We’re looking at a premium model from the Z690 chipset as Intel’s 12th Gen (Alder Lake) life cycle is about to come to a close. By the end of the year, the 13th Gen Core series is anticipated to be available. It does provide a feasible upgrade path for anyone wishing to create a 12th Gen Core series system now and perhaps upgrade at a later time because Intel’s Z690 chipset (LGA 1700) will support the next 13th Gen Core series, as we already know.
The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard is the model currently being tested. It boasts a good feature set, including 2.5 GbE and Wi-Fi 6E networking, two full-length PCIe 5.0 capable slots, four PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 ports, and a sizable 19-phase power delivery.
The MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI is positioned in the mid-range market category, but MSI faces fierce competition at the $350-400 price point. It’s time to find out how the Z690 Carbon WIFI compares to its enthusiast-level MEG series counterparts and whether or not its gaming-focused model can live up to expectations.
Desktop PC motherboards are frequently designed to be multifunctional platforms that may serve a variety of purposes. Other times, OEMs attempt to improve a board’s feature set for a particular use, like networking or gaming. When done well, this can distinguish a board. The MPG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi from MSI It is, in most ways, the pinnacle of a midrange Intel Z690 motherboard for $369.99.
The same can be said for its power circuits, audio subsystem, and rear I/O panel. Its networking and overclocking capabilities are competent but not outstanding. However, the MPG excels in one particular field: storage. This board enables you to create a system with tons of high-speed storage thanks to its five PCI Express M.2 slots and six SATA-III ports spread out throughout its surface. It also has a quick, user-friendly BIOS and is simple to build out. It receives an Editors’ Choice nod for being among the best MSI motherboards we’ve seen in recent memory.
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard specification & features
The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard is not particularly attractive. The motherboard features a dark color scheme and a dragon outline etched into the back I/O cover, which make it seem nice, but this has been MSI’s standard design for a while. The MPG Z690 Carbon is difficult to distinguish visually from several earlier MSI platforms.
Nearly all board OEMs use the same visual design repeatedly, so MSI is certainly not alone in this practice. However, a pop of color or some unique touches would be a pleasant change. Fortunately, when you turn on the board, RGB LEDs start to shine over the chipset and underneath the dragon logo.
The MPG Carbon is a heavy motherboard with sizable heatsinks and heat spreaders, like many high-end motherboards today. No complaints at all, though; if you want to prevent overheating, this is just excellent practice. To the top and left of the CPU socket, two sizable heatsinks joined by a heat pipe offer cooling for 20 75-amp power phases, of which 18 are devoted to the processor. Even with some overclocking, these power drivers—while not the best money can buy—should be more than capable of supporting any LGA1700 processor.
The angle at which the uppermost heatsink is mounted is one remarkable feature. The CPU fan headers on this heatsink’s right side are pulled back diagonally from the top of the board, making them among of the most accessible headers on any motherboard. The heatsink then wraps around the CPU power connectors, making it slightly more difficult to plug in the power connection but still being as out of the way as possible overall. As a result, construction is much simpler than it would be with some boards that weren’t as well thought out.
Another sizable heatsink covering the Z690 chipset is located further down the board. One of the three heat spreaders that cover the majority of the bottom half of the board comes into direct touch with this. There are a total of five M below these. The most Key-M storage slots we’ve seen on a motherboard so far is 2, at 2.
Three PCI Express x16 slots were added to the board by MSI in place of any PCI Express x1 slots. The first two are able to support multiple GPU configurations and are set up to operate with the CPU’s PCI Express 5.0 lanes. Even though the third slot is substantially slower and only has a PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection to the chipset, numerous devices can still be used with it.
The motherboard’s storage solution is one area where MSI went above and beyond with the MPG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi. M.2 storage devices currently have a monopoly on the market. For customers who want a ton of capacity, hard drives and larger 2.5-inch solid-state drives may last for years, but M.2 NVMe SSDs are the clear winner for almost everyone due to their better performance.
Furthermore, the MSI offers a total of six SATA-III connections in case you require even more storage. Two of these are coupled to an ASMedia ASM1061 controller, while the other four are powered by the Z690 chipset. With the exception of one SATA port and the slower PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot, almost all of these storage interfaces can be used simultaneously. This makes the MPG Z690 Carbon a standout board if you require a lot of storage.
Overall, I think this combination of ports is fine, but there is one area where it may be improved: the USB ports. Five of the nine Type-A ports adhere to the USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps specification, while the other four are outdated USB 2.0 connectors. I don’t have any issues with OEMs continuing to include USB 2.0 ports on motherboards in general—their bandwidth is more than sufficient for peripherals, and I frequently find them to be more dependable when using them in the BIOS—but four seems like a lot.
|CPU (MAX SUPPORT)||i9|
|CHIPSET||Intel Z690 Chipset|
|DDR4 MEMORY||6666+(OC) , 6600(OC) , 6400(OC) , 6200(OC) , 6000(OC) , 5800(OC) , 5600(JEDEC) , 5400(JEDEC) , 5200(JEDEC) , 5000(JEDEC) , 4800(JEDEC) MHz|
|MAX MEMORY (GB)||128|
|LAN||1x Intel I225V 2.5Gbps LAN controller|
|WIFI&BLUETOOTH||Intel Wi-Fi 6E module|
|USB 3.2 PORTS (FRONT)||1(Gen 2, Type C), 2(Gen 1, Type A)|
|USB 3.2 PORTS (REAR)||1(Gen 2×2, Type C), 5(Gen 2, Type A)|
|USB 2.0 PORTS (FRONT)||4|
|AUDIO PORTS (REAR)||4|
|DIRECTX||5+ Optical S/PDIF (Realtek ALC4080 Codec)|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Support for Windows 11 64-bit, Windows 10 64-bit|
Final thoughts on MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard
The next few months until Intel announces and releases its next generation of Core series (Raptor Lake) CPUs appear to be an exciting moment for consumers. The new AM5 platform is included with AMD’s Zen 4-based Ryzen 7000 series products, which were recently revealed. The Intel Core 12th generation Core series and Z690 platform still have a lot to offer customers wishing to construct a respectable system or even something a bit more modest on the pocketbook, with processors like the Core i3-12300 giving an outstanding performance for the money.
Even though Intel’s 13th Gen Core series processors are anticipated to launch in the not-too-distant future, Intel announced that its LGA 1700 socketed Z690 series would offer support; however, little is known about what restrictions, if any, Z690 might offer in comparison to the next generation of chipsets. Thus, even for Intel’s Raptor Lake processors, Z690 choices like the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard can still contribute to the market.
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard