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ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming ATX Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Motherboard Overview

Introduction

With their latest revision in the TUF line, ASUS decided to rebrand the line as TUF Gaming, opening the brand to the rapidly growing gaming enthusiast market. The TUF Z390-Pro Gaming motherboard is the flagship board in ASUS' TUF (The Ultimate Force) product line designed with the Intel Z390 chipset.

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Courtesy of ASUS

The TUF Z390-Pro Gaming offers support for the latest Intel Coffee Lake processor line as well as dual-channel DDR4 memory running at up to 2666MHz speeds in stock configuration. ASUS priced the board competitively with a $169.99 MSRP, making it a good deal in light of the board's build quality and integrated features.

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Courtesy of ASUS

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Courtesy of ASUS

The TUF Z390-Pro Gaming motherboard is built with the same quality and attention to detail that you've come to expect from TUF-branded motherboards. The board contains the following integrated features: eight SATA 3 ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports; an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; an 8-channel audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS TUF Z390 Pro Gaming motherboard!

Technical Specifications (taken from the ASUS website)

CPU Intel® Socket 1151 9th / 8th Gen Intel® Core™, Pentium® Gold and Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 3.0

* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 3.0 Support Depends on the CPU types.

Chipset Intel® Z390
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 4266(O.C.) / 4133(O.C.) / 4000(O.C.) / 3866(O.C.) / 3733(O.C.) / 3600(O.C.) / 3466(O.C.) / 3400(O.C.) / 3333(O.C.) / 3300(O.C.) / 3200(O.C.) / 3000(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666 / 2400 / 2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

** Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* The maximum memory frequency supported varies by processor.

Graphic Integrated Graphics Processor - Intel® UHD Graphics support
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI / DisplayPort ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 30 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport compliant, supports DP 1.2 monitor daisy chain up to 3 displays
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD 2-Way CrossFireX Technology
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 / 2.0 x16 (x16, x8 / x8, x8 / x4+x4*, x8+x4+x4 / x0**)
1 x PCIe 3.0 / 2.0 x16 (max at x2 mode)
3 x PCIe 3.0 / 2.0 x1
* For 2 SSD on CPU support, install a Hyper M.2 X16 card (sold separately) into the PCIeX16_2 slot, enable this card under BIOS settings.
** For 3 SSD on CPU support, install a Hyper M.2 X16 card (sold separately) into the PCIeX16_1 slot, enable this card under BIOS settings.
Storage Intel® Z390 Chipset:
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)*1
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
Intel® CPU with Intel® Rapid Storage Technology support (RAID 0 & RAID 1)
PCIEX16_1 slot supports up to 3 Intel® PCIe NVME SSDs via a Hyper M.2 X16 series Card
*1. When a device in SATA mode is installed on the M.2_1 socket, SATA_2 port cannot be used.
LAN Intel® I219V, featuring Turbo LAN
TUF LANGuard
Dual interconnect between the integrated Media Access Controller (MAC) and physical layer (PHY)
Audio Realtek® ALC S1200A 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Front Panel Jack-retasking

Audio Feature:
- Exclusive DTS Custom for GAMING Headsets.
- Audio Shielding: Ensures precision analog/digital separation and greatly reduced multi-lateral interference
- Dedicated audio PCB layers: Separate layers for left and right channels to guard the quality of the sensitive audio signals
- Premium Japanese audio capacitors: Provide warm, natural and immersive sound with exceptional clarity and fidelity

* Choose the chassis with HD audio module in front panel to support 8-channel audio output.

USB Ports Intel® Z390 Chipset:
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 port(s) (2 at back panel, , Type-A)

Intel® Z390 Chipset:
8 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s) (4 at back panel, , Type-A, 4 at mid-board)

Intel® Z390 Chipset:
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (4 at mid-board)

Special Features Fan Xpert4
- Advanced fan and liquid controls for ultimate cooling and quietness
ASUS TUF PROTECTION
- ASUS DIGI + VRM: 8+1 Phase digital power design
- ASUS SafeSlot: Protect your graphics card Investment
- ASUS ESD Guard: Enhanced ESD protection
- ASUS Overvoltage Protection: World-class circuit-protecting power design
- ASUS Stainless-Steel Back I/O: 3X corrosion-resistance for greater durability!
- ASUS LANGuard: Protects against LAN surges, lightning strikes and static-electricity discharges!
ASUS Optimem II:
- Improved DDR4 Stability
ASUS EPU:
- EPU
TUF ENGINE! Power Design:
- TUF Components (Choke, Cap. & MOSFET; certified by military-standard)
AURA:
- Aura Lighting Control
- Aura RGB Strip Headers
ASUS Exclusive Features:
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger
- Turbo LAN
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution:
- Stylish Fanless Design: PCH Heat-sink & MOS Heat-sink & M.2 Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert 4
ASUS EZ DIY:
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 3
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode
ASUS Q-Design:
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
M.2 Onboard(The latest transfer technologies with up to 32Gb/s data transfer speeds)
MemOK! II

- Enhance memory compatibility. More smart and convenient. Keep high performance. (Shorten the PC starting time)
Q-Installer
- Auto download driver and software. Friendly for first PC builder.
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A,
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x 8-channel Audio I/O
Internal I/O Ports 2 x Aura RGB Strip Header(s)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1(up to 5Gbps) connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen 1 port(s)
2 x USB 2.0 1-port connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (SATA & PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (PCIE 3.0 x 4 mode)
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
3 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x AIO_PUMP connector
1 x 8-pin EATX 12 V Power connector
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x MemOK! II switch(es)
1 x CPU OV
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x 14-1 pin TPM connector
1 x System panel connector
1 x COM port header
Accessories User's manual
I/O Shield
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x M.2 Screw Package
1 x TUF Gaming Sticker
1 x SLI HB BRIDGE(2-WAY-M)
1 x Q-Connector
1 x TUF Certification card(s)
1 x SCD (by region)
BIOS 128 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, SM BIOS 3.1, ACPI 6.1, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 3, CrashFree BIOS 3, F11 EZ Tuning Wizard, F6 Qfan Control, F3 My Favorites, Last Modified log, F9 Search, F12 PrintScreen, and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
Support Disc Drivers
ASUS Utilities
ASUS EZ Update
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Operating System Support Windows® 10 64-bit
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
12.0 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
Management Solution WfM 2.0, DMI 3.0, WOL by PME, PXE

Features

Courtesy of ASUS

  • Designed for 9th and 8th generation Intel® Core™ processors to maximize connectivity and speed with dual M.2, Gigabit LAN, USB 3.1 Gen2
  • Military-Grade TUF Components like TUF LANGuard, TUF Chokes, TUF Capacitors, and TUF MOSFETs maximize system durability
  • Gamer’s Guardian with SafeSlot and FanXpert 4 provides hardware-level safeguards for maximum performance with dynamic system cooling
  • 8-channel HD gaming audio featuring Realtek® S1200A high definition audio codec driven by Japanese capacitors for warm, immersive sound
  • ASUS OptiMem II improves memory stability and performance by improving trace isolation between PCB layers to maintain signal integrity even at higher frequencies

Motherboard Layout

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The TUF Z390 Pro Gaming motherboard features the a matte black and grey cammo-style PCB with charcoal colored plastic overlays and black chrome heat sinks to blend with the board's aesthetic. There are two plastic overlays, one covering the rear panel assembly and the other covering the chipset components. The CPU VRMs are cooled by two unconnected aluminum heat sinks above and to the right of the CPU socket. The board's ATX form factor provides more than enough surface area to house the integrated components, as well as giving the board compatibility with most available gamer-friendly enclosures.

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The board's back completely free of components with the exception of small capacitors and power circuitry sitting in the center hole of the CPU backplate. If your cooler requires replacement of the stock back plate, the center CPU circuitry could become problematic if the backplate does not have a hole in its center to compensate.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS integrated a 10-phase digital power system into the TUF Z390 Pro Gaming board, capable of providing more than enough power to the CPU for whatever torture tests you choose to throw at it. Designed around ASUS TUF power system, the board includes all military grade components including TUF MOSFETs, TUF chokes, and TUF solid capacitors. The CPU VRMs are cooled by two unconnected aluminum heat sinks to the top and right of the CPU socket, requiring minimal airflow to keep these critical components cool based on our testing.

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The board's 8-pin ATX12V power connector is located to the upper right of the CPU socket, in between the two VRM heat sinks.

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ASUS designed the board with two M.2 slots, one in between the CPU socket and the primary PCIe x16 slot (just under primary PCIe x1 slot) and the other in between the secondary and tertiary PCIe x16 slots (just under PCIe x1 slot 3). the M.2 slot located just under PCIe x1 slot 3 includes an integrated port covers with thermal tape along the inside. In previous reviews, such plates where found to reduce M.2 card heat by over 10C when used in a strict passive configuration with optimal cooling obtained when used in conjunction with active air-flow over the port plate.

The M.2 slot located between PCIe x1 slot 1 (M.2_1) supports cards up to 80mm in length, while the slot located beneath PCIe x1 slot 3 (M.2_2) supports cards up to 110mm in length. Both M.2 ports a keyed with an M-key slot devices with port M.2_1 supporting standard SSD, PCIe x2, and PCIe x4 type M.2 drives and port M.2_2 supporting PCIe x2 and x4 type M.2 drives only. Note that the port M.2_1 and the SATA slot 2 share bandwidth resulting in the SATA port being disabled with a SATA-type M.2 device seated in port M.2_1.

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The board has a total of four DIMM slots with Dual Channel memory mode active with modules in slots 1 / 3 or 2 / 4. The board supports up to 64GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 4133MHz. Note that memory speeds above 2667MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.

Directly below the memory port block are a USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, a 4-pin system fan header, a and the MEM OK! switch. To the upper right of the DIMM slots are the primary and secondary 4-pin CPU fan headers.The MemOK! switch can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options are set over-aggressively.

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The Intel Z390 chipset is covered by a low profile black chrome heat sink covered by a TUF branded plastic overlay. The TUF logo has an embedded RGB LED that can be configured via the UEFI or Windows Aura applet. In addition to the two PCIe x4 M.2 slots, the board features six SATA III ports, two in the port block directly below the chipset overlay and four sitting on the board surface to the left of the chipset. All SATA ports are usable in conjunction with a drive seated in either the M.2 port with one exception. If an M.2 SATA device sits in the M.2_1 port, SATA port 2 will be automatically disabled by the system.

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The board contains a total of six PCIe slots - three PCIe x16 slots and three PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x16 slots can be used in x16 / 0 / x2 or x8 / x8 / x2 modes. Notice that ASUS designed the primary PCIe x16 slot hold a triple slotted video card without impeding the secondary PCIe x16 slot. Also, the primary slot has been steel-reinforced to prevent damage to the slot when using video cards with larger coolers when used in a vertical mount orientation.

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Courtesy of ASUS

The board's integrated audio components are just above the PCIe ports. The audio subsystem lives on an isolated PCB to minimize line-noise and distortion caused by other integrated components. There are RGB LEDs integrated into the PCB separator line that runs along top of the board. These LEDs illuminate in accordance to the color scheme configured through the UEFI or the Windows Aura applet. To ensure balanced audio performance using headphones or external speakers, ASUS designed the audio subsystem with Realtek ALC1200 CODEC and premium Japanese-sourced Audio capacitors.

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ASUS integrated support for connecting RGB LED strips directly into the board using the RGB LED headers located in the lower left quadrant of the board. Connecting an RGB LED strip to the header synchronizes the LED strip color and activity with that of the motherboard's integrated LEDs. The board is shown with an external RGB strip connected to one the headers in the board's lower left quadrant (just above the outer SATA ports).

In addition to the two 4-pin RGB LED header, four SATA ports, the clear CMOS header, the front panel header, a 4-pin fan header, and the CPU overvoltage jumper are located in the lower left corner of the board (to the left of the chipset overlay).

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Along the upper and mid left side of the board are the front panel audio header, the COM port header, the trusted module port header, the USB 2.0 headers, and a USB 3.0 header.

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ASUS covered the rear panel assembly with a black plastic overlay to give those components some added protection. The TUF Z390 Pro Gaming motherboard contains the following integrated ports in its rear panel assembly: four USB 3.0 ports (blue), two USB 3.1 Type A 10Gbps ports (teal), an Intel I219-V GigE RJ-45 port, an S/PDIF digital audio output port, and five analogue audio output ports.

CPU Cooler Fit

To test the amount of space surrounding the CPU socket, we mounted the Noctua NH-D15 cooler to the CPU socket. This behemoth CPU air cooler sports a dual fan construction and two huge vertical cooling towers.

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When oriented in its default configuration with air blown towards the rear panel of the case, the Noctua cooler fits into the CPU socket area of the TUF Z390 Pro Gaming without issue. Further, the spacing between the CPU socket area and the primary PCIe x16 slot are sufficient to seat a video card with the cooler mounted.

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The Noctua hold down mechanism is large enough to qualify the socket space for use with the majority of mount methods included with a CPU cooler. The Noctua mount fits well to the CPU socket with no tight areas or contact points evident between it and the on board capacitors, chokes, or VRM heat sinks.

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The cooler's backplate rests on the socket backplate, minimizing the risk of direct board contact. Further, there is no circuitry around the socket which could impeded cooler back plates with a larger footprint.

Included Accessories

The TUF Z390 Pro Gaming motherboard comes with all the necessary components necessary to get the board up and running, as well as some other nice to have components giving the board added value.

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The TUF Z390 Pro Gaming package included the motherboard manual, driver DVD, and TUF-branded case stickers, and a coupon for 20% off of the purchase of CableMod power cables. The included manual gave an indepth description of the board components and setup as we've come to expect from ASUS.

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The board's rear panel shield is an aluminum plate containing a black plastic insert with the port identifying text and icons in white for easy identification. ASUS bundled in two black 6Gb/s rated SATA cables for use with the integrated port. The cables have integrated port locks and a mix of straight and 90 degree connectors. For multi-GPU use, ASUS included a single two-way NVIDIA SLI HB (high bandwidth) bridge connector. For use with the on-board front panel header, ASUS included one of their Q-Connector header plugs. You simply plug the front panel case leads into the Q-Connector, then plug the Q-Connector into the appropriate board header. It makes the installation of the front panel plugs much easier.

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