ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Motherboard Review

Quickly to the right hardware equipment …

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Layout, Design and Features
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend RGB lighting
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Voltage Regulator and Heat Sink
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Equipment
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Expansion cards
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Memory
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Hard disk drive connectors
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend USB and Firewire
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Network
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Sound
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend ATX back panel connectors
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend PC System

Layout, Design and Features …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend High Density Fiber Optic Sapphire Black PCB board in black/grey/white camouflage look is perfectly manufactured and makes a high-quality impression. The motherboard has premium 60A power chokes, 11 power phase design with 8+4 pin 12V power and 7.1 HD audio via the ALC1200.

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend offers one M.2 2230 slot for WIFI/BT and three fast Ultra M.2 slots for PCIe Gen3 x4 modules with up to 32 Gb/s connection. On the following picture you can see the PCIe 3.0 Steel slot and the M.2 slots, where even two M.2 sockets are equipped with a heat sink each. The lower Ultra M.2 slot shares the cooler with the Z490 chipset. We tested the Z490 Steel Legend with a Crucial P2 500GB M.2 NVMe SSD, as you can see here with the M.2 coolers (the so-called M.2 Armors) removed.

Depending on the CPU even up to PCIe Gen4 x4 with up to 64 Gb/s connection will be supported. ASRock calls this socket Hyper M.2 instead of Ultra M.2!

RGB lighting …

As soon as you remove the chipset cooler including the M.2 cooler, another special feature is immediately noticeable and that are the five small SMD RGB LEDs, which were placed under the cooler like on the H470 Steel Legend and the B460 Steel Legend. This brings us to the RGB lighting of the ASRock Steel Legend motherboard.

Tip: Talking about LED, there is no 7-segment Dr. Debug Post Code display on this motherboard, but at least the four LEDs that serve as status indicators (PSC – Post Status Checker). These PSC LEDs light up one after the other after the PC is switched on and if one LED stays on all the time, this is probably where the malfunction is.

RGB lighting has already become a selling point for many of us and ASRock has also done a lot for this. You can connect conventional 5050 RGB stripes to the white 4-pin 12V RGB header, for example to illuminate the case. Additionally, there is a grey polychrome RGB connector, which supports individually addressable LEDs on addressable RGB stripes via the WS2812B. There is also an RGB and an aRGB header in the upper corner near the CPU cooler connector.

In addition ASRock has installed on this ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard a lot, to be exact eleven, more aRGB LEDs on the bottom side in the area of the SATA cutout.

Here you can see the addressable RGB LEDs under the Steel Legend logo and Steel Legend lettering.

Since addressable RGB LEDs are already mounted under the chipset cooler, on the I/O panel and under the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend, there is already an effective lighting of the motherboard after the first power-on.

The RGB headers and the integrated RGB LEDs are controlled by UEFI or by the included ASRock Polychrome RGB LED software. There you can select for example the colors in a RGB color selector and you can set whether the RGB headers should be controlled separately or together with the RGB lighting under the chipset cooler, at the I/O panel and the lettering. Of course you can also disable the lighting completely.

You can select many effects in the ASRock RGB LED menu, for example whether the LEDs should shine continuously, breathe, be controlled randomly or to music and with the addressable RGB connection you even get completely new RGB features like Spring, Meteor, Stack, Cram, Rainbow, etc.

Especially effects such as Rainbow stand out of course.

As before, up to 100 addressable LEDs can be individually addressed.

There are lots of great RGB effects that we presented in ASRock Polychrome RGB Software Video on our OCinside YouTube Channel.

And to get a small impression of the very special ASRock Z490 Steel Legend effects, we have created another video here.

Here you can see on the right side the two additional RGB and aRGB connections, on the left side one of the two internal USB3.2 Gen1 headers and the USB3.2 Gen1 Type-C front panel connector and in the middle the 24-pin ATX power connector.

Voltage Regulator and Heat Sink …

This brings us to the power supply. The picture shows the side view of the motherboard with the two heat sinks on the MOSFETs.

Here you can see the two unmounted aluminum heat sinks, which are pressed together with the heat conductive pad onto the voltage converters. You can also see the I/O panel cover with the integrated aRGB lighting.

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend VRM is made of 10 phases and is therefore better structured than the ASRock B460 Steel Legend.

Here you can see again the 50A SiC654A PWM MOSFETs of the so-called Dr.MOS Power Design Power Stage with the ISL69269, which are among other things responsible for the power supply of the Intel Comet Lake-S processor on the Intel LGA 1200 socket.

Equipment …

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend has many features such as ASRock A-Tuning Tool, ASRock Instant Flash, ASRock Internet Flash, ASRock Easy RAID Installer, 10 Power Phase Design, RGB, Polychrome RGB and ASRock FAN-Tastic Tuning.

Expansion cards …

The motherboard offers two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots for AMD CrossFireX or nVidia SLI and three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots.

Memory …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend board can be equipped with up to four DDR4 modules and is upgradeable up to a maximum of 128 GB memory depending on the operating system used (see list). Here you can see a picture of the four DDR4 memory slots with Dual Channel support.

The Intel LGA 1200 motherboard supports DDR4 memory modules and can be optimized for DDR4-2933 Quad Channel modules depending on the CPU in the BIOS.

Thanks to XMP support (Extreme Memory Profile), XMP memory modules can be set correctly with a mouse click in the UEFI, but more about this later. Which exact RAM modules are officially supported, one should read before the purchase at ASRock on the Memory Support page.

Hard disk connectors …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend provides a total of six SATA3 ports, with four angled and two straight. By the way, the cutout of the ASRock Steel Legend board can be very helpful for routing the SATA cables to the back of the case.

The SATA3 ports support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, NCQ, AHCI and the hot plug function in AHCI mode (AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface and should be selected for SSDs in UEFI). Thanks to UEFI BIOS, drives with more than 2TB can also be used for Windows 10 x64 installation. The installation of the drivers ran without problems in Windows 10, so the 64 bit Windows 10 installation was done quickly.

In contrast to the previously tested ASRock B460 Steel Legend, the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend offers a CSM in addition to the UEFI boot mode, allowing booting into legacy BIOS mode without converting the MBR UEFI compliant to GPT.

The Intel B460 chipset supports RAID. The appropriate RAID drivers can be installed via the Easy RAID Installer point in UEFI. The drivers for Windows 10 are delivered on DVD and are also available for download on the ASRock support page. The Microsoft Windows 10 installation is currently preferred.

USB and Firewire …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend has two USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen1 ports and two USB 2.0 ports on the ATX panel. On the picture you can see the USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port which can be plugged in on both sides.

Internally, two USB 2.0 connections for up to four optional USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.2 Gen1 headers for up to four optional USB 3.2 Gen1 ports are available. The 20-pin headers can be connected either to an optional USB3.0 front panel or to an enclosure with USB3.0 support. Another new feature is the USB 3.2 Gen1 front panel Type-C connector, which can be seen here on the picture to the right of the usual 19pin USB 3.2 Gen1 header.

Hint: If you are wondering about the different descriptions of the USB ports, we would like to explain the differences between USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen1, USB 3.1 Gen2, USB 3.2 Gen1 and USB 3.2 Gen2. Regarding the USB power for charging devices, USB 2.0 officially provides 5V with 0.5A, thus 2.5W, and USB 3.0/3.1/3.2 officially provides 5V with 0.9A, thus 4.5W, and USB 3.0/3.1/3.2 officially provides 5V with 0.9A, respectively ASRock with Type-A connector up to 1.5A, and USB Type-C connector 5V with 3A, thus 15W (1A in sleep state). Furthermore, the transfer rates of the USB ports are also different. USB 3.1 Gen1 was formerly called USB 3.0 and is therefore identically, they both deliver up to 5 GBit/s. USB 3.1 Gen2 delivers up to 10 Gbps. In addition, there is USB 3.2 Gen2x2, which allows doubling up to 20 GBit/s. A special feature is also available for the Intel JHL7540 Thunderbolt 3 protocol, which allows up to 40 GBit/s! Here you are again the possible transfer rates in a table.

USB Interface Comparison
Transfer rates
Interface theoretical practical
USB 2.0 480 MBit/s 30 MByte/s
USB 3.0 5 GBit/s 450 MByte/s
USB 3.1 Gen1 5 GBit/s 450 MByte/s
USB 3.1 Gen2 10 GBit/s 800 MByte/s
USB 3.2 Gen1 5 GBit/s 450 MByte/s
USB 3.2 Gen2 10 GBit/s 800 MByte/s
USB 3.2 Gen2x2 2×10 GBit/s 1600 MByte/s

Network …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend has a Realtek Dragon RTL8125BG chip with which the 10/100/1000/2500 network port at the ATX panel is realized. The Realtek LAN port is WoL capable, offers LAN cable detection, custom prioritization, supports energy efficient Ethernet according to the 802.3az standard, PXE and more.

Sound …

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard has the better Realtek ALC1200 audio codec with content protection, 120dB SNR DAC, which supports 7.1 surround sound and outputs it for example analog over 5x 3.5mm jacks on the ATX panel or over the internal front panel audio connector. There is also an optical SPDIF digital output and premium Blu-Ray support as well as Nahimic audio software. This makes an additional sound card with digital outputs unnecessary for most users.

ATX Backpanel connections …

From left to right you see 2x USB 2.0 ports and 1x PS/2 connector for PS/2 keyboard or PS/2 mouse, HDMI, DisplayPort 1.4, 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A and 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, RJ45 2.5 Gigabit LAN and 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A, optical SPDIF output and 5x 3.5mm jacks for sound.

Test System …

Now we come to the Intel LGA 1200 CPU socket. The new 10th Gen LGA1200 socket looks similar to the LGA1151 and LGA1151 v2 sockets of previous generations, but they are not compatible with each other! So you have to install a new Intel Comet Lake-S processor or similar to work on the Intel Z490 motherboard. The socket was provided with a lever, which presses the relatively small CPU evenly on the pins in the socket. As always, do not touch the contacts during installation or even bend the contacts in the socket. When storing or transporting, it is imperative that the protective cap is mounted on the socket. If pins are bent and the mainboard doesn’t work anymore, we help with advices in the Intel Forum.

We equipped the test system with an Intel Core i5-10500 CPU.

Intel LGA 1200 CPUs only support the Dual Channel Mode. So the two memory modules on the Intel Z490 motherboard are used to get Dual Channel support.

Here you see again the two DDR4-2400 4GB modules from Crucial and the Intel Core i5-10500 CPU in the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard.

For the tests with the latest Intel LGA 1200 processors we use a Arctic Freezer 34 eSports grey/white air cooler with Arctic MX-4 2019 Edition thermal compound and an Icy Dock MB171SP-B Turbo Swap removable frame for a quick exchange of the HDD or SSD, in our case a Crucial MX SATA SSD.

This is how the 6-cores (12 threads) of the Intel Core i5-10500 CPU look in the Windows 10 task manager under full load in Prime95.

As you can see on the thermal image of the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend PC under Prime95 load, the heat of the voltage regulators and coils is dissipated well.

Here you can see the heat hotspot on the ASMedia ASM1074 USB Hub Chip, which is even higher than the temperature of the VRM coolers. All in all we recommend a good air circulation inside the case, so that the heat of the heatsinks is dissipated safely.

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend BIOS and Overclocking …