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ASROCK Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi Motherboard (Hardware) – Review

One of my least favourite things about putting together a desktop PC is dealing with the Motherboard. It could just be the way I’ve put them together, but I’ve always found the connectors to be fiddly, and more often than not, they can be in some truly awkward positions. As a result, they were usually the least of my concerns when I prepared to put something together, but with a stylish design and connections primarily located on the outer edges, the ASRock Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi has me reconsidering my priorities.

My biggest frustrations had always been the connector pins for case-mounted power, reset, USB, and Audio options, with the last few boards I’ve used clumping these all together in a block, offering no space to squeeze my fingers into and reconnect that one rogue cable that’s decided to come loose. Fan connectors were always another thing that bugged me, typically placed randomly around the board, with the CPU connection being placed almost on top of the CPU slot itself, making it awfully painful to put in place once you’d connected a heatsink.

Advertised as a DIY Friendly Design, this ATX form factor motherboard has the connectors positioned in such a way that they are quick and easy to access, running a single line around the outer perimeter of the board, including eight 4-pin fan/Water Pump connections, a 4-pin RGB header connection, and three 3-pin addressable LED headers, offering plenty of ways to cool and light up your rig, but if that’s not enough, you’re also provided with an ARGB splitter cable. Adding to the ease-of-build is the addition of a toolless design for the main Gen5 “Blazing” NVMe M.2 SSD and a dedicated heatsink. Simply slide a catch and you can lift the heatsink away, and rotating a small catch will lock the drive in place.

The “Blazing” Gen 5 socket will support NVMe M.2 SSD in either type 2260 or 2280, with transfer speeds up to 128Gb/s, while an additional 5 “Hyper” M.2 sockets support the same type, but up to 64Gb/s.

Offering plenty of room for expanding your storage, these extra sockets don’t support the toolless design, but they can be nicely tucked away under the stylish heatsinks that surround the two 16-slot PCIe Expansion slots, comprising a Gen 5 supporting up to 16 lanes, and a Gen 4, supporting up to 4 lanes.

You’ll also find a PCIe 3.0 x1 slot, allowing you to connect smaller such as additional USB ports or an M.2 expansion slot, because you can never have enough storage. Somewhat surprisingly, they’ve also included a support bracket for your GPU, designed to line up perfectly with the board mounting screw holes and prevent the dreaded GPU sag.

Running the Intel Z790 Chipset, this particular board supports Gen 12, 13 and 14 Intel Core Processors with LGA1700 sockets, as well as Intel Hybrid Technology, Turbo Boost Max 3.0, Thermal Velocity Boost, and Adaptive boost technology, as well as ASRock Hyper BCLK Engines. Four DDR5 DIMM Slots with Dual Channel DDR5 Memory technology can support up to 192GB of RAM at 8000+ MHz while overclocked.

The Voltage Regulator Module is kept cool but a dedicated composite heatsink, which comes with a pre-installed cooling fan and a small amount of ASRock Polychrome SYNC-compatible RGB lighting. I was also surprised to find 3 thermistor cables included in the packaging. These have three corresponding connections on the board, allowing you to easily monitor whatever device you connect them to, and then manage your cooling systems via Fan-Tastic Tuning software, or the UEFI.

A total of nine USB Type-A ports take up most of the rear I/O Panel, with two being dedicated to gaming peripherals. These ports use separate controller interfaces, meaning there is more bandwidth dedicated to the device you have connected. Additionally, two other ports are running Ultra USB Power, offering a more consistent 5V power supply. A single Type-C rounds the USB ports for a total of ten, while a DisplayPort 1.4 and an HDMI port let you make use of the built-in Gen 12 Intel XE Graphics Architecture, should you be using a GPU integrated processor.

You have a few options when it comes to sound output, including an Optical SPDIF output. Alternatively, you can use a combination of the 3.5mm ports, including those found on the front of your chosen case, to support up to 7.1 channel surround sound, and with native support for Nahimic by SteelSeries, we know it’s going to deliver. As a final touch, two Wi-Fi antenna ports allow you to connect the supplied antenna and make full use of the built-in Wi-Fi 7 module.

Once you have everything connected, you can make use of the ASRock Motherboard Utility with Phantom Gaming Tuning, offering you the chance to optimize or overclock your new rig, and ASRock UEFI enhancements, such as ASRock Instant Flash and ASRock Easy RAID Installer, will help direct

you, but should something not go quite right, ASRock has included the Dr. Debug system. Utilizing a 2-digit LED display and a reference chart in the user manual, you’ll be able to quickly identify the issue, and board-based Power and Reset buttons will let you quickly shut down or restart your system. While I didn’t mention it before, there is also a Clear CMOS button, but this is somewhat awkwardly located on the rear panel with the I/O ports.

I have to give it to ASRock – the Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi has me questioning what I look for in a motherboard. The user-friendly and well-spaced layout delivers on the promise of a DIY DIY-friendly design while offering plenty of opportunity to take things further. If you’re looking to build your first system, the layout is one of the best I have experienced, but if you’re upgrading, the board is going to give you all of the options.

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The Good

  • Well laid-out connections
  • Effective built-in cooling systems
  • Ample sockets for storage solutions
  • Dedicated Peripheral controller interfaces

The Bad

  • Clear CMOS button is located on the rear I/O panel

Written by: Mathew Lindner


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