Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
MSI sent over a full media kit for us to test their latest Z690 Unify. Unify has been their bread and butter solution catered towards gamers that want a full-featured platform without all the RGB bling that other boards now offer as standard.
Specifications give us the LGA1700 socket with compatibility with 12th Gen Core Processors alone. It's built on the Z690 chipset with DDR5 as the memory of choice. Max capacity is 128GB with speeds from 4800MHz through 6000MHz+ with an OC.
PCIe slots offer 16 lanes of Gen5 support; this can be set up as a single x16 at the top or 8x8 if using both. The bottom PCIe x4 slot comes from the chipset at a Gen3 rate.
Further connectivity includes seven USB 3.2 Gen ports, two USB 2.0, and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 on the rear panel. You will also find antenna connections for WiFi6e and dual 2.5Gbe. This board offers five m.2 slots, four at Gen4, three being from the chipset and the top slot from CPU; we do have support for RAID with VMD from Intel RST.
Audio comes from the Realtek ALC4080 with support for 7.1 output.
The MSI MEG Z690 Unify carries an MSRP of $339.99 with a three-year warranty.
Packaging, Accessories, and Overview
Packaging and Accessories
Packaging includes an image of the board and proper MSI branding. CPU and chipset support is listed top right.
The rear of the board includes features to the right and specs right below, including a rear I/O layout.
Accessories include Wi-Fi antenna, SATA cables, and RGB extensions.
MEG Z690 Unify Overview
The MEG Unify is an all-black board with rear I/O cover a slightly lighter shade. Most of the board is covered in the heat sink, including VRM and chipset area that bleeds over to the M.2 slots.
The back of the board has additional armor to add rigidity to the board.
Rear I/O includes a full host of USB 2.0 and USB 3.2, 2.5Gbe up above, and audio in the usual place.
Running across the bottom of the board, we have front panel audio, RGB, and fan connections.
Wrapping up the bottom, we have two internal USB 2.0 headers and power reset buttons next to the chassis connections.
Up the side, we have six SATA ports and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers.
Towards the top, we run into a Gen2x2 header and the 24pin power connection.
Across the top, we have three fan headers.
Dual 8 pin power connections wrap up this board.
UEFI, Software and Test System
BIOS layout hasn't changed from Z590; still on Click BIOS 5. To the left, we have an Ex mode menu for quick changes of CPU, Memory, and storage configurations, while down below, you can get to LED, VMD, and TPM settings.
Switching over to advanced mode, you get to the standard menus for PCIe, NVMe, and CPU settings. OC also has its own section complete with clock and voltage control. Further, MSI includes a hardware monitor that allows you to tune your fans and the curve at which they run.
MSI Center is the preferred monitoring software; this had no issue running on our Unify board.
This software will allow you to install additional modules based on your needs.
Motherboard Testing Supporters
Sabrent supports our storage testing with the Rocket 4 Plus.
TweakTown Intel Motherboard Test System
- CPU: Intel Core i9 12900K
- GPU: NVIDIA RTX A5000
- 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)
Above, we have our system set up and tested with CPUz.
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 showcase 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.
With just one board previously tested, the Unify sits quite well with a 1t score of 1983.
nT shows a score of 27511 for the Unify.
AES comes in just over 140K at 140703.
SHA3 tapped in at 5138.
Memory throughput pushed 75K read, 71K write, and 73K 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 was a bit better with the Unify; at 9450, we are nearly 600 points faster than the Strix.
Score breakdown shows a significant boost in productivity and digital content with Unify.
CrossMark was 25 points better than the Strix.
Breakdown of CrossMark showed higher results in responsiveness.
CPU Profile showed equal performance between both boards; at 16 threads, the Strix was slightly better, the Unify better at eight threads.
Timespy nods to the Unify with a 200 point advantage.
The Unify sees higher CPU performance in the breakdown with a near 100 point GPU advantage to the Strix.
Gaming and System I/O Benchmarks
Tomb Raider showed equal performance for both boards tested; unify offered 195FPS in 1080p and 146FPS at 1440p.
FCND showed similar performance here as well, 170FPs for 1080p and 1440p tapping 150 FPS.
Storage with CrystalDiskMark
Storage performance was fantastic, NVMe topping 7028 MB/s with our Sabrent Rocket Plus; Gen 2x2 at 2011 MB/s followed by Gen 2 at 1071 MB/s and Gen 1 at 459 MB/s.
Power consumption for the Unify idled at 70 watts, and full load with R23 peaked at 351 Watts.
With the MEG Unify, MSI has deployed a rather robust solution that is packed with high-end features that include PCIe Gen 5 on the top two PCIe Slots, USB 3.2 Gen2x2 both on the rear I/O and internally via header. It also manages to host four m.2 slots, dual 2.5Gbe, Wi-Fi 6e, and support for 128GB of 6600MHz+ memory.
With these boards just being released, our sample size is small, but the Unify appears, at least on these early BIOS releases, to perform better than our Strix solution in single-thread benchmarks like R23 1t and CPUz Bench single thread. AIDA64 showed the Unify only slightly behind the Strix in both AES and SHA3 with a similar result going into memory bandwidth; again, likely more BIOS tuning needs to be done.
Looking at PCMark and CrossMark, both boards were nearly the same, Unify having an advantage in PCMark and the Strix taking CrossMark by 20 points. 3DMark Timespy nods to the Unify, and CPU Profile showed better performance at eight threads and a close call at 16 threads.
Power design is quite robust as well, a 19 phase design using the new 105A SPS stages that we are seeing emerge on the higher-end Z690 motherboards. Overall, this board should prove a reliable solution and one of the only boards available for those that want a simple RGBless platform to build on.
The Bottom Line
MSI's Z690 Unify is a top end platform packed with features and a solid VRM for those wanting an all around platform.