MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Motherboards

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Pros

  • Nice, compact board with many features
  • DDR5, although given the prices it is not necessarily an advantage
  • WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2 & 2.5GbE onboard. The latter of which, in my opinion, is a really good first step forward
  • Three M.2 slots
  • A-RGB & RGB options, however no RGB on the board
  • Software from MSI works well
  • Supports up to two Thunderbolt 4

Cons

  • Missing 10GbE capabilities – would have completely finished the board in my opinion
  • Time of writing, the board is €450,- and that is not cheap
MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY Review

Introduction

With Intel’s 12th generation processors, MSI has also released a new ITX Z690 board, the MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY. How we like this one, you can read about it here!

Specifications

Fortunately, MSI also has an abbreviated spec list. For the entire specification list, I refer you to the MSI website.

CPU (MAX SUPPORT)
SOCKET 1700
CHIPSET: Intel® Z690 Chipset
DDR5 MEMORY: 6800+(OC) , 6666(OC) , 6600(OC) , 6400(OC) , 6200(OC) , 6000(OC) , 5800(OC) , 5600(JEDEC) , 5400(JEDEC) , 5200(JEDEC) , 5000(JEDEC) , 4800(JEDEC) MHz
MEMORY CHANNEL: Dual
DIMM SLOTS: 2
MAX MEMORY (GB): 64GB
PCI-E X16: 1
SATAIII: 4
M.2 SLOT: 3
RAID: 0/1/5/10
LAN: 1x Intel® I225V 2.5Gbps LAN controller
WIFI & BLUETOOTH: Intel® Wi-Fi 6E module
THUNDERBOLT 4: 2x USB Type-C up to 40G, Charging support up to 5V/3A, 15W, 2x Mini DisplayPort input ports
USB 3.2 PORTS (FRONT): 1(Gen2x2, Type C), 2(Gen1, Type A)
USB 3.2 PORTS (REAR): 2(Gen2, Type A), 4(Gen1, Type A)
USB 2.0 PORTS (FRONT): 2
AUDIO PORTS (REAR): 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio (Realtek® ALC4080 Codec)
DISPLAYPORT: 1
HDMI: 1
DIRECTX: 12
OPERATING SYSTEM: Support for Windows® 11 64-bit, Windows® 10 64-bit
FORM FACTOR: Mini-ITX
DIMENSION: 6.7 in. x 6.7 in. (17.0 cm x 17.0 cm)

The full specification list can be found here.

Unpacking

The MSI MEG Z690I UNIFI is built in an NZXT H1 v2 case. In my opinion one of the nicer enclosures.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI also supplies a comprehensive package with it:
– WiFi Antenna
– USB Drive
– Cleaning Brush
– Quick installation guide
– Case Badge
– MEG Stickers
– Cable Stickers
– Registration Card
– DP to Mini DP Cable
– EZ Front Panel cable
– Rainbow RGB Led extension cable
– 2x SATA
– 3 M.2 screws
MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY
MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

And then the board itself. In my opinion, a really neat board for a Mini-ITX.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
4x SATA 6 GB/s connectors
3x M.2 slots (M-Key)
1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 20Gbps Type-C connector
1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps connector (supports additional 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps ports)
1x USB 2.0 connector (supports additional 2 USB 2.0 ports)
1x 4-pin CPU fan connector
1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector
1x 4-pin system fan connector
1x Front panel audio connector
1x System panel connector
1x Chassis Intrusion connector
1x TPM module connector

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Do not forget; there is another M.2 slot at the back, so you can attach a total of 3 NVMe SSDs to this board. The other two are on top of each other.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

It is time to install the Kingston Renegade 2TB NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD. So there are two levels on top of each other in which the NVMe SSDs are installed. In this case, I choose the top level.
The SSD configuration is as follows:
M2_1 slot (From CPU)
Supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
Supports 2280 storage devices
M2_2 slot (From Z690 chipset)
M2_2 supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4
Supports up to SATA 6 GB/s
Supports 2280 storage devices
M2_3 slot (From Z690 chipset)
M2_3 supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
Supports 2280 storage devices

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The solid steel block immediately lends itself as a passive cooler for the SSD.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The I/O connections are as follows:
DisplayPort
USB 3.2 Gen1 5Gbps (Type-A)
2.5G LAN
Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
Thunderbolt 4 40Gbps (Type-C)
HD Audio Connectors
Clear CMOS Button
HDMI
USB 3.2 Gen2 10Gbps (Type-A)
Mini DisplayPort Input (for Thunderbolt passthrough)
MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

It is time to install the CPU. In this case, I am using an i5 2600K – 10 core @ 3.7GHz-4.9GHz.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

I also use Kingston Fury Beast (DDR5) memory.
Specific: Kingston Fury Beast KF560C40BBK2-32 (6000Mhz 32GB)

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The last few screws are in for the cooling of the NZXT and it’s time to build it into the case.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

In any case, it is an easy enclosure to work with. Remove the front and back panels, and then slide the sides upwards.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The board is in it, now it’s time to connect everything. And that is also very clever of this case. Although there is not a huge amount of space, there is enough room to work with the case. In any case, the cables are long enough to neatly reach the place where they need to be. And that is also a thing with this board. It has so many options and possibilities that everything can be connected … 😀

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

So, water cooling closed and in place… we don’t look back anymore…

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

It’s also kind of funny. The MEG Z690 UNIFI has more SATA connections (4) than the case can handle (2).

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Nevertheless, I put at least one Kingston SSD in it.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Despite the size, there is quite a bit of space between the water cooling and the motherboard itself.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The NZXT H1 v2 also has three 8-pin connectors for a graphics card.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

It is time to install the Gigabyte RTX 3070Ti.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

When everything is in place, it’s time to close the enclosure.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

The cool thing about this MSI MEG mini-ITX is that there are so many connections.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Of course, the A-RGB airstrip is not missing either.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Bios

It is time to go through the bios.
What is interesting about this memory is that there are 3 XMP profiles present. 4800, 5600 and 6000 MHz.
At the top are the current statistics such as temperature, vCore, bios version, etc.
Under the standard mode, there is just something to click through the menu (links, CPU, memory, etc.).

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Of course, there is also the possibility to adjust the fan curve as desired.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

After hitting the F7 button we enter the advanced mode, where a lot more options are available.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Handy that this motherboard also has a Secure Erase to completely wipe an SSD.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

And that’s just the settings menu. Of course, everything can still be adjusted under OC in terms of timings. I don’t go through all of that, I think it’s clear that there are plenty of options!

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Quite frankly, this board has quite an extensive BIOS. Enough options to set up the system to your liking.

Software

MSI supplies a nice piece of software with the boards. MSI Center works as it should and offers the necessary options. It contains a LAN manager and offers the possibility of hardware monitoring.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

In addition, there are plenty of things extra to install.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Through this same software, the lightning can also be adjusted. It is even possible via the game sync option.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI also offers the option to connect both Nanoleaf and Hue for lightning. A cool integration as far as I’m concerned!

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

And to top it off, colors can even be adjusted via voice commands.
This will make you call Hey Lucky with the right commands.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

PC Benchmarks

For the benchmarks with the MEG Z690I UNIFY, Kingston Fury Beast KF560C40BBK2-32 (6000MHz 32GB) memory was used in combination with the Intel i5 12600k. The 6000MHz XMP was used for this. Of course in combination with the Kingston Renegade 2TB NVMe PCIe 4.0 SSD.

Geekbench 5

The multiscore of the 12600 is pretty decent, compared to the Asus ProArt Z690 Creator with an i5 12500 (with scores of 10126, and 1800 for the single core), but the 12600K still performs better.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

CPU-Z

This is also true with CPU-Z, where the i5 12500 on the Asus board achieved 5106.4 and 702.2.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Cinebench20 &R23

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

PCMark 10

Naturally, PCMark was also played with. The scores look pretty good in this regard with the i5 12600k.

MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

System in use

Scores are nice, but the most important thing is the system in use. The MSI MEG Z690I UNIFI is extremely stable, with or without XMP set up.
Of course, there is also enough room to set the system to your liking in terms of timings.

Then also the MSI center, a great piece of software that offers everything you need. I have seen other manufacturers that do include some inferior software, and that is quite a shame. MSI does a lot better in this. Being able to set the correct lighting for games is really a hit.

The only thing I miss is a 10GbE network connection. However, the 2.5GbE is already a real improvement. In addition, the two Thunderbolt 4 connections, fortunately, offer a lot of options. Given the asking price of this motherboard, that is just something that could have been added, to finish it off completely.

But then the gaming part, because that’s what it’s all about in combination with memory, SSD, processor, and graphics card is quite a good combination. I didn’t experience any frame drops while gaming due to bottlenecks or the like.
Where I come from a 3090 FE, I must admit that I am impressed by the power that the 3070Ti has. But of course, that also only works if there is a good base in terms of components to build on. Then again, a 3070Ti with an i3 can be a thing.

Everything comes together nicely on this board. You don’t have a BSOD while gaming and you can really go wild. In addition to the benchmarks, I was also able to enjoy gaming, and that is just fine.

If you currently have a 1GbE line lying around, a board like this with the 2.5GbE is already reasonably future-proof. If you are already thinking about going to 10GbE, make sure you look further or buy an extra network card via USB-C or thunderbolt, for example. After all, those are out there, or a NAS that supports thunderbolt…. then, after all, you’re done too.

Conclusion

A stable system, that’s what everyone wants, right? MSI has created a very good board with the MEG Z690I UNIFY in this setup. As a mini-ITX, the Z690I really offers a lot of options. From (a)-RGB to three NVMe SSDs and even four SATA connections. A board that can handle 64GB of ram and can grow up to and including the i9 (1700 socket). In addition, PCI-e 5.0 also offers the necessary bandwidth to connect a good card. In any case, the Gigabyte 3070Ti used could handle it well and played the games – of course in combination with the other components – wonderfully. And that is enjoyment. And then I only used an i5 for this test, let alone if an i7 or even i9 is mounted on it. Then it really is a small powerhouse.

Honestly, the only thing I would have found really cool is a 10GbE port for using my NAS at home. That would make data transfer super fast – especially with the onboard storage options. Fortunately, the 2 Thunderbolt 4 connections (which my NAS also has) do offer the options for fast data transfer. Fortunately, there is also a 2.5GbE network port, which is already a real step forward.

The board does not run into bottlenecks that quickly and is therefore really an ultimate thing. In combination with the NZXT H1, I honestly wouldn’t have wanted any other board than this one. After all, it offers plenty of features.

At the time of writing, the asking price for this board is just under € 450, – and that is not cheap. Is it worth it? If I’m going to build another ITX case, this will be my very first option… So yes.
So if you are looking for a mini-ITX board for your 1700 socket, consider this as well. You’re not going to regret it.

The MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY gets 5 out of 5 stars from me. Really a winner among the ITX boards. In fact, among the socket 1700 boards!
MSI MEG Z690I UNIFY

Let’s start a discussion

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