I'm a fan of small form factor (SFF) PC builds. It's always an experience with a strong sense of accomplishment when cramming in an amazing amount of performance and functionality in such a compact platform. Mini-ITX boards can be pricey since manufacturers have to cram most of the gubbins from a standard-sized motherboard onto a smaller package.
Biostar is a familiar brand in the lower end of the price segment for Mini-ITX boards. The Racing Z490GTN is the company's answer for anyone looking to build a compact system with 10th and 11th Gen Intel processors. It makes good use of Intel's Z490 chipset, though you will notice some omissions compared to premium full-sized boards.
The Racing Z490GTN came in at $200 at launch, though you can easily find one for much less. The price is a little high even though it rocks the Z490 chipset. It's possible to find a Mini-ITX for a little less if you are on a strict budget and don't mind slightly downgrading to the Intel B460 chipset.
Today, we're going to be looking at the Biostar Racing Z490GTN to see if this mid-range Mini-ITX motherboard is worth considering for a compact PC build.
Biostar Racing Z490GTN
Bottom line: It's good, but Biostar falls a little short of the competition with the Racing Z490GTN. The sub-par audio codec, lack of any 2.5Gb LAN, requirement to purchase a separate Wi-Fi adapter, single M.2 slot, and space issues make this a tough buy unless on sale.
- Good system stability
- Allows for some overclocking
- Small and compact
- Subtle design
- Easy-to-use UEFI BIOS
- Wi-Fi 6 PCIe not included
- Tight spacing between RAM and CPU socket
- Underwhelming compared to the competition
Biostar Racing Z490GTN tech specs
Biostar's Racing Z490GTN has a lot going for it since it's rocking Intel's best generation chipset. Since it's Mini-ITX, you've only got two DIMM slots for a maximum of 64GB of RAM. There's a full-sized PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, a single M.2 slot (as well as a secondary one for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth cards), four SATA ports, and plenty of USB ports on the rear with all the usual I/O.
|Category||Biostar Racing Z490GTN|
|CPU||Intel 10th & 11th Gen|
|RAM||2x DDR4 DIMM (up to DDR4 4400)|
|Expansion||1x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot|
|Storage||4x SATA (6Gbps)
1x M.2 (PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA SSD support)
1x M.2 for Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module
|Rear ports||2x Wi-Fi
2x USB 2.0
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports
3x audio jacks
You may find the specification list above a little limiting, especially if you plan on overclocking a beefy Intel Core i9 processor and want to build the most capable enthusiast system possible. There's only a single PCIe slot, just four SATA ports, and a 6+2 power phase delivery design. The Z490GTN isn't the most capable board around, but it's a solid mid-tier solution on paper.
Biostar Racing Z490GTN design and features
The Biostar Racing GTN series of Mini-ITX motherboards aren't premium by any means, and as such, you won't be rocking a striking design and RGB lighting if you go with the Z490GTN. It has a more subtle design with a nice black PCB and black/grey elements for the various shielding and components.
Biostar managed to cram plenty onto the Racing Z490GTN motherboard, but it can get a little too tight.
If you want some RGB in your PC gaming life, there are the usual 5v and 12v LED headers for all your favorite RGB accessories. As well as the more subdued styling, the motherboard itself is rather clutter-free. The M.2 slot is on the rear to help aid space. You may find things to get a little tight, especially if you plan on using larger CPU coolers like the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 4.
I tried to install the aforementioned cooler and ran into issues as the spacing between the DIMM slots, and Intel socket is pretty much non-existent with such a large heatsink. AIO solutions and smaller air coolers are a must, the former especially so if you plan on using more powerful Intel Core i7 or i9 processors.
The Biostar Racing Z490GTN is powered using 8-pin 12v and 24-pin ATX connections. Access to these ports is a breeze, thanks to the configuration of the board itself. There are three fan headers (consisting of CPU, CPU_OPT, and SYS_FAN), so fan splitters will be required if you plan on using this board inside a PC case with more than a single fan.
It's also worth noting that the single system fan header may be challenging to use if you plan on installing a thick GPU since it's positioned directly above the one PCIe x16 slot. Four SATA ports are located near the internal USB 3.0 header and all the front panel connections. It's a clean-looking board that's easy to use and will allow for some effective cable routing.
Biostar Racing Z490GTN stability and performance
In recent decades, motherboards have come so far that it's now difficult to find ones that do not perform well enough for gaming or even certain enthusiast tasks. I put together an Intel test rig with the Biostar Racing Z490GTN with mixed expectations. Intel's Core i7-10700K seemed ideal for this platform.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-10700K|
|Motherboard||Biostar Racing Z490GTN|
|Cooling||NZXT Kraken X63|
|Memory||2x 8GB Trident Royal Z DDR4 4000|
|Storage||1TB Sabrent M.2 SSD|
|Graphics||ZOTAC RTX 2060 SUPER MINI|
|PSU||be quiet! Dark Power Pro 12 1200W|
One shouldn't expect outstanding results with such a Mini-ITX motherboard as the Z490GTN. It's a mid-tier solution that will yield equivalent results, especially if you plan on overclocking. The board makes use of a 6+2 phase delivery design for the CPU, which isn't terrible, but it falls short of what's offered by premium Intel motherboards.
Performance is good enough for a compact media center PC build or small gaming rig.
Cooling for the VRMs is okay, allowing the Core i7-10700K to overclock slightly without causing system instability. In some synthetic testing to see how the CPU performed at stock settings, I managed to obtain 7,487 in PC Mark 10 and 5,706 and 571 in CPU-Z. This was as expected, coming in a little under the Gigabyte Z490 AORUS ULTRA.
I fired up Path of Exile, Tomb Raider, GTA V, and Ashes of a Singularity for gaming. Each title performed well enough, given the hardware installed on the test bench. Overclocking the CPU (to 5.0GHz) allowed for a slight increase in system performance for both productivity and gaming. CPU temperatures were recorded at 87C (189F), so things can get a little toasty.
Biostar's UEFI BIOS is really nice to use. My favorite solution is from ASUS, and Biostar is right up there with the Z490GTN. It's easy-to-use, has a good-looking UI with a dark color palette, and allows you to conveniently switch between basic and advanced modes, depending on what you wish to achieve.
It's not going to allow you to tweak absolutely everything, but should you simply wish to make your CPU and RAM go a little faster and activate some RGB lighting using the available headers, the BIOS is a great tool that takes just minutes to learn.
Biostar Racing Z490GTN Things you'll dislike
The most annoying part about unboxing the Biostar Racing Z490GTN is how you need to separately purchase the Wi-Fi 6 PCIe card. It's not bundled with the board, which isn't great if you plan on installing everything on the day of arrival to get online immediately. These cards aren't pricey, but it would have been good to have one included.
Spacing on the motherboard can prove an issue, especially if you plan on using a bulky CPU cooler, which can knock against your RAM modules or a beefy GPU with a substantial shroud. This isn't a problem limited to this motherboard but is worth bearing in mind as you plan out your PC build.
Lastly, you may not enjoy having the Realtek ALC892, especially since a motherboard like the ASRock Z490M-ITX/ac comes with a better codec (and a second M.2 slot, as well as integrated wireless and 2.5Gb LAN) for about the same price. It makes this a harder sell.
Should you buy the Biostar Racing Z490GTN?
Who it's for
- If you need an Intel Z490 motherboard
- If you plan on using a 10th or 11th Gen Intel CPU
- If you want to save money for other PC parts
- If you want a subtly designed motherboard
- If you want to build a compact PC
Who it isn't for
- If you have a 9th Gen Intel CPU
- If you want to really push your CPU beyond its limits
- If you want the best Intel motherboard platform
Is the Biostar Racing Z490GTN one of the best motherboards you can find right now? Unfortunately not. It's also not one of the best Mini-ITX motherboards either. If Biostar priced this at $125 or somewhere thereabouts at launch, it would have made more sense, but at $200, it's a tough buy.
Luckily, you can buy one for less than $150 without looking too hard, which makes the pill a little easier to swallow. You will still need to buy a Wi-Fi 6 adapter for wireless connectivity, but at least the savings on the board itself can be used to offset this additional cost. If you don't mind a slightly weaker audio experience, there's no significant drawback to choosing the Racing Z490GTN for a mini PC build.
It's fast with enough grunt to handle even an overclocked Intel Core i7-10700K processor, though you may find the spacing between the socket and DIMM slots to be a little tight for installing a more capable CPU cooler to handle the excess heat. This motherboard won't win any races (contrary to the branding) but will manage to power your ITX PC if you don't mind missing out on certain features.
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