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Review of the Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard based on the Intel Z790 chipset

05.01.2024 06:13

Today, new PC components continue to appear on the market from previously little-known manufacturers, whose products were previously focused mainly on the Chinese domestic market. At the same time, many of these companies realized that due to the slowness of large brands they could occupy their niche in world markets, and began active deliveries through distributors. One of these manufacturers is the Chinese company Maxsun, owned by the Guangzhou Shangke Group holding, which has begun active sales through official channels.

Maxsun's products cover several series, including Terminator, Challenger, iCraft and others. The most high-end series is iCraft, which includes the flagship Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard under consideration.

This product has an impressive configuration, offering up to 38 high-speed HSIO ports in total. In addition, it supports up to 5 integrated USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports with a throughput of up to 20 Gb/s each, although each of them requires appropriate support from USB 3.2 Gen2.

12th, 13th, and 14th generation processors provide PCIe 5.0 support in the form of 16 lanes used for PCIe x16/M.2 slots, and 4 PCIe 4.0 lanes hardcoded to one of the M.2 slots, providing direct connection to the processor. In addition, these processors are capable of working with both DDR5 and DDR4 memory.

The Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard is an interesting solution from Maxsun that allows it to occupy its niche in the market due to its technical characteristics and competitiveness.

The Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard comes in an elegant, high-quality, durable cardboard packaging with a magnetic closure and a convenient carrying handle. Inside the package, the kit is located in a special compartment, clearly divided for convenience.

The package is impressive: in addition to the usual components such as a user manual and SATA cables, the kit also includes screws for the M.2 slots, a wireless antenna, additional stickers and even a screwdriver. It's worth noting that software is not included (as you usually need to download the latest versions from the manufacturer's website). This means that users must download the necessary software from the company's website to obtain the latest versions of the programs.

The kit includes a very useful bonus: a screwdriver with 4 of the most popular bits.

The “plug” for the rear panel with connectors is already mounted on the board itself.

Form factor

The ATX form factor has dimensions up to 305x244 mm, and E-ATX — up to 305x330 mm. The Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard has dimensions of 305x244 mm, therefore it is made in the ATX form factor, and it has 9 mounting holes for installation in the case. One hole is covered with a heatsink for the M.2 slot

The reverse side is almost empty. The textolite is processed well: at all soldering points the sharp ends are cut off. An aluminum protective plate is installed on it, which also takes part in cooling the back side of the board in the VRM area.

Specifications

Traditional table with a list of functional features.

Supported processorsIntel Core 12/13/14th generation
CPU socketLGA 1700
ChipsetIntel Z790
Memory4 × DDR5, up to 7000 MHz (XMP), up to 192 GB, two channels
Audio subsystem1 × Realtek ALC1220 (7.1)
Network controllers2 × Realtek RTL8125BG Ethernet 2.5 Gbps
1 × Intel Dual Band Wireless AX211NGW (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax (2.4/6 GHz) + Bluetooth 5.2)
Expansion slots1 × PCIe 5.0 x16 (x16 mode)
1 × PCIe 4.0 x16 (x4 mode)
1 × PCIe 3.0 x4 (x4 mode)
1 × PCIe 4.0 x1
Drive connectors4 × SATA 6 Gb/s (Z790)
1 × M.2 (M.2A, CPU, PCIe 4.0 x4 for 2242/2260/2280/22110 format devices)
1 × M.2 (M.2B, Z790, PCIe 4.0 x4 for 2242/2260/2280/22110 format devices)
1 × M.2 (M.2C, Z790, PCIe 4.0 x4 for 2242/2260/2280/22110 format devices)
1 × M.2 (M.2D, Z790, PCIe 4.0 x4/SATA for 2242/2260/2280/22110 format devices)
USB ports3 × USB 2.0: 2 x 3-port internal (Z790)
4 × USB 2.0: 4 Type-A ports (FE1.1S)
2 × USB 3.2 Gen1: 2-port internal (Z790)
4 × USB 3.2 Gen2: 4 Type-A ports (blue)(Z790)
1 × USB 3.2 Gen2x2: 1 Type-C port (Z790)
1 × USB 3.2 Gen2x2: internal Type-C connector (Z790)
Rear Connectors1 × USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (Type-C)
4 × USB 3.2 Gen2 (Type-A)
4 × USB 2.0 (Type-A)
2 × RJ-45
2 × wireless antenna connectors
5 audio minijacks
1 × optical S /PDIF
1 × CMOS reset button
1 × BIOS cold flash button
1 × DP-out
1 × HDMI-out
Other internal elements24-pin ATX power connector
2 8-pin EPS12V power connector
1 M.2 slot (E-key), occupied by wireless network adapter
1 connector for connecting USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C port
1 connector for connecting 2 USB 3.2 Gen1 ports
2 connectors for connecting 3 USB 2.0 ports
6 connectors for connecting 4-pin fans and pumps
1 connector for connecting non-addressable RGB tape
2 connectors for connecting addressable ARGB tape
1 audio connector for the front panel of the case
1 connector for TPM security devices
1 COM connector ports
1 power button
1 reset button
1 backlight on/off button
2 connectors for connecting control from the front panel of the case
1 CMOS reset connector
Form factorATX (305×244 mm)

Main functionality: chipset, processor, memory

Scheme of operation of the chipset + processor combination.

The Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard formally supports DDR5 memory up to 5600 MHz, however, as is widely known and actively advertised by motherboard manufacturers, using XMP profiles it is possible to achieve frequencies up to 7000 MHz and higher. In the case of this board, it is capable of supporting frequencies up to 7000 MHz.

Intel Core processors of the 12/13/14th generations, compatible with the LGA1700 socket and supported by the Z790, have 20 I/O lanes (16 PCIe 5.0 and 4 PCIe 4.0), no built-in USB and SATA ports. Interaction with the Z790 chipset is carried out through a special Digital Media Interface 4.0 (DMI 4.0 x8) channel. All PCIe processor lanes are directed to PCIe expansion slots and the M.2 port. Serial Peripheral Interface (SPI) is used to interface with UEFI/BIOS, and Low Pin Count (LPC) is used to connect low-bandwidth I/O devices such as fan controllers, TPMs, and legacy peripherals.

The Z790 chipset, in turn, has the ability to support up to 38 I/O lines, which can be distributed as follows:

  • Up to 14 USB ports, including up to 5 USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports, 10 USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen1 ports and up to 14 USB 2.0 ports. USB 2.0 lanes are also used to support 3.2 ports, with each USB 3.2 Gen2x2 port requiring support from two USB 3.2 Gen2 ports.
  • Up to 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports.
  • Up to 28 PCIe lanes, including 8 v3.0 lanes and 20 v4.0 lanes.

Once again, we must remind you that the Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi supports Intel Core processors of the 12th, 13th and 14th generations, made for the LGA1700 socket.

To install memory modules, the Maxsun board has four DIMM slots (for memory to work in Dual Channel, if only 2 modules are used, they should be installed in A2 and B2 (marked 1 and 2).

The board supports unbuffered DDR5 memory (non-ECC), and the maximum memory capacity is 192 GB.

DIMM slots do not have a metal frame, which prevents deformation of the slots and printed circuit board when installing memory modules and protects against electromagnetic interference.

Peripheral functionality: PCIe, SATA, various “baubles”

Above, we examined the potential capabilities of the Z790+Core tandem, and now let’s see what of this and how it is implemented in this motherboard.

In addition to the USB ports, which we'll get to later, the Z790 chipset has 28 PCIe lanes. We count how many lines are spent on support (communication) with a particular element (it must be taken into account that 28 lines are not a single version, but 20 PCIe 4.0 lines and 8 PCIe 3.0 lines):

  • PCIe x16_2 slot ( 4 PCIe 4.0 lanes);
  • PCIe x1 slot ( 1 PCIe 4.0 lane);
  • PCIe x4 slot ( 4 PCIe 3.0 lanes);
  • ports SATA_1/2/3/4/: ( 4 standard SATA lines );
  • M.2 (M.2B) slot ( 4 PCIe 4.0 lanes);
  • M.2 (M.2C) slot ( 4 PCIe 4.0 lanes);
  • M.2 (M.2D) slot ( 4 PCIe 4.0 lanes);
  • Realtek RTL8125BG (Ethernet 2.5Gb/s) ( 1 PCIe 4.0 lane);
  • Realtek RTL8125BG (Ethernet 2.5Gb/s) ( 1 PCIe 4.0 lane);
  • M.2 slot (WIFI/BT (Wireless) ( 1 PCIe 4.0 line);

28 PCIe lanes were occupied (20 PCIe 4.0 + 4 SATA + 4 PCIe 3.0). Communication with audio codecs at the Realtek RTL408x level is via USB 2.0, and with codecs at the RTL1220 level and lower through HDA (PCI bus emulation), so in this case the USB 2.0 line is not wasted. But one USB 2.0 is used to support the M.2 slot (Key E) for wireless communication, and the FE1.1S controller uses USB 2.0 signal lines for its needs. More details about this below in the USB ports section.

Now let's look above at how processors work in this configuration. The 12/13/14th generation CPUs have a total of 20 PCIe lanes, 4 of which PCIe 4.0 versions are allocated to the M.2 port (M.2_2). The remaining 16 PCIe 5.0 lanes go to the PCIe x16_1 slot, so there are no switching options.

Now about PCIe slots in general.

The Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi motherboard has four slots: one PCIe x16_1 (designed for video cards or other devices), another PCIe x16_2 (formally x16, but actually using 4 PCIe lanes), as well as one PCIe x4 and one PCIe x1 slot.

It is important to note that this motherboard does not require redistribution of PCIe lanes, therefore, no multiplexers are used here.

The first PCIe x16_1 slot is directly connected to the processor, while the remaining slots are associated with the Z790 chipset: the “long” PCIe x16_2 slot (although technically it is x16, it actually operates in x4 mode), the PCIe x4 slot, and the PCIe x1 slot.

Both “long” PCIe x16 slots are equipped with stainless steel metal reinforcement, which increases their reliability. This protection also helps reduce the impact of electromagnetic interference on the slots, providing additional protection.

The motherboard allows you to mount a CO of any size.

The motherboard does not have PCIe 5.0 signal amplifiers (re-drivers).

Next up are storage devices.

In total, the board has 4 Serial ATA 6 Gb/s connectors + 4 slots for drives in the M.2 form factor. 4 SATA ports are implemented via the Z790 chipset and support RAID creation.

The motherboard has 4 M.2 form factor slots.

The second, third and fourth M.2 slots (B,C,D) receive data from the Z790 chipset.

All M.2 slots (except M.2D) work with modules only with a PCIe interface (modules with a SATA interface can be installed in M.2D) and support modules with sizes 2242, 2260, 2280 and 22110. All M.2 can organize RAID.

All M.2 slots have heatsinks. The upper M.2A and lower M.2D have separate heatsinks, while the M.2B/C slots have a common heatsink.

Peripheral functionality: USB ports, network interfaces, I/O

Now comes USB ports and other I/O. And let's start with the back panel, where most of them are located.

Let's repeat: the Z790 chipset is capable of implementing no more than 14 USB ports, of which there can be up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen1 ports, up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, up to 5 USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports, and/or up to 14 USB 2.0 ports.

We also remember about 28 PCIe lines, which are used to support drives, network and other controllers (I have already shown above what and how all 28 lines are used).

So what do we have? There are a total of 15 USB ports on the motherboard:

  • 2 USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports: all implemented using Z790 and two ITE IT8851 controllers

and are represented by: internal Type-C port

on the motherboard for 2 ports;

  • 7 USB 2.0/1.1 ports: 4 implemented via Terminus FE1.1S controller

(1 USB 2.0 line from the Z790 is spent on it) and are presented on the rear panel with Type-A ports (black); the other 3 are implemented via the Z790 and are represented by two internal

connectors (one for 2 ports, the second for 1 port).

Thus, we have 2 controllers using USB lines from the Z790:

  • Terminus FE1.1S (4 USB 2.0 Type-A ports on the rear panel) ( 1 USB 2.0 line );
  • M.2 slot (Key E) (with wireless network controller) ( 1 USB 2.0 line).

So, high-speed USB ports are implemented through the Z790 chipset:

  • 2 dedicated USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (not counted, because they were obtained at the expense of other HSIOs);
  • + 4 dedicated USB 3.2 Gen2
  • + 2 dedicated USB 3.2 Gen1
  • + 2 USB 3.2 Gen2 to provide USB 3.2 Gen2x2

8 high speed ports . Don't forget that every high-speed USB port is equipped with a USB 2.0 port, that is, 8 USB 2.0 ports are already occupied. Plus 2 USB 2.0 ports for providing controllers and 3 dedicated USB 2.0 ports. A total of 13 USB 2.0 ports are implemented .

Well, 28 PCIe lanes allocated to support other peripherals.

In total, the Z790 in this case has 36 high-speed ports out of 38 .

All fast USB Type-C ports are equipped with re-drivers from Diodes Inc.

Also, Type-A ports have re-drivers to enhance power supply.

Now about networking matters.

The motherboard is equipped with excellent communication facilities. There are two(!) high-speed Realtek RTL8125BG Ethernet controllers, each of which is capable of operating according to the 2.5 Gbit/s standard.

There is also a comprehensive wireless adapter on the Intel AX-211NGW controller, through which Wi-Fi 6 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax) and Bluetooth 5.2 are implemented. It is installed in the M.2 (E-key) slot, and its connectors for screwing in external antennas are located on the rear panel.

The plug, traditionally placed on the back panel, in this case is already put on and is shielded from the inside to reduce electromagnetic interference.

Audio subsystem

For a relatively simple motherboard, the manufacturer chose the well-known and popular Realtek ALC1220 codec. It generally provides up to 7.1 audio output with resolutions up to 24-bit/192 kHz.

“Audiophile” capacitors are used in the audio circuits of the board.

The audio path is located on the corner part of the board and does not intersect with other elements. The card has five standard connectors with a familiar color. S/PDIF is on the rear panel (optical output).

Power, cooling

To power the board, it has 3 connectors: in addition to the 24-pin ATX (it’s on the right side of the board (on the left in the photo), there are two more 8-pin EPS12V connectors.

The processor power supply circuit is made according to the 19+2+1 scheme (22 phases in total, 19 on VCore, 2 on VCCIO and 1 on the integrated graphics core).

Each VCore and iGPU phase channel has a superferrite choke and a Renesas 90A ISL99390 DrMOS.

The VCore+iGPU circuit is controlled by the RAA229131 PWM controller from Renesas, which is designed for a maximum of 20 phases.

So all 19 VCore power phases follow the usual full circuit (no doubling).

The two VCCIO power phases have DrMos assemblies and their own PWM controller from Monolith Power Systems.

Now about cooling.

All potentially very hot elements have their own heat sinks.

As we can see, the cooling of the chipset (one radiator) is organized separately from the power converters. The VRM section has its own two radiators connected by a heat pipe at a right angle.

As I mentioned earlier, all M.2 slots also have heatsinks: the top and bottom have their own personal heatsinks, and the middle two have a common one.

The motherboard has a backplate; this backplate not only protects the PCB from damage, but also participates in cooling through the thermal interface on the back of the board in the area of the VRM power converters.

Backlight

In this case, the lighting effects on the board itself are on the casing of the rear block of output ports, and the dividing line between the audio path and the rest of the board is also illuminated. We also remember about 3 connectors for connecting external lighting, and all of this can be controlled through the Maxsun Sync program.

If you don’t like all this, you can always turn off the backlight through the BIOS settings, software (or a button on the board itself).

Software control is achieved using Maxsun Sync.

Windows software

All software can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website Maxsun.com.

It essentially boils down to a single program for controlling the operation of the backlight — Maxsun Sync. The choice of modes is small, but it is possible to synchronize the motherboard backlight with the video card (from Maxsun) and memory modules (all well-known brands are supported).

BIOS Settings

All modern boards now have UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), which are essentially operating systems in miniature. To enter the settings when booting the PC, you traditionally need to press the Del or F2 key.

This board does not have a division of the menu into a general “simple” and “advanced”, it is single. Here you can also control the backlight.

Advanced settings are the Advanced and Power items. There is already the usual set of settings, where you can control USB ports and change the operating modes of PCIe and M.2 slots.

Monitoring and boot menu options are well known to everyone. In the monitoring section you can configure the operation of the fan slots.

The range of overclocking options is standard, as it should be for products based on Z-level chipsets. However, for modern top processors, many options are probably useless, since the processor itself already operates at greatly increased frequencies (using Intel TurboBoost, not to mention MCE).

Experience shows that overclocking will largely depend on the capabilities of the CPU cooling system.

Performance (and overclocking)

We start everything in default mode. Then we load it with the OCCT stress test (default settings).

So, in auto-overclocking mode, we managed to reach a frequency of 5.7 GHz for P-cores and 4.4 GHz for all E-cores. P-cores represent regular cores with two threads each, indicating a level of performance, while E-cores are power-efficient, «small» cores with a single thread.

This high level of auto overclocking is quite logical, given the powerful power system of the motherboard, which provides such capabilities by default.

Regarding heating and operation of other components, all parameters were normal. The processor consumption was up to 200 W, which is significant, but within normal operating values for this level of auto-overclocking.

conclusions

Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi is a beautiful motherboard based on the top-end Intel Z790 chipset. In terms of capabilities, it is practically not inferior to analogues from famous and well-known manufacturers, but at the same time, the cost of the board is 2 times lower than that of flagship models on the same chipset: 25-30 thousand rubles at the time of preparation of the review.

Maxsun iCraft Z790 WiFi has 15 USB ports of different types, including 2 very fast USB 3.2 Gen2×2, 4 USB 3.2 Gen2 and 2 USB 3.2 Gen1. The board offers 2 PCIe x16 slots, one of which receives 16 PCIe version 5.0 lanes from the processor, and the other operates in x4 mode (connected to the chipset), plus PCIe x1 and PCIe x4 slots. The board also has 4 M.2 slots: the first is connected directly to the processor, the other three to the chipset, all via PCIe 4.0 lines. The board has 6 fan headers and 4 SATA ports.

The processor's power supply system is very powerful, capable of powering any compatible processors with a decent overclocking margin. And the network capabilities are excellent: two 2.5 Gbps wired controllers and one modern wireless one. Among the advantages of the board are the beautiful standard lighting and the ability to connect additional RGB devices.

The board has a beautiful silver design and can be a good gift for a PC modding fan.