Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra


Any time we're reviewing something there is always a delineation between the things which are objective - highest overclock, lowest temperatures, best performance at stock, best outright performance - and those which are more subjective - aesthetics, price etc. Before you all leap into the comments saying about how price is definitely not subjective, remember that we all have difference states of fiscal fluidity and thus twenty quid might be either what you'd tip a waiter or what you'd spend on the whole meal. Plus there is always the need and desire. Some things in our lives we would pay the earth for and not think twice. So what if you want a Z490 motherboard, in the ITX format, but you want to stick to one of the premium brands and models in their range? That's where today's review comes in.

All three of the ITX Z490s we've had on test today sit at the top of their respective manufacturers ITX ranges, with the high quality component choices and wide selection of connectivity options that are a hallmark of such motherboards.

The Asus System Agent voltage on auto for 3600MHZ was within Intel guidance but when manually adjusted we proved the CPU needed significantly less to remin stable and this also brought CPU temperatures down by around 15c under load. We are pretty sure this will be addressed in a BIOS update because the 0607 BIOS has been out since the 11th of June and we have a funny feeling the engineers may have been busy working on B550 boards since then. If nothing else its one to keep an eye on with your own system and give it a try reducing it because it will help with CPU temps if yours is as high as ours were. All three boards on test today managed to keep the system stable with the SA volts being just over 1.1v. 

As you saw in our overclock testing and our benchmarks there isn't a significant difference in performance between any of them either. If we had to split hairs, and we're contractually obliged to do so, then we would say that the Strix was a slower at stock than the rest, and that's taking into account that the BIOS defaulted to a set of voltages on the System Agent that were significantly above both the Gigabyte and MSI offerings meaning without manual changes a LOT more heat, and judging by the colouring ASUS applied to the voltage in the BIOS it was also way above what they consider safe. We have to point out that it's within Intel specifications, but it's definitely not the kind of voltage you want to run out of the box for very long. In fact when we lowered it from the default on the ASUS to the default voltage we know that our Z490 and Core i9-10900K combination needs the CPU temperature dropped 12°C. Just imagine how much money you'll have to spend on cooling to get a drop in temperatures in double digits. So make sure you turn it down straight away, or by the time this review is live perhaps ASUS have released a modified BIOS, something we definitely would recommend you flash straight away.

However, in overclocking all three ITX motherboards pushed the ten cores on our Core i9-10900K to 5.2GHz and the results bore out this consistent level of performance. Indeed they were regularly up amongst the big, expensive ATX motherboards we've reviewed in the past. Again, splitting hairs, the MSI overall just shaded the ASUS and Gigabyte  was the best on average. 

In short though, you can very much choose your purchase based upon the looks and brand, and whichever you pick the days in which the ITX format was a heavily compromised version of the big ATX motherboards is consigned to history. The Aorus and the MSI with an overclock were consistently at the top of the graphs, at stock the Aorus pulled it everytime. In a direct comparison with the immediate competition in the graphs the ROG did seem to be playing catch up. In the real world most users will never notice but the results are all there. We also tested with the more performance based side of the bios (F3 pressed) for the ROG because the other two use that as a standard setting now. 


Aorus and MSI both win the performance award:

Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra   

ROG Strix wins the Gamers Choice Award

Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra   

Discuss the ASUS Strix Z490-I GamingMSI MEG Z490I Unify and Gigabyte Z490-I Aorus Ultra in our OC3D Forums.

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