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.
Last updated: Nov 15, 2019 at 01:16 pm CST
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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