Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Alongside the Strix Z690I from ASUS, AORUS too has deployed an equally impressive Mini-ITX motherboard built on the Z690 chipset platform. However, AORUS has chosen to make building on this platform easier than most, deploying this solution with DDR4 memory support, cutting the overall build cost for any potential consumers.
All that said, the AORUS Z690I Ultra packs a solid number of features into this SFF solution. Starting with LGA1700 socket support for Intel 12th Generation CPUs and a 10+1+2 Phase VRM that uses 105A Smart Power Stages. Chipset support is Intel Z690, and the aforementioned memory support comes in the form of DDR4 2133 through 5000MHz, with maximum capacity listed at 64GB.
The expansion includes a single PCIe x16 slot operating on the Gen5 standard. M.2 NVMe support includes two slots on the daughterboard, the backside pulling CPU lanes, and front chipset. Additionally, this board offers four SATA connections for legacy devices.
Connectivity includes Intel 2.5Gbe LAN alongside Intel AX201 WiFi6. USB 3.2 Gen 1 and 2 are available, as is USB 2.0 on the rear I/O. Internally you do have the ability to extend USB functionality with both a Gen1 and Gen 2 header available.
Pricing for the Z690I AORUS Ultra DDR4 comes in at $289.99.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Board packaging offers the AORUS logo centered on the box, model identification below alongside chipset and CPU support.
The rear of the packaging includes specifications to the left and features listed to the right.
Accessories include Wi-Fi antenna, SATA cables, and dongles for additional fans.
AORUS Z690I Ultra DDR4 Overview
The Z690I AORUS Ultra is a Mini-ITX platform. It includes a single PCIe x16 at the bottom of the board, two DDR4 memory slots top right, and LGA1700 socket centered. It offers a 10+1+2 phase VRM design with heat pipe cooling, and two M.2 slots tucked away in the daughterboard that lives just below the CPU socket.
The back of the board includes a thermal metal plate adding rigidity to the motherboard and protection alongside added cooling.
Rear I/O includes HDMI and DP at the top, followed by USB 3.2 Gen and USB 2.0. Audio is offset above with line out and mic, and moving to the right, we have four USB 3.2 Gen 2 in red. 2.5Gbe can be accessed from the RJ45 ports above and Wi-Fi at the bottom of the board.
Running around this platform, we note the PCIe slot at the bottom and additional connections for fans and RGB on the daughterboard above.
Down the side of the Z690I, we have USB 3.2 headers, SATA connections, and the 34pin power input.
Across the top, we have additional fan headers and the 8-pin power connection.
UEFI, Software and Test System
BIOS layout is identical to the larger Xtreme and Master; starting with the easy mode, you will get all information about the CPU and RAM along the top, including frequency and temperature. The boot sequence shows installed drives and fan controls to the right.
Advanced mode is where you will find tweaking tools for CPU and memory, including voltages. AORUS has additional options in the IO Ports menu; these include the ability to disable IGP and configure LAN controls, Thunderbolt, and storage.
RGB Fusion allows you to control all the functionality of the board, including the individual ports.
Easy Tune offers both built-in profiles in the smart boost section. These include default, OC, and autotune functionality.
In addition to the profile, you can manually OC with the advanced menu seen above.
Motherboard Testing Supporters
Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.
TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i9 12900K
- RAM: Crucial DDR5 5200MHz 32GB CL38 (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus 1TB (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: ASUS Thor 1200W (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 11 (buy from Amazon)
Cinebench R23 and AIDA64
Cinebench and AIDA64
Cinebench is a long-standing render benchmark that has been heavily relied upon by both Intel and AMD to highlight their newest platforms during unveils. The benchmark has two tests, a single-core workload that will utilize one thread or 1T. There is also a multi-threaded test that uses all threads or nT of a tested CPU.
Starting our testing, the Z690 Ultra landed in 1889 in 1T R23 testing.
Moving to nT, the Ultra picked up 27638 in R23.
AIDA was recently updated to version 6.6, which improved performance in both AES and SHA3 workloads for Alder Lake CPUs. You will notice this performance jump in the charts below when compared to any previous Z690 reviews.
In AES, we see 207773 from the Ultra, average for the platform.
SHA3 tapped in at 6039, slightly above average.
Memory throughput was slightly lower than the platform average due to the use of DDR4. That said, we did see 63K read, 58K write and 57K copy.
PCMark10, 3DMark and CrossMark Benchmarks
PCMark is a benchmark from UL and tests various workload types to represent typical workloads for a PC. Everything from video conferencing, image import, and editing, along with 3D rendering, are tested.
Overall score in PCMark landed at 6395.
Score breakdown shows no issues for the AORUS Ultra matching the larger ATX boards.
The Ultra gave us a score of 2292 in CrossMark, a bit lower than average.
In the breakdown, the Ultra did the best in Creativity at 2430, followed by 2250 in responsiveness.
CPU Profile shows the AORUS Ultra in light green running right with the pack just slightly under the AORUS Xtreme.
Timespy gave us a score of 921, on par but slightly lower than larger ATX boards.
Firestrike shows the AORUS Ultra right on par with other Z690 platforms, scoring 2722.
Storage Benchmarks and Final Thoughts
3DMark Storage Benchmarks
UL's newest 3DMark SSD Gaming Test is the most comprehensive SSD gaming test ever devised. We consider it superior to testing against games themselves because, as a trace, it is much more consistent than variations that will occur between runs on the actual game itself. This test is, in fact, the same as running the actual game, just without the inconsistencies inherent to application testing.
In short, we believe that this is the world's best way to test an SSDs gaming prowess and accurately compare it against competing SSDs. The 3DMark SSD Gaming Test measures and scores the following:
- Loading Battlefield V from launch to the main menu.
- Loading Call of Duty Black Ops 4 from launch to the main menu.
- Loading Overwatch from launch to the main menu.
- Recording a 1080p gameplay video at 60 FPS with OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) while playing Overwatch.
- Installing The Outer Worlds from the Epic Games Launcher.
- Saving game progress in The Outer Worlds.
- Copying the Steam folder for Counter-Strike Global Offensive from an external SSD to the system drive.
With our Rocket Pus, the Ultra DDR4 gave us 420 MB/s bandwidth.
With very few ITX options carrying the Z690 chipset, the AORUS Ultra DDR4 offers a solid mix of connectivity and expansion while modestly cutting corners to provide a better price to consumers with DDR4 memory support over DDR5. This is reflected in the immediate price, as this solution carries an MSRP nearly $150 cheaper than the ROG counterpart.
In testing, the Ultra DDR4 performed quite well. We did see some decrease in performance, likely due to the use of DDR4 over the DDR5 we have tested previous boards with. That said, performance loss was minimal, around 100 points in both 1t and nT R23, while other benchmarks such as PCMark and 3DMark showed no loss at all. Storage performance was slightly lower than we typically see, peaking at 420MB/s in 3DMark Storage but again not too far off the average.
As a package, AORUS has done a fantastic job with the Ultra DDR4. It offers a suitable amount of rear I/O connectivity featuring both USB 3.2 Gen 1 and 2 alongside a great networking setup that provides 2.5Gbe and WiFi6.
In addition, for consumers that want all the love this solution offers but would rather take the leap to DDR5, AORUS does offer the Z690I AORUS Ultra, featuring DDR5 support for another $50 (MSRP $329).
The Bottom Line
AORUS has a fantastic board on their hands, complete with ample connectivity options for any gamer looking to build a SFF system.