The gaming PC components sold by Asus under the Republic of Gamers brand are known for being among the most luxurious and expensive products available in their respective markets. With its $469.99 ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard, Asus took the kitchen-sink approach and added in as many features as possible on a crowded printed circuit board, in contrast to the majority of mainstream motherboards, which try to walk the razor’s edge of high performance while maintaining a modest retail price (PCB). Although it sits in the bottom part of the ROG motherboard hierarchy, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi’s pricing is not even close to being considered budget-friendly. Therefore, although receiving a good rating, this relatively “cheap” introduction into the world of premium motherboards does not displace the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi as the Editors’ Choice for high-end Intel motherboards.
ASUS ROG STRIX Z690-E GAMING WIFI SPECS
|CPU Socket||Intel LGA 1700|
|Maximum Supported Memory||128 GB|
|No. of DIMM Slots||4|
|Maximum Memory Speed||6400 MHz|
|PCI Express x16 Slots||3|
|PCI Express x1 Slots||1|
|Onboard Video Out for IGP (Rear Panel)||DisplayPort, HDMI|
|USB 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2 Ports Onboard (Rear Panel)||8|
|USB 3.0, 3.1, or 3.2 Ports Supported Via Header||2|
|USB 2.0 Ports Onboard (Rear Panel)||4|
|USB 2.0 Ports Supported Via Header||2|
|USB Type-C Header||Yes|
|Thunderbolt 3 or 4 Ports (Rear Panel)||0|
|Onboard Audio Chipset||ROG SupremeFX 7.1 Surround Sound High Definition Audio CODEC ALC4080|
|No. of Audio Channels||7.1|
Regardless of your opinion regarding the usefulness or worth of ROG boards, it can’t be denied that Asus knows how to make their designs visually distinctive. On the front of the board, more than half of the surface space is taken up by massive heatsinks and a few heat pipes. Accents of silver and nickel break up the monotony of the black-on-black design of the PCB and the heatsinks. It is a wonderful illustration of how form may successfully meet function.
A handful of the locations on the Strix are there solely for aesthetic purposes. A broad ornamental strip runs from the back I/O panel all the way to the CPU socket, draping itself over the heatsink that the voltage regulator module (VRM) sits on. An iridescent underlayer featuring Republic of Gamers graphics is framed on all four sides by RGB lighting that is concealed from view. A layer of etched acrylic is used as a covering for the blue-fuchsia color strip, which contributes elements that refract to the RGB. The reverse side of the board features a silk-screening pattern that adds a decorative touch.
Another aspect in which ROG motherboards never fall short is in terms of their packaging. When you first take a look at a product, the first thing you notice is the cardboard lid. Asus is aware of this. The mother board is given its own inner cardboard tray for protection inside the double-layered cardboard box, and the numerous extras are packaged in their own individual cutouts and boxes within the bottom layer of the box.
In addition to the typical SATA cables and additional M.2 mounting gear (in this case, replacement M.2 latches), the Strix comes with a keychain, a GPU support mount, a magnetic-mount external Wi-Fi antenna, and a ROG Hyper M.2 Card. All of these extras are included in the box (more about the Hyper Card below).
Support for the CPU and Memory
The Strix makes advantage of every millimeter of available space around the CPU socket in order to stack a VRM heatsink as high as possible while still allowing for the necessary amount of room for installing CPU coolers. A heat pipe runs between the parts of the heatsink, which are bolted together, to guarantee that there is a low amount of thermal accumulation in any one region. Under the heatsink, there is a sturdy 18+1 power design that ensures a stable supply of power to the CPU, even in systems that are significantly overclocked. Two power connectors with eight pins each provide power to the VRM. The Strix, along like the majority of other Intel 600-series motherboards produced by Asus, features mounting holes for LGA1200 and LGA1700 coolers.
The Strix employs DDR5 memory modules that have a maximum capacity of 128GB each, which is appropriate for a high-performance motherboard. Although Asus has said that the motherboard will handle RAM with speeds up to DDR5-6400, because it is a dedicated overclocking board, higher memory speeds may be achievable.
Storage, Expansion, and Back-of-House I/O
This Strix has three full-length slots for PCI Express expansion cards and one single-lane open-end slot, giving it the capacity to carry a total of four PCI Express expansion cards. The graphics processing units (GPUs) are supposed to go in the top slot. It has been strengthened, and it communicates with the central processing unit (CPU) through a PCI Express 5.0 x16 interface. Additionally, the GPU Q-Release feature found on the company’s Maximus Z690 Hero board can be found on the Strix. The locking tab on the top PCIe slot can be released by pressing a button that is located on the leading edge of the board. Because the lock tab on the Strix is flush against an M.2 heatsink and because GPU backplates frequently cover the top of the tab, this is a handy and essential feature for the Strix. Additionally, the top of the tab is frequently covered by GPU backplates.
The speeds of the connections made by Slots 2, 3, and 4 through the chipset are as follows: PCIe 3.0 x1, 3.0 x4, and 4.0 x4 accordingly. Even if the second slot is open on both ends, it is not possible to use a card that has a connector for more than four lanes since it would interfere with the chipset heatsink. PCIe bifurcation is supported by the bottom slot, which will be discussed in more depth later.
This Strix motherboard has the capability to manage up to five M.2 drives for PCIe storage simultaneously. The actual motherboard contains three M.2 slots, all of which are protected by substantial heat shields. Even further, there is a heat pipe winding its way out of the board and towards an additional heatsink, and this is located in the primary slot at the very top. Getting some additional cooling surface area is a good touch, especially considering that this is a board that is focused on gaming and that this area will often be squeezed between the GPU backplate and the huge CPU heatsink.
The first and second M.2 slots, located on the left side of the motherboard, are equipped with heat pads on both the top and bottom and can accommodate drives with dimensions of 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, and 110mm. The third slot, which is located slightly below the chipset, possesses only a thermal pad on its top, can accommodate drives with a maximum height of 80 millimeters, and is the only M.2 slot that is capable of operating in SATA mode. In place of the minuscule screws that invariably go missing, each and every one of them makes use of a quick-latch device to secure the drives. The first and second slots have connections to the chipset at speeds of PCIe 5.0 x4 and PCIe 4.0 x4, respectively, while the third slot has a connection to the CPU at a speed of PCIe 4.0 x4 through the chipset. In addition, there are extremely legible labels on the board that explain what modes each of the three M.2 slots is compatible with.
A PCIe M.2 breakout card, known as the ROG Hyper Card, is included with the Strix. This card, which is packaged with the motherboard, enables the use of two additional M.2 drives…
Two M.2 slots are hidden beneath the massive heatsink made of metal; each slot is equipped with thermal pads at the top and bottom and can accommodate drives measuring up to 110 millimeters in height. Unfortuitously, these two slots do not make use of the beneficial Q-latch system when mounting drives; instead, they use normal screws. PCIe 5.0 performance cannot be achieved by any of the drives on the Hyper Card, despite the fact that the first slot on the card is branded “GEN5”. Even though the Hyper Card can be inserted in any of the three x16 slots, the second Hyper M.2 drive can only be used while the bottom card slot is being used. This is because the bottom card slot is the only one that allows PCIe bifurcation. Both of the drives that are attached to the Hyper Card will work in the 4.0 x4 mode when this configuration is used, and the onboard M.2 drives will continue to function normally.
In the event that five M.2 drives are insufficient to meet your storage requirements, or if you are a mere mortal who relies on SATA drives, there are also six forward-facing 6Gbps connections available to you. This is an increase from the standard four due to the fact that ports 5 and 6 make use of a distinct controller to prevent sharing of connectivity lanes. As a consequence of this, only ports 1 through 4 will be able to support boot disks and RAID configurations.
The back I/O panel has a multitude of connectors and ports, all of which are protected by a panel shield that is built into the panel itself. Even though only a small percentage of people who buy this board will use the onboard video, it nonetheless comes with HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4. There is a stunning total of 12 USB ports available for use with peripherals and external storage, each of which has been thoughtfully labeled and color-coded for straightforward recognition. The four ports that are black are USB 2.0 ports, the four ports that are blue are USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, and the two ports that are red are 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. In addition, there are two USB Type-C ports, one of which is a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port that runs at a speed of 10Gbps, and the other of which is a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port that functions at a speed of 20Gbps.
In addition to the USB ports, there are also buttons that allow you to clear the CMOS and flash back the BIOS. There is a cable connector capable of 2.5 Gbps data transfer and an 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 controller for networking options.
In terms of the audio solution, there is the standard assortment of five 3.5mm analog connectors in addition to one S/PDIF output. On the other hand, Asus will not be satisfied with the usage of a standard audio chip in a ROG board. Asus employs its standard SupremeFX technology, which consists of premium capacitors and PCB trace isolation, and couples it with a Realtek ALC4080 codec. According to Asus, this is sufficient for 32-bit playback at 384kHz with a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 120dB during stereo playback and 113dB for line-in recording. It is also possible to drive higher-impedance headphones thanks to the fact that the audio output from the front-panel header is routed through an integrated Savitech amplifier.
Connectors on the Inside and the Layout
The majority of additional connectors and headers are moved to the borders of the board since big heatsinks cover such a significant portion of the available space. In addition to the two EPS connectors, there are three fan headers, a CPU overvolt jumper (for use in specialized overclocking settings), and two RGB headers located across the top of the motherboard (one for Asus Aura Sync, one for generic addressable devices). Even though it has color-coded sub-system problem LEDs directly above it, the top corner contains a readout of debug information that is extremely helpful.
A USB 3.1 header, a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 header, and an ATX power connector with 24 pins are located along the leading edge of the board. Two fan headers may be found tucked away below the SATA ports and sandwiched in between the various heatsinks. Along the bottom is where you’ll find a thermal sensor, a fan, the front-panel-control cluster, the front audio header, a Thunderbolt header, two additional addressable RGB headers, two USB 2.0 headers, and a Thunderbolt header. Just below the location of the CPU socket are two extra fan headers. Both of these are designed to be used with all-in-one cooler water pumps, but only one of them is compatible with the Hydranode system that Asus offers. Strangely, the current rating for the water-pump header is only 1 amp, the same as the rating for all of the other headers. There are a number of competing boards, some of which are even offered by Asus, that provide up to 3 amps dedicated to a water pump.
The Experience of Building
Even though the motherboard has a full-ATX size, utilizing it in a build makes the entire thing feel claustrophobic. The space required for large CPU coolers is accommodated by the VRM heatsink, which, however, has the effect of creating a high wall surrounding the socket. When attaching a cooler bracket, there is not a great deal of space available for turning thumbscrews. It is interesting to note that despite the large height of the heatsink, connecting the EPS and fan wires at the top of the board is not difficult. This is because the heatsink is more of an overhang than a straight wall up on the outer edge.
However, the two fan headers that are jammed in between the SATA ports, the chipset, and the secondary M.2 heatsink can be rather a pain in the finger. It would be nice to have a chassis fan header somewhere on the top-right quarter of the board, even though the fan layout on this board is better than the fan layout on the Z690 Prime, because it avoids wasting a fan header on the bottom rear corner of the board. However, even with this improvement, it would still be nice to have a chassis fan header. The only ones that can be found in this region are the two CPU fan headers that run along the top edge, but both of them are connected to the same speed control.
Installing drives is a breeze thanks to the Q-latch clips, and the heat shields that cover the M.2 slots can be removed without any difficulty. Strangely, the auxiliary M.2 cover does not make use of full captive screws, despite the fact that the main cover does. The screws have undercuts, which makes it unlikely that they will fall out of the cover mounting holes. However, it seems strange that Asus put c-clips on just half of the screws in the cover’s mounting holes.
The many different connectors and headers have their names printed in a font that is significantly larger than usual, which makes it significantly less difficult to finish putting everything together. Unfortunately, the labeling for the front-panel cluster is not the most intuitive, and as a result, you will still need to refer to the manual diagrams in order to ensure that your leads and front buttons are connected in the appropriate manner. Because the very substantial heatsink on the ROG Hyper Card has enough of headroom above the motherboard, it will not prevent access to any of the several headers along the bottom border.
The Strix does not require a CPU or RAM to be installed in order to perform a BIOS flashback. Anyone contemplating a new build using the recently introduced 13th Generation Core “Raptor Lake” CPUs should take note of this exciting piece of information. Because you can never be sure which BIOS version a board has when you buy it, and because all 600 series motherboards will need a BIOS update in order to be compatible with the new CPUs, this means that you’ll be able to use the board without needing an older-generation CPU in order to make the BIOS update possible in the first place. The only thing that needs to be done to update the BIOS on the board is to plug it into a power supply while inserting a compatible flash drive into the rear USB connection that is clearly labeled. If you press the flashback button, it will automatically update itself.
The initial boot after finishing the system’s assembly can take a considerable amount of time to finish. In order to ensure that everything is in working order, the circuit board goes through some further rigorous testing on its components, particularly the RAM.
Taking a Quick Gander at the UEFI
When you enter the UEFI for the first time, it will automatically be set to Advanced Mode because this is a ROG device; however, you have the option to switch to EZ Mode instead. If you don’t intend to do a lot of in-depth tweaking and overclocking, the EZ page of the management interface for the motherboard should have almost all of the tools you’ll require. On the other hand, if you are going to spend money on a motherboard manufactured by Republic of Gamers, there is a good possibility that you are interested in customizing the UEFI.
The structure of the menus and controls is the same as what we’ve seen on other Asus boards. Because there are so many settings that are accessible to the user, it is impossible to find a way to organize them in a way that would please everyone. Advanced users will be required to explore menus and sub-menus in order to locate what they are looking for. Utilizing the user-customizable “My Favorites” page is a good idea for people who spend a lot of time switching back and forth between tabs and submenus in order to adjust and readjust settings.
The Strix offers a nearly infinite number of voltage controls, making it ideal for people who enjoy tinkering with their settings. A wide variety of frequency and multiplier settings are also available for the CPU and the base clock (BCLK). These settings give you the ability to select either a locked multiplier that applies to all cores or a tiered approach that operates on a per-core basis. You also have the ability to set or disable performance and efficiency cores on an individual basis. When things go terribly wrong, you may do a rapid reset by pressing the back clear CMOS button, and the integrated debug display can assist with troubleshooting faulty setups. The fact that there are no power or reset buttons on the board itself, however, means that this is not the most user-friendly board for bench testing.
Typical functions such as temperature monitoring, fan auto-tuning, and configuration save profiles are incorporated; however, the number of points that can be used to define fan curves is still restricted to three. A memory-testing software and an SSD secure-erasing capability are also new additions from Asus. After booting into an operating system, you will have immediate access to the internet because an Ethernet driver has been pre-loaded on the board. This allows first builds to be completed much more quickly. It is also possible to configure the board to automatically download the Asus Armoury Crate program, which makes it more easier and faster to obtain other drivers and upgrades. The UEFI does not offer a great deal of customization for Aura Sync or RGB.
Additional Software Programs and Operating Systems
Armoury Crate remains an all-in-one solution for maintaining and modifying the motherboard’s settings. You are able to locate additional utilities for stress and stability testing, check the condition of the motherboard, and develop overclocking profiles for individual programs and games. You can also obtain drivers for the board’s individual components and keep those drivers up to current.
Along with overclocking, you are also able to set individualized fan and cooling profiles for your computer. The options here are significantly superior to those provided by the UEFI; for example, fans have the ability to make use of five-point curves. Fans can be programmed to monitor the temperature of the central processing unit (CPU), motherboard, voltage regulator module (VRM), chipset, or random access memory (RAM), or any combination of these components.
In addition, Armoury Crate features built-in RGB control, which enables users to configure and personalize lighting schemes for the board as well as any connected components. Standard patterns such as rainbows, pulsing, and color cycling can be selected, and you also have the option to make your own fully unique settings.
The ‘Kitchen Sink’ Board Is Available for a Price That Won’t Drain Your Wallet
When discussing premium motherboards, the concept of “value” is difficult to pin down. When more and more features and functions are added to a motherboard, the price of the motherboard typically increases at a much faster rate. There is a cost associated with the additional hardware components and materials, but the primary element is the additional research and development time required to optimize the layout for circuits components and PCB trace routes within the constraints of the board form factor.
There is a good deal to appreciate about this product, which is to be expected given that it is an Asus ROG board. The virtual register manager is indestructible and will reliably handle whatever CPU you throw at it. The performance of the memory is likewise excellent. The number and variety of storage possibilities are quite extensive. You receive a sufficient number of USB ports to presumably connect all of the accessories in your home, should you so choose. The Strix even makes use of the built-in Wi-Fi that is included with the chipset, which is something that many mainstream and even premium boards that have been tested in this environment have chosen to ignore. It stands out from many others thanks to the additional features that set it distinct, such as the M.2 Q-latches and the PCIe Q-release. So, what exactly is the issue here?
The cost is the first and most evident concern. Although the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of more than $400 may be considered “cheap” by the standards of top-shelf boards, the price is still prohibitively expensive for many individuals and budgets. Then there is the problem of the recently released Intel 13th Generation Raptor Lake platform and the new Z790 chipset, which, without a price reduction, make this board less attractive when you can buy a new Z790 motherboard instead. This problem has arisen because this chipset and platform were recently launched.
To speak pedantically, this is true in every instance. Because technological progress is continuous, almost everything you purchase will become obsolete almost as soon as you get it in your hands. The question that you need to ask yourself is whether or not a certain Z790 board contains characteristics that you need or desire but that aren’t available by Z690 or can’t be provided by Z690. The sockets will remain the same. If the Z790 does not include the feature that seals the deal for you, and if the price of the Z690 drops as a result of the launch of the Z790, this could greatly improve the value argument for your specific circumstance. Because the Strix does not require a CPU to use the BIOS flashback feature, you do not need to worry about obtaining a board that has an incompatible BIOS.
In the instance of the Strix, the price on the street could end up being far less than $400. In the event that this occurs, the additional features of the Z690 Strix start appearing like a terrific bargain when contrasted with the more “regular” boards priced around the $300 range.
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