NZXT N7 Z490 Review | ‘Stylish and substantial’

NZXT N7 Z490 REVIEW. Motherboards are rarely aesthetically pleasing. Sure, we’ve long since moved on from green PCBs and cream-colored slots, but the majority of MOBOs still look ugly. Most opt for a “gamer” look, which is fine for some folks, but what about those who value a minimalist and clean PC build? Enter the N7 Z490 motherboard from NZXT, with its frankly beautiful design.

Black or white

NZXT N7 Z490 Review

The N7 Z490, Wi-Fi antenna, four SATA cables, and user manual are included in the large box. The board makes a good first impression with its clean looks, even before it’s placed inside of a case.

It’s clear from the get-go that this board would be perfect for builders theming a system around black or white. The metal cover is the star of the show here, visually, hiding the majority of motherboard components behind a clean, smooth surface.

For those going with a totally white PC, the N7 Z490 is one of the only choices. Pair it with one of NZXT’s H cases, which remain super popular for their great aesthetic at a good price, and that is going to be one spotless build.

Of course, the N7 Z490 is an ATX board that fits into any standard ATX case, so there are no weird proprietary features causing issues here. It’s just clear that NZXT hopes that users pair its board with one of its cases. The H510 Elite that we reviewed previously is a perfect match.

Bells and whistles

NZXT N7 Z490 Review

Those opting for the NZXT N7 Z490 can enhance the aesthetic with RGB support. There isn’t any RGB on the board itself, which maintains that minimalist look, but internal I/O allows for RGB accessories via the two NZXT RGB LED connectors, a 5V addressable RGB LED connector, and a 12V RGB LED connector.

The board is also generous with its fan headers, with seven in total. The CPU and AIO pump headers come as no surprise, but then there are five additional headers for case fans. These are positioned well and make cable management slightly easier.

It’s just a shame that the generosity seen with RGB and fan headers doesn’t extend elsewhere. While the relatively low number of four SATA ports can be defended by the inclusion of two M.2 slots, the rear I/O’s USB offering is tougher to explain.

There’s one USB 3.2 Gen 2, two USB 3.2 Gen 1, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, and two USB 2.0 ports. When the majority of gaming peripherals still connect via Type-A, users may find that the five Type-A ports on the rear of the N7 Z490 just aren’t enough. Thankfully, there is the option to expand via an internal card or dongles, but the stock experience is a little lacking.

During my setup process, the only issue was USB availability. Everything else went super smooth, with NZXT combining forces with ASRock to make building faster and easier. The integrated I/O shield is a welcome sight, as I always manage to forget that despite how many PCs I’ve built and rebuilt.

NZXT N7 Z490 Review

Booting into BIOS had me seeing a familiar sight. I use an ASRock motherboard on my work PC and the N7 Z490 BIOS is very similar, although given some extra flair with a lightweight NZXT skin on top.

I found the overclocking experience to be identical to any recent ASRock board (with updated BIOS), which makes things simple (or advanced, should you click that option). Customizing fan profiles was also easy and settings saved without issue.

NZXT’s CAM software is used for further customization. While this software used to be pretty infamous, it has improved a lot over the past year or so. Those embedded in the CAM ecosystem will appreciate how the N7 Z490 operates with the software. If CAM isn’t your style, it can go ignored.

Overall, performance with this board is expectedly mid-range. The more premium features of this N7 Z490 lie in its aesthetics, but it’s also good to know that the good-looking system will also run well.

Pricing and availability

NZXT N7 Z490 Review

The NZXT N7 Z490 comes a little late to the party with support for Intel’s 10th Generation Core processors. Thankfully, rumors and leaks point towards Intel 11th Gen working with Z490. Hopefully that will be confirmed soon as it will make the N7 Z490 easier to recommend.

Looking at the here and now for a 10th Gen motherboard, the N7 Z490’s price tag of $229.99 is competitive. It’s good to see NZXT offering a unique aesthetic and not charging a ridiculous price premium for that privilege.

While it might not relate to performance, aesthetics have become much more important to many PC users. For some, the sacrifice of more USB ports and SATA ports will be worth that clean-looking motherboard cover.

NZXT N7 Z490 Review | The Final Verdict

NZXT N7 Z490 Review

In a single phrase, I’d describe the NZXT N7 Z490 as “stylish and substantial.” Its priority is clearly looking damn good, but there’s a level of functionality here that will please almost all PC users. The only real niggle is the rear USB selection.

I’d love to see more from NZXT when it comes to motherboards. With AMD making such a big splash with Ryzen, especially with the 5000 series claiming the gaming PC crown, it would be awesome to pair a great-looking motherboard with the best-bang-for-your-buck CPU.

If you’re going Intel and are keen to keep aesthetics looking sharp, then the NZXT N7 Z490 should absolutely be on your radar.

N7 Z490 review unit was provided by NZXT