ASRock Z790 Steel Legend WiFi Review

Today we take a good look at ASRock’s Z790 Steel Legend WiFi motherboard for Intel’s 13th and 12th generation Raptor Lake and Alder Lake processors. Based on the Raptor Point chipset, the motherboard has lots of platform capabilities, but there are some you might not have seen coming.

The motherboard box has the same black and white camo color scheme as the motherboard itself.

Accessories include WiFi antenna, Manual, velcro cable ties, two SATA cables, and a GPU support bracket. We are very grateful that the manual is actually paper instead of on a USB stick, which makes it so much easier to figure the motherboard out.

The motherboard has a total of seven fan headers, which is a lot considering the price point of this product. The header circled in blue is a CPU fan header, and it is in PWM mode by default and supports up to 1A of current. The other headers circled in red are hybrid PWM/DC mode headers with auto-sensing, and they each support up to 2A of current. The motherboard’s white and black color theme is pretty nice, just hard to photograph.

The back of the motherboard is pretty bare, but we can see that the DDR5 slots and the top PCI-E slot are SMT parts to reduce electrical noise. The motherboard has the cleanest backside we have ever seen. The six layer PCB uses 2oz of copper.

The rear IO features WIFI antenna connectors, HDMI, DisplayPort, eight USB 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gb/s) ports, two USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gb/s) including a type-C port, 2.5Gbit LAN, and 7.1 gold plated audio outputs with S/PDIF out. The IO shield is integrated and has some give to it for increased compatibility.

The top PCI-E x16 slot is PCI-E 5.0 from the CPU and uses 15u gold plated pins. If you install a drive into the topmost right-side M.2 slot under the top heatsink, it will downshift the x16 slot to x8. The second PCI-E slot is x4 PCI-E 4.0 and the bottom is x2 PCI-E 3.0; both are connected to the PCH.

There are two M.2 slots routed to the CPU that face each other and you can only use one at a time because of physical restrictions. The one on the left is x4 PCI-E 4.0 and the one on the right is x4 PCI-E 5.0. If you use the PCI-E 5.0 slot, it will downshift the top PCI-E slot to x8 from x16. The remaining three M.2 slots are each x4 PCI-E 4.0 routed to the PCH and don’t share with anything.

The motherboard has eight SATA6Gb/s connectors all routed to the PCH, and they don’t share with anything.

The WIFI controller on this motherboard is an Intel AX211. The motherboard also has an eDP connector that is meant for small displays, which are becoming a popular addition to many cases and builds.

Two 8-pin CPU power connectors are provided, you only need to plug into one of them for normal operation.

In the top right corner we find two addressable RGB LED headers rated 5V/3A each.

Here we find our sole USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (20Gb/s) type-C internal header, a single USB 2.0 port, and a USB 3.2 Gen2 (5Gb/s) header.

In the bottom right corner of the motherboard we find some POST status LEDs, front panel headers, four more SATA 6Gb/s ports, and another USB 3.0 internal header.

In the lower left corner we find another addressable RGB LED header rated 5V/3A, an RGB LED header rated 12V/3A, a TB GPIO header, and a USB 2.0 header.

The heatsinks are a silverish white color and many contact with the MOSFETs and the inductors.

THe motherboard looks good without the heatsinks.

The VRM is in a 16+1+1 phase configuration, with the CPU and CPU GT power (16+1) coming from Smart Power Stages (SPS).

The Renesas RA229131 is in 8+1 phase mode for the CPU VCore and GT power rails, the CPU just doubles up power stage count on single PWM lines. The Smart Power Stages are the Renesas ISL99360, which are rated 60A. The capacitors are rated 12K hours, which is very good.

The single CPU AUX phase we see above is in a two low-side, one high-side PowerPAK MOSFET configuration and controlled by an Anpec APW8828 single phase PWM with integrated driver.

The memory VRM consists of a single phase controlled by an Anpec APW8828, and since DDR5 uses even less power and has its own PMIC, the VRM can be smaller than we have seen on past DDR3 and DDR4 motherboards.

The Realtek RTL8125 is a 2.5Gbit NBase-T NIC used for the rear LAN port.

WIFI is from an Intel AX211, and supports up to WIFI 6E with Windows 11. Since Intel bought Killer, it’s branded as a Killer NIC.

Here we have our Phison PCI-E 5.0 re-driver/switches. Each switches x2 PCI-E 5.0, and they are used to drive x4 PCI-E from the first slot to the M.2_2 slot. These Phison PS7101 are the worlds first PCI-SIG certified PCI-E 5.0 re-drivers. They are also linear re-drivers, so they only re-drive in one direction, much like the Texas Instrument PCI-E 5.0 re-drivers we have seen on some other motherboards.

The GL9950 from Genesys Logic re-driver provides signal integrity for the two USB 3.2Gen2 (10Gb/s) ports on the rear IO. The ASMedia ASM1074 is a USB 3.2Gen1 four port USB 3.0 hub for rear IO USB.

The ASMedia ASM1543 is a type-C controller for the rear type-C port. It is the sole IC on the back of the motherboard.

The internal type-C header is a USB Gen2x2 (20Gb/s) header, and uses a Realtek RTS5452 Power Delivery and CC logic chip as well as a Diodes (formerly Pericom) PI3EQX2004 re-driver.

Another ASMedia ASM1074 USB 3.2Gen1 (5Gb/s) hub is used for the two internal USB 3.0 headers.

The audio section uses a Realtek ALC897 with some Nichicon audio capacitors, and motherboard features Nahimic audio software.

The SuperIO that handles the motherboards bare bone operations like fan control and system monitoring is the Nuvoton NCT6796D.

The NUC121ZC2 is a MCU that controls all the RGB LED headers.

We are very impressed by this motherboard. It has five M.2 slots, and one is even a x4 PCI-E 5.0 M.2 slot. However, that strength is also a weakness in that it can only get PCI-E 5.0 by borrowing it from the CPU connected PCI-E 5.0 x16 slot, which will downgrade to x8. That might not be a huge issue if you have a card that runs at PCI-E 4.0 or 5.0, but if you have an older card that uses PCI-E 3.0 like a RTX 2080 Ti, it can have a small impact. We really like the idea of adding in an eDP port, as we have been seeing more builds with small screens integrated showing system stats. You can find the current price of the motherboard here.

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