A Worthy White Z790 Motherboard?
ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi is a beautiful board providing a combination of silver and white color accents with vivid and evenly done RGB lighting. This motherboard is almost a balanced feature set proposition overall though ASRock could have done some areas better. However, this motherboard has what a gamer would need.
Design - 9/10
Performance - 8.5/10
Value - 7.5/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Features - 8.5/10
- 16+1+1 Power Phases
- 1x PCIe Gen5 x16 slot
- 1x PCIe Gen5 M.2 Port
- 1x PCIe Gen4x4 slot
- 4x Hyper M.2 Gen4x4 NVMe ports
- 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports
- Onboard RGB Lighting
- 5 GbE LAN Connectivity
- Steel Reinforced DIMM Slots
- No Rear USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C Port
- No Debug LED
- Single USB 2.0 header
- A bit high price
When it comes to motherboard manufacturers, we have limited options. ASRock is among the leading motherboard manufacturers that need no introduction. They have successfully established themselves as a manufacturer of quality hardware with optimized software. What people may not know about them is that ASRock also carries graphics cards, monitors, mini PCs, and industrial /server-grade solutions. Like other brands, they also carry multiple lines for motherboards, including their ever-popular Taichi and enthusiast-level AQUA. They cover the mid-range market segment with Phantom Gaming and Steel Legend.
We earlier tested ASRock Z790 PG Riptide. This time we are taking a spin on the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard for review. Steel Legend is ASRock’s mid-range mainstream market segment product with a balanced feature set in the set price. You can expect to see some hits and misses around the design. Let’s start by taking a look at the salient features of Z790 Steel Legend WiFi:
- Supports 13th Gen & 12th Gen Intel® Core™ Processors
- 16+1+1 Phase Power Design, SPS for VCore+GT
- 4 x DDR5 DIMMs, supports up to 7200+(OC)
- 1 PCIe 5.0 x16, 1 PCIe 4.0 x16, 1 PCIe 3.0 x16, 1 M.2 Key-E for WiFi
- Graphics Output Options: 1 HDMI, 1 DisplayPort, eDP
- 1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC897 Audio Codec), Nahimic Audio
- 1 Blazing M.2 (PCIe Gen5x4), 4 Hyper M.2 (PCIe Gen4x4), 8 SATA3
- 1 USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C (Front), 1 USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (Rear), 1 USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (Rear), 12 USB 3.2 Gen1 (8 Rear, 4 Front), 3 USB 2.0 (3 Front)
- Realtek 2.5G LAN
- 11ax Wi-Fi 6E + Bluetooth 5.3
According to ASRock, this naming convention of Steel Legend represents the philosophical state of rock-solid durability and irresistible aesthetics. Built around the most demanding specs and features, the Steel Legend series aims at daily users and mainstream enthusiasts! Providing a strong array of materials/components to ensure stable and reliable performance.
As usual, we will take a look at the block diagram first and then move on to the design and layout of the motherboard.
The above picture shows a block diagram of the Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard. Just like the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide, the CPU is providing native support for 1x PCIe x16 slot on Gen 5 bus and the same to the M.2 port, but thanks to the platform limitation, we can see a driver and switch between these two. Meaning that if a user installs a Gen5-based M.2 NVMe SSD in a topmost slot, the graphics card installed in the x16 slot will operate at x8. As I said, this is a limitation of Intel.
CPU socket provides native support to DisplayPort and HDMI ports. There is also support for an M.2 Gen4x4 drive from the CPU socket. The above-mentioned limitation of Gen 5-based NVMe SSD and graphics card is not true if you install a Gen 5-based graphics card and a Gen 4-based NVMe drive. There is no USB support from the CPU Socket. There are two channels for DDR5, with each channel having two DIMM slots. The DDR5 support of up to 7200MHz is mentioned. However, this motherboard has native support of 4800MHz. Motherboard manufacturers are regularly releasing BIOS updates providing support for high-speed RAM. eDP connector is also wired directly to the CPU socket. This allows users to connect ASRock 13” display screen to this connector for a multitude of display possibilities.
The bridge between the CPU Socket and Chipset is based on DMI Gen4 and uses X8 lanes. There are three M.2 ports that are on Gen 4 bus and rated for X4 speeds. This motherboard has two more PCIe slots. The middle one is rated for Gen4x4, whereas the last PCIe slot is Gen 3×2 design.
The network connectivity is provided on two dedicated Gen 3×1 PCIe buses (wired and wireless) which is a good design. The motherboard has 8x 6Gbps SATA ports wired to the chipset. The TPM and Audio are also wired to the chipset. There are a plethora of USB ports though we have some reservations, which we will mention in the design section. ASMedia controllers are used for Rear USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A and Front USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports. A Nuvoton controller is employed to control the fans and Hardware monitoring.
|Product||ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi Motherboard|
|Power Phase||16+1+1 Power Phase, 60A SPS for VCore+GT|
|Memory||Dual Channel, Supports DDR5 non-ECC, un-buffered memory up to 7200+(OC)|
|DIMM Slots||4x DDR5 DIMM Slots|
|Slots||1x PCIe 5.0, 1x PCIe 4.0, 1x PCIe 3.0, 1x M.2 Socket|
|Storage||4x Hyper M.2 Socket, 1x Blazing M.2 Socket, 8x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors|
|USB||1x USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C (Front)
1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (Rear)
1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (Rear)
12x USB 3.2 Gen1 (8 Rear, 4 Front)
3x USB 2.0 (3 Front)
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor|
Packaging and Unboxing
The motherboard is shipped inside a packing box made of black and white colors. ASRock has highlighted salient features of this motherboard on the front of the box. We can spot a stylish silver color S branding here as well.
ASRock has listed important specifications of this motherboard here. Some of the highlighted features include:
- ASRock Graphics Card Holder
- Auto Driver Installer
- PolyChrome Sync
- Dragon 2.5G LAN
- Nahimic Audio
- 16+1+1 Power Phase + SPS
- Blazing M.2 + Multi-layer Heatsink
- DDR5 Support
The main packing has a brown color cardboard box inside with ASRock branding up top in the center.
As we saw on the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide and even on the B650E PG ITX WiFi, ASRock has paid closer attention to the safe and secure shipping of motherboards. This motherboard is placed inside an anti-static cover. There is Styrofoam padding all around to prevent the motherboard from any damage. Removing the top box, we are left with accessories placed under the two-fold covers.
This motherboard is placed inside a dedicated container box.
There is another container made of Styrofoam padding on which the motherboard is placed. In fact, the motherboard is tucked using zip ties.
The above picture shows a close-up view of the zip-tie use. You would need to remove these zip ties to release the motherboard.
Let’s see what is provided in the accessory section.
There is a user manual and an ASRock design postcard provided in the box.
ASRock has provided 4x M.2 screws for the installation of the M.2 SSDs in the M.2 ports. There are 2x ASRock branded Velcro strips and a stylish Steel Legend-themed Keycap.
ASRock has provided two SATA 6Gbps cables. These are black in color, and one is in 180°, and the other is in 90° orientation.
ASRock has provided a GPU support bracket with this motherboard which would come in handy if using a heavy graphics card that can easily sag. Make sure to follow the installation intrusions as this bracket needs to be installed along with the motherboard itself.
ASRock has provided WiFi antennae with a non-magnetic base. This is the same design as we have seen on Z790 PG Riptide and B650E-PG ITX WiFi motherboards.
The above picture illustrates the assembly of this module. The antenna is inserted into the base. The base has a self-adhesive tape which can be used to paste the base anywhere on the PC Case or where the user would like to install it. I wish ASRock would start providing a magnetic base for these modules.
ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi is a mainstream mid-range product that boasts a beautiful combination of white and silver accents. It has onboard RGB lighting and has an almost balanced set of features with a few hits here and there, but the overall product in this price range is good enough for any particular requirement, especially gaming.
As we have seen on ASRock Z790 PG Riptide, ASRock has maintained its design theme on this motherboard as well with regard to the overall layout and placement of sub-components. This motherboard has a black color PCB. The silver and white color shroud and heatsink covers differentiate the product and make the outlook good enough. This is further augmented by RGB lighting. We can spot Army camouflage on the Chipset cover and Rear IO shroud. This reflects the theme behind the naming convention of Steel Legend. ASRock has paid attention to the cooling requirement of key components.
Like the Z790 PG Riptide, this motherboard has an LGA1700 socket, 4x DIMM slots for DDR5 RAM that are reinforced, 3x PCIe slots at X16/X4/X2, 5 M.2 ports, 8x SATA ports, a plethora of USB ports, on-board audio solution driven by Realtek ALC897, InDragon 2.5 GbE NIC, WiFi, and Bluetooth, and nice I/O connectivity options. The 6-layered and 2x Copper PCB has a standard ATX form factor measuring 30.5cmX24.4cm and has support for Microsoft Windows 10 and 11.
The above picture shows the overview of the motherboard. ASRock has provided 2x 8-pin EPS connectors and 24-pin ATX connectors. These are high-density power connectors. There is an HDMI and DP ports on the rear IO panel. The Rear IO Panel also has a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. Unlike Z790 PG Riptide, there are no Lightning Gaming USB ports. There is a 2.5GbE NIC. The PCIe Gen5 x16 slot is steel reinforced. Motherboard has 4x M.2 Hyper sockets and an M.2 Blazing Gen5-based socket. There are 8x SATA ports. The power phases are 16+1+1 design. ASRock has also provided a GPU Support Bracket, which would come in handy for a heavyweight graphics card and prevent the card from sagging.
CPU Socket, Heatsink, VRM, and Power Delivery
The ASROCK Z790 Steel Legend uses Intel LGA1700 socket. This is the same socket that is on Intel’s 12th-generation platform. This gives cross-generation compatibility between the 12th and 13th generations from Intel. This could also mean that the ILM design issues spotted on the previous generation may well be alive on the 13th generation platform. Taking a look at the socket, there is a protective cover on it. The arrow indicator on the cover is facing the arrow marking on the socket.
We opened the lid to show the socket itself and contact pins. The following graphics solution is native to the socket:
- Intel® Xe Graphics Architecture (Gen 12)
- 1 x eDP 1.4, supports max. resolution up to Full HD 60Hz
- 1 x HDMI 2.1 TMDS Compatible, supports HDCP 2.3 and max. resolution up to 4K 60Hz
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.4 with DSC (compressed), supports HDCP 2.3 and max. resolution up to 8K 60Hz / 5K 120Hz
ASRock has employed a powerful cooling solution for VRM/MOSFETs. This is of important consideration to achieve sustained performance under heavy load. There are two aluminum-made heatsink covers on the VRM/MOSFETS. There is no heat pipe connecting these two covers. These heatsinks have a stepped and cut-out layout for effective heat transfer. The left side heatsink is a bit protruded from the inside of the Rear IO cover. The Rear IO cover is made of plastic material, and it has a white color coating on it. The MOSFET/VRM heatsinks are in silver color. This silver and white color combination give one heck of a cool look to this motherboard. We can see Z790 Steel Legend stenciling on the main heatsink itself. There is a Steel Legend branding on the Rear IO cover.
The branding area is backlit and produces a good aura. The letter S does not mean Superman. Pun intended. We can spot Cobra or Army camouflage in the background of Steel Legend branding.
ASRock has employed PHISON Electronics Corp’s PS7101-51 redriver IC which acts as a PCIe 5.0 Linear redriver supporting 2x lanes with 4 channels with mux/demux functionality.
I did not remove the heatsink covers as the screws on the backside of this motherboard are quite stubborn and were not getting off even with the right size screwdriver. Hence that part is skipped. Due to this, we could not take a look at the power delivery side of this motherboard and other controllers for the Rear IO connectivity. Sorry for this inconvenience.
ASROCK Z790 Steel Legend motherboard has adequate digital power phases. There are 16 phases for VCore, with 1 phase for VCCGT and 1 phase for VCC AUX. This is slightly better than the 14+1+1 on Z790 PG Riptide. As per our search on the internet, this motherboard is probably using ISL99360 Smart Power Stage capable of 60A from Renesas. The ISL99360 has integrated high-accuracy current and temperature monitors that can be fed back to the controller and doubler to complete a multiphase DC/DC system. It seems like the main 16 phases are based on ISL99360 (960A). We are not sure about the other two power stages and the PWM controller governing all this power delivery mechanism.
ASRock has provided two 8-pin EPS connectors for smooth power delivery to the circuit. Two would be needed for extreme overclocking on high-end CPUs otherwise, a single connector is enough for daily requirements. ASRock has mentioned that PCB is a 6 Layer design to provide stable signal traces and power shapes delivering lower temperature and higher energy efficiency for memory overclocking! Thus, it’s able to support the latest memory modules with the most extreme memory performance! 2-ounce copper inner layers that provide stable signal traces and power shapes! It helps in delivering lower temperatures and higher energy efficiency for overclocking.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend motherboard has 4x DDR5-based DIMM slots. Unlike Z790 PG Riptide, these slots are steel reinforced. The reinforced DIMM slot is surfaced and mounted onto the motherboard to give better physical strength as well as a more stable memory signal. This design helps in stable memory operations as well as a better overclocking possibility.
As strange as it may sound, there is a 4-pin PWM Channel Fan Header right next to DIMM slots towards the PCIe slot. It is rated for 2A at 12VDC making its power rating 24W.
ASRock has mentioned that DDR5 up to 7200MHz is supported (With BIOS Update). By default, the board supports 4800MHz. A total of up to 128GB RAM capacity is supported with a single stick density of 32GB. This is a Dual Channel design and supports un-buffered DIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx16 memory modules. This motherboard supports XMP 3.0 and AMD EXPO as well. We could not get any information about 24GB and 48GB size memory modules support on this motherboard.
There are limitations in terms of populated sticks and possible speed:
- 1DPC 1R Up to 7200+ MHz (OC), 4800 MHz Natively.
- 1DPC 2R Up to 6000+ MHz (OC), 4400 MHz Natively.
- 2DPC 1R Up to 5600+ MHz (OC), 4000 MHz Natively.
- 2DPC 2R Up to 4800+ MHz (OC), 3600 MHz Natively.
The motherboard supports the Memory Dynamic Boost feature, which enables high frequency switching from the native frequency. This feature seems to work without XMP loaded per our testing. ASRock has also provided ASRock Timing and Memory Frequency Boost features.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi supports memory overclocking. I am not sure about PMIC unlocking. By now, we know that some DDR5 modules come with locked PMIC (1.1V), whereas some high-end and high-performance kits come with unlocked PMIC. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The locked PMIC would hurt the overclocking of the kit only.
Due to the unique electrical architecture of DDR5 DIMM, there’s a high risk of damaging the memory module if AC power isn’t disconnected properly during removal or installation. ASRock has mentioned that they have implemented a trouble-free protection circuit on every DDR5 motherboard to lower the risk of damaging the memory module(s) to circumvent the above-stated issue.
There are two SM4337 N-Channel rated at 30V, and 55A MOSFETs, probably for the power delivery of DIMM slots. There are further two similar MOSFETs below the circuitry.
ASRock has provided a total of 5x M.2 ports on this motherboard but with a catch. Much like Zen4, Intel also releases PCIe Gen5-based M.2 support for the upcoming high-speed PCIe Gen5-based M.2 NVMe SSDs. ASRock has provided one such port on this motherboard.
We can see a stylish silver color on the top M.2 cover. The top section has what ASRock is using, Blazing M.2. This top cover is made of aluminum and acts as a heatsink. It has a bit of depth to provide more surface area for effective heat dissipation.
We removed the M.2 Blazing heatsink cover. There are two M.2 ports under it. One on the right side is M.2 port based on PCIe Gen 5, whereas one on the left is based on PCIe Gen 4. We can use either of these ports at a time. This means that we have effectively 4x M.2 active ports on this motherboard at any time. As we have mentioned above, populating a Gen 5-based M.2 drive will make the graphics card installed in a PCIe x16 slot operate at x8 speed.
There is a PCIe Gen4x4 M.2 port between the top PCIe slots. It is labeled as Hyper M.2. It is wired with a Z790 chipset. It does not have any heatsink cover.
There are two more M.2 ports that sit in a row. These are covered by another heatsink cover labeled M.2 Armor. This heatsink is partly connected to the large-size chipset cover since this cover has almost double the length of the top cover, so it would still serve its purpose in an effective manner for heat dissipation.
As mentioned above, there are two Hyper M.2 ports at the base. These are PCIe Gen4x4-based ports and are wired to the chipset. All these ports are M-type. The top two ports support the 2260 and 2280 form factor only. The other three ports support 2242 in addition to the 2260 and 2280 form factors.
The above picture shows the thickness of the M.2 Blazing heatsink cover. This cover has a pre-applied thermal pad. It has cutouts on the opposite end,, forming a proper heatsink design for effective heat dissipation.
The above picture shows both heatsink covers. We can see pre-applied thermal pads on these covers. Notice a full-length but less thick heatsink at the bottom. This cover is for the bottom two M.2 ports.
This motherboard has 3x PCIe slots. ASRock has put a good implementation of the two slots.
The topmost PCIe slot is wired to the CPU socket and is a fully functional PCIe Gen 5 x16 slot with a theoretical bandwidth of 128GB/s. This slot is stainless-steel reinforced. ASRock has mentioned that this slot is using 15µ Gold contacts in this slot. Please keep in mind that if using a Gen 5-based graphics card and M.2 drive at a time, this slot will operate at x8.
The reinforced steel slot is capable of supporting PCI Express 5.0 standard. Some of the key benefits are:
- Extra anchor points
- Stronger latch
- Ensure signal stability
- Make sure heavy graphics cards are well-installed.
Compared to conventional DIP style PCIe slots, the SMT type PCIe slot improves signal flow and maximizes stability under high speed, a key breakthrough to fully support the lighting speed of the latest PCIe 5.0 standard. The latest PCI Express 5.0 is capable of performing a breathtaking bandwidth of 128GBps.
The second PCIe slot is wired to the chipset as we saw in the block diagram. It is a PCIe Gen4 x4 slot. The provision of an x4 PCIe slot is a wise design. This slot is also steel reinforced. The last PCIe slot is a PCIe Gen3x2 slot. This is unlike what we saw on Z790 PG Riptide, where the last PCIe slot shared a bus with Intel NUC. The above picture actually provides a good glimpse of PCIe slots and M.2 ports.
Now, it is time to take a look at the Z790 chipset area.
There is a stylish Cobra or Arma camouflage themed heatsink on the chipset. This cover is made of aluminum material. One cool aspect is the provision of RGB LEDs under this cover which illuminate the bottom area. Steel Legend is written on a black color background which looks good in person. We could not remove this cover as we faced a similar issue which was with hardened screws on VRM heatsink covers.
The above picture shows the RGB illumination towards the bottom section of this motherboard.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend is using a same controller as we saw on Z790 PG Riptide for RGB control. It has SM Bus-connected microcontroller to a Nuvoton NUC 121ZC2 ARM microcontroller connected to USB. This device is responsible for controlling the RGB illumination of the motherboard. This chip also monitors the state of the board.
The audio solution on this motherboard is adequate though nothing extraordinary. It uses RealTek ALC897 codec to drive the audio solution. This is just an ok solution which could have been better in my opinion.
The above picture shows the main controller chip. Sorry for the blurry picture.
The above picture shows the well-shielded Audio circuitry. This motherboard is using 4x high-end WIMA capacitors along with Fine-Gold capacitors to drive the power of the circuit. This is not a Hi-Res Audio solution. ASRock has provided Nahimic Audio support on this motherboard which is a software-level augmentation. The pointer here is that ASRock Z790 PG Riptide and Z790 Steel Legend WiFi are using the same audio solution. There are better and upgraded audio solutions already available, though.
We have two main areas here:
- Wireless connectivity
- Wired connectivity
ASRock has employed Dragon 2.5G NUC on this motherboard. The main controller is Dragon RTL8125BG. The Realtek RTL8125BG 10/100/1000M/2.5G Ethernet controller combines a four-speed IEEE 802.3 compatible Media Access Controller (MAC) with a four-speed Ethernet transceiver, PCI Express bus controller, and embedded memory. With state-of-the-art DSP technology and mixed-mode signal technology, the RTL8125BG offers high-speed transmission over CAT 5e UTP cable or CAT 3 UTP (10Mbps only) cable.
Functions such as Crossover Detection and Auto-Correction, polarity correction, adaptive equalization, cross-talk cancellation, echo cancellation, timing recovery, and error correction are implemented to provide robust transmission and reception capability at high speeds. There is a single RJ-45 port on the back panel for the wired network connectivity. The 2.5GbE provides roughly double the speed of that 1GbE connectivity for a better online gaming experience. The Ethernet port supports 10/100/1000/2500Mbps.
ASRock has provided Dragon 2.5G LAN Software for:
- Smart Auto Adjust Bandwidth Control
- Visual User Friendly UI
- Visual Network Usage Statistics
- Optimized Default Setting for Game, Browser, and Streaming Modes
- User Customized Priority Control
ASRock has installed a WIFI and Bluetooth module on a vertical E-Key M.2 port below the first PCIe slot. ASRock has used a simple yet effective mechanism to address loose SMA cables. SMA cable is easy to lose, and this is an unacceptable situation for users. ASRock is using a little module cap, as can be seen in the above picture, on top to address this issue. This motherboard has full WIFI and Bluetooth coverage. Some of the salient features are:
- 11ax Wi-Fi 6E Module
- Supports IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax
- Supports Dual-Band 2×2 with extended 6GHz band support*
- 2 antennas to support 2 (Transmit) x 2 (Receive) diversity technology
- Supports Bluetooth + High-speed class II
- Supports MU-MIMO
The complete USB connectivity is provided from the chipset:
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C (Front)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C (Rear)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (Rear)
- 12 x USB 3.2 Gen1 (8 Rear, 4 Front)
- 3 x USB 2.0 (3 Front)
We can see the plethora of USB connectivity options on this motherboard including 3 USB 3.2 Gen2 and advanced based ports. This board has USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 over Type-C interface, providing a theoretical bandwidth of 20Gbps on the front I/O panel. I wish ASRock had it installed on the Rear IO panel. This motherboard is using ASMedia USB Hubs for both USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports (Front and Rear). This motherboard has 1x USB 3.2 Gen Type-A and 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port the on Rear panel providing up to 10Gbps theoretical bandwidth. It seems like these hubs are ASM3042 which is a next-generation USB xHCI host controller to bridge PCIe to USB3.2 interface. It is compliant with USB3.2 Specification Revision 1.0 and Intel eXtensible Host Controller Interface specification revision 1.1, but we are not sure about it as we could not remove the Rear IO cover.
ASRock is using a RealTek RTS5452E which is an advanced Type-C Power Delivery Controller that integrates all Type-C Channel Configuration (CC) functions, Power Delivery functions (including BMC PHY, protocol, policy engine and device policy manager), AUX/HPD detection blocks, SBU switch, BC1.2, USB2.0 MUX (2:1), and VCONN switch into a single chip. New features in the PD3.0 specification, including Fast Role Swap, Extended Message transmission, and PD FW update, are implemented in the RTS5452E. The SBU switch is used for Type-C SBU1/2 polarity swap in alternate modes (e.g., DisplayPort and Thunderbolt). The AUX and HPD detection blocks are used for detecting DP cable hot plug and HPD signals in order to support DisplayPort alternate mode. USB2.0 MUX (2:1) is used for routing the Host USB2.0 DP/DM and the internal USB Billboard device DP/DM to the Type-C port DP/DM.
It is time to take a look at the internal connectors and see what options are there in the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
There is a 4-Pin PWM CPU FAN Header above the socket area. It is rated for up to 1A at 12VDC, making its power draw 12W.
There is a second CPU Fan Header/Water Pump header on the top of this motherboard. It is rated for 2A at 12VDC, making it 24W rated. There is another 4-pin PWM Channel Fan header as well. It is rated for 2A at 12VDC with a power rating of 24W. There is a 4-pin RGB port supporting 12V/3A, providing up to 36W power for the LED Strip. Then there is a 3-pin A-RGB port that provides up to 15W for the LED Strip using 5V/3A. Out of the total 7x fan headers, only CPU_FAN2/WP and CHA_FAN1 to CHA_FAN4 can detect the connected fan type i.e. PWM or DC. Surprising to see that CPU_FAN1 does not have this function. ASRock is using nuvoton 3947S controller for the PWM fan/pump headers.
Next, we have:
- A 24-Pin ATX Connector
- 2 Gen2x2 Front Panel Connector
- 2 Gen1 Header
The PI3EQX2004ZHE handles the USB Type-C 3.2 Gen2x2 port. ASRock has implemented this connector for the front panel connectivity.
Next, down the line, we have 4x SATA 6Gbps ports wired directly to the Chipset.
ASRock has provided 4x LEDs to troubleshoot the issues should one encounter. These are for the VGA, CPU, BOOT, and DRAM. They provide additional troubleshooting aid to the. In case of an issue, the corresponding LED will remain lit until the issue is resolved. There is no Debug LED on this board. ASRock has named these as Post Status Checkers.
ASRock has used Nuvoton NCT6796D-E controller. The NCT6796D-E is a member of Nuvoton’s Super I/O series and capable of monitoring critical parameters in PC hardware, including power supply voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. The NCT6796D-E provides both high-accuracy current mode sensing and low-cost thermistor mode sensing. It also supports Nuvoton’s SMART FANTM I and SMART FANTM IV algorithms for fan speed control. The NCT6796D-E supports both LPC & eSPI interfaces to communicate with chipsets. The NCT6796D-E implements Intel® PECI, AMD® SB-TSI interface, Intel® S0iX glue logic, and Port 80 diagnostic messages on both LPC & eSPI interface. This is the main IO controller chip on this motherboard.
ASRock has installed an eDP signal connector. This connector is not provided on every motherboard. It performs two functions simultaneously. These are the power and transmission of digital display signals. This is specifically done for ASRock 13.3” Side Panel kit, which would come in handy to house a 13.3” size panel in your PC Case to show various variables with a live feed from sensors. The users also use this screen for streaming, watching videos, etc.
Now, let’s take a look at the bottom connectivity options on this motherboard. Starting from the right side, we have Speaker and front panel connectors stacked up on each other. Next, we have 4x more SATA 6Gbps ports making the total count of these ports to be 8. Next, we have USB 3.2 Gen1 connector. Next, there is a 13-pin Trusted Platform Module (TPM) connector on the SPI bus. Next, we have a USB 2.0 header. This motherboard has only a 1x USB 2.0 header, so make sure to plan your devices that could use these headers well ahead. Next are two 4-pin PWM fan/water pump headers. There is a Clear CMOS jumper above the Thunderbolt header. These are followed by a 4-pin 12V RGB header and a 3-pin 5V digital RGB header. At last, there is a Front Panel Audio header.
ASRock is using a single 256Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support.
Following options are provided:
- 2 x Antenna Ports
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.4
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s)
- 8 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port
- HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone (Gold Audio Jacks)
The above picture shows the backside view of the motherboard.
UEFI/BIOS and Software
So far, we have twice covered the UEFI BIOS of ASRock from Intel and AMD platforms. This is why we won’t be covering in-depth details in this article. ASRock has provided a user-friendly BIOS GUI in terms of simplicity of the layout, combining the related settings under one head. We updated the BIOS to its latest at the time of testing.
The BIOS is loaded in EZ mode. You can then proceed to the advanced mode by pressing F6. The first page under advanced options is My Favorites. You can add your most commonly used settings under this page for convenient and rapid access. UEFI version 7.04 is shown, which was the latest at its time. We have used Intel Core i7 13700k for the testing along with Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 2x16GB 6400MT/s CAS 32 kit.
OC Tweaker is like a paradise for hardcore enthusiasts and overclockers. This motherboard provides enough related settings even for professional overclockers to experience the serious OC session. CPU Cooler Type makes it easy for the user to let BIOS knows about which power settings to work around. We selected a 360-420mm type AIO under Cooling to let the motherboard know that we have a powerful cooling solution. This would allow BIOS to provide high power values.
All CPU-related settings are under CPU Configuration. Memory-related settings are under DRAM Configuration. Voltage-related settings are under Voltage Settings, and FIVR Configuration contains settings related to Voltage control. On other manufacturers’ BIOS, user profile options are mostly listed in Save/Exit menu. ASRock has provided these settings on the main page, which makes it convenient for the user, particularly during overclocking sessions.
The Base Frequency Boost (BFB) is ASRock’s way of setting the power target. We can have up to 280W though you would need a serious cooling gear, probably a custom loop set up to handle this much load. Though it did not help with Intel Core i7, it would help when using core i9 SKU.
We are now in DRAM configuration. We have loaded the XMP1 profile for the Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 kit. DRAM Frequency is shown as 6400 compared to 4800MHz. DRAM Gear Mode is also listed there specifically.
There is a lengthy area allowing the users to play with multiple primary and secondary DRAM timings. This would come in handy, particularly during Memory overclocking.
The above picture shows the XMP1 profile loading in the UEFI BIOS of ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
Now we are in CPU-related settings. CPU Configuration starts with P-Core, E-Core, and AVX-related settings. BCLK frequency setting is also listed here. Boot Performance Mode is set to Max Non-Turbo Performance. We did not change that during stock testing.
Scrolling further we can spot some other CPU related important settings including Intel SpeedStep Technology, Intel Turbo Boost Technology, Intel Turbo Boost Max 3.0 Technology, CPU Tj Max, Dual Tau Boost, CPU Power Limitation, Long Duration Power Limit and Short Duration Power Limit. By default, we are sticking with Intel defaults with enforced power restrictions. You can remove the power restrictions or limitations to push the CPU further, provided your cooler is capable of handling the thermal load.
Now, we are in Voltage section of OC Tweaker. By default, the Voltage mode is in Stable mode. The main CPU-related voltage settings are on Auto, and we are allowing the motherboard to control the regulation of voltages. The Load Line Calibration (LLC) is at Level 4 by default. Usually, this setting is on Auto in majority of the motherboards.
Now, we are seeing memory related voltage settings and information. The VDD, VDDQ are using 1.40V whereas the PMIC is at 1.80V. This is with the XMP1 profile, as this kit operates at 1.40V. We can see settings for VPP, VDD, and VDDQ down the page.
Traversing further, we are now at more CPU related voltage settings. We can play with PLL voltage settings for P-Cores, E-Cores, and Ring here. AVX settings can also be found here. AC and DC Loadline settings are also listed here.
Now we are at FIVR related configuration settings. The core voltage is set to adaptive by default. VA Offset Mode is in Legacy mode. E-Core, Ring Voltage, and System Agent Voltage are also set to Adaptive by default.
Now we are on Advanced Settings page. The motherboard’s all settings are listed here, as well as some of the CPU settings. Chipset, Storage, On-Board devices, TPM, etc, settings are listed here.
The DMI link is operating at x8 Gen4 confirming the manufacturer’s rating. Users can select a primary graphics adapter from the related settings. The PCIe slots link speeds can also be set from here.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard has a TPM module 2.0 on it by INTC. Users can install Windows 11 on this motherboard without any issues. By default, the TPM is enabled.
Now we are at CPU Settings under Advanced page. We can see some basic information of the installed CPU. 3400MHz is the base frequency. We can enable or disable P-Cores and E-Cores from this page. Intel Hyper-Threading can be disabled/enabled from this page. We can even see detailed information and settings for P-Cores and E-Cores.
Now we are at Chipset settings under Advanced page. You will find the AC Power Loss related settings on this page. We can see that on-board devices are enabled by default.
The Tools page has options like ASRock Polychrome RGB, SSD Secure Erase, and more importantly two methods to update the UEFI BIOS namely Instant Flash and Intel MEI Flash. We have enabled the Auto Driver Installer.
The ASRock Polychrome RGB allows the users to control the onboard lighting of Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard from the UEFI BIOS.
H/W Monitor allows the users to check the various variables like voltage readouts, fan speeds, etc and allows the user to control the fan speed. You can define a fan custom curve or use pre-defined loads like silent, normal, and full speed as well. The users can use a Fan tuning module which will determine the connected fans properties and provide the users with more robust control over the fans’ speed.
We can access the bootable drives and priorities under Boot page. Fast Boot can be enabled/disabled from this page. CSM Module (Compatibility Support Module) is listed under this page as usual.
The last page is named Exit. We can save or discard changes made and exit the BIOS. The UEFI Defaults can also be loaded from this page. The boot sequence is listed at the end of the options.
ASRock has provided multiple software which you can download from their website.
- ASRock Motherboard Utility
- ASRock Polychrome SYNC
- Nahimic3 Utility
- App Shop
- Norton 360 for Gamers
- Dragon 2.5G LAN Utility
It is good to see that brands are moving towards an age where their software can be downloaded automatically. All that you need to do is to enable the Automatic Software Download option in the BIOS. As soon as you are booted into Windows, the program will prompt for searching and downloading software.
Auto Driver install is the name of the utility which ASRock uses to download the drives from the website. We could not spend time with this software due to lack of time due to my total hip replacement surgery.
Now that we have covered the UEFI/BIOS and Software, It is time for actual testing of the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard and results.
We have used this configuration to measure the performance of this motherboard:
- Intel i7-13700k [Auto, Stock]
- DeepCool LT720 White [Fans and Pump at full speed]
- Pre-applied Thermal Paste
- Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 2x16GB 6400MT/s CAS32
- Sabrent Rocket Q 1TB PCIe 3×4 NVMe SSD
- Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 4TB PCIe 4 NVMe SSD [For Games]
- MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G
- be quiet! Straight Power 11 1000W Platinum
- Thermaltake Core P6 TG Snow Edition in an open frame layout
Microsoft Windows 11 x64 Pro 22H2 is used for all the testing. Nvidia 527.56 drivers are used for graphics card testing. HWInfo64 is used to monitor sensors during testing. To learn more about how we test different components, check out the following guides:
- How We Test CPU Coolers
- How We Test RAM
- How We Test Graphics Cards
- How We Test PC Cases
- How We Test Peripherals
The above is run from CPU-Z software.
The above picture shows a GPU-Z run on MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G.
The above is a picture of assembled PC for this testing.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard features stunning and vivid RGB lighting onboard. The Rear IO shroud has RGB LED backlighting. The second zone is the Chipset cover featuring this lighting. Besides, this motherboard has 3x 5V digital RGB headers and a 12V RGB header. The game is strong when it comes to RGB lighting and the Polychrome sync app. Here are a few pictures:
We have categorized testing into 4 groups:
- Overall Performance
- CPU and Memory Tests
- Rendering Tests
- Compression Tests
- Encoding Tests
- Storage Tests
- Synthetic Tests
- PCIe Tests
- Synthetic Performance
- Gaming Performance
Details of test software are as under
- Crystal Disk Mark
- Black Magic
- 3DMARK Storage Test
- Cinebench R23
- GeekBench 5
- Blender Benchmark 1.02b and 3.4.0
- X264 HD Benchmark 5.0
- AIDA64 Engineer – Memory
- AIDA64 Engineer – CPU AES
- AIDA64 Engineer – CPU Queen
- Performance Test
- User Benchmark
- 3DMark – Fire Strike Ultra
- 3DMark – Time Spy Extreme
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Far Cry 6
This section will show the results of the various test suites and gaming benchmarks that we have run on this motherboard.
Overall System Performance
The following tests were conducted to judge the overall system performance.
PCMARK10 is the next iteration of PCMARK8 and includes a wide variety of tests to measure the performance of a complete PC or any component like a storage drive in particular. Its basic version is free. However, one would need a license for complete or advanced tests. With express, extended, and custom run options to suit your needs, PCMark 10 is the complete PC benchmark for the modern office.
Unfortunately, we met with an error in Digital Content Creation. Despite troubleshooting, the error persisted, and we could not get a score in this software. Inconvenience is regretted.
PassMark PerformanceTest allows you to objectively benchmark a PC using a variety of different speed tests and compare the results to other computers. We have used only CPU and Memory benchmarks.
99% percentile is self-explanatory here. The CPU mark is a good score. The memory mark of 3906 is nice. All these numbers would come down to what hardware components you use in the testing.
UserBenchmark.com can quickly establish whether your PC is underperforming and suggest likely hardware and software issues. Test how fast your processor, graphics card, storage drives, and memory are by running the free UserBenchmark Speed Test.
88% percentile means this system ranked 88 in the same or similar spec systems. Overall, we are seeing outstanding ratings on each component where all components exceeded 100% Bench rating.
CPU and Memory Performance
The following tests were conducted to gauge the CPU and Memory performance.
Cinebench is a real-world benchmark that evaluates one’s PC hardware capability, aka CPU and Memory. It is a great way to evaluate the performance of your CPU and Memory and compare it across the board to see how the PC is performing. It does not use a graphics card in this measurement. Besides, the user has control over how many threads to use in rendering a single image on the screen using the latest ray tracing capabilities.
The CPU Multi score is 30928 and a single core score is 2104. This result is within the expected result for the Intel i7 13700k SKU. In fact, we are seeing a slight boost in Single Core load because cores were boosting to 5.4GHz.
Geekbench 5 is another handy tool to measure the performance of your CPU and Graphics card and put it in a numeric outcome which allows easy comparison with the other systems to evaluate how well the given PC is performing. Geekbench 5 has a unique feature which allows a cross-platform comparison. It uses OpenCL, CUDA, and Metal APIs to measure the performance of graphics card. It now supports Vulkan API as well.
The multi-score is 21011, and the single Core score is 2083. This is a good score for this CPU SKU.
7-Zip is free software with open source. Most of the code is under the GNU LGPL license. It has a built-in compression benchmark which is used fairly across the tech industry to evaluate a PC’s relative performance in this particular segment of compression/decompression. 7-Zip has a high compression ratio in 7z format with LZMA and LZMA2 compression with supported formats of Packing / unpacking: 7z, XZ, BZIP2, GZIP, TAR, ZIP, and WIM and unpacking only: AR, ARJ, CAB, CHM, CPIO, CramFS, DMG, EXT, FAT, GPT, HFS, IHEX, ISO, LZH, LZMA, MBR, MSI, NSIS, NTFS, QCOW2, RAR, RPM, SquashFS, UDF, UEFI, VDI, VHD, VMDK, WIM, XAR and Z. It outputs results in MIPS and the higher count would mean better performance.
We got 130273 MIPS in compressing and 105837 MIPS in decompressing. This is a good score in this benchmark.
Super PI is a single-threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. It uses the Gauss-Legendre algorithm and is a Windows port of a program used by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 to compute pi to 232 digits.
5 minutes and 14 seconds is a good score.
AIDA64 Engineer is a feature-rich solution when it comes to hardware detection, as it provides detailed information about the hardware and software installed on the PC. It also reports the main controllers on the hardware, which is an added benefit for the user. It can report sensor readouts in real time and offers diagnostic functions as well. It also offers a couple of benchmarks for measuring the performance of individual hardware components or the whole system.
The following built-in benchmarks were run in this software:
- CPU AES
- CPU Queen
AES is an integer-based benchmark that uses AES data encryption. It utilizes Vincent Rijmen, Antoon Bosselaers, and Paulo Barreto’s public domain C code in ECB mode. CPU AES test uses only the basic x86 instructions. The test consumes 48 MB of memory, and it is Hyper Threading, multi-processor (SMP), and multi-core (CMP) aware.
Intel Core i7 13700k scored 223968MB/s and stood at second number beating the Intel Core i9 12900k and even a Ryzen Threadripper SKU.
This simple integer benchmark focuses on the branch prediction capabilities and the misprediction penalties of the CPU. It finds the solutions for the classic “Queens problem” on a 10 by 10-sized chessboard.
We got a 131248 score on Intel Core i7 13700k.
The Memory Benchmark tool in AIDA64 is a highly popular benchmark showing the capability of the memory kit installed in the system. It measures the memory’s read, write, and copy speeds in MS/s or GB/s and also provides latency results.
The Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 6400MT/s CAS32 is a high-performance kit comprising two kits, each of 16GB capacity.
3DMark CPU Profile
The 3DMark CPU Profile is what has been the missing element in the overall 3DMARK suite for some time. This tool will not measure and report a certain number which we can use to compare with other systems. It rather measures how well your system will scale when using a certain number of CPU threads and cores. The test run comprises six tests, each using a different number of threads. These six tests help you benchmark and compare CPU performance for a range of threading levels. They also provide a better way to compare different CPU models by looking at the results from thread levels they have in common.
We are showing the result of this SKU only. This will make sense only when more SKUs are tested on the same configuration. Intel Core i7 13700K is a powerful SKU with a boost clock of 5.3GHz all cores and a 5.4GHz boost single core.
Blender Benchmark is another popular rendering tool in use by enthusiasts and professionals to evaluate the performance of CPU and graphics cards. It does so based on Blender Open Data. It is a platform that collects, stores, and displays the results of hardware in particular. This is obviously possible only if the Blender community regularly uploads the result from their run on PCs.
We have used Blender Benchmark 3.4.0, which provides samples per minute and give a score at the end. A higher score means a better-performing PC.
The above picture shows Samples per Minute for three benchmarks (Monster, Junkshop, and classroom). This is a good performance from the Intel Core i7 13700k.
We have got a 433.84 overall score in blender benchmark 3.4.0.
The above is a result of Blender Benchmark 1.0b2. The Intel Core i7 13700k took 104.143 seconds in BMW Scene rendering, whereas it took 373.581 seconds in Classroom scene rendering.
X264 HD 5.0 Benchmark
x264 HD Benchmark is a highly popular Encoding benchmark. It measures how quickly the POC can encode a 1080P video clip into a high-quality x264 video file. It uses CPU power for this purpose. Since it has the same file for encoding, it is a popular tool for even comparison when it comes to evaluating CPU performance.
The reported result is in FPS. The average FPS score of Pass 1 comes to 365.91. The average FPS score of Pass2 is 98.29. It is calculated by summing up the FPS count on each run of each pass and dividing it by 4, as there are 4 runs per pass. A higher FPS count means better performance. The Intel Core i7 13700k is showing its prowess here, winning the game.
We have tested storage performance using PCIe Gen3x4 NVMe SSD and USB3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) drives. Yes, we have measured the USB performance as well. Also, take note that this motherboard does not have a USB3.2 Gen2x2 on the rear panel, which makes testing a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 drive almost impossible without a proper converter/adapter or a PC Case that actually has a USBG 3.2 Gen2x2 port on the front panel.
CrystalDiskMark is a simple disk benchmark software that is highly popular among PC enthusiasts and is mainly used to evaluate the relative performance of the storage disk at hand. It measures sequential and random Performance (Read/Write/Mix) using various measure modes (Peak/Real World/Demo). Additionally, it supports multiple languages and themes.
We can see that the NVMe SSD (Rated for up to 3200MB/s sequential read and 2000MB/s sequential write) easily passed the rating in this benchmark. The same was the case for USB Drives. Not only that, but both drives are offering a good 4k across the board.
ATTO is not just a software name; rather, ATTO is a manufacturing concern who are provider of high-performance storage & network connectivity products. ATTO Disk Benchmark for Windows is the tool that top drive manufacturers use to build and test drives. ATTO Disk Benchmark measures performance in hard drives, solid-state drives, RAID arrays, as well as the host connection to attached storage. It can be used to test any OEM RAID controller, storage controller, host adapter, hard drive, or SSD drive.
We are seeing a solid performance from both drives in this synthetic benchmark which focuses on sequential speeds only.
Black Magic Disk Speed Test is an easy-to-use tool to quickly measure the disk performance of any drive at hand for working with high-quality video. It has a simple interface, and the benchmark runs with a single button click. This software utilized large size blocks of data to measure the performance of the drive and shows what functionality to expect from this drive at various levels and settings. Disk Speed Test will continue to test writes and reads from the selected disk drive to evaluate both performance and readability over time.
I would not look at the scores, but the two sections show detailed results. One section shows if the selected drive would work with different formats, and the other section will show how fast the selected drive is for these formats. Both drives are quite good at what they do.
3DMark Storage Benchmark
The 3DMark Storage Benchmark DLC is a key tool with a dedicated component test for measuring the gaming performance of your SSD and other storage hardware. It supports all the latest storage technologies and tests practical, real-world gaming performance for activities such as loading games, saving progress, installing game files, and recording gameplay video streams.
Both drives have got a good score. The NVMe SSD scored 1993 using an average bandwidth of 348.72MB/s with an average access time of 92µs. The USB 3.2 Gen2 drive scored 1063 using an average bandwidth of 185.48MB/s with an average access time of 172µs.
Here is how we analyzed the PCIe/Gaming Performance.
3DMark Fire Strike Ultra
3DMark created Fire Strike Ultra around the 4K gaming. It is the world’s first 4K Ultra HD benchmark, available now in 3DMark Advanced Edition and 3DMark Professional Edition. Fire Strike Ultra renders the test content at 3840 x 2160 (4K Ultra HD) before scaling the output to your PC’s display resolution. This means you don’t need a 4K monitor to run Fire Strike Ultra, though you will need a GPU with at least 3 GB of dedicated memory.
45012 is the CPU score, and 12798 is the graphics score. Overall, this is a good rating with a score of 13155. We have seen Intel SKUs thriving in this Benchmark.
3DMark Time Spy Extreme
Time Spy Extreme is a new 4K DirectX 12 benchmark test, available in 3DMark Advanced and Professional Editions. You don’t need a 4K monitor to run it, but you will need a GPU with at least 4 GB of dedicated memory. With its 4K Ultra HD rendering resolution, Time Spy Extreme is an ideal benchmark test for the latest high-end graphics cards. The CPU test has been redesigned to let processors with 8 or more cores perform to their full potential.
10330 is a CPU score, and 10307 is a graphics score making this a good overall rating of 10310.
All games were tested on three resolutions (1080P, 1440P, and 2160P) using their maxed-out graphics settings.
The ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi does not hinder any performance. You can expect to game on this motherboard without any hitch. The Intel Core i7 13700k and MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G have performed very well in the gaming performance on this motherboard.
It is time to take a look at the clock behavior on the Intel Core i7 13700k on ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi and see if the motherboard can handle this CPU. Hint: we already have seen the performance metrics from this CPU above. P-Cores on Intel Core i7 13700k have a base clock of 3.40GHz and a boost clock of 5.30GHz. E-Cores have a base clock of 2.50GHz with a maximum boost clock of 4.2GHz. The Maximum Turbo Frequency is 5.40GHz (on any core or two cores), depending on the load type. We needed to see if this CPU maintains these clocks on the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
But first, we checked for clocks when the system idles for 10 minutes or more.
We can see that the lowest clock on any core is 797.8MHz. In fact, all cores were sitting in this range at system idle. There is also a hint of 5.3GHz (5.288 GHz) and 5.4GHz (5.386GHz) from this picture.
We can see from the above picture that the CPU has 5.288GHz (approximately 5.3GHz) on P-Cores and 4.190GHz (approximately 4.2GHz) on E-Cores. These clocks are due to 99.8MHz on Bus Clock. The boost clocks on P-Cores and E-Cores are verified using a CINEBENCH R23 Multi-Core load run of 30 minutes. The Intel Core i7 13700k is operating at its intended or rated speeds on the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
Next, we checked for 5.4GHz on any two cores in maximum turbo frequency under a single core or 1T load. For that, we have used CINEBENCH R23 Single Thread run for 30 minutes. We can see 5.388GHz (approximately 5.4GHz) on a few cores. This clock would vary on cores depending on which cores are in use. Again, we can see that the Intel Core i7 13700k has maintained the max turbo boost frequency on the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
Power Consumption and Thermals
All settings were left on Auto and stock values in the UEFI/BIOS. We loaded the XMP profile on Kingston Fury Renegade DDR5 32GB 6400MT/s CAS32 kit. The fans and pump on DeepCool LT720 White AIO were set to run at 100% speed. We still set Memory Frequency and Primary timings manually. Power mode was set Balanced in the Windows setting. The system was left idle for 10 minutes with HWInfo64 running in the background, recording values. The ambient temperature was 28°C approximately.
|CPU Core Temperature||RAM||NVMe SSD||Graphics Card|
|Idle Power Draw||3.928W||0.250W||N/A||11.524|
To check the thermals and power draw under load, the CPU was tested using a 30-minute system stability test on CINEBENCH R23.2. 3DMark Time Spy Extreme Stress Test was used for MSI GeForce RTX 3090 Gaming X Trio 24G. CrystalDiskMark was used to stress the NVMe SSD with a customized load on sequential read and write.
|CPU Core Temperature||RAM||NVMe SSD||Graphics Card|
|Load Power Draw||230.357W||3.625W||N/A||385W|
*Graphics card was tested separately; hence its metrics are different in the table compared with the picture.
We have used the Hti HT18 Thermal camera to record the thermals of the VRM area of the motherboard under load using a blender benchmark on the CPU.
The MOSFETs were operating at around 75.8°C at an ambient of 28°C. This picture is taken from the backside of the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard.
So far, we have tested two motherboards in the Z790 chipset using the LGA1700 socket. One is GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS ELITE AX, and the other is ASRock Z790 PG Riptide. Both motherboards cater to different market segments. This time around, we have tested another Z790 motherboard from ASRock. It is ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi which is a mainstream mid-range motherboard operating in fierce competition in this price range of USD 280 to USD 300. We will come back to this later.
Pricing plays an important role in the evaluation of any product and the likelihood of its acceptance in the consumer market. We are not out of the taboo that the more the price, the better the quality though this is not without some truth. We have seen high price tags on AMD’s AM5 platform and Intel’s 13th-generation platform. A lack of lusting performance and a different approach towards thermal behavior has set AMD back, but the game has been strong with Intel as this platform has compatibility with Intel’s 12th generation CPU SKUs, plus Intel is still providing DDR4 support even on this new platform. But these hefty prices on both camps are hard to ignore as well.
Now coming back to the main topic here, the ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi is obviously using an Intel LGA1700 socket, and as the name suggests, it has a Z790 chipset which is the pinnacle of Intel technology at this time. The user can use Intel 12th generation CPU SKUs on this motherboard as well. This motherboard is based on DDR5 technology implying that users can only use DDR5 kits on this motherboard. This motherboard has 4x DIMM slots that are steel reinforced with a maximum capacity of 128GB. We are not sure of the new 24G and 48GB size modules support on this motherboard. This motherboard has native support of 4800MHz and overclocked frequency of 7200MHz, for which a BIOS update would be needed. The PCB of this motherboard has a 6-layered design with 2oz copper.
In terms of PCIe connectivity, ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi features 3x PCIe slots with the following key data:
- 1x PCIe Gen5 x16 slot wired to CPU socket*
- 1x PCIe Gen 4 x4 slot wired to Chipset
- 1x PCIe Gen3 x2 slot wired to Chipset
The top PCIe slot is steel reinforced.
*There is a Redriver IC operating between the PCIe Gen x16 slot and M.2 NVMe PCIe Gen 5 port. If a user installs Gen 5-based graphics card and a Gen 5-based NVMe drive, the graphics card will operate at x8 link speed. This is a platform limitation by Intel.
Speaking of M.2 ports, this motherboard is not disappointing as it has 5x M.2 ports but with a catch. There is an M.2 2260/2280 format ports on the top facing each other. The right side port is a fully functional Gen5x4 port, whereas the left side port is a Gen4x4 port. Users can only use one of these ports at a time. Both ports are wired to the CPU socket. There are three more M.2 ports labeled as Hyper M.2 operating at Gen4x4 and wired to the Chipset. These support the form factors of 2242, 2260, and 2280. The top ports have a stylish silver color thick heatsink cover that is made of aluminum. There is no cover on the middle port. The remaining two ports sit in a row and feature a full-length aluminum-made heatsink cover. Since we are discussing storage options, this board has a total of 8x SATA ports which are fully functional and independent of M.2 ports and PCIe slots. Four of these ports are vertical, whereas four are right-angled.
There are tons of USB ports and hubs on this motherboard, including the 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port on the front panel. There is one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port on the rear IO panel and one on the front panel. I wish ASRock has provided Gen2x2 connectivity on the rear and Gen1 or Gen2 connectivity on the front panel. ASRock is using ASMedia controllers for the majority of USB connectivity except that of USB3.2 Gen2x2 on the front. There is a note, though. This motherboard has only one USB 2.0 header, which could prove to be not sufficient in case you are using multiple devices that all require this header.
This motherboard is using Dragon 2.5GbE NIC for wired connectivity. We also have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. There are 4x LEDs for troubleshooting purposes. There is no Debug LED on this motherboard. There is a clear CMOS jumper as well.
ASRock has paid close attention to VRM/MOSFETs cooling. There are two aluminum-made covers on the top area. They are layered in design and have cut-outs to act as heat transfer material. Maximum VRM temperature under load was 79°C at an ambient of 28°C. Though this temperature is well within the range, it is a bit more to my liking, particularly when Z790 PG Riptide shows a better VRM temperature.
The Audio solution is driven by RealTek ALC897. SuperIO chip is from Nuvoton NCT6796D-E. I have no issue with the Super IO chip, but the audio solution could have been better. There are 7 fan headers. Six of them have a 2A current rating to provide 24W. They are mentioned to be used for water pumps as well. Surprisingly, the CPU_Fan header is rated for 1A and is not rated to handle water pump load. These headers are spread at various points on PCB, which makes sense. These are powered and controlled by nuvoton 3947S. There is no external sensor.
The CPU power delivery uses a 16+1+1 design. We are not sure about the PWM controller since we were unable to remove the heatsink covers as the screws were not coming off. There are 16 phases for VCore, with 1 phase for VCCGT and 1 phase for VCC AUX. This is slightly better than the 14+1+1 on Z790 PG Riptide. This motherboard is using SPS (Dr. MOS) MOSFETs rated for up to 60A, probably using ISL99360 from Renesas. We are not sure about MOSFET’s design for VCCGT and VCC AUX.
We updated BIOS to 7.04, which is the latest from ASRock at the time of review. The overall performance of the motherboard is quite good. This motherboard is a better match for GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS ELITE AX than the Z790 PG Riptide is. The MOSFET cooling is decent. The storage and gaming performance are good. The overall performance of this motherboard is satisfactory.
Retailing at USD 289, this motherboard is sitting inside a highly competitive zone, with the first direct and a better competitor being ASUS ROG STRIX Z790-H Gaming WiFi-6E costing a bit more than USD 300, but overall it has a better specification overview. Then there are GIGABYTE and MSI motherboards as well. A slight reduction in price is what I would suggest making this beautiful Steel Legend motherboard more competitive. ASRock is offering a 3-year warranty on this motherboard.
Thank you! Please share your positive feedback. 🔋
How could we improve this post? Please Help us. 😔