ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Motherboard Review

BIOS and Overclocking …

Get fast to the right UEFI settings …

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend BIOS and Overclocking
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend UEFI BIOS Update
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend overclocking
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend memory settings
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend voltage settings
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Overclock even easier
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend BIOS undervolting
ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Fan control

BIOS and overclocking …

Let us continue with the BIOS / UEFI Setup options and the UEFI overclocking. After switching on the PC, press the Del or F2 key to access the UEFI setup.

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend UEFI BIOS has a graphical interface that allows intuitive operation with a mouse or can still be operated conventionally with a keyboard.

There is, as usual with the latest ASRock Intel motherboards, the ASRock EZ Mode – thus Easy Mode – which offers a clear entry page with many important information and still doesn’t look overloaded. To the basic information like time, date, CPU temperature, motherboard temperature, CPU voltage, first details about the hardware, fan speeds, hard disk population, RAID mode and fan settings with one click. New in the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend is also the CPU temperature display as diagram.

The original Tools page has been consolidated in the lower right area.

Of course you can also use the EZ menu to set the time and date.

Many other functions can be operated optionally by means of function keys, which can be called up with F1. For example, if you want to publish a screenshot in our PC Forum, you can save it on a USB stick with F12.

With the F6 key or the upper right button you get into the usual ASRock Advanced Mode, which you can also set as default.

The System Browser view is no longer available on the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard, but you will find again the Full HD UEFI selection and the Active Page on Entry selection, with which you can decide on which UEFI page you want to start in the UEFI setup. With the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend you find the Active Page on Entry option and the Full HD UEFI selection under Advanced.

UEFI BIOS Update …

Before we start with UEFI overclocking, we update the UEFI BIOS to the latest version. Since ASRock regularly integrates new functions, better memory support and new processors, the BIOS update is recommended in most cases. For flashing the UEFI update ASRock offers several possibilities, e.g. the very simple Instant Flash or even the ASRock Internet Flash with a direct connection to the Internet. Via the so-called ASRock Instant Flash Option in the Tool Screen or via the F6 key when starting the PC you can access the ASRock Instant Flash Utility. You can simply install a previously downloaded ASRock BIOS without boot CD or similar by starting the ASRock Instant Flash Utility. Then select the BIOS Flash ROM from the desired drive, e.g. from a USB stick, which you have to unpack after downloading.

At the time of testing the UEFI BIOS version P1.20 was available as the latest download, which we of course installed over the pre-installed P1.00 version.

After a reboot the new BIOS version is then available.

Here you can see the new P1.20 EZ BIOS entry side with the Intel Core i5-10500 CPU.

And here you can see the new P1.20 Advanced BIOS entry page with the Intel Core i5-10500 CPU.

The My Favorite function is very helpful, because you can store frequently used menu items here, so that you can easily see them on a page and access them more quickly. You start with an empty page – by the way, it is unfortunately also emptied after a BIOS update.

The My Favorite page is now filled with your own menu items by simply going to the respective menu item, then pressing F5 and the desired functions are already included in the My Favorite overview page. Here you can see a selection of possible favourites.

If you need technical UEFI support, you can even select the errors via the UEFI setup and even contact the ASRock Tech Service via network connection.

On the tools page of this ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard is the ASRock Polychrome RGB LED entry, which is almost identical to the ASRock Polychrome RGB software, which we already mentioned on the previous page.

The Polychrome RGB LED menu has numerous setting options. You can select the color in an RGB color selector.

You can choose whether to control the RGB headers separately or all together.

And you can set in the Polychrome RGB LED menu whether the LEDs should shine continuously, “breathe”, be controlled randomly or even to music. So the user has numerous possibilities how and how fast the LED stripes should light up. And if you don’t need the lighting, you can of course disable it completely.

Although ASRock does not offer the Easy Driver Installer option for the B460 motherboard, ASRock makes the RAID driver installation very easy for the user by offering the Easy RAID Installer as an easy way to download the latest RAID drivers.

The handy SSD Secure Erase BIOS tool, which we first saw since the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 motherboard, is also integrated.

Simply select the desired SSD and it will be deleted quickly and safely – for example, for secure deletion prior to SSD sale or in case of serious partitioning problems. Great thing, but use with care!

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend Overclocking …

Now we come to the Intel LGA 1200 overclocking with the Z490 chipset on the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard. ASRock separates the OC-Tweaker menu of the ASRock Z490 Steel Legend into CPU Configuration, DRAM Configuration and Voltage Configuration.

A look into the OC-Tweaker menu is much more pleasant than with the previously tested ASRock H470 Steel Legend motherboard or even with the ASRock B460 Steel Legend motherboard. Because with the Z490 you can finally overclock properly again compared to the B460 or H470! So if you use an Intel “K” CPU with open multiplier, you get all important settings for the multiplier and the BCLK.

And even with a CPU with a locked multiplier, such as our Intel Core i5-10500 CPU, you can overclock the CPU a bit using BCLK.

There is also the Boot Performance Mode setting for the speed during the boot process and the Power Limit settings which are also very important for overclocking.

So an Intel Core i9-10900K CPU could be perfectly overclocked with this Intel Z490 motherboard. But even the Intel Core i5-10500 CPU with locked multi we could overclock a bit. If we discover possibilities to unlock the Multi in the future, we will publish them as usual in the Intel OC Forum or directly with an OC guide in the PC Workshop. Until then we have to be satisfied with the BCLK overclocking for locked CPUs, which of course overclocks all other components as well. Here you can see the confirmed CPU-Z Tool with 4313.82 MHz at 102.71 MHz BCLK.

Without load on all cores, the locked Intel Core i5-10500 CPU even clocks up to 4610.97 MHz instead of 3100 MHz!

ASRock BFB – Base Frequency Boost …

On the OC Tweaker entry page there is also the so called Base Frequency Boost option, which allows you to overclock even a CPU with locked multiplier. You don’t get overclocking by multiplier, but you can control the powerlimit. Normally the Core i5-10500 CPU is given with a powerlimit of 65 Watt by Intel. That means, if the turbo clock frequency needs more than 65W powerlimit over a certain time, this is prevented by Intel with the Power Limit Throttling. We have already explained Intel Turbo Boost Short Power Max, Turbo Boost Power Max, Turbo Boost Power Time Window, Primary Plane Current Limit, Short Duration Power Limit, Long Duration Power Limit and similar power limits several times in our OC manuals, because higher power limits play an important role in overclocking. Especially when it comes to maintaining higher clock rates over a longer period of time. With the Base Frequency Boost option in the OC Tweaker UEFI, ASRock now allows to raise this limit to keep the turbo clock frequency beyond the 65W power limit, more precisely to 125W. Of course it is very helpful that ASRock has improved the VRMs of this Z490 Steel Legend in contrast to the B460 Steel Legend.

We have done extensive tests with the ASRock Base Frequency Boost Option with Intel Z490, Intel H470 and Intel B460 in comparison and will shortly go into more detail about the overclocking possibilities and results, how much this kind of BFB overclocking brings with a locked Intel Core i5-10600 CPU, or similar.

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend memory settings …

The DRAM Configuration Menu contains all important memory settings.

Thanks to Load XMP Setting support, XMP memory modules can be set correctly in the UEFI BIOS with just one mouse click.

Alternatively you can select the values yourself. With the DDR4 memory clock, for example, you can select values from DDR4-800 …

… to maximum DDR4-8400, because unlike the B460/H470 (max. DDR4-2933) the BCLK is also increased!

All DDR4 timings can optionally be adjusted manually.

The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend offers under Memory Information an overview with all SPD and XMP memory values, which are no longer available for direct selection as in the DRAM Configuration Menu.

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend voltage settings …

Now we come to the different voltage values that can be set in the BIOS. The ASRock Z490 Steel Legend motherboard provides under Voltage Configuration much more voltage settings than its B460 counterpart …

… and in OC mode much higher voltages than the H470 counterpart. It has e.g. the PCH Voltage, VCCSA Voltage, VCCIO Voltage, GT Voltage, and the DDR4 voltage can also be set in the Voltage menu, as we have already shown in the technical details on the second test page. Luckily you can set the CPU Core/Cache Voltage to Offset and Fixed Mode again. On the Intel Core i5-10500 test CPU the Fixed Mode could be set from 0.800 Volt to 2.200 Volt and the Vcore Offset from -0.100V to +0.300V.

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend even easier overclocking …

If you prefer overclocking in Windows, you can do the above mentioned multiplier, BCLK and voltage settings with the ASRock A-Tuning Tool.

Here you can see the settings of the ASRock A-Tuning Tool.

If the desired settings are found, you can save up to ten different BIOS settings with names in UEFI under OC Tweaker.

For example, you could store undervolting values, balanced BIOS settings, office or gaming settings as undervolting, balance and gaming user profile to be able to quickly reload these values at any time.

Interesting is also Save User UEFI Setup Profile to Disk. Simply click on it and save your UEFI settings on the hard disk or on a USB stick.

BIOS Undervolting …

The underclocking was also checked again in this test. The Intel Core i5-10500 CPU could not be underclocked. But it is possible to lower the voltage and thus further reduce the power consumption. Underclocking with low CPU voltage is of course as well as overclocking outside the specification, so that a little bit of luck is always necessary. But ASRock at least provides the basis for an easy undervolting. Here you can see the confirmed CPU-Z Tool with 799.61 MHz at 0.832V CPU voltage.

There are many more UEFI settings to choose from: CPU Configuration, Chipset Configuration, Storage Configuration, Intel Thunderbolt, Super IO Configuration, ACPI Configuration, USB Configuration and Trusted Computing.

If you want to save power when using a PC with an Intel LGA1200 PC or if you use Intel Virtualization Technology to support multiple, simultaneous operating systems, you should also check the CPU Configuration menu under Advanced.

But also the settings in Advanced Chipset Configuration with the individual speeds of the PCIe slots, selecting the first graphics card, etc. are interesting.

In the UEFI it is even possible to manually deactivate each individual USB port.

Fan control …

The UEFI Setup of the passive cooled H470 Steel Legend motherboard also features an extensive temperature controlled fan control. The settings for the fan controller can be found in H/W Monitor directly below the temperature and voltage display.

Here are settings for the CPU fan, chassis fans or W_Pump switch.

You have the choice between Customize, Silent, Standard, Performance and Full Speed.

In Customize Mode, several temperature steps are available to which the desired fan speed can then be assigned. The fan settings are changed immediately and can therefore be heard immediately.

ASRock has also integrated the graphical user interface for controlling the fans in the UEFI setup. The FAN-Tastic Tuning menu item can also be found in the H/W monitor and can be used for all settings. Simply select the respective fan connector on the left side and then select the mode on the right side: Silent, Standard, Performance or Full Speed.

In Customize mode, you can set all values directly in the chart and save.

For the chassis fan connectors you can even select, which source you want to use for temperature measurement – Monitor CPU or Monitor Motherboard. Then click on apply and save the values.

And even the control of the 3-pin chassis fans is possible with the DC/PWM mode switch.

Who would rather set the values in Windows, you can use also the ASRock A-Tuning tool.

You can usually get along without an expensive Fan Controller, because the fans are controlled with this fan control based on CPU or motherboard temperature.

If everything is set, simply store the settings as usual with the F10 key and confirm with Z or on an English keyboard with Y. A new feature of ASRock is that all changes made are shown to the user before saving them – very useful!

ASRock Z490 Steel Legend energy consumption …