were able to run our i9 12900K sample at DDR4 4000 MHz in Gear1 or at a 1:1 ratio. Results may vary as this is CPU dependant.
For PCIe, we have three full-length PCIe x16 slots, of which only the top one is x16 electrically; we have supplied a bandwidth breakdown in the table below. The upper two slots (from CPU) will run in PCIe Gen 5.0 mode, and the lower full-length PCIe slot (from PCH) is Gen 4.0. All three full-length PCIe slots also feature Biostar’s Iron Slot technology for added strength and EMI shielding.
The Z690A Valkyrie doesn’t come up short when it comes to storage. We have eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports that support RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10, and on the M.2 side, Biostar has included four sockets on the Valkyrie. The top three sockets support PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe drives. The lowest M.2 (Key-M) will support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe and SATA-based M.2 drives; this disables the fourth SATA 6 Gb/s port. All of the M.2 drive slots come with integrated heat spreaders. Refer to the table below or the user manual from Biostar’s website for more details of the storage layout and drive compatibility.
USB connectivity is also plentiful on the Z690A Valkyrie, with a total of 15 connections between onboard headers and the rear I/O shield. The rear IO shield has seven Type-A ports that are all USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbps) and a single USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20 Gbps) Type-C port for a total of eight. The remaining USB connections are headers on the motherboard consisting of two USB 2.0 (for four ports), one USB 3.2 Gen2 (for two ports), and one USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C internal header.
This board breaks from the typical Z690 motherboard on the networking front and offers only a single Intel I225-V 2.5 Gbs port. Biostar also chose to forgo any wireless connectivity out of the box. However, they did incorporate a Wi-Fi antenna into the rear I/O shield and have an M.2 (Key-E) that supports 2230 type Wi-Fi & Bluetooth modules and Intel’s CNVi-based Wi-Fi 6E 802.11 ax. In other words, the board doesn’t include Wi-Fi, just the antenna connectors, which may confuse the average buyer and feels a bit disingenuous.
On the audio side, Biostar chose the Realtek 7.1 channel High Definition ALC1220 processor, which is the previous generation flagship solution. We also have PCB optimizations such as Biostar’s Hi-Fi Ground which blocks EMI interference from the motherboard, and its add-ons with other audio hardware optimizations like the premium Japanese-made Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors.
Rounding things off, Biostar has implemented a variety of RGB LED connectivity on the Z690A Valkyrie. First, we have one standard RGB LED header for 12 V, 5050 RGB strips up to 3 A. According to Biostar’s documentation, there are two addressable RGB headers for 5 V WS2812B individually addressable LED strips with a rating of 3 A, which can handle up to 300 LEDs combined. The Valkyrie also incorporates RGB LEDs into the I/O cladding and chipset heatsinks for its own bling. These, along with all the headers, are in your control using Vivid LED DJ software.
Below is the specification list from the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie webpage.
|Biostar Z690A Valkyrie Specifications|
|CPU||Support for 12th Generation Intel Core i9/ i7/ i5/ i3 processors and Intel Pentium processors/ Intel Celeron processors in the LGA1700 package|
|Memory||Supports up to 128 GB Dual-Channel DDR4 up to 5000MHz+ non-ECC UDIMM|
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 5.0 x16 Slots (x16 or x8 mode)
1 x PCIe 4.0 x16 Slot (x4 mode)
|Storage||— Total supports 4x M.2 socket and 8x SATA III(6Gb/s) ports
8 x SATA III (6Gb/s) Connector : Supports AHCI, RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 (Support Only SATA_1~SATA_4) & Intel Rapid Storage Technology
1 x M.2 (M Key) Socket (M2_PCIEG4_64G_1):
Supports M.2 Type 2280 SSD module
Supports PCIe 4.0x 4 (64Gb/s) – NVMe/ AHCI SSD
Supports Intel® Optane Technology
1 x M.2 (M Key) Socket (M2_PCIEG4_64G_2):
Supports M.2 Type 2280/22110 SSD module
Supports PCIe 4.0x 4 (64Gb/s) – NVMe/ AHCI SSD
Supports Intel Optane Technology
1 x M.2 (M Key) Socket (M2_PCIEG4_64G_3):
Supports M.2 Type 2280/22110 SSD module
Supports PCIe 4.0x 4 (64Gb/s) – NVMe/ AHCI SSD
Supports Intel Optane Technology
1 x M.2 (M Key) Socket (M2_PCIEG3_32G_SATA):
Supports M.2 Type 2242/2260/ 2280/ 22110 SSD module
Supports PCIe 3.0x 4 (32Gb/s) – NVMe/AHCI SSD & SATA III (6Gb/s) SSD
10/ 100/ 1000/ 2500 Mb/s auto negotiation, Half / Full duplex capability
7.1 Channels, High Definition Audio, Hi-Fi(Front + Rear)
2 x USB 3.2 (Gen2x2) Type-C ports (1 on rear I/O and one via internal header)
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU Fan Connector
1 x CPU water cooling connector (CPU_OPT)
3 x System Fan Connectors
2 x MOSFET Fan Connectors
|OS Support||Supports Windows 11 64 bit|
|Price||$525 at Amazon.com|
We have also included a list of features sourced from the Biostar website for the Valkyrie:
Retail Packaging and Accessories
The front of the retail packaging is a picture of the Valkyrie logo and the chipset series. Biostar doesn’t display much here aside from CPU compatibility. However, turning over the box exposes much more detail around the Valkyrie’s features, general layout, and a list of the rear I/O connections giving a good overall description of what’s inside the box.
The packaging is typical, with the motherboard in an anti-static bag nestled into a form-fitting tray. For accessories, Biostar doesn’t include much other than the necessities located in another cardboard tray under the motherboard tray.
- 4 x SATA 6 Gb/s cables
- Smart connector
- Support DVD
- User Manual
Below is a slideshow of the retail packaging and accessories.
Meet the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie
The overall look of the Z690A Valkyrie is quite bold with some gold and, thankfully, fewer pink accents than their Z590 offering. The jet black PCB and black aluminum heatsinks have some grey accents for a clean look. Biostar has added a bit of gold to the smaller top heatsink. Biostar has etched a gold “VALKYRIE” into one of the M.2 covers and a large set of gold wings on the PCH heatsink. This time around, the Valkyrie would fit in with most PC builds.
Turning the board over shows off the backplate covering most of the PCB. The backplate offers some protection but acts as a heatsink, using thermal tape to dissipate heat from the backside of the VRM. With the backplate removed, you can see that only the very top PCIe 5.0 slot is x16 electrically.
A Closer Look
Starting at the left is a large shroud covering the I/O and most of the heatsink beneath it, which Biostar labels as Armor Gear. This shroud houses the RGB LEDs beneath a large window. When lit, the design resembles a wing. You can’t see the small fans that provide active cooling to the VRM heatsinks.
Moving on, you can see the dual 8-pin Tough Power EPS connectors that supply more than enough power for the CPU. Across the top are fan connectors for CPU and Opt CPU, two ARGB LED headers, and one standard RGB LED header. Beneath these headers are four DIMM slots, and next to them are the Power and Reset buttons. Finishing off the top section of the Valkyrie is the 24-pin ATX power connector, a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C header, and a USB 3.2 Gen1 header. We also have a CLR CMOS button next to the SATA ports.
The lower half of the Z690A Valkyrie contains all the storage, PCIe expansion, PCH, and audio. Located on the far left under the cladding is a Realtek ALC1220 codec that drives the 7.1 channel HD audio. Also hidden underneath the shroud are Nippon Chemicon caps and a built-in AMP for premium sound quality and immersive gaming.
Moving into the PCIe area, we find the four M.2 sockets. The top three M.2 slots accommodate 80 mm (Type 2280) PCIe Gen4.0 x4 NVMe drives, with the center two accepting the longer 110 mm NVMe drives. The remaining, lowest slot accepts drives from 42 mm to 110 mm and will run PCIe Gen 3.0 x4 or SATA-based M.2 SSDs. If this slot has a SATA-based drive installed, the SATA_4 port will be disabled.
The Z690A Valkyrie has three full-length PCIe slots equipped with Biostar’s Iron Slot technology for added strength and signal clarity. The two upper slots come from the CPU running at PCIe Gen 5.0 and share bandwidth (x16 or x8/x8) of 128 GB/s. The lowest full-length slot gets its bandwidth from the chipset with a maximum of PCIe 4.0 x4 speeds.
Moving to the right is the Z690 chipset covered by a good-sized heatsink that sports the Valkyrie logo, eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports, a dual BIOS switch, and a chassis speaker header, an LN2 switch for extreme benchmarking, and an LED BIOS POST code indicator.
Across the bottom are a ton of headers. We’ll just put these in a bulleted list for ease of reading (from Left to Right).
- Front Panel Audio
- System Fan x 3
- Thunderbolt 4 header
- COM Serial port
- USB 2.0 header x 2
- System panel header
- Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
Moving around to the rear I/O area, we see Biostar included a preinstalled I/O shield, which seems pretty standard these days. Biostar has included Wi-Fi antenna connectors; although the Valkyrie doesn’t have integrated wireless, there are antenna leads that terminate at the M.2 socket for an add-in card. Again, we find this implementation a bit curious. Either include the Wi-Fi or don’t.
The video-out options for CPUs with integrated graphics capabilities are at the far left. It supports up to four 4K displays (or 8K), and Biostar accommodated this with dual Display ports and dual HDMI ports. These ports, however, are not created equal. The first display port is DP 1.4 compliant with a max resolution of up to 5120 x 3200 @ 60 Hz and the second port complies with the older DP 1.2 standard with a max resolution of 4096 x 2160 @ 60 Hz. The HDMI ports are also two different standards, with the outer being HDMI 2.0 and the other being HDMI 1.4; both have a max resolution of 4096 x 2160, but the newer 2.0 standard has a higher refresh rate of 60 Hz compared to 30 Hz for the HDMI 1.4 port.
Next up, above the two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports is a real throwback, a PS/2 port which not many motherboards include these days. Moving to the right are five more USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports with a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C in the lower center. To finish things off, we have the Intel 2.5 Gb LAN RJ45 port, and on the far right are the audio jacks with S/PDIF.
Last are the SATA 6 Gb/s ports. These are numbered 1-8 from left to right, with the odd number referring to the lower port(s). When using M.2 slots in SATA mode, the SATA6G_4 port is disabled. A couple of things worth mentioning here, when removing any of the M.2 heatsinks, be careful of the screws. These are not locked into the heatsink and can fall out on the motherboard. Also, beneath the upper M.2 cover, near the IO cladding, is where the M.2 E-Key slot and antenna connections for a Wi-Fi card are. Labeled Hybrid WIFI6 in the manual, this slot accepts E-Key 2230 modules for Wi-Fi and BT connectivity (Intel CNVi support). We’ve included pictures of the additional heatsinks on the Valkyrie, including the VRM fans and a Wi-Fi M.2 E-Key slot.
The power section on the z690A Valkyrie consists of a 19+1 phase (CPU, System Agent) configuration. Power comes to the board via the dual 8-pin EPS connectors feeding a 20-phase Renesas RAA229131 digital PWM controller. From here, 19 of these phases go directly into 105 A Dr.MOS type Renesas RAA22010540 MOSFETs. They terminate with premium alloy chokes and black 20K capacitors for a high-quality power delivery system. This setup provided ample power for our i9 12900K at 5.0 GHz.
Below are images of some of the IC’s found on the board.
Below is a picture of the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie on the test bench, where you can see the Vivid LED DJ lighting in action!
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
The Biostar Z690A Valkyrie BIOS has an EZ mode and an Advanced mode accessible using F7. EZ mode displays all pertinent system information and allows access to the most commonly used options with the click of the mouse. We can set the XMP for the RAM and access the BIOS update tool using F12 from this page.
After switching to advanced mode, the BIOS access consists of seven sections: Main, Advanced, Chipset, Boot, Security, Tweaker, and Save & Exit. Most users will head right for the Tweaker section, where most of the settings you will need for overclocking. Including Core and Cache multipliers, all relative voltages, and DRAM settings. Some subsections are worth mentioning within the Tweaker section, such as the Memory configuration, which contains detailed options for the primary, sub, and advanced timings and latency and termination configurations. We also have the CPU Power Management section containing the Intel Turbo options, power limit overrides, and AVX offsets.
Two other sections of interest would be the Advanced and Voltage Configuration sections. The Advanced section contains your CPU, PCH, Storage, USB, and Onboard Devices configuration options, while the Voltage Configuration subsection is where you’ll go to adjust all voltages and LLC (load line calibration) settings.
Overall the BIOS was easy to navigate, and nearly everything needed for overclocking was accessible through the overclocking section or subsections contained within it.
Below is a slideshow of the remainder of the BIOS.
Overclocking/Monitoring Software – Biostar Aurora
Biostar has also included its Overclocking/hardware monitoring software Aurora. The software is easy to navigate and works well. All overclocking settings were divided into sections separating the multipliers and voltages and took effect without requiring a reboot. One thing missing here is a reset button to return the system to stock; instead, this required a reboot. We also have the Ai Fan for adjusting cooling profiles, Smart Ear for audio, and the Vivid LED DJ for all of your lighting needs.
Test Setup and Performance of the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie
Since we’re known for overclocking and benchmarking, we take a different approach to CPU testing using several Hwbot.org benchmarks. We also do some real-world testing with Cinebench, Blender, Corona, and 7Zip to give readers a good idea of the general performance.
|Test System Components|
|Motherboard||Biostar Z690A Valkyrie|
|Intel Core i9-12900K|
|CPU Cooler||ASUS ROG Ryujin II 360 AIO|
|Memory||2×8 GB G.Skill Royal 3600 MHz CL16-16-16-36
2×8 GB G.Skill Royal 4000 MHz CL17-17-17-37
2×8 GB G.Skil Trident Z 4266 CL19-19-19-39 @ 4400 MHz
|SSD||Gigabyte Aorus 2 TB NVMe Gen4 (OS + Applications)|
|Power Supply||EVGA 750 W G3|
|Video Card||MSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio|
We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks, we use SuperPi 1M and 32M and WPrime. For rendering, it’s Cinebench R23 and CinebenchR20. Memory performance is benchmarked using AIDA64 Cache and Memory benchmark. For encoding, we use Blender and Corona. 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). Memory speed is 3600 MHz Gear1 using the XMP profile. We also tested with the memory at 4000 MHz Gear1 and 4400 MHz Gear2 to see the memory speed’s effect on performance.
Also, with the new Alder Lake systems, we have noticed the motherboards tend to let things run free with excessive voltage when left on auto settings. Prompting us to include some undervolted performance numbers where a -0.200 V offset on the CPU core voltage was used, and for comparison, we also have our overclocked performance with the CPU at 5.0 GHz on all P-Cores with E-Cores at stock.
Memory Performance Tests
AIDA64 – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput
AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark
|AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark – Raw Data|
|BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie||Read||Write||Copy||Latency|
|DDR4 3600 MHz CL16 Gear1||57380||52842||55855||59|
|DDR4 4000 MHz CL17 Gear1||63859||56703||61624||51.1|
|DDR4 4400 MHz CL19 Gear2||69351||63970||64439||65.1|
AIDA64 – CPU Tests
|AIDA64 CPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie||Queen||Photo||ZLib||AES||SHA3|
|DDR4 3600 MHz CL16 Gear1||113260||31629||1604.8||141218||5138|
|DDR4 4000 MHz CL17 Gear1||113524||30110||1603.9||141287||5160|
|DDR4 4400 MHz CL19 Gear2||113669||31719||1601.7||141182||4995|
AIDA64 – FPU Tests
|AIDA64 FPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie||FP-64||Julia||Mandel||SinJulia|
|DDR4 3600 MHz CL16 Gear1||59475||38486||14671||8210|
|DDR4 4000 MHz CL17 Gear1||59428||38967||14671||8299|
|DDR4 4400 MHz CL19 Gear2||59428||38966||14672||8300|
Our memory tests show that the different RAM speeds make little difference in the CPU and FPU tests. The memory benchmark increases bandwidth as the speed increases but switching from Gear1 to Gear2 sacrifices latency. We went from 51 ns at 4000 MHz Gear1 to 65 ns using the 4400 MHz Gear2 settings.
|Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265 (HWBot), 7Zip – Raw Data|
|BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie||R20||R23||Corona||7Zip|
|Stock DDR4 3600||10274||26977||9138770||105238|
|Overclocked DDR4 3600||10952||28767||9423930||109676|
|Undervolted DDR4 3600||10595||27721||9164970||106036|
|Undervolted DDR4 4000||10584||27744||9197580||106908|
|Undervolted DDR4 4400||10591||27798||9102990||107110|
Pi and Prime Based Tests
|SuperPi and wPrime Benchmarks – Raw Data|
|BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie||Spi 1M||SPi 32M||WPrime 32M||WPrime 1024M||Blender|
|Stock DDR4 3600||6.89||361.026||2.116||151434||133|
|Overclocked DDR4 3600||7.239||370.948||2.053||140.027||123|
|Undervolted DDR4 3600||6.88||358.851||2.151||156.456||127|
|Undervolted DDR4 4000||6.991||362.342||2.147||152.258||127|
|Undervolted DDR4 4400||7.009||370.058||2.145||151.141||127|
As was mentioned earlier, the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie, like other boards we’ve tested, tends to give too much voltage at stock settings causing it to throttle in more demanding benchmarks. As you can see from the results above, running the Valkyrie with a -0.200 V offset improved the performance across all of our tests and didn’t affect stability. On the other hand, the memory speed made slight differences in some of the tests, but for the most part, the results were very close regardless of memory settings.
We have updated our gaming tests and dropped them down to four games for motherboard reviews. In many cases, the difference between boards isn’t that much, and the titles we use cover both CPU-heavy and GPU-bound titles. All game tests were run at 1920×1080 and 1440×2560 with all CPUs at default settings unless otherwise noted. Please see our testing procedures for details on in-game settings.
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider – DX12, “Highest” preset
- Far Cry 6 – DX12, Ultra preset, VSync Off
- F1 2021 – DX12, Very High defaults, TAA, and x16 AF, Bahrain track, show FPS counter.
- Metro: Exodus – DX12, Ultra defaults
- UL 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) – Default settings
As with the 2D benchmark results we saw previously, the gaming benchmarks were similar regardless of the settings.
The 3DMark Firestrike results are very similar across the board as well.
We can see the actual Power use and temperature difference between stock and our undervolted settings here. When left at stock, our temperature would hit 100° C almost instantly in our stability tests, causing the CPU to throttle its speed to compensate. As you can see, there’s a big difference between the stock settings and undervolted settings in temperature and power usage, well over 100 W in some tests.
Overclocking with the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie
Overclocking on the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie was pretty straightforward as far as the BIOS was concerned: select the multiplier and adjust the voltage to compensate. The result was an all-P-core overclock of 5.0 GHz, and in the graphs above, you’ll find the overclock performance numbers.
The BIOS plays a significant role in a CPUs ability to overclock. When we received the Z690A Valkyrie, Biostar’s release BIOS worked very well for overclocking, allowing us to reach 5.1 GHz on the P-Cores and 4.1 GHz on the E-Cores. There was one issue with that BIOS though, any attempt to set a 1:1 ratio with the memory controller would result in a no boot situation. After the BIOS update, we could now use Gear1 in our memory tests but lost some headroom for overclocking. With luck, a future BIOS release might remedy that.
The Biostar Z690A Valkyrie may lack in some ways, such as a single Intel 2.5 Gbs LAN and the lack of wireless connectivity (but include the antenna??!). That said, it still has a lot to offer any user, starting with a solid 19+1-phase power section, 8-layer PCB, and actively cooled heatsinks. There are four M.2 sockets and eight SATA ports on the data storage front, 15 possible USB connections, and Thunderbolt 4 compatibility. The RGB lighting is scattered across the motherboard with a large Valkyrie wing logo on the I/O cladding and enough RGB/ARGB headers for expansion to keep any RGB LED aficionado happy.
Overclocking on the Valkyrie went well. The BIOS was easy to navigate, and the board handled itself very well overall. We were a bit disappointed with the limited overclocking headroom, but that may change in time as the BIOS matures. As for stock operation, it would pay off to take the time to reduce the voltage allowing it to run much cooler with better power efficiency.
On the memory side, there were a few growing pains with the Valkyrie initially. Since it is officially supported, the board should default to a 1:1 IMC gear ratio using DDR4 3200 MHz. The option to change the IMC ratio was in the BIOS, but the board would fail to boot by setting a 1:1 gear ratio. After working with the Biostar team and a few BIOS updates, everything is where it should be. The Valkyrie can now run 4000 MHz in Gear 1 and default to Gear 1 when using 3200 MHz memory with a 12900K.
Biostar also includes a few extras on the Valkyrie, typically reserved for higher-end overclocking-oriented motherboards. To go along with the extensive, 19-phase power delivery on the Valkyrie, we have an LN2 switch for extreme sub-ambient overclocking, onboard power, reset, and CLR CMOS buttons, as well as a dual BIOS.
We can find the Biostar Z690A Valkyrie online, currently priced at $525 on Amazon. There’s a fair amount of competition between five and $600. A quick search on Newegg found the MSI MEG Z690 ACE, the GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Tachyon, and the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-F Gaming all carry similar options and include onboard Wi-Fi / BT if that’s important to you. They fall a bit short on the warranty period of three years compared to Biostar’s five years. The Z690A Valkyrie was also right at home in the Gaming and overclocking arena, delivering solid performance once we tweaked the voltage a bit. Overall the Valkyrie gives you almost everything the Z690 platform has to offer.
– Shawn Jennings (Johan45)