Attractive aesthetics and functional armor cooling
Can handle the 12900K hot rod CPU
Excels in both gaming and workstation use
DDR5 is still expensive for small gains
LGA 1700 requires a bracket for most CPU coolers
E-ATX can limit case choices
PCI-E lane limits for those requiring 8x/8x or more than a single 16x slot
With a new era of technology finally reaching motherboards, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master presents a pretty good value proposition that’s packed with features.
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The introduction of Intel’s Alder Lake platform with the Z690 chipset brings exciting next-generation technology. PCI-E Generation 5 and DDR5 are among the headliners, with support for the 12900K CPU also in the spotlight.
Of course, prices have also gone up and some of the new advanced technology may have diminishing returns (and confusing, like different support for DDR4 or DDR5).
I’ll go over the specs and features for the Z690 Master, which CPUs to pair it with, and whether it’s the right motherboard for you in this new high-tech environment. (Spoiler alert: it includes some features only found in much more expensive offerings!)
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master: the specifications
Like the Asus Hero line of motherboards, the Gigabyte Master aims to please the eager crowd without breaking the bank. Sure, the company’s Xtreme variants pack in more features, but they’re often over the top. Keep in mind that most MSRPs have gone up since the previous generation, but the Master still comes in at a reasonable $469 (especially considering the feature set, as you’ll find out below).
Thiago Trevisan / Foundry
Here are some key specs to consider for the Z690 Master:
Wider E-ATX 12×10.2 inches
Only Intel 12th Gen LGA 1700 CPUs
19+1+2 digital phase supply with 105a power stage
DDR5 RAM only
PCI-E Gen 4 and Gen 5
Five M.2 slots
Single 16x GPU PCI-E Gen 5, others 4x
10 USB ports on the back, one is USB-C Gen 2
10Gb Ethernet LAN
ESS Saber HiFi 9118 DAC
RGB Fusion with two 3-pin and two 4-pin RGB headers
Q Flash button on the back
10 Fan and Water Cooling Heads
6 SATA 6 Gb/s Ports
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master: Unique Features
This is where the magic happens, and how the Z690 Master proves itself as good value too. The spec list above is impressive, so let’s get into some of the highlights and digest their real-world advantages (and disadvantages).
10Gbe networks are here, a feature commonly found on much more expensive motherboards.
Wi-Fi 6E is standard.
Five slots for M.2 put this at the workstation level.
You get great power and VRM to handle even the powerful Intel 12900K.
It offers a premium feel without the premium price – it’s a great value at a suggested retail price of $469.
Thiago Trevisan / Foundry
DDR5 support only, and you’ll probably want to stick with two DIMNs instead of four to get the fully rated speeds. DDR5 is also more expensive.
LGA 1700 means you’ll need a bracket or new CPU cooler – LGA 1200 coolers won’t work, unlike Asus’ Z690 motherboards which support both by default.
16x PCI-E Gen 5 on top slot only; multi-GPU support is not an option if you need 8x/8x. 4x Gen 3 on the other slots are good for PCI-E cards, sound cards, etc., but no second 8x GPU for workstation or NVLink use.
E-ATX means this is wider than a typical ATX motherboard, special attention should be paid to build dimensions and chassis.
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master: Design
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Z690 Master is certainly attractive. At this price point, you’ll see design details such as “armor plates” for the M.2 and VRM regions, tasteful RGB and screens, along with typically higher build quality.
In fact, if you place the Master next to the much more expensive Z690 Gigabyte Aorus “Xtreme” variant, you have to search hard to discover the differences. RGB is tastefully done on the motherboard, with two main areas lighting up and customizable with Gigabyte’s RGB Fusion software.
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master: Performance and BIOS
The Z690 Gigabyte Aorus Master is well equipped to handle even the punchy Intel 12900K. Overclocking is no problem with the 105a in its 19+1+2 power design. This is definitely overkill, as the VRMs definitely stay cool. But we’re used to seeing overkill power stages on more expensive options, so it’s great to see it at this price point.
Ideally, this motherboard is paired with a high-end Intel 12th generation CPU, such as the 12900K or 12700K. (Check out Gordon Ung’s 12900K review). But it packs in an attractive enough feature set that those who don’t need massive CPU power can even opt for the 12600K and still get great performance (and access to 10GbE LAN, five M.2 slots, etc).
If you do want to test those VRMs, the Gigabyte BIOS has improved over the years, making it generally easy to navigate and adjust settings as needed. There’s plenty to tinker with here, but keep in mind that modern overclocking has diminishing returns as these chips quickly run out of the box.
Memory XMP profiles work well with DDR5, with one caveat: any Z690 motherboard currently has issues with four sticks of DDR5 and XMP; you are limited to basic speeds. This can be a bummer if you’re looking for multiple sticks for higher capacity, so you’ll want to pick up duplicate larger capacity kits instead to maximize XMP speeds.
What it comes down to:
With a new era of technology finally reaching motherboards, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master presents a pretty good value proposition that’s packed with features. For $469 you get Wi-Fi 6E, 10GbE networking, five M.2 slots, and an attractive design. Sure, PCI-E Gen 5 and DDR5 aren’t mature yet, but they’re here and will give you some future-proofing too.
Please note that it is a wider E-ATX configuration and requires a CPU bracket for LGA 1700 plus DDR5 RAM. Otherwise, it’s a familiar experience that benefits from a generous feature set and an even more masterful price point.