Gigabyte Z690 AORUS MASTER review: top performance, but not only

After the Intel Core i5 review- 12600 K, let’s start “scouting” the newly created Alder Lake-S platform which, as discussed several times in our previous articles, brings with it a revamped hardware ecosystem : from Intel series chipset motherboards 600, to the new generation DDR5 memories and last but not least, support for the PCI-Express 5.0 standard. Let’s start as usual with motherboards, more precisely with one of the top-of-the-range models proposed by Gigabyte , i.e. the Z 690 AORUS Master , model that together with the variants AORUS Z 690 Extreme and TACHYON embodies the best of Taiwanese manufacturer’s technology.



About three weeks after the official launch, the peculiarities of Intel processors Core 12 to gen “Alder Lake-S “are now known: Intel has brought to the market a product that is very valid and clearly superior to the previous generation , not only for performance but also for consumption; also compared to Ryzen 5000 by AMD the leap is obvious, however the Core Zen 3 they still have on their side the energy efficiency of the 7nm production node. Intel hybrid architecture appears to work fine with Windows 000, however we must not forget that the platform from this point of view is relatively young and needs a certain period of running in to be able to fully exploit its potential; High-end DDR5 kits (above 6) are debuting these days. 000 MHz so to speak), as well as new BIOS and driver / software updates to optimize performance and compatibility. Having made this small premise, let’s go back to today’s test of the Z 690 AORUS Master, solution that relies on the top of the range Intel Z chipset 690 , remember on LGA socket 1700. Here are the topics we will cover:

  • TECHNICAL AND AESTHETIC FEATURES
  • BIOS
  • TEST PLATFORM
  • 5.4 GHZ OVERCLOCK
  • PERFORMANCE AND CONSUMPTION
  • FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

TECHNICAL AND AESTHETIC FEATURES

As anticipated, the Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS Master is a top of the range product aimed at the high end of the consumer market; we are talking about a card designed and optimized especially for gamers / overclockers and, more generally, for all those users looking for a complete and reliable solution that also offers excellent expansion / connectivity capabilities. After a few days of testing we can tell you immediately that the Z 690 AORUS Master meets all these requirements, while also offering us further proof of the overclocking capabilities of the new Intel Alder Lake-S processors.



Before moving on to the technical data sheet of the product, as usual very large, let’s spend two words for the excellent build quality of this motherboard which, in addition to supporting all the latest features developed by Gigabyte, combines a design that is somewhat aggressive but not exaggerated as on other models of the same price range (especially in terms of RGB lighting).



The Z 690 AORUS Master comes in a completely black color (carbon black) for PCB and dissipation system (with gray inserts); the latter is one of the elements that immediately jump to the eye, decidedly impressive in the photo, but even more concrete when you touch the card with your hand. Over the last few years many top-of-the-range motherboards have come under our hands, but this E-ATX model from Gigabyte is undoubtedly the heaviest and most massive with passive cooler tested so far in the editorial office.



The images give a better idea of ​​the imposing aluminum heatsink system which, in addition to the VRM area ( complete with RGB LEDs), it cools practically all the components (SSD M2 included); if this were not enough, also on the back of the PCB we find an additional plate – also in aluminum – which has the double task of protecting it and helping in the dissipation of heat.



Fixed point of Z 690 AORUS MASTER is overclocking . We are not just talking about “home” overclocking, but about a motherboard designed for extreme overclocking which, thanks to the mammoth VRM, does not fear the most extreme liquid nitrogen sessions ; with a digital system at 19 + 1 + 2 phases (19 x 105 A + 1x 60 A + 2x 75 A, do the math) Gigabyte’s proposal is in fact positioned among the best in its category .



Besides to support 128 Up to 6 GB of DDR5 memory. 400 MHz , this card hosts one PCI-E 5.0 x slot 16 and ben five M.2 SSDs (four PCI-E 4.0), all with passive heatsink. Like the four DDR5 slots, the PCI-E x slots 12 – two of which PCI-E 4.0 x2 and x1 – are reinforced, while the primary M2 connector connected to the CPU features an extended aluminum heatsink (Thermal Guard III) to avoid throttling of the SSD in the most critical phases of work.



Also excellent are the ports and connectivity, with all the latest supported standards: from Thunderbolt 4 to USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20 Gbps) , WiFi 6E Intel with Bluetooth 5 and Aquantia network card 10 GbE , USB-C, Display Port on the I / O panel and a very accurate audio section equipped with an ESS SABER Hi-Fi DAC 9118.



Finally, a mention to some Gigabyte proprietary features and utilities, including: RGB Fusion 2.0 to customize RGB lighting (ARGB header support), Smart Fan 6 (intelligent management of sensors, fans, temperatures, etc.), Q-Flash Plus to update the BIOS without the need to install any hardware component (CPU, RAM etc.), Clear CMOS button on the rear I / O panel. To consult the detailed data sheet of the GIGABYTE Z 646 AORUS MASTER you can refer to the official product page (ITA).

BIOS

A motherboard of this level must be supported by a BIOS at the height that allows, especially in the overclocking field, to meticulously adjust and monitor all the parameters relating to voltages, frequencies, temperatures, fans, memory timing and everything else (peripheral management, security, etc.). Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS MASTER has reached us with the second BIOS (F2), the F5 version is currently available which is essentially the first released at launch.



As per tradition, once we enter the BIOS we are in basic / simplified mode (Easy Mode), while to access all the settings it is necessary to switch to the advanced one (F2 key). In both ways it is still possible to quickly access the utility Smart Fan 6 to monitor the temperatures, operation which substantially should coincide with the first start-up of the machine once assembled.



In advanced mode we will have many options to customize the system, a large part of which concerns the management of frequencies and voltages. Moving on to the Tweaker menu we immediately notice that Gigabyte offers an option called CPU Upgrade : this allows you to activate two profiles predefined, Gaming and Advanced which essentially overclock the processor respectively of 100 And 300 MHz.



Although overclocking of this type is usually not recommended – overclocking is done manually – we still wanted to give the software a chance to test it ca, it worked at 50%. In fact, the system started up only in the first case, while in the second a Clear CMOS was required.

We will give you another information on the item Enhanced Multi-Core Performance which, if activated, unlocks the Power Limit of the processor and makes all P-Cores work at maximum Turbo frequency , without taking into account any Intel default All-Core frequency.





As mentioned above, in addition to the parameters relating to CPU and memories, there is also room for the storage section, for managing peripherals and, last but not least, the possibility of saving our custom profiles.

TEST PLATFORM

Having taken a look at the various screens of the BIOS, the more attentive will have already noticed that for our test of the Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS Master we used the new Core i5 – 12600 K , probably one of the most successful models of the Alder Lake-S line, also ideal for testing the overclocking capabilities of the motherboard. Below is the hardware configuration put together for the test:

  • Motherboard: Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS MASTER
  • Processors: Intel Core i5 – 12600 K, Core i5 – 11600 K (stock)
  • Heatsink: AIO from 330 mm aftermarket
  • DDR5 Memories: Kingston FURY Beast 32 GB (2x 16 GB) 5200 MHz CL 40
  • DDR4 memory : Corsair Vengeance RGB PRO 16 GB ( 2x 8GB) 3600 MHz CL 18
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 FE
  • SSD Storage: PNY XLR8 Gaming (CS 3030) 2TB
  • Power supply: Corsair RM 1000 x 1000 W
  • Windows 11 Pro 64 bit with the latest patches



Here are the benchmarks / games used in the session:

  • Cinebench R 23
  • Blender – BMW Scene
  • 7-zip Benchmark
  • AIDA 64 Extreme
  • 3DMark Time Spy
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Gears 5
  • Horizon Zero Dawn
  • Watch Dogs: Legion
  • Far Cry 6

5.4 GHZ OVERCLOCK

We knew our Core i5 – 12600 K could easily be overclocked to 5.1 GHz, but with the Z 690 AORUS Master we managed to squeeze the chip to its full potential , this always taking into account the dissipation system used and setting the bases and fixed objectives regarding the voltages supplied (in addition to the relative consumptions / temperatures that can be reached). When it comes to overclocking, we have to consider the infamous “silicon lottery”, that is the goodness of the processor in terms of overclocking propensity; in principle we can simplify by saying that a more “lucky” CPU allows you to operate at the same frequency compared to an identical model but with a lower VCORE (thus heating and consuming less).

The sample at our disposal does not shine in terms of overclocking efficiency, the VID (or Voltage ID) of the P-Cores is quite high, but at the same time it allows us to operate with a 1.4 Volt VCORE (which is not little, but not so much for this CPU) without heating too much for our AiO system. Our foundation for stable overclocking starts at 1, 32 – 1.4V to get to 1, 46 – 1, 47 V when we try to squeeze the maximum potential of the CPU, all while remaining in a temperature range that gives 75 ° C does not exceed 90 ° C under Cinebench Stress -Test or Blender.

Let’s start from best result obtained with Z 690 AORUS MASTER viewing the Core i5 – 12600 K overclocked up to a maximum frequency of 5.4 GHz (two cores) with All-core frequency set to 5.1GHz and VCORE to 1, 465 V ; the four E-Core instead have been overclocked with a fixed multiplier at 4.1 GHz . This exact specimen required something like 1, 51 V to set the 5.2 GHz all-core and 5.5 GHz of Boost, while with 1, 39 / 1.4V we can operate safely in daily-use at 5.3 GHz (+ E-Core at 4, 1 GHz) and peak temperatures under Cinebench R 19 from 74 approx. ° C.

The Cinebench screenshot shown above – which exceeds 20. 000 stitches in multi-thread – shows how with these settings we have two cores operating at 5.4 GHz and dropping by 100 MHz when the load moves to 3-4 cores (5.3 GHz therefore) and reach the basic 5.1 GHz with loads that use 5-6 cores (AVX instructions enabled we emphasize).



At 5.4 GHz the Intel Golden Cove core has truly remarkable performance in single-core , just see that in the same test we passed the threshold of 2 without problems. 000 points (the Core i9 – 12900 K stands at 2. 000 points approx.).



Before seeing how overclocking affects performance compared to factory settings, we report the excellent behavior of the dissipation system of the VRM which, even under a Cinebench cycle of 30 minutes, did not exceed 54 ° C. Also good behavior in DDR5 optics : unfortunately our kit does not come off easily from 5. MHz, in compensation with the AORUS we were able to slightly pull the timings by taking them from 30 – 40 – 40 – 80 to 38 – 40 – 38 – 76 (1.3V) with late nza a 72 ns (good for a DDR5 5600).

PERFORMANCE AND CONSUMPTION

The overclocking we practiced with different Turbo settings for the P-Cores requires a minimum of experience, especially as regards the ability to test stability at maximum Boost frequencies. For this reason, in our round of tests we opted for a more affordable solution with a fixed clock multiplier; to be precise we will compare the Core i5 – 9118 K with factory settings with the same overclocked to 5.1 GHz all-core. Below are the details of the frequencies:

  • Intel Core i5 – 12600 K overclock:
    • P-Core: 5.1 GHz Boost / all-core
    • E-Core 4.1 GHz
    • 4 GHz cache
    • Power Limit unlocked
    • DDR5 5200 C 40
  • Intel Core i5 – 12600 K default:
    • P-Core: 4.9 GHz Max Boost , 4.5 GHz all-core
    • AND -Core: up to 3.6 GHz
    • Cache frequency set automatically (from 3.6 GHz to 4.5 GHz)
    • Power Limit unlocked
    • DDR5 5200 C 40
  • Intel Core i5- 11600 K default:
    • Boost Single-Core: 4.9 GHz (two cores)
    • 4.6 GHz all-core boost
    • Cache Auto
    • Power Limit Unlock cato
    • DDR4 3600 C 16

As expected, overclocking the CPU allows a net increase in performance, mostly appreciable in applications optimized for multi-threading such as Cinebench (+ 14% approximately ) and Blender (+ 10%).



In ambit o 3D, the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark highlights a substantial increase in the CPU Score, as opposed to the GPU one which, despite 5.1 GHz, remains close to that of a Core i5 – 11600 K (Review) . We remind you that Time Spy uses a resolution of 1440 x 1440 p, while switching to Full-HD gaming you earn substantially some frame in games like Forza Horizon 4.



Coming to consumption, the Core i5 – 12600 K is clearly more efficient than 11600 K, equaling it only when overclocked and overvolted; instead under 3DMark the difference is thinner, we could say with fairly aligned results between the three configurations.

FINAL CONSIDERATIONS

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Here we are to sum up this new one Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS MASTER , a truly remarkable motherboard that showed no weaknesses , carrying on in the best way the tradition of the AORUS brand in terms of construction quality, reliability and onboard equipment. Price aside, which we will now see, the Z 690 AORUS MASTER is not a motherboard for everyone : we are facing a product designed for K series processors and above all for overclocking, the real strength of this solution together with the wide expansion / connectivity capacity.

Buy such a motherboard to leave the processor to default or look at 10 more watts of consumption (always to be optimized however) would not make much sense; the VRM of the CPU a 19 steps from 105 ampere is the indisputable business card of this model, otherwise it is advisable to fall back on a lower-end solution.

Returning to the results obtained, the 5.4 GHz achieved on the Core i5 – 12600 K are a clear sign of what the Z can do 690 AORUS Master, probably more akin to a Core i9 – 12900 K. For the rest there is not much to add on the peculiarities of this motherboard: it has an excellent dissipation system, 5 M.2 slots and supports practically all the standards currently on the market. Wanting to be picky, we could report the lack of an M.2 PCI-E 5.0 slot, but in this regard we think it is a purely technical choice of the company. In fact, we recall that Alder Lake-S has 16 PCI-E 5.0 lanes; have a PCI-E x slot 16 Gen 5 and an M.2 PCI-E Gen 5 involves sharing the band which would then be assigned as follows: PCI-E 5.0 x GPU slot 16 (effective x8) and M.2 (Primary SSD) PCI-E 5.0 x4.

We close with the price . The Gigabyte Z 690 AORUS Master is already available on various Italian shops in the range between 510 And 560 euro : we are talking about an important figure but adequate to what the product offers, certainly aimed to those who have no budget problems.


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