We aimed for our usual 5GHz with our Core i9-9900K, which has been the limit unless we opted for serious cooling, but we felt it was more useful to see what you can achieve with a sub-£100 cooler, which the vast majority of you out there probably own.
We hit some issues with the Gigabyte board, though, in that it seemed to need a ridiculous amount of vcore. However, as we found with previous Gigabyte boards, it was simply a matter of applying loadline calibration, with sorted the issue straight away. In the end we needed just 1.22V, although combined with a hefty amount of loadline calibration, this still resulted in a load power draw, once overclocked, of 292W, which was 10W more than the MSI board that used a higher voltage but identical frequency.
We now have some comparison numbers to go with in our results, but two things are fairly clear - the differences are slim between the boards and with just 300MHz gained by overclocking our CPU, there are meagre gains to be had when overclocking too. The MSI board had a slight advantage at stock speed in some tests likely thanks to it bumping up the base clock by 0.5MHz, but you certainly wouldn't pick it over the Gigabyte board for any of the performance numbers here.
Both boards seemed to have slightly quirky audio drivers, with the Gigabyte board posting a mediocre noise level and the MSI board a very average dynamic range. It's unlikely anyone would be able to tell the difference with just the ear though. Despite using the latest F5 BIOS, we did see a rather high stock-speed load and overclocked idle temperatures compared to MSI's MEG Z390 Ace - some EFI fiddling would likely rein these figures in but we report numbers based on a simple overclock with no other tweaking except in this case for loadline calibration, which might be the cause of some or all of the higher power-draw anyway.
The only things we're not keen on here are the slightly wobbly audio result, location of the power button, Gigabyte's EFI and the slightly more involved overclock compared to the blissfully easy MSI MEG Z390 Ace. Apart from these things, this is a stunning motherboard with unrivaled fan and cooling control, excellent board cooling, an integrated I/O shield and plenty of the latest tech. The price is definitely high and the above issues mean it just falls short of our top award, but if you like what you see then we can highly recommend the Z390 Aorus Master.
February 24 2020 | 12:00