Skip to main content

MSI MEG Z690 Unify Review: Back in Black

MSI’s Unify brings stealthy black appearance, five M.2 ports and other updated hardware to Alder Lake for $489.99.

MSI MEG Z690 Unify
(Image: © MSI)

Firmware

MSI’s Z690 BIOS layout, like the Asus Z690, is also strikingly similar to Z590. The main menu is informational up top, while the bottom two-thirds is where the adjustments happen. You select the section you want on the left or right sides, and the details show in the middle. You don’t have to dig down several screens to reach the overclocking options as they are mostly on the main page. Some digging is inevitable, but overall we find this BIOS full of options and easy to read and get around. For those who may find the advanced BIOS intimidating, there is an easy mode with limited functionality.

Image 1 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 8 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 9 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 10 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 11 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 12 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 13 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 14 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 15 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 16 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 17 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 18 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 19 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 20 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 21 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 22 of 22

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Software

For software, the theme these days is to place a lot of the functionality in one program. MSI’s take on this is Dragon Center software. This application allows you to download all or individual applets. Some of the programs include Mystic Light (RGB control), LAN Manager, User Scenario (overclocking, monitoring, and fan control), Super Charger, MSI Companion (help record games), and many more. Though updates should fix this down the road, it’s worth noting that you cannot overclock the system in the version I had.

Image 1 of 5

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 5

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 5

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 5

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 5

MSI MEG Z690 Unify

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Test System / Comparison Products 

As of October 2021, we’ve updated our test system to Windows 11 64-bit OS with all updates applied. We kept the same Asus TUF RTX 3070 video card from our previous testing platforms, but updated the driver to version 496.13. Additionally, our game selection was updated, as noted in the table below. We use the latest non-beta motherboard BIOS available to the public, unless otherwise noted. The hardware used is as follows: 

Test System Components

CPUIntel Core i9-12900K
MemoryKingston Fury DDR5 5200 CL40 (9KF552C40BBK2-32)
GSkill Trident Z DDR5 5600 CL36 (F5-5600U3636C16GX2-TZ5RK)
GPUAsus TUF RTX 3070
CoolingMSI MEG Coreliquid S360
PSUEVGA Supernova 850W P6
SoftwareWindows 11 64-bit (21H2, Build 22000.282)
Graphics DriverNVIDIA Driver 496.13
SoundIntegrated HD audio
NetworkIntegrated Networking (GbE or 2.5 GbE)
Image 1 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 2 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 3 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 4 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 5 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 6 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)
Image 7 of 7

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

EVGA supplied our Supernova 850W P6 power supply (appropriately sized and more efficient than the outgoing 1.2KW monster we used) for our test systems, and GSkill for sent us a fast and good-looking DDR5-5600 (F5-5600U3636C16GX2-TZ5RK) memory kit for launch day testing. MSI and Asus also sent launch day kits. 

Benchmark Settings

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
ProcyonVersion 2.0.249 64
Office Suite, Video Editing (Premier Pro), Photo Editing (Photoshop, Lightroom Classic)
3DMarkVersion 2.20.7290 64
Firestrike Extreme and Time Spy Default Presets
Cinebench R20Version RBBENCHMARK330542
Open GL Benchmark - Single and Multi-threaded
BlenderVersion 2.93.1
Full benchmark (all six sub-tests)
Application Tests and Settings
LAME MP3Version SSE2_2019
Mixed 271MB WAV to mp3: Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 1.2.2
Sintel Open Movie Project: 4.19GB 4K mkv to x264 (light AVX) and x265 (heavy AVX)
Corona 1.4Version 1.4
Custom benchmark
7-ZipVersion 21.03-beta
Integrated benchmark (Command Line)
Game Tests and Settings
Far Cry 6Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080, HD Textures ON
F1 2021Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080, HBAO+, RT Med, TAA + 16xAF, Bahrain, FPS Counter ON

MORE: Best Motherboards

MORE: How To Choose A Motherboard

MORE: All Motherboard Content

  • Co BIY
    I'm not in the market for a sub-$500 board. I'm in the market for a Sub-$200 board! Max $250.

    Please review at least one affordable board (Sub-$300?).

    What is the proportion between chipset cost and the remainder of the motherboard ?

    No video outputs during a time of GPU shortages seems like a bad move. "Fully loaded" boards need the basics and the bonuses.
    Reply
  • samopa
    Co BIY said:
    I'm not in the market for a sub-$500 board. I'm in the market for a Sub-$200 board! Max $250.

    Please review at least one affordable board (Sub-$300?).

    What is the proportion between chipset cost and the remainder of the motherboard ?

    No video outputs during a time of GPU shortages seems like a bad move. "Fully loaded" boards need the basics and the bonuses.

    Intel hasn't launched the value-centric B- and H-series chipsets yet, so platform pricing will be high for now and most manufactures still concentrate on high-end ($200 plus) motherboard.

    Wait few moments until B- and H-series chipset has been launched, the the market will be flooded with sub $200 motherboards.
    Reply
  • PapaCrazy
    Impressive they managed to fit all m2 sockets (with heat spreaders) on the mobo itself, rather than relying on a daughter board.
    Reply
  • samg381
    Anyone know when this board is set to arrive on shelves? I can't seem to find as many listings for it. Any advice to nab one would be appreciated.
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    EVGA
    supplied our Supernova 850W P6 power supply (appropriately sized and more efficient than the outgoing 1.2KW monster we used) for our test systems

    Until next year when GPUs could possibly consume twice the power than they currently do.
    Reply
  • Co BIY
    I'd like to see a review of that power supply too!
    Reply