MSI MEG Z690 ACE Motherboard Review


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Today, the MSI MEG Z690 ACE is our test bench’s DDR5 LGA 1700 motherboard. The Z690 ACE is one classy-looking motherboard forgoing any onboard RGB LED and covered in so many heatsinks it has a real heft to it. MSI has thrown everything into this board, including the kitchen sink.

Micro-Star International (MSI) is not a new name in the PC enthusiast market. Established in 1986 in Taiwan, they produced mainly motherboards and graphics cards. Today MSI has expanded into the gaming market with its own “Gaming” line of PC components, laptops, monitors, coolers, and peripherals. They also have their hands in robotic automation, industrial-grade servers, and the automotive industry with a global presence in over 120 countries.

The MEG series from MSI sits at the high end of their product lines, and they typically include features that justify that position. The z690 ACE we have here today is no exception with 24K gold accents, onboard Thunderbolt 4, and very well equipped to handle any Alder Lake CPU so let’s dive in.

Specifications and Features of the MSI MEG Z690 ACE

Coming back to reality, we have today’s test subject, the MEG Z690 ACE listing at $550. MSI still divides its motherboards into series starting at the top of the heap; we have the MEG, followed by MPG, MAG, and then the PRO series. As we mentioned earlier, the MSI MEG Z690 ACE is part of MSI’s MEG series. There are currently five Z690 motherboards in this series, all of which are DDR5 offerings. Starting at the top, we have the MEG Z690 GODLIKE, an exclusive $2100 motherboard that includes 32 GB of Kingston DDR5 and a 360 mm all-in-one liquid cooler. Suppose you hope to acquire one of these motherboards; you first need to register with MSI. Moving down the stack, we have the MEG Z690 UNIFY-X for $500, the Z690 UNIFY at $430, and the mini ITX Z690I UNIFY for $400.

The MSI MEG Z690 ACE supports the twelfth generation Intel processors using the LGA 1700 socket. The board boasts a 22-phase (19+1+2) VRMS to handle the power requirements of the flagship 24-thread Intel Core i9-12900K. To cool the VRM, MSI uses two large milled aluminum heat sinks connected with a heat pipe. We have 7 W/mK thermal pads on the MOSFETs and the chokes to ensure good contact and heat dissipation. Also helping with heat dissipation is an 8-layer PCB made from IT-170 server-grade PCB material and 2 oz thickened copper.

The MEG Z690 ACE has four DIMM slots that support up to 128 GB of dual-channel non-ECC, unbuffered memory with speeds of 6666 MHz. We can find 6666 MHz rated kits on the QVL in single-rank Hynix options from ADATA.

For PCIe, we have three full-length PCIe x16 slots, of which only the top one is x16 electrically; we have supplied a bandwidth breakdown in the table below. The upper two slots (from CPU) will run in PCIe Gen 5.0 mode (x16/x0, x8/x8), and the lowest full-length PCIe slot (from PCH) are Gen 4.0×4 and shares bandwidth with the M.2 slot directly above it. All three full-length PCIe slots feature MSI’s PCI Express Steel Armor technology for added strength with reinforced, heavy solder points and EMI shielding for signal integrity.

On the storage front, the MPG Z690 EDGE comes with six SATA 6 Gb/s ports, four from the PCH that support RAID 0, 1, and 10, and two additional ports from an ASMedia ASM1061 controller. On the M.2 side, MSI has included five sockets on the ACE. All five sockets support PCIe NVMe drives. The lowest two M.2 (Key-M) will support PCIe NVMe and SATA-based M.2 drives; using a SATA-based drive in the fifth M.2 slot will disable the seventh SATA 6 Gb/s port. All of the M.2 drive slots come with integrated heat spreaders. Refer to the table below or the user manual from MSI’s website for more details of the storage layout and drive compatibility.

USB connectivity is also plentiful on the MEG Z690 ACE, with 18 possible connections between onboard headers and the rear I/O shield. The rear IO shield has seven Type-A ports and one Type-C, all of which are USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbps). The remaining USB connections are headers on the motherboard consisting of two USB 2.0 (for four ports), two USB 3.2 Gen1 (for four ports), and two USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C (20 Gbps) internal headers.

Another significant feature of the MSI MEG Z690 ACE is the inclusion of Thunderbolt4 located on the IO shield. Here we have two USB Type-c connectors that support up to 40Gbps transfer rate with Thunderbolt devices. We also have two mini display port input headers that support up to 8K display using the DisplayPort of the discrete graphics card connected as a passthrough.

On the Z690 ACE, we have a typical Z690 motherboard layout on the networking front offering dual Intel I225-V 2.5 Gbs ports. We also have Intel Wi-Fi6 / Bluetooth 5.2 wireless connectivity out of the box with an included Wi-Fi antenna that connects at the rear I/O shield.

MSI chose the Realtek 7.1 channel High Definition ALC4080 processor with S/PDIF and an ESS SABRE9018Q2C AMP/DAC on the audio side. With MSI’s Audio Boost 5, we also have PCB optimizations such as an isolated audio section to eliminate EMI, separate layers on the board for left and right audio channels, and premium Japanese-made Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors.

Rounding things off, MSI has chosen not to add RGB LED into the ACE as we typically see these days. Instead, MSI has decided to let the golden elegance of the ACE speak for itself. There is still a variety of RGB LED connectivity, such as one standard 4-pin RGB LED header for 12 V, 5050 RGB strips up to 3 A, and two 3-pin Rainbow LED addressable RGB headers for 5 V WS2812B individually addressable LED strips with a rating of 3 A. The ACE also incorporates a Corsair RGB LED link connection and an EZ LED Control switch; all the headers are in your control using Mystic Light software.

Below is the specification list from the MSI MEG Z690 ACE webpage.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE Specifications
CPUSupport for 12th Generation Intel Core i9/ i7/ i5/ i3 processors and Intel Pentium processors/ Intel Celeron processors in the LGA1700 package
ChipsetIntel Z690
Memory
  • 4x DDR5 memory slots, supporting up to 128GB
  • Supports 1R 4800 MHz (by JEDEC & POR)
  • Max. overclocking frequency:
    • 1DPC 1R Max speed up to 6666+ MHz
    • 1DPC 2R Max speed up to 5600+ MHz
    • 2DPC 1R Max speed up to 4000+ MHz
    • 2DPC 2R Max speed up to 4000+ MHz
  • Supports Intel XMP 3.0 OC
  • Supports Dual Controller Dual-Channel mode
  • Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory

Z690 ACE QVL

Expansion Slots
  • 3x PCIe x16 slots
    • Supports x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4
    • PCI_E1 & PCI_E2 slots (From CPU)
      • PCI_E1 supports up to PCIe 5.0 x16
      • PCI_E2 supports up to PCIe 5.0 x8
    • PCI_E3 1 (From Z690 chipset)
      • ▫Supports up to PCIe 4.0 x4
  1. PCI_E3 & M2_4 share the bandwidth. PCI_E3 will run at x1 speed, and M2_4 will run at x2 speed when installing devices in both slots.
Multi-GPU
  • Supports AMD CrossFire Technology
  • Supports NVIDIA SLI Technology
Storage
  •  6x SATA 6Gb/s ports (From Z690 chipset)
    • SATA5~8 (From Z690 chipset)
    • SATAA~B (From ASM1061)
  • 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 1 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
  • Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 for M.2 NVMe and SATA storage devices
  • SATAA & SATAB do not support RAID function
  1. SATA7 will be unavailable when installing M.2 SATA SSD in the M2_5 slot.
LAN2x Intel I225V 2.5Gbps LAN controller
Wi-Fi
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6E
  • The Wireless module is pre-installed in the M.2 (Key-E) slot
  • Supports MU-MIMO TX/RX, 2.4GHz/ 5GHz/ 6GHz (160MHz) up to 2.4Gbps
  • Supports 802.11 a/ b/ g/ n/ ac/ ax
  • Supports Bluetooth 5.2, FIPS, FISMA
Audio

Realtek ALC4082 Codec + ESS SABRE9018Q2C Combo DAC/HPA

  • 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
  • Supports S/PDIF output
USB
  • Intel Z690 Chipset
    • 2x USB3.2 Gen2x2 20Gbps ports (2 Type-C internal connectors)
    • 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps ports (1 Type-C port on the back panel, 3 Type-A ports on the back panel)
  • Hub-GL3590
    • 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-A ports on the back panel
  • ASM1074
    • 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps Type-A ports available through the internal connector
  • Hub-GL850G
    • 4x USB 2.0 Type-A ports available through the internal connectors
Thunderbolt 4Intel JHL8540 Thunderbolt 4 Controller

  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 (USB-C) ports on the back panel
    • Supports up to 40Gbps transfer rate with Thunderbolt devices
    • Supports up to 20Gbps transfer rate with USB4 devices
    • Supports up to 10Gbps transfer rate with USB 3.2 devices
    • Supports up to 5V/3A,15W power charging
    • Each port can daisy-chain up to three Thunderbolt 4 devices or five Thunderbolt 3 devices
    • Supports up to 8K display (need to connect the DisplayPort of the discrete graphics card to the Mini DisplayPort Input port on the back panel)
Fan Headers
  • 1x 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • 1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector
  • 6x 4-pin system fan connectors
  • 2x 2-pin Thermal sensor connectors
  • 1x 3-pin Water Flow connector
OS SupportSupports Windows 11 64 bit
Form FactorE-ATX
Price$599.99 at Newegg.com

We have also included a list of features sourced from the MSI website for the MEG Z690 ACE:

MSI MEG Z690 ACE Features

Power Structure
Power Structure

DIRECT 19+1+2 PHASES POWER DESIGN

Unleash and sustain the maximum performance with a flagship VRM design built with a total of direct 19+1+2 digital power phases. Combining dual power connectors and 105A Smart Power Stage, MEG Z690 ACE is ready for the challenge of high-end processors.

Memory Design
Memory Design

LATEST DDR5 MEMORY

A considerable step for DDR performance enhancement with the latest DDR5 memory. Combined with a dedicated SMT welding process and MSI Memory Boost technology, MEG Z690 ACE is ready to deliver world-class memory performance.

PCB Design
PCB Design

PCB DESIGN

The PCB design has been optimized for higher bandwidth and faster transfer speeds, which is also beneficial for reliable circuit transmission.

  • 8 PCB layers
  • IT-170 Server-grade PCB material
  • 2oz Thickened copper

Core Boost
Core Boost

CORE BOOST

Core Boost technology combines MSI’s premium layout and digital power design, which allows for faster and undistorted current delivery to the CPU at pinpoint precision. Not only supporting multi-core CPU but also creating the perfect conditions for your CPU overclocking.

Digitall Power
Digitall Power

DIGITALL POWER DESIGN

A fully digital power design allows for faster and undistorted current delivery to the CPU at pinpoint precision. Creating the perfect conditions for CPU overclocking.

Overvoltage Protection
Overvoltage Protection

OVERVOLTAGE PROTECTION

It prevents potential short-circuit damage to the CPU and other critical components.

Thunderbolt 4
Thunderbolt 4

DUAL THUNDERBOLT 4 PORTS

Experience Thunderbolt 4 with unprecedented interface bandwidth speeds up to true 40Gbp and support for up to six daisy-chained devices. Additionally, Maximum 8K display support, Multi-Port Accessory Architecture, and USB 4.0 compliant provide reliable connectivity and better user experience.

USB 3.2 Gen 2x2
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
DUAL FRONT USB 3.2 GEN 2X2 20G TYPE-C

Front USB devices have never been faster! MEG Z690 series motherboards offer a wide variety of options to connect and boost your USB devices, offering never-before-seen USB speeds up to 20Gb/s when connecting the front USB Type-C.

Wi-Fi 6
Wi-Fi 6
SURFACING WITH THE REAL MU-MIMO TECHNOLOGY

The latest Wi-Fi 6E solution supports 6GHz spectrum, Bluetooth 5.2, two-way MU-MIMO, and BSS color technology, providing up to 4X network capacity and efficiency in the high signal density environment, delivering speeds up to 2400Mbps.

Steel Armor
Steel Armor

FORTIFY YOUR SYSTEM WITH PCI-E STEEL ARMOR

MSI PCI Express Steel Armor slots are secured to the motherboard with extra solder points and support the weight of heavy graphics cards. When every advantage in games counts, Steel Armor shields the point of contact from electromagnetic interference.

Retail Packaging and Accessories

We have the motherboard name and series on the front of the retail packaging and a nice closeup of the MEG Z690 ACE. There isn’t much detail on the front; however, turning over the box exposes more information around the ACE’s general layout and features. We have a picture of the board and the rear I/O showing the connections giving a good overall description of what’s inside.

The packaging is typical, with the motherboard in an anti-static bag nestled into a form-fitting tray. MSI has included a few extras for accessories like two DP to mini DP cables for the Thunderbolt 4 passthrough, two thermistors, and a nice soft cloth to keep that gold fingerprint free. You can find these accessories in another cardboard tray under the motherboard tray.

Included accessories:

MEG Z690 ACE Accessories
MEG Z690 ACE Accessories
MSI MEG Z690 ACE Retail Packaging
MSI MEG Z690 ACE Retail Packaging

Below is a slideshow of the retail packaging and accessories.

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Meet the MSI MEG Z690 ACE

The Z690 ACE has an overall dark theme suitable for most PC builds. It builds around a jet-black PCB, and MSI has chosen to use black with 24K gold accents for all heat sinks and cladding. The I/O cladding also features the MSI Gaming dragon logo adorned in gold. We have MEG etched into the upper heat sink and the “ACE” model name on the large VRM heat sink to the right.

Turning the board over, MSI has added a large aluminum heatsink for power section cooling. The heatsink also has thermal tape applied directly behind the VRMs for maximum dissipation to the backplate.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

A Closer Look at the MEG z690 ACE

Starting at the left is a large shroud covering the I/O. Unlike most, this shroud doesn’t have any of the RGB LEDs we find on most motherboards. Instead, MSI has used a mesh design with a 24K gold MSI Gaming dragon. The mesh shroud and the large VRM heatsink with its large 24K gold stripe are aluminum for maximum heat dissipation. We also have a smaller heat sink for the upper VRM connected via a heat pipe with the “MEG” series in gold.

The dual 8-pin EPS connectors have been moved from their usual position and relocated above the four DIMM slots. In theory, this should aid in cable management behind the motherboard tray. Across the top are PWM fan connectors for CPU (2 A) and Pump ( 3 A), and in the corner is the Debug Code LED. There’s a Rainbow LED header with voltage read points next to it down the right side. , Then we have a Corsair link header, the EZ Debug LEDs for troubleshooting, and a 2 A system fan header. The top section of the ACE is the 24-pin ATX power connector, two USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C headers, and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 headers. You’ll also notice a large piece of metal here, which isn’t a heat sink. Its purpose is to stiffen the motherboard and prevent flexing when installing memory or the 24-pin ATX power connector.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

The lower half of the MEG Z690 ACE contains all the storage, PCIe expansion, PCH, and audio. Located on the far left of the motherboard is a Realtek ALC4082 codec that drives the 7.1 channel HD audio. We also have the Nippon Chemicon caps and an ESS SABRE9018Q2C DAC/AMP for premium sound quality and immersive gaming.

Moving into the PCIe area, we find the five M.2 sockets that support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10. The top M.2 slot can accommodate up to 110 mm (Type 22110) PCIe Gen4.0 x4 NVMe drives and connects via the CPU: the remaining four M.2 slots’ bandwidth comes from the PCH. The second and third M.2 slots accept 80 mm NVMe drives and run at PCIe Gen 4.0 x4 and PCIe 3.0 x4, respectively. The lowest two take both PCIe 4.0 X4 and SATA-based M.2 SSDs on the ACE, using a SATA-based drive in the fifth M.2 slot will disable SATA_6G port number seven.

The Z690 ACE has three full-length PCIe slots, and they all have MSI’s PCIe Steel Armor for added strength and signal clarity. The two upper slots are connected directly to the CPU, sharing the total bandwidth of PCIe Gen 5.0 in an x 16/ x0 or x8/ x8 if both slots are populated. The remaining full-length slot gets its bandwidth from the chipset with a maximum PCIe 4.0 x4 speed. This slot shares bandwidth with the fourth M.2 slot; if both are populated, the PCIe slot drops to PCIe 4.0 x1, and the M.2. drops to PCIe 4.0 x2. The ACE also supports Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s Crossfire technology for multiple GPUs.

Moving to the right is the Z690 chipset covered by a good-sized heatsink with the M.2 Shield Frozr heatsinks interconnecting with it. Six SATA 6 Gb/s ports labeled from the top down 6/5, 8/7, and B/A. Only four SATA 6 Gb/s get bandwidth from the PCH and support RAID functionality. The lower two ports labeled “A” and “B” use an ASMedia ASM1061 controller and do not support RAID.

Across the bottom are a ton of headers. Of note, here are some extras not usually found as jumpers on a motherboard. MSI has included some extreme OC options typically used when using LN2 (liquid nitrogen) for cooling. These jumpers are located above the Power and Reset buttons and consist of LN2, Slow Mode, Safe Mode, and OC Retry jumpers. We’ll just put the remainder in a bulleted list for ease of reading (from Left to Right).

  • Front Panel Audio
  • One RGB LED header
  • 2x Thermal Sensor Connectors
  • Water Flow Meter Connector
  • PWM System Fan (2A) x 5
  • BIOS Switch
  • LED On/Off Switch
  • USB 2.0 header x 2
  • Reset and Power Buttons
  • Trusted Platform Module Header
  • Tuning Controller Connector
  • System panel header
  • ARGB connector
  • Clear CMOS Jumper
MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

Moving around to the rear I/O area, we see MSI has included a pre-installed I/O shield, which seems pretty standard these days. Starting from the left, we have a clear CMOS button and a BIOS flash button that enables a BIOS update with only power to the board needed; CPU and memory are unnecessary. You will need a formatted flash drive in FAT32 and rename the BIOS file to MSI.ROM and save it to the root directory of the flash drive. A specific USB port is used for this and labeled as such.

Next to the flash button are two Intel 2.5 Gbps LAN ports and seven USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbps) ports. Next to the BIOS Flash button, the ACE has one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port that supports Display Port 1.4 video out with HBR3 (High Bit Rate 3) and a maximum resolution of 4K 60Hz. Directly above this is a USB Type-A that for BIOS flashing as mentioned above.

Next, we have dual Thunderbolt 4 (40 Gbps) USB Type-C ports and two mini display ports for video passthrough using the Thunderbolt 4 ports; this requires a discrete GPU connected with the supplied cables. We have the integrated Wi-Fi antenna connections, and on the far right are the audio jacks with Optical S/PDIF Out.

Moving to the opposite corner of the Z690 EDGE DDR4 motherboard are the SATA 6 Gb/s ports. The chipset controls the four SATA 6 Gb/s ports to the right labeled 5 to 8 and supports RAID 0, 1, and 10. The last two ports labeled “A” and “B” run through an ASMedia ASM1061 controller and do not support RAID.

Last up, we have the heatsinks installed on the MEG Z690 ACE. MSI has included their M.2 Shield Frozr heatsinks pre-installed thermal tape to help keep your storage cooler. The VRM section has finely machined heatsinks connected by a heat pipe. Both pieces have thermal tape for the MOSFETS and the chokes with good contact, as you can see in the pics below. MSI has also equipped the ACE with a backplate and thermal tape to aid in heat dissipation from the power section. It also protects the back of the motherboard from accidental damage during installation.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

The power section on the z690 EDGE consists of a 19+1+2 phase configuration. Power comes to the board via the dual 8-pin EPS connectors feeding a 20-phase Renesas RAA229131 digital PWM controller. Power is routed directly into 19, 105 A, Dr.MOS type Renesas RAA 22010540 MOSFETS. They terminate with MSI’s Titanium Choke III and long-life capacitors for a high-quality power delivery system. This setup provided ample power for our i9 12900K at 5.2 GHz.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

Below are images of some of the ICs found on the board.

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Below is a picture of the MSI MEG Z690 ACE on the test bench.

MSI MEG Z690 ACE
MSI MEG Z690 ACE

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

MSI MEG Z690 ACE BIOS

The MSI MEG Z690 ACE uses MSI’s Click BIOS 5, offering an EZ mode and an Advanced mode accessible using F7. EZ mode displays all pertinent system information and allows access to the most commonly used options with the click of the mouse. We can set the XMP for the RAM and access the BIOS update tool from this page.

After switching to advanced mode, the BIOS access consists of six sections:  Settings, OC, M-Flash, OC Profile, Hardware Monitor, and Beta Runner. Most users will head right for the OC section, where you’ll find the majority of settings you will need for overclocking. Including P-Core, E-Core, and Cache multipliers, all relative voltages, and DRAM settings. Some subsections are worth mentioning within the OC section, such as the DRAM configuration, which contains detailed options for the primary, sub, and advanced timings and latency and termination configurations. We also have the CPU Configuration section containing the Intel Turbo options, power limit overrides, and Per Core control. Over-current, over-voltage, and load line calibration controls are all located in the Digitall Power section.

If you can’t find it in the OC section, head to the Settings section, as you’ll most likely find it here. We see the Boot settings, Save & Exit, and Advanced subsections here. The Advanced subsection has the remaining system control settings for storage, USB, and Power Management, to name a few.

Overall the BIOS was easy to navigate, and nearly everything needed for overclocking was accessible through the OC section or subsections.

EZMode
EZ mode

Advanced Mode
Advanced Mode

OC
OC

OC>Advanced CPU Configuration
OC>Advanced CPU Configuration

Below is a slideshow of the remainder of the BIOS.

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Overclocking/Monitoring Software – MSI Center

MSI has moved to an all-in-one Overclocking/hardware monitoring software now called MSI Center. Once you have MSI Center installed, it offers a variety of optional apps to install from a single platform. The software is easy to navigate and works well. All overclocking settings are now located in the “User Scenario” section offering three presets and a custom profile. The custom profile is where you go for manual software overclocking. It’s divided into sections separating the multipliers and voltages and took effect without requiring a reboot. We also have the Frozr Ai for adjusting cooling profiles and the Mystic Light section for your RGB LED customization.

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Test Setup and Performance of the MSI MEG Z690 ACE

Test System and Procedure

Since we’re known for overclocking and benchmarking, we take a different approach to CPU testing using several Hwbot.org benchmarks. We also do some real-world testing with Cinebench, Blender, Corona, and 7Zip to give readers a good idea of the general performance.

Test System Components
MotherboardMSI MEG Z690 ACE
CPUIntel Core i9-12900K
CPU CoolerEK-XLC Predator 360 AIO
Memory2×16 GB Kingston Fury 5200 MHz CL40-40-40-79
SSDGigabyte Aorus 2 TB NVMe Gen4 (OS + Applications)
Power SupplyEVGA 750 W G3
Video CardMSI RX 6900 XT Gaming X Trio
Operating SystemWindows 11 Pro x64

 

We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks, we use SuperPi 1M and 32M and WPrime and Cinebench R23 and CinebenchR20 for rendering comparisons. We test our memory performance with AIDA64 Cache and Memory benchmark. We use Blender and Corona for encoding and a more real-world test in 7zip. The CPU is at stock speeds (set BIOS optimized defaults, XMP only, no MCE). Memory speed is 5200 MHz Gear2 using the XMP profile of the Kingston Fury Beast DDR5.

Also, with the new Alder Lake systems, we have noticed the motherboards tend to let things run free with excessive voltage when left on auto settings, so good cooling is a must. For comparison, we have also included our overclocked performance data with the CPU at 5.2 GHz on all P-Cores with E-Cores at 4.1 GHz.

Memory Performance Tests

AIDA64 – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput

AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark
AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark

 

AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark

AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks
AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks
AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark – Raw Data
MotherboardReadWriteCopyLatency
MSI MEG Z690 ACE81269741607436282.3
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR457855529535670953.7
BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie57380528425585559
MSI PRO Z690A (DDR5)69231665236838682.6

AIDA64 – CPU Tests

AIDA64 CPU Benchmarks
AIDA64 CPU Benchmarks
AIDA64 CPU Benchmark – Raw Data
MotherboardQueenPhotoZLibAESSHA3
MSI MEG Z690 ACE
115688504101597.62072136006
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4115038307411584.72063715998
BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie113320316291604.82052185838
MSI PRO Z690A (DDR5)111826454151592.82055455898

AIDA64 – FPU Tests

AIDA64 FPU Benchmarks
AIDA64 FPU Benchmarks
AIDA64 FPU Benchmark – Raw Data
MotherboardFP-64JuliaMandelSinJulia
MSI MEG Z690 ACE
130452645591468814706
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4130616662531462614878
BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie129475654861467114210
MSI PRO Z690A (DDR5)130196657341460214589

Our memory tests show that the different RAM generations make little difference in the CPU and FPU tests aside from Photoworx, which benefits from the extra bandwidth. The Kingston 5200 MHz DDR5 also had an advantage in the memory benchmark with increased bandwidth but sacrificed latency by nearly 30 ns compared to the EDGE. Looking at the two DDR5 options, the MPG Z690 ACE pulled ahead in most tests, but the gains are marginal.

Real-World Tests

Cinebench, Corona, and 7Zip Benchmarks
Cinebench, Corona, and 7Zip Benchmarks
Cinebench R11.5/R15, POVRay, x265 (HWBot), 7Zip – Raw Data
MotherboardR20R23Corona7Zip
MSI MEG Z690 ACE
10557276578852750129866
MSI MEG Z690 ACE OC11342297869365990134518
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 10430272399130360106118
BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie10274269779138770105238
MSI PRO Z690A (DDR5)10473274438704170126851

The results above are interesting; DDR5 only seemed to have an advantage in 7 Zip, thanks to the added bandwidth. It also appears that the Corona rendering engine gets a boost from the lower latency of the DDR4 platforms.

Pi and Prime Based Tests

SuperPi, WPrime, and Blender Benchmarks
SuperPi, WPrime, and Blender Benchmarks
SuperPi and wPrime Benchmarks – Raw Data 
MotherboardSpi 1MSPi 32MWPrime 32MWPrime 1024MBlender
MSI MEG Z690 ACE7.035361.5852.10943.061128
MSI MEG Z690 ACE OC7.01360.7851.96840.841119
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR47.036360.8662.13145.242127
BIOSTAR Z690A Valkyrie6.89361.0262.116151.434127
MSI PRO Z690A (DDR5)6.968367.6332.187148.215128

All of the tests above have very similar results regardless of the memory type. Performance may change if we were using faster DDR5 with tighter timings, but as it stands, the middle-of-the-road DDR5 doesn’t appear to offer much of an advantage at this time.

I would also like to note the odd results in WPrime 1024. Since we first started testing the new Alder Lake CPUs, the WPrime 1024 results seemed a bit off now with some updates, and they’re more in line with what we were expecting.

Gaming Tests

We have updated our gaming tests and dropped them down to four games for motherboard reviews. In many cases, the difference between boards isn’t that much, and the titles we use to cover both CPU-heavy and GPU-bound titles. All game tests were run at 1920×1080 and 1440×2560 with all CPUs at default settings unless otherwise noted. Please see our testing procedures for details on in-game settings.

  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider – DX12, “Highest” preset
  • Far Cry 6 – DX12, Ultra preset, VSync Off
  • F1 2021 – DX12, Very High defaults, TAA, and x16 AF, Bahrain track, show FPS counter.
  • Metro: Exodus – DX12, Ultra defaults
  • UL 3DMark Fire Strike (Extreme) – Default settings

Gaming Results

1080p Gaming Benchmarks
1080p Gaming Benchmarks

As with the 2D benchmark results we saw previously, the gaming benchmarks were similar regardless of the RAM settings. However, it does appear that the same updates did help in some of our game titles, specifically Far Cry6, where the 12900K got nearly a 20 FPS increase since we first started testing in November.

1440p Gaming Benchmarks
1440p Gaming Benchmarks

The 1440p results are pretty typical as this resolution relies more on the GPU than the CPU.

3DMark Results

3DMark Fire Strike Extreme Results
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme Results

The 3DMark Firestrike results are very similar across the board as well.

Power Consumption

Power Consumption Comparison
Power Consumption Comparison

As was mentioned earlier, the 12900K tends to get a bit more voltage than necessary at stock. Comparing the stock and overclocked settings, we can see the power usage did increase when overclocked but not significantly. Looking at Blender, we only needed an extra 35 W to run the benchmark at 5.2 GHz on the P-Cores and 4.1 GHz on the E-Cores.

The temperatures below also didn’t show a significant change when overclocked.

Temperatures

Temperature Comparison
Temperature Comparison

 

Overclocking with the MSI MEG Z690 ACE

Overclocking on the MEG Z690 ACE was pretty straightforward as far as the BIOS was concerned: select the multiplier and adjust the voltage to compensate. However, we used a different cooler this time than our previous reviews. The EK Predator is a bit older and needed the LGA1700 backplate upgrade, free from EK aside from shipping costs, but it did outperform the Ryujin we were using previously. The result was an all-P-core overclock of 5.2 GHz with the E_Cores at 4.1 GHz, pushing our CB R23 results to nearly 30K. You’ll find the overclock performance numbers in the graphs above. We did have a bit of cooling headroom left, but a few quick attempts at 5.3 GHz weren’t successful, and time is limited.

Intel Core i9 12900K 5.1(P)/4.1(E) GHz
Intel Core i9 12900K 5.2(P)/4.1(E) GHz

Overclocking using the Turbo Offset

We tried an option in the BIOS that allows users to set an offset for the turbo bins on the Alder Lake CPUs. As the screenshots below show, it does work, but starting a stability test caused the CPU to overheat immediately. We used a +3 offset, so all-core boost should, in theory, reach 5.2 GHz and single-core 5.5 GHz. We managed 5.5 GHz in SuperPi, a single thread benchmark, but running Cinebench R23, the maximum speed attained was 5.1 GHz. This lower speed would have been caused by throttling as the CPU voltage would climb over 1.4 V hence the instant overheating during stress testing. With some voltage manipulation in BIOS, this could be a viable alternative to manual overclocking.

Turbo Offset
Turbo Offset

Super Pi 5.5 GHz
Super Pi 5.5 GHz

7 ZIP 5.3-5.4 GHz
7 ZIP 5.3-5.4 GHz

Cinebench R23 5.1 GHz
Cinebench R23 5.1 GHz

Conclusion

The MSI MEG Z690 ACE is well equipped for a motherboard in its price range and has a lot to offer any user. The ACE has a solid 19+1+2-phase power section, 8-layer server-grade PCB, and more than adequate heatsinks. There are five M.2 sockets, six SATA ports on the data storage front, and 18 possible USB connections. The lack of RGB lighting is an excellent option to have available, and it does come with RGB and ARGB headers and an On/Off switch to control lighting extensions.

Overclocking on the ACE was a breeze. The BIOS was easy to navigate, and the board handled itself very well overall. We weren’t disappointed with the overclocking headroom, managing a 5.2/4.1 GHz all-core overclock. As for stock operation, it pays off to take the time to reduce the voltage allowing it to run much cooler with better power efficiency.

On the memory side, the ACE can run up to 128 GB of DDR5 and does well running 32 GB DDR5 5200 MHz at XMP without any extra tweaking in the BIOS. It also has compatibility for RAM up to 6666 MHz; sadly, we don’t have any memory capable of testing this currently.

We can find the MEG Z690 ACE online, currently priced at $599 on Newegg.com, with one offering at $569. There’s a fair amount of competition in this price range. A quick search on Newegg found that the ASRock Z690 TAICHI, the GIGABYTE Z690 AORUS MASTER, and the ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 HERO all carry similar options. Still, the ACE does offer a bit more storage and Thunderbolt 4 passthrough. The Z690 ACE is an elegant-looking motherboard with 24k gold accents. It is right at home in the gaming and overclocking arena. Overall, the ACE gives you everything the Z690 platform offers and more at a reasonable price considering all its options.

Click to find out what this means

– Shawn Jennings (Johan45)

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MaddMutt

Member

1,981 messages 44 likes

Can you explain this comment more :
* I would also like to note the odd results in WPrime 1024. Since we first started testing the new Alder Lake CPUs, the WPrime 1024 results seemed a bit off now with some updates, and they’re more in line with what we were expecting.
I have a complaint though - Where is the picture of the board without it's heat sinks installed? The naked board?
I have a request for additional testing - Can you include a Geekbench 4 Test? It has a break down of single/multi core scores for - Crypto, Integer, Floating Point, and Memory.

I have been grabbing older motherboards (z68, z87, and x79), their cpus, and memory because of the high price of gpus. I have found our reviews of these boards, cpus, and memory extremely helpful when shopping (y) :ty:

As always A Great Write Up :thup:

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Johan45

Benching Team Leader Super Moderator

18,289 messages 163 likes

All the IC's are in the slide show so not sure what it is you're after. Here's a GB4 run, the memory is only 5200 CL40. When it comes to WPrime make sure the extra serial I/O drivers are installed or the CPU gets confused scheduling threads and the results are terrible.

naked.jpg

GB4.jpg

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MaddMutt

Member

1,981 messages 44 likes

Thank You :plus1:for including the Picture around the socket without the heat sink and the Geekbench 4 Score.

When it comes to WPrime make sure the extra serial I/O drivers are installed or the CPU gets confused scheduling threads and the results are terrible.

^ Thank You for this explanation :)

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W
Woomack

Benching Team Leader

12,345 messages 977 likes

I'm not sure why you needed the photo. If you want more extreme benching then get Unify-X as it's cheaper and is a bit better for LN2 benching.
The latest BIOS releases are fixing the weird behavior with C states and some controllers. The same is for Unify-X.
I'm only not sure if it's the same for the Ace and Unify/Unify-X but I can't change RTL/IOL in BIOS. No matter how I set it, it's always working at auto.
It's not really important for most users but on Unify-X, I get about 5ns worse results in AIDA64 latency than on ASUS motherboards, and I have no idea why. Probably the motherboard is forcing something at auto. The tight benching profile at 6600 gives me ~59ns when manual, not even very tight on ASUS was ~55ns.

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