The 9 BEST Z690 Motherboards In 2022

In this roundup, we rank the best Z690 motherboards on the basis of Budget, VRM Performance, Features, Value, Aesthetics, and Price.

After having experienced a successful launch, Intel’s 12th Generation Lineup of Alder Lake Processors based on the new LGA 1700 CPU Socket seems to be under constant attack, at the time of writing, thanks to AMD’s masterminded approach to exhibiting incredible monetary discounts on AM4-based components such as all Ryzen CPUs (up to 5000 Series), Motherboards (A320, A520, B350, B450, B550, X370, X470, and X570, to name a few) as well as AM4 CPU Coolers, even for top-of-the-line processors such as the Ryzen 9 5950X and 5900X, with price differentials being raised to an incredulous $250 compared to initial MSRPs.

That being said, Intel’s K-Series of 12th Generation CPUs are fighting hard, at the cost of mind-blowing power consumption, to overthrow the most power-efficient desktop CPUs to date, i.e., the Ryzen 5000 Series Processors, which still boast the best price-per-watt ratios. However, that may change with the upcoming release of the Ryzen 7000 Series CPUs based on the all-new AM5 Mounting Socket and improvised Zen 4 architecture. 

Nevertheless, Intel has a versatile variety of options, catering to consumer-grade workspaces focused on gaming, as well as productivity-based CPUs, such as the Core i9-12900K. It’s worth noting that only K-Series CPUs will be able to advantageously utilize the Z690 chipset’s full potential since Intel is notoriously infamous for restricting CPU overclocking to these premium-segment, top-of-the-line Z690 Motherboards. As such, gamers will only be pairing a handful of K-Series Processors, namely the Core i5-12600K, i7-12700K, i9-12900K, and i9-12900KS (the latter representing Intel as the brand’s Best Gaming CPU to date) with the Best Z690 Motherboards in 2022.

Prospective buyers will also be pleased to know there are ‘F’ variants of the K-Series CPUs mentioned above, such as the i5-12600KF, i7-12700KF, so on, and so forth, which lack Intel’s integrated UHD 770 Graphics, and are typically available for $20-25 less, a nominal saving, but nevertheless, a noticeable one, for users who only plan to use their gaming rig with discrete GPUs (as they should).

Speaking of the Best Z690 Motherboards, it’s pertinent to mention that all of Intel’s 600-Series Chipsets, including, but not limited to the H610, B660, H670, and of course, the Z690, support DDR5 RAM (as well as DDR4 Memory in differing variants) alongside PCIe Gen 5.0, even though we’re of the humble opinion that neither of these next-gen technologies exhibits noteworthy real-world performance improvements over their relatively older counterparts. Even so, AMD has made an aggressive decision to entirely support (currently exorbitantly priced) DDR5 RAM with their AM5 Platform. 

Therefore, keeping all of the factors mentioned above in mind, let’s head on and explore the Best Z690 Motherboards in 2022 and discover whether Intel’s supreme chipset is worth the financial headache or not.

Sidenote: Feel free to check out the Best Motherboards for the Core i9-12900K!

Best Z690 Motherboards

Motherboard
ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero
Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A
MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I
Looks
Asus ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO EVA(ROG x Evangelion)Z690 ATX Gaming motherboard,DDR5,PCIe® 5.0,Wi-Fi 6E,5xM.2,USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 front-panel connector with Quick Charge 4+ Support, 2xThunderbolt™ 4)
GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS MASTER (LGA 1700/ Intel Z690/ ATX/ DDR5/ Quad M.2/ PCIe 5.0/ USB 3.2 Gen2X2 Type-C/ Intel WiFi 6E/ AQUANTIA 10GbE LAN/ Intel Thunderbolt 4/ Gaming Motherboard)
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard (ATX, 12th Gen Intel Core, LGA 1700 Socket, DDR5, PCIe 4, CFX, M.2 Slots, Wi-Fi 6E)
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi D4 LGA1700(Intel® 12th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard(PCIe 5.0,DDR4,16+1 Power Stages,WiFi 6,2.5 Gb LAN,BT v5.2,Thunderbolt 4,4xM.2 and Front USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C)
MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 ProSeries Motherboard (ATX, 12th Gen Intel Core, LGA 1700 Socket, DDR4, PCIe 4, CFX, M.2 Slots, Wi-Fi 6E)
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming WiFi 6E LGA 1700 (Intel 12th Gen) mini-ITX gaming motherboard (PCIe 5.0,DDR5,Thunderbolt 4,2.5Gb LAN,USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 front panel Type-C,2x M.2,bundled ITX expansion card)
Award
Best Overall Z690 Motherboard
Best High-end Z690 Motherboard
Best Overclocking Z690 Motherboard
Best Looking Z690 Motherboard
Best Value Z690 Motherboard
Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Excellent Connectivity, Aesthetics, & Power Delivery
Great VRM Design, Good Storage, Design, & 20GBps USB-C Port
Decent Storage, Good VRM, Aesthetics & Performance
Good Power Delivery, Looks, and Affordable
Affordable, Good Connectivity & Storage
Solid Power Delivery, Compact & Excellent Value
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6666
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-5333
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
2x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
USB Ports
11x rear IO, 9x internal
11x rear IO, 9x internal
9x rear IO, 7x internal
10x rear IO, 7x internal
6x rear IO, 9x internal
9x rear IO, 5x internal
Storage
5x M.2, 6x SATA
4x M.2, 6x SATA
5x M.2, 6x SATA
4x M.2, 6x SATA
4x M.2, 6x SATA
2x M.2, 4x SATA
Motherboard
ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero
Looks
Asus ROG MAXIMUS Z690 HERO EVA(ROG x Evangelion)Z690 ATX Gaming motherboard,DDR5,PCIe® 5.0,Wi-Fi 6E,5xM.2,USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 front-panel connector with Quick Charge 4+ Support, 2xThunderbolt™ 4)
Award
Best Overall Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Excellent Connectivity, Aesthetics, & Power Delivery
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
USB Ports
11x rear IO, 9x internal
Storage
5x M.2, 6x SATA
Check Price
Motherboard
Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master
Looks
GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS MASTER (LGA 1700/ Intel Z690/ ATX/ DDR5/ Quad M.2/ PCIe 5.0/ USB 3.2 Gen2X2 Type-C/ Intel WiFi 6E/ AQUANTIA 10GbE LAN/ Intel Thunderbolt 4/ Gaming Motherboard)
Award
Best High-end Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Great VRM Design, Good Storage, Design, & 20GBps USB-C Port
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
USB Ports
11x rear IO, 9x internal
Storage
4x M.2, 6x SATA
Check Price
Motherboard
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi
Looks
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard (ATX, 12th Gen Intel Core, LGA 1700 Socket, DDR5, PCIe 4, CFX, M.2 Slots, Wi-Fi 6E)
Award
Best Overclocking Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Decent Storage, Good VRM, Aesthetics & Performance
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6666
USB Ports
9x rear IO, 7x internal
Storage
5x M.2, 6x SATA
Check Price
Motherboard
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A
Looks
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi D4 LGA1700(Intel® 12th Gen) ATX Gaming Motherboard(PCIe 5.0,DDR4,16+1 Power Stages,WiFi 6,2.5 Gb LAN,BT v5.2,Thunderbolt 4,4xM.2 and Front USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C)
Award
Best Looking Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Good Power Delivery, Looks, and Affordable
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-5333
USB Ports
10x rear IO, 7x internal
Storage
4x M.2, 6x SATA
Check Price
Motherboard
MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi
Looks
MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4 ProSeries Motherboard (ATX, 12th Gen Intel Core, LGA 1700 Socket, DDR4, PCIe 4, CFX, M.2 Slots, Wi-Fi 6E)
Award
Best Value Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Affordable, Good Connectivity & Storage
Memory Support
4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
USB Ports
6x rear IO, 9x internal
Storage
4x M.2, 6x SATA
Check Price
Motherboard
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I
Looks
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming WiFi 6E LGA 1700 (Intel 12th Gen) mini-ITX gaming motherboard (PCIe 5.0,DDR5,Thunderbolt 4,2.5Gb LAN,USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 front panel Type-C,2x M.2,bundled ITX expansion card)
Award
Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard
Things We Liked
Solid Power Delivery, Compact & Excellent Value
Memory Support
2x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6400
USB Ports
9x rear IO, 5x internal
Storage
2x M.2, 4x SATA
Check Price

Last update on 2022-10-07

If you have decided to get onboard the Alder Lake train, you will need a Z690 motherboard that can perfectly suit your needs. This is why you will need our reviews today, primarily because picking the best Z690 motherboard out of the dozens of available options 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

Best Z690 Motherboards
ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

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”]

Pros

  • Top Of The Line Z690 Motherboard
  • Excellent Connectivity Options
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 Ports
  • 20Gbps USB-C port
  • Nice Aesthetics
  • Excellent Power Delivery

Cons

  • Very Expensive Z690 Motherboard

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. There is not much 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.

There is not much to complain about in terms of features 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, 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.

What sets the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero apart from its competitors

Asus has blitzed the entire manage competition with its best-in-class ROG Maximum Z690 Hero, based on a fully-fledged ATX form factor which enables Asus to incorporate state-of-the-art technologies such as 2x Thunderbolt 4 ports supplemented by a staggering 5 M.2 SSD slots (through the use of the ROG Hyper M.2 Card which enables 1 of the 3 added-on M.2 slots to be compatible with PCIe Gen 5.0 if you’re not using the PCIe Gen 5.0 capabilities of the PCIe x16 slot, normally dedicated to the GPU. These vast storage capabilities are paired with another 6x SATA III ports for connecting conventional means of storage. 

Still not braking, the ROG Maximus Z690 Hero sports an outstanding 20+1 power stage design rated at 90A of current, complemented by proprietary ‘ProCool II’ power connectors and Microfine Alloy Chokes, not to forget the premium metallic capacitors. Moving on, the Asus Z690 Hero features spacious VRM heatsinks coupled with a high-conductivity thermal pad, as well as triple heatsinks for five of the M.2 SSD slots, effectively hiding three of the five M.2 slots, rounded off by the ROG Water-Cooling Zone enabling you to overclock your Alder Lake CPU to the max without fear of thermal limitations, preferably at least an i9-12900K or i7-12700K so as to yield the absolute potential the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero is designed to offer.

Furthermore, the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero offers integrated WiFi 6E for the fastest wireless networking speed among the competition. However, it does fall flat with *just* 2.5 Gb Intel Ethernet since competitors are sporting 10 Gb of Ethernet speeds. That being said, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will play a prominent role in whether this 4x difference will be a big deal or not, and it’s safe to say that the majority of our users will be unbothered. 

Asus manages to stuff 6x USB 3.0 Type-A ports with 3x USB Type-C (2 of which are the aforementioned Thunderbolt 4) alongside 2x USB 2.0 legacy ports, one of which works with Asus’ BIOS FlashBack feature, for which there’s a dedicated button on the rear I/O, enabling you to install a new BIOS from a USB Type-A drive, should the need ever arise. As far as memory is concerned, the Z690 keeps up with traditions, supporting a maximum of 128 GB of DDR5 memory at a potential top speed of 6400 MHz with support for possibly further RAM overclocking.

Asus uses its outstanding ROG SupremeFX technology on the audio front with the Realtek ALC4082 Codec with ESS (Electrostatic Sound System) paired with an ES901Q82C DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter). What this means for you, in simple words, is that you’ll be treated to high-fidelity audio with a wide soundstage to appeal to the audiophiles and gamers out there with pristine audio quality. 

The ROG Maximus Z690 Hero has a never-ending list of features, such as its I/O cover with ‘Polymo Lighting,’ which comprises a couple of RGB LEDs that light up to show the instantly recognizable ROG logo and the famous ROG eye in a pixelated format. Asus includes a sole RGB header and 3x addressable RGB Gen 2 headers should you want to step it up as far as colour schemes go.

The Z690 Hero is fortified with Asus’s host of exclusive revolutionary technologies such as the PCIe Slot-Q release, ROG GPU Holder, and SafeSlot, all of which reinforce the ROG Maximus Z690 Heros’ PCIe x16 slot, making it easier to release the GPUs by simply pressing a button, while securing it at the same time. Asus is also utilizing a screwless design for adding M.2 SSDs. You’ll still need to unscrew the heat spreaders but can easily mount the SSD itself by turning back a nifty locking device dubbed the M.2 Q-Latch, making M.2 SSDs enjoyable to install. 

Finally, Asus bundles a 1-year subscription of AIDA64 Extreme for benchmarking and diagnosing your gaming PC as well as staying up-to-date on your system specs and software-related information. Also, the Z690 Hero has integrated the MemTest 86 in the user-friendly UEFI BIOS dashboard, which helps inspect RAM stability and performance. Asus stamps on a 3-year warranty for the Z690 Hero Motherboard, which could’ve been improved considering the exorbitant price. Nevertheless, the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero uniquely separates itself from the competition as the Best Overall Z690 Motherboard.

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.

Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master

Best High-end Z690 Motherboard

Best Z690 Motherboards
Gigabyte Z690 AORUS Master

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: 5x M.2, 6x SATA”]

Pros

  • Z690 Motherboard With Unrivalled VRM Design
  • 10 GbE LAN
  • Several Storage Options
  • 20Gbps USB-C port
  • Attractive Design
  • High-End Performance

Cons

  • Quite Pricey

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. It has an excellent power delivery system that 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 Z690 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, but it has 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.

We really have no reason to doubt the AORUS Master Z690 motherboard when it comes to features. 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. However, the main feature 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.

What sets the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master apart from its competitors

Gigabyte distinguishes the Z690 Aorus Master from rival offerings through several hallmark features. To begin with, the Z690 Aorus Master sports a best-in-class 19+1+2 digital power phase design. 19 of these power stages manage to deliver an unparalleled 105A of current to the CPU’s cores for unlimited overclocking potential with Gigabyte’s Hybrid Core Optimization, which can’t be fully utilized by even top-of-the-line Alder Lake processors such as the top-notch i9-12900KS.

Gigabyte has implemented a Low Signal Loss 8-layer PCB design, built from the ground up with advanced thermal efficiency thanks to an 8mm heatpipe that makes direct contact for an optimal heat transfer away from the MOSFETs on the motherboard. Gigabyte has also provided double-sided M.2 heatsinks to prevent thermal throttling in bigger and faster PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs. The Z690 Aorus Master boasts maximum heat dissipation thanks to the 1.5mm thick thermal conductivity pads and the new ‘Fins-Array III,’ which consists of enlarged irregular fins in a parallel stacked design which helps to increase surface area by up to a mind-blowing 900% and optimize airflow. Simply put, the overall VRM design of the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master is unbeatable.

Furthermore, the Z690 Aorus Master supports 128 GB of dual-channel DDR5 RAM @6400 MHz via 4x DIMM slots, with overclocking possibilities beyond that, thanks to XMP 3.0 (Extreme Memory Profile). The vast overclocking potential is due to the unlocked DDR5 voltage where Gigabyte utilizes an exclusive design to unlock native DDR5’s PMIC (Power Management Integrated Circuit) secure mode into programmable code where users can control the RAM’s voltage manually. Additionally, Gigabyte has implemented Shielded Memory Routing, using a large ground layer to shield the entire memory routing underneath the PCB’s inner layer to protect from external interference, guaranteeing stabilized RAM performance.

DDR5 RAm
DDR5 Ram – Image From Our XPG Lancer Review.

Of course, we can’t forget external connectivity in the form of I/O, with Gigabyte offering a total of 11 ports, 1 of which is the fastest USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port located on the rear panel, alongside 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A ports (coloured red), paired with a solitary USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-C port as well as 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports, all situated on the rear panel. A Thunderbolt 4 connection is notably missing here, with the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master otherwise offering a decent mix of I/O connectivity options. That being said, Gigabyte has provided users with an opportunity to implement a Thunderbolt 4 connection in the Z690 Aorus Master via external add-in cards.

It’s essential to highlight that the PCIe x16 slot is compatible with Gen 5.0, even though it won’t substantially benefit users since the x16 slot is generally utilized by GPUs, which cannot take full advantage of PCIe 5.0 as of yet.

Adding on, Gigabyte has gone with audiophile-grade audio capacitors (WIMA & Nichicon Fine Gold, to be specific) on the Z690 Aorus Master. Put together with the motherboard’s Hi-Res audio certification and DTS:X Ultra audio processing alongside the Realtek ALC1220 codec paired with the ESS SABRE reference DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter), i.e., ESS 9118, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master, in simple words, will pave the way for the most intriguing and indulging listening experience, reinvigorated with Surround Sound and high-fidelity audio.

As far as RGB is concerned, the Z690 Aorus Master has a couple of addressable RGB LEDs on the top left and towards the bottom right side of the motherboard, controllable via Gigabyte’s proprietary RGB Fusion 2.0 software. The Z690 Aorus Master also offers 2x addressable RGB headers and 2x RGB LED strip headers should you want to customize the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master to your personally preferred RGB setup. 

Last but not least, the Z690 Aorus Master sports a ‘MultiKey,’ i.e., a multi-function reconfigurable button that can be customized in the redesigned Gigabyte BIOS for different functions, such as switching off all the lights on the Z690 Aorus Master or perhaps booting into the BIOS without having to use the ‘Fn’ (Function) keys on your keyboard. Alternatively, you can also remap the button to directly boot into the BIOS safe mode for troubleshooting purposes without losing pre-existing BIOS settings.

Gigabyte also includes its EasyTune software, which exhibits a user-intuitive interface for enabling gamers to refine their system settings, including CPU and memory clocks and voltages, offering a ‘Smart Quick Boost’ option to automatically overclock your entire PC in accordance with what Windows and Gigabyte think are the best settings for an automated performance boost.

Coming back to the BIOS, Gigabyte has included its Q-Flash Plus tech, which allows users to update or flash an all-new BIOS version without even needing a CPU, RAM, or GPU. You’ll need to rename the BIOS file to ‘gigabyte.bin’ in a USB drive, plug it in, press the embedded ‘Q-Flash Plus’ button, and the Z690 Aorus Master will start installing the new BIOS immediately.

It’s hard to stop once we get started on the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master, thanks to an extensive host of user-friendly features allowing for automated operations such as fan control which can be regulated by the Z690 Aorus Master without the need for any manual user input. However,  the option is there for overclocking fanatics. 

As such, we’re sure you’re not surprised as to why the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master shows up as the Best High-End Z690 Motherboard on our exclusive selection of the Best Z690 Motherboards in 2022.

MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi

Best Overclocking Z690 Motherboard

MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi

Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR5-6666 | Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 10x rear IO, 7x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 5x M.2, 6x SATA”]

Pros

  • Great VRM For Overclocking on Z690
  • 5 M.2 Slots For Storage
  • Attractive Aesthetics
  • Attractive Design
  • High-End Performance

Cons

  • Not Affordable For Regular Gamers

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 to increase the metal’s surface area, 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. Sure, it is a fairly expensive board, but the looks are a huge selling point, especially in today’s market, and MSI has also nailed that aspect. 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 2022 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.

What sets the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi apart from its competitors

MSI is targeting gamers who’ll be looking to eke out every last bit of performance out of their Alder Lake CPU with the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi. MSI has gone with a VRM design comprising 18+1+1 power phases, 18 of which are capable of delivering 75A of current to all cores of your 12th Generation Intel CPU, making the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFI a suitable companion for overclocking a top-notch Alder Lake processor such as an i7-12700K or i9-12900K, or even the i9-12900KS, provided you keep CPU clocks below 6.0 GHz. As for the remaining 2 individual power stages, 1 of them gives auxiliary power, whereas the last power stage supplies GT power to the integrated GPU of your CPU. 

MSI uses 2x 8-pin power connectors to achieve such optimal power delivery, using its Core Boost technology which utilizes the Digital PWM IC (Pulse-width Modulation; Integrated Controller) for uninterrupted and stabilized current delivery to your Alder Lake CPU with exact precision. The  MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi uses LLC (Load-Line Calibration) to ensure your CPU’s Vcore (Core Voltage) remains infinitely stable under any load, enabling the user to manually tweak the LLC according to their own preferences. MSI’s Game Boost tech is also on display here, which automatically overclocks your CPU and RAM for that extra performance oomph needed to snatch victory in your FPS games. 

The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi features an almost fully covered MOSFET (Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistor) with a dedicated heatsink and high-quality thermal pads to prevent thermal throttling. MSI has gone for an 8-layer PCB design built mainly from server-grade copper for top-of-the-line performance and componential sustainability. 

Moving on, the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi features 5 M.2 SSD slots, which should be more than enough for you. However, MSI goes out of its way to implement double-sided M.2 Shields nicknamed the ‘M.2 SHIELD FROZR’, which aids heat conductivity away from the M.2 SSDs to prevent data transfer speeds from throttling down. Not stopping here, MSI includes its proprietary ‘FROZR AI Cooling’ mechanism, which detects CPU and GPU temps, automatically adjusting fan RPMs to a suitable value as advised by the MSI AI Engine (AI – Artificial Intelligence, offering users the option to select between a performance, silent, and manual mode depending on the type of sound profile and performance you’re seeking from your gaming PC.

The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFI also offers you complete fan control in the BIOS and FROZR AI software, as previously explained, allowing you to set up to 4 temperature targets for the CPU, for which the motherboard will regulate fan speeds automatically. The MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi also provides numerous strategically positioned fan headers onboard for different types of system coolers, such as a conventional air CPU Cooler or an AIO (All-in-One), as well as headers for top-mounted, rear, and front casing fans. 

MSI has made several user-friendly enhancements to the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFI, starting with the M.2 EZ Clip Assist, which boasts an easy screwless M.2 SSD installation procedure where you’ll just need to rotate a locking device to tightly secure the SSD in place. Also, protective paint has been applied around every screw-hole to warn users not to scratch any motherboard parts, with a Keep-Out zone being labelled, so users ensure that the case doesn’t make contact with areas consisting of sensitive electrical circuitry. 

Furthermore, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi ships with a pre-installed corrosion-resistant I/O shield to guard connected peripherals and internal components against damage occurring due to electrostatic discharge. MSI bundles several accessories in the packaging, such as stickers, cabling labels, and a case badge, as well as a cleaning brush alongside a speedy USB flash drive and screwdrivers. The MPG Z690 Carbon WiFI also gets another upgrade with the PCI-e clip, which eases the process of removing and adding PCI-e devices, fortifying it simultaneously. 

MSI has also kindly implemented a combination of four LEDs dubbed the ‘EZ Debug LEDs,’ which’ll aid you in troubleshooting potential systemic failures and issues down the line. MSI has also installed a dedicated ‘EZ LED’ switch, which, when pressed, will instantly enable or disable all the lighting effects present on the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi.

Moreover, all the PCI-e slots have been upgraded with MSI’s Steel Armor which uses an additional trio of solder points Z(up to 4x stronger) to support the weight of heavy triple-fan GPUs from Nvidia and AMD. Steel Armor also prevents electromagnetic interference from damaging your GPU’s contact points. Combined with MSI’s Double ESD (Electrostatic Damage) Protection, where the motherboard prevents damage from static discharge spikes, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi ends up establishing itself as one of the most rock-solid military-grade Best Z690 Motherboards out there, designed to withstand just about anything you manage to throw at it (figuratively speaking).

For memory, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi supports a maximum of 128 GB of dual-channel DDR5 RAM using 4x DIMM slots at unbelievable speeds, up to a mind-numbing 6666 MHz via overclocking, aided by XMP integrated into MSI’s BIOS, enabling gamers to quickly implement automated overclocking for the best RAM speeds and perfected stability. XMP also allows users to set up to 5 varying user profiles alongside an option for manually tweaking voltage.

The MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi sports MSI’s SMT (Surface Mounted Technology), which is a specialized welding procedure that reduces the rate of defects in DIMM slots’ solder joints while simultaneously countering electromagnetic interference. Coupled with MSI’s Memory Boost, which, thanks to advanced pre-production RAM testing, manages to optimize memory modules from popular manufacturers such as G.Skill, Kingston, Corsair, and Crucial for the best speeds and extreme stability; the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi is able to deliver an unpolluted and high-frequency DDR5 signal for ultimate RAM performance. 

Delving into deeper detail, we’re pleased to inform you that the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi keeps up with the latest tech since the PCIe x16 GPU slot is compatible with PCIe 5.0 for double the previous Gen 4.0 speed at 128 GB/s, fortified with the previously discussed SMT. MSI has also included support for the much-acclaimed Intel Optane Memory, which enables the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi to output the speed of SSDs using a conventional HDD.

On the software front, the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi sports the entirely redesigned MSI Center, which consists of several different feature-sets such as Mystic Light, Hardware Monitoring, Fan Center, System Diagnosis, True Colour, and many others, for customizing your gaming system to your personal preferences, and manually tweak settings such as your monitor’s colour reproduction and brightness, the ability to activate different user profiles according to different workflows being undertaken, as well as enabling the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi to automatically regulate fan speeds and monitor your CPU, GPU, and RAM in real-time.

Additionally, MSI’s BIOS also offers an ‘EZ’ and ‘Advanced’ mode for users with different levels of expertise to overclock and customize their system settings easily. The MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi also features the Resizable BAR, which is an advanced PCI-e setting that enables the processor to utilize the GPU’s entire frame buffer for instantaneously improving gaming performance. 

As far as I/O expandability is concerned, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi is rocking header support for a solitary USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-C on the front, paired with 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and another 4x USB 2.0 ports on the front panel of the motherboard. For the rear, the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi boasts 10 ports, 1 of which is a 20 Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port and 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A (painted red) with 4x USB 2.0 ports bringing up the rear (no pun intended).

For networking, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi includes integrated WiFI 6E paired with Bluetooth 5.2 for a futuristic wireless experience. In contrast, gamers may choose to opt instead for the 2.5 Gb Ethernet (which uses Intel’s I225V controller), spruced up with MSI’s LAN Manager, which automatically prioritizes latency-sensitive games and streaming channels while also allowing users to manually change their applications’ bandwidth priority to deliver the ultimate gaming and streaming experience. It’s also worth noting that the onboard WiFi has Tile’s tracking technology built-in, basically imitating the ‘Find My Mac’ feature to help users quickly locate their gaming systems in a time of crisis.

MSI has chosen the Realtek ALC4080 HD Audio Codec with a DAC capable of playing back audio at 32 bit/384kHz for pristine high-definition Surround Sound, brought to you by premium audio capacitors, which, along with other audio components and circuitry, have been electrically isolated from the remainder of the motherboard, mimicking a dedicated sound card setup, with the audio layers separated at the PCB level to ensure a uniform listening experience for both left and right audio channels. The MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi also boasts MSI’s Audio Boost 5 tech, which comes with ‘De-Pop Protection,’ helping to eliminate the high-pitched sound produced when you plug/unplug audio peripherals.

MSI has listened to RGB enthusiasts since the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi sports customizable RGB LEDs on the top left and bottom right of the motherboard, where the ‘CARBON’ logo remains aglow. MSI has also included 4x RGB headers, 2 of which are 3-pin Rainbow LED headers, the other one being a standard 4-pin RGB LED connector, while the last one is a 3-pin Corsair LED connector for Corsair RGB peripherals. These LEDs are customizable via MSI’s proprietary Mystic Light Sync software bundled on-board the MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi.

It’s pertinent to mention that the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi also sports a ‘Flash BIOS’ button, enabling users to future-proof their motherboard and upgrade/update or flash their preferred version of a BIOS anytime they want to without a hassle. 

Finally, MSI stamps on a 3-year warranty which is pretty standard amongst competing motherboard manufacturers these days, but nothing to write home about. Thus, taking all of the positive aspects into consideration, we at Tech4Gamers, unanimously agree upon the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi earning a well-deserved spot on our coveted list as the Best Overclocking Z690 Motherboard in 2022.

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.

 ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A

Best Looking Z690 Motherboard

Best Z690 Motherboards
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A

Specifications=”Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 64 GB , DDR5-6400 MHz| Video Outputs: HDMI and DisplayPort | WiFi | USB Ports: 10x rear IO, 7x internal | Network: 1x 2.5 GbE LAN, 1x Wi-Fi 6E | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA”]

Pros

  • Decent Power Delivery System
  • Best Looking Z690 Motherboard
  • An Affordable Z690 Motherboard Option

Cons

  • Not Suitable For Core i9 Overclocking
  • Slightly Lower DDR5 Memory Compatibility

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. Thanks to its sizeable white heatsinks and I/O cover, the board is clad beautifully in white. 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 also packs a pretty serious feature set. 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.

What sets the Asus ROG Strix Z690-A apart from its competitors 

Asus is gunning for a two-tone black and white aesthetic with the ROG Strix Z690-A WiFi D5, omitting a few over-the-top features to keep a reasonable price point, trying its best to make its way onto our handpicked selection of the Best Z690 Motherboards in 2022.

For starters, the ROG Strix Z690-A is powered by a decent 16+1 power stage design that combines the two current pathways in the high-side and low-side MOSFETs into a single package to deliver stabilized and efficient power to the CPU via the 2x ‘ProCool II’ 8-pin connectors that make complete contact with the PSU’s wiring. Additionally, a metal sheath is added for improvised thermal efficiency, and thanks to the metal’s negligible electrical impedance, heat dissipation is further improved.

The ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi uses a 6-layer PCB, typical for the Best Z690 Motherboards looking to cut corners. Still, Asus makes up for the slightly lacklustre PCB by implementing premium alloy chokes paired with rugged capacitors, both of which are designed to withstand extreme conditions, promising reliable and stable CPU performance, even while overclocking. All of the power delivery is controlled by the Digi+ VRM, which smartly changes the amount of current being delivered to the CPU depending upon the usage scenario for top-notch stability, reliability, and efficiency.

With great power comes the need for great cooling. The Asus ROG Strix Z690-A bears an embedded I/O cover, which is attached to 2x thick heatsinks for collectively cooling down the VRMs, covering a much larger surface area than before. Specialized thermal pads also aid heat conductivity away from the area surrounding the CPU socket area for optimal processor performance. 

The ROG Strix Z690-A sports 4x M.2 SSD slots, fortified with matching 4x M.2 heatsinks alongside an M.2 backplate for the first slot to collectively sustain peak SSD performance by reducing thermal throttling to negligible levels.

Moving on, Asus has graciously included 5x 4-pin PWM fan headers for ambient cooling and 2x dedicated fan headers for the CPU, which may be utilized by a traditional air cooler or a Liquid AIO. The ROG Strix Z690-A pairs these fan headers with an upgraded passive cooling mechanism thanks to a massive chipset heatsink as well as a combined built-in I/O and VRM heatsink to provide users with more overclocking headroom than before.

On the memory front, the ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi has also been updated, much like the majority of the contending Best Z690 Motherboards, to feature support for a maximum of 128 GB of dual-channel DDR5 RAM that’s capable of running at a top speed of 6400 MHz and beyond through overclocking.

Furthermore, the ROG Strix Z690-A bears a dedicated circuit on the chipset that safely manages to manoeuvre around DDR5 RAM’s PMIC (Power Management Integrated Controller) restrictions, enabling users to manually disable the 1.1V limit and drive the highest RAM frequencies with the lowest timings.

Also, even the Best Z690 Motherboards, after having their PMICs unlocked, require the system to be fully power cycled, i.e., restarted. However, the ROG Strix Z690-A manages to utilize specialized hardware and proprietary firmware to allow voltage adjustments to be applied through a soft system-reset process used in previous generations of DDR memory such as DDR4 and DDR3, saving you the need of having to restart your gaming PC every time you make a minor voltage adjustment. 

Nevertheless, for DDR5 RAM kits with PMIC limitations, the ROG Strix Z690-A sports the AEMP, i.e., Asus Enhanced Memory Profile. Essentially speaking, AEMP automatically recognizes the RAM die on your memory kit and then optimizes RAM settings to deliver ultimate performance via the best frequencies, timings, and voltage profiles that the software automatically determines as suitable for your particular RAM modules.

Moving onwards to expansion slots, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-A bears a PCIe x16 slot (strengthened with Asus SafeSlot), compatible with the latest PCIe Gen 5.0, provided your CPU supports it. The negligible benefits of both PCIe 5.0 and the exclusive SafeSlot technology have been discussed previously in this article. The Strix Z690-A adds another PCIe 3.0 x1 as well as a PCIe 3.0 x16/x4, depending on the maximum number and the type of PCIe lanes you intend to utilize.

With regards to I/O, Asus provides a decent mix of 10x rear ports, the first of which is an ultra-fast USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port, 2x are USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A SuperSpeed ports (painted red), 4x are USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 Type-A, 2x are legacy USB 2.0 ports with the last one being a good old standard USB Type-C connector. There are 5x audio jacks as well as an HDMI 2.1 and a DIsplay 1.4 port on the rear panel. Round the front are headers for another 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A as well as support for another USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port alongside headers for Thunderbolt 4.

For high-speed internet users, the ROG Strix Z690-A includes onboard Intel 2.5 Gb Ethernet strengthened with Asus LANGuard for the lowest latencies and integrated WiFi 6E, compatible with the latest 802.11AX networking standard.

Asus showcases its above-average ROG SupremeFX, a proprietary mixture of hardware and software that strives to deliver pristine audio quality using the Realtek ALC4080 codec, supporting a playback resolution of up to 382 kHz across both left and right audio channels, matching the industry-leading Best Z690 Motherboards on the market. Music output from the front panel is processed through the built-in Savitech SV3H712 amplifier, coupled with DTS Sound Unbound, Sonic Studio III, and the Asus-exclusive Two-Way AI Noise Cancellation technology, all of which combine to produce high-fidelity, distortion-free audio with a state-of-the-art immersive and engaging experience thanks to the support for Stereo, Surround, and realistic Spatial Sound effects.

The ROG Strix Z690-A also comes bundled with the ROG GameFirst VI utility, which prioritizes networking bandwidth for latency-sensitive applications such as games and streaming apps, using Artificial Intelligence and a digital database of over 200,000 applications to ensure accelerated game packets for an optimal, jitter-free, super-smooth gameplay and streaming experience (if you’re into that). 

As far as the overall aesthetic of the ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFI DDR5 goes, Asus has opted for a two-tone appearance with a white acrylic display on the I/O cover, which has addressable RGB LEDs built into it, customizable via Asus’ Aura Sync software to match your colour theme of choice, making the Strix Z690-A feel at home in any gaming system, be it white, black, or a mixture of both. 

The ROG Strix Z690-A has the previously explained PCIe Slot Q-Release as well as the M.2 Q-Latch, along with the BIOS Flashback button, all of which fortify the motherboard’s structural integrity and ease of use, with BIOS Flashback coming in handy should you ever have to update or flash a custom version of BIOS via a FAT-32 formatted USB flash drive, without even requiring a CPU or RAM to be installed. There’s a ‘CLR CMOS’ button as well, which, when pressed, instantly resets the BIOS to restore default settings for troubleshooting purposes. 

Moreover, Asus has also included a cable management system dubbed the ‘ROG Strix Cable Organizer,’ which has a Velcro interior to enhance the exotica of the ROG Strix Z690-A and pave the way for user-intuitive and visually appealing cable management, adding to the flexibility and adjustability of your wiring system.

RGB fanatics have nothing to worry about. The Asus ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi DDR5 sports an exclusive 4-pin 12V Aura RGB header, dedicated to Asus’ exclusive Aura Sync software for extensive RGB controls. However, Asus generously allots another 3x 3-pin 5V addressable Gen 2 RGB headers which should be more than enough if you’re looking to connect external peripherals and lighting strips manufactured by competing vendors.

Adding on, the ROG Strix Z690-A features ‘AI Cooling’ as a part of the Fan Xpert 4 utility integrated within the ASUS AI Suite 3 software, which automatically adjusts fan speeds under system loads so as to sustain peak performance while keeping as much of a minimal sound profile as possible. Fan Xpert 4 also offers manual controls and an ‘Extreme Quiet’ mode, which’ll reduce your fan RPMs below the manufacturer’s minimum speeds (if your fan vendor doesn’t already provide that option) for a non-existent noise profile when undertaking lightweight workflows.

AI Cooling goes hand-in-hand with the ‘ROG AI Overclocking’ mechanism, which boasts an innovative algorithm that calculates the headroom available in your current cooling system, coupled with the wattage your high-performance Alder Lake CPU is pulling to automatically adjust CPU frequencies and voltages for optimal overclocked system performance. Asus also lays out guidelines containing target settings depending on which Intel 12th Gen CPU you’re using, which will prove helpful if you decide to override the automation and go for manual processor tuning.

Asus bundles a 60-days free trial version of AIDA64 Extreme, the previously discussed benchmarking and system analytic/troubleshooting tool, as well as a redesigned BIOS with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) that has MemTest86 built-in for testing diagnosing RAM stability and performance. Asus goes above and beyond to include a free 1-month subscription for Adobe Creative Cloud, which will appeal to gamers looking to pursue some productive workflows after their strenuous gaming sessions.

The ROG Strix Z690-A also features full compatibility with Armoury Crate. This exclusive Asus software utility comprises a comprehensive host of different programs, such as Fan Xpert 4 for controlling your fan speeds, temperatures, fan curves, and Aura Sync for customizing your RGB effects. Armoury Crate can also be used for updating drivers, Asus exclusive software, registering your Asus products, and browsing through the user manuals, alongside a dedicated news feed that introduces you to the global Asus gaming fraternity.

Coming back to the entirely new UEFI BIOS, it sports 5-way optimization, the first and second of which are named the TPU Insight and the Turbo App. The TPU (TurboVoltage Processing Unit) supplements the previously mentioned ROG AI Suite 3 with the data needed to automatically refine voltages, monitor system statistics in real-time, and refine overclocking settings.

The TPU is paired with the Turbo App, which offers manual tweaking for CPU overclocking and the ability to set differing fan profiles. It also presents an option to prioritize bandwidth for latency-sensitive applications and fine-tune your sound effects.

Next up are the DIGI+ Power Controls, which offer real-time adjustability over-voltage and CPU frequencies, allowing you to custom-tune your processor’s settings to achieve the right balance of efficiency and performance while sustaining supreme stability. These controls are complemented by the EPU (Energy Processing Unit), through which gamers will be able to maximize system-wide power savings, reducing their electric bill since the EPU significantly reduces power consumption when your PC is undergoing relaxing workloads with ‘Away’ mode automatically activated when your PC isn’t in use.

The last utility is the Fan Xpert 4 software, which has been discussed in detail previously, bringing us to the end of the distinguishing features of the Strix Z690-A. To conclude, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WiFi DDR5 showcases superior performance at a reasonably competitive and somewhat comparably affordable price point with a dazzling two-tone black & white aesthetic to match. Asus stands by the ROG Strix Z690-A with a decent 3-year warranty which isn’t outstanding but still doesn’t stop the Strix Z690-A DDR5 from sitting atop our list as the Best Looking Z690 Motherboard in 2022.

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 Z690 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 high-end boards, but it gets the job done while being a bit lighter on your wallet.

MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi

Best Value Z690 Motherboard

Best Value Z690 Motherboard
MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi

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”]

Pros

  • Relatively Affordable
  • Solid Connectivity
  • Great Storage Options

Cons

  • Poor Design
  • Mediocre VRM Design

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 regular users 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 several boards 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 bummer if you build a PC in 2022. However, the plus side to this design language 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.

What sets the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi apart from its competitors

MSI has released an updated variant of their stellar Pro Z690-A WiFi, which keeps up with rivals by introducing support for DDR5 RAM while maintaining an incredible price-to-performance ratio. 

To begin with, a 14+1+1 power stage design is being used with a Digital PWM IC running at the heart of the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFI to deliver ultimately stabilized and efficient power to the CPU cores via the 2x 8-pin connectors. 14 of those power stages are responsible for transmitting power to the Duet Rail CPU Power System, which sports advanced thermal dissipation techniques, while each of the two remaining two phases deliver Auxiliary power as well as GT Power to the integrated GPU of your Alder Lake CPU (if any).

MSI uses a 6-layer PCB, built out of a mixture of IT-150 server-grade material and 2-ounces thick copper. Simply speaking, the Pro Z690-A WiFi displays a decent and rugged chipset design that’s guaranteed to serve you for numerous years of strenuous workflows.

As far as thermals are concerned, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi is using an extended PWM heatsink with high-conductivity MOSFET thermal pads to ensure top-of-the-line processors like the i9-12900K can at least run stably at stock settings, with mild overclocking possible as well, thanks to MSI’s previously highlighted Core Boost technology which optimizes the power phases for faster and uninterrupted current delivery to your Alder Lake CPU with exact precision.

The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi shares a lot with its more expensive MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi since both of these motherboards have the same M.2 Shield Frozr for thermally managing peak performance of M.2 SSDs and the dedicated FROZR AI Cooling software, which is manually and automatically controllable via the use of 4 temperature targets. 

The Pro Z690-A WiFi has also been optimized for water cooling since it offers a 1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector, enabling users to directly control pump speed via the built-in software. MSI boasts 100% compatibility with AIOs from Cooler Master, Corsair, EKWB, and Thermaltake, amongst others. The Pro Z690-A WiFI also graciously provides another 4-pin CPU fan header if you wish to utilize a conventional air cooler instead, as well as 6x more 4-pin headers for chassis cooling fans.

As outlined before, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi supports DDR5 memory, at a maximum of 128 GB in a dual-channel configuration using 4x DIMM slots, with a top overclocked speed of 6400 MHz and beyond, with the use of XMP profiles. The much-acclaimed SMT (Surface Mount Technology) makes a comeback, strengthening all of the DIMM slots, thereby effectively reducing the chances of DIMM failure in the future thanks to fortified slot solder joints and EMI (electromagnetic interference) prevention for high-speed RAM performance.

Moving on, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi features 4x M.2 SSD slots, which is on par, if not outright surprising, for a motherboard so competitively priced. MSI steps it up with another 6x SATA III ports supporting speeds at 6 Gb/s, which we’ve seen before. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have such flexibility, and it adds to the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi’s value proposition. 

RAID 0, 1, and 5 configurations are also being showcased for NVMe SSDs should users want to enhance their data transfer speeds and data integrity. Intel Optane Memory is also compatible, enabling gamers to save money by using conventional HDDs with performance levels nearing that of an SSD.

MSI also incorporates a swift cable management system through its atypical PCB styling, which conveniently routes SATA and USB cabling together, reducing the clutter of wires in your gaming system, and enhancing the overall visual aesthetic.

With I/O, we finally see MSI’s cost-cutting measures for the Pro Z690-A WiFi since the motherboard is slightly lacking in terms of connectivity. The Pro Z690-A sports a USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C 20 Gbps port on the rear panel, accompanied by a USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A port, supplemented by 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and rounded off with 4x USB 2.0 legacy ports. 

MSI has provided internal headers through which you may add up to 4x more USB 2.0 along with another USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-C and 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports. There aren’t any headers for Thunderbolt 4, which is to be expected for one of the reasonably priced Best Z690 Motherboards.

Also, MSI has updated one of the PCIe x16 slots with Gen 5.0 compatibility and SMT, providing increased bandwidth of up to 128 GB/s while minimizing electronic interference and EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) to promote smoother and faster data transfers. Additionally, all the PCIe slots have been strengthened with MSI Steel Armor which increases durability by up to 4x and shields your GPU from EMI. The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi also supports AMD CrossFire for a multiple AMD GPU setup if you’re into that.

For high-speed network connectivity, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi boasts 2.5 Gbps of Ethernet using Intel’s I225-V LAN controller paired with the previously outlined MSI LAN Manager, which automatically classifies apps to provide the highest bandwidth to prioritized apps such as games and streaming services while also allowing you to manually tweak traffic priority and the bandwidth threshold for every app. 

For gamers looking to go wireless, the Pro Z690-A WiFi utilizes Intel’s latest WiFi 6E, for which the wireless module is pre-installed in the M.2 (Key-E) slot. WiFI 6E is compatible with the 802.11AX networking standard and uses MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) and BSS (Basic Service Sets) colour technology to offer up to 4X the networking capacity and efficiency in a jam-packed high signal traffic environment, delivering speeds up to 2400Mbps.

We’re pleased to inform you that even though the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi undercuts many of the Best Z690 Motherboards in terms of pricing, it still manages to showcase the Tile tracking technology integrated into Intel’s WiFi 6E solution, which helps you to locate your gaming PC should you ever have the misfortune of losing it.

Audiophiles will be disappointed since the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi makes do with the Realtek ALC897 7.1 Channel HD Audio Codec. However, MSI does its best to make up for its lacking, incorporating its Audio Boost technology which uses high-quality audio capacitors and HD audio connectors alongside a dedicated audio processor for the best sound production possible. The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFI also uses an electrically isolated and separated audio PCB-layer design with De-Pop protection for clear and smooth audio.

Furthermore, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi comes complete with a 4-pin RGB LED connector, and 2x 3-pin Rainbow LED connectors. These headers are an extension of part of MSI’s proprietary RGB software, i.e., Mystic Light, which allows gamers to take complete control of their lighting setup, with a variety of preset modes and lighting effects to choose from with manual customizability also on display. Users may add RGB strips and peripherals from non-OEM vendors, but they’ll still be able to tweak the settings via Mystic Light Sync, removing the need for a dedicated RGB controller.

Moreover, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi comes with many user-intuitive enhancements like its elder sibling, i.e., the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi. Sporting 4 ‘EZ Debug’ LEDs, which will light up in different configurations to indicate possible problems, making troubleshooting system failures much more effortless.

The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFI also has the same ‘XL Clip,’ which helps you swap out PCIe devices (mainly GPUs) with lesser manual strength while upholding the structural integrity of the PCIe slots themselves. The ‘EZ M.2 Clip’ also makes a comeback for installing an M.2 SSD without the need for a screwdriver. 

MSI has also labelled ‘Keep Out Zones’ for warning users about areas with sensitive electronic circuitry. The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi is also rejuvenated with the previously discussed ‘Double ESD Protection,’ which builds up twice the layers around the 9x mounting holes of the Pro Z690-A WiFi preventing sudden surges of static electronic discharges from damaging the motherboard.

With respect to software, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi sports the same comprehensive host of software utilities, including, but not limited to the MSI Center, True Colour, Live Update, User Scenario, Hardware Monitoring, Profile Setting, Fan Center, Mystic Light, and lastly, System Diagnosis. 

To sum it all up, these different programs work in combination to provide you with real-time updates on your system stats and regulate fan speeds automatically, as well as checking online for new drivers, BIOS updates, Windows updates; System Diagnosis automatically creates backups just in case you might need to factory reset your gaming system for a fresh install of Windows, and the list is just endless.

The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi exhibits the redesigned Click BIOS 5 found on other MSI flagship Z690 motherboards. The BIOS offers you an ‘EZ’ and ‘Advanced’ mode in terms of graphical user interface (GUI), depending on your level of expertise.

Rounding it up, the BIOS comprises several nifty programs such as ‘Creator Genie’ for rapidly overclocking your CPU, ‘XMP’ for instantly overclocking your RAM, M-Flash for updating or flashing a new version of BIOS from the onboard CMOS setup utility, the previously discusses Resizable BAR which gives the CPU access to the entire GPU frame buffer, i.e., VRAM, for significantly improved gaming performance.

One of the other flagship features of the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi and almost all other Best Z690 Motherboards is ‘Secure Boot.’ Secure Boot is a security program that makes sure your gaming PC boots using trusted and authenticated software only. The firmware checks the certificate signatures on each part of the operating system, such as the UEFI drivers and EFI apps, ensuring that your system will only start while the signatures are verifiable. 

The MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi wraps up with a standard 3-year warranty, which is commendable for a motherboard at this price point, considering even the Best Z690 Motherboards at double or triple the price points come with a 3-year warranty ‘only.’ Therefore, we’re able to objectively claim that the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi DDR5 is the Best Value Z690 Motherboard in 2022, based on the motherboard’s features, competitive pricing, and our team’s collective’s unbiased perspectives.

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.

ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I

Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard

Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard
ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I

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”]

Pros

  • Solid Power Delivery
  • Great For Compact Builds
  • Impressive Connectivity

Cons

  • Only 2 DIMM Slots
  • Expensive

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. A sizeable finned heatsink also cools the VRM, 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 Z690 motherboard, but these gigantic heatsinks and I/O cover absolutely dwarf it. 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. Thanks to a 2.5 GbE LAN port and WiFi 6E capability, the board’s connectivity is impressive. 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.

What sets the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I apart from its competitors 

Asus is aiming for the Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard with its flagship ROG Strix Z690-I, a motherboard that sports an ultra-low profile, coming in at 177mm x 177mm, which is about as nifty as it gets for such a space-restricted Mini-ITX form factor.

Asus needed to compromise somewhere to sustain such a hyper-compact motherboard at peak performance, and that sacrifice is represented by the power phases. The ROG Strix Z690-I sports a 10+1 power stage design that combines high-side and low-side MOSFETs and DrMOS into a unified package, delivering stabilized and efficient power to your 12th Gen CPU via the 1x 24-pin Main and 1x 8-pin ‘ProCool II’ power connectors, which use a metal sheath for enhanced thermal dissipation, thanks to reduced electrical impedance.

The power delivery management system of the  Asus ROG Strix Z690-I also includes the Extreme Engine DIGI+, which comprises 5K Black Metallic Capacitors, meaning the power capacitors on the Strix Z690-I are rated to last 5,000 hours of operation at peak temperatures i..e, 105C, ensuring more than a decade of real-world longevity.

Nonetheless, it’s unadvisable to underestimate the DIGI+ VRM design of the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I since all 11 power phases are capable of delivering 105A of current to every core of your Alder Lake processor, a figure only the top-of-the-line Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master can match, even though that motherboard has 22 power stages in totality. 

The ROG Strix Z690-I incorporates a best-in-class 10-layer PCB structure that works in conjunction with alloy chokes and rugged capacitors to transfer heat away from the VRMs and CPU socket, ensuring stable performance even under the most trying conditions, which is why you’ll be good to go for overclocking a mid-tier Alder Lake CPU such as the i5-12600K with the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I, despite its deceiving size. Nevertheless, try not to test the limits of an i7-12700K with the Strix Z690-I, and especially not with an i9-12900K, although you’ll have no issues running both of those higher-end processors at stock frequencies. 

As far as cooling is concerned, the ROG Strix Z690-I utilizes an integrated aluminium I/O cover paired with dual VRM heatsinks, interconnected via an L-shaped heatpipe so as to collectively increase surface area for maximized thermal efficiency. Of course, Asus also implements a couple of specialized high-conductivity thermal pads for keeping the power phase arrays cool.

Additionally speaking, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I bears dual M.2 slots, which is slightly disappointing for users who were looking to connect 3x or more PCIe NVMe SSDs. However, it isn’t unsurprising, given the limited space Asus had to work around. That being said, Asus built a ‘triple-decker heatsink’ which intuitively stacks both of the M.2 slots on top of each other with full-length, double-sided heatsinks and a backplate supplemented by thermal pads alongside the high-performance chipset heatsink. 

After completing our extensive research and analytics, we’re delighted to inform you that the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I sustains peak performance of SSDs, even when they’re being run under consistently taxing workloads, surpassing even the Best Z690 Motherboards, which are built on a much larger profile such as ATX or even E-ATX. Both slots also showcase Q-Latch, enabling users to install SSDs swiftly without needing to screw them tight.

Moving onwards to memory, the ROG Strix Z690-I showcases dual DIMM slots, capable of running 64 GB (32+32) of DDR5 RAM in dual-channel configuration at a maximized overclocked speed of 6400 MHz via the use of Intel’s XMP and Asus’ OptiMem II RAM-tuning utilities. The 2x instead of the usual 4x DIMM slots is to be expected thanks to the Mini-ITX profile. Unfortunately, it does cut down on the maximum amount of RAM you’re allowed to utilize, down to 64 GB from the otherwise usual 128 GB.

However, that doesn’t stop the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I from unleashing its beastly overclocking possibilities. Resembling other Asus ROG Z690 motherboards, the Strix Z690-I has an exclusive electrical circuit for unlocking the PMIC, allowing gamers to push voltages past the default 1.1V limit for enhanced frequencies and timings, leading to maximal RAM performance with no need for a restart/power-cycle. 

That’s possible because the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I manages to just reset the systemic software and apply new voltage settings. The ROG Strix Z690-I also comes bundled with MemTest86 pre-installed into the renowned ROG UEFI BIOS, which’ll come in handy if you ever need to troubleshoot your RAM modules or just cross-check stability.

As we mentioned earlier, the ROG Strix Z690-I comes with 2x M.2 SSD slots, but it also bears 4x SATA III ports running at 6 Gb/s. Admittedly, these figures aren’t too great since the Best Z690 Motherboards tend to boast 4-5x M.2 slots with around 6x SATA III ports. That being said, those motherboards possess a form factor of at least two to three times bigger, hoarding much more space in your PC chassis. 

Thanks to Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, those 2x M.2 slots support RAID 0, 1, and 5 configurations. In contrast, the SATA ports support RAID 0,1, 5, and 10 setups, significantly boosting data transfer speeds thanks to the virtualization technology where RAID combines multiple disk drives into a virtually singular drive, which also paves the way for advanced data security.

Asus tries to soften the blow while simultaneously trying to separate itself from rival offerings with its ‘ROG Strix Front Panel SATA Card,’ which, by way of 2x USB Type-C connections, will add another 4x SATA III ports, an Addressable RGB Gen 2 Header, a front panel header, and a speaker header. 

As for I/O, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I sports dual Thunderbolt 4 (Type-C) ports with 40 Gbps speeds since Asus acknowledges that Mini-ITX systems are also used as HTPCs (Home-Theatre PCs). A pair of USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A ports (painted red)  are joined by a trio of blue-colored USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports. 2x USB 2.0 legacy ports round off the rear panel I/O alongside the HDMI 2.1 port for graphical output.

Round the front, the ROG Strix Z690-I houses internal headers, which, when utilized, add up to another USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C connection as well as a pair of USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and 2x USB 2.0 ports. It’s pertinent to mention that the Strix Z690-I obviously houses a PCIe x16 slot, with the highlight being its compatibility with PCIe Gen 5.0, which slightly justifies the higher cost of the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I.

Furthermore, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I has onboard Intel’s WiFi 6E (802.11AX) for wireless networking, coupled with Bluetooth 5.2 and Intel’s standardized 2.5 Gb Ethernet. It has to be said that we expected higher speed Ethernet from Asus, even for a Mini-ITX system, because of its comparatively higher price tag.

Nevertheless, the familiar ROG GameFirst VI Utility returns to the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I as part of its ‘AI Networking,’ designed to intelligently identify latency-sensitive apps and optimize network settings to promise an ultra-smooth gaming and streaming experience based on a virtual database of over 200,000 apps.

With regards to audio, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I sports the ROG SupremeFX 7.1 Surround Sound system, based on the Realtek High-Definition ALC4080 audio codec. Resultantly, the Strix Z690-I ups the ante with support for Hi-Fi music playback at 32-bit/384 kHz @120 dB SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio), while the sound level for recorded input would be 113 dB SNR.

Adding on, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I can drive headphones with a resistance ranging between 32 to 600 ohms for a studio-quality listening experience. Also, the front panel audio output is processed via the famous Savitech SV3H712 Amplifier, eliminating the need for an external DAC. The ROG Strix Z690-I ensures pristine audio quality with premium capacitors and LED-illuminated audio jacks, which add some flair to the otherwise primarily black motherboard.

The two-way AI Noise Cancellation also reappears, filtering background noise for both incoming and outgoing audio to provide you with the most immersive and distortion-free listening experience, thanks to a vast deep-learning database for machine learning, which has a negligible impact on real-world gaming performance.

The previously discussed Sonic Studio III, Sonic Radar III, Sonic Studio Virtual Mixer, and DTS Sound Unbound are also part of the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I’s audio experience, offering users more controls and customizability as to how they prefer their music and sound effects. All of the positive aspects kept aside, it’s essential to note that a system chassis with an HD Audio Module in the front panel is needed if you want to listen with 7.1 Channel Surround Sound effects.

For the perfect matching colour theme, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I includes an Addressable Gen 2 header as well as a 1x Aura RGB Header, dedicated to Asus’ exclusive RGB software, i.e., Asus Aura Sync, which offers extensive lighting effects and preset modes for endless tweaking. If you use the included ROG Front Panel SATA Card, you’ll get another A-RGB Gen 2 Header. Even so, we feel that Asus misses the mark in this department, something the Mini-ITX form factor doesn’t make up for. 

Moreover, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I comes bundled with all the usual suite of Asus and ROG-exclusive software utilities that we’ve all previously discussed. 

However, for the sake of reminding you, the ROG Strix Z690-I sports Asus Armoury Crate alongside a new UEFI BIOS with 256 MB of Flash ROM for storing offline settings as well as 5-way optimization, including the TPU Insight, Turbo App, EPU Guidance, DIGI+ Power Controls, and the Fan Xpert 4. All these programs help to run your gaming system at sustained peak performance while maximizing power efficiency without any manual intervention needed.

BIOS Flashback and the ‘Clear CMOS’ button return for yet another cameo, a norm in the ROG lineup of Z690 motherboards. The ROG Strix Z690-I also sports 4 Q-LEDs, for troubleshooting purposes. These LEDs will individually glow red, yellow, white, or yellow-green to indicate potential problems with the CPU, RAM, GPU, or your Boot Disk Drive, respectively speaking.

The Asus ROG Strix Z690-I also offers a free 60-day trial of AIDA64, alongside other software utilities such as the ROG CPU-Z and the evergreen WinRAR. 

Additionally, Asus uses its AI for intelligently automated overclocking, offering manual controls in the ‘Extreme Tweaker’ advanced menu, which offers gamers the option of enabling or disabling their Alder Lake CPU’s Performance (P) and Efficiency (E) cores, depending on the type of workloads you’re planning to take on.

AI cooling is also on the table, with the ROG Strix Z690-I sporting 3x fan headers, 1 of which is a 4-pin CPU fan header, the other a 4-pin CPU Pump header if you’re planning to use an AIO, and just a solitary 4-pin slot for a casing fan, which is suboptimal at this price range, but you’ll have to make do with it.

Lastly, the packaging includes a pack of cable ties as well as a ROG-branded key chain with ROG logo plate stickers as well as ROG Strix stickers for users looking to add a bit of exotica to their gaming systems. With a 3-year warranty, the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I surely lands in the realm of pricey, top-of-the-line Best Z690 Motherboards, but they’re unable to pack it in such tight spacing, which is why the Asus ROG Strix Z690-I champions our list as the Best Mini-ITX Z690 Motherboard.

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 great power delivery system and a robust feature set make it an excellent choice for enthusiasts building a compact gaming PC on the Alder Lake platform. It does not come cheap, but it seems to be worth it for the specific use cases that it’s designed for.

ASUS PRIME Z690-A

Best Budget Z690 Motherboard

Best Budget Z690 Motherboard
ASUS PRIME Z690-A

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”]

Pros

  • Budget Z690 Motherboard
  • Impressive Looks

Cons

  • No WiFi
  • Mediocre VRM Design
  • Few SATA Ports

Sure, Z690 is the flagship chipset for the Alder Lake platform, but there are undoubtedly budget-oriented options in this lineup as well. One of them is the ASUS PRIME Z690-A, a motherboard that aims to provide the basic features you can expect from the Z690 platform at a reasonable price. It is nothing fancy, but it should be perfect if you 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, although it is a little lacking compared to the high-end boards on this list. The board supports PCIe Gen 5 as standard through the main 16x PCIe slot, and there is Thunderbolt 4 support on this board. 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.

What sets the Asus Prime Z690-A apart from its competitors 

Asus is out on the hunt, with its eyes set on the award for the Best Budget Z690 Motherboard in 2022. The Asus Prime Z690-A cuts back here and there to maintain what we believe is one of the best prices for an entry-level Z690 motherboard, based on an ATX profile.

To begin with, the Asus Prime Z690-A uses 2x 8-pin ‘ProCool’ power connectors that deliver 12V of voltage directly to the CPU with a Digital VRM design consisting of 16+1 DrMOS power phases and the Asus-exclusive alloy chokes and capacitors. Resultantly, the Asus Prime Z690-A makes a very suitable companion for overclocking the i7-12700K and even the i9-12900K, provided you keep the clocks below 6.0 GHz.

Moving onwards to memory, the Asus Prime Z690-A steps up its game with support for 128 GB of DDR5 RAM using 4x DIMM (strengthened with SafeDIMM) slots in dual-channel configuration at a maximum overclocked speed of 6000 MHz, which is slightly lower compared to rival offerings, but then again, those Z690 motherboards are in a different price league altogether. 

The Asus Prime Z690-A can circumvent past the PMIC 1.1V restrictions on RAM modules just like numerous other flagship Asus Z690 motherboards for considerable memory overclocking potential via XMP, offering automatic frequency, timing, and voltage adjustment via AEMP (Asus Enhanced Memory Profile) for those RAM kits with OEM-locked PMICs. It’s worth highlighting that the Prime Z690-A also guarantees advanced protectIon against overcurrent in RAM modules.

As far as storage is concerned, the Asus Prime Z690-A is slightly lacking, with *just* 4x SATA III ports alongside healthy 4x M.2 slots fortified with Q-Latch for screwless SSD installations. Of course, RAID 0, 1, and 5 are supported for M.2 SSDs, as well as that trio of configurations added with RAID 10 support for SATA storage devices.

Round the rear, the Asus Prime Z690-A misses the mark again with just a total of 8x USB ports. Nonetheless, there is a single USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port, supplemented by 3 USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 ports, 2x of which are Type-A and the other being Type-C, finally rounding off with 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports as well as a DisplayPort (1.4) and HDMI output (2.1).

At the front, the Asus Prime Z690-A houses connector support for a Thunderbolt 4 enabled USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-C port as well as internal headers for up to 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 Type-A, and 4x USB 2.0 legacy ports. On a varied note, we’re pleased to inform you that the Prime Z690-A retains PCIe Gen 5.0 support for the GPU x16 slot, despite its budgeted segmentation.

Asus chooses to entirely omit onboard WiFi, with the Prime Z690-A only possessing 2.5 Gb Ethernet, somewhat bettered with Asus LANGuard, which is a hardware-level network protection sophistication that incorporates signal-coupling tech alongside anti-EMI surface-mounted capacitors to optimize bandwidth for a stabilized networking experience.

For the audiophiles out there, the Asus Prime Z690-A utilizes a last-generation flagship Realtek S1220A 7.1 Surround Sound HD Codec that’s capable of playing back audio @32-bit/192 kHz. However, due to HDA (HD Audio) bandwidth limitations, 32-bit/192 kHz playback is off the table if you’re looking to listen in 7.1 Surround Sound at the same time. 

Nonetheless, the Prime Z690-A uses an internal amplifier, reducing the need for an external DAC, with stereo output @120dB SNR while the recording input stays put @113 dB SNR, something even the Best Z690 Motherboards from Asus mimic. Also, the Prime Z690-A has 2-way AI Noise Cancellation for both input and output audio for sound quality with higher clarity.

Moreover, the Asus Prime Z690-A uses physically isolated PCB audio layers for clean, undistorted sound in both left and right audio channels, integrated with a DePop protection circuit. This collectively specialized design is part of the ‘Crystal Sound 3’ system, which supports studio-level headphones with impedances ranging from 32-600 ohms. 

With respect to cooling, the Asus Prime Z690-A bears a decent selection of 8x headers, 1 of which is a 4-pin CPU fan header, the other an optional 4-pin CPU fan header if you wish to maximize thermal efficiency. In addition, the Prime Z690-A has a 4-pin AIO pump header and a dedicated Water Pump header if you’re going for a custom water cooling loop. Of course, Asus also provides 4x 4-pin headers for chassis fans, which isn’t the highest we’ve seen but definitely acceptable. 

The Asus Prime Z690-A also sports dual M.2 heatsinks for three of the four M.2 SSD slots, as well as separate heatsinks for the VRMs (2x) and chipset. One of the 4x M.2 slots also has a specialized backplate for preventing thermal throttling and thus, sustaining top-notch performance.

Furthermore, the usual suite of software is included with the Asus Prime Z690-A, ranging from Fan Xpert 4, Aura Sync, AI Suite 3 for intelligent overclocking as well as the TPU, EPU, DIGI+ VRM controls, Turbo App, Asus CPU-Z, and some bloatware such as a free trial version of Norton Anti-Virus software, coupled with WinRAR and MemTest86 built into the ROG UEFI 256 MB ROM BIOS.

The Asus Prime Z690-A comes with a pre-mounted I/O shield for corrosion resistance as well as ESD protection and 4x Q-LEDs for intuitively troubleshooting your gaming system should the misfortune ever occur.

Moreover, the Asus Prime Z690-A includes a 1x Aura RGB header and 3x Addressable Gen 2 Headers for customizing your colour theme and installing additional RGB-enabled peripherals for giving your gaming system that little extra bit of flair, with Asus Aura Sync giving you complete control over numerous lighting effects and brightness levels.

The Asus Prime Z690-A also sports FlexKey, a Chassis Reset button that can be remapped to provide instant access to Aura RGB controls or a complete instantaneous system reset. You may also remap it to enable DirectKey, which will boot your gaming system straight into BIOS settings for easier access.

Last but not least, Asus packages the Prime Z690-A with a standard 3-year warranty and rounds up our list of the Best Z690 Motherboards, where we undoubtedly saved the best for last, for consumers looking to snag a cheap but effective Z690 motherboard. Therefore, we formally conclude with the Asus Prime Z690-A finishing off our list as the Best Budget Z690 Motherboard in 2022

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.

The Competition

Z690 Motherboard
Z690 Motherboard – Image:Tech4Gamers.

If the previously chosen Best Z690 Motherboards did not live up to your high standards, we’ve generously highlighted all the units that couldn’t make it to our rigorously selective list of the Best Z690 Motherboards but maintain their dignity as respectable alternatives. The cherry on top, we’ll continuously refine the following list as time goes on and worthy candidates appear.

Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4

Best Budget Z690 Motherboard

ASUS TUF Z690
Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4

Specifications: Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128 GB, DDR4-5333 MHz | Video Outputs: HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4 | USB Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A | Network: Intel 2.5 Gb LAN, Intel WiFi 6 | Storage: 4x M.2, 4x SATA III 

Pros

  • Cheap at launch
  • 4x M.2 SSD Slots
  • Comparably superior thermal performance 
  • Adequate networking capabilities 
  • HDMI and DisplayPort built-in for iGPU utilization
  • Expansive I/O selection
  • Internal connectors for Thunderbolt 4 and up to 6x more ports 
  • Numerous fan headers for extreme cooling potential
  • 4x RGB Headers (3x Addressable Gen 2 & 1x Asus Aura Sync) 
  • Highest support in terms of overclocked DDR4 RAM speeds
  • 5-way Optimization System integrated within BIOS
  • Fortified with durability and longevity in mind

Cons

  • Underwhelming Power Delivery System compared to ROG Z690 Motherboards
  • Comparatively expensive nowadays
  • Lack of support for DDR5 Memory
  • Barebone aesthetics 

Asus is aiming for the Best Budget Z690 Motherboard, and it’s safe to say they’ve come up with a worthy alternative in the form of the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4. As the name notably suggests, the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 supports a maximum of 128 GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM as a cost-cutting measure. However,  it makes up for the older tech by offering potentially overclocked speeds of blisteringly fast 5333 MHz via utilization of Intel’s XMP and Asus’ OptiMem II technology which shields RAM modules from external interference and reduces path distances for memory signal transfers.

What sets the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 apart from its Competitors 

To begin with, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus boasts a 14+1 DrMOS (Driver and MOSFET module) power stage design, with all 15 power phases capable of delivering 80A of current to the CPU’s cores for stable and efficient CPU performance while allowing you to moderately overclock Alder Lake CPUs such as the i7-12700K or i9-12900K provided you keep the clocks below 5.5 GHz. Asus further fortifies the power delivery with its Digi+ VRM design, which combines with the 6-layer PCB, ‘ProCool’ E-ATX (Extended ATX) 8-pin and 4-pin connectors alongside military-grade TUF power chokes and proprietary capacitors to ultimately deliver ultra-smooth and stabilized power to your Alder Lake CPU, substantially enhancing componential longevity.

Adding on, Asus has blessed the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 with 4x M.2 slots, 3 of which have individual heatsinks to sustain peak SSD performance. Furthermore, Asus has expanded the passive heatsinks’ surface area to sufficiently cool the motherboard’s VRMs and the area surrounding the CPU socket, so you never have to mull over the dull possibilities of thermal throttling and overheating.

As far as connectivity goes, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus has a solitary USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connector on the front, bringing up the rear with a total of 8x USB ports, 5 of which are USB 3.2 Gen 1 (4x Type-A & 1x Type-C), 2 of which are USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, with the last one a blazing fast USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port rated at a maximum speed of 20 Gbps. The TUF Z690-Plus even features Thunderbolt 4 support via an internal header for theoretical data transfer speeds of up to 40 Gbps!

For networking, Asus has allotted users a choice of either Intel’s slightly older WiFi 6, which is compatible with the 802.11ax standard for potential bandwidth of up to 2.4 Gbps. Alternatively, gamers may opt to utilize Intel’s 2.5 Gb Ethernet, which is onboard the TUF Z690-Plus as well, strengthened by the TUF LANGuard, which incorporates advanced signal-coupling techniques with high-quality surface-mounted capacitors to improve networking throughput while safeguarding the motherboard from natural calamities such as a lightning strike, or even static electricity, which is more dangerous than it sounds.

Furthermore, Asus is hoping to appeal to the audiophiles out there since the TUF Z690-Plus sports Asus’ Two-Way AI Noise Cancellation technology, which utilizes a vast deep-learning database to actively reduce background noise while transmitting your voice through your microphone, as well as shielding incoming audio from environmental noise. The TUF Z690-Plus offers users the choice of two Realtek 7.1 Surround Sound HD Audio Codecs, i.e., the ALC887 or the ALC897.

Also, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 will attract gamers via its high-fidelity audio thanks to dedicated and electrically shielded Audio PCB layers, which use Asus’ premium audio capacitors. DTS Audio Processing is on display as well, which helps to provide deeper bass for music and gaming sound effects while simultaneously reducing distortion and allowing users to customize audio settings to match their personal preferences for an ideal listening experience.

Last but not least, the TUF Z690-Plus has integrated RGB LEDs on the heatsink, which are customizable via Asus’ Aura Sync software. Asus also outfits the TUF Z690-Plus with 3x addressable Gen 2 headers and a single RGB header dedicated to Aura Sync.

Asus rounds off the motherboard with numerous built-in safeguarding precautionary measures such as SafeSlot, SafeDIMM, ESD Guards (Electrostatic Damage), overvoltage protection, and a stainless-steel rear I/O panel to protect the TUF Z690-Plus from voltage spikes and overcurrent, as well as to ensure the safety of your connected peripherals such as the GPU and RAM modules as well as USB devices paired via the I/O. 

All in all, it’s pretty clear that Asus almost had a winner on their hands with the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4 as the Best Budget Z690 Motherboard; alas, only to be bested by its own sibling, the Asus Prime Z690-A.

Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro 

Best Overall Z690 Motherboard

Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro

Specifications: Chipset: Z690 | Memory: 4x DIMM, 128 GB, DDR5-6200 MHz | Video Outputs: DisplayPort 1.2 | USB Ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 4x USB 2.0 | Network: Intel 2.5 Gb LAN & Intel WiFi 6 | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA III

Pros

  • Relatively affordable 
  • Competent Power Delivery Mechanism
  • Exceptional Thermal Efficiency 
  • 8x Fan Headers for top-notch cooling
  • Decent Memory overclocking support
  • 4x M.2 SSD Expansion Slots
  • Ample variety of USB Ports 
  • DisplayPort for iGPU video output
  • Fantastic sound system setup 
  • Extensive suite of built-in software utilities 
  • Rugged and Durable

Cons

  • Comparatively slower Ethernet speeds
  • Somewhat steep launch price
  • Just 1x USB Type-C Port
  • Only 3-year warranty
  • Absence of WiFi 6E
  • No HDMI 2.0 Port


Gigabyte makes its second and final appearance with regards to our multitude of selections concerning a variety of the Best Z690 Motherboards in 2022. Evidently, the Taiwanese tech giant wasn’t content with earning an unbiased award for producing the Best High-End Z690 Motherboard in the form of the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master. As such, we’re forced to inspect, with thorough scrutiny, the 36-year-old manufacturer’s latest value proposition, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro, which aims to dethrone the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero, in an attempt to cement its position as the Best Overall Z690 Motherboard.

What sets the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro apart from its Competitors 

Straight off the bat, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro boasts an ATX Form Factor, with dimensions being measured at 305 x 244mm (Length x Width). Moving on, the Z690 Aorus Pro features a 16+2+1 Digital VRM Power Phase Design, where 16x stages are tasked with delivering up to 90A of (VCore) current to the CPU, which equates to 1,440A of total available power, plentiful for even enthusiasts looking to extract every bit of their Alder Lake Processor’s overclocking potential. 

The remaining 3x phases are divided into 2x DrMOS stages, which provide 70A of auxiliary current for managing the CPU’s onboard PCIe lanes and built-in Memory Controller, with the last 60A power phase being directly responsible for running the CPU’s integrated GPU. The actual power itself is delivered by Gigabyte’s previously spotlighted Solid Pin (24-Pin, 8-Pin, and 4-Pin) power connectors. 

As for maintaining peak thermal efficiency, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro utilizes a 6-layer PCB built out of 2x layers of 0.07mm Copper, which helps to reduce internal componential temperatures by a minimum of 3%. The Z690 Motherboard receives further aid, courtesy of a capacious MOSFET Heatsink, built out of a single piece of aluminium with several air intake/exhaust channels for substantially improving general airflow and ventilation. 

In addition, the Z690 Aorus Pro also sports a high-heat conductivity Thermal Pad alongside dedicated dual-sided aluminium heatsinks for all four of the M.2 SSD slots to sustain top-notch Disk Drive Performance, even when dealing with large volumes of data transfers.

Furthermore, the Z690 Aorus Pro showcases Gigabyte’s previously discussed versatile Smart Fan 6 utility, which leverages the 9x integrated Temperature Sensors, along with a combination of 8x PWM/DC Fan Headers, 4x of which are intended to be used with Chassis Fans, 1x for a CPU Air Cooler, 1x for a dedicated CPU Water Coole, with the remaining 2x headers serving a dual-purpose with regards to operating as System Fans or a Water Cooling/AIO Pump. 

All 8x headers support both PWM and DC fans, certified for delivering up to 24W of power in a 12V/2A configuration, with the motherboard also evincing built-in Over-Current Protection to prevent permanent damage to your blowers.

Despite an evident increase in cost price, which, in turn, leads to lower profit margins, Gigabyte has made the jump to DDR5 RAM, much to our delight. As a result, the Z690 Aorus Master supports a maximum of 128 GB of DDR5 Memory using 4x DIMMs (which have been strengthened, courtesy of Gigabyte’s proprietary Ultra Durable Stainless Steel Memory Armour) in a dual-channel configuration at a theoretical (top) overclocked speed of 6200 MHz. 

Admittedly, we’ve seen higher Memory overclocking headroom in some of the Best Z690 Motherboards. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the Z690 Aorus Pro’s price tag, this feels like nitpicking. The Aorus Pro also allows gamers to unlock and manually tweak their DDR5 RAM’s voltage levels for enhanced overclocking results.

With respect to data storage, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro reveals quadruple PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD slots, paired with another 4x SATA III 6 Gb/s ports, giving budget-conscious users the best of both worlds; the ability to equip their gaming rig with ultra-fast PCIe Gen 4.0 SSDs, as well as slower, but cheaper, and typically higher-capacity HDDs. Of course, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus also supports RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 configurations for boosting data transfer speeds and virtual integrity and enables Intel Optane Memory support as well (using the M.2 slots only) for greatly supplementing overall PC performance. 

Moreover, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro highlights a voluminous I/O selection, offering a singular, super-fast 20 Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port, accompanied by 4x 10 Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 Type-A ports (painted red), further complemented by 4x 5 Gb/s USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A connectors (coloured blue), with another 4x 480 Mb/s USB 2.0 Legacy Ports (dyed black) rounding off the vast expandability options, if we exclude the presence of the DisplayPort 1.2. 

Not stopping here, the Z690 Aorus Pro also houses 4x internal headers for adding up to another 2x USB 2.0 and 1x each of USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A and USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C Ports. 

Gigabyte tries its best to incorporate an optimal networking experience, with the Z690 Aorus Pro providing two connectivity options: built-in 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet LAN or, alternatively, Intel WiFi 6 802.11AX via a pre-installed module. Even though this setup is less than ideal since we’d have liked to have slightly faster LAN (at least 5 Gb/s) or WiFi 6E, it should be more than adequate for the mass majority of our target audience, and the Z690 Aorus also includes Bluetooth 5.2, the latest standard, much to our pleasant surprise.

Regarding audio, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro has an integrated HD Audio Codec in the form of Realtek’s ALC4080, which enables the Aorus Pro to intake microphone inputs at 110 dB SNR along with rated audio playback @32-bit/384 kHz featuring respective SNRs of 110 dB and 120 dB on the front and rear panels, with auto-impedance detection, for an optimal listening experience. 

Additionally, Gigabyte assures us that the Z690 Aorus is also Hi-Res certified, translating to frequency reproductions up to and in excess of 40 kHz for the audiophiles out there, courtesy of the deluxe WIMA capacitors in employ. 

For our RGB fans, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro ships with a pair each of Addressable LED Strip and RGB LED Strip headers for sprucing up the Z690 Aorus’s otherwise toned-down no-nonsense design language. Gigabyte’s proprietary RGB Fusion 2.0 software also helps to manually control the lighting of any externally added RGB Peripherals. 

Nevertheless, Gigabyte includes its usual suite of comprehensive utilities, such as EasyTune, System Information Viewer, the redesigned UEFI BIOS, and the Q-Flash Plus Button. All of these extra perks have been covered in complete detail when we were discussing the Aorus Pro’s more expensive sibling, i.e., the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Master.

Last but not least, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro comes armed with a 3-year warranty period, which doesn’t sit right with us, but considering it’s a budget motherboard, we’ll turn a blind eye to this quirk. Speaking of budget, while the Z690 Aorus Pro may have launched for a comparatively steep/mid-range price tag of $330, approximately speaking, it is now readily available for under $250, suddenly entering entry-level Z690 Motherboard territory, thanks to AMD’s aggressive AM4 pricing strategies, as well as the unveiling of AMD’s next-generation AM5-based Ryzen 7000 Series CPUs. 

Resultantly, we have no doubts in confirming that the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro is one of the most admirable alternatives for two highlighted motherboards in the article; the first of which is the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero (the Best Overall Z690 Motherboard) and more importantly, the MSI Pro Z690-A WiFi (Best Value Z690 Motherboard), courtesy of the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro offering an advanced power delivery mechanism along with DDR5 RAM support and a capacious I/O panel, with a heavily discounted price tag. Gigabyte’s budgeted offering is definitely worth watching out for!

We lately also reviewed the GIGABYTE Z690 AERO G, which is also similar to this. 

How We Choose The Best Z690 Motherboard

Z690 Motherboard
Here is a Z690 Motherboard – Image captured by Tech4Gamers.

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 were carefully examined and mentioned 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.

Chipset/Socket 

Intel 12th Generation Alder Lake CPUs require an LGA 1700 CPU socket, supported by Intel 600 Series chipsets such as the H610 being the entry-level choice. In contrast, the H670 and B660 pose as upper-midrange competitors, championed by the top-of-the-line Best Z690 motherboards, offering the best variety of features such as sophisticated, active cooling in the form of massive heatsinks and VRMs, along with ample potential for CPU, GPU, and RAM overclocking.

Therefore, it’s essential to keep an eye out so you don’t accidentally end up with the last-gen 500 Series Chipsets such as the Z590, which is still pretty competitive even today in terms of pure performance, but sports an LGA 1200 socket supported by an Intel 10th Gen (Comet Lake) or 11th Generation (Rocket Lake) processor only, meaning you won’t be able to use it with your brand new 12th Generation Alder Lake CPU. 

VRM

VRM
Z690 VRM – Image by Tech4Gamers

A VRM (Voltage Regulator Module) is one of the essential components of a motherboard, as it is solely responsible for controlling the voltage delivered to all the electrical components of your gaming PC, adjusting the voltage accordingly to make sure no part of your PC is operating at a dangerously high voltage, which would put the particular components at risk of damage, shortening their lifespan. A good VRM is essential for CPU and GPU overclocking scenarios and general optimal performance. 

Thus, it’s necessary to keep a keen eye out since an inefficient VRM would result in your CPU and GPU bottlenecking, i.e., your PC would experience thermal throttling, unable to deliver the potential power it is capable of, thanks to an incapable VRM. A faulty VRM will also provide unstable power, putting your entire motherboard, along with the CPU, GPU, and RAM, to name a few essential electrical components, at risk.

It’s also worth noting that some of the Best Z690 Motherboards also offer active fans paired with spacious passive heatsinks to cool down the VRMs on your motherboard. An effective heat transfer is conducted consistently, reducing the chances of thermal throttling occurring, allowing for beefier CPU and GPU performance.

Expansion Slots/Connectivity

Connectivity
Connectivity on a Typical Z690 Motherboard – Image:Tech4Gamers

Each motherboard varies in terms of the expansion slots and connectivity it offers. Some motherboards may offer PCI-e 5.0×16 slots, which, sadly, the latest GPUs in our world can only partially utilize due to PCIe Gen 5.0 being a relatively new technology. On the contrary, some motherboards may choose to forgo PCIe 5.0 altogether and only provide PCIe 4.0 slots for GPUs and M.2 SSDs. 

Motherboards on a budget would probably forgo these 4th Gen PCI-e slots altogether, only offering you PCI-e 3.0×16 slots (3rd Gen), resulting in reduced speeds. We’re pleased to inform you that even most of the Best Budget Z690 Motherboards will have plenty of PCIe 4.0 slots if not Gen 5.0, saving you the need of having to worry about going back to the evergreen PCIe Gen 3.0. Also, if you’re in the mood to connect more than two M.2 SSDs, you would need to select a motherboard that has at least two or more M.2 SSD slots for utilization, which majority, if not all, the Best Z690 Motherboards will have.

As far as connectivity is concerned, we’re glad to assure you that even the cheapest Z690 motherboards present vast options for connectivity without breaking the bank. That being said, you should have an approximate idea of how many and which type of USB ports you’d like to utilize, such as USB 2.0, USB 3.2 Gen 1×1, USB 3.2 Gen 2×1, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, since even some of the Best Z690 Motherboards won’t have USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports at all, an omission to be wary of if you want the fastest data transfers and USB speeds possible. 

Also, every motherboard contains a different assortment of USB ports, so it is crucial to crossmatch the number of ports available with your needs. That being said, keep an eye out for the type and number of audio ports you’d like to use as well.

Heatsink/PCB Layers

PCIE
PCIE on the New Z690 Motherboards. Image:Tech4Gamers

Heatsinks are one of the most important aspects of a motherboard since they can reduce or boost your CPU, GPU, and overall performance depending on how well they conduct a perfect heat transfer. They will also determine whether your PC would undergo a case of thermal throttling to keep temperatures down or perform consistently.

The general rule of thumb is to choose a motherboard that features advanced heat dissipation while ideally incorporating multiple heatsinks for optimal heat dissipation, away from your motherboard’s components. 

Adding on, the thicker your motherboard’s PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards), the lower your temps. Your motherboard comprises multiple PCBs sandwiched together, which generally produces excessive heat, so unless your PCBs are sizeably thick with several layers, your PC will struggle with heat conductance, eventually leading to thermal throttling and bottlenecked performance.

Form Factor

Motherboards are typically manufactured in four sizes; ATX, E-ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX. Generally speaking, ATX and E-ATX motherboards are the biggest of the bunch, featuring several massive heatsinks with comparatively thicker PCB layers, commonly offering the most features, alongside plentiful expansion slots and ports for unimaginable connectivity. As a side effect, the ATX and E-ATX motherboards towards the high-end spectrum will unsurprisingly be the most expensive motherboards on the market, and you often end up paying excessively for features you will never use.

On the contrary, Micro-ATX and specifically Mini-ITX will be the smallest motherboards you can find on the planet, paving the way for miniature gaming PC builds. These motherboards will usually sacrifice a few over-the-top features and have slightly worse results in terms of heat dissipation. 

However, manufacturers are constantly working hard to bridge this gap between the four form factors. Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards would also typically have fewer expansion slots since there isn’t a lot of space to utilize, offering limited connectivity. 

Nonetheless, Mini-ITX motherboards will also stage themselves at jaw-dropping prices since these boards, while making certain compromises, still manage to provide you with the same power and capabilities as a monstrous gaming tower would.

Budget

While building a gaming PC, it’s best to stick with full-sized ATX or E-ATX motherboards if you’re looking to save some money, as manufacturers offer a variety of motherboards in these form factors. It’s also important to control yourself while choosing from the top-of-the-line ATX motherboards since these boards tend to overcharge you for features you’ll probably never use in a lifetime, like 10 Gigabit Ethernet. If you aren’t going to pursue CPU or RAM overclocking, there’s no need to overspend on the Best Z690 Motherboards with advanced thermal efficiencies and heat dissipation techniques since you won’t be able to eke out the most value for your money.

Sidenote: Please feel free to look at our other articles where we highlight the Best B660, H670, and H610 Motherboards, if you’re looking for something more budget-oriented to accommodate a 12th Gen Build.

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.

DDR5 vs. DDR4

On paper, DDR5 downright blitzes DDR4 Memory in terms of pure RAM frequencies, with even the slowest and cheapest DDR5 RAM Kits offering stock speeds of at least 4800-5600 MHz with overclocking potential easily surpassing the 8000 MHz threshold, theoretically speaking, as compared to DDR4 RAM modules which hover between 2400-4266 MHz as far as default speeds are concerned, with maximal custom overclocking stretching these frequencies to a capped limit of 5500 MHz, at best. That being said, the (approximately) 50% difference in RAM speeds doesn’t automatically translate to improved PC Gaming performance in real-world scenarios.

The very ideology regarding DDR5 Memory at this point in time seems to induce a certain degree of boredom as soon as we begin to discuss CAS Latencies and RAM Timings. That’s because DDR5, courtesy of its presence as a recently introduced and relatively new technological standard, completely fails to match, let alone outperform DDR4 RAM modules in terms of latencies and timings, with even the fastest and most expensive DDR5 Kit struggling intensely to fetch a CL figure below 30. Comparatively cheaper, entry-level DDR5 Memory modules like the Samsung DDR5-4800 Kit struggle to achieve better RAM Timings than 36-36-36-76, even after considerable manual overclocking. 

On the other hand, mainstream DDR4 Memory easily achieves CAS Latencies varying between a range of CL 14-18, with factory-default RAM Timings ranging around 14-14-14-34, equating to a 50-75% difference in these two variables when compared to generic DDR5 RAM Kits. As such, the vast advantage for DDR5 frequencies is negated by the equally, if not worse, difference in RAM Latencies and Timings. Therefore, gamers can expect zero-to-slight improvement in real-world performance as far as gaming and overclocking scenarios are concerned and may even experience a performance dip relative to DDR4 RAM due to the latency issues highlighted above when undertaking systematically taxing workflows.

Nevertheless, it’s not all over for DDR5 yet. DDR5 Memory modules boast lower power consumption (1.1V vs. 1.2V for DDR4), with all DDR5 RAM Kits sporting built-in, on-die ECC (Error Correction Code). Trivially speaking, this advanced feature used to be typically reserved for server-grade, buffered DDR4 Memory, where system stability was of the utmost importance. Furthermore, DDR5 brings higher density, with theoretical maximum support of 256 GB per module, compared to 64 GB for DDR4. As a result, we can expect to see consumer-grade Intel and AMD CPUs support a maximum of 256 GB very soon (up from 128 GB at the time of writing), with a potential to enable support for a theoretical blistering maximum of 512 GB – 1 TB of DDR5 Memory.

Alas, DDR4 still lives on to see the daylight. DDR5’s exorbitant price point proved to be the final nail in its coffin (for now). Enthusiasts can easily pick up 32 GB (16×2) of 3200 MHz, CL16 DDR4 RAM for under $90, whereas you’d need to spend at least $150-175 to get your hands on the same amount of DDR5 Memory with far worse RAM Timings and CAS Latencies. With Intel primed to support good ol’ DDR4 Memory for at least another 1-2 years, there’s no logical reason to splurge on some fancy DDR5 RAM Kit which will yield your net performance gain null and void. The only exception to this statement is if you plan to upgrade to AMD’s brand-new lineup of Ryzen 7000 Series Processors and AM5 Motherboards, which only support DDR5. 

All in all, retro-gamers will be able to relate these events to the DDR4 vs. DDR3 era, where the initial DDR4 offerings proved themselves to be a waste of money due to much higher latencies and stability issues, unlike the tried-and-tested DDR3 1600-2133 MHz kits with much lower CL figures and an equally lower price tag. However, just like DDR4 in the yesteryears, DDR5 RAM will considerably improve in all aspects with manufacturers vying with each other to reduce latencies as much as possible, promoting healthy competition, and ultimately, buying a DDR5-equipped system will be a no-brainer thanks to much higher gaming and productive performance, as well as decreased cost prices due to voluminous production scales. However, that time is still a few years away. 

How We Tested

All of the handpicked Best Z690 Motherboards undergo extensive research here at Tech4Gamers, after which we take into consideration our proficient analytics, combined with in-house reviewing and testing (if possible). We also compare real-world performance benchmarks under idle, typical, and heavy gaming/overclocking workflows. Not to forget, we crossmatch relative performance to deduce the Best Overall Z690 Motherboard, for which we personally ensure 100% compatibility.

Why Should You Trust Our Judgement

With over twelve years of expertise in the tech and gaming industry, our dedicated team has been refined consistently to produce a potent group of knowledgeable individuals who are known to relay the most accurate information to our valued consumers, thanks to the extensive research and reviewing we conduct before we publish every piece of journalism.

In addition to this, we have been explicitly featured on a majority of the top-notch gaming and tech brands, such as Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, and DeepCool, just to name a few, as reliable and trusted sources for Hardware and Technology. These and other reputed manufacturers such as Noctua, Thermaltake, Xigmatek, and many others regularly send samples to us, on the basis of which we formulate unbiased reviews to give our readers a genuine representation of the product from an objective perspective.

Subsequently, we instill confidence in our esteemed consumers, who may rely on us to give them the best advice for building, customizing, and modifying their personal gaming computers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Z690 compatible with i9 12900K?

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.

What socket is Z690?

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.

Does Z690 support PCIe 5.0?

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.

Can I use 11900K with Z690?

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.

Does Z690 support DDR5?

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.

 
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With over 10 years of experience in the Hardware Reviews and Tech Category, I've now worked at multiple publications, reviewing all sorts of products, and continue to do so at Tech4Gamers.