Gigabyte’s Aorus Master motherboards have always impressed me. They’re very high-end offerings, but they’re not priced anywhere near the top-end Extremes and Godlikes of the Asus and MSIs of the motherboard world. You still get a lot of features for your money, but once you go over $500, the diminishing returns really start.
Much has been written about the jump in motherboard prices this generation, although the Z790, as a second-generation LGA 1700 platform, wasn’t hit as hard as the all-new AMD X670/E boards when they launched. The Gigabyte Z790 Aorus Master at $499 / £524 / AU$1,029 is far from what you’d call an affordable board, but compared to some boards costing much more than that price, it’s a formidable competitor.
The Z790 Aorus Master appears to be an evolution of the Z690 Master with a few aesthetic tweaks, redesigned heat sinks, and support for up to DDR5-8000 memory. The Z690 Master became an excellent board after receiving some welcome BIOS updates, and it means the Z790 version struggles to justify its higher price over the now-discounted Z690 version.
The Z790 Aorus Master is an extended ATX motherboard, so some consideration needs to be given to make sure it fits your case. It’s less of a factor than it once was, thanks in no small part to the gigantism of modern graphics cards like the RTX 4090 (opens in new tab). Gigabyte has opted for a black and gray theme with just a hint of RGB on top of the I/O shield. The look is one that nicely combines form and function.
Z790 Aorus Master specs
Wall outlet: Intel LGA1700
CPU Compatibility: Intel 12th and 13th generation desktop processors
Form Factor: E-ATX
Memory support: DDR5-8000 (OC), up to 128 GB
Storage: 5x M.2, 4x SATA
USB: Up to 3x USB 3.2 Gen2x2, 7x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 9x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0
Display: 2x DP 1.2
Networking: Marvell AQtion 10G LAN, Killer Wi-Fi 6E
Audio: Realtek ALC1220-VB
Price: $499 (opens in new tab)/ £524 (opens in new tab) / $1,029 (opens in new tab)
A tour of the board reveals some interesting things. The layout of the PCIe slots is clearly built with three and four slot GPUs in mind. The primary slot shares its PCIe 5.0 lanes with the primary M.2 slot.
The Aorus Master is one of a growing number of boards with a PCIe release switch or latch. Since the regular PCIe latch can be difficult to access with backplane GPUs, this feature is a godsend, if only for the few who switch GPUs a lot (like us reviewers!).
The Z790 Aorus Master is yet another Gigabyte offering with a well-designed cooling system. While other manufacturers leaned toward blocky metal heat sinks that have no surface, Gigabyte continues to use old fashioned finned heat sinks. Our simple test with an unlimited power of 13900K resulted in a maximum VRM temperature of only 57 degrees. Excellent!
The other heatsink worthy of attention is the huge primary M.2 heatsink. Since PCIe 5.0 drives are expected to generate a lot of heat, this kind of cooling capability is very welcome. But don’t take it for granted. Heatsinks can and will absorb heat from adjacent graphics cards, so you still need to ensure good airflow inside the case.
The board accepts up to five M.2 drives. Apart from the primary slot, they support up to PCIe 4.0. There are only four SATA ports. They’re getting less and less important, but still, six would be nice at this level, if not eight.
Other interesting features include a so-called Multi-key button that can be user-programmed to turn the RGB on or off, boot into the BIOS, or enter a BIOS-safe mode without losing your settings.
Despite not being flooded with lightning-fast RGB, the Z790 Aorus Master includes two ARGB headers and two RGB headers. In addition, there are no fewer than ten fan and pump headers, a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 front panel header, and power and reset buttons. Not bad at all.
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The board’s VRM is a real standout, as you’d expect from a board that’s expected to drive overclocked 13900Ks. A 20+1+2 phase VRM with 105A stages will happily provide the juice for ln2 overclockers. Other than the out and out overclocking boards like the Aorus Tachyon or Asus Apex, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that beats the VRM of the Z790 Aorus Master.
If you want lots of USB ports, the Master is probably the board for you. There are 14 on the back panel alone. These include two 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C and a Gen 1 Type-C. Added to this are seven Gen 2 and four Gen 1 ports. That’s a strong addition, but note that you don’t get Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4. They certainly would have been welcome, but to be fair to Gigabyte, they’re one of the few features makers use to justify the cost of halo-tier motherboards. USB 4 will eventually be as ubiquitous as USB 3.0 is today. Sure, it could be called USB 4.7 Gen 4×4 or some other ridiculous name, but I digress.
The Master includes 10G Lan and Killer Wi-Fi 6E. We’d love to see 10G and hope it trickles down to cheaper boards in the future. The board includes ALC1220-VB audio that feels like last generation, though it’s a strong implementation with Gigabyte’s reliable choice of components, including an ESS ES9118 DAC.
As I say in most motherboard reviews, it’s not all that relevant to use benchmarks to evaluate a motherboard unless there’s a real underlying problem that stands out. A percent or two here or there or differences in margin of error don’t mean much in the real world.
The Z790 platform is mature and with power and turbo settings as close as possible between boards, the results are generally close. Still, the Aorus Master performed well, especially under multithreaded loads. Add to that a very cool and strong VRM and you get the feeling that this is a board that will have no problem with heavy loads. It’s also not a bad idea for gaming.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i9 13900K
Pictures: Zotac GeForce RTX 3080 Ti AMP Holo
RAM: 2x 16GB G.Skill Trident Z5 DDR5-6000 C36
Storage: 2TB Seagate FireCuda 530
Cooling: Cooler Master PL360 Flux 360mm AIO
PSU: Corsair AX1000
The Z790 Aorus Master’s BIOS is just miles ahead of my first impressions prior to the 12th Gen launch when DDR5-6000 struggled to work. I reviewed a set of G.Skill DDR5-7200 (opens in new tab) on the Z790 Aorus Master and it ran flawlessly. In fact, I was able to boot at 7600 MHz with just an increase in memory voltage and an incremental easing of CAS latency, but otherwise required unhealthy amounts of IMC voltage. I’d rather my CPUs stay alive a little longer, thanks!
If you plan on overclocking a K-series CPU, you need the best possible cooling. With a VRM of this spec and cooling to match, your CPU cooling will reach its limit well before the board breaks into a sweat.
The Z790 Aorus Master is a very competitive and premium Z790 option at a good price. The underlying design is very good indeed. The VRM and cooling are top-notch, the straightforward DDR5-7000 support is a highlight, and the inclusion of 10G LAN plus loads of USB ports is welcome.
If you’re looking for USB 4 or Thunderbolt you’ll need to look elsewhere, and using a last-gen ALC1220 raises an eyebrow. While the core spec is still good, the formidable Z690 Aorus Master is still on the market. It’s considerably cheaper to find, and aside from the PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot and fast memory support, they’re pretty similar.
Notably, the Z790 Aorus Master is about $130 cheaper than the Asus Z790 Hero, and again cheaper than the MSI Z790 Ace, but it’s about the same as ASRock’s Z790 Taichi. All are strong options and which one you choose may depend on what features appeal to you the most. That 10G LAN from the Aorus Master will be the deciding factor for many, while others will not use a LAN at all, preferring a bit of future-proofing with USB 4.
But in the end, the Z790 Aorus Master is a strong board and unless you need a specific feature exclusive to flagship boards, it doesn’t disappoint.