Here at AORUS, we take the word “extreme” to the next level. AORUS XTREME series motherboards have always pushed the boundaries and can be found at the top of performance charts. The AORUS mindset when designing XTREME motherboards is to strive for perfection from every aspect. After all, XTREME motherboards are meant to be the total package. The Z490 AORUS XTREME is the embodiment of peak performance, overkill power design, and next generation connectivity. We are doing a deep dive with our Taipei designers and product managers to bring you their insights on creating such a powerful motherboard.
We return back to Andy, one of our product managers, to explore what makes the Z490 AORUS XTREME special.
Howard: “Can you explain how XTREME motherboards are designed to live up to its name?”
Andy: “In the past, XTREME series motherboards were really built for the most extreme use cases such as CPU benchmarking. We wanted to create a product that can challenge even the most passionate enthusiasts. This is why we insisted on adding the highest quality of power, thermal, and memory designs onto the Z490 AORUS XTREME. When you pick up this motherboard, you will immediately realize that it is in a league of its own.”
“In the design process, it is our mission statement to put even the wildest use case scenarios into consideration. Take for example the 90A power solution: we have 16 phases of power with each phase providing 90A, so it will be 1440A current that you could have for this kind of power phase. Trust me, currently there is no processor, at least that I know of, from the Comet Lake lineup that needs that kind of power draw. But I think that is kind of our own obligation to the AORUS brand. We just try to take everything to the extreme with the vision that is 100% prepared for all the needs users will have in their enthusiast systems.”
“My favorite thing is you can get everything you could expect from this motherboard. Everything on this motherboard is from the top. Not just things I have mentioned like thermals and power design, but also the audio, the expansion, the storage, and the connectivity. It’s the best motherboard you can have, regardless of the price, on the market right now.”
Next we revisit our talk with Rex from the Taipei design team to learn more about the key design aspects on XTREME series motherboards.
Howard: “What were you most invested in when designing ultra-premium motherboards?”
Rex: “First let me talk about the creative process. The I&D team as a whole came together in creating our ideal design for Z490. We were determined to bring an aesthetic that hasn’t been imitated nor been seen on the market yet, onto this platform. The creative process is what our team was most invested in and in my opinion, is the most fun part of the entire workflow.”
“Our first thought when designing the XTREME was how to make all the features flow together. For example, could we fold the sides of the backplate towards the motherboard to give it that “boxed” appearance? We kept that complete look in our minds when designing this motherboard. After we materialized our designs, we polished it by giving the XTREME a dark metallic finish. The most fascinating part for me was the PCH lighting. We wanted that part to have the feeling of a player entering into a game - that feeling of an incoming surge - and that is why you can see a cascading light effect there.
Lastly, we conclude with our product manager Alex, who shares his team’s decision making process on perhaps the most important part - the specs.
Howard: “While doing research, does your team look at the modder feedback? How do they translate feedback into design features?”
Alex: “Not from just the community, we also collect all different ideas from in-house employees (our society researchers, in-house gamers, and others), asking “Do you have something that we can make this board more extreme than before?” We also talk to our validation team because they play with motherboards everyday. They are probably the ones most familiar with users' complaints. When we have a list, we go to the R&D team and ask “How can we achieve this?”
“One of the main aspects we still notice is that people who buy our motherboard would sometimes like to do some modifications like purchasing an add-in card. Our goal is, when you get this board back at home, you won't need to do any modifications, it is already the best. On the XTREME, we further increased the thermal pad to 7.5W. Even though on the previous generation we put the 5W versions, we still had people remove our heatsink to put higher performance thermal pads on it. This time we decided, “Let’s do it, you don’t need to bother. We already got the most extreme stuff for you.”
Howard: “Talk more about 90A SPS and explain why having it on the XTREME is a big deal.”
Alex: “90A power phases are usually found on server grade motherboards.90A SPS are usually used in the most demanding applications such as servers where zero failure is accepted. On XTREME, we adopted 90A SPS and doubled it twice to form a balanced VRM architecture that will surely be the most reliable base to push enthusiasts to reach their new heights. 90A SPS is an unprecedented feature on AORUS motherboards (the previous generation used 70A), and it’s more than enough to the most demanding overclocking needs.”
Howard: “Thermals are going to be crazy on this board. How confident are you on the XTREME’s thermal capabilities?”
Alex: “We have a complete thermal solution surrounding this motherboard. We have the 16-phase power design, Fins Array II, Direct Touch Heatpipe II, Thermal Guards II, LAIRD 7.5 W/mk thermal pads, the thermal baseplate now has nanocarbon coating, and an I/O cover is also made of aluminium. We call this complete solution “Thermal Reactive Armor” and the idea is that the entire motherboard serves as the heatsink and all these individual parts work together to remove heat from other sensitive components.”
“Since I already covered Fins Array II and Direct Touch II in the gaming article, here’s more on the NanoCarbon Coated Fins Array Heatsink. As CPUs get more powerful, VRM modules get hotter under ultra high performance. We are the first adopters in the industry to use NanoCarbon as coating material to enhance thermal radiation and speed up heat dissipation.”
Howard: “Why did we include tantalum polymer capacitors to the XTREME’s memory design?”
Alex: “The shielded memory routing appears on all AORUS motherboards, including the VISION and even GAMING X. On the XTREME, we even have the POSCAPs on the DDR side because we are using SMT technology on the memory slot. When you first flip over the Z490 AORUS XTREME, you notice a very big base plate. Remove the baseplate and you won’t see the memory spikes on the PCB - it is completely flat. By using SMT, we freed up the space of the backside of the PCB, so we could put in the POSCAP.”
“Why is it critical to the memory? When the CPU issues a read or write command to the DDR, they have to respond by changing its state. Each change requires a current draw, by which the power is supplied from VDDQ. Try to imagine when the DDR works at such a frequency and when all 4 DIMMS are populated (128GB), the loading is very high (sometimes up to tens of ampere). When the CPU issues an intensive read/write command to the DDR, the POSCAPs serve as a big dam to handle the demand, same as on the VRM.”
Howard: “There are thousands of components that make up a motherboard. What are some of the little details / unique designs that you sprinkled in that other enthusiasts can appreciate?”
Alex: “All the right-angled connectors should be a small tweak that makes the complete system better looking. Something new we have included in Z490 XTREME is an external USB DAC, which by the way, is also High-Res Audio certified device.We noticed that the chassis’ front audio haven't changed its connection method for decades, with unpredictable cables carrying analog signals that are easily ruined by interference . So we made a portable USB DAC to address it. Pure and clean audio signals are digitally processed to analog output and it gets rid of the distortion that may happen when the analog signal travels from the motherboard to the chassis front. It’s also a High-Res Audio certified device.”