The EVGA Z390 Dark is a very interesting motherboard. It has some great style that would look awesome in any custom PC due to the change in the basic layout. The flat black PCB with gold accents contrast perfectly and if you are lucky enough to have a recent GTX or RTX KPE video card you’ll have completely matching hardware.
Unlike with the EVGA Z390 FTW the EVGA Z390 Dark comes with everything you would expect from a high end motherboard including a USB Type-C, onboard video via mini displayport and WiFi . Overall this is really impressive given that the online speculation suggests that the Z390 Dark is designed for high-end extreme overclocking similar to the X299 Dark and X79 Dark from the previous generation.
The UEFI layout is quite good and displays exactly what you need to see. This is an important feature given that many manufacturers tend to overcomplicate the interface by trying to show "everything" or do the opposite and hide everything in a list of complex menus. The new EVGA UEFI is very straight forward showing you the current state of your system while giving you appropriate menus to make adjustments.
When it comes to overclocking I found the Z390 Dark to be very responsive both to manual adjustments and the automatic ones. OC Robot is a fun utility that will test your CPU and suggest a “safe” overclock based on current voltage and temperature. Not surprising OC Robot doesn’t work when the CPU is below ambient temperature nor does any of the other stress testing bits in the UEFI.
As was mentioned in the Overclocking section I decided to hook the Dark up to my Single Stage Phase cooler and see what my Core i7 8700K could do. After some stress testing I determined that 5.5Ghz was the highest stable overclock however, wasn’t without some drama along the way.
For instance on several occasions the PS/2 port would “freeze” up and no longer respond. This only happened in the UEFI so I suspect there is a bug in the software. Using a USB keyboard solved the problem but seriously negates the reason for having a PS/2 port to begin with. I also had serious issues getting voltage adjustments to take while the system was subzero. Both vCore and vDimm could be set however, any attempt to adjust the other voltages would render the system unusable and freeze during the post process. In fact even setting a voltage within the “auto” range would also trigger the freeze. This combined with the PS/2 issue indicates (to me) that the UEFI still needs some work OR, was simply tuned for something other than the “old” Coffee Lake CPUs.
Really what bothered me most were the details. The for-mentioned voltage problems were annoying and I really took issue with the lack of a printed user manual. Sure, it was included on the flash drive but the drive is small enough that many users will simply lose it or not even bother looking. Personally, I use the manuals as a quick reference for certain BIOS codes, common issues, and location of vital parts. Granted, this is what the “quick start guide” is for but to be honest I found it to be junky easily torn poster with difficult to read text.
Aside from that the board ran great and performed as you would expect and I especially like the new layout. It reminds me of the early days of enthusiast hardware where companies weren’t afraid to experiment. Only having two DIMM sockets is very bold but is a proven way to get excellent memory overclocking. This is the kind of overclocking where world records are set so attention to detail is key. I’m also a fan of the ASMedia SATA controller being available on the Z390 Dark as that is important element for installing “older” operating systems. Of course this is a hidden feature allowing overclockers the option to run their favorite benchmarking OS.
Fresh New Layout
Oversized VRM Cooler
Unique Motherboard Shape
Black on Black on Gold Color Scheme
Excellent UEFI Menus
4600Mhz+ DDR4 Performance
Custom Audio System
Drivers on Flash Drive
Annoying voltage adjustment issues
No printed manual
Some 90-degree power connections are difficult to access in a case