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.
Is MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard good?
With the amount of price point competition, with all manufacturers seeking to provide consumers the most value for their money, if you can consider a $350 to $400 value, MSI has much to accomplish. The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard has a lot going for it, including Wi-Fi 6E, five M.2 slots, and a reliable 19-phase power supply.
The smart utilization of space distinguishes this motherboard from the others. The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard not only has two PCIe Gen5 slots, but they are spaced far enough away to avoid slot conflicts. This motherboard, when combined with a total of five M.2 slots, has the capability of delivering what is required of an enthusiast-tier system at a fair price range. When you consider the rest of the feature set, such as multiple fan headers, Wi-Fi 6E connectivity, and high-fidelity audio, it appears to be a well-rounded device.
As we reach the completion of this assessment, I find myself evaluating each benefit against the harsh reality of some facts discovered during the reviewing process. The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard is not a flawless device, but it offers attributes that may appeal to purchasers searching for a mid-range system that won’t break the bank. It meets the bulk of the criteria for a good product by balancing the weaker selling points in terms of features with items of additional appeal that are useful. As a result, I would not hesitate to recommend this motherboard to inexperienced users looking to build a strong Alder Lake system at a decent, cheap price.
Finally, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard costs much more than MSI’s MAG Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4, which also has Wi-Fi and similar audio quality, but it only saves a few pounds above more drool-worthy boards, such as MSI’s own MEG Z690 Unify. It doesn’t make the Z690 Gaming Carbon WiFi a bad motherboard, but it struggles to justify its pricing in this circumstance. If you truly want a high-end board, invest on the MEG Z690 Unify.
Is MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard good for gaming?
As we highlighted, most Z690 DDR5 boards run remarkably similarly, owing to the Intel 12th Gen’s more consistent turbo power application and timing. The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard produced no unusual results, albeit it appeared to lag somewhat in several multi-threaded tests while doing admirably in single threaded tests. Its gaming performance were low to mid-pack, which isn’t surprising considering the inherent fluctuations that occur from run to run.
We’ve been doing a short test on our Z690 boards to evaluate how they handle DDR5-6400 memory, given that a Core i9 12900K would meet cooling restrictions before it hits board limits. Our G.Skill DDR5-6000 test kit can operate at that speed, but not all boards can, especially at this early stage when many boards need certification for high-speed, Samsung-based memory. The MSI board couldn’t quite attain stability without a memory controller voltage boost, but to be fair, it hasn’t yet been tested for any Samsung-based kit running at speeds higher than 6000 MHz. It will alter in time. We’re still in the early stages of the DDR5 era, and the Carbon may be a BIOS update or two away from peak performance.
Which slots does MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard have?
If there’s one area where MSI outdid itself with the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard, it’s with the storage option. M.2 devices have nearly monopolized the storage industry at this stage. Hard drives and bigger 2.5-inch solid-state drives may last for many years for customers who want a lot of storage capacity, but M.2 NVMe SSDs are by far the best answer for almost everyone.
A lot of motherboards now include one, two, or even three M.2 slots as a result of the popularity of M.2 storage devices, but the MPG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi is the first I’ve seen with five. A PCI Express 4.0 x4 connection with about 7.87GBps of bandwidth is used by all but one of them. A PCIe 3.0 x4 connection with a maximum speed closer to 4GBps is available on the one port that isn’t set up for PCIe 4.0. It’s now simpler than ever for you to add numerous terabytes of high-speed storage thanks to the vast number of slots.
Furthermore, the MSI offers a total of six SATA-III connections in case you want even more storage. Two of them are coupled to an ASMedia ASM1061 controller, while the other four are powered by the Z690 chipset. With the exception of one SATA connector and the slower PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot, almost all of these storage interfaces may be used simultaneously.
The back I/O panel on a contemporary motherboard is roughly what you’d anticipate. There are a total of nine USB Type-A ports and one USB Type-C port included, in addition to the Ethernet port, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors, five 3.5mm audio jacks, a S/PDIF optical line, two antenna connections, and a button for flashing the BIOS.
Generally, I think this combination of ports is fine, but there is one area where it may be improved: the USB ports. The remaining four Type-A ports are old USB 2.0 connections, leaving five Type-A ports that comply with the USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps standard.
Having roughly half as many USB-A ports as USB 2.0 increases the likelihood that you may mistakenly insert your device into a bog-slow port while trying to connect a USB device blindly. It would have been preferable if the Z690 chipset had supported two more USB 3.2 ports on the back I/O panel. It’s a tiny nuisance, but I don’t want to dwell on it. For the record, the lone USB-C port is an ultra-fast USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 connector with 20Gbps of bandwidth.
Can you overclock with MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard?
On the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard, there is a lot of support for overclocking. There are several options to adjust voltage levels in the BIOS. The BIOS also makes it simple to go in and tweak specific timings and factors to push your kit even farther. For RAM, you can, of course, just pick your chosen XMP profile and call it a day.
How much power does MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard use?
One heatsink is utilized by the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard and it covers both VRM parts. Moreover, it features several fin layers for improved heat dissipation with little airflow. The power supply system is less robust when 75 A power stages are used, making it less suitable for a significant overclock. The smaller heatsink and weaker power stages compared to the higher end of the range are not problematic for typical day use.
For maximal power use during a 30-minute period, Prime95 is employed. I utilized an Intel Core i7-12700K locked at 1.35 V and clocked at 4.0 GHz for my tests. The clock speed was decreased to keep it below 300 watts for core temperature regulation. Every second, temperatures are recorded, and the two probes are then averaged for a clearer display before the ambient temperature is subtracted to determine the Delta-T.
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi Gaming Motherboard