You will probably have read through the launch news regarding the first six Intel Alder Lake processors for desktops. The HEXUS editor dived into the new processor choices, providing insight into the architecture and configurations initially available, on Wednesday evening.
If you are interested or even tempted by the new 12th gen Core processor platform from what you have seen so far (third-party reviews and availability from 4th Nov), then you will be interested to pick through the motherboard options that have now been publicized by Intel partners. There is going to be lots of choice, as evidenced by this initial splurge of Z690 motherboards by the likes of Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and EVGA. Where to start? Well, Asus has one of the best write-ups of its new offerings, so I will look through its Z690 range today, with links to Z690 promo materials from the other players to be found at the end of the article.
Asus has no less than 19 new Intel Z690 motherboards for your consideration, falling into the now familiar ROG, ROG Strix, ProArt, TUF Gaming, and Prime families. As Z690 is a high-end and enthusiast chipset, it is appropriately more strongly represented by the ROG and ROG Strix families. The ROG boards, five Maximus models, are all EATX and ATX form factor, but the ROG Strix quintet that have been revealed span ATX, Micro-ATX, and Mini-ITX form factors. The single ProArt and two TUF Gaming models are ATX sized, and the six Prime models consist of five ATX plus one Micro-ATX model.
You can find a full product matrix PDF featuring all 19 Asus Z690 motherboards, listing and comparing their tech specs here.
New and headlining features that you will see on these new motherboards include; PCIe 5.0 x16 slots, DDR5 slots, large VRM heatsinks, plus M.2 heatsinks, ultra-fast networking tech such as WIfi6e and 10Gb/2.5Gb Ethernet, USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 front panel connectors with Quick Charge 4+, and Thunderbolt 4 USB Type-C for up to 40Gbps of bidirectional bandwidth and extra display options. Of course, various size/series motherboards will have more or less of these features depending on form factor and budget. For example the solitary Mini ITX board launched has just 1x PCIe 5.0 x16 slot, just two DDR5 DIMM slots, and 2x M.2 slots. Please note that one of the ROG Strix motherboards, both TUF Gaming boards, and three of the six Prime boards are DDR4 only. If you want better on-board sound (the newest Realtek ALC 4080 with USB audio options) you should also stick to the ROG and ROG Strix lines, but you can also find the ALC1220 among the other mostly ALC897 boards.
Another interesting set of features Asus wants to draw your attention to is the improvements it has made to ease of DIYing. Claiming "DIY is easier than ever" with its new boards, it has lots of Q-features (quick-features) on these motherboards, with the PCIe Slot Q-Release button claimed to "greatly simplify the process of detaching a PCIe card from the motherboard".
In addition to new hardware features, Asus trumpets its AI OC one click overclocking, but it hasn't spelled out exactly which Z690 boards support this, as yet.
I have received emails from the likes of MSI and BioStar about their new Z690 motherboards. ASRock, EVGA, and Gigabyte Aorus haven't been in touch yet but follow those links for their latest Z690 press releases. Additionally MSI, for example, has a special event planned for 2nd Nov, to showcase more new motherboard products and features.
You should check your local online or bricks and mortar outlets for pricing and availability. In the UK, Scan is selling the new Asus Z690 motherboards at prices ranging from £186 (Prime Z690M-Plus D4) to £1,669 (ROG Maximum Z690 Extreme Glacial – but the non-glacial version is £934). These are pre-orders which will be sent out on 4th Nov, the launch date for the Intel processors.
HEXUS will be checking out a selection of the best Intel Z690 motherboards, from various brands, in due course.