With Intel’s 13th-gen Raptor Lake CPUs having just released, Gigabyte sent through their brand new Z790 Aorus Elite AX motherboard for us to check out and review. We recently took a look at the competing X670E motherboard too if you’d like to check that out but, for now, let’s dive right into the technical specs of the Z790.
As listed on Gigabyte’s website, the motherboards tech specs are as follows:
- LGA1700 socket: Support for the 13th and 12th Generation Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® Processors
- L3 cache varies with CPU
- Intel® Z790 Express Chipset
- Support for DDR5 7600(O.C.) /7400(O.C.) /7200(O.C.) /7000(O.C.) /6800(O.C.) /6600(O.C.) / 6400(O.C.) / 6200(O.C.) / 6000(O.C.) / 5800(O.C.) / 5600(O.C.) / 5400(O.C.) / 5200(O.C.) / 4800 / 4000 memory modules
- 4 x DDR DIMM sockets supporting up to 128 GB (32 GB single DIMM capacity) of system memory
- Dual channel memory architecture
- Support for ECC Un-buffered DIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8 memory modules (operate in non-ECC mode)
- Support for non-ECC Un-buffered DIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx16 memory modules
- Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
- Onboard Graphics
Integrated Graphics Processor-Intel® HD Graphics support:
- 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2160@60 Hz
* Support for HDMI 2.0 version and HDCP 2.3.
- 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@60
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version and HDCP 2.3
- Realtek® Audio CODEC
- High Definition Audio
* You can change the functionality of an audio jack using the audio software. To configure 7.1-channel audio, access the audio software for audio settings.
- Support for S/PDIF Out
- Realtek® 2.5GbE LAN chip (2.5 Gbps/1 Gbps/100 Mbps)
- Wireless Communication module
Intel® Wi-Fi 6E AX211
- WIFI a, b, g, n, ac, ax, supporting 2.4/5/6 GHz carrier frequency bands
- BLUETOOTH 5.3
- Support for 11ax 160MHz wireless standard and up to 2.4 Gbps data rate
* Actual data rate may vary depending on environment and equipment.
- Expansion Slots
- 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, supporting PCIe 5.0 and running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
- 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, supporting PCIe 4.0 and running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)
Support for AMD CrossFire™ technology (PCIEX16 and PCIEX4)
- Storage Interface
- 1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 22110/2280 PCIe 4.0 x4/x2 SSD support) (M2A_CPU)
- 2 x M.2 connectors (Socket 3, M key, type 22110/2280 PCIe 4.0 x4/x2 SSD support) (M2P_SB, M2Q_SB)
- 1 x M.2 connector (Socket 3, M key, type 22110/2280 SATA and PCIe 4.0 x4 SSD support) (M2M_SB)
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 support for NVMe SSD storage devices
RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 support for SATA storage devices
* Refer to “2-8 Internal Connectors,” for the installation notices for the M.2 and SATA connectors.
- 1 x USB Type-C® port on the back panel, with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support
- 1 x USB Type-C® port with USB 3.2 Gen 2 support, available through the internal USB header
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red) on the back panel
- 5 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (3 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Chipset+2 USB 2.0 Hubs:
- 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)
- Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
- 2 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
- 1 x CPU fan header
- 1 x water cooling CPU fan header
- 3 x system fan headers
- 1 x system fan/water cooling pump header
- 2 x addressable LED strip headers
- 2 x RGB LED strip headers
- 4 x M.2 Socket 3 connectors
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
- 1 x front panel header
- 1 x front panel audio header
- 1 x USB Type-C® header, with USB 3.2 Gen 2 support
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 header
- 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
- 2 x Thunderbolt™ add-in card connectors
- 1 x Trusted Platform Module header (For the GC-TPM2.0 SPI/GC-TPM2.0 SPI 2.0 module only)
- 1 x reset button
- 1 x Q-Flash Plus button
- 1 x Clear CMOS button
- 1 x reset jumper
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- Back Panel Connectors
- 1 x USB Type-C® port, with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red)
- 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports
- 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 2 x SMA antenna connectors (2T2R)
- 1 x HDMI 2.0 port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x RJ-45 port
- 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
- 2 x audio jacks
- I/O Controller
- iTE® I/O Controller Chip
- H/W Monitoring
- Voltage detection
- Temperature detection
- Fan speed detection
- Water cooling flow rate detection
- Fan fail warning
- Fan speed control
* Whether the fan (pump) speed control function is supported will depend on the fan (pump) you install.
- 1 x 256 Mbit flash
- Use of licensed AMI UEFI BIOS
- PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0
- Unique Features
- Support for GIGABYTE Control Center (GCC)
* Available applications in GCC may vary by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also vary depending on motherboard specifications.
- Support for Q-Flash
- Support for Q-Flash Plus
- Support for Smart Backup
- Support for GIGABYTE Control Center (GCC)
- Bundled Software
- Norton® Internet Security (OEM version)
- LAN bandwidth management software
- Operating System
- Support for Windows 11 64-bit
- Support for Windows 10 64-bit
- Form Factor
- ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
* The entire materials provided herein are for reference only. GIGABYTE reserves the right to modify or revise the content at anytime without prior notice.
* Advertised performance is based on maximum theoretical interface values from respective Chipset vendors or organization who defined the interface specification. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.
* All trademarks and logos are the properties of their respective holders.
* Due to standard PC architecture, a certain amount of memory is reserved for system usage and therefore the actual memory size is less than the stated amount.
With the technical specs out of the way, the Z790 Aorus Elite AX is clearly a well equipped motherboard. Gigabyte also have even higher-end ones out there but this one is really great. There are a tonne of features here that any self-respecting gamer would certainly love, especially the onboard 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6E with a new dedicated 6GHz band.
Unboxing the motherboard, users will see that this is quite a sturdy product, with a lot of heatsinks and clean lines everywhere. The motherboard not only looks great but it also performs great – which we’ll get to that shortly. The experience of installing the Z790 Aorus Elite AX into our test bench chassis (A Corsair Carbide 678C) was super easy. The motherboard aligned perfectly and screwing it into place was pretty much effortless. Gigabyte have labelled everything quite clearly on the motherboard itself and plugging in all the respective cables and any additional hardware was straightforward.
The Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX supports DDR5 RAM, so we installed 2 sticks of 16Gb DDR5-5200 Gigabyte RAM, alongside our AMD RX590 GPU and Gigabyte AORUS WATERFORCE 240 All-in-One cooler. Of course, being a 13th-gen motherboard we also needed to install a brand new 13th-gen Intel CPU. We used the top-of-the-range Intel i9-13900K and were absolutely blown away both by the CPU’s performance and by the motherboard’s ability to perform under pressure.
To kick off our benchmark testing, we picked a video game still played by thousands today, despite having released a decade ago – Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. It’s an intensely CPU-bound game that has been benchmarked extensively so we wanted to see how it would perform on the latest hardware. The results speak for themselves and we obtained 248 to 325 FPS in-game quite easily. Even hitting a high of 360 FPS at one point – pushing the limit of the latest displays.
Next up was another classic – 3D Mark’s CPU test. The Intel i9-13900K chewed through this at a blistering pace and yielded the following results.
Notably, and perhaps unexpectedly, the CPU barely even struggled with this and each test performed was completed ridiculously fast. To test this further, we also ran Cinebench R23’s single-core and multi-core tests which resulted in an amazingly high score – one which quite literally topped the charts.
Before all of our benchmarking tests, we took a screenshot of the motherboard’s temperatures with our test bench idling. The system ran quite frosty, well below 50 degrees Celsius.
After torture testing the system for 15 minutes with Prime 95, the temperatures ran quite hot with the CPU reaching a high of 99 degrees Celsius. Parts of the motherboard never exceeded temperatures higher than 52 degrees though, which tells us that the heatsinks and all the gorgeous Thermal Guards and Thermal Pads are doing their job exceedingly well in keeping the temperatures under control and spikes confined to their respective components.
Also, as soon as we stopped the testing, both the CPU and the motherboard’s temperatures normalised extremely fast, almost dropping back down to the idle temperatures immediately.
Additionally, we ran these benchmark tests during a heatwave so the ambient temperature around us was already quite warm at ~32 degrees Celsius. The fact that the Z790 Aorus Elite AX managed to keep itself cool under pressure and still normalise the temperatures so quickly after the testing tells us that this board is performing extremely well. The thermals across the board were great and while we couldn’t test some features in far more detail given our limited time with the board, it operated perfectly over several days of successive stress tests. The Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX is, therefore, a fantastic motherboard when it comes to thermal performance.
The motherboard’s I/O is great and an improvement over the Z690 Gaming X we reviewed earlier this year since it has built-in WiFi with a magnetic stand antenna too. Gigabyte have also revamped their Aorus Engine into the new “Gigabyte Control Center” and we love that there’s been a change to a better software suite now.
The only gripe we have with the motherboard is the fact that the middle NVME heatsink had a bit of a wobble to it. We’re not exactly sure if this was just the review sample we had or if this occurs on production units too but we’ve reached out to Gigabyte to provide us with some clarity on this and will update this review accordingly once we receive feedback. (UPDATE: After double checking with Gigabyte, the heatsink only wobbles when there isn’t an NVME installed underneath it. When an NVME is installed, it remains in place and there is no longer any wobble. Thus, we don’t have any negatives anymore. This is a solid motherboard and one that we can recommend to anyone looking to upgrade)
Overall, the Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX is a fantastic motherboard if you’re in the market for a 13th-generation Intel motherboard. Given the high price of upgrading, as well as the drawbacks of the 13th-gen CPU’s power draw and high thermals though, if you’re still running 11th-generation or even 10th-generation systems, we’d suggest maybe holding off on an upgrade unless you desperately need to.
There is also the elephant in the room to consider, which is AMD’s competing AM5 Ryzen CPUs. Intel’s Core i9-13900K has 24 cores (8 + 16) and supports up to 32 threads, while AMD’s best CPU uses the more traditional 16-core and 32-thread layout. Both of these CPUs are almost on equal footing with AMD’s being slightly more expensive as a drawback, while having a lower TDP than Intel’s 13th-gen running in Turbo mode. The i9-13900K, however, still takes the top spot with multi-core applications, while AMD’s CPUs are more suited to applications that rely on individual cores. Pricing between the two tech giants is going to be a key factor to consider as well as the types of applications that you’re planning on running. Users are therefore advised to do some extensive research into both new generations of CPUs so that they can plan their builds accordingly.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a motherboard that can handle the heat generated by Raptor Lake CPUs as well as deal with its higher power draw, the Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX is definitely a board to consider. Retailing for around R6,999 at the time of writing this review, this also places it at a sweet spot for would-be buyers when compared to much of the competition out there.
A review unit was provided to Gameblur for testing purposes and was returned to Gigabyte after publication
Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX (Tech) ReviewGigabyte Z790 Aorus Elite AX (Tech) Review
Build Quality9/10 Amazing
- Heat dissipation
- Onboard WiFi 6!
- Feels incredibly sturdy and tough
- Easy to install
Sorry but, that’s not a high end motherboard.
Highend would be the Asus apex boards, or the gigabyte ultra board, for example. This here is rather lower medium range.
Second, why would you paid such a board and a beast cpu with a potato gpu like in this test? Makes no sense to me.
Also why test it with a 10 year old game and not something modern? Also makes no sense to me. Anyway, thanks for the attempt.