MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

The 12th Gen Intel Core processors have brought the remarkable leap in performance we’ve been waiting for. But the requirements for cooling systems, power subsystems, etc. have also increased. Therefore, it is not surprising that motherboard manufacturers have sincerely approached the creation of new products, although they were burned with the firmware in the early stages. Our MSI MEG Z690I Unify review unit appeared with the LGA1700 platform and DDR5 RAM, marking the beginning of a new era in the PC milestone.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

In such difficult times and high demands, the appearance of motherboards of the Mini ITX form factor, so beloved by enthusiasts, was delayed. And for good reason: each model was able to bring something new and original, and not every solution is identical to each other. And next in line is MSI’s creation – the MEG Z690i Unify model from the old line, aimed at success.

Unboxing

The new MSI gaming motherboard comes in a small dark package, promising the arrival of true power. It deceptively detracts from the compact size of the fact that the box is so heavy.

On the front side, we get acquainted with a piece of the board’s design and find out that the MSI MEG Z690i Unify supports the Thunderbolt interface: such ports are important for the professional part of the audience. On the other hand, there is a familiar table with characteristics, a port map on the I / O panel, and a brief description of the new features.

The box bundle of the MSI MEG Z690i Unify model is enough for two separate motherboards, so we will break it into two parts. In the left corner of the rig, there is a stack of paper components – two user manuals, advertising brochures, stickers, and good quality a metal MSI logo on the case.

In the other part are located:

  • Wi-Fi antenna with a mounting platform and magnetic base
  • USB flash drive with the necessary drivers and software
  • Double-sided brush with soft and coarse bristles
  • A nice accessory is a keychain in the form of screwdrivers
  • 4 x SATA cables
  • 3 x M.2 screws
  • Adapter DP > mini-DP
  • EZ extension cable for connecting the front panel of the case

Design

The MSI MEG Z690i Unify motherboard is one of five mini ITX motherboards based on the Z690 chipset available on the market for the Intel LGA1700 platform. And like any other model in the older segment, it has a unique set of peripherals and a recognizable design, allowing every gamer to make one choice or the other.

The device supports all current processors on the Intel LGA1700 socket. Two DIMM slots allow you to count on the amount of RAM up to 64 GB. The manufacturer claims to support a clock frequency of 4800 MHz in normal mode and in the range of 5000 – 6800+ MHz with overclocking.

On the I / O panel, there is a whole bunch of different interfaces: first of all, we note the BIOS reset button and a pair of DisplayPort and HDMI video outputs. The MSI gaming motherboard can offer two Thunderbolt 4 ports (USB-C versions) and two mini-DisplayPort ports (for pass-through through Thunderbolt 4). A total of 6 USB 3.2 Gen 1 and Gen 2 ports, Wi-Fi antenna connectors, and three audio jacks.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Additional power is provided by a standard 24-Pin MB connector and a single 8-Pin CPU connector neatly placed between the VRM heatsink arrays.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Along with the cooling system and a little further from the power supply, there are connectors for the CPU_Fan CPU cooler and the PUMP_Fan pump, a 3-Pin ARGB backlight connection, and a pair of lonely plugs – an unpopular case opening connector.

MSI MEG Z690i Unify supports USB 3.0 and USB Type-C front panel connection, which is relevant by today’s standards.

Due to the mini-ITX form factor, the number of expansion slots is limited to only one full-fledged PCI Express x16, but the fifth-generation (PCIe 5.0 x16).

A complex two-story structure rises a little higher, which has become a necessity since the Intel 400 series, because, as mentioned earlier, there is not enough space on the 170×170 mm printed circuit board for everything you need.

In the case of the MSI MEG Z690i Unify model, the developers slightly redesigned the design, which differs from other models, for example, they abandoned the flexible cable like the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming WIFI: fragile and unreliable. It has a chipset heatsink on spring-loaded screws in the lower part. At the second level, there is a separate controller board with a double-sided arrangement of M.2 slots. The one that is marked as M2_1 (M.2 2280, processor lines) is cooled by an additional heatsink on top, and M2_2 (M.2 2280, chipset lines) is cooled through a thermal pad located on the chipset heatsink.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

The adapter is connected through a fairly wide double-sided connector.

Unlike other offerings, the MSI mainboard is also equipped with a third M.2 port located on the back of the model.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

The MSI MEG Z690i Unify has actively cooled the VRM area through a tiny 25mm fan, which many mini ITX flagships have recently begun to provide. In the solution from MSI, it is regulated and flexibly configured in the BIOS settings, it can be disabled.

Let’s get to something interesting. Two radiators connected by a 6 mm heat pipe are responsible for cooling the two lines of MOSFETs. One of them houses a Power Logic PLA02510B12M fan with a rotation speed of 0 – 11500 rpm and is activated when the PC is turned on for a few seconds, or when the temperature of the VRM zone is more than 60*C. But as you can see: it blows somewhere into the void.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Separately, we can praise the chipset heatsink for some semblance of fins, which at least helps with convection, and the reinforcing plate – a backplate that removes heat from the VRM areas on the back of the textolite.

The power subsystem itself has 11 phases and is located around the processor socket. The Renesas RAA229131 chip is used as a PWM controller, which works according to the formula (10 + 1). Renesas RAA22010540 with a maximum current of 105A was used as assemblies.

Regarding two other important features: MSI MEG Z690i Unify is built using an ALC4080 audio codec and a Wi-Fi 6E wireless module.

MSI MEG Z690i Unify Review

MSI MEG Z690i Unify specifications

  • CPU Support: 12th Gen Intel Core Processors, Pentium Gold, and Celeron Processors
  • CPU Socket: LGA 1700
  • Chipset: Intel Z690 Chipset
  • Graphics Interface: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16 slot
  • Display Interface: Support 4K@60Hz as specified in HDMI 2.1, DisplayPort 1.4 –
  • Requires Processor Graphics, 2x ThunderboltTM 4 (Type-C) – Input from mini DisplayPort Memory Support: 2 DIMMS, Dual Channel DDR5-6800+MHz(OC)
  • Storage: 2x M.2 Gen4 x4 64Gbps slots, 1x M.2 Gen3 x4 32Gbps slot, 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports Thunderbolt 4: 2x USB Type-C up to 40G,Charging support up to 5V/3A, 15W 2x Mini DisplayPort input ports
  • USB ports: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 20Gbps (1 Type-C), 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (2 Type-A), 6x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps (6 Type-A), 2x USB 2.0
  • LAN: Intel® 1225-V 2.5G LAN
  • WiFi / BT: Intel Wi-Fi 6E module, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Audio: 8-Channel (7.1) HD Audio with Audio Boost 5

The MSI MEG Z690i Unify firmware has been updated to version 1.30, which improves stability and overclocking potential.

In terms of overclocking, the MSI MEG Z690i Unify motherboard easily allowed us to increase the P-core frequencies to 5200 MHz, despite the mediocre cooling system. Much more interesting things happened around the overclocking of RAM.

The device made it possible to activate the XMP-6000 without any problems with the XPG Lancer RGB DDR5 6000MHz 32 GB RAM, only the first activation during RAM training took 30-40 seconds.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

You can play around with the timings, which allowed the CL40 to be downgraded to CL30 in the first timing and play around with the secondary ones.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Further, with a step of 200 MHz, we managed to find the overclocking limit at 6800 MHz, which is an excellent result in comparison with analogs.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

The MSI motherboard also comes with ready-made presets for memory. There are also three separate presets named MSI Benchmark.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Our kit allowed us to boot on the first try and stably pass any tests at 6600 MHz and CL30.

MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: 12th Gen Intel Core Mini ITX Mainboard

Final line

The MSI MEG Z690i Unify motherboard is not only a good memory overclocker, but also a great companion for any user who needs unrivaled performance and an up-to-date list of various interfaces, ranging from USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 4, but requires the latest generation Wi-Fi, high-quality sound and three M.2 ports at once. According to some characteristics, the MSI MEG Z690i Unify model will give odds to full-sized motherboards.

Summing up, the new product is interesting on many fronts: a good element base, high overclocking potential, availability of up-to-date connectors, and convenient BIOS.

Price and availability

MSI MEG Z690i Unify costs $399.99 / £441.70 and can be purchased through Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk websites.

Pros:

  • High performance
  • Overclocking potential
  • Nice design
  • Three M.2 slots
  • Advanced UEFI BIOS

Cons:

  • Mediocre cooling system

About Ankeet Solanki

He started this blog as a hobby to show his affection for gadgets, but over the time this hobby became professional. And now he is working as a full-time blogger, but in free time he loves watching movies and games. PayPal donation for TechToyReviews will be appreciated.

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