MSI MEG Z690 ACE & MAG Z690 Tomahawk Motherboards Review – High-End & Mainstream Tier In Action!

The MEG Z690 ACE motherboard features one of the most elegant designs of all Z690 boards with its gold and black theme. The pricing and quality of this product make it feel more premium than the previous generation ACE offerings from MSI. While the MEG Z590 ACE featured an ATX design, this time the Z690 ACE has been upgraded to an E-ATX form factor. It also has a more futuristic look to it.

The board uses the LGA 1700 socket to support Intel Core processors. The socket is compatible only with Intel’s 12th Generation core family. The socket has a protective cover on top of it that points out the exclusivity with Alder Lake 12th Gen CPUs & refrains users from running an older 11th and 10th generation CPUs as they won’t fit in the socket at all and forcing them in the socket is only going to cause permanent damage to your motherboard.

Next to the socket are four DDR5 DIMM slots that can support up to 128 GB dual-channel memory. These slots are rated to support XMP profiles up to 6666 MHz (OC Plus). The DIMM slots feature metallic shielding around them for extra durability. Each slot is labeled, making it easier to install DIMMs in the proper orientation. DDR5 memory comes with a different latch position so forcing a DDR4 module into a DDR5 slot will cause permanent damage.

The MSI MEG Z690 ACE features a 19+1+2 (VCore/ VccGT/VccAUX)  phase digital power delivery that makes utilizes the RAA229131 PWM controller and RAA2201105 (105A) MOSFETs for the VCore. The Vcc GT and Vcc AUX MOSFETs are spec’d at 60A & 70A respectively.

As you can see, the VRMs are getting ample cooling from the extended heatsinks that are both beefy in terms of size and also feature actual cooling fins. This motherboard is designed for overclocking so expect a smooth & stable operation of the electrical circuitry when this board is running. The motherboard also comes with a backplate that features thermal pads for extra cooling performance.

The CPU is supplied power through an 8+8 pin power connector configuration. This will feed the CPU with up to 300 Watts of power. The Intel 12th Gen Unlocked CPUs are very power-hungry with the maximum turbo power rated at 241W for the Core i9-12900K and more if you are planning to overclock these chips.

Getting a closer look at the VRM heatsinks reveals an aluminum fin design on both heatsinks. Each heatsink has thermal pads located underneath for efficient transfer of heat. The thermal pads on the MEG Z690 ACE are rated at 7w/mK. There’s also a heat pipe that connects the two MOSFETs heatsinks for better heat dissipation.

Expansion slots include three PCI Express x16 (2 x Gen 5.0 x16/8 / 1x Gen 4.0 x4) and five M.2 slots. The board can technically support three-way multi-GPU (CrossFireX / SLI) however we know that no existing gaming GPU offers 3-Way connectivity anymore. Five M.2 slots are rated to support NVMe PCIe gen4 x4/gen3 x4 and Intel Optane series memory while a singular slot is rated to operate at M.2 3.0 x4/x2 speeds if all SATA ports are not sharing the bandwidth with it.

MSI is using a PCIe Armor cover on the sides of all expansion slots which provides protection to some extent. It adds more retention and shearing resistance by reinforcing the slots with metal plates. Aside from adding more protection, they do look really sweet.

All five M.2 slots are cooled off by the thermal pad and aluminum baseplate cooling. This will ensure stable operation for M.2 storage devices. The thermal adhesive has a plastic cover over them which needs to be removed before using them with the storage devices.

  • 5x M.2 slots (Key M)
    • M2_1 slot (From CPU)
      • Supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
      • Supports 2260/ 2280/ 22110 storage devices
    • M2_2 & M2_3 slots (From Z690 chipset)
      • M2_2 slot supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
      • M2_3 slot supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4
      • Supports 2260/ 2280 storage devices
    • M2_4 & M2_5 slots (From Z690 chipset)
      • Supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
      • Supports up to SATA 6Gb/s
      • M2_4 slot supports 2280/ 22110 storage devices
      • M2_5 slot supports 2260/ 2280 storage devices
    • M2_2~5 slots support Intel Optane Memory
  • Supports Intel Smart Response Technology for Intel Core processors
  1. SATA7 will be unavailable when installing M.2 SATA SSD in the M2_5 slot.

The Z690 PCH is housed beneath a large heatsink with the MSI ACE logo etched over it that looks great. The logo on the PCH cover is covered in 24K Gold Film.

For the latest ACE, MSI has gone away with all RGB LEDs and given it a more simplistic approach that looks great on its own. There are ARGB headers for those who want to make their PCs flash.

Storage options include six SATA III ports rated to operate at 6 GB/s. These can support 6 different storage devices at once. There are also two USB 3.2 front panel connectors (2 x Gen 2×2 + 2 x Gen 1). USB 2.0 dual connectors are also included.

MSI is using its Audio Boost 5 HD system for audio which is a combination of various high-end hardware, software audio solutions. 7.1 CH HD audio with the latest Realtek ALC4082 CODEC & ESS’s SABRE9018Q2C Combo DAC/HPA.

There are a few buttons on the motherboard to turn it on/off, reset.

The full list of connectors on the motherboard is listed as follows.

  • 1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  • 2x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 5x M.2 slots (M-Key)
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 20Gbps Type-C ports
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps ports)
  • 2x USB 2.0 Type-A connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
  • 1x 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • 1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector
  • 6x 4-pin system fan connectors
  • 1x Front panel audio connector
  • 2x System panel connectors
  • 1x Chassis Intrusion connector
  • 1x 3-pin Water Flow connector
  • 2x 2-pin Thermal sensor connectors
  • 1x TPM module connector
  • 1x Tuning Controller connector

MSI is using Intel’s WiFi 6E 802.11 AX210 WiFi Module to power wireless connectivity such as 802.11ax WiFi (2.4/5/6 GHz WiFi) and Bluetooth 5.2. In terms of Ethernet, there are also dual 2.5G Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports which is powered by Intel’s I225V network controller chip.

The motherboard comes with the following I/O connectors:

  • Clear CMOS Button
  • 2.5G LAN
  • 2.5G LAN
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (Type-A)
  • Thunderbolt 4 40Gbps (Type-C)
  • Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
  • HD Audio Connectors
  • Flash BIOS Button
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (Type-C Display port)
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (Type-A)
  • Mini DisplayPort Input (for Thunderbolt passthrough)
  • Optical S/PDIF-Out