If you prefer your motherboard to be free from RGB bling, and with a decidedly dark and moody theme, then you’re in luck, as there’s not an ounce of built-in lighting on the MEG Z690 Unify. You do get some RGB headers, including two 3-pin, one 4-pin and a single Corsair connector for hooking up that company’s proprietary RGB hardware, such as waterblocks and pumps. Most of the PCB is covered in heatsinks too, including all five of its M.2 ports.
This cooling extends to both sides of the PCB, so it was no surprise to see the MEG Z690 Unify offer one of the lowest M.2 temperatures on test, with our PCI-E 4 M.2 SSD hitting 52°C. The VRMs couldn’t be measured using MSI’s software, but our IR probe returned a reading of 57°C, which is good, but not the coolest on test, despite the huge, heat pipe-equipped heatsinks. However, cooling is also aided by a large backplate, and cooling the 19+2105A power phases won’t be an issue with this board.
CPU socket Intel LGA1700
Memory support 4 slots: max 128GB DDRS (up to 6666MHz)
Expansion slots Two 16x PCI-E 5, one 4x PCI-E 3
Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC4080 HD Audio
Networking 2 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
Cooling Seven 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, M.2 heatsinks
Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps, 4 x M.2 PCI-E 4,1 x M.2 PCI-E 3,7x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 2,1 x USB 3.1 Type-C header, 2 x LAN, 3 x surround audio out
Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
As you would expect, you get the full complement of overclocking and testing tools here, including power and reset buttons, an LED POST code display, a clear-CMOS button and the ability to flash the BIOS without a CPU. You even get thermal probe inputs, which you can use to control the fan headers in the EFI. That’s useful to fans of water cooling, although there’s currently no way to do this in MSI’s software, unlike the package with Gigabyte and Asus’ similar boards.
We were a tad disappointed notto see Thunderbolt 4 support on the rear I/O panel, though, seeing as other Unify boards have supported Thunderbolt in the past, especially at this price. The accessories are also rather thin on the ground compared with those provided with the Asus ROC Maximus Z690 Apex, although the Unify does manage to cram a similar specification into the PCB, as it’s not as focused on extreme overclocking as the Asus board.
The Unify also has the best audio performance on test, dual 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet ports and the I/O panel is equipped with nine Type-A USB ports, which is the joint highest on test. However, there are no video outputs.
Meanwhile, the EFI is up to MSI’s usual high standards and it was easy to plumb in our usual settings to overclock our Core i5-12600K to 5GHz on its P-Cores and 4GHz on its E-Cores, although like many other boards this month we did need to add loadline calibration too. This overclock provided a big boost to benchmarking, though, with the System score rising from 202,645 to 313,119 and the multi-threaded Cinebench score from 17,409 to 19,315.
A bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the MSI MEG Z690 Unify is a monster motherboard with a killer feature set. However, its price is just as eyebrow-raising and we were a tad perplexed by the meagre accessory and lack of Thunderbolt 4 support. It’s still a fantastic board, though, and is slightly more appealing to mainstream users than the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Apex. If you feel like splashing out, you won’t be disappointed,
A stunningly premium board that’s dripping with features, but your wallet will need to feel very generous.
- Attractive design
- Great feature set
- Excellent EFI
- No Thunderbolt 4
- Software is below par
- No video outputs