So similar is the Z390 Gaming X layout to the previously-tested Gaming SLI that we had to do a double-take, at first glance finding nothing more than the center slot missing the pricier-board’s metal cover and the lower slot switched from x16-length to x1. The fact that the middle slot has only four fixed lanes rather than stealing eight from the upper x16 slot could be seen as a benefit to anyone hoping to use a PCIe x4 storage card there, since it leaves the top slot’s sixteen lanes intact. As for the bottom slot, the change from x16-length to x1 is hardly a problem given that the Gaming SLI’s bottom slot had only two lanes.
A closer look at the I/O panel reveals that the legacy PS/2 port and two USB ports have traded position, and that those two ports have magically transformed from USB 3.0 (aka 3.1 Gen1) to USB 2.0. One of the Gaming SLI’s Gen2 ports is also knocked down to Gen1, leaving only one 10Gb/s connection. We’re keen on the retention of two USB 2.0 ports to connect our keyboard and mouse without eating into the chipset’s HSIO resources, but limiting next-generation USB to just a single port is a bit too limiting for our comfort.
In fact, a quick look up the page to the features table shows that the only resource issues that really mattered with the Gaming SLI are still present with the Z390 Gaming X: The lower M.2 interface still disables two SATA ports regardless of whether an NVMe or SATA drive is installed there, and the upper M.2 slot steals a SATA port whenever it’s filled with an M.2 drive that uses the SATA interface.
The Z390 Gaming X still features the same 10+2 phase voltage regulator as its SLI sibling, which remains fed by both ATX12V (4-pin) and EPS12V (8-pin) headers: The extra 4-pin connector allows users to exceed the 42A current limit of eight pins (four power, four ground) when overclocking.
Other than changes to its x16-length slots, the Z390 Gaming X retains the same lower section as the Gaming SLI. That means the bottom edge includes front-panel audio, S/PDIF breakout cable, legacy serial (COM) port, RGB, TPM, USB 2.0, one (of four) 4-pin fan, Intel-style front-panel LED/button, and PC Speaker headers along the bottom edge. One key difference is that RGB is not extended to the I/O panel’s decorative internal cover, though an unmasked stripe that follows the audio-to-I/O panel pathway is still lit in red.
The codec itself is also downgraded from the SLI version’s Realtek ALC1220 to its older ALC892.
Gigabyte’s Z390 Gaming X includes a manual, software installation guide, driver and application disc, two SATA cables and M.2 drive screws. Any other connection needs must be filled with the buyer’s own parts, though many of the board’s headers are already addressed by case cables.