Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming MB Review

Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming MB Review
Advertisements

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Today, we review two of the most attractive and high-end mini-ITX motherboards based on the Z390 chipset, which sit happily in an ideal price range. In terms of enthusiast price points, both the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming and the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac fall around the $200 mark. In addition, both motherboards feature dual M.2 slots for storage and 802.11ac Wave 2 Wi-Fi modules. However, there are some differences between the two worth examining.

The mini-ITX form factor is a popular choice for users looking for a system with a small footprint without sacrificing performance. The ASRock X99E-ITX/ac motherboard launched several years ago proved that HEDT performance and small form factor can go together. At the launch of Intel’s Z390 chipset, six mini-ITX models were available at multiple price points. ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming ($210) and ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac ($190), both with premium controller sets and good power deliveries, are noteworthy entries. In the past, smaller form factors prevented users from building high-end gaming systems with enthusiast-grade performance.

The ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming Overview

Asus rog z390

As for the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming, it is a mini-ITX sized motherboard that resembles the ROG Strix Z370-I. The Strix Z390-IGaming does have a few upgrades to note; both visually as well as in the specifications; when a socket is refreshed. In addition to the integrated IO shield and the RGB LEDs along the right underside of the board, the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I features a gaming-themed rear panel cover. A second M.2 slot is provided on the rear of the PCB for hot-running NVMe SSDs, along with an M.2 heatsink which also covers the chipset.

Over the older model, the memory support is increased to DDR4-4600, one of the biggest performance upgrades. In comparison with all Z390 motherboards, the Z390-I Gaming offers the fastest memory advertised. Strix Z390-I is one of only three motherboards we reviewed that includes compatibility with the 32 GB G.Skill and ZADAKs Double Height DDR4 memory modules, and it allows users to install up to 64 GB of system memory. As part of the controller set, there is a Realtek-based ROG SupremeFX S1220A HD audio codec, an Intel I219-V Network controller, and an 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter from Intel 9560 that supports Bluetooth 5.0. Unlike most other Z390 models, it has HDMI 2.0 on the rear panel, as well as a DisplayPort.

Concerning performance, the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-IGaming put in a good showing in our test suite with the quickest POST times we’ve seen on any Z370/Z390 board, along with highly competitive results in most others. Our overclocking testing with the i7-8700K didn’t reveal any pitfalls or anomalies, and the Strix Z390-I Gaming also performed admirably. On this board, we managed to overclock the CPU to 5.1 GHz at 1.40 V with 100% stability – this is the first board in which that level of overclocking has been stable.

In our POV-Ray test at the top end of our tests, we noticed that ASUS seemed to have a less aggressive approach to thermal throttling. As measured by CPU-Z, the board’s AI Optimized profile achieved a 5.0 GHz overclock at 1.20 and 1.35V, which is pretty tight voltage control.

With the ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming, ASUS ROG has seemingly packed all the features of its own ATX sized ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming model into a smaller package. Currently priced at around $200, depending on the retailer, it seems reasonable for what it offers and the level of performance it delivers. ROG Strix-Z390-I is aimed at gamers and small form factor enthusiasts looking to build a high-performance mini-ITX based desktop PC; overclockers, of course, will be interested.

Board Features

RoG Strix Z390-I Gaming is ASUS’s only mini-ITX motherboard using the Z390 chipset and represents its gaming-oriented Strix brand.

Mini-ITX form factors have some limitations, such as having only one full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, as well as only two memory slots.

However, the rest of the feature sets are similar to the larger ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming, featuring the same ROG SupremeFX S1220A HD audio codec for audio and Intel 9560 802.11ac 2T2R for networking.

ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming ITX Motherboard
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link
Price $210
Size Mini-ITX
CPU Interface LGA1151
Chipset Intel Z390
Memory Slots (DDR4) Two DDR4

Supporting 32 GB

(Double Height 64 GB)

Dual Channel

Up to DDR4-4600

Video Outputs 1 x HDMI 2.0a

1 x DisplayPort 1.2

Network Connectivity Intel I219-V Gigabit

Intel 9560 802.11ac 2T2R

Onboard Audio SupremeFX S1220A
PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU) 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16
PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH) N/A
Onboard SATA Four, RAID 0/1/5/10
Onboard M.2 2 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA, RAID 0/1/5
USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) 2 x Type-A Rear Panel

1 x Type-C Header

USB 3.0 (5 Gbps) 2 x Type-A Rear Panel

1 x Type-C Rear Panel

1 x Header (two ports)

USB 2.0 2 x Type-A Rear Panel

1 x Header (two ports)

Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX

1 x 8pin CPU

Fan Headers 1 x CPU (4-pin)

1 x CPU/pump (4-pin)

1 x System (4-pin)

IO Panel 2 x USB 3.1 G2 Type-A

1 x USB 3.1 G2 Type-C

2 x USB 3.1 G1 Type-A

2 x USB 2.0 Type-A

1 x Network RJ45 (Intel)

5 x 3.5mm Audio Jacks (SupremeFX)

1 x S/PDIF Output (SupremeFX)

2 x Intel 9560 Antenna Ports

There are fewer USB 3.1 G2 USB ports than expected on the back panel. On most boards in the upper echelon, there are at least four USB 3.1 G2 ports, but the Strix Z390-I Gaming only has three G2 Type-A ports. The one Type-C port on the rear panel is USB 3.1 G1, and even though ASUS has included a Type-C header for USB 3.1 G2, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect it to be included on the rear as well. HDMI 2.0a and DisplayPort are available on Intel Core processors that support 8th and 9th generation graphics. At present, this is one of only a handful of motherboards that feature HDMI 2.0 on the entire Z390 chipset.

ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming Visual Inspection

asus rog z390

Similar to the previous ROG Strix Z370-I Gaming model, the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming has a combined M.2 and chipset heatsink just above the armored full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. In addition to the Strix branding at the top and holographic gaming-inspired Edge sticker at the bottom of the newer Z390-I Gaming, the back panel of the device is completely covered with a full-size rear panel cover. The integrated IO shield on the rear panel is another upgrade. The metallic grey finish can also be found on the rear panel cover, the power delivery heatsink, and the SoC power delivery heatsink. On the rear panel cover, there is a stylized urban print reminiscent of the ROG Edge sticker on the PCB itself. ASUS has integrated some RGB LED lighting into the board that is visible from the right-hand side of the board on the back, as well as a standard RGB header for users to expand upon.

Because of its size, the mini-ITX form factor has some limitations. There are two memory slots and a full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. With dual-channel memory slots, you can add up to 64 GB of DDR4-4600 memory. 

Due to limited space, two USB 2.0 and one USB 3.1 G1 headers are present; both headers can support two ports each. There is also a Type-C USB 3.1 G2 header. Because of the small form factor, the Strix Z390-I has only three 4-pin headers available for cooling. A CPU header, a pump/AIO header, and a single header for the system fans are located at the top of the board.

ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming has four straight-angled SATA ports that support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. An M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slot is located on the front of the board and comes with a heatsink. A second slot is located on the rear of the board and supports M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 drives, with both slots supporting M.2 2280 drives. If an M.2 drive is installed in M.2_1 and is in SATA mode, it will automatically disable the SATA_2 port.

Before launch, ASUS has been quite tight-lipped about its Z390 models’ power delivery configurations. On this board, we can see that ASUS uses a 6-phase design. ASP1401CTB controls a total of six ON Semiconductor NCP302045 45 A DrMOS power stages, and VCore appears to be tied together in a three-phase configuration with two sets of three NCP302045 power stages. ASUS is not using doublers and is running the VCore phases simultaneously. ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming features five 5K solid capacitors and eleven 60 A inductors. The VCCIO and VCCSA sections of the power delivery also contain the ON NCP302045 45 A DrMOS power stages. This is a slightly misleading setup, and for what should be a relatively straightforward configuration, it is a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

Z390 Motherboard Power Delivery Comparison
Motherboard Controller H-Side L-Side Chokes Doubler
ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming ASP1401CTB

(4+2)

ON NCP302045

(6)

11
ASRock Z390 Taichi IR35201

(5+2)

TI 87350D (12)

ON FDPC5939SG (2)

14 IR3598

(6)

ASRock Z390 Taichi Ultimate IR35201

(5+2)

TI 87350D (12)

ON FDPC5939SG (2)

14 IR3598

(6)

ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 IR35201

(5+2)

TI 87350D (12)

ON FDPC5939SG (2)

14 IR3598

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 Aorus Master IR35201

(6+2)

IR3553

(12)

14 IR3599

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 Aorus Ultra ISL69138

(6+1)

SiC634

(12)

13 ISL6617A

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 Aorus Pro WiFi ISL69138

(6+1)

SiC634

(12)

13 ISL6617A

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 Aorus Pro ISL69138

(6+1)

SiC634

(12)

13 ISL6617A

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 Aorus Elite ISL69138

(6+1)

SiC634

(12)

13 ISL6617A

(6)

GIGABYTE Z390 I Aorus Pro WiFi IR35201

(6+2)

IR3553

(6)

8
GIGABYTE Z390 Gaming SLI ISL69138

(5+2)

PPak

(10)

12 ISL6617A

(5)

GIGABYTE Z390 Gaming X ISL69138

(5+2)

PPak

(10)

12 ISL6617A

(5)

GIGABYTE Z390 UD ISL69138

(5+2)

PPak

(10)

12 ISL6617A

(5)

MSI MEG Z390 ACE IR35201

(6+2)

ON4C029N

(12)

ON4C024N

(12)

13 IR3598

(6)

Supermicro C9Z390-PGW PXE1610

(6+1)

PXM1310

(3+1)

TDA21232

(6)

TDA21240

(2)

8

Aside from the design of the power delivery heatsinks, ASUS’s integration of the metal rear panel cover to double as a heatsink is an ingenious use of space. Additionally, the rear panel eliminates plastic panels and offers a large surface for passive cooling, so systems with high airflow could benefit from it. There is not much bulk or weight on the small heatsink, but it seems more than capable of handling the power delivery for the SoC.

The ROG SupremeFX S1220A HD audio codec sits between the rear panel audio ports and the Intel 9560 802.11ac Wave2 Wi-Fi adapter. Essentially, this is a rebranded version of Realtek’s ALC1220 HD codec, which is commonly found on Z390 boards and seems to be the standard for premium boards. The S1220A codec is surrounded by five gold Nichicon audio capacitors, and the area does include a physical PCB separation from the rest of the board. It is not isolated and does not include an EMI shield.

An I/O shield is pre-installed on the rear panel of the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-IGaming and locks into place using the same screws that hold the rear panel cover in place. Connectivity is provided by three USB 3.1 G2 Type-A ports and one USB 3.1 G1 Type-C port. The board includes two USB 3.1 G1 Type-A ports and two USB 2.0 ports, which seem rather weak for a board at this price point. A pair of video outputs including HDMI 2.0a and a DisplayPort 1.2 port are available to users of integrated graphics.

What’s in The Box

In addition to the ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming motherboard’s accessories, it has four SATA cables, black cable ties, and two 2T2R moving antennas needed for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 5.0. In addition, a 20% off Cablemods voucher and an 80 cm extension cable are included for cable management.

  • Black cable ties
  • 4-pin RGB 80 cm extension cable
  • Intel 9560 802.11ac Dual-Band Wi-Fi Moving Antenna (2T2R)
  • 2 x M.2 screws and standoffs
  • 1 x M.2 installation kit
  • Driver and Software Installation CD
  • Four SATA cables (two right-angled and two straight)
  • 20% off Cablemods Voucher Code
  • Sticker set including cable labels
  • ROG thank you card
  • User manual