Since its introduction in 2017, AORUS motherboards have continuously brought stability and speed to gamers through innovative power and thermal design. The AORUS Z490 lineup is no exception. AORUS Z490 motherboards are designed to bring the most performance out of 10th generation Intel processors. We spoke to our designers and product managers in Taipei to better understand the “behind the scenes” process in creating premium motherboards.
We interviewed our product manager, Andy, to get some insights on the story of AORUS Z490 motherboards.
Howard: “Can you talk about AORUS Z490 motherboards and its place among other AORUS motherboards?”
Andy: “Z490, of course, will be a flagship platform because it is compatible with the latest 10th gen processor. The key thing we have for Z490 is “Soar to New Heights” because we also pushed the motherboard features to new heights - like the power design, thermal design, and memory design. We have done a lot of improvements on these 3 key things, which is important for users if they want to build a gaming system or do overclocking.”
“We have refined the power design, thermal designs, and extreme memory design. It’s not something from normal to good. It’s more like something from great to greatest. For power, AORUS is a brand that has always insisted on utilizing motherboard phases to the fullest, so you can still expect 16 phases on the Z490 AORUS XTREME. We make it even more perfect by deploying tantalum polymer capacitors, which have better transient response, into our power design to provide a more stable and speedy platform. We try to reach new heights on every aspect of the Z490 motherboard.”
Next we spoke to Rex, one of our I&D designers, to explore his team’s philosophy and inspiration behind the outlook of AORUS Z490 motherboards.
Howard: “Can you describe how the creative process works in the design team?”
Rex: “We want to create a world for AORUS. More specifically, what the art team is trying to build right now is a virtual world for AORUS. When they are composing ideas for this world, we will take reference to what is trending in movies, cosmetics, or even boutiques. Under a certain concept or framework, two or three ID designers will develop designs that they think are suitable for the AORUS world and will discuss how those ideas are innovative and trending on the market. We bring the ideas to the product managers and they will pick out ones that could be utilized in the actual product.”
“For market research, we continually monitor current tech trends and review potential benefits and disadvantages of those designs. For example, motherboard aesthetics have evolved to carry a more complete appearance, with more materials covering portions of the board that weren’t previously covered. When you have more surface area covered, it may have negative benefits on heat dissipation. How do we fit our products to current trends without any negative effects? We addressed that potential design flaw by envisioning the entire board as a giant heatsink, so we made sure to make those parts with metals, which would conduct heat better.While our inspirations are in aesthetics, we take functionality and utility into consideration as well.”
Howard: “What features do you look at first when designing an AORUS motherboard? How does a ‘gaming’ motherboard look like in your eyes?”
Rex: “We have four main series (AORUS, GIGABYTE Gaming, VISION, Ultra Durable) and for each series we will have a different approach in our designs. For AORUS motherboards, the design language is more exaggerated, the outlook will be more bold, and the lighting will be more sleek as these are styles that we usually see on premium motherboards.”
“It’s not always necessary to have a ‘gaming’ aesthetic, instead we try to give AORUS motherboards that luxurious feel. So we will refine every detail on an AORUS product to achieve this premium feel. For example, take the lettering design on the heatsink of the MASTER, we noticed there’s a trend in big lettering from premium sports brands.The lettering, numbering, and lines also reflect what we often see from movies or video games about virtual reality, where we could see static noise and distortion (Ready Player One or Cyberpunk). We refine those features to not only look like those trendy concepts, but we also polish it with our own unique AORUS touch.”
We spoke with another one of our product managers, Alex, to get a closer look at the motherboard spec choices.
Howard: “In your research, did you come across specific features that gamers are looking for?”
Alex: “Our main goal for 400 series AORUS motherboards is to give users the ability to achieve Intel’s claim scores and the capability to push it even higher. High CPU core speeds boost gaming performance, so our designs need to supply accurate and fast responsiveness on the Vcore. The Z490 AORUS MASTER uses a PWM doubler to create 14-ph 90A from 7 and because of the doubler, the two 90A SPS behind it are balanced to each other on current. This helps to increase stability and reduce excessive conversion heat in comparison with unbalanced teaming design. On the other hand, the Z490 AORUS ULTRA uses a direct 12-ph 50A power design, which gives a higher resolution to the Vcore demand. Any sudden CPU state change comes with a different current demand. The 12-ph can react fast and tune to the most optimal conversion duration. ON both models, the POSCAP (Conductive Polymer Tantalum Solid Capacitors) array applied further addresses small fluctuations which results in a very stable Vcore output.”
“DDR speed is another crucial point so we used a shielded routing technique to protect the high speed signals. This method uses two large ground planes on the top and bottom of the PCB. On the ground plane edge, we further implemented stitching vias which forms a reinforced metal cage to seal tight any possible radio interference that may hurt the DDR signals.”
Howard: “Can you talk more about why we chose to use the Tantalum Polymer Capacitor in our power design?
Alex: “These POSCAPS are not afraid of heat so they are very temperature stable. Capacitors will bury the currents according to the temperature rise and drop, but the POSCAPs do not react too much to the temperature, so it keeps a constant current flow. The art of using the POSCAP is that the total capacity is not as big as the EC capacitor (the big standing one). So the location where we place the POSCAPS is critical. You will notice that we put in an array, that is why we call it POSCAP arrays on the website. This started on the C621 AORUS XTREME, continued on the X299X, and finally this time we put it on the Z490.
The POSCAPs act when the CPU draws a tremendous amount of current and will supply the current draw. We have to have a fast response capacitor that is able to handle big currents. When you see the result of the Vcore, you will have a stable line with our motherboards. There’s very minimum overshoot, which means power delivery is more precise.”
Howard: “How are we assuring games will run smoothly, even on the highest settings?”
Alex: “Alex: Stable Vcore is not the only solution. Making the board stable relies on thermal design. We improved to Fins-Array to Fins-Array II by introducing a louvered fin design. Louvered fins could increase air molecular scrubbing which helps the air molecules absorb more heat to itself in the same amount of time by staying in touch with the aluminium fins. When using performance AIO the VRM surrounding area sometimes lacks airflow. Louvered fins open up a small window, giving the air some ventilating space as it travels through stacked fins freely especially since in most cases the motherboard is placed vertically.
“We made two improvements in the Direct-Touch II. First we increased the diameter from 6mm to 8mm. However, if the pipe’s total contact surface with the aluminium base is not also increased, there does not seem to be too much of a reason to increase the diameter. So we introduced a “forced fit” technique to precisely alter the aluminium extrusion opening of the base. As a result we were able to squeeze a 8mm heat pipe into a space that is really only about 7mm’s wide. This creates a very, very small gap for better heat transfer and we put the heatpipe all the way to the PRO model.”
“Just to add, the MASTER has a thermal base plate that helps take away the heat from the backside of the 90A SPS. On the ULTRA we used a NanoCarbon coating on the fins which increases passive heat radiation. We also work with LAIRD to get an extreme thermal conductivity PAD that rates up to 7.5W/mK and we made it in an exclusive “AORUS Performance” orange color.”
Howard: “Before we conclude, do you want to highlight any other features that gamers might appreciate?
Alex: “Something that may not be noticeable is the change we made to the M.2 Thermal Guard II. We have added a bottom heatsink to the M.2, which should further prevent thermal throttling. With increased M.2 capacities on the market now, users can feel more assured when you load and play games for a long duration from the M.2. Additionally, we have submitted our AORUS boards to JAS (Japan Audio Society) which means most of our AORUS motherboards (except the ELITE) on the back panel, the audio could take care of 20Hz to 40K, which is the requirement of the high-res audio. Lastly, we have included 2.5 GbE ethernet and Intel WIFI 6 on most of the AORUS lineup to provide users smoother video streaming, better gaming experience, fewer dropped connections.”