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MSI MEG Z690I Unify Review: ITX Dark Horse

Three M.2 sockets, 4 SATA ports, and flagship audio in a Mini-ITX package for $399.99

MSI MEG Z690I
Editor's Choice
(Image: © MSI)

Firmware

Like the other MSI BIOS configurations, you start with an informational EZ Mode that allows editing of some high-level functions including enabling XMP profiles, adjusting fan speeds, and more. 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, then 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.

Software

For software, the theme these days is to place a lot of the functionality in one program. MSI’s take on this is called Dragon Center. 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 with the version I had. But serious overclockers will want to do their tweaking in the BIOS anyway.

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 (opens in new tab)Asus TUF RTX 3070 (opens in new tab) 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 we 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)
ADATA XPG DDR5 6000 CL40 (AX5U6000C4016G-FCLARBK)
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)

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 G.Skill sent us a DDR5-5600 (F5-5600U3636C16GX2-TZ5RK) memory kit for launch day testing. MSI and Asus also provided launch day kits.

Benchmark Settings

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
ProcyonVersion 2.0.249 64
Office Suite, Video Editing (Premiere Pro), Photo Editing (Photoshop, Lightroom Classic)
3DMarkVersion 2.20.7290 64
Firestrike Extreme and Time Spy Default Presets
Cinebench R23Version 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

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Joe Shields
Joe Shields

Joe Shields is a Freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He reviews motherboards.

  • g-unit1111
    3 M2 sockets on a mini ITX? How does that thing not deep fry itself on the first use?
    Reply
  • watzupken
    g-unit1111 said:
    3 M2 sockets on a mini ITX? How does that thing not deep fry itself on the first use?
    I feel 2 M2 SSD being cooled by a single heatsink is possible. The only problem is the one at the rear due to the lack of airflow. In my previous PC setup, the SSD can run quite hot, especially if you do not install a heatsink on it.
    Reply