ASRock Z690 Steel Legend Wi-Fi 6E Motherboard Review

ASRock's Z690 Steel Legend Wi-Fi 6E offers a cost-effective entry into Intel's Z690 platform with DDR4 support and a lower price.

@TylerBernath
Published Mon, May 30 2022 5:07 PM CDT   |   Updated Mon, May 30 2022 5:25 PM CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: ASRock (Z690 STEEL LEGEND Wi-Fi 6E)

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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We are getting to the end of our Intel 600 series coverage, with nearly 25 motherboards now tested and reviewed. To wrap up ASRock's portfolio, we have the Z690 Steel Legend WiFi 6E, an entry-level platform that lives at the top of the four-board Steel Legend product stack for Z690. This board offers all the big features of Z690, like USB 3.2 Gen2x2, PCIe5, 2.5GBE, and WiFi 6E but pulls back a slight amount of connectivity on the rear I/O and opts for DDR4 over DDR5.

As far as board hardware goes, this Steel Legend platform follows what we have seen across the entire 600 series chipset ecosystem when considering ATX motherboards. LGA1700 socket for 12th Gen Intel CPUs, four slot memory subsystem, this board taking advantage of the lower cost of DDR4. 128GB of memory is supported with speeds from 3200MHz to 5333MHz via XMP 2.0.

We have a single PCIe 5.0 slot at the top, taking the full 16 lanes available from the CPU. There are an additional four PCIe slots; all pull from the chipset giving the second slot a x4 Gen4 connection and the rest PCIe 3.0 support. Storage support includes two Hyper M.2 slots, the top slot under heat sinks supporting PCIe Gen4 from the CPU, secondary slots pull from the chipset, one at Gen4, and the other splits Gen3 and SATA support. Eight SATA 6Gbps connectors handle legacy storage.

The network stack is powered first by the Realtek RTL8125 Dragon LAN with an Intel AX211 chipset for WiFi 6E. Audio is the cost-effective Realtek ALC897.

Pricing

The ASRock Z690 STEEL LEGEND WIFI 6E carries an MSRP of $239.99 with a three-year warranty.

Buy at Amazon

ASRock Z690 STEEL LEGEND

TodayYesterday7 days ago30 days ago
£230.99£230.99-
* Prices last scanned on 7/1/2022 at 5:34 pm CDT - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Packaging, Accessories, and Overview

Packaging and Accessories

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Packaging follows the Steel theme of this motherboard series. Chipset and CPU support are listed bottom left.

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Motherboard specifications are listed along the top with features below.

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In the kit, we have reading materials and drivers on the disc. SATA cables and WiFi antenna come alongside the GPU support bracket that ASRock now includes with nearly every board.

ASRock Z690 STEEL LEGEND WIFI 6E Overview

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The Steel Legend is a bit more basic than the higher-end boards from ASRock but still includes a fantastic set of heat sinks covering the VRM and chipset. This board has RGB built into the rear I/O and chipset, and the top and bottom m.2 slots offer cooling.

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The back of the board is free of any additional armor or thermal protection, and we do not have any ICs to speak of here either.

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Rear I/O does include PS/2 at the top alongside USB 3.2. Further down, we have both display outputs and WiFi antenna. USB-C follows up with three more USB 3.2 connections, and we round out this board with 2.5Gbe and audio.

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The board layout starts with front panel audio bottom left, and moving to the right, we have RGB connections and USB 2.0 headers.

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Further down, we have a USB 3.2 header and four SATA connections.

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Around the edge, we follow up with another four SATA connections and a fan header.

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At the top, we have the 24-pin power connection, a second USB 3.2 header, and a Gen2 header right up against the power connection.

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Across the top of the board, we have a series of fan headers.

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Last, we have two 8-pin power connections.

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Setting up the Steel Legend, you can get an idea of the RGB layout of the board.

UEFI, Software and Test System

UEFI

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This BIOS should look familiar for anyone that has used an ASRock platform in the last few generations though this one does have the Steel Legend/ Extreme theme added to it.

Starting with EZ Mode, we have CPU and memory information top left and temperatures to the right. Down below, the dashboard is split up into categories for DRAM, fans, and storage, with each having their own respective options. To the far right, we have quick access to boot priority.

OC Tweaker includes current CPU and memory clocks at the top, tuning for both down below. The Advanced menu includes options for SATA storage and PCH along with Thunderbolt and NVMe. CPU config includes the ability to enable/disable cores, including E cores and P cores, separately.

Monitoring is included alongside fan control, while the tool menu allows you to control RGB and Secure Erase storage devices.

Motherboard Software

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ASRock A-Tuning allows for quick access to performance profiles seen above.

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Users also can manually the bclk and multipliers from the OC Tweaker menu in Windows.

Motherboard Testing Supporters

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Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.

TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System

Cinebench R23 and AIDA64

Cinebench and AIDA64

Cinebench R23

Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to highlight their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test that uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU.

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Testing on the Steel Legend offered only a small performance loss vs. DDR5 platforms. In R23, we pulled in 1954 single thread. This is compared to our typical 1980-2010 average.

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nT performance was unaffected by DDR4 and in some cases performed higher than DDR5 boards. nT showed a score of 27211 for the Steel Legend.

AIDA64 Memory

AIDA was recently updated to version 6.6, which improved performance in both AES and SHA3 workloads for Alder Lake CPUs. You will notice this performance jump in the charts below compared to any earlier Z690 reviews.

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AES offered 205830 for the Steel Legend.

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SHA3 came in at 5995.

ASRock Z690 Steel Legend Wi-Fi 6E Motherboard Review 44 | TweakTown.com

Memory throughput was on par with past 660 series DDR4 platforms. 59K read, 55K write, and 57k copy.

PCMark10, 3DMark and CrossMark Benchmarks

UL Procyon Suite

The UL Procyon Office Productivity Benchmark uses Microsoft Office apps to measure PC performance for office productivity work.

The Photo Editing benchmark uses Adobe® Lightroom® to import, process, and modify a selection of images. In the second part of the test, multiple edits and layer effects are applied to a photograph in Adobe® Photoshop®.

The Video editing benchmark uses Adobe® Premiere® Pro to export video project files to common formats. Each video project includes various edits, adjustments, and effects. The benchmark score is based on the time taken to export the videos.

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New to our testing is UL Procyon, and this offers us the ability for more real-world testing in motherboard reviews. The Steel Legend didn't give up and performance in these scenarios scoring 9210 in office, 8020 in photo, and 2970 for video.

CrossMark

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CrossMark turned a score of 2292. Slightly lower than DDR5 platforms, but again not far off.

3DMark

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CPU Profile showed a small 200-point difference comparing the Steel Legend to 600 series DDR5 platforms with a score of 10357 at 16 threads.

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Timespy showed no difference in integrated graphics performance on the Steel Legend.

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Firestrike showed similar, no difference in integrated performance with a score of 2734.

Storage Benchmarks and Final Thoughts

3DMark Storage Benchmarks

UL's newest 3DMark SSD Gaming Test is the most comprehensive SSD gaming test ever devised. We consider it to be superior to testing against games themselves because, as a trace, it is much more consistent than variations that will occur between runs on the actual game itself. This test is, in fact, the same as running the actual game, just without the inconsistencies inherent to application testing.

In short, we believe that this is the world's best way to test an SSDs gaming prowess and accurately compare it against competing SSDs. The 3DMark SSD Gaming Test measures and scores the following:

  • Loading Battlefield V from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Call of Duty Black Ops 4 from launch to the main menu.
  • Loading Overwatch from launch to the main menu.
  • Recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) while playing Overwatch.
  • Installing The Outer Worlds from the Epic Games Launcher.
  • Saving game progress in The Outer Worlds.
  • Copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike Global Offensive from an external SSD to the system drive.
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With several motherboards now tested under the new storage benchmark, we are starting to get a good idea of where our Rocket Plus should run. The Steel Legend offered slightly lower storage performance than we are accustomed to at 489 MB/s, and we are only 30 MB/s off boards that cost nearly 5x.

Final Thoughts

We spent a few days testing the Steel Legend and were rather satisfied with how well the board handled all our testing alongside daily activity, including gaming. At heart, if you have enjoyed the nuances of ASRock platforms, including the BIOS and integrated software support, then this Steel Legend is just as good as the high-end Taichi.

Of course, corners have been cut to make it their entry-level platform, but if this board supplies all your needs for ports, storage, and expansion, it could be a great solution for you.

Mentioning things that have been cut, you will likely only notice if you are a heavy USB 3.2 user, as the rear I/O has only five standard ports and a USB-C. This can be offset if you have a chassis that offers expansion, as the board has several internal headers available. Audio is a bit lacking on this platform using the ALC897 but should only be concerning if you use high impedance headphones, in which case you will likely want to add an amp.

Performance

85%

Quality

90%

Features

85%

Value

98%

Overall

90%

The Bottom Line

The Steel Legend offers an entry into Intel Z690 that's cost effective for consumers that don't need all the bells and whistles.

TweakTown award
90%

ASRock Z690 STEEL LEGEND

TodayYesterday7 days ago30 days ago
£230.99£230.99-
* Prices last scanned on 7/1/2022 at 5:34 pm CDT - prices may not be accurate, click links above for the latest price. We may earn an affiliate commission.

Tyler joined the TweakTown team in 2013 and has since reviewed 100s of new techy items. Growing up in a small farm town, tech wasn't around, unless it was in a tractor. At an early age, Tyler's parents brought home their first PC. Tyler was hooked and learned what it meant to format a HDD, spending many nights reinstalling Windows 95. Tyler's love and enthusiast nature always kept his PC nearby. Eager to get deeper into tech, he started reviewing.

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