Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we look at a mini-ITX motherboard from Supermicro that is designed for gamers and enthusiasts alike. Supermicro's naming scheme might seem a bit confusing, but we have seen Supermicro change their new boards to use the new C9 moniker, which was traditionally reserved for higher-end models capable of supporting the new Core i9 series of CPUs.
We wouldn't typically pair a 9900K with a mini-ITX motherboard, mainly because of VRM concerns, but in this case we have hope Supermicro produced a motherboard capable of supporting the new CPU. Let's see how they did.
The C9Z390-CG-IW features two M.2 slots, WIFI, Intel LAN, USB 3.1, and SATA6Gb/s.
The C9Z390-CG-IW costs $201.76
Packaging and C9Z390-CG-IW Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box is simple, much like other Supermicro newer generation boxes. Packaging is decent.
The accessory package includes WIFI antenna, two SATA6Gb/s cables, rear IO shield, cable stickers, manual, and driver DVD.
Supermicro has two fan headers on this motherboard, both are located at the top and both support 4-pin PWN fans with up to 2A of current. While two headers is common for many mini-ITX motherboards, we would have liked to see more, but the good news is that with 2A on each header, you can use a splitter. The motherboard keeps the same black and silver aesthetic as the Z370 version of this motherboard. The back of the motherboard has components and one M.2 slot.
The rear IO panel features WIFI antenna, four USB 3.1 ports (three type-A one type-C), two USB 3.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, Gbit LAN, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
There are two M.2 slots, one on the top and one on the bottom. The one on the top supports PCI-E 3.0 x4 and SATA, while the one on the bottom only support PCI-E x4. There is also a USB 3.1 internal type-C header located right below the CPU socket.
The motherboard features four SATA6Gb/s ports, a USB 3.0 internal header, an a BIOS ROM that is replaceable. The front panel headers are located at the top of the motherboard near an RGB LED header. There are also boot LEDs to the right of the memory DIMMs.
The motherboard features an 8-pin CPU power plug. The heat sinks are solid, and we will see how they do, but contact pressure was quite high.
Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW Circuit Analysis
The C9Z390-CG-IW shows us the goods with the heat sinks removed!
The VRM is made up of server versions of normal consumer components, and should be able to handle more than the consumer part. The PWM controller is a digital Primarion PXE1520, which is from Infineon, and it's a 5+2 controller. The power stages are Infineon's 70A TDA21470, which are the best you can currently get. There are also high current inductors on board.
The VCCSA and VCCIO and memory utilize monolithic power systems MPQ8633, which are 12A POL chips. There is also a Texas Instruments TPD56C215, which also provides up to 12A.
Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW Circuit Analysis Continued
C9Z390-CG-IW Circuit Analysis Continued
The audio solution consists of a Realtek ALC1220 rated up to 120dB with an integrated amplifier and some audio grade capacitors.
The NIC is a i219v from Intel. WIFI is provided by an Intel Wireless AC 9560NGW, which is capable of up to 1.733Gbps.
There are two ASMedia ASM1543 type-C port controllers for the rear type-C port and the internal type-C header.
The Nuvoton NCT6792D is the SuperIO controller responsible for controlling the system and fans. The chip labeled 10268A is a Rensas microcontroller used to control the addressable RGBs on the rear of the motherboard.
The GD75232 is a driver and receiver chip used to control the COM port. The BIOS ROM sits in a container.
BIOS and Software
Here we have Supermicro's UEFI for their Z390 motherboards. It has two operation modes, a Easy mode and an advanced one, and you can choose to default to advanced mode pretty easily in the advanced options area. The boot order is in the save and exit menu. All the settings you need to overclock the CPU and memory are there too and fan control is present in the form of a manual input menu.
Supermicro has a SuperO software program for controlling fans, overclocking, and controlling the RGB LEDs.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW
- 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 C9Z390-CG-IW has RGB LEDs on the back of the PCB on the right side of the motherboard.
The C9Z390-CG-IW overclocked our CPU to 5.2GHz, which we didn't think it could do. We had to mess around with the LLC levels a bit, as it wasn't clear which level was higher, in the end we just used a larger voltage drop to help stabilize at the VCore we wanted, at around 1.325v. We also enabled XMP, and we didn't have an issue at 3200MHz.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
AIDA64 FLOPS and IOPS
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
Overall, performance is solid all around, no real issues here.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The storage and networking performance is solid.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
Sound Judgment by Ear: Very good, the audio performance is decent for onboard audio. 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 C9Z390-CG-IW has a pretty low phase count, but as we have learned in the past that doesn't mean it has bad VRM performance. We were kind of shocked how well it stood up to the 9900K, with very good results. Supermicro wasn't messing around when they revamped their VRM for the Z390 mini-ITX motherboard, excellent thermal performance. However, under a heavy OC we recommend active cooling around the VRM area. 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
Quality: The VRM might not look impressive on the C9Z390-CG-IW, but it's using some of the highest quality components you will find on any motherboard. Using the 70A Infineon power stages and the server grade Primarion digital PWM controller, the motherboard is actually able of providing an overclock. Supermicro also added in features that most people might not know about, such as HDMI 2.0.
Intel Networking: Supermicro is using not only an Intel wired LAN controller but also the latest Intel Wireless AC controller capable of 1.73Gbps.
USB 3.1: Supermicro's implemented a lot of Intel's latest USB 3.1 (10Gbps) on this motherboard, even when they didn't have too.
USB 2.0: The Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW doesn't have any internal USB 2.0 headers.
The mini-ITX platform is one of the more challenging ones, and generation after generation Supermicro has been making improvements. For this generation they greatly improved the VRM over that of their Z370 motherboard, added in a lot of USB 3.1 (10Gb/s), and upgraded WIFI. They kept HDMI 2.0a and that's important because it requires another chip, and if you use this motherboard in a HTPC system, HDMI 2.0 is a must for 4K streaming.
We did find some of the layout odd, such as the location of the USB 3.1 type-C internal header, putting both fan headers at the top, and the lack of an internal USb 2.0 header. The price of this motherboard is a bit high, but that's kind of unavoidable when using the quality parts that Supermicro has in the VRM. If you want a solid Z390 mini-ITX motherboard, give this one a look.
The Bottom Line: Loaded with server-grade components meant to better support the 9900K on this mini-ITX motherboard, the C9Z390-CG-IW is a very high quality product.
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