NZXT N7 Z490 Motherboard Review
How much you'll love the NZXT N7 Z490 depends largely upon how invested you are in NZXT as a brand.
If we step away from the NZXT side of things and look at the N7 as purely a Z490 motherboard, then the dominating factor is the price point, and the compromises that have had to be made to achieve such an affordable setup. There aren't many USB ports around the back, just one Type-A and Type-C front panel connector - although there are many USB 2.0 front panel headers - and just four SATA ports. Four might seem more than enough for most people with one OS drive and one data drive, but the price and capacity of SSD drives has respectively fallen and grown so far that we know we're not the only people with a motley collection of drives. There is a famous old saying that the trousers of your best suit eventually become your gardening trousers, until later in life when pennies aren't as plentiful they return to being your best trousers. We've all brought new bigger capacity drives that were once our OS drive and as prices fell and sizes rose they moved to being a gaming drive, before finally finding a home as a 'anything I can't find room for' drive. So having just four headers means some tough choices will have to be made.
One thing you cannot criticise the NZXT N7 Z490 for is its performance. Most of the Z490 motherboards we've tested have very similar scores in our benchmarks and it's a testament to the solidity of the Intel chipset and CPU that it's nearly impossible to make a bad one. Sure the NZXT doesn't quite overclock to the levels we've seen from some motherboards, but given it's low low pricing we're not remotely expecting it to. If you can look past the limited connection options and polarising design, and just want a good quality, affordable, decently capable Z490 platform upon which to build a gaming rig then the NZXT N7 has much to offer.
The elements which are unique to the NZXT N7 might be the deciding factor if you're already invested into the NZXT brand. Having onboard headers for their particular method of cabling RGB cables as well as the AIO headers allows you to have everything based off the NZXT Cam software and hopefully reduce the amount of extra cabling you need just to get everything running. If you haven't experienced the NZXT Cam software before, however, then we find it difficult to recommend. It is very resource heavy - see below for a single instance of it running in our task manager where it manages to have four helpers and five programs at once - and has a habit of phoning home a lot, which is something we're never keen our software does. But if you've got NZXT products already this isn't going to be news.
Lastly the design is a strange one indeed. The circles one would imagine are holes, aren't, and the heatsink design around the VRMs is wholly absent of those fins and things which so define heatsinks. We have to note that we didn't run into any thermal issues during testing, but the aesthetics will definitely be a love it or hate it thing. Thankfully the holes remain black on the black model and are much less injurious to the eye.
Aesthetics are a matter of personal taste though, and if you can look past the curious design choices and limited connectivity options the NZXT N7 Z490 would be a great motherboard for those with tight budgets and wins our Value For Money award.