The Bottom Line
BIOS and Software
You can find the first part of the review here
ASRock's UEFI for Z390 is very similar to that of their Z370 motherboards. Tjmax offset was added as well as some finer tuning settings to the fan control menu. Overclocking was simple through the UEFI, and it's pretty seamless. Overall, we liked the BIOS and settings were easy to find and well organized.
Software includes Phantom Gaming Tuning, Key Master, Polychrome RGB, and XFast LAN.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac
- CPU: Intel Core i9 9900K
- Cooler: Corsair H110 - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FE - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston KC1000 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Corsair Force LS 240GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - M.2 Drive: Intel 750 400GB U.2
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair RM1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: EVGA PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
The Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac has a few RGBs under the PCI-E area, but you can barely see them with a GPU installed. It's sleek and will fade into the background in a dark case.
The Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac overclocked our CPU to 5.2GHz and went up to XMP with ease. The voltage we set was 1.33v, level 2 LLC was set, and the voltage was pretty constant. We also increase current to 255A, which is the max per Intel specifications. The motherboard is quite easy to overclock, and we do believe extreme overclockers will also be pleased, we saw the board used at the Intel event in NYC by the extreme overclockers.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
AIDA64 FLOPS and IOPS
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
We see that with the latest BIOS version we have pretty equalized performance among the three boards we have already tested. We are pleased with the performance of the motherboard, just make sure to update to the latest BIOS version.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The storage and networking performance is solid.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent, a very good implementation. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and back side of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans to the right of the motherboard from the (Corsair H110i) radiator are left on automatic mode (ramps with internal block temperature). Additionally, a 120mm fan is situated right above the VRM, and it blows down at a medium rate (very quiet). Thermal Images are taken at loop 15 of Intel Burn Test
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac has even better results than the Taichi, although these aren't overclocked results. We think it has to do with the better power stages that allow heat to more easily flow into the heat sink, so the temperature on the rear of the motherboard is lower. Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Strong VRM: The VRM on the Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac is using Intersil's latest Smart Power Stages with exposed metal on the top, and it makes a big difference. It makes such a difference that this motherboard's backside VRM temperature is 3C lower than the Z390 Taichi, which not only has a better VRM heat sink but also larger VRM PCB area for heat dissipation on top of more phases. These results are from stock operation, but we didn't expect these results. We are shocked in a good way. However, we did have active cooling in a standardized environment, so do ensure proper VRM cooling in a tight ITX case.
WIFI, Thunderbolt 3, and HDMI 2.0: ASRock added WIFI to this motherboard, and in this case, they didn't use a 1x1 controller limited to 433Mbps and instead used Intel's latest 1.733Gbps controller. While we get the low power variant of Thunderbolt 3, it's still a nice feature to have. We also get HDMI 2.0 on this motherboard, so streaming 4K content is easier through the internal iGPU.
Dual M.2: ASRock made sure that the motherboard carries two x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots, one is on the rear, and the other is on the front and has a heat sink.
USB port colors: All the rear IO USB ports are the same color, so you can't tell which are USB 3.1. Thankfully there is an IO shield with labels.
We really like this little monster of a motherboard. It's feature packed, has excellent connectivity, and really is all around good. We had a hard time finding things not to like, there is the low power TB3 controller that operates on half the PCI-E lanes of the full speed one, but how can we complain about a motherboard with so many other features under $200?
We did read online that the WIFI isn't Hackintosh compatible since it's the newer Intel WIFI, but that card in itself is an upgrade over most WIFI modules we find these days as it's the latest Intel WIFI card. Audio is top notch, ASRock added in a lot of features, and they didn't skimp on VRM quality. Those five phases for the main CPU handle the 9900K at stock with ease and let us overclock to 5.2GHz and pass our tests. If you are looking for a fully loaded mini-ITX motherboard with a lot of bang for the buck and the ability to properly handle a 9900K, give the Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac a look.
The Bottom Line: ASRock's Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac is one of the best mini-ITX motherboards we have seen, we actually believe it's underpriced at just under $200.
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