Supermicro C9Z490-PGW / PG Physical Review

Supermicro has a long and dedicated history to enterprise class datacenter and consumer hardware, and today they are no different. Specializing in high-end products, the SuperO brand brings server-grade components and engineering to consumers at a reasonable price. For the Z490 chipset, SuperO products focus on the high-end, including the C9Z490-PG and the C9Z490-PGW, the latter of which we have in house for review.

The box is typical of most high-end motherboard packages but with a slightly new style.

Packaging is pretty good, everything seems to be secure and I am not concerned about any damage during transport.

The PGW version of the motherboard has WIFI/BT included, so we have two antenna, we also have an IO shield, four SATA6Gb/s cables, a smart connector for front panel jumpers, M.2 screws, cable stickers, and a quick manual.

The motherboard has six fan headers, and while all are rated at 2A at 12v maximum, the one header circled in blue is a pump header that runs at maximum without speed control at all times. The headers circled in red operate in PWM mode and offer fan control. The motherboards heatsinks and shields are all metal, there is no plastic here, and the color scheme is consistent and looks quite professional.

The back of the motherboard has a few components here and there, but nothing to be worried about. All the PCI-E slots are wired for x16, but they do not all operate at x16.

The rear IO panel features a DisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, 1Gbit NIC, 10Gbit NIC, two 5Gb/s USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 10Gb/s type-A ports, one USB 3.1 10Gb/s type-C port, one USB 3.2 20Gb/s type-C port, clear CMOS button, WIFI antenna connectors, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF out.

The motherboard features a single 8-pin power connector for the CPU. However, on Supermicro motherboards the 24-pin also provides some CPU power, so this should be enough even for heavy overclocks around 300W.

THe C9Z490-PGW and even the PG version are very unique motherboards in that they offer more PCI-E lanes than their competition. With the help of a pricey chip called the PEX8747, the motherboard is capable of taking x16 PCI-E 3.0 and increasing lane count to x32 PCI-E 3.0 for the PCI-E slots. The slots operate at extremes of x16/x0/x16/x0 or x8/x8/x8/x8 respectively, with the x16 slots sharing x8 PCI-E lanes with the slot immediately below if it is occupied.

Both of the M.2 slots are routed to the Z490 chipset PCH and each has a built in heatsink that you can opt to use to cool your M.2 drive. We like that the screws are help in place by fasteners, as that makes it much easier to install the heatsinks back in place.

There are four SATA6Gb/s ports on this motherboard that connect to the Z490 PCH. There are so many connected devices on this motherboard that two SATA6Gb/s ports were sacrificed for more connectivity. The front panel headers are right angled for better aesthetic value.

There is a single USB 3.1 (10Gb/s) internal type-C header for front panel type-C ports.

In the lower right hand corner of the motherboard we find a POST code display, a COM header, one of the USB 2.0 internal headers, a TPM header, and a USB 3.0 internal header.

On the other side of the USB 3.0 internal header we find another USB 2.0 internal header.

In the top right corner of the motherboard we find our onboard power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons.

All the CPU VRMs are cooled by solid heatsinks as is the PCH and the PLX chip. The Aquantia 10Gbit NIC has a heatsink basically thermally glued to it, so we were not able to remove that.

Here we can see what the motherboard really offers once we remove the heatsinks and shields.

The motherboard utilizes a 6+2 phase voltage regulator module (VRM) for the CPU VCore + VCCSA power rails. That might not seem like a lot, but if we know Supermicro, and we do, then they are overengineered it to the brink to actually make it comparable to much higher phase count VRMs.

Supermicro is unlike other consumer motherboard vendors; they have the ability to source high-end server class products and designs at much more affordable rates than their competitors because of their huge server/datacenter business. In that business motherboard real-estate is extremely important, which means power delivery needs to be extremely dense, powerful, and efficient. In this case Supermicro is using an Infineon XDPE12284, which is a digital PWM controller and used here in a 6 +2 phase mode. Infineon has recently bought up a ton of high-end PWM vendors such as International Rectifier and Primarion along with their IP, so it is no surprise they would make their own branded product with even more features. The VCore VRMs utilize 90A OptiMOS from Infineon, the TDA21490, for a total output of almost 450A at maximum. The VCCSA uses TDA21535, which are rated 70A. We also will venture that the inductors for the CPU VCore are rated around 70A+ considering they are server grade and those CPUs do pull a lot of power.

A Primarion PXE1110 PWM controller handles a single phase VRM consisting of an Infineon TDA21535 70A integrated OptiMOS power stage.

The audio section utilizes an ALC1220 rated for 120dB SNR, along with some electrolytic audio capacitors and a Texas Instruments OPA1612 amplifier for the front panel audio output. The audio section is separated from the PCI-E area of the PCB by a physical divide, but not from the 10Gbit NIC. However, you can see the traces from the ALC1220 all end in vias right before the 10Gbit NIC and goto the backside of the motherboard to avoid noise, and the high copper quality and content in the PCB should provide some noise protection.

Here we have the tried and true i219v PHY that provides us with a 1Gbit NIC on the rear IO.

Here we have an Aquantia AQC107 10Gbit NBase-T NIC, which can operate at 10Gbit/5Gbit/1Gbit/100Mbit. There is also an Intel Wireless AX (WIFI6) card installed and it can do up to 2.4Gb/s under theoretical circumstances.

The tried and true PEX8747 has been around for almost a decade, it takes in x8 or x16 PCI-E 3.0 and outputs x32 PCI-E 3.0 for the PCI-E slots. The PEX8747 is a very expensive chip, but there really is no other viable rival on the market.

The C9Z490-PGW is one Z490 motherboard that provides USB 3.2 2×2 (real USB 3.2), which is rated up to 20Gb/s. However, the chipset does not support this, so an ASMedia ASM3242 is utilized.

Here we find two Texas Instruments TUSB1002A, which are USB 3.2 (USB 3.1 or 10Gb/s) re-drivers. They take the signal from the PCH that provides USB 3.1 and increases signal quality for the rear ports.

The Parade PS175HDM is a common chip utilized to provide HDMI 2.0 support from the internal iGPU in CPUs that have an iGPU.

On the rear of the motherboard we find another Texas Instruments TUSB1002 re-driver for USB 3.1, and an ASMedia ASM1543 type-C switch. We find another ASM1543 near the front panel USB 3.1 internal type-C header located on the opposite side of the motherboard.

We have a total of eight of these ASMedia ASM1480 quick switches, they move sets of x8 PCI-E 3.0 between the PCI-E slots.

The Nuvoton NCT6796D is the main SuperIO controller that provides system management functions like fan control. We also find that our BIOS ROM is replaceable.

Here we have a clock generator, an ICS6V41742B.

Finally we land at this COM port control chip, the Texas Instruments GD75232.

Don’t let its 6+2 phase VRM fool you, the C9Z490-PGW is loaded with high quality parts that are capable of taking your CPU to a very comfortable overclock without much hassle. The level of quality of the motherboard ensures excellent performance as well. The PEX8747 and the 10Gbit NIC are very nice additions, and pretty much make this a mixture between a high-end gaming/enthusiast motherboard and a workstation product.

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