On November 4, Intel unveiled its 12th generation Alder Lake processors, which promise better performance and better compatibility with new technologies. One of the biggest changes offered by the new central processing units (CPUs) is that they have a hybrid architecture with the cores divided into two groups. Performance cores (P-cores) handle games and other intensive tasks, while efficiency cores (E-cores) run processes in the background.
New Intel processors support new technologies that are not yet widely used but that look promising for the future. Some of the features supported by 12th generation processors are DDR5 RAM, Wi-Fi 6E, Thunderbolt 4, and PCIe Gen 5.
If users want to upgrade to the latest processors, they will need to purchase a Z690 compatible motherboard. Unlike the 10th and 11th generation processors, the 12th generation is rectangular in shape and runs on the new LGA1700 socket. Many reputable brands already offer a range of Z690 motherboards in their ranges to suit different users.
These are the best Z690 motherboards.
Best overall motherboard Z690
GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master
Gigabyte’s Z690 AORUS Master has one of the best price / performance ratios and is packed with features.
This motherboard does not lack power to operate the components. It has a 19 + 1 + 2 voltage regulator module to provide clean and efficient power to the CPU, GPU and other components. There are usually two or three digits indicating the VRM capability of a motherboard. The first number indicates the number of phases dedicated to the motherboard, while the second number refers to the phases going to other components. Some motherboards include a third digit that refers to the VRM phases reserved for the GPU.
One of the best features of the Z690 AORUS Master is its durability. It won’t be obsolete anytime soon as it is compatible with the latest technology. The PCIe 5.0 slot for the GPU offers double the speed of the old version 4.0, and it also uses the latest DDR5 RAM, which has a 50% improvement over the DDR4 type.
Users benefit from the latest ports and connectivity options on the Z690 AORUS Master. Networking options include a 10GbE Ethernet port and 6E Wi-Fi capability. There are also nine USB-A ports and two USB-C ports. Output options are limited to a single DisplayPort 1.2 and there is no HDMI port.
New technology is generally expensive, and the Z690 AORUS Master is no different. While it offers some of the best performance and features, the Z690 AORUS Master doesn’t come cheap, especially when you factor in the new components it needs. Buyers can’t use a lot of their old components and will need new RAM and cooling systems to get their motherboard up and running.
Best high-end Z690 motherboard
ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero WiFi 6E
The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero WiFi 6E is the company’s flagship gaming motherboard designed for the latest Intel processors. Although it offers impressive performance, it is still more expensive than the Z690 AORUS Master.
Although it is more expensive, the ROG Maximus Z690 has fewer VRM power phases than the Z690 AORUS Master. Instead of 19 + 1 + 2 phase VRM, it has 20 + 1 phase, which is still enough to run the last components. Both motherboards use DDR5 RAM and have a maximum capacity of 128GB.
There are more connectivity options on the ROG Maximus Z690 than the Z690 AORUS Master, but it lags in some areas. Unlike the Z690 AORUS Master, the ROG Maximus Z690 includes an HDMI 2.1 port and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports with DisplayPort 1.4 compatibility. There are also two PCIe 5.0 slots instead of one. While the ROG Maximus Z690 matches the 6E Wi-Fi capability of the Z690 AORUS Master, its Ethernet port has a lower speed of 2.5 Gbps.
One area where the ROG Maximus Z690 beats the Z690 AORUS Master is its design. It has a flashier look with a feature called Polymo Lighting display on the input / output (I / O) cover to brighten things up. The display uses RGB LEDs to light up the ROG logo on the motherboard.
There is no doubt that the ROG Maximus Z690 is one of the most advanced motherboards on the market, but the price tag puts it out of reach for many users. It’s still a viable option for enthusiasts who want the latest cutting edge technology in their gaming platform and can afford the hefty price tag.
Best mid-range Z690 motherboard
ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-Plus Wi-Fi
Buyers can get the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus Wi-Fi for around half the price of the ROG Maximus Z690 if they don’t need the high-end specs. Despite its lower price tag, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi still delivers acceptable gaming performance without the lighting effects of its more expensive sibling.
As a mid-range option, the performance of the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi is lower than the two previously mentioned options. It has 14 + 2 phase VRM power and uses the old DDR4 RAM. Although DDR4 RAM is slower than the newer DDR5 RAM, it is also cheaper. Buyers can save money by using their old DDR4 RAM on their new motherboard.
Considering its reasonable price, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi has connectivity features to compete with the more expensive options listed here. Users have an HDMI 2.1 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 capable of 4K resolution at 60 fps. There are also two USB-C ports and a single PCIe 5.0 slot for the GPU. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port.
The Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi supports the latest Intel processors without costing a fortune. It’s still capable of fast network speeds and has enough ports for most gamers. Using DDR4 RAM may inhibit its performance compared to DDR5, but it lowers the overall cost of the motherboard.
Z690 motherboard at the best value for money
GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X
Budget-conscious users looking for an entry-level motherboard might consider Gigabyte’s Z690 Gaming X. It costs less than the other motherboards mentioned so far, and it offers decent gaming performance and acceptable connectivity options.
While the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X costs less than the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi, it still beats it in some areas. Instead of 14 + 2 VRM phases, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X offers 16 + 1 + 2 phases. Like the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi, it uses DDR4 RAM with a maximum capacity of 128 GB.
Gigabyte had to remove some features to keep the price low. There is no Wi-Fi capability and the Ethernet port has a maximum speed of 2.5 Gbps. DisplayPort 1.2 is also slower than version 1.4 on the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus, while the HDMI 2.1 port matches its speed.
As an affordable motherboard, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X cannot compete with the high-end competitors on this list. That said, it has more VRM phases than the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi and includes a PCIe 5.0 slot. Despite its flaws, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X is an attractive option for gamers who want a Z690 motherboard without paying hefty prices.
Best cheap Z690 motherboard
MSI PRO Z690-A
Many casual gamers don’t need the frills of a gaming motherboard and can get by with a standard motherboard designed for office use. Motherboards like the MSI PRO Z690-A are more affordable than gaming versions because they don’t offer the same level of performance.
Despite its much lower price, the MSI PRO Z690-A has a similar power output as the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi. The Asus option has a 14 + 2 power design, while the MSI PRO Z690-A has a 14 + 1 + 1 design. The MSI PRO Z690-A also mimics the DDR4 RAM with a capacity of 128 GB of the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi and Gigabyte’s Z690 Gaming X.
Connectivity options on the MSI PRO Z690-A are limited, but they are acceptable for a motherboard in its price range. Users have an HDMI 2.1 port and a DisplayPort 1.4. The other ports include a single PCIe 5.0 slot and a 2.5 Gbps Ethernet port. There’s no built-in Wi-Fi, however.
This motherboard isn’t the best for competitive gamers who want the best performance at the fastest speeds. He is more work oriented and will handle some games.