Intel has launched the 12th gen processor (Alder Lake) and won the heart of crowds with its superior single & multi-core performance. However, it can be a little difficult to pick up one compatible motherboard for the processor. There’re waves of Z690 motherboards in the market but which do you choose?
To make the decision even more difficult there were DDR4 and DDR5 variants launched for the Z690 chipset. Z690 motherboards that support DDR4 memory have received the most attention because DDR5 is still pricey & scarce at this moment. Furthermore, it has been shown that DDR5 provides no major advantage over DDR4 under gaming which is part of the main reason why people are preferring DDR4 Z690 motherboards over their DDR5 siblings.
As a result, we have picked three value DDR4 motherboards from ASUS, GIGABYTE and MSI and compared these three boards with their power design, VRM thermal, expandability and I/O ports to help you to choose the ideal Z690 for your shiny new Intel 12th gen processor.
The boards we chose are all ATX form factor. The lineup includes the Prime Z690-P D4 from ASUS, Z690 UD DDR4 from GIGABYTE and PRO Z690-A DDR4 from MSI. These three are all value Z690 DDR4 models, with the pricing around $200.
So with that said, let’s jump in and take a look at the most important features on these three boards.
Power design has always been the most important part of the motherboards. A solid power design not only provides sufficient power to the processor but also produces less VRM heat which brings higher power efficiency.
Essentially you can judge the power design of a motherboard with three factors: output type, power phase count and the maximum power per phase.
As value models, all these three boards do a great job of providing sufficient power phase, however the direct power design & 2 more power phases gives the GIGABYTE Z690 UD DDR4 the lead over the over the ASUS and MSI boards.
VRM Thermal Design
Solid VRM Thermal design is the key to greater power efficiency. All three of these motherboards utilize a large-size aluminum extrusion, which is common on entry boards.
The VRM thermal on ASUS & GIGABYTE is slightly above the average with its extended surface to the rear I/O plate, promising larger surface area for heat dissipation.
You can evaluate the expandability of the motherboard through the amount of PCIe, M.2 and SATA slots it provides. From the table below you can see that the ASUS’s Prime did a better job on PCIe slots, providing more versatile PCIe slots selections.
The UD from GIGABYTE tries to differentiate itself with the optimized spacing between the first & second PCIe slots which allows a larger sad-in-card like the RTX series graphics to be inserted. The PRO from MSI shines with its four M.2 slots.
The last aspect of the motherboards that we will be looking at is the I/O on the back panel.
There isn’t a huge difference among these three boards, but the Z690 UD DDR4 stands out from the crowd with the most USB 2.0 & USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports for your peripherals.
It is also important to note that it is also the only model with built-in I/O back plate.
Overall there isn’t a huge amount of difference among these three boards and all of them are highly capable for Intel’s 12th gen processor. There are differences there between the 3 motherboards, albeit small, and those differences do give us a clear winner of which motherboard you should choose.
The GIGABYTE Z690 UD DDR4 shows more strengths with its direct 16-phase power design and extended aluminium extrusion for VRM thermals.
The MSI PRO Z690-A DDR4 shines with its four M.2 & 6 SATA slots.
The GIGABYTE’s Z690 got another point with the most USB ports and it seems the better choice over the other two models with its slightly better power design & I/O availability.
We have sorted out the full key specifications in a table for you for these three boards and we hope that it helps make it a little easier for you to find a great affordable motherboard for your new Intel 12th gen CPU.