Gigabyte’s range of motherboards based on the Intel Z390 Express is represented by fifteen models at once: from the budget Z390 UD to the uncompromising Aorus Xtreme Waterforce 5G. The backbone of this set is made up of Aorus series boards, and for less demanding and wealthy players, three Gaming series boards are offered. The Gigabyte Z390 Designare board stands apart, representing a compromise between functionality and cost.
At first, it was not at all clear to us why they should release Designare, if there is already an Aorus Master close to it in terms of capabilities and cost. But upon closer examination, it turns out that these are still different boards, so there is definitely a point in studying and testing Designare. In addition, the board gave us a pleasant surprise. We will tell you about all this in today’s material.
⇡#Specifications and cost
|Supported processors||Intel Core i9 / Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron processors
performed by LGA1151 of the eighth and ninth generation of the Core microarchitecture
|Chipset||Intel Z390 Express|
|Memory Subsystem||4 × DIMM DDR4 unbuffered memory up to 128 GB;
dual-channel memory mode;
support for modules with frequency 4266(OC)/4133(OC)/4000(OC)/3866(OC)/3800(OC)/
support for 1Rx8/2Rx8 DIMMs without ECC and buffering (operate in non-ECC mode);
support for non-ECC DIMMs without buffering 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx16;
support for Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile)
|GUI||The integrated graphics core of the processor allows the use of HDMI version 1.4 and Display Port version 1.2 ports (input only);
Intel Thunderbolt™ 3 controller;
resolutions up to and including 4K (4096 × 2304 at 60 Hz) are supported;
the maximum amount of shared memory is 1 GB
|Connectors for expansion cards||3 PCI Express x16 3.0 slots, x16, x8/x8, x8/x4/x4 operating modes;
2 x PCI Express x1, Gen 3
|Video subsystem scalability||NVIDIA 2-way SLI Technology;
AMD 2-way/3-way CrossFireX Technology
|Drive interfaces||Chipset Intel Z390 Express:
– 6 × SATA 3, throughput up to 6 Gb / s;
– support for RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10, Intel Rapid Storage, Intel Smart Connect Technology and Intel Smart Response, NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug;
– 2 × M.2, each with a throughput of up to 32 Gb / s (both connectors support SATA and PCI Express drives from 42 to 110 mm long);
— support for Intel Optane Memory technology
|2 gigabit network controllers: Intel I219-V (10/100/1000 Mbit) and Intel I211-AT;
Intel CNVi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 Wave 2 Wireless Controller: 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, support for Bluetooth 5, 11ac wireless standard (160MHz band, bandwidth up to 1.73 Gbps)
|Audio subsystem||Realtek ALC1220-VB shielded 7.1-channel HD audio codec;
the signal-to-noise ratio at the linear audio output is 114 dB, and at the linear input — 110 dB;
audio capacitors Nichicon fine gold (7 pcs.) and WIMA (4 pcs.);
USB DAC-UP 2 support;
PCB-isolated sound card
|USB interface||Chipset Intel Z390 Express:
– 4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (2 on the rear panel, 2 connected to connectors on the system board);
– 6 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (4 on the rear panel, 2 connected to the connectors on the motherboard);
– 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (on the back of the board, Type-A);
– 1 USB 3.1 Gen 2 port (connects to a connector on the system board).
Intel Z390 Express Chipset + Intel Thunderbolt 3 Controller:
– 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (on the back of the board, both Type-C)
|Connectors and buttons on the rear panel||Two USB 2.0/1.1 ports and PS/2 combo port;
HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs;
two connectors for antennas of the wireless communication module (2T2R);
two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports and two USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C ports;
two USB DAC-UP 2 ports and an RJ-45 network LAN socket;
two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports and an RJ-45 network LAN socket;
1 optical output S/PDIF-interface;
5 3.5mm audio jacks
|Internal connectors on textolite||24-pin ATX power connector;
8-pin ATX 12V power connector;
4-pin ATX 12V power connector;
6-pin OC PEG power connector;
4-pin CPU fan header with PWM support;
4-pin connector for the SJO pump;
3 4-pin headers for case fans with PWM support;
connector for connecting RGB LED-lines;
a group of connectors for the front panel;
front panel audio jack;
USB 2.0/1.1 connector for connecting 2 ports;
USB 3.1 Gen 1 connector for connecting 2 ports;
USB 3.1 Gen 2 connector for connecting 1 Type-C port;
Clear CMOS jumper;
|BIOS||2 × 128 Mbit AMI UEFI BIOS with multilingual interface and graphical shell;
support for DualBIOS technology;
ACPI 5.0 compliant;
PnP 1.0a support;
support for SM BIOS 2.7;
DMI 2.7 support;
WfM 2.0 support
|I/O controller||iTE I/O Controller Chip IT8688E|
|Proprietary functions, technologies and features||APP Center:
– 3D OSD;
– Ambient LED;
– Auto Green;
– Cloud Station;
– Easy Tunes;
– Easy RAID;
– Fast Boot;
– Game Boost;
– Platform Power Management;
– RGB Fusion;
– Smart Backup;
– Smart Keyboard;
– Smart Time Lock;
– Smart HUD;
– System Information Viewer;
– Smart Survey;
– USB Blocker;
– USB DAC-UP 2;
|Form factor, dimensions (mm)||ATX, 305×244|
|Operating system support||Windows 10 x64|
|Guarantee manufactureryears old||3|
|minimum retail price, ₽||18 500|
⇡#Packaging and equipment
The box that comes with the Gigabyte Z390 Designare has its own exclusive style. You will not find another such package in the series of motherboards based on Intel Z390 from Gigabyte. Clearly, since the board is special, then the packaging for it should be unusual. It looks stylish and provides the user with comprehensive information about the product.
In the main box, the board is placed on an additional cardboard pallet and sealed in an antistatic bag. Under this tray are two compartments for accessories. In the first one, you can find two pairs of SATA cables, a cable for the Thunderbolt 3 interface, an antenna for a wireless communication module, screws for fixing drives in M.2 ports, and a block for conveniently connecting cables from the front panel of the case to the board.
In addition, the board’s package includes complete and brief operating instructions, a guide to installing video cards, and a disk with drivers and utilities.
The board’s country of manufacture is Taiwan (the company has two factories there). The cost of Gigabyte Z390 Designare in Russian stores starts from $18.00. The board comes with a proprietary three-year warranty.
⇡#Design and features
The design of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is made in calm and restrained colors. A plastic casing and radiators are fixed on an almost black textolite.
The latter are made in a single «chopped» style and make the board visually interesting and modern. The name of the board model is printed on the chipset heatsink and is highlighted.
The dimensions of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare are 305 × 244 mm, the standard is ATX. Features of the components of the new motherboard are shown in the following diagram.
For a more detailed acquaintance with them, we will also give the circuit board from the instruction manual.
The interface panel plate is built-in here, and due to the abundance of connectors, there is practically no free space left on it.
It has two antenna connectors for the wireless communication module, ten different types of USB ports, a combined PS / 2 port, HDMI and Display Port video outputs, two RJ-45 network jacks, an optical output and five audio connectors.
Like the Gigabyte Aorus series, the Designare PCB uses double-thickness copper layers, and a double-sized copper substrate is used in the CPU power circuit area, due to which increased stability and more comfortable temperature conditions of the components are achieved. All this is included in the proprietary Ultra Durable concept.
The LGA1151-v2 processor socket does not have any features, and any eighth and ninth generation Intel processors of the Core microarchitecture can be installed in it.
The power supply system on the board is implemented according to the 12 + 1 scheme and consists of DrMOS assemblies. Twelve components are based on SiC634 (50A) elements manufactured by Vishay Intertechnology, and another phase dedicated to the graphics core built into the processor is based on SiC620A (60 A).
Intersil ISL6617 doublers are soldered on the reverse side. Power management is implemented by the Intersil ISL69138 PWM controller.
That is, in general, we can say that the Gigabyte Z390 Designare received a very powerful processor power system, although the board is not positioned as an overclocking device.
Power to the board and its components is supplied through three connectors with 24 and 8 + 4 pins.
All connectors are equipped with high-density needles, but only the eight-pin power connector received a metallized sheath.
The Intel Z390 chipset die on the Gigabyte board contacts its heatsink via a thermal pad. I know that some users replace these thermal pads on chipsets with thermal paste, but in this case it is pointless.
The board has four DIMM slots for DDR4 RAM. All of them have an Ultra Durable Memory Armor stainless steel shell, which not only strengthens these connectors mechanically, but also protects the contacts in them from electromagnetic interference.
The total amount of RAM installed in the Gigabyte Z390 Designare can reach an impressive 128 gigabytes. The maximum supported frequency is declared at 4266 MHz, but you can select higher values in the board’s BIOS, if such memory were available. Supports XMP profiles and a huge list of manufactured modules and sets of them. Let’s add here that the memory power system is dual-channel.
Gigabyte Z390 Designare is equipped with five PCI-Express slots. Three of them are made in x16 design and have an Ultra Durable PCIe Shield metal shell, which strengthens them by 1.7 times for breaking and 3.2 times for pulling out.
The first slot is connected to the processor and can provide the video card with all 16 PCI-Express lanes. The second and third slots can only work in x8 and x4 modes, respectively, so NVIDIA 2-way SLI or AMD 2-way / 3-way CrossFireX is supported from multiprocessor graphics technologies. The ASM1480 multiplexers manufactured by ASMedia are responsible for switching the operating modes of the slots.
We add that Designare has two PCI Express x1 slots with closed ends for expansion cards.
The board is equipped with six standard SATA ports with a bandwidth of up to 6 Gb / s, which are implemented with the capabilities of the Intel Z390 system logic set and soldered in a horizontal orientation.
To the left of them you can see a six-pin power connector, which is recommended to be used when using three video cards on the board.
Unlike the flagship boards in the Aorus series, the Z390 Designare has only two, not three, M.2 ports with up to 32Gbps of bandwidth. On the other hand, drives up to 110 mm long (22110) with both PCI-E and SATA interfaces can be installed in each port.
Both ports are equipped with Thermal Guard heatsink plates with thermal pads, which eliminate the effects of SSD throttling under prolonged loads.
Unfortunately, the limitations of the Intel Z390 system logic set will not allow using all ports for drives at the same time. The drive sharing capabilities of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare board are summarized in the following two tables.
As you can see, if PCI-Express drives are installed in both M.2 ports at once, then the SATA3 0, SATA3 4 and SATA3 5 ports will be disabled by hardware. However, the three remaining SATA3 ports, in our opinion, are quite enough for any working or game station. Although, in future chipsets, Intel would like to no longer face such restrictions.
The total number of USB ports on the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is 15. 10 ports are immediately displayed on the rear panel, including two USB 2.0, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 and four USB 3.1 Gen 2. Internal ports are represented by a pair of USB 2.0, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 and one USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C for the front panel of the system unit case.
All USB ports are implemented with the capabilities of the Intel Z390 chipset and the Realtek RTS5411 hub.
A distinctive feature of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare is the presence of a Thunderbolt 3 interface with a bandwidth of 40 Gb / s. It is implemented by the Intel JHL7540 controller chip.
Using two TPS65983BA chips manufactured by Texas Instruments and a short adapter cable included in the kit, this controller organizes the video signal output from the video card to USB 3.1 Type C ports with a resolution of up to 4K.
Gigabyte Z390 Designare was equipped with two wired network controllers at once: gigabit Intel I219-V and I211-AT with support for cFosSpeed technology.
In addition to them, the board has an Intel Wireless-AC 9560 controller with support for 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5 wireless interfaces.
The controller supports frequencies of 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz and the communication standard 2 × 2 802.11ac Wave 2, when the network bandwidth can reach 1.73 Gbps in the 160 MHz band.
The board’s audio path is based on the Realtek ALC1220-VB 7.1-channel HD codec, shielded with a metal cover.
He is accompanied by two types of Japanese-made audiophile capacitors: Nichicon Fine Gold (7 pcs.) And WIMA FKP2 (4 pcs.).
In addition, the audio zone is isolated from other elements on the textolite with non-conductive strips, and the left and right channels are separated in different layers of the textolite. However, unlike the older boards in the Aorus series, Designare does not have an ESS SABER DAC and gold-plated audio jacks.
The Super I/O and monitoring functions on the board are implemented by the IT8688E controller.
Monitoring and fan control options on the Gigabyte Z390 Designare are relatively modest: only 5 PWM fan connectors and 6 temperature sensors.
There is no POST code indicator on the board; its role is partially played by four CPU/DRAM/VGA/BOOT LEDs in the lower right corner of the PCB.
The area of the casing of the interface panel, the delimiting strips of the audio path and the chipset heatsink are endowed with illumination.
To connect LED backlight strips, there is only one connector without addressing with a power of up to 2A. The length of the tape should not exceed 2 meters. Adjusting the color of the backlight and its modes of operation is available both through the BIOS and through the Gigabyte RGB Fusion application.
Gigabyte Z390 Designare received two 128-bit BIOS chips.
The technology of automatic recovery of a damaged chip from a backup is supported — DualBIOS.
From the connectors on the lower edge of the board’s textolite, it is hardly possible to note anything special.
Despite the fact that the board is not positioned as an overclocker, its cooling system is quite well thought out. The VRM circuits have two aluminum heatsinks connected by a 6mm heat pipe, and the chipset is cooled by a large flat heatsink.
We have already mentioned the heatsink plates for drives in M.2 ports above. Let’s add that in the process of getting acquainted with the Gigabyte Z390 Designare, we did not reveal even frivolous shortcomings in terms of quality or layout. Everything is convenient, thoughtful and reliable. Now let’s move on to its software component.
⇡ # Opportunities UEFI BIOS
At the time of writing the Gigabyte Z390 Designare article, the latest BIOS version available was F6 on March 15, 2019. We tested this board on it. Starting the shell in EZ Mode is already familiar to all new Gigabyte boards. Fortunately, there is a setting in the BIOS that allows you to set advanced mode as the default choice, which we recommend doing.
The design of the BIOS of the Designare board is no different from what we have seen in the Aorus series boards. It is a complete copy of the shell of Aorus boards and contains seven main sections.
We have studied all this repeatedly, so we will focus only on the key points, and at the same time, we will immediately present the settings that we used during overclocking in the screenshots.
Note that the board supports eight levels of voltage stabilization on the processor core (LLC).
As for the stresses themselves, we will list them in the following table with the limits of change and step.
|Voltage||Minimum value, V||Maximum value, V||Step|
|CPU System Agent||0.800||1,500||0.010|
As you can see, the set is more than exhaustive, especially considering the fact that the board is not positioned by the manufacturer as an overclocker.
Each of the five fans connected to the board can be configured individually by voltage or PWM according to the temperature-rpm curve using the built-in Smart Fan 5 utility. At the same time, a convenient function is provided when the curve is configured for only one fan (for example, a processor fan), but a given the algorithm is used for all other fans.
As usual, when you exit the BIOS, all the changes made during its setup are displayed. We have no complaints about the work of the shell of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare board.
⇡ # Overclocking and stability
The stability, overclocking potential and performance of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare motherboard was tested in a closed case of the system unit at a room temperature of about 25 degrees Celsius. The test stand configuration consisted of the following components:
- motherboard: Gigabyte Z390 Designare (Intel Z390 Express, LGA1151-v2, BIOS F6 from 03/15/2019);
- Processor: Intel Core i7-8700K 3.7-4.7GHz (Coffee Lake, 14++nm, U0, 6×256KB L2, 12MB L3, TDP 95W);
- CPU cooling system: Noctua NH-D15 (two 140 mm Noctua NF-A15 fans at 840–1550 rpm);
- thermal interface: ARCTIC MX-4;
- graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Ti 8GB/256bit 1607-1683(1823)/8008MHz;
- RAM: DDR4 2×8 GB GeIL Super Luce RGB (GLS416GB3000C16ADC), XMP 3000 MHz 16-18-18-36 CR2 @ 1.35V;
- system storage: Intel SSD 730 480 GB (SATA III, BIOS vL2010400);
- disc for programs and games: Western Digital VelociRaptor 300 GB (SATA II, 10000 rpm, 16 MB, NCQ);
- backup drive: Samsung Ecogreen F4 HD204UI 2 TB (SATA II, 5400 rpm, 32 MB, NCQ);
- sound card: Auzen X-Fi HomeTheater HD;
- case: Thermaltake Core X71 (six be quiet! Silent Wings 2 [BL063] at 900 rpm, three — for blowing, three — for blowing out);
- control and monitoring panel: Zalman ZM-MFC3;
- PSU: Corsair AX1500i Digital ATX (1.5kW, 80 Plus Titanium), 140mm fan.
Testing was carried out under the operating system Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (1809 17763.379) with the following drivers installed:
We tested the stability of the system during overclocking with the Prime95 29.4 build 8 stress utility and other benchmarks, and monitoring was carried out using HWiNFO64 version 6.03-3710.
Before testing, we present the characteristics of the board from the AIDA64 Extreme utility.
Motherboards of all well-known manufacturers based on the Intel Z390 chipset work quite correctly with automatic BIOS settings, without increasing the core voltage and without overheating the processor, as was the case on individual models with the Intel Z270 and almost all motherboards with the Intel Z170. The Gigabyte Z390 Designare was no exception, launching and running on automatic BIOS settings for which is not a problem.
The processor ran at frequencies from 4.3 to 4.7 GHz, and its voltage varied from 0.660 to 1.308 V, but stabilized at 1.116 V under load. As a result, the processor temperatures under Prime95 were at relatively low values (65 degrees Celsius at peak load ), and the supercooler fans didn’t even spin at full speed.
The temperature of the elements of the VRM circuits did not exceed 59 degrees Celsius, that is, while in the nominal mode of operation, the radiators on the VRM circuits work out their task perfectly. Let’s see what happens in the run.
This copy of the Intel Core i7-8700K processor was previously tested by me on three Gigabyte Z390 Aorus boards: Master, Pro and Extreme. Therefore, the main overclocking parameters were already known, which significantly reduced the time to search for stable frequencies and voltages. At first, the board was able to confidently provide the processor with stability at 4.9 GHz at 1.245 V and LLC Turbo.
Surprisingly, under the same conditions and identical test configuration on Designare, the processor ran at lower temperatures — only 82 degrees Celsius on the hottest core. The maximum temperature of the VRM circuits, according to the built-in sensor of the board, did not exceed 66 degrees Celsius.
This is already a very good result, but since we have such a margin for temperatures, why not try 5.0 GHz? No sooner said than done, though it was necessary to increase the voltage to 1.315 V at the same level of stabilization.
At the same time, we observed processor temperatures about 4-5 degrees Celsius lower than on the Gigabyte Aorus Z390 Xtreme board. Therefore, we can say that, despite the non-overclocker status, the new Gigabyte Z390 Designare is ready to squeeze out of the processor no less than the Aorus series boards, including the three times more expensive Xtreme version. We add that the VRM circuits with such overclocking warmed up to only 70 degrees Celsius. Of course, if you use a hotter Intel Core i9-9900K, then the VRM temperatures will be higher, but even if they grow by 15-20 degrees Celsius, then this is more than enough for both nominal operation and overclocking.
In conclusion, we note that the dual-channel GeIL Super Luce RGB kit with a nominal frequency of 3.0 GHz on this board worked stably at 3.2 GHz (3.333 GHz — without stability), however, we chose the option with overclocking to 3.1 GHz, but with more aggressive timings. The final result is shown in the screenshot.
A week before the Gigabyte Z390 Designare tests, I happened to retest the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master board, on which the processor was overclocked to the same 5.0 GHz, and all other overclocking parameters, including the Uncore frequency (4.7 GHz), a minus multiplier for AVX instructions (3) and RAM sub-timings were identical to the Designare overclocking settings. Interestingly, these two boards cost the same, but the Aorus Master is positioned as a gaming and overclocker, and Designare is a self-contained workstation platform. In other words, Aorus Master at least had no right to yield to Designare in terms of performance, but in reality everything turned out a little differently. Let’s look at the results.
The performance of identical configurations on these two boards was equal in operations with RAM, tests HWBOT x265, EZ CD Audio Converter, three rendering programs and 3DMark. However, in the WinRAR and 7-Zip archivers, the modest Gigabyte Z390 Designare won convincing victories, so we can say that in terms of performance it is in no way inferior to the aggressive Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master.
Summing up the review and testing of the Gigabyte Z390 Designare, in our opinion, firstaboutLet’s summarize how it differs from the Aorus series, the Master/Ultra models, which are offered for almost the same price. Let’s list them:
- Intel Thunderbolt 3 controller;
- two wired Intel GbE LAN controllers versus one;
- two M.2 ports for drives versus three;
- four USB 2.0 versus six;
- no ESS SABER 9118 DAC in the audio path (only in comparison with the Master) and gold-plated connectors;
- no functional controls for overclocking;
- fewer connectors for fans and thermal sensors (5/6 versus 8/10, respectively).
As you can see, there are both pros and cons. But first of all, you need to understand here that Designare is a board primarily for creating a productive workstation, while Aorus Master/Ultra are designed primarily for gaming systems and overclocking. At the same time, Designare is not inferior to them in terms of the power of the power supply circuit of the processor and, as we have seen today, it overclocks processors just as well, including efficient cooling of VRM elements.
Of the shortcomings, we can only note the absence of the POST code indicator — nevertheless, it is much more informative than four LEDs. Otherwise, the Gigabyte Z390 Designare left an extremely positive impression.