Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master Review: A Pricey Performer

Software & Firmware

The Aorus App Center includes a multitude of Gigabyte applications, from a system monitor overlay for 3D applications (3D OSD) to online storage and a web server (Cloud Station and Cloud Station Server). Of these, EasyTune, RGB Fusion and SIV (System Information Viewer) automatically configure themselves to the Z390 Aorus Master’s specifics.

EasyTune includes a SmartBoost function which, in our case, set the CPU to 5.20 GHz at 1.68V CPU core (!) and caused the system to power off instantly when Prime95 was switched to small-FFTs. Auto Tuning got us the same 5.20 GHz at 1.62V, whereupon our CPU once again tripped the board’s power protection mechanism under heavy AVX load. Overclocking within Windows was far more stable using more-conservative voltage levels from its Advanced CPU OC menu, where we reached a continuous 4.95 GHz at 1.30V core.

Other EasyTune menus include a DRAM overclock that prompts a reboot (the window can’t be closed), Advanced Power settings, and a macro recorder.

The “up” arrow next to the close (“x”) button of EasyTune takes users to a hardware monitor popup that consumes the right edge of the screen. We split the image above to save vertical space in the browser. Clicking the “back” arrow from Hardware Monitor takes users “back” to System Information Viewer.

Like previous Gigabyte-branded versions, Aorus' System Information Viewer forces users to sit through a fan tuning session before revealing menus that display system information, allow fan profile selection, enable fan profile customization, activate system alert settings for voltage/thermal/fan readings that fall out of the selected safe range, and log system stats while providing a visual chart of the recorded data.

Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion works with all of the company’s RGB-enabled motherboards and most RGB DRAM, including Gigabyte’s own memory kit.

Firmware

The Z390 Aorus Gaming Master firmware opens to an Easy Mode GUI which allows users to enable XMP memory mode, change boot order, select fan profiles, or select that 5.2 GHz programmed OC that didn’t work properly under AVX load from within its EasyTune application. Note that this programmed overclock will likely be altered when new firmware is introduced.

Tapping the keyboard’s “F2” key, we get to the M.I.T. menu of the Classic Mode GUI, which is a launching point for overclocking and monitoring sub-menus.

Our CPU and cooling system reach their thermal limits at just over 1.30V and just under 5 GHz, where greater frequency requires more voltage that eventually causes thermal throttling under Prime95 small-FFTs. At least with our chip sample and the Z390 Aorus Master, 4,949 MHz appears to be the maximum stable frequency that corresponds to our 1.30V setting.

We switched from G.Skill’s old Trident-Z 3866 to Kingston’s HyperX RGB DDR4-2933 after finding that some newer boards weren’t using proper default settings for the older DRAM. The new modules have similar overclocking limits, but reaching those limits requires a firmware that can automatically configure workable secondary and tertiary timings for the higher data rate. The Z390 Aorus Gaming Master pushed these modules to a mere DDR4-3744 while using the early firmware of our test, whereas the previous Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 took it to DDR4-3866.

The Advanced Voltage Settings submenu of the Aorus M.I.T. firmware menu provides a list of additional submenus, including Advanced Power Setting, CPU Core, Chipset, and DRAM voltage levels. According to our power readings, a CPU Vcore Loadline Calbraition setting of “Turbo” does the best job of supporting our 1.30V CPU Core setting under heavy AVX load.

Measurements also showed that a VDIMM setting of 1.330V brought an actual 1.346 to 1.352 volts. We keep it under 1.355V to make comparisons fair, but the fluctuation might be part of the reason we didn’t see at least DDR4-3866 on the newer DRAM. Since DRAM voltage is managed by firmware, this too may be improved in later revisions. Clearly it's early days for Z390 firmware.

Other M.I.T. submenus include PC Health, a Favorite menu for frequently changed settings, and Gigabyte’s Smart Fan 5 fan profile adjustments.

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30 comments
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  • rantoc
    They say its SLI capable but yet have the same "stupid" 3 slots spacing resulting in the typical air starvation of the main card since it will be obstructed by the second card. Todays big custom air cooled cards are 2.5 to 3 pcie slots wide, not the old typical 2 pcie - When will the MB makers "evolve" to the new width of the cards for multigpu and who will be the first?
  • Crashman
    317373 said:
    They say its SLI capable but yet have the same "stupid" 3 slots spacing resulting in the typical air starvation of the main card since it will be obstructed by the second card. Todays big custom air cooled cards are 2.5 to 3 pcie slots wide, not the old typical 2 pcie - When will the MB makers "evolve" to the new width of the cards for multigpu and who will be the first?
    Even the founder's edition cards are only two slots, and most of the oversized cards are 2.5 slots. A 3-slot cooling design is a defective design, and such cards should be called out for that. We're already putting the top x16 slot in the case's 2nd slot hole to make space for oversized CPU coolers, voltage regulators and DIMM cooling, and there's a scarcity of 8-slot cases, so two three-slot cards at 4-slot spacing doesn't even make sense. For those reseaons, if I review a board with the 2nd x16 slot aligned to the case's 6th card hole, I'll probably just write it off as a bad idea.
  • steverode1
    Will this board work with Windows 7?
  • Crashman
    2837610 said:
    Will this board work with Windows 7?
    It's hard to say since you'd have to look up individual drivers for each device rather than using those supplied by the motherboard manufacturer:
    https://www.gigabyte.com/Motherboard/Z390-AORUS-MASTER-rev-10#support-dl-driver
    But I'd just assume...no.
  • furkanagamak06
    Would this motherboard work if I had 2 NVMe SSDs and a SATA HDD?
  • Crashman
    2770881 said:
    Would this motherboard work if I had 2 NVMe SSDs and a SATA HDD?


    Yes, with two NVMe drives you'd have four remaining SATA ports.
  • gregg889
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
  • Crashman
    2848082 said:
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
    Anything that says "Z390" does.
  • gregg889
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
    Anything that says "Z390" does.


    Thank you so much for the fast reply and the answer to my question; this is my first time piecing together a PC and building it myself. I'm really excited to see how well this thing runs, http:// compared to my current PC.
  • Crashman
    2848082 said:
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
    Anything that says "Z390" does.
    Thank you so much for the fast reply and the answer to my question; this is my first time piecing together a PC and building it myself. I'm really excited to see how well this thing runs, http:// compared to my current PC.
    That's quite a build. It makes me appreciate my free test kit a bit more :)
  • gregg889
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
    Anything that says "Z390" does.
    Thank you so much for the fast reply and the answer to my question; this is my first time piecing together a PC and building it myself. I'm really excited to see how well this thing runs, http:// compared to my current PC.
    That's quite a build. It makes me appreciate my free test kit a bit more :)


    Luckily my wife just finished building her PC and knows exactly what she's doing so she will be undoubtedly "helping", haha. Anything on there you feel like needs to be different?
  • Crashman
    2848082 said:
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    8708 said:
    2848082 said:
    Does anyone know if this Mobo ships with a bios that supports the latest CPU's? I was planning on getting a Intel - Core i7-9700K 3.6 GHz 8-Core Processor and wasn't sure if this mobo has the bios to support it...
    Anything that says "Z390" does.
    Thank you so much for the fast reply and the answer to my question; this is my first time piecing together a PC and building it myself. I'm really excited to see how well this thing runs, http:// compared to my current PC.
    That's quite a build. It makes me appreciate my free test kit a bit more :)
    Luckily my wife just finished building her PC and knows exactly what she's doing so she will be undoubtedly "helping", haha. Anything on there you feel like needs to be different?

    dude, after paying my bills it would take me close to four months to buy that card, but it looks like a perfectly workable machine to me.
  • V@no
    Wait, if 3 m.2 installed, you get only 3 SATA3 ports available and they also choke some of the PCIx16 as well??? what kind of bs is this?
  • Crashman
    465477 said:
    Wait, if 3 m.2 installed, you get only 3 SATA3 ports available and they also choke some of the PCIx16 as well??? what kind of bs is this?
    Nah. First of all, to choke off three SATA ports you have to run a PCIe M.2 in the top slot and an SATA M.2 in the middle slot. But you won't be running an SATA M.2 drive will you? So you'll get four SATA.

    As for the bottom M.2 and bottom PCIe slot, you realize that the bottom slot was only x4 max right? Many people put an x4 storage card in these slots. But you're going to put a M.2 card in the bottom M.2 slot instead. It's more of an either/or option, either you get four lanes for that storage on the bottom PCIe slot, or you get four lanes for storage from the bottom M.2 slot. By chipset limitation, the other option would be to not have one of those two interfaces.
  • V@no
    All 3 m.2 slots are shown as PCIe x4 with 2 of them compatible with SATA, the speed should be the same in all them as long as compatible drives are used.

    In the table it says "M.2-1 takes pts 4-5, SATA M.2-2 pt 1" from this I understand that if m.2-1 slot used, it will disable SATA4 and SATA5 and if used m.2-2 it will disable SATA1?
    And M.2-3 will use 2 lanes from the bottom PCIe x16 slot, effectively making it x8 x8 x2 configuration if all 3 PCIe slots are used

    Also, what the hell does sign ^ means?:
    (2) PCIe 3.0 x4^ / SATA*, (1) PCIe 3.0 x4
    (*Excludes ports 1, ^4-5)

    Asterisk "*" = see note below
    "^" = ?
  • Crashman
    465477 said:
    All 3 m.2 slots are shown as PCIe x4 with 2 of them compatible with SATA, the speed should be the same in all them as long as compatible drives are used. In the table it says "M.2-1 takes pts 4-5, SATA M.2-2 pt 1" from this I understand that if m.2-1 slot used, it will disable SATA4 and SATA5 and if used m.2-2 it will disable SATA1? And M.2-3 will use 2 lanes from the bottom PCIe x16 slot, effectively making it x8 x8 x2 configuration if all 3 PCIe slots are used Also, what the hell does sign ^ means?: (2) PCIe 3.0 x4^ / SATA*, (1) PCIe 3.0 x4 (*Excludes ports 1, ^4-5) Asterisk "*" = see note below "^" = ?

    There are a limitted number of superscript characters on a keyboard, and I'm not using custom superscript that could get erased in editing, so I use those instead. When its says SATA*, you look below it and it says *Excludes port 1, that means an SATA M.2 drive will exclude SATA port one.

    So slide up to my previous response. That third "missing SATA port" is only missing if you use an SATA M.2 drive in the second M.2 slot.

    Now you're going to ask me what an SATA M.2 drive is, and I'll just say the magic word "legacy", and all will become clear ;)
  • V@no
    Did you see what I said in my first message? I said "if 3 m.2 installed"

    My point here is, Gigabyte is known to make motherboards flashy and full of features, the features that you can't use all at once. It's like a car with steering wheel on driver's side and pedals on passenger's side.
  • Crashman
    465477 said:
    Did you see what I said in my first message? I said "if 3 m.2 installed" My point here is, Gigabyte is known to make motherboards flashy and full of features, the features that you can't use all at once. It's like a car with steering wheel on driver's side and pedals on passenger's side.
    I'm fairly certain I addressed all of your concerns. The first one steals two SATA ports. The second one ONLY steals an SATA port if the M.2 drive has an SATA interface. The third one steals two lanes from the four lane slot. But if you're comparing it, you can compare it to a board that either has no four lane PCIe slot, or no third M.2 slot. While it's easy to oversell a board by sharing resources, at least the board with shared resources has more flexibility than one that eliminates several interfaces.
  • V@no
    So, what you are saying if we install 3 pcie m.2 drives (like Samsung 970, which probably will not fit in the third slot), then we still have 4 SATA ports available, because they are not "legacy" m.2 drives???
  • Crashman
    465477 said:
    So, what you are saying if we install 3 pcie m.2 drives (like Samsung 970, which probably will not fit in the third slot), then we still have 4 SATA ports available, because they are not "legacy" m.2 drives???
    Right, the only resource exclusion I see for the middle M.2 slot is a shared pathway that is exclusively SATA, according to the documentation I read. That doesn't require a physical switch, the firmware just needs to figure out which SATA device to read.

    Conversely, the top M.2 slot is using a two-pathway physical switch, along with the chipset's SATA/PCIe conversion via the chipset's flexible HSIO, so it's always going to exclude two SATA ports regardless of whether the M.2 device is PCIe or SATA.
  • mike9irish
    Hi all. I am thinking of changing back to Intel's CPU the i9-990K. I have the AMD 1950X in the ASUS Zenith Extreme motherboard. Iv'e had nothing but ruble with the the Asus motherboard,this is my second one that went faulty. What a piece of crap. So I am looking at Gigabyte Aorus Master now. Coming from from the high end motherboards with eight sticks of ram and almost unlimited Sata/Pcie lanes it's hard to swallow the limitations of the Z390 platform. What I need is two M.2's and one for my C drive and one cor my scratch drive. I also want to use my Samsung 850 Pro a 1Tb solid state drive for temp file storage. I would also like to use the new Intel Optane drive drive in the top M.2 slot to boost performance, but I think that will be a problem?? I also need to have my two have my two 4Tb Wd hard drives as storage.
    Is this possible? Looking forward to your opinions.
    Cheers.
    Mike
  • Crashman
    2850650 said:
    Hi all. I am thinking of changing back to Intel's CPU the i9-990K. I have the AMD 1950X in the ASUS Zenith Extreme motherboard. Iv'e had nothing but ruble with the the Asus motherboard,this is my second one that went faulty. What a piece of crap. So I am looking at Gigabyte Aorus Master now. Coming from from the high end motherboards with eight sticks of ram and almost unlimited Sata/Pcie lanes it's hard to swallow the limitations of the Z390 platform. What I need is two M.2's and one for my C drive and one cor my scratch drive. I also want to use my Samsung 850 Pro a 1Tb solid state drive for temp file storage. I would also like to use the new Intel Optane drive drive in the top M.2 slot to boost performance, but I think that will be a problem?? I also need to have my two have my two 4Tb Wd hard drives as storage. Is this possible? Looking forward to your opinions. Cheers. Mike

    Well, you could step up to X299 if Z390 doesn't have enough connections.
    Gigabyte lists the Z390 Aorus Master as Optane-ready.According to its spec sheet, if you don't mind the bottom PCIe slot getting kicked down to x2 mode, you should be OK.
  • mike9irish
    Thank you CRASHMAN for your reply. I am only using one GPU so I think I just might getaway with the list of components I need to connect? I am looking at 5GHz across all cores as a big bonus for my work in PS & LR CC. I dint know of any other CPU that can deliver that sort of speed at a similar price point?
    I would love to hear your and others viewpoint on this.
    Cheers.
    Mike
  • Crashman
    2850650 said:
    Thank you CRASHMAN for your reply. I am only using one GPU so I think I just might getaway with the list of components I need to connect? I am looking at 5GHz across all cores as a big bonus for my work in PS & LR CC. I dint know of any other CPU that can deliver that sort of speed at a similar price point? I would love to hear your and others viewpoint on this. Cheers. Mike

    I don't have a horse in the race between AMD and Intel. I know that AMD gives you more computing power per dollar but Intel usually wins game benchmarks...and that's about it. I just test the boards ;)

    As for X299, yeh, the smaller processors for Z390 kill what's available for X299 in value.