Review: MSI MEG Z690 Unify-X

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MEG Z690 Unify-X:

With each new generation of motherboards, MSI offers a Unify model and a Unify-X version which is primarily intended for overclockers. Currently, these two models, which share a lot of common points, are available in France for 670 euros for the Unify and 715 euros for the Unify-X model. You should also know that MSI has a micro-ATX version, the MEG Z690I Unify, available for 456 euros.

The « Unify-X » series represents the best of MSI’s overclocking boards. In recent years, it has been trying to overtake the brand’s flagship model, the GodLike. The card has many tools implemented on the PCB and benefits from regular BIOS updates. The engineering team is very responsive. If you want to get your CPU temperature below 0°C, this Unify-X will certainly prove to be one of the best choices for the Z690 chipset.

The bundle:

A quick look at the bundle of this MEG Z690 Unify-X to see if it has any « special » accessories. And the least we can say is that despite the small size of the box, it hides a lot of things.

The first accessory is a set of brackets/feet for your motherboard. Most overclockers, or even journalists who regularly assemble and disassemble their components, use what we call a bench table. This is a stand that allows easy access to the motherboard and its components. MSI provides in the bundle a « bench table » type stand for your motherboard called by MSI, the « DIY Stands Set ». It consists of six legs to support your motherboard and raise it by 75mm. It is also possible to place a 120mm fan at the end of the four legs. The idea is to bring a breath of fresh air to your motherboard.

The second accessory is a remote control. Of course, not for your TV but for your motherboard. MSI has transferred a series of keys specific to overclocking from the PCB to this remote. We’ll come back to this in detail later in the article.

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New Unify-X and PCIe 5.0 support:

The MEG Z690 Unify-X is built around Intel’s new Z690 chipset and is a new socket for this motherboard, moving from the LGA-1200 (Z490/Z590) to the LGA-1700 socket. The reason is simple, the CPU size is bigger.

Above is a capture detailing the difference between the two sockets (source Igor’s Lab). The LGA-1700 socket has 1700 pins, compared to 1200 for the previous one. You may need to invest in a new cooling system. Some brands, like Noctua, offer an adapter for your current cooler. Make sure you ask about this, as it is often free.

The Z690 chipset officially supports PCIe 5.0 offering higher storage performance than the previous generation. However, at present, no compatible devices have been released with this standard. The other big change is the support for DDR5.

The various heat sinks :

The dimensions of the board are 305 mm x 244 mm, which corresponds to ATX format. The dominant colours on the PCB are black and dark grey, but the main aesthetic feature is that it does not have RGB backlighting, which makes it very elegant.

At a time when manufacturers sometimes compete to make your motherboard sparkle, having the opportunity to do without is a real luxury. Let’s start the tour with the heat sinks, of which there are three! Firstly, the two ‘massive’ heat sinks on top of the motherboard that surround the socket. The two larger ones cover the power supply stages. These two blocks are connected by a heat pipe. We are dealing here with a completely passive system. The heat sinks are large enough to not require active cooling. They will benefit from the air circulation within your enclosure.

The third is the one that covers the chipset and has a fairly large surface area but low height. The aim is not to impede the installation of graphics cards.

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Five M.2 SSD slots:

The majority of the PCB is covered with various black aluminium plates. The cut-outs fit perfectly with the chipset heatsink. These are actually five heat sinks. MSI calls this technology “Shield Frozr”. We will find a double thermal pad for each slot. The idea is to protect your SSD from overheating thanks to their thermally conductive adhesive strips.

Technically, there are three PCIe 4.0 x4 slots, one PCIe 4.0 x4/SATA and one PCIe 3.0 x4. You shouldn’t be short of storage slots.

The socket and PCIe :

The space around the socket is pretty clear of obstructions and will be easy enough to insulate with rubber for testing under LN2. This MSI Z690 Unify-X can accommodate a maximum of two DDR5 memory sticks. I invite you to read the page dedicated to DDR5 in our article on Alder Lake. And don’t forget that the Z690 chipset will allows for motherboard designs that still support DDR4.

This Unify-X supports dual channel memory kits up to 6800 MHz+ (OC) and a maximum of 64 GB. There are two PCIe 5.0 16x slots which will work as x8/x8 if you opt for SLI or CrossfireX. A third PCIe 3.0 x4 slot is also available. To power all this, the card has a 24-pin connector and two 8-pin connectors next to the power stages.