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Hands-on review: ASRock Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi motherboard
Wed, 24th Jan 2024

ASRock's Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi is one of the new "refresh" LGA 1700 motherboards released in time for the launch of Intel's 14th-gen CPUs, themselves a refresh of last year's Raptor Lake processors. 

As well as the new 14th-generation Intel CPUs, the board also supports 12th and 13th-generation Intel CPUs. It's a peculiar year in that the last three generations of Intel CPUs and motherboards are all interchangeable. But just as Intel has refined its Raptor Lake CPUs, motherboard manufacturers have spent the last 12 months refining their 700-series motherboards. The nuts and bolts of it is that consumers are getting a bit more for their money this year.

The first thing I noted was that the mid-range price does not match the board's rather impressive functionality. It has six (64Gb/s) M.2 SSD sockets, one of which is PCIe 5.0 (128Gb/s). All the M.2 drives are covered by heatsinks that stylishly integrate with the board's aesthetics. This means that you could pretty much do away with SATA hard drives unless you are a bit of a storage fanatic, in which case there are four SATA3 6.0 Gb/s slots for you. 

This is a DDR5 motherboard; it does not support DDR4. Four DDR5 DIMM slots support up to 7800+ modules to a maximum of 192 GB.

The board has three PCIe slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, and 1x PCIe 3.0 x1. They are well-spaced, so you will still be able to access them even if you are using a chunky 2.5x expansion-slot GPU.

Processors with integrated GPUs can use the HDMI 2.1 socket, supporting HDCP 2.3 and a maximum resolution of 4K/6-Hz and/or the DisplayPort 1.4 up to 8K 60Hz/5K 120Hz. The I/O panel also has outputs (inc. optical) for the onboard Realtek 7.1 HD audio.

Connectivity is provided via the Killer E3100G 2.5 Gigabit LAN Ethernet controller and super-fast WiFi 7 wireless networking. The board also has Bluetooth 5.4. There's support for up to 19 USB ports: 2x USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C (one on the rear I/O panel, the other on a header for the front of your case), 4x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (on the rear I/O), 7x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A (three on the I/O, four on a front header) and 6x USB 2.0 (two on the I/O, four front).

Three thermistor cable headers on the board can be used with the included thermistors for temperature monitoring. If you want to light your case, there are three addressable LED headers and one RGB LED header. There are also seven 4-pin smart fan headers for chassis fans or water pumps.

For DIY system builders, the Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova offers a few additional features to help with putting it all together. The Dr. Debug LED provides status/error codes during booting that are useful should there be any issues. There's also an illuminated on-button and reset button on the board for bypassing the chassis front panel.      

The UFEI BIOS menu is a rather average-looking interface and not really that intuitive, but I've seen worse. The easy mode does have all the important stuff to hand; you can check the CPU frequency and the RAM configuration and switch on the DDR5 XMP profile without having to delve into the gut of it. The advanced menu allows for automatic overclocking if you think your CPU cooling system is up for it, as well as more advanced tweaks. It may look a bit of a mess, but novice and advanced users will find everything they need.

Up and running, the motherboard was a reliable bit of kit that I'd easily be happy with running in my own rig. Be it playing games, using business apps, or image/video processing, the Z790 Nova WiFi proved to be a great performer.

The ASRock Phantom Gaming Z790 Nova WiFi is a solid, good-looking motherboard. It has more features that it deserves to have as a mid-level Z790 board. Whether in a pre-build system, a novice DIYer, or a veteran tweaker, you'll find this motherboard is a joy to use and should have everything that you need for your high-end gaming PC.