We are very happy to talk about the new motherboard N7 Z790 di NZXTthe flagship model targeting 12th and 13th generation Intel Core processors.
A good computer always starts with the motherboard. Just as a building needs a good foundation to stand, so does a PC, where the motherboard is the founding element on which all the added components are based, especially today that most of them are already integrated. If the result we’re aiming for in our next new build is a solid and powerful gaming system, presumably based on a high-end Intel Core processor (i7 or i9), then we should seriously consider the N7 Z790 from NZXTa motherboard made in collaboration with Asrock with very interesting features.
REINFORCED AND COOLED THROUGHOUT
The first aspect that strikes the eye of this motherboard is its “armor”: its surface is practically covered with metal heat sinks, with a modular structure. You could even take them apart, but there’s absolutely no point in doing that since there’s no reason to access the underlying electronics. The middle ones, which cover the spaces between the PCI Express connectors, have a magnetic cover and can be easily lifted to gain access to the second, third and fourth M.2 slots. By doing so, we can immediately notice that the M2_4 is already occupied by an Intel AX211 adapter that supports wi-fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2, with a black cable that carries the antenna signals from the two special screw connectors positioned on the I/O panel rear.
The NVMe M2_1 drive slot is instead located higher up, between the central processor and the first PCI Express x16 connector, which is also covered by a metal panel. To access it, however, in this case it is necessary to arm yourself with a screwdriver. Unlike the other two M.2 drive slots, which are controlled by the Z790 chipset, this one is connected directly to the CPU’s integrated northbridge and, therefore, its use is preferable for installing the operating system and video games, especially with a view to activating DirectStorage in the future.
the surface of the N7 Z790 is practically covered with metal heat sinks, with a modular structure: they could also be disassembled, but it makes absolutely no sense to do so
All connectors, however, are of the PCI Express x4 version 4.0 type, while version 5.0 of the bus is reserved exclusively for the first x16 connector for video cards. The N7 Z790 has three, but the second and third (without metal armor), although mechanically they have the form of x16 connectors, provide only four communication lines (as if they were x4), always in version 4.0. The list of PCI Express connectors is completed by two small x1 slots, the presence of which becomes less and less obvious over time. However, these connectors only support version 3.0 of the bus.
THE REAR PANEL
The set of I/O ports on the rear panel is more than respectable: two SMA connectors for Wi-Fi antennas, one HDMI video output, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C (20 Gbps), 2 USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps), and 3 USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps), a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet LAN socket and the classic five analog sockets for audio, plus an optical S/PDIF output. Distinguishing USB Type A ports by their speed is quite simple: they go in ascending order, with the slowest 2.0 near the antenna sockets and the fastest 3.2 Gen 2 next to the LAN port. If these USB ports weren’t enough, inside the motherboard we find headers for 4 additional 2.0 ports, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 and a Type-C 3.2 Gen 2 port. It’s not the most staggering amount we’ve ever seen, but it should still be enough for most of us. Otherwise, it shouldn’t be a problem to use external hubs or find special internal expansions on PCI Express slots.
Distinguishing USB Type A ports by their speed is quite simple: they go in ascending order, with the slowest 2.0 next to the antenna sockets and the fastest 3.2 Gen 2 next to the LAN port
On the motherboard we also find the pins necessary to connect up to 4 fans for the CPU, a pump for the AIO coolers and 5 fans for the rest of the system. On the top side of the motherboard there are two connectors for NZXT proprietary RGB lighting while, on the opposite side, two ARGB headers guarantee compatibility with LED systems that follow this standard (see, for example, those of XPG in the article published on last week). Four 6 Gbps SATA ports could not be missing, facing the right side of the plate exactly like the connector for the auxiliary USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. The SATA ports, as well as the M.2 connectors, allow the use of RAID configurations of types 0, 1 and 10, and the boot of the operating system.
BIOS, MEMORIES AND FIRST START
As we have said, the board supports 12th and 13th generation Core Intel processors equipped with LGA 1700 socket. The usable memories are exclusively of the DDR5 type and, if the manual says that modules up to 6000 MHz are supported, we know that in reality the most modern 7200 modules work very well, as long as you update the BIOS and load the appropriate XMP profile immediately after their installation. The manual also says that the maximum amount of RAM supported is 128 MB, but this information dates back to when the modules had a maximum capacity of 32 GB each: with the arrival of the more modern 48 GB modules, this limit could move accordingly – but at the moment we cannot assure you.
The BIOS must provide information and allow you to change system parameters, not amaze with special effects: the version provided by NZXT does exactly its duty, just the way we like it
Updating the BIOS is an easy, rather quick and usually painless operation, but we are not particularly crazy about the manufacturer’s support pagewhich mixes these important updates with the normal system drivers without dividing them into a separate category and without clearly indicating the changelog: read the wholelist before downloading an already outdated version. The BIOS has a rather spartan appearance, which limits the graphic embellishments to the minimum wage, but we really like it that way: it must provide information and allow you to change system parameters, not astonish the user with special effects, and the version provided from NZXT does exactly its duty, allowing us to go deep even in the overclocking of the processor and memories. As for the control of the system – RGB lights, fans and more – the Cam software takes care of it, which must be installed on Windows once the computer has started.
NZXT N7 Z790, STABLE AS A ROCK
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I write that the N7 Z790 is one of the motherboards that has managed to win my acclaim the most. It’s very convenient to install, practical to manage, with no slots placed in bizarre places (for example on the back, as happened on theN5 Z690, remember?), or otherwise difficult to reach once the entire computer is assembled. Once booted, Windows 11 has never given us a problem on this board, ever. It has always worked as expected, taking advantage of the connected peripherals to the best of their possibilities. Sure, we weren’t particularly demanding since the 5200 Mhz DDR5 RAMs aren’t the fastest on the market, but the performance of the M.2 drive and the Core i7 13700K processor was flawless.
I like that the whole structure is covered by heatsinks. I really appreciate that I didn’t run into any problems updating the BIOS. I find the power supply system with 16 Mosfets and a RAA229131 controller (the same one also used by Asrock in several of its models) very competitive and the only absence of a certain weight is that of a POST display that shows the exact phase in progress during machine startup, replaced by four control LEDs that tell us, generically, if a component between CPU, RAM, video card and boot device has problems. With a price of around 300 euros, it is also one of the most affordable models in its class.
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