Gigabyte sent through their brand new Z690 Gaming X DDR 4 motherboard along with their Aorus Waterforce 240 AIO Liquid Cooler for review purposes over here at Gameblur. Without wasting any time, we immediately unboxed these products and rebuilt our test bench with the new components in place. Since the Z690 Gaming X DDR4 is an Intel 12th generation CPU compatible motherboard, we had to install a fresh Alder Lake CPU into our build. We opted for the Intel Core i5-12600K and paired this with our 2 x 8GB HyperX Predator 3200mhz DDR4 RAM, Gigabyte RTX 3060 Gaming OC and Gigabyte P1000GM PSU to round off our build.
The Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X DDR4 motherboard is quite an impressive piece of hardware with some great technical specs. You can check out the summarised list below or view the full specification sheet here:
- ATX Form Factor
- Intel Z690 Chipset
- Intel LGA1700 Socket
- 4x DDR4 DIMM Slots, Up to 128GB
- Supports Up to DDR4-5333MHz (OC)
- Ultra Durable Memory Armor
- 1x PCI-E 5.0 x16, 2x PCI-E 3.0 x16 Slots
- 6x SATA 6Gbps, 4x M.2 Gen4, 1x M.2 Gen3
- 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
- 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Ports, 4x USB 2.0/1.1 Ports
- 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort Port
- Realtek 2.5GbE LAN chip
- Realtek ALC1220-VB HD Audio Codec
- Direct 16+1+2 Digital VRM Design
- 60A Power Stage
- Tantalum Polymer Capacitors
- Fully Covered MOSFET Heatsinks
- Integrated IO Shield
- Gigabyte RGB FUSION 2.0
- Ultra Durable SMD PCIe 5.0 Armor
- Q-Flash Plus Onboard Button
- 3 Year Warranty
Likewise, the Aorus Waterforce 240 is equally as impressive as an All-in-One cooler and has its own set of great technical specs. These can be viewed here and summarised below:
- AORUS Liquid Cooler Series
- Dual 120mm ARGB PWM Fans
- 240mm Radiator
- Copper Cold Plate
- Aluminium Radiator
- Circular Full Colour LCD Display
- Textured Aluminium Extrusion Block Cover Design
- Efficient Heat Dissipation
- Gigabyte RGB Fusion 2.0 Support
- Gigabyte AORUS Engine Support
- Intel Socket Support: 1700 / 1200 / 1150 / 1151 / 1155 / 1156 / 1366 / 2011 / 2011-v3 / 2066
- AMD Socket Support: AM4 / sTRX4 / TR4 (via included bracket in AMD Threadripper box)
Now before we dive right into this, there’s a couple of things to consider for each product here. First up, the motherboard. Being a Z690 motherboard, this is a high-end up to date piece of computer hardware and as such, features a lot of benefits over its predecessor. The main one of course being support for Intel’s Alder Lake CPU series. The Z690 Gaming X comes in two flavours with both a DDR4 version and DDR5 version being available for purchase. Given the exorbitant costs of DDR5 RAM at the time of completing this review, users may want to opt into purchasing the DDR4 version and use their existing DDR4 Ram from a previous build like we did.
The Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X looks pretty sleek. The entire board has an aesthetically pleasing gunmetal grey finish accentuated by black, white and silver along with a few rather large heatsinks in key positions. There’s also a few LEDs on the right hand underside of the board which light up and provide a form of backlighting that seeps out the right underside into your case. This can be changed using Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion 2.0 software so those of you out there that don’t like RGB lighting effects can rest assured that this can easily be disabled.
Looking at the motherboard’s I/O at the back, there’s no shortage of USB ports. The Z690 Gaming X has 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Ports and 4x USB 2.0/1.1 Ports. This means that you have more than enough ports available for your mouse, headset, keyboard, external hard drive, controller, mobile phone and whatever else you may want to connect to the motherboard. It would have been nice to see an additional Type-C port but alas, we’ll have to make do with only one here. There’s also a red coloured Ethernet port which stands out quite well against the grey of the motherboard’s I/O shield.
Disappointingly for hardcore audio users, the only audio port options here are two 3.5 mm audio jacks and a S/PDIF optical output. Rounding off the I/O is one HDMI port and one DisplayPort for use with Integrated Onboard Graphics depending on your CPU’s support. Overall, the I/O is pretty solid but there’s a large space near the USB 2.0 ports which looks as if Gigabyte could have fit more ports in, or even something else like WiFi antenna in this position. That said though, having some space at the back does help with managing USB cables and spacing somewhat.
Moving on to the front of the board, there’s 1x PCIe 5.0 x16 slot front and centre and 2x full length PCIe 3.0 x 4 slots. Directly adjacent to this are the 4 M.2 slots with 3 of them being located underneath the enlarged “Thermal Guard” which lends its sleek edges to the board’s clean look. The 4th M.2 slot has its own heatsink thermal guard and is located closer to the CPU socket.
Towards the right of the board there are 6 SATA ports with support for Intel RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays. The top right has the 4 DDR4 memory slots with support for up to 128 GB DDR4-5333 RAM (32 GB single DIMM capacity) of system memory. The CPU socket itself, being an LGA1700 socket, only supports 12th Generation Intel Core i5, i7 and i9 processors.
Intel’s 12th Generation Core processors need a slight introduction here. These processors make use of Efficiency and Performance cores. To summarize what this means, Performance cores kick in when heavy CPU lifting is required while the Efficiency cores will take care of more “menial” tasks. The i5-12600K we installed in our review test build has a total of 10 cores, 6 of them being Performance and 4 being Efficiency. These cores in this processor are quite power hungry when running at “Turbo” and consume 150 watts in total so users are advised to pair the Z690 Gaming X and their 12th Generation Intel Core processor with an adequate power supply.
The Z690 Gaming X motherboard has 6 PWM/DC Fan Headers and 6 Internal Temperature Sensors with Smart Fan 6 support. If you want to adjust your fan speeds and control their curves, you can do this quite easily via the BIOS. The Z690 Gaming X also features a fully covered MOSFET heatsink which is rather large. This alleviates a lot of the heat problems associated with boards that don’t have such large heatsinks available to dissipate and disperse heat over a large surface area. When it comes to the VRMs, there’s 16 VCORE Phases using 60A power stages
Gigabyte have effectively managed to keep the thermals down here by building with heat in mind and taking into consideration the heat generated when using a motherboard. However, as is the case with every single piece of PC hardware, user’s builds may vary as well as their PC chassis and fan setups. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to keeping things running cool such as airflow, chassis size, what GPU is in use, what CPU is in use, ambient temperature etc and it’s never as cut and dry as it seems. In a real world scenario there’s a lot of variables to consider. As such, our testing reflected this with the board being used daily for over a month and tested under a range of scenarios including stress testing the CPU via Prime 95 and Cinebench R23, and benchmarking the GPU with 3D Mark while monitoring the temperatures obtained.
The Aorus Waterforce 240 being our cooler of choice of course did most of the work in keeping our CPU nice and frosty. This piece of tech was ridiculously good at cooling and the results obtained speak for themselves.
Installing the Z690 Gaming X was quite easy. First up we installed the 12th Generation Intel CPU by placing it into the socket and clamping it down with the bracket. We then opted to install the motherboard straight into our chassis. This was a breeze and everything aligned perfectly. With the motherboard firmly inside our case, we had to unscrew the large heatsink to install our NVME M.2 drives but this too, was easy. Next up was the CPU cooler and thankfully the Aorus Waterforce 240 was super simple to install too. The instruction manual provided with the AIO Cooler was easy enough to understand and there’s a plastic protective peel specifically labelled with a warning instruction to “Remove before installation”. The Aorus Waterforce 240 also came with a thermal compound in a syringe which needed to be applied to your CPU before mounting the cooler in place.
With the motherboard and AIO Cooler installed, the rest of the build was just as easy to put together. There’s adequate fan headers and all the slots for plugging cables into are neatly labelled on the motherboard. Even if you’re not used to building PCs, it’s really quite straightforward with everything important labelled on the board. Slotting the RAM into place was easy and there’s a very satisfying “click” to be heard when they are secured. The same could be said about the GPU slotting into place with no issues.
Booting up, the first thing we did was update the BIOS of the Z690 Gaming X to ensure that everything is working as intended. We also updated the firmware of the Aorus Waterforce 240 and downloaded the Aorus Engine software to allow for easy fan speed changes. With all of that completed, we downloaded Nvidia’s latest drivers and began benchmarking the build to test both the cooler and the motherboard.
In Cinebench R23, the following results were obtained.
In order to make sense of the above with regards to the motherboard, the system’s idle temperatures were recorded before testing and compared to directly afterwards. The following screenshot displays the system’s idle temperatures:
And the following is directly after running the benchmark:
To test this further, we also ran Prime 95’s CPU torture test and benchmark test while monitoring the temperatures before and after:
Additional testing was performed using 3D Mark’s Timespy and Port Royal tests. The temperatures recorded after those were as follows
Therefore based on the above results, it’s quite clear that both the motherboard and the CPU are perfectly capable of handling heat without any serious issues popping up. The fact that the temperatures were able to drop and return down to the lower values very similar to the system idle temperatures indicate that Gigabyte’s cooling system on both the motherboard and in the AIO cooler are top notch at what they do.
Of course, these are benchmark tests which push the system to the limits, real world usage will vary and might be lower or higher depending on a number of factors. We also monitored the temperatures during gaming and the CPU never went above 65 degrees and would drop down in temperature as soon as the cooler’s fans ramped up. The system idles around an average of around 35 degrees while idle and the cooler ensures that this is maintained throughout depending on your settings. Playing Ghostrunner we still averaged quite a high framerate with every setting maxed out and raytracing enabled at 1080p.
The Aorus Waterforce 240 AIO cooler has one minor drawback in that the fans sound quite loud when they ramp up. This isn’t exactly a massive problem but there is an audible whirring of fans when the system is idle and you can definitely hear them when they speed up during gaming. This will either annoy you or you won’t really notice it depending on how far away you are sitting from your PC and if there’s ambient noise in the background.
A workaround is to enable “Quiet” mode in the Aorus Engine so as to prevent the fans from spinning at high speeds and generating extra noise. With all that said though, this cooler is still rather quiet compared to some competing brand’s fans/coolers that we’ve used over the years.
Another feature of the Aorus Waterforce 240 that needs special mention is the ARGB lighting display located on the cooler itself. This screen can be rotated 330 degrees and you can change the lighting effects to indicate if the CPU is getting hot or set your own custom lighting if you want. It looks fantastic in action and the lighting is gorgeous.
Overall, both the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X and Aorus Waterforce 240 AIO Cooler are solid products that deliver fantastic performance even when under immense load. The fact that both the motherboard and the CPU temps were restored to within a small range of the system idle temperatures in our test build indicate that the cooling systems in place here are working ridiculously well. The solid build quality on both the motherboard and the cooler are major plus points too since they instill confidence in us that they’ll last for years to come.
Even when under load, temperatures never went up above an average of 75 degrees and this is amazing given the sheer amount of processing power available in an Intel 12th Generation i5-12600k. If you’re in the market for a new motherboard and AIO Cooler, both of these components come highly recommended from us. The only downside we have to mention is the price. Depending on your region’s pricing, both of these components can be quite hefty especially given the parts shortage the world is currently facing. Be on the lookout for retailer specials if you’re interested in purchasing these parts and do keep in mind that what you’re getting here, are two fantastic products that work as intended with no major caveats.
Build Quality9/10 Amazing