The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Prime has been the entry-level platform for ASUS for several years. These boards offer all of the basics for their own respective generations while going easy on your wallet compared to high durability solutions like the ASUS TUF or gaming brands like ROG.
The Z490-A is at the high-end of the Prime lineup, with the Z490-P among others occupying the lower tiers. The Z490-A, as the name suggests, is an Intel 10th Generation platform built around the Z490 chipset. We will go over the board specifications below.
Specifications and Marketing
Board specifications start with the Intel LGA1200 socket, compatible with all 10th Generation processors, including Core i3, i5, i7, and i9. Those on a budget can also install Pentium Gold or Celeron processors as well. Power design is supported by a 12+2 design for CPU and memory, ONSemi supplying the power stages with each running at 45A, giving the CPU a total of 540A. Memory is supported with four DDR4 slots, speeds up to 4800MHz via overclocking.
Expansion is handled by 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots from the CPU and another three x1 slots, and an x16 electrically limited to x4 from the chipset. 6x SATA III ports give way to the Ultra m.2 storage configuration that includes two slots, one of which is heatsinked.
The vulnerable Intel i225-V handles LAN duties on this board with an M.2 slot available for optional LAN cards such as the AX200 or AX1650. Audio is handled by the go-to ALC1220 chipset from Realtek; this offers 7.1 Audio with a built-in amplifier.
The ASUS Prime Z490-A carries an MSRP of $229.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging starts with a large image of the board to the left. Below we have features laid out with the model to the right.
The rear of the box offers board specifications along with an I/O overview and features listed to the right.
Included in the box, we have a quick install guide in several languages along with SATA cables, screws for the m.2 slots, and a front panel cheater block for power, reset, etc.
ASUS Prime Z490-A Overview
The Prime lineup has traditionally carries a white/silver heat sink design, and the Z490 iteration follows that standard. White plastics cover a large portion of the rear I/O area, while brushed aluminum heat sinks take care of the VRM and chipset heat. The rear of the board gives more insight into the power design with no doublers, ASUS instead going for a parallel design to increase the current handling of each stage.
The bottom edge of the board offers traditional hook-ups for front panel audio, USB headers, and fans. To the far right, you will find the Thunderbolt header, looking a bit different than it has in the past. Above that, we have a host of PCIe slots along with the second m.2 slot.
Wrapping around the corner, we have another set of fan connections, all six SATA ports, and both Gen1 and Gen 2 USB 3.2 headers.
Along the top, we have ARGB and RGB headers, more fan connections, and 8+4 CPU power.
The rear I/O houses HHDMI and DP ports at the top. This is followed by a host of USB connections, with 2.0 at the top 3.2 Gen 2 in the middle and 2x Gen 1 next to the LAN.
PCB and Circuit Analysis
The power design features 14 power stages, 12 for the CPU each 45A run in parallel to give each channel 90A capability. These are ONSemi NCP30245 controlled by the DiGi+ VRM from ASUS.
The chipset can be seen above with several ICs seen around it, including the Aura RGB controller, TPU motherboard I/O.
To the left of the board, we have the Audio chipset from Realtek and Nuvoton Super I/O.
The heat sink platform includes several pieces, all brushed aluminum.
UEFI, Software and Test System
Setup is the default EFI design from ASUS. You will find this used on all Prime and ProArt boards along with CSM lineups as well. This is a well laid out solution similar to the ROG BIOS platforms with a main section to show system specs, AI Tweaker for overclocking CPU and memory. Advanced will push you through onboard device configuration such as audio, LAN, and Thunderbolt if your board supports it.
The monitor section offers temperatures and fan control options, while the tools menu gives you the ability to flash BIOS, secure erase your SSDs, or set up profiles.
Sabrent has been a fantastic vendor to work with over the last year, and they continue to support AMD and Intel motherboard testing with their Rocket4 Plus built on the Phison E18 platform.
- Motherboard: ASUS Prime Z490-A (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i9 10900K (buy from Amazon)
- RAM: ADATA XPG 2x16GB Spectrix (buy from Amazon)
- Cooler: EKWB Quantum Power 360 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket4 Plus NVMe 4.0 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: Corsair RM750 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
WPrime, Cinebench and AIDA64
WPrime, CPUz, Cinebench, and AIDA64
WPrime is a leading multi-threaded benchmark. In our setup, we will manually set the number of cores for the CPU under test. The ROG Maximus Extreme 12 is our baseline motherboard for all charts.
The Prime Z490-A did quite well in this test, equal to past platforms tested with 2.38 seconds in 32m and 60.7 seconds for 1024m.
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 which uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU
Cinebench shows equal performance for the Prime, 540 in single thread, and 6411 for multi-threaded performance.
Realbench uses both video and photo workloads to benchmark your CPU. We use the Heavy Multitasking workload in this setup. In this scenario, the Prime pulled out a time of 33.8 seconds.
AIDA64 has stayed as our means of testing memory bandwidth. For this test, we find 54K read 54K write and 49K copy.
Unigine and UL Benchmarks
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
Focusing on workloads, the Prime scores 10,300 in essentials while digital content reaches 11.7K and productivity 9K.
Superposition from Unigine is a DX12 based benchmark. We test with the 720p LOW preset as this removes all but the most basic GPU loading, with all of the FPS coming from the CPU.
The Prime hits 259 FPS in this test, on par with past boards.
Timespy shows solid results with a graphics score of 10099 and CPU at 13K.
ASUS Prime hits a graphics score of 25.8K while CPU reaches 27.7K
Shadown of the Tomb Raider
Running through Tomb Raider, we find an average FPS of 99 at 4K, 166 at 1440p, and 191 at 1080p with our RTX 3080.
System I/O Benchmarks and Power Consumption
System I/O Benchmarks
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Storage tests are all handled by our Sabrent Rocket4 Plus NVMe 4.0 SSD for internal testing and our WD_BLACK P50 for external testing.
USB-C on the ASUS Prime touched 1069 MB/s read and 962 MB/s write.
We went back and retested all of our boards with the new Rocket4 Plus. The ASUS Prime reeled in 3565 MB/s read and 2701 MB/s write.
Random performance 4KQ1 touches 78 MB/s read and 168 MB/s write.
Networking with iPerf
Wired throughput for the Prime Z490 touched 2180Mbps.
Power consumption ran at 118 watts idle, 448 watts during our CPU testing, and 408 watts gaming.
Overclocking, Thermals and Final Thoughts
Overclocking on the Prime Z490-A was quite good. I was able to dial in 5.1GHz all core with LLC level 4 and 1.33v. This resulted in over 17K points in Cinebench R23 multi thread, 700 points higher than the 10900K if ran at stock settings.
Thermals for the Prime were in line with past platforms, 25c idle and 64c peak during testing.
The Prime Z490-A did quite well in testing, performing on par with most of our past motherboard platforms. As far as features go, this board has all of the basics anyone would need for a daily system, including ample USB 3.2 ports for both Gen 1 and 2 along with internal headers to expand that further. One stand out feature of the Prime motherboard platform is the ability to add Thunderbolt 3 support with ASUS' own Thunderbolt EX3 add-in card.
Overclocking was decent enough for the Prime and could get our 10900K to 5.1GHZ all core at relatively low voltage, enough so we gained a significant amount of performance in R23 when testing against stock boost clocks.
What We Like
Thunderbolt: Those wanting a motherboard platform supporting Thunderbolt 3, will want to look at the Prime Z490 series as all models support this rare feature.
Price: The Prime Z490-A is one of the cheaper full ATX solution riding on the Intel Z490 chipset.
What Could Be Better
Intel i225-V: This controller has seemingly had its fair share of issues with Intel attempting to resolve them with firmware updates, in our testing, this was the only downfall of the Prime Z490-A.
Wi-Fi: Prime Z490-A does not offer Wi-Fi out of the box, instead an optional upgrade if you choose.
Great board with a solid amount of features including USB 3.2 Gen 2 and support for Thunderbolt 3 at a decent price!
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