Plenty of Intel Z490 motherboards (opens in new tab) 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.
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 (opens in new tab) processors.