Asrock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 – User Review Hey Overclockers, Time for the second board in my Z490 ITX review line-up. I present to you the Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 by Asrock ready to support the 10th Generation Intel CPU’s. The Phantom Gaming ITX is positioned mid-tier in the Z490 lineup, featuring a 9 Phase VRM with active cooling, 90A Intersil mosfets, 4666+ Memory support, Intel Thunderbolt 3 Type C port, Intel WiFi 6 802.11ax and Realtek 2.5G LAN. It’s a bit of a surprise package for me in the way of performance, so let’s get down to the nitty gritty. In today’s review I aim to show you the product and my thoughts only. There will be a follow up post in future with performance comparisons between other ITX products in the Z490 line-up. Specifications • CPU Supports 10th Gen Intel® Core™ and Pentium® Gold / Celeron® processors • Chipset Intel® Z490 Chipset • Memory - Dual Channel DDR4 Memory Technology - 2 x DDR4 DIMM Slots - Supports DDR4 4666+(OC)* / 4600 / 4500 / 4400 / 4333/4266(OC) / 4133(OC) / 4000(OC) / 3866(OC) / 3800(OC) / 3733(OC) / 3600(OC) / 3200(OC) / 2933 / 2800 / 2666 / 2400 / 2133 non-ECC, un-buffered memory - Supports ECC UDIMM memory modules (operate in non-ECC mode) - Max. capacity of system memory: 64GB** - Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 2.0 - 15μ Gold Contact in DIMM Slots *Please refer to Memory Support List on ASRock's website for more information. Core™ (i9/i7) support DDR4 up to 2933; Core™ (i5/i3), Pentium® and Celeron® support DDR4 up to 2666. **Due to the operating system limitation, the actual memory size may be less than 4GB for the reservation for system usage under Windows® 32-bit OS. For Windows® 64-bit OS with 64-bit CPU, there is no such limitation. • Expansion Slots 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot 15μ Gold Contact in VGA PCIe Slot (PCIE1) • Onboard Graphics - Hardware Accelerated Codecs: AVC/H.264, HEVC/H.265 8bit, HEVC/H.265 10bit, VP8, VP9 8bit, VP9 10bit, MPEG 2, MJPEG, VC-1* - Graphics, Media & Compute: Microsoft® DirectX 12, OpenGL 4.5, Intel® Built In Visuals, Intel® Quick Sync Video, Hybrid / Switchable Graphics, OpenCL 2.1 - Display & Content Security: Rec. 2020 (Wide Color Gamut), Microsoft® PlayReady 3.0, Intel® SGX Content Protection, UHD/HDR Blu-ray Disc - Three graphics output options: HDMI, DisplayPort 1.4 and Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 - Supports Triple Monitor - Supports Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2304) @ 60Hz - Supports HDMI 2.0 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2160) @ 60Hz - Supports DisplayPort 1.4 with max. resolution up to 4K x 2K (4096x2304) @ 60Hz - Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI 2.0 Port (Compliant HDMI monitor is required) - Supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) with HDMI 2.0 - Supports HDCP 2.3 with HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 - Supports 4K Ultra HD (UHD) playback with HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and Intel® Thunderbolt™ 3 *Intel® UHD Graphics Built-in Visuals and the graphics outputs can be supported only with processors with integrated GPU. **VP9 10bit and VC-1 are for decode only. VP8 and VP9 encode are not supported by Windows® OS. • THUNDERBOLT™ 3 Intel® JHL7540 Thunderbolt™ 3 Controller 1x Thunderbolt™ 3 [USB Type-C] port on the back panel • Storage - 4 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 17), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug* - 1 x Ultra M.2 Socket (M2_1), supports M Key type 2280 M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s)** - 1 x Ultra M.2 Socket (M2_2), supports M Key type 2260/2280 M.2 SATA3 6.0 Gb/s module and M.2 PCI Express module up to Gen3 x4 (32 Gb/s)** *If M2_1 is occupied by a SATA-type M.2 device, SATA_1 will be disabled. **Supports Intel® Optane™ Technology Supports NVMe SSD as boot disks • Connector - 1 x Chassis Intrusion Header - 1 x RGB LED Header* - 1 x Addressable LED Header** - 1 x CPU Fan Connector (4-pin)*** - 1 x CPU/Water Pump Fan Connector (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control)**** - 1 x Chassis Fan Connector (4-pin) (Smart Fan Speed Control) - 1 x 24 pin ATX Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector) - 1 x 8 pin 12V Power Connector (Hi-Density Power Connector) - 1 x Front Panel Audio Connector (15μ Gold Audio Connector) - 1 x USB 2.0 Headers (Support 2 USB 2.0 port) (Supports ESD Protection) - 1 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Header (Supports 2 USB 3.2 Gen1 ports) (Supports ESD Protection) *Supports in total up to 12V/3A, 36W LED Strip **Supports in total up to 5V/3A, 15W LED Strip ***The CPU Fan Connector supports the CPU fan of maximum 1A (12W) fan power. ****CPU_OPT/W_PUMP can auto detect if 3-pin or 4-pin fan is in use. • Audio - 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec) - Premium Blu-ray Audio support - Supports Surge Protection - 120dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier - NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier for Front Panel Audio Connector (Supports up to 600 Ohm headsets) - Pure Power-In - Direct Drive Technology - PCB Isolate Shielding - Impedance Sensing on Rear Out port - Individual PCB Layers for R/L Audio Channel - Gold Audio Jacks - 15μ Gold Audio Connector - Nahimic Audio • LAN - 2.5 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000/2500 Mb/s - Dragon RTL8125BG - Supports Phantom Gaming LAN Software - 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 - Supports Wake-On-LAN - Supports Lightning/ESD Protection - Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az - Supports PXE • Wireless LAN & Bluetooth - Intel® 802.11ax WiFi Module - Supports IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ax - Supports Dual-Band (2.4/5 GHz) - Supports WiFi6 802.11ax (2.4Gbps) - 2 antennas to support 2 (Transmit) x 2 (Receive) diversity technology - Supports Bluetooth 5.1 + High speed class II - Supports MU-MIMO • Back Panel Connectors - 2 x Antenna Ports - 1 x HDMI Port - 1 x DisplayPort 1.4 - 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port - 3 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Ports (10 Gb/s) (Supports ESD Protection) - 1 x USB 3.2 Gen2 Thunderbolt™ 3 Type-C Port (40Gb/s for Thunderbolt™ protocol; 10 Gb/s for USB3.2 protocol) (Supports ESD Protection)* - 2 x USB 3.2 Gen1 Ports (Supports ESD Protection) - 1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED) - 1 x Clear CMOS Button - HD Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone (Gold Audio Jacks) *Supports USB PD 2.0 charging up to 5V@3A (15W) • Dimensions 6.7 in. x 6.7 in. [17.0 cm x 17.0 cm] 8 Layer PCB 2oz Copper PCB Mini-ITX Form Factor Photo’s The Asrock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 comes well packaged in a deep rectangular package. Opening the 18.6cm wide x 23.2cm long x 11.5cm high package, the motherboard is provided in an anti-static bag for protection. Extras provided from Asrock include a Quick Installation Guide, Software Setup Guide, M.2 Screws, 2x SATA cables, Post Card, driver DVD, case badge, Velcro cable ties and Wi-Fi Antenna. Sometimes I’m not sure who comes up with the idea of what to include, but a post card I feel is just a bit pointless. Onto the motherboard now, Asrock have gone with a Grey/Black themed gaming look. The board is very compact, utilising a riser card for extra SATA connections, RGB header and NVMe M.2 positioning. Heatsinks are linked between the CPU/IO, chipset and drive riser card via heatpipe to increase the cooling surface area. The only hint of RGB available is on the lower edge on the backside providing a light glow, unfortunately to be hidden by the installation of any GPU in the lower PCIe slot. The rear IO continues the accent theme on the integrated IO Shield. Ample connectors are provided including HDMI, Displayport, Wi-Fi antenna connectors, 5 audio ports plus optical audio, Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port, Realtek 2.5G LAN, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1, PS2 KB/Mouse, 3x USB3.2 Gen 2 and finally the clear CMOS button. Like the other ITX motherboards available in the line-up, power is supplied through a single 8pin EPS located at the top corner of the motherboard, providing up to 235W continuous feed to the CPU. Opposite the separate actively cooled anodized grey aluminium heatsink is the first addressable RGB header plus the CPU fan header and dedicated AIO pump headers. The side of the motherboard we have the 24pin ATX power connector, 2x SATA connectors, front panel USB3.2 Gen 1 connector, a second RGB LED connector, system panel header and TPM module connector. Like the MSI Z490i Unify, I feel the TPM position is in a really bad position provided with the PCI-E slot clip inhibiting the access. Given the available real estate, 2x DIMM slots are provided like most ITX boards supporting what Asrock claims up to 4666+ MHz with the right combination of Memory IC and CPU IMC. It also supports up to 64GB RAM. Onto the bottom edge we have the Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec. Directly beside the audio headers is the front panel connectors which can be awkward to access in smaller areas especially if the GPU is installed first. USB 2.0 front panel connector is squeezed in to the right of the front panel connectors and labelled for clarity. The reinforced PCIe 4.0 expansion slot supports operation at x16, but Asrock have also provided support for PCIe bifurcation to split into x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4. Asrock provide a riser board that utilises a SO-DIMM slot for the first M.2 Slot, 2 extra SATA Ports, front panel USB 2.0 connector and speaker connector as well as a chassis intrusion header. Removal is as simple as unscrewing 2 screws on the integrated aluminium heatsink and popping the clips free. On the edge, Asrock has also included a Post Status Checker LED’s for diagnosing boot issues between CPU, DRAM, VGA or Bios. I did find these screws really hard to get to for the removal, so make sure you have a nice ling shaft and magnetised end to make it easier. The second M.2 slot is located on the back side of the motherboard in a much easier position to access. Sneaking in the bottom of the photo, we can see the 3 LED’s providing all of the motherboard’s on-board RGB lighting. All RGB lighting able to be controlled by Asrock’s Polychrome RGB software. Removing the remainder of the 230g of heatsinks we are left with the bare board to be inspected. The heatsink is of an aluminium construction with active cooling via a small integrated ran above the I/O with heatpipe connecting the IO heatsink to the PCH/M.2 sinks. The top VRM sink is separated from the rest of the heatsinks, with an additional small fan for active cooling when needed. The heatsinks do an adequate job of cooling the 90A mosfets under heavy load from the 10 core processors. Into the business end, Asrock have included an 6+2+1 phase VRM design on the Phantom Gaming ITX/TB3. Removing the heatsinks, we are confronted by a total of 6x ISL99390 90AMP mosfets and 3x ISL99227 60AMP mosfets. From what I can tell, 6 full phases feed the 10th GEN Intel CPU rails, 3 Phases for the SOC and IO I believe. All of these phases being controlled by the ISL69269 regulator more than capable of powering the 10 core CPU’s on offer currently. Finally, with the I/O cover removed we can see the Intel AX201NGW Wi-Fi 6 module. No special branding to be seen here, just a solid communication module doing its thing. Unlike other boards tested though, this one does need antenna connected for a signal. Final Thoughts Alright, there we have it people. Asrock have again come to the market with a pretty solid little board here. In the 2 weeks I had it setup in my daily for testing, it proved to have very nice memory performance for 2D work and a more than capable VRM to handle the 10 core i9 10900K at a nicely overclocked frequency. Board layout was pretty east to get around, with most header in pretty well positioned locations. The only connections proving difficult for my semi fat fingers being the HD Audio connector squished in the corner near the bottom of the I/O heatsink and the front panel switches which were a pain if you had the RAM installed or FAN headers first. The VRM circuitry is ample to take on the thirsty i9 10900K. As we know, the ITX form factory isn’t super conducive to a large VRM system, but with 6x 90A CPU phases plus 2x 60A for the SOC there is plenty of headroom to handle what these CPU’s need fed. VRM heatsink temps were higher than some others I have checked, reading over 60 degrees with a temperature probe when installed in the chassis which is more than within spec for the Mosfets. Asrock have got a lot of their memory systems quite well tuned these days. The Phantom Gaming- ITX/TB3 wasn’t able to hit the same frequency as the other boards, but, was more than able to keep up when it came to memory latency even with up to a 200mhz speed handicap. The limit for me on my particular set of G.Skill TridentZ Royal 4000C17 sticks topped at 4400C17-17 for a nice daily setup. The main contributing factor being the Asrock BIOS engineers auto tuning the sub timings well, but also correctly setting the often forgotten about RTL and IOL settings. Benchmark performance was surprising with some pretty good 2D performance. 3D performance though was a bit behind. I spent a bit of time to troubleshoot why, but seems to be something amiss in the setup. You can check the results against the other boards in my round-up post (Coming Soon). Bios layout and feel is very Asrock. The menu’s are simple to navigate and most settings names are easily recognised. Asrock as their Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 naming suggests, provided a Thunderbolt 3 controller on their offering. It’s a welcome addition given the space constraints in an ITX form factor and given the uses, many people will be wanting that ability to connect their super-fast external USB drives, 10Gbe network or even external dock stations. We have a full featured Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec, the same as all other boards in this generation. There is a lot less emphasis on the audio from Asrock on this board though, lacking some extra capacitance and physical PCB isolation, but for most people there is no loss in quality or noise. For the overclockers, the Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 isn’t going to be the strongest for pushing past where most enthusiasts will go. Basic setup was fairly simple, but with the 10900K, there was times it would power throttle even at stock due to utilising the stock TDP limit. A couple of quick setting changes alleviated the problem allowing it the headroom to overclock in line with competitors boards. Voltages are quite limited and I found that setting over 1.5V VDIMM would result in failed boots. Perfect for those wanting to gain that little extra in a daily gamer/stream PC outside of this, capable of holding my ES i9 10900K at 5.2G for non-AVX workloads and 5.1G for heavier AVX based rendering tasks. It’s understandable on an ITX board that there needs to be limits, but many people look to use the ITX variants for their higher memory frequency abilities and this just hampered the experience for me. Pros Memory Latency 10 Layer PCB 2D performance Layout is very easy to get around. 90A VRM with active heatsinks Cons Memory speed lacking on Samsung B-Die ram (4400mhz limit) Front panel connector position Voltage limitations On-Board LED position is odd and just can’t be seen Price is around the $420-480AUD mark making it a very competitively priced performance motherboard to rival the larger ATX varieties in some circumstances.