It's been nearly two years to the day since NZXT last released a motherboard, which was the Z370 N7. NZXT initially used ECS as its motherboard OEM, but has opted to use ASRock this time round for a new N7 model. This has the same N7 infused armor, albeit using a combined metal and plastic instead of just metal which does reduce the overall cost. Aiming for the mid-range market, NZXT's N7 Z490 features 2.5 GbE, Wi-Fi 6, dual M.2, and four SATA ports, and we give it our focus in this review.

The N7 Z490: Going For Mass Effect

At the beginning of September, NZXT reached out to me explaining that they intended to launch a new motherboard into an already cramped Z490 market. One of the elements NZXT wanted to address over its motherboard offerings was the firmware and overclocking, given that ECS isn't really a popular name on those two fronts. This time around, NZXT has leveraged ASRock's services for the underlying platform, on top of which NZXT has layered its own styling and form.

Armed and equipped with a reasonable mid-ranged feature set, the NZXT N7 Z490 includes a premium HD audio codec, combined with 2.5 GbE and an Intel Wi-Fi 6 interface. Perhaps one of the most notable features is the boards full cover armor plating (plastic and metal), which users familiar with NZXT's previous motherboards will recognize. It stretches across the entirety of the PCB, only showing the CPU socket area, memory slots, and the top and bottom edges of the board.

Looking at memory support closer, the N7 Z490 includes the capacity to install up to 128 GB, with speeds of up to DDR4-4266 supported. This is a couple of pegs lower than other models on the market, but the likelihood of regular users opting for higher speeds than this is likely to be slim due to cost. The board uses two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots for storage, with four SATA ports available. On the rear panel, the N7 Z490 uses just two USB 3.2 G2 ports, a single Type-C, and just one Type-A, with two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A and two USB 2.0 ports.

In our performance testing, the N7 Z490 performed and behaved like any other Z490 board we've tested from ASRock. We saw the N7 Z490 do well in our Non-UEFI POST time test, get a good result in our DPC latency test, and observed competitive performance in our computational and gaming benchmarks. Overall, for any stock level performance, it was hard to find fault with the board.

For overclocking, the NZXT N7 Z490 performed better than any NZXT board I've tested so far (I've owned all of them). Similar to other ASRock models, when adjusting the CPU VCore voltage in the firmware, it reverts the LLC profile to level 1 for tighter and aggressive VDroop control. It feels as if the firmware isn't quite polished to the standard we would expect for release - in our manual overclock testing, setting 1.250 V in the firmware at 4.8 GHz, all cores gave us a load VCore of 1.384 V, which is way too much. This presented even more problems at higher overclocks and caused a lot of downclocking, which skewed our results, with a possible issue within the board's loadline calibration profile settings. More info on this in the review.

The NZXT N7 Z490 has an MSRP of $230, which puts it in direct competition with models such as the ASRock Z490 PG Velocita ($235), the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Elite AC ($220), and the ASUS Prime Z490-A ($230). All of the competing models include support for faster memory, more SATA ports, with the ASUS model offering better USB 3.2 G2 connectivity. What NZXT has squarely in its favor is a competitive networking combination, with a unique and uniformed aesthetic due to the PCB armor, which looks great. The crux of the matter is whether or not the NZXT N7 Z490 steps up to the challenge in our test suite.

Read on for our extended analysis and comparison tests.

Visual Inspection
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  • Woomn 44 - Monday, October 19, 2020 - link

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  • mrvco - Sunday, October 11, 2020 - link

    RGB powa I expect.
  • SlashZerov - Friday, October 9, 2020 - link

    My system has
    2x USB keyboards one gaming and one for typing
    1x USB mouse
    1x USB headset Logitech g430
    2x USB occulus rift sensors
    1x USB data to USB for moving data on/off drives
    I also have a couple phone chargers hanging off so yes 6 isn’t enough for the average person.
  • YB1064 - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - link

    Nobody is going to buy this board at the listed price. I'd pay $75-90 for it, tops. 4 layer PCB? Man this aint 1990.
  • Operandi - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - link

    Wrong platform.

    Also, those heatsinks have very little surface area, more like heatbanks.

    Also, also there is clean design and then there is boring. These are boring.
  • s.yu - Thursday, October 8, 2020 - link

    I call this a clean design, half-assed clean is what's boring, this is actually so refined that the issue is getting other hardware to match them.
  • Tomatotech - Friday, October 9, 2020 - link

    For all its many fault, I do like the clean design. Reminds me a little of the various Mac Pro designs. Would be suitable for an exposed mobo mod project.

    I personally would prefer an even more clean look, for example removable coverings over the unused PCIe slots, both for aesthetics and to keep dust out. This mobo was made to be on display and not all mod projects use enclosed cases.
  • Polaris198321 - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - link

    Looks good. however no 6 SATA data ports for fully taking advantage of 2 laptop HDDs and desktop HDDs here. needs buttons for CMOS and bios resetting on io panel found on many Asus high end for the mobo and specially made self-recharging materials and censor on the chips for built-in ups battery backup for 30 minutes in case of blackouts to run in the energy-saving mode for basic needs like the internet and phone usage on a desktop and laptop. 4g LTE - 6g is a must as well if you decide to ditch cable internet for an alternative with both of them soon having yearly cable and internet/phone plans.

    wireless PSU ports on the mobo from the PSU might be tested for ditching the nightmare of cable management in such pc powers here once the light beam mirroring bounce and data/power reception effect is perfected without frying the PSU and mobo that both self-heal and self cool like the DPU and CPU and GPUs to come and ssds and HDDs doing the same thing with fans also on the side like on the haf x tower for vertical GPU mounting for the RTX 3090 and CPU fan mount that also rotate to go vertical to give a bigger CPU fan more breathing space to properly cool an RTX 3090 and intel i9 11 gen desktop CPU/AMD ryzen x3950 CPU with custom DDR 5/ssds from intel at 1 TB each for the ram slots here for hybrid custom video sound music creation editing and data science and gaming at 8k going foward as the bios uefi needs to have the ability for multiboot os for macOS windows OS Linux OS and chrome/andriod OS and iOS here for seamless easy file transfers to and from said devices and for network and usb/microsd backups of the mobo and oses from the mobo bios itself. tb 4 ports for any module CPUs from AMD or ryzen to boot up a dead pc for recovery on the i/o panel with 8k 2.1 HDMI ports and display ports are needed as well for connection to an lg/sony 8k tv theater system with sound systems that can handle live music/video/audio editing and recordings like seen and found on many movie and music recording stations.
  • firewrath9 - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - link

  • Operandi - Wednesday, October 7, 2020 - link

    Huh...... don't do drugs I guess?

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