The Bottom LineGIGABYTE's AORUS Z690i Ultra Plus is a fantastic ITX platform, though it's expensive for its feature set.
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
As many of you know, AORUS recalled its Z690i Ultra motherboard back in May as some motherboards were plagued by WHEA errors due to the PCIe 4.0 slot not operating properly. With that, consumers were offered refunds or the ability to swap out to the board we have here today, the Z690i Ultra Plus.
While these platforms are physically identical down to the board design and hardware, AORUS has swapped in a new Wi-Fi chipset to offer WiFi6e support to the Ultra Plus.
With that, the Ultra Plus is an LGA1700 platform, using the Z690 chipset; of course, this supports 12th Gen CPUs. This platform is offered with both DDR5 and DDR4 versions; we have the former in house for review. This board supports DDR5 with speeds ranging from 4800 to 6400MHz with OC.
Expansion is limited to a single PCIe slot pulling sixteen lanes from the CPU. M.2 slots include one pulling its lanes from the CPU and one pulling from the chipset, both supporting Gen4. Additionally, we have two SATA 6GB/s connectors for legacy storage.
The AORUS Z690i Ultra Plus carries an MSRP of $329.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
AORUS has given the Ultra Plus the typical orange and black colorway, and the front of the box offers CPU and chipset support.
On the back, specifications are listed on the left side, while features are on the right.
The Ultra Plus includes cables for SATA and Wi-Fi.
AORUS Z690i Ultra Plus Overview
The Ultra Plus carries a similar layout to the original, power in its usual place, while the VRMs are cooled by a unique heat pipe design.
On the back of the board, we do have armor.
Rear I/O includes both HDMI and DP at the top. This is followed by USB 3.2 Gen 1 in blue, USB 2.0 ports in black, and Gen 2 USB 3.2 in red. We also have a Type-C, along with audio in/out living off to the side.
The board layout includes the PCIe slot at the bottom. This is a Gen5 slot.
Up the side of the board, we have front panel chassis connections, internal USB ports, and SATA. We then run into the power input.
Across the top, we have fan connections, two unique connections for the included breakout cables, and the CPU power off to the right.
UEFI, Software and Test System
This BIOS should look familiar to anyone that has used an AORUS platform in the last few generations. Starting with Easy Mode, we have CPU and memory information on the top left and temperatures to the right. Down below, the dashboard is split up into categories for DRAM, fans, and storage; each having their own respective options. To the far right, we have quick access to boot priority.
Tweaker includes current CPU and memory clocks at the top, tuning for both down below. The Advanced menu contains options for SATA storage, PCH, Thunderbolt, and NVMe. CPU config includes the ability to enable/disable cores, including E cores and P cores, separately.
AORUS uses a few pieces of software, the first being RGB Fusion for controlling the RGB on the board itself and headers.
Additionally, the EasyTune software allows you to tune the board with presets.
In addition, the Ultra Plus can be tuned manually with the advanced menu.
Motherboard Testing Supporters
Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.
TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i9 12900K
- RAM: Kingston Fury DDR5 6000MHz 16GB CL40 (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.
Getting into our testing of the Ultra Plus, we start as usual with R23. Single thread, we see a score of 2013 for this board, which is slightly above average.
Moving over to multi-thread, we saw 26607, which is slightly below average.
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 compared to any earlier Z690 reviews.
In AES, we found 207664.
SHA3 tapped in at 5953, again slightly below average.
Memory throughput with the Ultra Plus ran slightly above normal in each category. Read came in at 98200, write was 89K, and copy at 90K.
PCMark10,3DMark and CrossMark Benchmarks
UL Procyon Suite
The UL Procyon Office Productivity Benchmark uses Microsoft Office apps to measure PC performance for office productivity work.
The Photo Editing benchmark uses Adobe® Lightroom® to import, process, and modify a selection of images. In the second part of the test, multiple edits and layer effects are applied to a photograph in Adobe® Photoshop®.
The Video editing benchmark uses Adobe® Premiere® Pro to export video project files to common formats. Each video project includes various edits, adjustments, and effects. The benchmark score is based on the time taken to export the videos.
UL Procyon is new to our testing, which offers us the ability for more real-world testing in motherboard reviews. The Ultra Plus did very well; Office tapped 9162 while Photo ran at 9011 and Video 2973.
Testing with CrossMark, we ended up with a score of 2331, on par with our current average.
CPU Profile landed with a peak 16 thread score of 10292, which ran about 150 points lower than our current average.
Timespy showed the Ultra Plus right in line with other 12th Gen platforms. The score was 929.
Firestrike, like Timespy, shows performance on par with other Z690 motherboards at 2731.
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 to be 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 several motherboards now tested under the new storage benchmark, we are starting to get a good idea of where our Rocket Plus should run. In this scenario, we grabbed a score of 501 from the Ultra Plus.
While we didn't have the opportunity to test the original Z690i Ultra in its DDR5 version, our DDR4 platform wasn't plagued by the WHEA errors that caused the recall. Although this new Ultra Plus has seemingly completely replaced the original version at retail, with its MSRP sitting at $329.99, it is one of the more expensive ITX platforms available for LGA1700.
In testing, the Ultra Plus did well in most scenarios. We noted lower than normal performance in high thread counts workloads like the top end of CPU Profile or R23 nT. In Procyon, the board did really well, matching much larger ATX platforms, and the same can be said for memory throughput and 3DMark Timespy and Firestrike.
In addition, the software package is ample for consumers wanting to tune the board within Windows, and the BIOS is well laid out, though it does lack some of the "tools" we typically see from other vendors.
We did play with overclocking, both on the CPU, which resulted in an all-core of 5.2 on our 12900K. Memory overclocking allowed us to play with several sets of memory, including the new sticks from Sabrent, which saw us reaching 6600MHz at CL38 for max speed at voltage up to 1.4v and as tight as CL32 running 6000MHz.
The Bottom Line
GIGABYTE's AORUS Z690i Ultra Plus is a fantastic ITX platform, though it's expensive for its feature set.
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