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MSI's New Z490 Motherboards Bring Intel Comet Lake to the Dark Side

MSI MEG Z490I Unify (Image credit: B&H Photo Video)

Plenty of Intel Z490 motherboards will hit the market on March 20. If the best motherboard for your rig is something that ditches RGB for a more elegant look, MSI's latest Unify boards may be just what the Comet Lake doctor ordered. 

The MEG Z490 Unify and MEG Z490I Unify are ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards, respectively. Both feature an all-black design that spans from the PCB up to the heatsinks. Based on the high-end Z490 chipset, MSI has equipped both motherboards for enthusiast overclocking. The MEG Z490 Unify checks in with a 16-phase power delivery subsystem, while its little brother sports 8-phase design. 

Given the size difference, the two siblings come with different features. Starting with the DDR4 RAM slots, the MEG Z490 Unify has four, so it can support up to 128GB. The MEG Z490I Unify, on the other hand, only arrives with two, so it's limited to 64GB. In regard to supported memory speeds, the MEG Z490I Unify has the upper-hand, accommodating DDR5-4000 modules. The ATX model supports up to DDR4-4800.

Regardless of the model, four SATA III ports are available for connecting standard hard drives and SSDs. However, the ATX model has three PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, while the Mini-ITX model is limited to two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots. The differences continue down to the expansion slots.

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MSI MEG Z490 Unify

MSI MEG Z490 Unify (Image credit: B&H Photo Video)
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MSI MEG Z490 Unify

MSI MEG Z490 Unify (Image credit: B&H Photo Video)
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MSI MEG Z490I Unify

MSI MEG Z490I Unify (Image credit: B&H Photo Video)
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MSI MEG Z490I Unify

MSI MEG Z490I Unify (Image credit: B&H Photo Video)

The MEG Z490 Unify features three full-length PCIe 4.0 ready slots and two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. As you would expect from any Mini-ITX motherboard, the MEG Z490I Unify only has one full-length expansion slot, a PCIe 4.0 slot.

Options for connectivity are ample on the MEG Z490 Unify and sufficient on the MEG Z490I Unify too. Both feature Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1 and 2.5G Ethernet networking. The Realtek ALC1220 audio codec is in charge of managing the five 3.5mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output on the Z490 Unify motherboards.

The MEG Z490 Unify provides a PS/2 combo port, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A port and two USB 2.0 ports. MSI markets the MEG Z490 Unify as an enthusiast product, so the brand presumes consumers would pair the motherboard with a discrete graphics card, which could explain why it doesn't have any video outputs.

On the flipside, the MEG Z490I Unify comes with a Thunderbolt 3 port, one USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A port, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports and two USB 2.0 ports. This model also includes an HDMI port and DisplayPort output for leveraging the integrated graphics inside Intel's 10th Generation Comet Lake-S processors.

B&H Photo Video has already put the MEG Z490 Unify and MEG Z490I Unify up for pre-order. The former costs $299.99, and the latter retails for $269.99.

  • Unolocogringo
    So we are paying for PCI-E 4.0 boards but the processors will be PCI-E 3.0?
    Go Intelo_O
    Reply
  • Deicidium369
    Unolocogringo said:
    So we are paying for PCI-E 4.0 boards but the processors will be PCI-E 3.0?
    Go Intelo_O
    I agree - Z490 is for Comet Lake - and no PCIe4.
    Z590 will be for Rocket Lake - and will have PCIe4

    Z490 should be for Comet Lake and be the Z470
    Z590 should be for Rocket Lake and be the Z490

    Comet Lake won't have a long retail shelf life - Rocket Lake S will be released before the end of the year - probably closer to October or November (same time frame as Tiger Lake and new Xeons and the Intel Xe AICs.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    Unolocogringo said:
    So we are paying for PCI-E 4.0 boards but the processors will be PCI-E 3.0?

    Nope, that would require both of us buying a Z490 motherboard. I have no plans to buy one, and I doubt you were going to either. So, we aren't paying for anything. With Intel abandoning HEDT for the foreseeable future, barring an unexpected generational improvement from Ryzen 4000, Rocket Lake will probably be the next time I pay attention to a release. Hopefully before the year is out.
    Reply
  • Unolocogringo
    spongiemaster said:
    Nope, that would require both of us buying a Z490 motherboard. I have no plans to buy one, and I doubt you were going to either. So, we aren't paying for anything. With Intel abandoning HEDT for the foreseeable future, barring an unexpected generational improvement from Ryzen 4000, Rocket Lake will probably be the next time I pay attention to a release. Hopefully before the year is out.
    Correct!
    I personally will be upgrading to a B550 chipset board.
    I quit buying Intel products when they started changing chipset /socket support every year or 2.
    I use to buy only Intel but now I only buy AMD processors.
    I'm sure lots of people will buy them , and be paying extra for something that they cant use.
    Was my sarcasm/disdain not apparent??
    Reply
  • Gurg
    Deicidium369 said:
    I agree - Z490 is for Comet Lake - and no PCIe4.
    Z590 will be for Rocket Lake - and will have PCIe4

    Z490 should be for Comet Lake and be the Z470
    Z590 should be for Rocket Lake and be the Z490

    Comet Lake won't have a long retail shelf life - Rocket Lake S will be released before the end of the year - probably closer to October or November (same time frame as Tiger Lake and new Xeons and the Intel Xe AICs.
    Supposedly buy this motherboard now and pair it with a 10600k-10900k @ PCIe3 and then upgrade with Rocket Lake S that uses the same CPU pin configuration when available that runs PCIe4. on same motherboard unlocking all features. Back in 2011, I quickly replaced a 2500k a few months later when 2700k became available.

    We are still waiting on the top level PCIe 4 products which aren't expected until later in the year anyway.

    Intel isn't doing this for everyday purchasers, but rather for high end system buyers that can afford to upgrades CPU now and replace it with a Rocket Lake S when available. Complain about that now and all you are saying is that you are not wealthy enough to do that.

    7.1% of BMW 5 series autos are resold within one year.
    Reply
  • mdd1963
    Unolocogringo said:
    So we are paying for PCI-E 4.0 boards but the processors will be PCI-E 3.0?
    Go Intelo_O

    To quote Leslie Nielson in Naked Gun,... "Bingo..!" :) But, a mere 9-12 months later, perhaps a Rocket Lake that uses PCI-e 4.0 might arrive on time to have your OS and games load perhaps 1/2 second quicker..
    Reply
  • InvalidError
    mdd1963 said:
    perhaps a Rocket Lake that uses PCI-e 4.0 might arrive on time to have your OS and games load perhaps 1/2 second quicker..
    If asset-rich open-world games become a major thing like Microsoft and Sony seem to want it to, you'll need the extra bandwidth and reduced latency to minimize the frequency at which you'll run into placeholders and duration of those instances.
    Reply
  • rsquared
    Plenty of Intel Z490 motherboards will hit the market on March 20.
    MEG Z490I Unify has the upper-hand, accommodating DDR5-4000 modules

    What?
    Reply