Some builders want high-end motherboards without a layer of gamer bling on top, and for those folks, Gigabyte has its Designare series. While these boards are ostensibly for creative pros, their understated looks and high-quality parts make them a good fit for any high-performance build. The company has just applied this treatment to the Z390 chipset with its Z390 Designare.
To power eighth- and ninth-gen Core CPUs in the LGA 1151 socket, Gigabyte taps 12 Vishay SiC634 integrated power stages driven by an Intersil ISL69138 PWM controller. Gigabyte turns six phases from that PWM chip into 12 using Intersil's ISL6617A doublers. To keep this VRM cool in operation, Gigabyte uses a chunky metal heatsink with a direct-contact heat pipe running over all 12 of those power stages. Power input comes courtesy of an eight-pin-plus-four-pin EPS duo. A 2-oz copper PCB helps draw heat away from the exposed pads on the bottom of those power stages, too.
High-quality VRM aside, the real action on the Z390 Designare plays out on its rear I/O panel. This board has two Thunderbolt 3 ports with all the trimmings, including support for DisplayPort input to drive single-cable displays. Gigabyte also provides two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (two of which feature its DAC-Up adjustable voltage tech), two USB 2.0 ports, and a hybrid PS/2 keyboard-and-mouse port. Twin Gigabit Ethernet jacks and an integrated Intel Wireless-AC 9560 wireless radio round out those impressive connectivity options.
To support demanding storage configurations or multiple graphics cards, the Designare can split its CPU-driven PCIe lanes into a x8/x4/x4 config, allowing a high-performance graphics card and two PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs to communicate directly with the CPU from three physical PCIe x16 slots. That connectivity comes on top of two M.2 slots with heatsinks, two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, and six SATA ports. Demanding NVMe storage users will be pleased to find that at least one M.2 slot and its heatsink stand well clear of the primary PCIe slot to prevent throttling due to waste heat from a system's graphics card on this board.
We see little to take issue with from the Z390 Designare's loadout and layout on visual inspection, and that's a good thing given this board's $270 suggested price tag. Keep an eye out for the Z390 Designare on your favorite e-tailer's pages soon.