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By now, most are used to seeing that the new motherboards with the top chipset cost a lot, but it’s not a rule. Gigabyte prepared some of their new motherboard series for AMD and Intel processors to deliver premium features and be more affordable at the same time. One of those motherboards is reviewed today, the Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX.
The Z790 AORUS Elite is not a budget motherboard, and it’s also not the flagship model. But at first sight, it still feels like a high-end product. Like not many competitive motherboard series, the Z790 AORUS Elite AX has balanced specifications focused on the most essential gaming features to provide the best experience to demanding users who still wish to save some money. The same as all new motherboards, it’s not cheap but offers some more at about the same price as other brands.
Specifications and Features of the AORUS Z790 Elite AX
Z790 Chipset: Delivering a Supercharged Experience for Enthusiasts
The 13th Gen Intel® Core™ desktop processors, when paired with the Z790 chipset, deliver the breakthrough performance and features that gamers, creators, and professionals need to work at their best. Optimized for overclocking and precision tuning when paired with an unlocked processor, the Z790 chipset empowers you with the control and confidence to choose the best performance and thermal characteristics for the task at hand. Harness the processing power, responsiveness, and connectivity of up to 38 high-speed I/O lanes—including 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes, 8 PCIe 3.0 lanes, and 5 USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20G) ports—as well as Intel® Killer™ Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) to take your gaming, content creation, and productivity to the next level.
|Chipset Features at a Glance||Intel® Z790 Series Chipset|
|Chipset PCIe Express 3.0 Lanes||Up to 8|
|Chipset PCIe Express 4.0 Lanes||Up to 20|
|Processor PCIe Lane Configuration Support||1×16+1×4 or 2×8+1×4|
|SATA 3.0 (6 Gb/s) Ports3||Up to 8|
|USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 (5G) Ports||10|
|USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 (10G) Ports||10|
|USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20G) Ports||5|
|Support for 12th and 13th Gen Intel® Core™ desktop processors||Cross-generation compatibility with additional PCIe lanes and USB ports.|
|Volume Management Device (Intel® VMD)||User-friendly way to manage your storage devices that allows direct control and management of NVMe SSDs from the PCIe bus without additional hardware adaptors.|
|Memory Overclocking1 Support||Enables memory overclocking so that new and experienced users can get more from their unlocked processors.|
|Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 19.x or later||With additional SSDs and hard drives added, helps provide quick access to digital photo, video, and data files, and data protection against a hard disk drive failure with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10.|
|Intel® Wi-Fi 6E Support||Integrated Intel® Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) through CNVi and Intel® Killer™ Wi-Fi 6E (Gig+) so that you can enjoy uninterrupted, best-in-class wired and wireless connectivity at Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds.|
|Intel® Smart Sound Technology||Integrated digital signal processor (DSP) for audio offload and audio/voice features.|
|USB 3.2 Gen 2×2||Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support provides data transfer performance with a design data rate of up to 20 Gb/s.|
|USB 3.2 Gen 2×1||Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 support provides data transfer performance with a design data rate of up to 10 Gb/s.|
|USB 3.2 Gen 1×1||Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 support provides data transfer performance with a design data rate of up to 5 Gb/s.|
|Serial ATA (SATA) 6 Gb/s||High-speed storage interface that supports up to 6 Gb/s transfer rates for optimal data access.|
|Intel® Platform Trust Technology||Integrated chipset hardware and firmware solution that delivers a trusted element of the platform execution to provide enhanced security against viruses and malicious SW attacks.|
|PCI Express 4.0 Interface||Up to 20 PCI Express 4.0 lanes of 16 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking.|
|PCI Express 3.0 Interface||Up to 8 PCI Express 3.0 lanes of 8 GT/s for fast access to peripheral devices and networking.|
|13th Generation Intel® Core™ desktop processor PCI Express 4.0 Interface||Intel® Z790 chipset-based platforms enable the processor PCI Express 4.0 lanes to be configurable as 1×4 depending on desktop motherboard designs.|
Intel Z790 chipset features – source: Intel
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX Specifications
|Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX Specifications|
|Chipset||Intel® Z790 Express Chipset|
|Onboard Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor-Intel® HD Graphics support:|
RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 support for NVMe SSD storage devices
RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 support for SATA storage devices
|LAN||Realtek® 2.5GbE LAN chip (2.5 Gbps/1 Gbps/100 Mbps)|
|Wi-Fi||Intel® Wi-Fi 6E AX211|
Chipset+2 USB 2.0 Hubs:
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
|I/O Controller||iTE® I/O Controller Chip|
|OS Support||Supports Windows 10 64-bit and Windows 11 64-bit|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm|
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX – Specifications; Source: Gigabyte product page.
The Elite AX is not the flagship model, but it still looks interesting. Gigabyte had to save on some components to keep the price lower. Even though it still looks like a high-end motherboard, we won’t find a thunderbolt controller, there are fewer high-speed USB ports, and the audio codec is from an older generation (still improved with audio-grade capacitors and AMP-UP system). There are also fewer surfaces with RGB backlight. What does it mean for most users? Not so much, as most gamers don’t really want to pay for these things or don’t use them. As long as the experience is not much different, then it’s better to save some money to spend on a faster CPU or graphics card. The motherboard still offers us a robust power design, multiple fast M.2 sockets, great cooling, and high RAM speed support.
Gigabyte prepared a YouTube video with the key features of the Z790 AORUS Elite AX, which you can see below. Later in the article, I will describe the most important features and tell you how I feel about them.
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX – “Build Smart” YouTube Video
For those who don’t want to watch the video, below is a list of the most important features.
|Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX Features|
|Twin Digital VRM Design||To ensure maximum Turbo Boost and overclocking performance of AMD’s new generation CPU, the GIGABYTE AORUS series motherboard equips the best VRM design ever built with the highest quality components.|
|PCIe 5.0 Design||Design Ready for PCIe 5.0|
PCIe 5.0 Design supports double the bandwidth of PCIe 4.0 and ensures that compatible with cutting-edge SSDs and GPUs released in the next few years to their full capability.
DDR5 Overclocking Up to 7600 and Beyond
AORUS is offering a tested and proven platform that has memory overclocking capability up to 7600 and beyond. For DDR5 XMP Memory, all users need to do to attain high memory performance boost is to ensure that their memory module is XMP capable and that the XMP function is activated and enabled on their AORUS motherboard.
Triple 7G/s Gen4 M.2 PCIe SSDs in RAID 0
The exclusive 3 PCIe 4.0 M.2 from CPU and 2nd Generation 7000 MB/s SSD provides unparalleled Read/ Write performance up to 21053 and 15499 MB/s.
|Smart Fan 6||Smart Fan 6|
Smart Fan 6 contains several unique cooling features that ensure gaming PC maintain its performance while staying cool and quiet. Multiple fan headers can support PWM/DC fans and a pump, and users can easily define each fan curve based on different temperature sensors across the board via the intuitive user interface.
Each fan headers support PWM and DC fan and Water Cooling Pump, and up to 24W (12V x 2A) with Over-Current Protection.
Multiple temperature/fan speed control points for the precise fan curve
Slope/Stair dual mode for different user scenarios
The fan can stop completely below the user’s specified temperature point
With the new Noise Detection function, you can monitor the noise level of all devices, including fans, CPU coolers, graphics cards, etc., in real time, and you can determine how fast your fan speed needs to be. Our bundled Noise Detection cable doesn’t include any sound recording function, it simply detects sound pressure while protecting your privacy.
802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E
The latest Wireless solution 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E with a new dedicated 6GHz band, enables gigabit wireless performance, provides smooth video streaming, a better gaming experience, few dropped connections, and speeds up to 2.4Gbps. Moreover, Bluetooth 5 provides a 4X range over BT 4.2 and faster transmission.
First adopter on 2.5GbE LAN onboard
2X Faster than ever
Connecting the Future – Front USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C®
Featuring the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 design, which is double the performance of the previous generation of USB 3.2 Gen 2. It works up to 20Gbps ultra-fast data transfer while connecting to USB 3.2-compliant peripherals. Through the USB Type-C® connector, users can enjoy the flexibility of a reversible connection to access and store massive amounts of data rapidly.
Connecting the Future – Front USB3.2 Gen 2 Type-C®
USB 3.2 Gen 2 provides USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports with speeds up to 10Gbps. With twice the bandwidth compared to its previous generation as well as backward compatibility with USB 2.0 and USB 3.2 Gen1, the much-improved USB 3.2 Gen 2 protocol is available over the new reversible USB Type-C™ and the traditional USB Type-A connector for better compatibility over a wider range of devices.
Audiophile Grade Capacitors (Premium Grade Audio)
To ensure a studio-quality experience, WIMA and Premium Grade Audio capacitors are used to provide power to the overall system.
|Personalization||RGB Fusion Multi-Zone Light Show Design|
Now offering more LED customizations than ever, users can truly adapt their PC to represent their lifestyle. With full RGB support and a redesigned RGB Fusion 2.0 application, the user has complete control over the LEDs which surround the motherboard.
GIGABYTE CONTROL CENTER (GCC) is a unified software for all GIGABYTE-supported products. It provides a newly designed intuitive user interface to control all essential functions.
A multi-function reset button that can be reconfigured to other functions in BIOS for different user scenarios.
|ULTRA DURABLE||EZ-Latch Plus|
With GIGABYTE EZ-Latch Plus, you can DIY your PC in no time, quickly and easily.
Update the BIOS easily without installing the CPU, memory, and graphics card.
With GIGABYTE Q-Flash Plus, you don’t need to install the CPU, memory, and graphics card or enter the BIOS menu to flash the BIOS. Just download and save a new BIOS file (rename to gigabyte.bin) on the USB flash drive, then press the dedicated Q-Flash Plus button, and you’re good to go!
I’m quite disappointed that Gigabyte decided to use Realtek ALC897 audio codec instead of something from the latest generation. The ALC897 is now widely available in budget motherboards. The motherboard is not from the highest series, but I was counting on at least ALC1220. On the other hand, we still get WIMA capacitors, and the overall audio quality is pretty good.
The Gigabyte website suggests to us that the Elite AX is still a premium product. It takes us a while to find real differences between this motherboard and higher models. The Elite AX has most of the same speed controllers as the higher motherboard series, so WiFi 6E or 2.5G LAN from Realtek. It’s not Intel, so it’s cheaper but not really slower. We have to live with fewer 20Gbps USB ports and no Thunderbolt, but everything we get will still satisfy most gamers.
The motherboard is equipped with large heatsinks for the VRM, chipset, and M.2 SSD. It doesn’t look as awesome on the Z790 Master but is still better than on competitive motherboards at about the same price. The first M.2 SSD heatsink could be black, as it stands out of the black motherboard theme and looks somehow cheaper than other heatsinks. Worth mentioning is that all M.2 sockets are equipped with thermal pads, but only the first one has it for the front and back of the SSD.
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX uses 16+1+2 power phases, of which 16 are for the CPU. The same as in the previously reviewed B650E AORUS Master, it’s an 8+8 phases parallel power design. It is confirmed to be a solid design that handles higher-wattage processors well and doesn’t heat up much. As long as it works well and lets us overclock the CPU, then we are happy.
Now let’s check what we get with the Z790 AORUS Elite AX and how the motherboard looks.
Retail Packaging and Accessories
The exterior looks well. The front covers some features about the motherboard model inside, while on the back are additional specifications and some more info like support contact, safety certificates, and some more. Inside the box, we won’t find much. Here Gigabyte saved some too, but it’s not a problem as we don’t need much. We only get a WiFi antenna, SATA data cables, a quick user’s guide (an extended version of the manual is available on the website), and a front panel cable manager. Everything else, like the IO shield or M.2 installation screws, are installed on the motherboard or are not required because of the toolless design. You’ll have to get drivers from the website.
Let’s take a look at the motherboard itself.
A Closer Look at the Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX
The Z790 AORUS Elite AX is another motherboard with large heatsinks. It looks exceptional and helps with the cooling of crucial components. It’s also a fully fanless design, so it makes no noise, and there are no moving parts, so nothing will break.
The same as in all higher series motherboards, also here are two 8-pin CPU power connectors (one required) for power-hungry CPUs and to keep stability in overclocked conditions. There are no additional 6-pin connectors for PCIe devices or USB. We could say there is nothing unexpected.
Below you can see how the motherboard looks. The layout feels optimal. All the connectors are where I would expect them. There is no diagnostic display, but are diagnostic LEDs that suggest what may cause the problem. There are also Q-Flash and clear CMOS buttons.
The motherboard doesn’t have a backplate which seems to be available only in top series motherboards like the Master. The IO includes 10 USB 3.2 ports, but only one is 20Gbps. There are no 40Gbps ports that seem to be available only in the most expensive motherboards. Besides USB ports, on the IO panel, we will find one HDMI 2.0, one DisplayPort 1.2, SPDIF Out, one Microphone jack, and one Line Out jack on the audio stack.
Below are additional close-ups of the ICs that we can find on the motherboard. There are fewer USB controllers than on the previously reviewed Gigabyte motherboard, which explains fewer high-speed USB ports.
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
BIOS is not much different than in other Gigabyte motherboards from the latest AORUS series. The motherboard arrived with an earlier version, so we updated it to the F3f version, which was the latest while writing this review. Even though there were no problems with the initial BIOS, it’s good to keep it up to date as it may improve the performance and help with compatibility.
The BIOS has two modes, an easy mode for all those who are fine with basic settings and an advanced mode for those who like to adjust everything or need specific settings for their work.
Advanced Mode – Tweaker
Advanced Mode – Settings
Advanced Mode – System Info
Advanced Mode – Boot
Advanced Mode – Save & Exit
The motherboard supports Q-Flash Plus. In short, we can update BIOS in many ways: directly from BIOS, OS, or a prepared flash drive that can update the BIOS without even the CPU. The last option is an amazing life-saver in case any BIOS corruption occurs or we get a new CPU and the motherboard can’t start. It saves us the need for RMA as we can fix it independently.
Gigabyte adds the Control Center software, which includes RGB adjustment, fan control, overclocking and diagnostic options, and software/firmware updates. All we need in one place.
The RGB worked with many popular brands, like G.Skill, Kingston, ZADAK, KLEVV, and Silicon Power. The same as in the B650E Master, Corsair memory required dedicated software, and without it, we could see a static white backlight. The software is about the same for all AORUS series motherboards, and it automatically recognizes the motherboard.
Test Setup and Performance of the Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX
|Test System Components|
CPU and Memory Performance
Performance – AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark
|AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark – Raw Data|
|Motherboard / CPU||Read||Write||Copy||Latency|
|AORUS Z790 Elite AX / i7 13700K||101450||90416||93053||68.2|
|AORUS B650E Master / R9 7950X||88054||93948||80708||60|
|Crosshair X670E Gene / R9 7950X||84328||92486||80924||64.2|
|AORUS X570 Ultra / R9 5900X||54136||53259||48805||60.2|
|MSI Z690 Unify-X / i9 12900K||93452||94213||85423||68.4|
The Z790 AORUS Elite AX supports up to DDR5-7600, and this was the limit while overclocking, but it wasn’t fully stable. Possibly it was a matter of early BIOS. Since the new motherboards support higher memory frequencies, then in comparison is the G.Skill DDR5-6800 CL34 memory kit which seems like a new standard for Z790 motherboards.
As long as the bandwidth is high, then results in memory write are lower than on Z690 motherboards. The same can see on other Z790 motherboards with RAM at XMP settings. Once we use manual settings and tighter timings, then the new Intel shows impressive results, passing 120GB/s and going as low as 50ns latency. On the other hand, the same as in Z690 motherboards, RAM overclocking is not helping us to gain significantly better performance in games or other applications. The Z790 AORUS Elite AX performs well, and we can compare its results to other, higher-series motherboards with the latest Intel chipset.
Performance – AIDA64 CPU Tests
|AIDA64 CPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|Motherboard / CPU||Queen||Photo||Zlib||AES||SHA3|
|AORUS Z790 Elite AX / i7 13700K||131543||61251||1793.1||224270||6578|
|AORUS B650E Master / R9 7950X||206920||54247||2458.5||384373||11136|
|Crosshair X670E Gene / R9 7950X||206456||53242||2471.2||383479||10805|
|AORUS X570 Ultra / R9 5900X||136611||20822||1342.9||210463||5296|
|MSI Z690 Unify-X / i9 12900K||114996||59512||1556.2||206710||6011|
In AIDA64 CPU tests, the results are about where they should be. AMD processors with more cores show better results in these tests, but the i7 13700K defends well.
Performance – AIDA64 FPU Tests
|AIDA64 FPU Benchmark – Raw Data|
|Motherboard / CPU||Julia||Mandel||SinJulia||FP64 RT|
|AORUS Z790 Elite AX / i7 13700K||143889||69617||15867||15706|
|AORUS B650E Master / R9 7950X||263030||139873||33643||34141|
|Crosshair X670E Gene / R9 7950X||256027||130170||33257||33775|
|AORUS X570 Ultra / R9 5900X||155039||85157||19566||12843|
|MSI Z690 Unify-X / i9 12900K||132297||68172||14692||15319|
FPU tests show even more significant differences between AMD and Intel processors, while the Elite AX results are pretty good one more time.
Performance – Cinebench R23, POV-Ray, Blender, 7Zip
|Cinebench R23, POVRay, Blender 3.3, 7Zip – Raw Data|
|Motherboard / CPU||R23 (S)||R23 (M)||POV-Ray||Blender||7Zip|
|AORUS Z790 Elite AX / i7 13700K||2103||30897||286590.9||457.97||153.27|
|AORUS B650E Master / R9 7950X||2004||38384||267130.4||626.82||202.38|
|Crosshair X670E Gene / R9 7950X||2002||38340||279272.7||622.52||219.22|
|AORUS X570 Ultra / R9 5900X||1598||20983||288281.5||339.75||117.12|
|MSI Z690 Unify-X / i9 12900K||1882||27480||228088.1||426.6||131.91|
In the single-threaded Cinebench R23 test, we can see that the new Intel is very fast, and the results on the Elite AX motherboard are great at default settings. In multi-threaded tests, the new 16-core AMD is clearly faster, but the 5900X and 12900K processors already lose a lot in some tests.
Performance – PCMark 10 Applications – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Edge
|PCMark 10 Applications – Raw Data|
|Motherboard / CPU||Word||Excel||PowerPoint||Edge|
|AORUS Z790 Elite AX / i7 13700K||8772||41228||19422||14342|
|AORUS B650E Master / R9 7950X||10426||40864||21892||14604|
|Crosshair X670E Gene / R9 7950X||10683||41813||22206||14582|
|AORUS X570 Ultra / R9 5900X||11180||31685||17908||12932|
|MSI Z690 Unify-X / i9 12900K||9564||37529||18581||16052|
In the PCMark 10 Applications benchmark, results are also as high as expected.
Games – Assassins Creed Valhalla, The Division 2, Far Cry 6, F1 2022
In games, we won’t see any significant difference between new AMD and Intel processors. In the best case, 2-3FPS in the tested games. Both new processor series will give us some performance gain over the last generation processors.
3D Benchmarks – 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme
3D Benchmarks – 3DMark Time Spy
3DMark CPU tests are showing us how well new processors are performing. The overall scores are not so obvious. In the Time Spy, the 13700K with a Gigabyte motherboard is clearly the best.Storage Performance
M.2 SSD – CrystalDiskMark
Intel chipsets for the last couple of years show lower maximum bandwidth of M.2 SSD than AMD chipsets. The same is with the Z790, which can’t pass much above the 7GB/s. The same Silicon Power XS70 SSD on B650E AORUS Master could reach 7.4GB/s. Except for the maximum bandwidth, the M.2 performance is great and meets expectations.
USB – CrystalDiskMark
USB 3.2 performance, on the other hand, is better than on the B650E AORUS Master motherboard by about 50MB/s. This is close to the maximum possible bandwidth fn the Crucial X8 SSD used for this test.
WiFi – CrystalDiskMark
Network performance is about as high as expected. Everything works well without delays or bandwidth drops. Gigabyte is adding software that is supposed to improve the network bandwidth and lower latency. In the test environment, there were no additional connections that could interfere, so our results were similar with or without the additional network management software.
Above, you can see our results of the whole test rig. It’s a typical high-end PC. The new Intel processors have a high wattage, but it’s not a problem for the Z790 AORUS Elite AX. All tests passed without problems, and the large heatsinks were keeping the power section cool and stable.
Overclocking with the AORUS Z790 Elite AX
In the last BIOS revisions, Gigabyte added a 6GHz OC option for i7-13700K and i9-13900K processors. It sets a single thread up to 6GHz while other cores remain at default settings. As a result, we may see some improvements in games, but barely anything will change in multi-threaded applications. We also gain bragging rights to a 6GHz CPU overclock in our gaming PC.
If we wish to really gain some performance, then the best is to overclock all cores, including E-cores. On the used i7-13700K processor, we could reach 5.7GHz P-cores and 4.5GHz E-cores. As you can see in the screenshot below, the CPU was at the edge of throttling, and the CPU Package Power was over 323W.
The Z790 AORUS Elite AX doesn’t limit our overclocking results. The main problem is the CPU’s heat. Even the best coolers available in stores won’t help us. If we wish to achieve better results, then the minimum will be a larger custom water cooling set. The cost of a much better cooling is high, so we have to answer to ourselves if it’s really worth it.
Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX is a good motherboard but leaves some mixed feelings. On the one hand, it gives everything that most gamers need, it’s fast and overclocks well. On the other hand, when we start to analyze all the features and components, then we get the feeling that something is missing and it could be better. I assume that computer enthusiasts will be picky about the audio codec, lack of double-side thermal cooling for three M.2 SSD, only a few fast USB ports, and some more things mentioned in the review, which are less important. However, most users won’t call it a disadvantage considering the motherboard’s price. Newegg sells the Gigabyte Z790 AORUS Elite AX (DDR5) for $259.99. This is clearly a great deal, especially for less picky users.
During all the tests, there were no problems with the motherboards. All results were high, all connected devices were working without issues. The motherboard ran cool and quietly due to the large heatsinks. RGB enthusiasts may complain about limited illumination but can still connect additional devices to RGB headers on the motherboard, which are fully supported by Gigabyte software.
Bartosz Waluk – Woomack