The ASRock Z490 Aqua: Thunderbolt 3, PCIe 4.0 Ready, Water Cooledby Gavin Bonshor on May 5, 2020 2:00 PM EST
Following a resurgence of motherboards decked out with custom monoblocks, ASRock has announced details on its Z490 Aqua. It includes a familiar aluminium plated copper custom monoblock, with just 999 units available for purchase. It includes two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports, three PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, an Aquantia 10 G and Realtek 2.5 G Ethernet controller pairing, including hardline water cooling fittings within the accessories bundle.
During Computex 19, ASRock unveiled its X570 Aqua motherboard which we since reviewed, which is currently one of the most stunning desktop models in existence. The new ASRock Z490 Aqua builds upon the success of its AMD based model, with a full cover block monoblock which cools the CPU and the 16-phase power delivery. Following the same design as the X570 model, the ASRock Z490 Aqua adds an OLED display which can display with CPU voltages, temperatures, system and POST statuses, with an abundance of premium controllers and features onboard.
Included in the long list of features are three full-length PCIe 3.0 slots which run at x16, x8/x8, and x8/x8/+4, with two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. It uses a 16-phase power delivery which is kept cool by the large monoblock, and benefits from 90 A power stages with a maximum Vcore current of up to 1260A. Providing power to the CPU is a pair of 8-pin 12V ATX CPU power inputs, with an Intersil ISL69269 PWM controller operating in a 14+2 configuration. There is support for DDR4-4700, with a total capacity of up to 128 GB across four memory slots. It does have support for ECC DDR4 UDIMMs, but these will operate in non-ECC mode.
New for the Z490 Aqua is a pack of hardline water cooling fittings which come in the board's accessories bundle. This includes six knurled silver straight fittings, four 90° right-angled fittings, with a filling and drawing value, and two stop-cap fittings with the Aqua logo, all packed into a nice presentation box.
The rear panel of the ASRock Z490 Aqua is stacked with two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C and two accompanying Mini DisplayPort input ports. Also present are three USB 3.2 G2 10 Gbps Type-A, one USB 3.2 G2 10 Gbps Type-C, and four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports. For users intending to leverage Intel's integrated graphics, there is a single HDMI video input. For users demanding premium networking, the Z490 Aqua is using an Aquantia AQC107 10 G and Realtek RTL8125BG 2.5 Ethernet controller pairing, as well as an Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless interface which provides support for BT 5.0 devices. There are five 3.5 mm color-coded audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output which are powered by a Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec, which is assisted by an ESS Sabre 9128 DAC which controls the front panel audio. Finishing off the rear panel is a clear CMOS switch and a BIOS Flashback button.
The ASRock Z490 Aqua is expected to weigh a considerable amount when all the aluminium, the backplate, and custom monoblock is factored in; the ASRock X570 Aqua for reference weighed a whopping 2.5 kg (~5.5 lbs). Only 999 units will be available for purchase which will add an element of exclusivity, which we expect to add to the price tag. ASRock has also enabled support with redrivers and a PCIe 4.0 clockgen designed for Intel's Rocket Lake when it is ready to launch. While this doesn't benefit the Intel's Comet Lake processors,
ASRock hasn't unveiled pricing at this time, but we expect the Z490 Aqua to be available either at the launch of Intel's 10th Generation Comet Lake processors or shortly after.
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shabby - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linkPcie 4 ready? Which part? There's nothing here that talks aboot pcie 4.
Makaveli - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linklol its PCIe 4 Ready for Rocket Lake S which has no release date yet.
Santoval - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - linkThey apparently mean that some or all of the PCIe slots (most likely some, the closest ones to the CPU) have been wired with traces and a robust enough PCB that are required to sustain PCIe 4.0 signals. Sure, they have no way to actually *test* that, since I don't think Rocket Lake-S exists even as an engineering sample yet. Yet they already have experience with PCIe 4.0 slots and motherboard traces from AMD's motherboards so they know what to do (kind of blindly though, they have no way to validate PCIe 4.0 compliance until they have Rocket Lake CPUs in their hands; so rather than "PCIe 4.0 ready" it's a case of "We are 90% sure that it is PCIe 4.0 ready").
PCIe 4.0 requires higher quality motherboards, I believe with more PCB layers, so that the integrity of PCIe 4.0 signals (which are clocked twice as high as PCIe 3.0, and that makes them twice as weak and more prone to cross-talk - so imagine how weak PCIe 5.0 signals, which double again the clocks, are going to be...) can be retained from the CPU to the PCIe slots and vice versa.
brontes - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linkApproximately zero people will spend $1000+ for this board and then use a handful of mismatched fittings to save money.
Operandi - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linkThey are missing a golden marketing opportunity here with Aqua Man. I have a strong vibe that they same kinda of people that liked that movie would want to buy something like this.
Hxx - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linknot many folks will buy this board because not many of them are made available to the public (1k less the ones that go to tech tubers) and the ones that do buy it probably dont need any convincing from marketing to be dropping 1k on it.
brontes - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - linkAs someone in the watercooling community, it appears 1000 is the perfect number, at least for x570. Plenty of people have them and never read a complaint about not being able to get one. The most recent one I saw was #800something.
PeachNCream - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linkIt's a good thing they are only making 999 of them. I can't see this having a broad appeal given the shrinking desktop PC market and the pandemic sucking the wind out of the global economy.
close - Wednesday, May 6, 2020 - linkThis is the niche of the niche. Even in a growing market few would go for it. It's not meant to actually be sold but rather to promote the brand. If you're a true enthusiast (not just someone with money to drop on bling) you don't want a half-assed "integrated" cooling solution for your CPU. If I have to build a custom water cooling loop I'll do it all the way to my liking.
bernstein - Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - linkthe silliness people buy...
if only someone would tell them, that good air coolers with heatpipes are better at keeping your cpu cool (at lower noise levels!).
obviously a custom watercooling solution will be better, but that costs upwards of $500 for pump, pipes, tank, coolant, radiator, cpu+gpu block