Intel has launched their 12th Generation Core CPUs codenamed Alder Lake, but choosing the best Z690 motherboards for your shiny new CPU might not be a straightforward task. The three new CPU SKUs that have been unveiled as of the time of writing include the flagship Intel Core i9-12900K and 12900KF, along with the Core i7-12700K and 12700KF. The Core i5-12600K and 12600KF make up the midrange offerings from Intel on the new platform. The socket has been changed to LGA 1700 from last gen’s LGA 1200, so that removes any backward or forwards compatibility for the Z690 motherboards and 11th Gen Core processors.
You might be wondering what makes the new platform so exciting. Well, after constant pressure from AMD and their brilliant Ryzen CPUs, Intel has come back swinging with a host of brilliant features in the Alder Lake CPUs and in the Z690 chipset. For the first time, we have DDR5 memory support on a consumer desktop platform, along with the standard DDR4 support.
You will have to choose which memory platform you want since you can’t use both at the same time. Furthermore, Intel has also included PCIe Gen 5 support on Z690 motherboards, although there is currently no device out there that can take advantage of this technology right now. Still, Intel has provided a pretty solid upgrade here with the Z690 and Alder Lake platform.
Best Z690 Motherboards
If you have decided to get onboard the Alder Lake train, then you will need a Z690 motherboard that can perfectly suit your needs. This is why you will be needing our reviews today, primarily because picking the best Z690 motherboard out of the dozens of options that are available on the market is not an easy task.
The high-end CPUs in the Alder Lake lineup, especially the Core i9 parts, need a lot of stable power so the VRM performance is absolutely key here. We should also take into consideration whether the board is DDR4 or DDR5 since there are different variants of each motherboard depending on the memory type. We have already done a DDR5 and DDR5 Rams for Intel 12th Generation – Alder Lake, so must check that out.
With that out of the way, as per our reviews – here are all the recommended Z690 motherboards for your next upgrade.
ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero
Best Overall Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400 | Video Outputs: HDMI | WiFi | USB Ports: 11x rear IO, 9x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 5x M.2, 6x SATA”]
Any enthusiast-grade motherboard tier list would be incomplete without mentioning the ROG Maximus series from ASUS. This is the high-end motherboard category from ASUS that falls under the ROG banner, and for the Z690 versions, ASUS has done away with confusing Roman numerals. Instead, they opted for the name of the chipset in the name of the product, what an ingenious thought. Still, the ROG Maximus Z690 lineup of boards is among the best you will ever find on this chipset, and the Hero variant is the one we are particularly interested in.
Packing a monstrous 20+1 VRM design with 90A power stages, the Maximus Z690 Hero is more than enough for any Alder Lake CPU you can throw at it, even at overclocked settings. In fact, we would recommend the Maximus Z690 Hero for any potential buyers of the Core i9 12900K and the 12900KF, since those CPUs have lots of overclocking potential that can be achieved using this fantastic z690 motherboard. The VRM is also cooled effectively by large heatsinks, so temperatures should be perfectly sound. The board also supports DDR5 memory at up to 6400MHz speeds, but time will tell if investing in DDR5 right now is a good idea.
Aesthetically, the board looks really impressive as you would expect from a Maximus series board. ASUS has gone for a sort of modernized look with the pixelated ROG script on the I/O cover and the ROG eye on the chipset heatsink which is also pixelated. These surfaces are finished in a glossy material so fingerprints would be quite visible. Other than that, there is not a lot to comment on in terms of aesthetics since the board is mostly matte black and covered with heat spreaders, so there is barely any PCB visible. The I/O shield is built-in, which is an excellent feature that is being standardized now.
In terms of features, there is not a lot to complain about with the Maximus Z690 Hero. The board brings absolutely everything you could want from a premium board on the bleeding edge. The 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports on the rear I/O stand out immediately, and they are an excellent addition to the I/O of this board. The board also supports 5 M.2 devices at the same time, if you install the included PCIe M.2 expansion card as well. PCIe Gen 5 is also supported, of course, but that is limited to the PCIe 16x slots which is not really important right now. The board also has a 2.5 GbE LAN port and WiFi 6E for connectivity.
All in all, you can’t really go wrong with the Maximus Z690 Hero for the brand new Alder Lake platform and that’s why it is our pick for the best overall Z690 motherboard. It has one of the best power delivery systems of any motherboard available on the market and combines that with a premium feature-set that doesn’t really lack anything of note. The price is hefty, understandably, but it might be worth it in the long run if you plan to keep a premium Alder Lake system with you for years down the line.
- Top Of The Line Z690 Motherboard
- Excellent Connectivity Options
- 2x Thunderbolt 4 Ports
- 20Gbps USB-C port
- Nice Aesthetics
- Excellent Power Delivery
- Very Expensive Z690 Motherboard
Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master
Best High-end Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400 | Video Outputs: DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 11x rear IO, 9x internal | Network: 1x 10 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA”]
Gigabyte’s high-end AORUS motherboards recently have been absolutely fantastic for both platforms, so it is no surprise that the Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master ends up as our pick for the best high-end Z690 motherboard. Not only does it have an excellent power delivery system which is almost a necessity for the new Alder Lake CPUs, but it also has an excellent feature set that is comparable with some of the most expensive Z690 motherboards out there. The AORUS Master itself isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination, but its pricing is not outrageous in view of what it brings to the table.
Starting off with the highlight of this board, the extremely overbuilt VRM. It consists of a staggering 22 phases, out of which 19 supply the CPU with 105A of power. This is an insane VRM setup that will almost never be completely utilized, even by a fully overclocked 12900K running 24/7. This VRM design is truly ahead of its time due to the fact that any Alder Lake CPU and even possibly the next upcoming Intel 13th Gen flagship is probably not enough to saturate the VRM of this motherboard. The VRM heatsinks are also quite sizeable so the board should have no problems dissipating the heat that is coming out of those VRMs.
As far as looks are concerned, the AORUS Master is certainly one of the most over-the-top boards out there. It doesn’t have any fancy gold accents or anything, but it does have massive heatsinks and heat shields that cover up around 95% of the PCB itself. The I/O cover has a large RGB AORUS logo and some lighting accents which look cool, and a similar style continues down to the chipset heatsink which has a “glitched” AORUS logo. This modern design language seems to be rampant in the Z690 motherboards. Speaking of the heatsink, the chipset heatsink sort of extends over the entire bottom half of the PCB and serves as the heatsink for the M.2 drives as well. This is a very ingenious implementation.
When it comes to features, we really have no reason to doubt the AORUS Master Z690 motherboard. It is absolutely jam-packed with top-of-the-line features such as the DDR5 memory support for up to 6400MHz DIMMs. There are 11 USB ports on the I/O including two USB-C ones. The main feature, however, is the 10 GbE LAN port on the back from Aquantia. This, paired with the two WiFi 6E antennas adjacent to it, means that you will be absolutely spoiled by choice when it comes to connectivity. PCIe Gen 5 is also supported, and the board has four M.2 drives as well for your storage needs. Clearly, AORUS understands what kind of user is looking to buy this Z690 motherboard at this price point. Speaking of M.2 drives, you might also be interested in our review of the XPG Gammix S50 Lite PCIe Gen 4 SSD.
Conclusively, the AORUS Master Z690 is one of the best premium motherboards for the Z690 chipset out there right now. It has more features than you can shake a stick at, and it pairs them well with a top-of-the-line VRM setup that is clearly more than you could ever need. All of this does come at a price though, but just like the Maximus Z690 from ASUS, it could prove to be worth it in the long run.
- Z690 Motherboard With Unrivalled VRM Design
- 10 GbE LAN
- Several Storage Options
- 20Gbps USB-C port
- Attractive Design
- High-End Performance
- Quite Pricey
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi
Best Overclocking Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6666 | Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 9x rear IO, 7x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 5x M.2, 6x SATA”]
MSI has made some excellent boards over the past few years, especially for the AMD chipsets, but they have not exactly ignored Intel either. MSI’s MPG series, which stands for MSI Performance Gaming, packs some of the most overbuilt and premium motherboards out there for any chipset, be it Intel or AMD. Continuing this trend for the new Alder Lake platform, we have the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi, a fantastic high-end motherboard on the Z690 platform that is quite possibly the best overclocking Z690 motherboard on our list. It certainly rivals our two top picks in terms of VRM design and features.
Speaking of the power delivery, MSI has hit the nail on the head with an 18+1+1 phase VRM design with 75A power stages which is excellent for overclocking pretty much any modern CPU you can put in it. Particularly, the Core i9 12900K would be a great match for this Z690 motherboard since you can completely max out the overclock on the flagship Alder Lake CPU without taxing the VRMs too much. In terms of heat dissipation, MSI has provided massive VRM heatsinks that are actually finned in order to increase the surface area of the metal, aiding in dissipation. The board supports DDR5 memory up to a whopping 6666 MHz, which sounds really fast by today’s standards but time will tell if speeds like this are normalized.
The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi motherboard is also one of the finest-looking motherboards you can find on this platform. It is a fairly expensive board, sure, but the looks are a huge selling point especially in today’s market, and MSI has nailed that aspect as well. The board is covered with huge heatsinks that are basically the extension of the chipset heatsink when it comes to the lower half of the PCB. The I/O cover has a really cool MSI dragon that illuminates in every color of the rainbow as one would expect. The whole board has this really unique, angular pattern that is definitely in tune with the 2021 design language. The looks of the board will certainly not disappoint you unless you have a particular issue with dragons.
When it comes to features, there is not a lot to say really. All of these high-end Z690 motherboards are absolutely jam-packed with fantastic features such as PCIe Gen 5 support and DDR5 memory support, so the Z690 Carbon is no different in this regard. Connectivity is handled by a 2.5 GbE LAN port or WiFi 6E, both of which are excellent options. The Z690 Carbon also has 4 M.2 ports running at PCIe Gen 4 speeds, which is more than enough for any normal user today. Realistically, this board has everything you will ever need for a few years to come, and maybe even more.
Overall, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon is an extremely competent Z690 motherboard from MSI for the Z690 platform. It trades blows with the premium AORUS Master and Maximus Z690 Hero motherboards but is slightly cheaper while offering similar VRM performance, therefore it is our preferred choice for high-end overclocking. The price is still not cheap by any means, but it is competitive in the context of the features that it offers.
- Great VRM For Overclocking on Z690
- 5 M.2 Slots For Storage
- Attractive Aesthetics
- Attractive Design
- High-End Performance
- Not Affordable For Regular Gamers
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A
Best Looking Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-5333 | Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 10x rear IO, 7x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6 | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA”]
Since the Maximus series is not something that everyone can or should buy, ASUS has also released several mid-range and entry-level motherboards on the Z690 platform. The ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A is one of the more mid-range boards that also has lots of great features and a pretty decent VRM design. The standard ROG series also comes with a choice among DDR5 and DDR4 memory configurations, so be sure to purchase the board that supports the specific memory type that you plan to run.
The power delivery system of the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A is certainly not on the same level as the ones mentioned before, but that does not mean that it is bad by any stretch. ASUS has packed a 16+1 phase VRM for the Z690-A, which is pretty decent by modern standards. This VRM should be capable of overclocking an i7 12700K comfortably, while it should also be able to achieve some degree of overclocking on the i9 12900K. The VRM cooling is also adequate as ASUS has provided quite large VRM heatsinks with diagonal fins to maximize heat dissipation.
Perhaps the most attractive feature of the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A is its design and appearance. The board is clad beautifully in white thanks to its sizeable white heatsinks and I/O cover. The RGB design and the Strix script on the I/O cover are absolutely sublime, giving a glassy appearance that would go perfectly in many RGB systems. The chipset heatsink is also white and it extends over the PCIe Gen 4 M.2 drive slots as well to a certain extent. You can see a bit of the black PCB, but that still doesn’t take anything away from the looks of this board. The Z690-A from ASUS is our pick for the best looking Z690 motherboard out there.
The Z690-A is not all form over function, however, as it packs a pretty serious feature set as well. The PCIe Gen 5 support is standard across all Z690 boards so that also makes an appearance here, along with DDR5 memory support of up to 5333MHz. There are four M.2 slots that support PCIe Gen 4 functionality, which is pretty standard stuff in Z690 motherboards. Furthermore, connectivity is handled by a 2.5 GbE LAN port and WiFi 6. Several high-speed USB ports are also present on the rear I/O with different speed characteristics.
All in all, you can’t really go wrong with the midrange pick of the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A if you are building a midrange modern gaming PC. Pair this motherboard with an i7 12700K or an i5 12600K and you will have yourself a really competent gaming platform that will easily serve you for several years to come. Sure, it is not as jam-packed with features as the really high-end boards, but it gets the job done while being a bit lighter on your wallet as well.
- Decent Power Delivery System
- Best Looking Z690 Motherboard
- An Affordable Z690 Motherboard Option
- Not Suitable For Core i9 Overclocking
- Slightly Lower DDR5 Memory Compatibility
MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi
Best Value Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400 | Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 6x rear IO, 9x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA”]
MSI’s Pro series of motherboards has been synonymous with value for a while now, and the trend carries on with the MSI Pro Z690-A motherboards. There are actually 4 different motherboards under the same name, but all 4 of them are the same PCB differentiated only by the two variables of WiFi and DDR generation. In this particular roundup, we recommend the MSI Pro Z690-A DDR5 WiFi motherboard as it still offers a great price-to-performance ratio despite having a higher price than the DDR4 and non-WiFi variants.
When we talk about value-oriented motherboards, we have to be reasonable with our expectations when it comes to power delivery and VRM design. The MSI Pro Z690-A motherboard packs a decent 8+4 phase VRM that will be great for most of the regular users that will be buying a motherboard in this price bracket. The VRM should be able to handle a Core i5 12600K at its highest overclock, but it should also be able to handle some light overclocking on its Core i7 brother. We wouldn’t recommend putting a Core i9 part in this Z690 motherboard as those CPUs need a lot of clean, stable power when they are operating even under stock conditions, so that is one pairing we would advise against.
When it comes to looks, the MSI Pro Z690-A is as basic as they come. It is just a massive chunk of black PCB with black heatsinks in various places. This is one area where MSI has disappointed us since there are several boards that are cheaper than this one, that look way better than the Pro Z690-A. MSI has also not included any RGB lighting on the board, which is a bit of a bummer if you are building a PC in 2021. The plus side to this design language, however, is that you don’t have to install any RGB bloatware for the motherboard, and this board will go nicely in a stealthy black-themed PC.
The feature-set of the MSI Pro Z690-A is nothing to scoff at. It is not as feature-rich as some of the other boards on this list, understandably, but it has everything a regular gamer might want from a Z690 motherboard. The support for DDR5 and PCIe Gen 5 comes standard with the Z690 chipset, and the Pro Z690-A also has 4 M.2 slots with PCIe Gen 4 capability. There is no built-in I/O shield, but the rear I/O itself is decent with a nice selection of USB ports and a 2.5 GbE LAN port along with WiFi capability if you choose that particular motherboard variant.
Conclusively, the MSI Pro Z690-A is certainly one of the more value-oriented motherboards on the market and one that puts the price-to-performance ratio as first priority. It is for this reason that the MSI Pro Z690-A is our pick for the best value Z690 motherboard out there. It just does everything you would want from a Z690 motherboard on the Alder Lake platform, and it does it at a cheaper price than most competitors. It does have its flaws, but that is to be expected given the price point.
- Relatively Affordable
- Solid Connectivity
- Great Storage Options
- Poor Design
- Mediocre VRM Design
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I
Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 2x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400 | Video Outputs: HDMI | WiFi | USB Ports: 9x rear IO, 5x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 2x M.2, 4x SATA”]
The market for compact gaming PCs has become really popular over the past few years as more and more enthusiasts are jumping ship over to smaller computers. Not only does a small form factor PC save a lot of space on your setup, but it is also easier to carry around from one place to another should you fancy doing so. Consequently, the mini-ITX motherboards are becoming better and better as well, and the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I is an example of one of the best mini-ITX motherboards around. The Z690-I is the answer from ASUS for all the small form factor enthusiasts that want to enjoy the features of the full-sized Z690 motherboards in a smaller package.
Starting off with the VRM design and power delivery, there is not a lot to complain about here. Obviously, ASUS has downgraded the VRM a little in order to adapt to the size constraints, but the 10+1 phase VRM with 105 amp power stages should not have any major problems overclocking the 12700K or even the 12900K. The VRM is also cooled by a sizeable finned heatsink, so temperatures should be reasonable. The Z690-I also supports DDR5 memory at up to 6400 MHz speeds, which is a welcome feature as always.
The design of the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I is quite interesting and also quite daring. The PCB itself is quite small as you would expect from a mini-ITX motherboard, but it is absolutely dwarfed by these gigantic heatsinks and I/O cover. The main I/O cover also extends laterally over the M.2 drive slots and serves as a heatsink by making an L-shape over the PCB. Of course, being a ROG board, the Z690-I also has a healthy share of RGB on the lower-left corner of the I/O cover in the form of the ROG eye that glows up in every color of the rainbow. All in all, a very nice-looking board for its compact size.
ASUS has definitely not skimped on the feature-set despite it being a mini-ITX Z690 motherboard. The board’s connectivity is impressive thanks to a 2.5 GbE LAN port and WiFi 6E capability. There are also two M.2 slots wired for PCIe Gen 4 connectivity, while the main PCIe Gen 5 slot is the full-sized PCIe 16x slot. There are also plenty of other cool features such as BIOS flashback, Clear CMOS button, RGB and aRGB headers, 4 SATA ports, and two additional PCBs for certain components that come with the package. A solid feature-set for a mini-ITX motherboard, no doubt.
Therefore, it can be said that the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I is the absolute best mini-ITX Z690 motherboard on the market right now. Its combination of a great power delivery system and a robust feature set makes it an excellent choice for enthusiasts building a compact gaming PC on the Alder Lake platform. It does not come cheap, but for the specific use cases that it’s designed for, it seems to be worth it.
- Solid Power Delivery
- Great For Compact Builds
- Impressive Connectivity
- Only 2 DIMM Slots
ASUS PRIME Z690-A
Best Budget Z690 Motherboard
Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-6000 | Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 8x rear IO, 7x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN | Storage: 4x M.2, 4x SATA”]
Sure, Z690 is the flagship chipset for the Alder Lake platform but there are certainly budget-oriented options in this lineup as well. One of them is the ASUS PRIME Z690-A, which is a motherboard that aims to provide the basic features that you can expect from the Z690 platform at a reasonable price. It is nothing fancy, but it should be perfect if you just want a decent value z690 motherboard to get your Alder Lake system up and running.
One of the areas where you definitely compromise when buying a budget motherboard is the power delivery system. Thankfully, ASUS has not downgraded the VRM design too much and provided a totally acceptable VRM for the price point. The board has a 16+1 phase VRM design with decent cooling that is provided by large heatsinks that are also finned. One should be able to overclock the Core i5 12600K fairly comfortably on this board, however, you should avoid overclocking any Core i7 or Core i9 parts on this board. DDR5 memory is also supported with speeds up to 6000 MHz.
Aesthetically, the PRIME Z690-A is actually one of the better-looking Z690 boards out there. It looks extremely similar to the Z690-A from the ROG Strix lineup that we mentioned earlier. It has the same white accents as that board, although it is a little bit downgraded in terms of the heatsink area. There is a nice RGB implementation over the I/O cover with the word PRIME written in big block letters as well. M.2 heatsinks are independent of the chipset heatsinks, which is something not common in the Z690 boards we have already seen. All in all, a very attractive motherboard.
The feature-set of the PRIME Z690-A is acceptable as well, although it is a little bit lacking when compared to the high-end boards on this list. The board does support PCIe Gen 5 as standard through the main 16x PCIe slot, and there is Thunderbolt 4 support on this board as well. There is also a 2.5 GbE LAN port for connectivity, although WiFi is missing from the board which can be a bit of a downer for some users. ASUS has included 4 PCIe Gen 4 M.2 slots on the board, which make for a great storage setup on a budget.
The PRIME Z690-A might not be the most premium board out there in terms of VRM performance or features, but it is one of the best Z690 motherboards in terms of value. It might just be the best budget Z690 motherboard on the market thanks to its decent power delivery system and a versatile feature-set. Quite frankly, this is all a typical gamer needs to get up and running with their new Alder Lake CPU.
- Budget Z690 Motherboard
- Impressive Looks
- No WiFi
- Mediocre VRM Design
- Few SATA Ports
How We Choose The Best Z690 Motherboard
Since the motherboard is the basic building block of any computer, we are very careful in our recommendations when we select Z690 motherboards for our roundups. A particular board has to satisfy several standards for it to be considered in our tier lists. The VRM design and power delivery of the board take the utmost priority for us as enthusiasts, and it is also the parameter that can overpower other characteristics of the board when it comes to recommendations. A board can have a great design and excellent features, but if the VRM is below par then it is hard for us to recommend that board.
Furthermore, we also pay close attention to the feature set of the board. Many Z690 motherboards skimp on some particular features such as WiFi or Ethernet connectivity, which are carefully examined and mentioned by us in these roundups. The general aesthetics and design of the motherboard are also something that we take into account, although not to an extent where it might seem more important than the actual features and specs of the board. Finally, the price tag and value proposition are what really drive our recommendations. In the modern-day, there are no bad products, only bad prices. This mantra also applies to the products in these roundups, so our selection is driven strongly by the value that these products offer.
PCIe Gen 5
The new Z690 platform brings with it support for the latest and greatest in PCIe protocols, the PCIe Gen 5. Now this generation does bring huge advantages in terms of bandwidth and link speeds, but only on paper for the time being. Currently, as of the time of writing, there are no devices out there for consumers that make use of PCIe Gen 5 technology. It is also important to note that the PCIe Gen 5 link is only supported by the full-size PCIe 16x GPU slot(s) in Z690 motherboards, not the PCIe x4 slots that the M.2 devices use. The SSDs are still limited to PCIe Gen 4 operation.
PCIe Gen 4 is still far from being saturated when it comes to storage media such as the superfast PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSDs that are becoming more and more mainstream. Graphics cards that use PCIe Gen 4 technology such as the RTX 3000 series are not bothered at all by the difference between PCIe Gen 4 and PCIe Gen 3. So it is hard to see PCIe Gen 5 making a substantial difference to anyone’s day-to-day experience on Z690. However, it is a welcome and forward-looking addition by Intel and the motherboard manufacturers so there’s nothing particularly negative to say about it.
DDR4 vs. DDR5
The choice between DDR4 and DDR5 is an important one that you have to consider when purchasing the best Z690 motherboard for you. Firstly, you have to choose one of the two memory generations to run, since there are different motherboard variants that support different memory types. You can make the choice between two different RAM generations, but you can’t run both of them on the same motherboard. Since DDR4 and DDR5 modules are also physically different, it would be impossible to insert one RAM stick into the DIMM slot of the other, unless you go for some slightly unconventional methods.
The DDR4 variants of the Z690 motherboards are far cheaper than the DDR5 variants of the same motherboards. It is also to be noted that DDR5 memory is extremely expensive right now and offers little-to-no benefit in terms of performance over DDR4, so you should evaluate your choice carefully. If you choose a DDR4 motherboard now and plan to upgrade to DDR5 later, you will have to change out your entire motherboard as well which can be a bit of a hassle. The bottom line is that DDR5 variants of the Z690 motherboards are better for future-proofing, while DDR4 variants should be your choice if you want to maximize the value proposition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, the Z690 motherboards are compatible with all the new Intel 12th Gen CPUs on the Alder Lake architecture including the top range Intel Core i9 12900K. The i9 12900K is a premium CPU with 8 Performance Cores and 8 Efficiency Cores with a total of 24 threads, so it would need a pretty premium power delivery system to be functioning at peak capacity. Fortunately, most Z690 motherboards do have overbuilt robust VRM designs, so they should be able to handle a 12900K fairly easily. Other CPUs that support the Z690 chipset as of the time of writing include the i9 12900KF, the i7 12700K and 12700KF, and the i5 12600K and 12600KF.
The Z690 motherboards have the LGA 1700 socket which supports the new Intel Core 12th Gen processors on the Alder Lake architecture. The socket is physically different from the older Z590 motherboards that supported the LGA 1200 socket compatible with 11th Gen Rocket Lake processors. This means that you cannot install an 11th Gen CPU on a 12th Gen motherboard or vice versa, since they are both physically different sockets. Forcefully doing so can lead to some unwanted consequences.
Yes indeed, the Z690 motherboards do support PCIe Gen 5 capability. However, this new protocol does not have any real-life advantages as of the time of writing since there is no consumer PCIe Gen 5 devices available to us right now. The PCIe lanes are also all linked to the first 16x PCIe slot, so the only devices that can take the benefit of the PCIe Gen 5 technology would be the graphics cards. There are no M.2 slots with PCIe Gen 5 capability yet in the Z690 motherboards.
No, the Z690 platform is an entirely new platform that is not compatible with any previous Intel CPUs. The Core i9 11900K is a Rocket Lake 11th Gen CPU that is compatible with an LGA 1200 socket on the Z590 platform, among other chipsets. The new Z690 motherboards use the LGA 1700 socket which is physically different from the older LGA sockets, so the CPU would not even fit in the new socket. You would need either a Z590 motherboard or a B560 or similar board for the older 11th Gen CPU.
Yes, the Z690 platform does officially support DDR5 memory. To use DDR5 RAM, you would need to have a motherboard that is compatible with DDR5 memory, since the memory sticks are physically different from DDR4. Z690 motherboards are offered in both DDR5 and DDR4 memory configurations, so you have to be careful about which memory type you want to buy when it comes to motherboard selection. The Alder Lake 12th Gen CPUs also support both DDR5 and DDR4 memory.