ASRock Z390 Extreme4 Review: 9th Gen “Core” Value?

Benchmark Results and Final Analysis

Though automatic-overclocking hasn’t been a problem for any tested board with the Core i9-9900K installed, we remind readers that we’ve always disabled that setting whenever it’s found. And because we also found that some boards re-enabled it whenever XMP memory mode was enabled, we run our basic benchmark set with XMP disabled. For our memory, that means it’s running at DDR4-2400, except during our overclocking evaluation.

Synthetic Benchmarks

There’s very little room to score a synthetic benchmark victory when overclocking is disabled, though both MSI boards in our comparison charts somehow lead the graphics score of our 3DMark Firestrike test. Moreover, the Z390 Extreme4 bombs the PCMark Creative Test, and the voltage regulator thermal throttling we noticed in our power test would be the most-likely cause.

3D Games

The Z390 Extreme4 takes marginal victories at our lowest Ashes and highest F1 2015 test settings, and is close to average in overall gaming performance.

Timed Benchmarks

How does a board go about losing our MS Word and Excel benchmarks? We find it a little hard to believe that these could be strenuous enough to cause voltage regulator thermal throttling, but the benchmarks indicate that some type of throttling has occurred.

Power, Heat, & Efficiency

Something we noticed right away with the Z390 Extreme4 was that it drew much more power than it should, and CPU-Z shows that CPU core voltage is way up at approximately 1.32V. That could easily increase voltage regulator temperatures enough to hasten its thermal limit.

Indeed, voltage regulator temperatures were terrible, and these are just the temps we measured before throttling kicked down the CPU frequency. Meanwhile, the directly-competing MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk reached its thermal limit and throttled before we could even get an accurate measurement. It appears this ASRock board isn't alone in its issues with the i9-9900K.

That said, while both boards throttled under the stress of a fully-loaded Core i9-9900K, the MAG Z390 Tomahawk appears to have done it with more finesse, helping the board achieve a full two-percent performance lead in the average of benchmarks. Combining the Z390 Extreme4’s performance loss with its terrible power consumption leads us to an 18.3-percent below-average efficiency rating, though that percentage is based on every Z390 board we’ve tested and not just the four in the chart.

Overclocking

Simply putting the Core i9-9900K’s stock 8-core-loaded Intel Turbo Boost ratio in the Overclocking chart would be too generous for the Z390 Extreme4, given that it couldn’t hold that frequency. The MAG Z390 Tomahawk could, but only after we undervolted our CPU.

The Z390 Extreme4 did reach a solid memory overclock however, and it even posted an impressive 42GBps memory bandwidth after doing so. That’s the best we’ve seen from our Core i9-9900K and Kingston DDR4-2933 combo.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps we were too quick to give the formerly-tested MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk a 2.5/5 in our previous review, given that its low price could put it below the consideration of most Core i9-9900K buyers. But the point was that we expected a board that supports the processor to do so continuously at stock frequencies. Overclocking headroom for such an expensive CPU could be a luxury that most of its buyers wouldn’t pay for. And that brings us to today’s Z390 Extreme4.

The problem for ASRock is that its low price is matched by MSI. Meanwhile, the MSI board held our CPU closer to its rated performance level than the Z390 Extreme4. The ASRock board has the distinct advantage of supporting SLI, but at this price it’s only likely to matter to builders who happen to be carrying over a pair of cards from a previous build. MSI has enticing features of its own, like dual Gigabit Ethernet.

To be fair, ASRock's mid-priced Z390 Xtreme4 isn't the only board we've tested that doesn't properly support the Core i9-9900K. And while we can't say for certain since we didn't test for it, this board should handle lesser CPUs in Intel's mainstream lineup just fine. But the Extrem4 falls down in both performance and power measurements against similarly priced competition. That makes this ASRock model tough to recommend, unless perhaps you are planning to pair it with a lesser CPU and you value SLI and memory overclocking support over what MSI brings to the mid-range table with its MAG Z390 Tomahawk.

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24 comments
    Your comment
  • Tanyac
    Under the cons column...
    "ASRock will not honor the warranty if purchased in Australia and if problems occur outside the typical retailer 30 day DOA"
  • Crashman
    1749954 said:
    Under the cons column... "ASRock will not honor the warranty if purchased in Australia and if problems occur outside the typical retailer 30 day DOA"
    I don't know much about Australia problems...
  • Phaaze88
    That's quite the oversight... or perhaps it was on purpose(not being able to handle 9900k, I mean)?
    When I see the 'extreme' moniker, I think high end, or something thereof. This doesn't fit the bill.
  • g-unit1111
    I'm noticing a pattern between the VRMs on midrange motherboards and the 9900K. This seems to be no exception. Is this developing into an FX-9590 situation where the CPU was too much for the motherboard to handle?
  • Crashman
    537231 said:
    I'm noticing a pattern between the VRMs on midrange motherboards and the 9900K. This seems to be no exception. Is this developing into an FX-9590 situation where the CPU was too much for the motherboard to handle?
    They're basically splitting the market using the logic that people who buy less than the 9900K would probably like to save money on the board as well. Remember that boards with similar voltage regulators did fairly well with the 8700K, so we're basically looking at a split between "able to overclock 9900K" and "good enough for nearly everything else".
  • emeralds1000000
    8708 said:
    537231 said:
    I'm noticing a pattern between the VRMs on midrange motherboards and the 9900K. This seems to be no exception. Is this developing into an FX-9590 situation where the CPU was too much for the motherboard to handle?
    They're basically splitting the market using the logic that people who buy less than the 9900K would probably like to save money on the board as well. Remember that boards with similar voltage regulators did fairly well with the 8700K, so we're basically looking at a split between "able to overclock 9900K" and "good enough for nearly everything else".


    So where is your Best Motherboards for 9900K roundup review ? Best Value ones and best top ones only for i9 9900K?
  • Crashman
    2748966 said:
    So where is your Best Motherboards for 9900K roundup review ? Best Value ones and best top ones only for i9 9900K?

    I think the best I can do is get the Z390 awards into the Best Motherboards coverage ;)
    So far we have the Gigabyte Z390 Designare and ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac, but those are both in the over-$200 class.
  • emeralds1000000
    8708 said:
    2748966 said:
    So where is your Best Motherboards for 9900K roundup review ? Best Value ones and best top ones only for i9 9900K?
    I think the best I can do is get the Z390 awards into the Best Motherboards coverage ;) So far we have the Gigabyte Z390 Designare and ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac, but those are both in the over-$200 class.


    Z390 Motherboards

    Asus has 21
    MSI 11
    Gigabyte 13
    Asrock 11

    I noticed that roundups in the last two years became very scarce and not like the old glory times of Tomshardware and other sites ..

    What is the reason ? They dont send you free motherboards for testing anymore ? or is it not profitable as before to review alot of products ?

    you can easily ask for Hardware donation for testing from Hardware Sellers in return of Ads for their sites , like newegg or Amazon or what ever.
  • Crashman
    2748966 said:
    8708 said:
    2748966 said:
    So where is your Best Motherboards for 9900K roundup review ? Best Value ones and best top ones only for i9 9900K?
    I think the best I can do is get the Z390 awards into the Best Motherboards coverage ;) So far we have the Gigabyte Z390 Designare and ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac, but those are both in the over-$200 class.
    Z390 Motherboards Asus has 21 MSI 11 Gigabyte 13 Asrock 11 I noticed that roundups in the last two years became very scarce and not like the old glory times of Tomshardware and other sites .. What is the reason ? They dont send you free motherboards for testing anymore ? or is it not profitable as before to review alot of products ? you can easily ask for Hardware donation for testing from Hardware Sellers in return of Ads for their sites , like newegg or Amazon or what ever.
    First of all, we have not awarded 21 Asus boards. And our "best motherboards" is an awards showcase. So it needs to be updated with the two Z390 boards that did get awards.

    Poor traffic is the reason we don't do many roundups. Most of our traffic comes from search engines now. More people are searching for reviews by motherboard name than for roundups. And the easiest way to get a search engine to promote a Gigabyte Z390 Designare review, for example, is to write an article called the Gigabyte Z390 Designare review.

    So without further adieu, here are motherboard reviews:
    https://www.tomshardware.com/t/motherboards/review/
  • emeralds1000000
    8708 said:
    2748966 said:
    8708 said:
    2748966 said:
    So where is your Best Motherboards for 9900K roundup review ? Best Value ones and best top ones only for i9 9900K?
    I think the best I can do is get the Z390 awards into the Best Motherboards coverage ;) So far we have the Gigabyte Z390 Designare and ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac, but those are both in the over-$200 class.
    Z390 Motherboards Asus has 21 MSI 11 Gigabyte 13 Asrock 11 I noticed that roundups in the last two years became very scarce and not like the old glory times of Tomshardware and other sites .. What is the reason ? They dont send you free motherboards for testing anymore ? or is it not profitable as before to review alot of products ? you can easily ask for Hardware donation for testing from Hardware Sellers in return of Ads for their sites , like newegg or Amazon or what ever.
    First of all, we have not awarded 21 Asus boards. And our "best motherboards" is an awards showcase. So it needs to be updated with the two Z390 boards that did get awards. Poor traffic is the reason we don't do many roundups. Most of our traffic comes from search engines now. More people are searching for reviews by motherboard name than for roundups. And the easiest way to get a search engine to promote a Gigabyte Z390 Designare review, for example, is to write an article called the Gigabyte Z390 Designare review. So without further adieu, here are motherboard reviews: https://www.tomshardware.com/t/motherboards/review/


    I meant to say , why dont you review every motherboard released by known Vendors ?
  • mdd1963
    So are $500+ 'mainstream' Z390 boards required to properly run the 9900K? What a disaster...
  • logainofhades
    The 9900k I feel is Intel's FX9590 with regards to needing expensive board, cooling, and high wattage psu, just to handle it. Only difference is the performance is actually there.
  • Crashman
    46152 said:
    So are $500+ 'mainstream' Z390 boards required to properly run the 9900K? What a disaster...
    Only if you're prone to exaggeration. Everyone else can find a $200+ board to do it.
  • logainofhades
    8708 said:
    46152 said:
    So are $500+ 'mainstream' Z390 boards required to properly run the 9900K? What a disaster...
    Only if you're prone to exaggeration. Everyone else can find a $200+ board to do it.


    It does seem like the vast majority of Z390 boards have been labeled as mediocre, with regards to 9900k overclocking. The platform, as a whole, while fast, is simply horrible when it comes to price/performance. The cost to run a 9900k vs a 2700/2700x, could easily mean a better GPU, going with the less expensive product. While I love my 6700k, Intel has priced themselves so far, that if I had to build now, it would be AMD. Intel simply has lost me as a customer with their ridiculous pricing. At one time I could at least argue, from an upgrade perspective, that Intel would make sense, as I could reuse my CL13 2133 ram, and not get a huge performance penalty, staying with Intel. Now the price difference is so vast, I would be spending just as much, to buy an AM4 platform, with new/faster ram. I could then repurpose my 6700k for something else.
  • Olle P
    59887 said:
    It does seem like the vast majority of Z390 boards have been labeled as mediocre, with regards to 9900k overclocking. The platform, as a whole, while fast, is simply horrible when it comes to price/performance. ...
    Or perhaps it's the 95W Core i9 that's a horrible overclocker, demanding way more than 95W to run at useful speeds?

    Quote:
    But the point was that we expected a board that supports the processor to do so continuously at stock frequencies.
    The board should easily be able to run the CPU at the stock (base) frequency, with all cores heavily loaded, continously.
    It's only if you overclock by going above the base frequency for a longer time that there's a problem. How far can you overclcok it? 3.8GHz, 4.0GHz or 4.2GHz?
  • Crashman
    362640 said:
    59887 said:
    It does seem like the vast majority of Z390 boards have been labeled as mediocre, with regards to 9900k overclocking. The platform, as a whole, while fast, is simply horrible when it comes to price/performance. ...
    Or perhaps it's the 95W Core i9 that's a horrible overclocker, demanding way more than 95W to run at useful speeds?
    Quote:
    But the point was that we expected a board that supports the processor to do so continuously at stock frequencies.
    The board should easily be able to run the CPU at the stock (base) frequency, with all cores heavily loaded, continously. It's only if you overclock by going above the base frequency for a longer time that there's a problem. How far can you overclcok it? 3.8GHz, 4.0GHz or 4.2GHz?
    The problem is that Intel's 95W is unrealistic when compared to its stock Turbo Boost ratios. Or its stock Turbo Boost ratios are unrealistic compared to its TDP. Either way, more than half of retail boards are designed to ignore TDP limits and hold up the default Turbo Boost ratios rather than throttling. And that's where the whole problem of sub-$200 boards having not enough power to run Prime95 small-FFTs without throttling to protect the voltage regulator kicks in. There is no consistency in that. Two boards with different heat sinks will have different hold up times, etc. And we're just trying to test these in a consistent manner.
  • g-unit1111
    8708 said:
    537231 said:
    I'm noticing a pattern between the VRMs on midrange motherboards and the 9900K. This seems to be no exception. Is this developing into an FX-9590 situation where the CPU was too much for the motherboard to handle?
    They're basically splitting the market using the logic that people who buy less than the 9900K would probably like to save money on the board as well. Remember that boards with similar voltage regulators did fairly well with the 8700K, so we're basically looking at a split between "able to overclock 9900K" and "good enough for nearly everything else".


    Yeah I feel like if you're in the market for a 9900K that you would be spending way more on a motherboard anyways, because I know I wouldn't buy a $500 CPU and pair it with a $140-ish motherboard. I think if motherboard manufacturers were going that route that they'd probably get a lot of confused and very angry customers when they find out that their expensive new PC doesn't work because they decided to go cheap on the motherboard.
  • Co BIY
    Can you adjust settings to make the 9900K run as a 9700K (same silicon binned or hobbled correct?) or even a 9600K (is this the same silicon hobbled or cut down to a smaller size) to test is a board can run these ?

    Some of the power performance problems described sounded like they could effect the lessor processors too.

    Drawing excessive power and having difficulty with an Excel bench. ? Are you sure this was not a bad board that needed RMA'd?

    Maybe the FLIR could shed some light on the issue.
  • Olle P
    Quote:
    The problem is that Intel's 95W is unrealistic when compared to its stock Turbo Boost ratios. ...
    I don't think so, if you consider TDP to be the go-to power under load and Boost something that allow the CPU to go above TDP temporarily until the temps go up.
    For single core loads the CPU can keep running at full boost speed without exceeding TDP, but when all cores are utilized the clock needs to come down (to base speed) in order to prevent overheating.
    The 9900K is a 3.6 GHz CPU that has the ability to occasionally run a bit faster.
    (The Ryzen 7 2700X is slightly faster, at 3.7 GHz.)
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    I don't think so, if you consider TDP to be the go-to power under load and Boost something that allow the CPU to go above TDP temporarily until the temps go up. For single core loads the CPU can keep running at full boost speed without exceeding TDP, but when all cores are utilized the clock needs to come down (to base speed) in order to prevent overheating. The 9900K is a 3.6 GHz CPU that has the ability to occasionally run a bit faster. (The Ryzen 7 2700X is slightly faster, at 3.7 GHz.)

    That's not how they rate the things on a performance scale.
  • Olle P
    Quote:
    That's not how they rate the things on a performance scale.
    Of course not. That's how Intel rates TDP, which isn't "performance".

    Quote:
    ... Either way, more than half of retail boards are designed to ignore TDP limits... And that's where the whole problem of sub-$200 boards having not enough power... kicks in.
    Don't blaim the affordable boards for the more expensive ones doing it wrong!
    If complain should be placed anywhere it's with the boards that ignore the TDP and run the CPUs overclocked by default!
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    Of course not. That's how Intel rates TDP, which isn't "performance". Don't blaim the affordable boards for the more expensive ones doing it wrong! If complain should be placed anywhere it's with the boards that ignore the TDP and run the CPUs overclocked by default!
    This is a computing ENTHUSIAST site, so first of all, the cheaper boards are UNABLE to "do it wrong" in the same way that I'm unable to clear a track hurdle: There's a reason that I'm not putting myself into that market.

    I'm glad that you're finally agreeing with me, that TDP chokes are at odds with the CPU's rated performance.
  • Olle P
    Quote:
    I'm glad that you're finally agreeing with me, that TDP chokes are at odds with the CPU's rated performance.
    But I'm not!
    When adhering to the TDP you get the performance as rated by Intel. So the TDP is not at odds with the rated performance...
    (If you can show me some official statement from Intel that their TDP is to be disregarded then I might reconsider.)
  • Crashman
    Quote:
    But I'm not! When adhering to the TDP you get the performance as rated by Intel. So the TDP is not at odds with the rated performance...
    This argument has become too tangential since it misses your false premise that budget Z-series boards are maintaining the CPU's TDP: That's not even close to what's occuring. Instead, these boards running the CPU wide-open until the voltage regulator hits its thermal thresshold and then crashing down, often to LOWER than baseline frequency, before bouncing back. And that's what you're praising them for doing.

    At least if they were following TDP we'd have consistency between boards, no?

    And these are marketed towards enthusiasts, who often overclock. Yet for us to get an "overclock rating" on a board that can't support a continuous speed of at least the stock Turbo Boost ratio, we'd have to do something differently. Such as rate these at "100% stability with 50% of the cores disabled". That type of concession would have AMD guys jumping on us like rats on a slice of pizza. And for good reason. It looks like pandering.

    On the other hand, understanding that the Core i9-9900k has vastly greater power requirements than the processors used by budget enthusiasts, we MIGHT be able to label these lower-cost models as enthusiast boards for the Core i5. That's far less pandering. Of course, it would require us to buy a Core i5.