The Intel Z690 Motherboard Overview (DDR5): Over 50+ New Modelsby Gavin Bonshor on November 9, 2021 9:00 AM EST
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI, Carbon EK X & Z690 Force WIFI
A part of MSI's MPG (MSI Performance Gaming) series, its Carbon WIFI model returns for Z690, with a strong feature set for gamers, content creators, and everyday users. The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIF combines a fancy all-black aesthetic with plenty of integrated RGB LED lighting built into the rear panel cover and chipset heatsink area.
The only difference between the Carbon and the Force opts for a lighter aesthetic with a wave of silver heatsinks throughout. Both models also boast a solid networking configuration, plenty of storage options, and lots of USB connectivity. There's also an MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X model which includes a custom EKWB monoblock and cools the power delivery, the top PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot, and the processor too. The rest of the controllers and features are shared across all three models.
Looking at PCIe support, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI and MSI MPG Z690 Force WIFI include two full-length PCIe 5.0 slots that can operate at x16 or x8/x8, with a full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot. Surrounding the PCIe slots and fully covered by M.2 heatsinks, there's four PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slots, with a fifth PCI 3.0 x4/SATA slot for good measure. Other storage options include six SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays. In terms of memory, the board includes four memory slots capable of supporting up to DDR5-6666, with a maximum combined capacity of up to 128 GB.
The MSI MPG Z690 Carbon EK X shares the exact same PCB, features, and controller set as the Carbon WIFI and Force WIFI, but it has the added benefit of a custom EKWB monoblock with integrated RGB. This is designed to offer a cheaper alternative to users looking to use custom water cooling to keep the processor cool, but the EK X monoblock also keeps the power delivery and the top PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot cool too.
On the rear panel of all three models is an impressive selection of input and output, including one USB 3.2 G2x2 Type-C, five USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and four USB 2.0 ports. A pair of video outputs including one HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4 allows users to leverage Intel's integrated graphics, while a Realtek ALC4080 HD audio codec powers five 3.5 mm and S/PDIF optical output. For networking, MSI includes one Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE controller, as well as an Intel AX210 Wi-Fi 6E CNVi. Finishing off the rear panel is a small clear CMOS button. The only difference between both models is the Carbon/Carbon EK X has a black preattached rear I/O shield, and the Force has a silver one.