A well-executed flagship motherboard can be a joyous piece of enthusiast tech to behold, but by definition tends to be really expensive. Asrock’s new Z490 Phantom Gaming Velocita ($229.99) may not have all the latest high-end features (20Gbps USB ports! Onboard OLED display!) of a flagship model, but this board entices with its value proposition instead. Packing a capable set of features at a reasonable price, the ATX-form-factor Velocita has what it takes to become one of the more widely used Z490 motherboards for the new generation of Intel “Comet Lake-S” CPUs.
Asrock designed the Z490 PG Velocita with a fairly ordinary appearance, with black and silver featuring heavily in the PCB’s makeup. Streaks of red spice up the color scheme a bit, but the unpowered board really doesn’t stand out in terms of looks. This changes somewhat when power is supplied to the board, and “Asrock” and “PG” logos on the heatsink and rear I/O shroud illuminate. This makes the board recognizable at a glance, even if this kind of lighting feature is common nowadays at this price level.
As a midrange product, the Velocita has a mixed feature set. In general, it has fewer and smaller heatsinks than the company’s flagship Z490 motherboard, the Z490 Taichi. It also has fewer power phases, and it lacks three-way CrossFireX support (without a riser), among other things. Depending on what you plan to do with your system, however, these features may not be a serious loss. Single-card system builders and non-overclockers won’t mind.
Even though it’s no flagship, the Velocita has a lot to offer. The two PCI Express x16 slots are reinforced with steel, and the board allows for two graphics cards. Asrock also equips the board with 13 Dr. MOS power phases, which are covered by large heatsinks. The power circuitry toward the back of the board is even actively cooled by a small fan hidden beneath the rear I/O shroud. Two additional fans directly behind the top heatsink help keep things cool, as well.
Networking features on this board include a 2.5Gbps Dragon RTL8125BG Ethernet controller and a secondary single Gigabit Intel NIC. This board doesn’t come with a built-in Wi-Fi chip, but it’s easy enough to add one. There’s an M.2 Key-E slot between the PCI Express slots that can be used to install a compatible Wi-Fi controller, and Asrock went a step ahead and cut holes in the rear I/O panel for adding antennas. This is actually a nice and noteworthy addition, as motherboard OEMs don’t typically place antenna-mounting holes on the rear I/O panel unless the board has built-in wireless.
The audio solution on this board is based around a Realtek ALC1220 codec—just like the lion’s share of motherboards of its ilk today. That’s not to say this is problematic. Essentially every motherboard maker uses the ALC1220 on its high-end boards because it’s known to work well, with an SNR of 120dB. I can’t fault Asrock for opting to stick with this proven codec, but the board doesn’t get any points for originality in this area, either.
To help boost audio performance to the front panel, Asrock also added an NE5532 amplifier to this board.
I found the rear I/O panel of the Z490 PG Velocita to be a tad disappointing. At the bottom of the panel are the usual audio and S/PDIF jacks, as well as the two antenna-mounting locations. The Velocita also has a pair of RJ-45 Ethernet jacks here, as well as an HDMI port and a DisplayPort connection. There’s even a legacy PS/2 connection, though it’s puzzling why motherboard OEMs include this when more USBs, even a pair of legacy USB 2.0 ports, would be preferable in its place.
With that in mind, where the rear I/O panel is somewhat lacking is in the number of USB ports. You get just five standard Type-A ports on this board. One of these is run off of an Asmedia ASM1074 controller and supports data speeds up to 10Gbps. Beside these ports is a single USB Type-C port that is also connected to the Asmedia chip.
Overall, this feels scarce by today’s standards. I’ve seen motherboards with as many as 14 USB ports on the rear I/O panel, and while that may be excessive, having just five Type-A ports wouldn’t be enough for me, personally, and my assortment of gear. I’m sure that at least some others building a high-end, 10th Generation Intel PC in 2020 would feel the same.
The Building Experience
Getting this board built into a case is fairly straightforward and without any major problems. Plugging in the CPU’s power connector could be a bit difficult depending on the case design, as it’s wedged between the rear I/O shroud and VRM heatsinks, but it’s not terrible and nowhere near as awkward as the ordeal I suffered with Asrock’s Taichi X299 CLX. You get two eight-pin CPU connectors for extra power delivery if desired.
Most of the ports on the board are well-placed. Two USB 3.0 headers and a USB Type-C header are placed along the right edge of the board; these are far enough apart from each other and other ports to make plugging in cables easy.
Asrock was generous with the SATA 3.0 ports, with a total of eight of these connections set at a right angle on the right edge of the board. This is a bit better than most motherboards, as the chipset supports just six ports by itself. The two extra ports are powered by an Asmedia ASM1061 controller.
The Velocita also has two M.2 Key-M ports for adding fast NVMe solid-state drives. These ports are hidden beneath heatsinks that will help to cool any storage devices installed into them. The ports are quite easy to access—each heatsink is held by just two screws, and they come off separately. This is especially helpful if you want to add an SSD down the road, as the lower port can be accessed even with a GPU installed in the top PCI Express x16 slot.
At the bottom of the board is a set of buttons that can be used to boot or reset the system. This is helpful when you are building an open-air system and for initial testing. Unfortunately, the board doesn’t have a button for resetting the BIOS. You can do that by jumping two pins on the board, but these pins are placed in an awkward position between the bottom-most PCI Express x1 slot and several other headers.
A Brief Look at the BIOS
Asrock utilizes a black and red color scheme for its Phantom Gaming BIOS that’s dark and edgy. Upon first loading the BIOS, you’re greeted by an EZ mode that has almost all the basic settings you could want to access…
This mode displays basic system information, and it gives you the ability to change the RAM’s memory profile, adjust the boot order, and flash the BIOS. One missing feature that I wish Asrock had included here is a boot override option, but you’ll need to load the advanced-mode menus for that.
Scads of additional options and settings can be adjusted in the advanced menu. It would be long and tedious for me to dive into all of them here, so I’ll just focus on a few important areas like the OC Tweaker section. This section of the BIOS looks extremely limited at first glance, as there aren’t many options visible on screen, but it’s actually just well organized into three main folders. From here you can quickly and easily adjust the voltage and clock settings for the CPU, RAM, and other parts of the board.
A few tabs over, you’ll find a “Tool” tab which has some useful utilities for flashing the BIOS and securely erasing any data from an SSD prior to selling it…
There’s also a menu here, Polychrome, for controlling the RGB LEDs in the system. A separate in-Windows utility that performs similar service is also included; more on that in a bit.
A Test Run at Overclocking
I built this board up with one of Intel’s new Core i9-10900K processors and a dual-channel Corsair RAM kit that can operate at 4,200MHz. As this hardware is already quite robust and operates at relatively high clock speeds, there wasn’t much headroom for overclocking, but I opted to use it for a reason—to test the motherboard’s ability to operate with fast DDR4 memory.
Officially, the board supports RAM clocked at up to 4,666MHz, but most people are likely to use memory clocked significantly slower. For its part, the CPU officially supports RAM clocked at a more limited 2,933MHz, and realistically most DDR4 on the market today operates below 4,000MHz. Though there are faster RAM kits available on the market, by using a 4,200MHz kit, I’m able to testify that the board works perfectly with RAM up to at least this speed. I didn’t opt to overclock the RAM further, though.
The CPU, however, is another story. Officially this processor can hit clock speeds as high as 5.3GHz, but only on two CPU cores. With three cores active, the chip tops out at 5.1GHz; with five cores, it’s limited to 5GHz; and if all 10 cores are active, its clock speed is capped at 4.9GHz.
As these clock speeds are already quite high, and the Core i9-10900K consumes a hefty amount of power, I chose not to push extra voltage to the CPU. I also didn’t push past 5.3GHz. Instead, I focused on trying to raise the max all-cores turbo speed above 4.9GHz. Ultimately, I was able to get the CPU to reliably turbo all cores at 5.1GHz.
I also overclocked the cache on the processor. By default, the L3 cache tops out at 4.3GHz, but I was able to stably push it to 4.6GHz. Benchmarking the CPU with the cache overclocked turned out to have a negligible impact on performance overall, though.
Drivers and Software
With everything set up and the system up and running, getting the drivers installed on Windows 10 worked flawlessly. Typically, I end up needing to update Windows before I’m able to get all of the drivers to work, but in this case everything installed without issue, and without me ever having to connect to the internet.
Asrock’s included software utilities also installed easily, though they’re not all particularly useful. There’s a Norton Security trial included with the board worth skipping unless you are considering signing up for that service, but otherwise I’d say everything else is at least worth taking a look at.
The three most useful programs, to my eyes, comprise Asrock’s Tuning, App Shop, and Polychrome Sync applications. The first of these displays information about your system and gives you limited control over the CPU’s clock speed and voltage. You get better controls in the BIOS, but this could still prove useful for testing purposes when overclocking.
The App Shop program is essentially just an app store, but it also includes a driver-update service that can help keep your system up to date. If it weren’t for this feature, I’d recommend avoiding the app shop altogether, as it has no other real purpose.
Last but not least is Asrock’s Polychrome Sync software, which is essential if you want to control the various RGB LEDs connected to the motherboard…
Some third-party RGB-lighting hardware also supports Polychrome, and you can use this utility to control any of that compatible stuff, if it’s attached to the onboard headers. The board has two addressable RGB (aRGB) headers for light strips and the like.
An Ideal Balance of Value and Power for Z490
All things considered, I expect Asrock’s Z490 Phantom Gaming Velocita to be one of the more popular motherboards in the Z490 market. Aside from the relatively few USB ports and lack of onboard Wi-Fi, I can’t find any real complaints to make about this board. It offers a reasonable, well-rounded set of features and is very fairly priced.
Not every PC builder or upgrader on 10th Generation Intel needs a Z490-based board; if overclocking is definitely out and you’re just after a true utilitarian board, the chipset you probably should be scouting out is the B460 or H470, not the Z490. But if you’re looking for something that just works well, without all the bells, whistles, and expense of a top-tier flagship, and lets you toy a bit with overclocking and high-speed RAM, it’s a strong early pick in the Z490 stakes.
Asrock Z490 Phantom Gaming Velocita Specs
|CPU Socket||Intel LGA 1200|
|Maximum Supported Memory||256 GB|
|No. of DIMM Slots||4|
|Maximum Memory Speed||4666 MHz|
|PCI Express x16 Slots||2|
|PCI Express x4 Slots||0|
|PCI Express x1 Slots||3|
|Onboard Video Out for IGP (Rear Panel)||DisplayPort, HDMI|
|USB 3.0 or 3.1 Ports Onboard (Rear Panel)||6|
|USB 3.0 or 3.1 Ports Supported Via Header||3|
|USB 2.0 Ports Onboard (Rear Panel)||0|
|USB 2.0 Ports Supported Via Header||4|
|USB Type-C Header||Yes|
|Onboard Audio Chipset||Realtek ALC1220|
|No. of Audio Channels||7.1|