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ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 Motherboard Review

Rating: 8.5.

Intel's Z390 marks an incremental improvement to the preceding Z370 chipset, rather than a major redesign, but many motherboard manufacturers have chosen to set standards higher with Z390 motherboards than with Z370. Intel's Z390 chipset is there to facilitate new Coffee Lake Refresh processors like the Core i9 9900K and i7 9700K which have more cores, higher power requirements and a higher price point. The new ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 is an ideal candidate for these new processors.

The list of official changes between Intel's Z370 and Z390 chipsets is short. Intel Z390 brings the following additional features over Z370: six native integrated USB 3.1 (Gen2) 10Gbps ports, Integrated Intel Wireless-AC Support (CNVi) with Bluetooth v5.0 and an Intel Management Engine Firmware uplift to version 12. In the longer term Intel Z390 will likely phase out Z370 but the two will run parallel for as long as the market holds existing inventory.

Many motherboard vendors have uprated the quality of their VRMs, onboard connectivity and features with Z390 to attract the type of buyer willing to splash out on one of Intel's newest Coffee Lake Refresh CPUs. A quick glance at any major etailer shows the entry, average and most expensive prices for Z390 motherboards is higher than Z370 equivalents.

That said the availability of more affordable Z390 motherboards has begun to increase in recent weeks for consumers looking to pair up with “normal” Coffee Lake 8000-Series CPUs.

ASRock's Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 joins the segment of the Z390 market aimed at i9 9900K and i7 9700K users looking for a capable foundation to build on. The headline feature for this motherboard is the new Realtek 2.5 Gigabit LAN solution, though in practice the important feature for most buyers is the 10 plus 2 phase VRM for the CPU, which includes heat-pipe cooling.

Other interesting features include dual Intel Gigabit LAN and Intel AC WiFi as well as plentiful onboard RGB lighting and ample LED expansion headers. It's feature rich by anyone's definition, but can the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 justify its high price tag? Let's find out.

ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9
Form Factor  ATX, 30.5cm x 24.4cm
CPU Socket  LGA 1151 v2
IR35201 Controller in 5+2 phase mode (VCore + iGPU)
10 VCore (5 IR3598 Doublers) + 2 iGPU phases (1 IR3598 dual driver)
2 x Anpec APW8720B Single Phase Controllers (VCCSA + VCCIO)
12 x 87350D Texas Instruments NextFETs (VCore + iGPU)
CPU VRM Capacitors and Chokes
14 x 60A inductors
Nichicon FP Series 12K Capacitors
Chipset  Intel Z390
Memory  DDR4, 4 DIMMs up to 64GB, up to 4266MHz+ with OC
On-board Graphics  Intel UHD Graphics (on supported CPUs)
Discrete Graphics Up to 3-way AMD CrossFireX/Quad CrossFireX, Up to 2-way Nvidia SLI, Quad SLI
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 3.0 16X slots (x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, x8/x4/x4)
2 x PCIe 3.0 1X slots (open-ended)
Storage 6 x SATA III (Intel Z390)*
2 x SATA III (ASMedia ASM1061)
3 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 X4 or SATA III 6Gbps (Slot 1, 80mm max, Slots 2 and 3, 110mm max)
*SATA ports 0, 1, 3, 4 and 5 share bandwidth with M.2 slots 1,2 and 3 when used in SATA mode
USB  5 x USB 3.1 (4 Rear [Redriver], 1 Front [ASM1562])
8 x USB 3.0 (4 Rear [Intel Z390], 4 Front [ASM1074])
3 x USB 2.0 (3 Front [Intel Z390])
Networking  1 x Realtek Dragon RTL8125AG 2.5 Gigabit LAN
1 x Intel I219V 1 Gigabit LAN
1 x Intel I211AT 1 Gigabit LAN
Intel 802.11ac 1733Mbps WiFi + Bluetooth 5.0 (Intel 9260NGW) with MU-MIMO
Audio  Realtek ALC1220 7.1 channel HD audio
RGB 3 onboard RGB lighting zones (chipset heatsink, audio PCB and rear I/O cover)
2 x 12V G R B headers
1 x 5v digital addressable header
Fan Headers  8, all support 3/4 pin fans, (1 x CPU, 1 x CPU/WP, 6 x CHA/WP)
Rear I/O  2 x WiFi Antenna Ports
1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
1 x HDMI Port
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
3 x USB 3.1 Type-A Ports (10 Gb/s) (ReDriver) (Supports ESD Protection)
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s) (ReDriver) (Supports ESD Protection)
4 x USB 3.0 Ports (Intel Z390) (Supports ESD Protection)
3 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
1 x Clear CMOS Button
5 x HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone (Gold Audio Jacks)
UEFI 2 x 128Mb UEFI AMI BIOS (1 Main, 1 Backup)

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