Choosing The Right Z690 (DDR4) Motherboard

Looking at selecting the right Z690 motherboard, there are 55+ models with support for DDR5 memory, and currently over 30+ with support for DDR4 to choose from. Our testing in our Intel 12th Gen Core i9-12900K review showed clear trade-offs in terms of performance between DDR5 and DDR4 memory at the rated JEDEC speeds for each platform, eg DDR4-3200 vs DDR5-4800. It is clear that DDR5 performs better in certain scenarios than DDR4, but DDR4 memory offers much better value overall at the current pricing levels. That's also only at JEDEC, and users with high speed DDR4 memory kits could use them forward in a new Z690 DDR4 system. That being said, DDR4 is now an ending standard, and DDR5 is the future.

On the offerings, some vendors offer the same model in either DDR5 or DDR4 flavors, making a simple swap in the design. All of the Z690 models a;sp benefit from the same core chipset advancements. This includes a new high-speed PCIe 4.0 x8 link to the processor. This enables double the bandwidth for connecting hardware, which is a bonus as the chipset now supports PCIe 4.0 connectivity for storage and other add-in cards. Intel has added native USB 3.2 G2x2 Type-C support, with vendors now capable of putting up to four of these on any given board. The Z690 chipset now includes a Wi-Fi 6E MAC as well.

Aside from selecting which memory type to go for, the common theme from vendors is that its DDR5 enabled Z690 models are reserved for its flagship, premium, and mid-range models, whereas the DDR4 variants occupy both the mid-range and entry-level. This makes sense from a value standpoint, as it's likely that someone who might spend upwards of $400 on a Z690 motherboard will also want the latest DDR5 memory.

While lighter on some core fundamental features such as high-end 10 GbE networking and Thunderbolt 4, there are plenty of variables to make a well-informed purchase with. Some of the Z690 DDR4 models include four M.2 slots, some with eight SATA, and even a small handful with more than five USB 3.2 G2 Type-A ports on the rear panel. Whatever the variable, most models include USB 3.2 G2x2 Type-C connectivity, either via rear panel or a front panel header, with the vast majority also opting for 2.5 GbE and either Wi-Fi 6 at the very least. Some models have been duplicated by vendors to either include Wi-Fi or not, which offers a small cost saving for those users who are adamant they don't want the wireless connectivity at all.

Regardless of what needs or specific requirements a user has for a new system, Z690 models with DDR4 support might not have top-tier networking, or any models representing a high-end or flagship offering, but there's plenty for users to like. This includes 2.5 GbE networking as pretty much the new normal, solid amounts of rear panel USB connectivity, and up to four PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slots on some of the pricier models. Below is a list of features with the corresponding model which has said feature. This is to make selecting a new Z690 (with DDR4) easier based on specific features:

Choosing the Right Z690 (DDR4) Motherboard
          If You Need                  Then The Options Are          Size Price
10 or 5 Gigabit Ethernet No Z690 DDR4 model has this
 
4 or more M.2 Slots ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WIFI D4 ATX $350
  ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WIFI D4 ATX $290
  ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-Plus D4 ATX TBC
  Biostar Z690A Valkyrie ATX TBC
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Elite AX DDR4 ATX $270
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Elite DDR4 ATX TBC
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Pro DDR4 ATX TBC
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aero G DDR4 ATX $290
  GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X DDR4 ATX $230
  MSI MPG Z690 Edge WIFI DDR4 ATX $320
 
8 or more SATA Ports ASRock Z690 PG Riptide ATX TBC
  ASRock Z690 Extreme WIFI 6E  ATX $290
  ASRock Z690 Extreme ATX $270
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend WIFI 6E ATX TBC
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend ATX $250
  ASRock Z690 Pro RS ATX $190
  Biostar Z690A Valkyrie ATX TBC
  Biostar Z690GTA ATX TBC
  MSI MPG Z690 Edge WIFI ATX $320
 
5 or more USB 3.2 G2 Type-A Biostar Z690A Valkyrie ATX TBC
  Biostar Z690GTA ATX TBC
  MSI MPG Z690 Edge WIFI ATX $320
 
Thunderbolt 4 No Z690 DDR4 model has this
 
BIOS Flashback Button ASRock Z690 PG Riptide ATX TBC
  ASRock Z690 Phantom Gaming 4 DDR4 ATX $180
  ASRock Z690 Extreme WIFI 6E ATX $290
  ASRock Z690 Extreme ATX $270
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend WIFI 6E ATX TBC
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend ATX $250
  ASRock Z690M-ITX/ax ATX TBC
  ASRock Z690 Pro RS ATX $190
  GIGABYTE Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4 ITX $290
  MSI MPG Z690 Edge WIFI  ATX $320
  MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk WIFI DDR4 ATX $300
  MSI Pro Z690-A WIFI DDR4 ATX $240
  MSI Pro Z690-A DDR4 ATX $220
 
E-ATX None
 
Micro-ATX ASRock Z690M Phantom Gaming 4 mATX TBC
  ASUS Prime Z690M Plus D4 mATX $190
  GIGABYTE Z690M Elite AX DDR4 mATX TBC
  GIGABYTE Z690M Elite DDR4 mATX TBC
 
Mini-ITX ASRock Z690M-ITX/ax ITX TBC
  GIGABYTE Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4 ITX $290

In previous chipset overviews, we've highlighted the differences in what boards come with which HD audio codec to drive the onboard audio. With the Z690 models, some models still aren't listing which codec they are using, which is disappointing. ASUS is the odd one out as it is using its SupremeFX version of the corresponding Realtek ALC HD audio codecs across its more expensive models. The main theme throughout the Z690 models with DDR4 support is value.

The primary audio HD audio codec of choice for most vendors here is the Realtek ALC897. Some of the more premium models include the Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec, while just three are using the latest ALC4080 HD audio codec. Realtek hasn't officially unveiled the specifications of the ALC4080, but the only difference between the Realtek ALC4080 and ALC1220 codec is how it connects to the motherboard.

As some models have yet to specify which audio codec it is using (mostly GIGABYTE and MSI), we will list below what we know so far:

Z690 (DDR4) Motherboard Audio
Codec Boards
Realtek ALC897 Almost Everything, Except The Following
 
Realtek ALC1220 ASRock Z690 Extreme WIFI 6E
  ASRock Z690 Extreme
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend WIFI 6E
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend
  Biostar Z690A Valkyrie
  Biostar Z690GTA
 
Realtek ALC4080 ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WIFI D4
  GIGABYTE Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4
  MSI MPG Z690 Gaming Edge WIFI
 


Wi-Fi 6E

One of the main updates to the Z690 chipset is an integrated Wi-Fi 6E MAC, which a lot of vendors have chosen to use. The Wi-Fi 6E CNVi is designed to allow users to use the new 6 GHz Wi-Fi band with non-overlapping channels. This is only available on routers with 6 GHz band capability; otherwise, it's nearly identical to Wi-Fi 6 with the aforementioned benefit to reduce congestion with multiple devices connected to a router. As most models are using Wi-Fi 6E, we thought it would be easier to list what board isn't, whether that be Wi-Fi 6E, Wi-Fi 5, or non-inclusive of any form of CNVi.

Z690 Wi-Fi 6/5 Or No Support
Wireless Interface Boards
Wi-Fi 6E ASRock Z690 Extreme WIFI 6E
  ASRock Z690 Steel Legend WIFI 6E
  ASRock Z690M-ITX/ax
  MSI Pro Z690-A WIFI DDR4
 
Wi-Fi 6 ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming WIFI D4
  ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WIFI D4
  ASUS Prime Z690-P WIFI D4
  Colorful iGame Z690 Ultra DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Elite AX DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690M Aorus Elite AX DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aorus Pro DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690 Aero G DDR4
  GIGABYTE Z690 UD AX DDR4
  MSI MPG Z690 Edge WIFI
  MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk WIFI DDR4
 
Wi-Fi 5 GIGABYTE Z690 UD AC DDR4
 
None All except the above

As we receive updates from vendors with more information, we will endeavor to keep this Z690 overview updated and as often as possible. 

MSI Pro Z690-P (DDR4)
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  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    Gigabyte has done a better job this time around with mini-ITX DDR4. $290 for a very well-rounded board—shame HiCookie lied so blatantly in all their 8 GHz marketing.

    ASRock mini-ITX: people still use type-A ports. 5x ports only?!

    Windows 11, DDR5 availability & perf-price, and hybrid quirks make ADL a much better 2022 purchase for me. DDR4 price-perf + availability are nice, but not enough to overcome Panos’ major missteps on his first (and hopefully last) Windows launch.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    Why does anyone pay attention to these "extreme overclockers"? He hit (or didn't in this case) 8Ghz. Big deal. You can't actually do anything with the CPU at that speed aside from run an e-peen benchmark. Reply
  • ikjadoon - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    Nobody paid attention until.... Gigabyte plastered his faked validations all over their Z690 marketing material. Nobody cares what any "overclocker" does these days and that's why they got jobs with motherboard vendors: the only people that can still sell a motherboard for $$$ with exaggerated hardware.

    https://www.techradar.com/news/no-gigabyte-didnt-s...
    Reply
  • 0ldman79 - Tuesday, December 14, 2021 - link

    5 ports is a bad idea but type-A?

    Yeah, like 99% of USB accessories use type-A. That is still the *primary* interface for USB devices.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    That last page is very useful, thank you. Wish I had a table to sum up the info ;-p Reply
  • FordGT550 - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    I can't find the Z690 Aorus Pro DDR4 in stock anywhere. Reply
  • bug77 - Friday, November 26, 2021 - link

    I don't think it's available yet. Notice there's no price listed for it either (yeah, I've got my eyes on the same board). Reply
  • HLuna52180 - Friday, November 26, 2021 - link

    Agreed! This is the model mobo that I want. It best fits my needs yet it's currently only available in Australia. Hope they make it into the states. I have all the other parts on order or with me already to make my Alder Lake build. Frustrating! Reply
  • MatarM0 - Saturday, November 27, 2021 - link

    i see it in stock but it seems like it cant run any memory with 1.42v or higher depending on what newegg reviewer said and some others in the internet so hopefully they can fix it and it will be a good deal Reply
  • meacupla - Wednesday, November 24, 2021 - link

    I can understand mobo makers not wanting to allocate too many resources into the dead end DDR4 platform, but these lineups seem excessively weak to me.

    Like, really? there's not a single Z690 DDR4 mobo with thunderbolt?
    And then with Z690 DDR5 mobos, there's way too much overlap in features and functionalities.
    Reply

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