Unboxing and First Impressions: ASUS Prime Z490-A

With Intel launching their 10th generation Comet Lake-S processors, comes the time of brand new motherboards. The new Z490 chipset is a big leap for Intel as it now comes with an LGA 1200 socket instead of the long-running LGA 1151. In addition, the Z490 platform and Comet Lake-S processors officially support PCIe 4.0, a feature that – until now – can only be found on AMD’s Zen 2 CPUs and X570 motherboards.

Today, we are going to take a look at one of ASUS’ entries in the Z490 platform: the ASUS Prime Z490-A. As part of the Prime series, the Prime Z490-A is positioned in a mid-tier market that allows it to have most of the features we would like in a motherboard without draining your wallet of your hard-earned cash.

ASUS Prime Z490-A

ASUS Prime Z490-A
CPU Support Intel 10th Generation Processors, LGA 1200
Chipset Intel Z490
Power Stage 12 + 2 DrMOS
Memory Frequency Up to 4600MHz
Memory Slots 4 DIMM Slots
Maximum RAM 128GB
RAM Channels Dual Channel
PCIe Slots 3x PCIe 3.0 x16
3x PCIe 3.0 x1
Multi-GPU Support NVIDIA SLI, AMD CrossFireX
Storage 2x M.2 slots (M-Key)
·         PCie 3.0 x4 or SATA III
·         PCIe 3.0 x4
6x SATA III
Audio Realtek S1220A
Networking Intel I225-V
USB Rear USB Port
·         4x USB 3.2 Gen2 (3x Type-A, 1x Type-C)
·         2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A
·         2x USB 2.0
Front USB Port
·         1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Front panel connector
·         2x USB 3.2 Gen1
·         4x USB 2.0
Rear I/O 1x Intel I225-V 2.5G Ethernet
1x DisplayPort
1x HDMI
4x USB 3.2 Gen2 (3x Type-A, 1x Type-C
2x USB 3.2 Gen1
2x USB 2.0
1x Optical S/PDIF
5x 3.5mm audio jack
Form Factor ATX

Overview

ASUS is introducing three Prime Z490 motherboards this generation and the Prime Z490-A the series’ spearhead. With an ATX form factor, the motherboard packs in everything you need and want from a mid-range motherboard.

Since the flagship Comet Lake-S processor, the Intel Core i9-10900K has a 125W TDP, ASUS has beefed up the power delivery system of the Prime Z490-A. ASUS is implementing 12 + 2 DrMOS power phase design on the board and the VRMs are cooled by two rather large heatsinks near the rear I/O and at the top.

Resting just beyond the VRM heatsinks are 8-pin + 4-pin ATX 12v headers. To increase the power delivery capacity and reliability, ASUS is using what they call ProCool connectors on the 12v connections. Previous generations used hollow pins, which limited their draw to just 7A. In this batch of motherboards, the solid pins’ draw has been increased to 10A.

Just beside the LGA 1200 socket are four DIMM slots that can accommodate four RAM sticks although only at dual channel. Relatively fast speeds of up to 4600MHz can be supported, but they are far from the 5000MHz and above exotics that we can find in higher-end motherboards.

Although the Z490 platform can support PCIe 4.0 speeds, most of the current Z490 motherboards will only officially support the older PCIe 3.0 standard. There has been some debate whether if they will support PCIe 4.0 down the road but we’ll judge them for what they are now.

The ASUS Prime Z490-A comes with three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. The bandwidth on the first top two x16 slots are provided by the processor while the bottom x16 slot running at only x4 courtesy of the Z490 chipset. This configuration allows for two NVIDIA cards to run at SLI or three AMD GPUs at three-way Crossfire.

Nestled in-between the PCIe 3.0 slots are three M.2 slots. The top slot can house M.2 drives with M key at PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA III while the bottom M.2 slot uses the PCIe 3.0 x4 bus exclusively. The motherboard comes with a large M.2 heatsink that can be used in either top or bottom drives. If you’re in need of additional storage, there are also six SATA III ports near the bottom right of the motherboard for SATA-based HDD and SSDs. The middle M.2 slot has an E-key for a WiFi module in case you wanted a wireless Internet connection for your rig.

We are glad to see that integrated I/O shields are nearly becoming ubiquitous on ASUS motherboards, especially in the mid- and high-end price points. Speaking of the I/O, the ASUS Prime Z490-A rear I/O comes with three USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports, a single USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, two USB 3.2 Gen1 connections, two USB 2.0 ports, a 2.5Gb Ethernet, an Optical S/PDIF, five 3.5mm audio jacks, and DisplayPort and HDMI connections.

Accessories

The feature set found on the ASUS Prime Z490-A is complete enough to build a decently powerful rig, the accessories that accompany the board is a bit anemic in comparison. Inside the box are three SATA cables, a CD driver installer, screws for M.2 mounting, a Q-connector for easy installation of front ports, and a CPU fan holder.

First Impressions

Although we can’t test the ASUS Prime Z490-A at this time due to a lack of availability of Comet Lake-S processors, it seems that the board is beefy enough to house even the top-end 125W Intel i9-10900K without posing any problems.

The ASUS Prime Z490-A seems like a solid enough board given that you’re upgrading from an older system and not last year’s 9th generation Intel platform. Testing, however, is still paramount before we give our recommendations about the board. Hopefully, we can test the motherboard to see what kind of overclocking performance it can delivery to enthusiasts.