The Bottom Line
- + Factory water block
- + 10Gbe LAN
- + PCIe 5.0
- + Thunderbolt 4
- + Future proofed
- - Price
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
The Z690 AORUS Xtreme, at the time of writing, was one of the best boards to hit our lab this generation. With our Z690 review coverage ending soon, we were curious if the Waterforce variant would offer anything more for the added cost. Like ROG, with its Maximus Extreme and Glacial variant, the AORUS Xtreme WF is an identical hardware platform to its non-water-cooled model. This includes expansion and connectivity, which we will transition to below.
As per most Z690 platforms, we start with CPU support, which right now includes 12th Gen CPUs. The Xtreme is a DDR5 platform supporting 4800-6400MHz modules with a maximum capacity of 128GB over the four slots. The expansion includes three PCIe x16 slots; the top two are Gen5 and operate in x16 or x8 x8 mode. The bottom slot pulls from the chipset at PCIe 3.0.
Storage includes four NVMe slots; the top slot under the large heat sink is Gen4 capable from the CPU, and the following three are from the chipset at Gen 4.0. This pulls us into rear I/O expansion, where you will get Wi-Fi 6e alongside 2.5Gbe from Intel and Marvell 10Gbe. USB ports are plentiful as well, with ten ports, all USB 3.2.
The Z690 AORUS Xtreme Waterforce carries an MSRP of $1899.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging features a large AORUS logo with mentions of PCIe Gen5 and DDR5 to the right.
The rear of the packaging includes features to the right and specs right below, including a rear I/O layout.
Z690 AORUS Xtreme Waterforce Overview
The Xtreme Waterforce comes without any heat sinks attached. We have three PCIe x16 slots; all shielded, heat piped VRM sinks, and a large heat sink for the main NVMe slot. Memory and VRM are contained with RGB covers, and the power and reset buttons are tucked to the far right.
The back of the board has additional armor to add rigidity to the board.
Rear I/O includes a full host of USB 3.2; ten ports counted. We also have 2.5Gbe, 10Gbe, and Thunderbolt 4 making an appearance.
All ports are placed along the right side of the board tucked into the armor; this includes USB 2.0 headers, front panel connections, and SATA, as seen in the image above.
USB 3.2 and several additional ports land just before the 24-pin.
Last, we have a set of fan connections to the right of the 24-pin.
Across the top, we run into fan headers and the USB connection for the water block.
Far left, two eight-pin inputs.
The water block is housed in its own packaging, complete with hardware for mounting and thermal paste.
UEFI, Software and Test System
BIOS layout starts with the easy mode. You will get all the CPU and RAM information along the top, including frequency and temperature. The boot sequence shows installed drives and fan controls to the right.
Advanced mode is where you will find tweaking tools for CPU and memory, including voltages. AORUS has additional options in the IO Ports menu; these include the ability to disable IGP and configure LAN controls, Thunderbolt, and storage.
RGB Fusion allows you to control all the functionality of the board, including the individual ports.
The easy tune allows you to perform on-the-fly configuration of the Xtreme while in Windows.
Motherboard Testing Supporters
Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.
TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i9 12900K
- RAM: Kingston Fury DDR5 6000MHz 16GB CL40 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: ASUS Thor 1200W (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 11 (buy from Amazon)
Cinebench R23 and AIDA64
Cinebench and AIDA64
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to showcase 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.
This being our last board, the Waterforce landed a score of 1954 in single thread.
nT showed 28336, just like the original.
AES offers the highest performance yet next to the Tachyon at 207911.
SHA3 tapped in at 6039.
Memory throughput pushed 81K read, 77K write, and 79K copy.
PCMark10, 3DMark and CrossMark Benchmarks
UL Procyon, 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.
In Procyon, the Waterforce did quite well, offering 8286 in Office and 7533 in Photo. Video came in at 2965, on par with other Z690 boards.
The Xtreme gave us our highest CrossMark score back when we tested it. A few months later, the Waterforce shows similar prowess with a nearly identical score of 2394.
CPU Profile showed a slight edge to the WF at 16-threads, scoring 10877; eight threads give us 8160 while things start to even off at four threads.
Timespy showed a score of 928.
Firestrike pushed higher with a score of 2735.
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.
Storage for the Waterforce gave us 516 MB/s, which seems to be around the average for Z690 platforms.
When it comes to these factory water block motherboards, cost alone almost puts them in a separate market. These boards require someone fully committed and likely someone looking to build a machine that will run them a few years at a minimum.
This leans into the hardware on the Waterforce quite well, and it's relatively futureproofed with 10Gbe, WiFi6e, and Thunderbolt 4. It also maintains dual-slot PCIe 5 support and DDR5, giving any would-be builder at least a few years before the market makes this board mainstream.
In testing, this board was at the top of every chart, alongside its non-blocked variant. R23 multi-thread gave us 28336 followed by 2394 in CrossMark. CPU Profile gave us a top score of 10887, another top score for the Xtreme.
Software for this board is ample and includes both controls for the board's RGB functionality and CPU and memory tuning with EZTune. The BIOS offers all the functionality one would expect for a high-end platform. Overclocking tools are some of the better available, complete with preset tuning for different types of DDR5, even a Hynix tune that allowed us to push our kit to 6600MHz.
Pricing is certainly dicey for the Waterforce, as the non-blocked variant holds an $899 MSRP, and this full blocked setup will cost you $1899.99, with some retailers offering it at a discount as of this writing. That said, the hardware involved makes it one of the best options available, and with rumored 13th Gen support coming to the 600 series chipset, it's worth looking at even now.
The Bottom Line
The Z690 Waterforce will cost an arm and a leg, but it offers the best hardware platform available on Intel Z690.