Best Z690 motherboards

Time for an upgrade.

Image via Asus

On Nov. 4, Intel introduced its 12th generation Alder Lake processors, which promise better performance and compatibility with new technologies. One of the biggest changes offered by the new central processing units (CPUs) is that they have a hybrid architecture with the cores split into two groups. The performance cores (P-cores) handle gaming and other intensive tasks, while the efficiency cores (E-cores) run background processes. 

The new Intel processors support some new technology that isn’t widely used yet but looks promising for the future. Some of the features supported by the 12th generation CPUs are DDR5 RAM, Wi-Fi 6E, Thunderbolt 4, and PCIe Gen 5. 

If users want to upgrade to the latest CPUs, they’ll need to buy a compatible Z690 motherboard. Unlike the 10th and 11th generation processors, the 12th gen is rectangular shaped and works on the new LGA1700 socket. Many reputable brands already have a range of Z690 motherboards in their lineups to suit different users.

These are the best Z690 motherboards.

Best overall Z690 motherboard

GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS Master

Image via Gigabyte

Gigabyte’s Z690 AORUS Master has one of the best balances of price to performance and is packed with features. 

This motherboard has no shortage of power to run the components. It has a 19+1+2 voltage regulator module to provide clean and efficient power to the CPU, GPU, and other components.  There are usually two or three numbers indicating the VRM capacity of a motherboard. The first number indicates the number of phases dedicated to the motherboard, while the second number refers to the phases going to the other components. Some motherboards include a third number that refers to the VRM phases reserved for the GPU.

One of the best features of the Z690 AORUS Master is its future-proofing. It won’t be going out of date anytime soon because it’s compatible with the latest tech. The PCIe 5.0 slot for the GPU offers double the speed of the older 4.0 version, and it also uses the latest DDR5 RAM, which has a 50 percent improvement over the DDR4 type. 

Users get the latest ports and connectivity options on the Z690 AORUS Master. Networking options include a 10GbE Ethernet port and Wi-Fi 6E capability. There are also nine USB-A ports and two USB-C ports. Output options are limited to a single DisplayPort 1.2, and there is no HDMI port. 

New technology is usually expensive, and the Z690 AORUS Master is no different. While it has some of the best performance and features, the Z690 AORUS Master isn’t cheap, especially when factoring in the new components it requires. Buyers can’t use many of their old components and will need new RAM and cooling systems to get their motherboard up and running.

 Best high-end Z690 motherboard

ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero WiFi 6E

Image via Asus

The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero WiFi 6E is the company’s flagship gaming motherboard designed for the latest Intel CPUs. While it offers impressive performance, it’s even more expensive than the Z690 AORUS Master.

Despite being more expensive, the ROG Maximus Z690 has fewer VRM power phases than the Z690 AORUS Master. Instead of 19+1+2 VRM phases, it has 20+1 phases, which is still enough to run the latest components. Both motherboards use DDR5 RAM and have a maximum capacity of 128GB.

There are more connectivity options on the ROG Maximus Z690 than the Z690 AORUS Master, but it lags behind in some areas. Unlike the Z690 AORUS Master, the ROG Maximus Z690 includes an HDMI 2.1 port and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports with DisplayPort 1.4 compatibility. There’s also two PCIe 5.0 slots instead of one. While the ROG Maximus Z690 matches the Wi-Fi 6E capability of the Z690 AORUS Master, its Ethernet port has a lower speed of 2.5Gbps.

One area where the ROG Maximus Z690 beats the Z690 AORUS Master is its design. It has a flashier look with a feature called the Polymo Lighting display on the Input/Output (I/O) cover to brighten things up. The display uses RGB LEDs to light the ROG logo on the motherboard.

There’s no doubt that the ROG Maximus Z690 is one of the most advanced motherboards out there, but its price puts it out of reach for many users. It’s still a viable option for enthusiasts who want the latest cutting-edge technology in their gaming rig and can afford the high price.

Best mid-range Z690 motherboard

ASUS TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi

Image via Asus

Buyers can get the Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi for around half the price of the ROG Maximus Z690 if they don’t require the top-of-the-range specs. Despite its lower price, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi still offers acceptable gaming performance without the lighting effects of its higher-priced sibling. 

As a mid-range option, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi’s performance is lower than the two previously mentioned options. It has 14+2 VRM power phases and uses the older DDR4 RAM. While DDR4 RAM is slower than the newer DDR5 RAM, it’s also cheaper. Buyers can save some money by using their old DDR4 RAM on their new motherboard.

Considering its reasonable pricing, the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi has connectivity features to rival the more expensive options listed here. Users get an HDMI 2.1 port and a DisplayPort 1.4 capable of 4K resolution at 60fps. There are also two USB-C ports and a single PCIe 5.0 slot for the GPU. The connectivity options include Wi-Fi 6 compatibility and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port.

The Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi supports the latest Intel processors without costing a fortune. It’s still capable of fast network speeds and has enough ports for most gamers. Using DDR4 RAM might inhibit its performance compared to DDR5, but it reduces the motherboard’s overall cost. 

Best value Z690 motherboard

GIGABYTE Z690 Gaming X

Image via Gigabyte

Budget-conscious users looking for an entry-level motherboard might consider Gigabyte’s Z690 Gaming X. It costs less than the other motherboards mentioned so far, and it offers decent gaming performance and acceptable connectivity options.

While the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X costs less than the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi, it still beats it in certain areas. Instead of 14+2 VRM phases, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X offers 16+1+2 phases. Like the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi, it uses DDR4 RAM with a maximum capacity of 128GB.

Gigabyte had to cut out some features to keep the price low. There is no Wi-Fi capability, and the Ethernet port has a maximum speed of 2.5Gbps. The DisplayPort 1.2 is also slower than the 1.4 version on the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus, while the HDMI 2.1 port matches its speed.

As an affordable motherboard, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X can’t match the higher-end competitors on this list. That said, it has more VRM phases than the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi and includes a PCIe 5.0 slot. Despite its shortcomings, the Gigabyte Z690 Gaming X is a worthwhile option for gamers who want a Z690 motherboard without paying high prices.   

Best budget Z690 motherboard

MSI PRO Z690-A 

Image via MSI

Many casual players don’t need the frills of a gaming motherboard and can manage with a standard motherboard designed for office use. Motherboards like the MSI PRO Z690-A are more affordable than gaming versions because they don’t offer the same level of performance.

Despite its much lower price, the MSI PRO Z690-A has a similar power output to the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi. The Asus option has a 14+2 power design, while the MSI PRO Z690-A has a 14+1+1 design. The MSI PRO Z690-A also mimics the DDR4 RAM with a 128GB capacity of the TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi and Gigabyte’s Z690 Gaming X.

The connectivity options on the MSI PRO Z690-A are limited, but they are acceptable for a motherboard in its price range. Users get an HDMI 2.1 port and a DisplayPort 1.4. Other ports include a single PCIe 5.0 slot, and a 2.5Gbps Ethernet port. There is no built-in Wi-Fi, though.

This motherboard isn’t the best for competitive gamers who want the best performance at the fastest speeds. It’s geared more towards work and will handle certain games.