We have another LGA 1700 motherboard on our test bench, the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4. This motherboard also comes in a DDR5 version; the only difference in the packaging is that the DDR4 version includes the memory option in the naming. If one of these boards from MSI may be in your future, make sure it matches your memory choice.
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 MPG series from MSI sits at the higher end of their products but is still quite affordable. The z690 EDGE we have here today is a sleek-looking motherboard and appears to be well equipped so let’s dive in.
Specifications and Features
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 MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 is part of MSI’s MPG series. There are five Z690 motherboards in this series currently in DDR4 and DDR5 offerings. Starting at the top, we have the MPG Z690 CARBON EK X with a fully integrated EK monoblock, and then there’s the MPG Z690 CARBON WIFI that lists at $400. Moving down the stack, MSI has a white-colored offering in the MPG Z690 FORCE WIFI for $390 and two MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI boards in either DDR5 or DDR4 at $330 and $320, respectively.
The DDR4 version of the MPG Z690 EDGE supports the twelfth generation Intel processors using the LGA 1700 socket. The board boasts an 18-phase (16+1+1) 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 a 6-layer PCB made from IT-170 server-grade PCB material and 2 oz thickened copper.
The Z690 EDGE WIFI has four DIMM slots that support up to 128 GB of dual-channel non-ECC, unbuffered memory with speeds up to 5200 MHz. However, the highest-rated kit on the QVL is 5133 MHz single rank memory using one DIMM per channel. We first saw Gear settings with the eleventh-generation Intel CPU, which controls the IMC (internal memory controller) speed. With an updated BIOS, we were able to run our i9 12900K sample at DDR4 4000 MHz in Gear1 or at a 1:1 ratio. Results may vary as this is CPU-dependent.
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 top full-length PCIe slot features MSI’s PCI Express Steel Armor technology for added strength with reinforced, heavy solder points and EMI shielding for signal integrity. The upper slot (from CPU) will run in PCIe Gen 5.0 mode, and the two lower full-length PCIe slots (from PCH) are Gen 3.0×4. We also have a single PCIex3 slot for supporting add-in cards.
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 four sockets on the EDGE. All four sockets support PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe drives. The lowest two M.2 (Key-M) will support PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe and SATA-based M.2 drives; this does not disable any 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 Z690 EDGE, with 15 connections between onboard headers and the rear I/O shield. The rear IO shield has seven Type-A ports, five of which are USB 3.2 Gen2 (10 Gbps) plus two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20 Gbps) Type-C port for a total of eight. The remaining USB connections are headers on the motherboard consisting of two USB 2.0 (for four ports), one USB 3.2 Gen2 (for two ports), and one USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C internal header.
This board breaks from the typical Z690 motherboard on the networking front and offers only a single Intel I225-V 2.5 Gbs port. 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.
On the audio side, MSI chose the Realtek 7.1 channel High Definition ALC4080 processor, which is relatively new introduced in 2020. 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 implemented a variety of RGB LED connectivity on the EDGE. First, we have one standard 4-pin RGB LED header for 12 V, 5050 RGB strips up to 3 A, and three 3-pin Rainbow LED addressable RGB headers for 5 V WS2812B individually addressable LED strips with a rating of 3 A. The EDGE also incorporates RGB LEDs into the I/O cladding and chipset heatsinks. These, along with all the headers, are in your control using Mystic Light software.
Below is the specification list from the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 webpage.
We have also included a list of features sourced from the MSI website for the EDGE WIFI DDR4:
Retail Packaging and Accessories
We have the motherboard name on the front of the retail packaging that specifies DDR4 compatibility. There isn’t much detail on the front; however, turning over the box exposes more information around the EDGE’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 a screwdriver set, a cleaning brush, a USB stick containing drivers, etc… You can find these accessories in another cardboard tray under the motherboard tray.
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 Packaging
Below is a slideshow of the retail packaging and accessories.
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 Packaging
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 Accessories
Meet the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
Starting with a jet black PCB MSI has chosen to use black and grey for all heat sinks and cladding. The I/O cladding also features the MSI Gaming dragon logo backlit with RGB LEDs. We also have MSI etched into the upper heat sink and the “EDGE” model name on the PCH. The Z690 EDGE has an overall dark theme suitable for most PC builds.
Turning the board over, we see that MSI has added “collision zones” around the standoff areas the help avoid any shorting during the build process. One thing to note, with the new PCIe 5.0, we don’t see all the solder joints on the back of the x16 PCIe slot that we typically see as the remaining PCIe slots.
A Closer Look
Starting at the left is a large shroud covering the I/O. Unlike most, this shroud is part of the aluminum heatsink with access beneath for the RGB LEDs that illuminate the MSI Gaming dragon. We also have a smaller heat sink for the upper VRM connected via a heat pipe with the “MPG” series embossed on it.
You can see the dual 8-pin EPS connectors that supply more than enough power for the CPU. Across the top are fan connectors for CPU (2 A) and Pump ( 3 A), two Rainbow LED headers, and one system fan header. Beneath these headers are four DIMM slots, and next to them are the EZ Debug LEDs for troubleshooting. Finishing off the top section of the EDGE is the 24-pin ATX power connector, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 header, and a USB 3.2 Gen Type-C header.
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
The lower half of the Z690A Valkyrie contains all the storage, PCIe expansion, PCH, and audio. Located on the far left of the motherboard is a Realtek ALC4080 codec that drives the 7.1 channel HD audio. We also have the Nippon Chemicon caps and a built-in AMP for premium sound quality and immersive gaming.
Moving into the PCIe area, we find the four M.2 sockets. 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 three M.2 slots’ bandwidth comes from the PCH and accepts 80 mm PCIe Gen 4.0 x4, with the lowest two also accommodating SATA-based M.2 SSDs on the EDGE, using SATA-based drives in the M.2 slots does not disable any of the SATA_6G ports.
The Z690 EDGE DDR4 has three full-length PCIe slots; only the upper slot has MSI’s PCIe Steel Armor for added strength and signal clarity. The upper slot is also connected directly to the CPU, getting the total bandwidth of PCIe Gen 5.0 x 16 for 128 GB/s. The remaining full-length slots get bandwidth from the chipset with a maximum PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds. They have also included a single PCIe 3.0 x1 slot for appropriate add-in cards.
Moving to the right is the Z690 chipset covered by a good-sized heatsink that sports the EDGE logo six SATA 6 Gb/s ports. Only four of the SATA 6 Gb/s get bandwidth from the PCH and support RAID functionality. The upper two ports labeled “A” and “B” are driven by an ASMedia ASM1061 controller.
Across the bottom are a ton of headers. We’ll just put these in a bulleted list for ease of reading (from Left to Right).
Front Panel Audio
One RGB LED header
One Rainbow ARGB LED header
Thunderbolt 4 header
System Fan x 3
USB 2.0 header x 2
LED On/Off Switch
System panel header
Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
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 BIOS flash button that enables a BIOS update with only power to the board needed; CPU and memory are not necessary. 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 USB 2.0 ports for your mouse and keyboard and the video-out options for CPUs with integrated graphics capabilities. The EDGE has one Display Port 1.4 with HBR3 (High Bit Rate 3) with a maximum resolution of 4K 60Hz. We also have an HDMI 2.1 port with HDR (High Dynamic Range) with a maximum resolution of 4K 60Hz.
Next, we have a stack of four USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports with an additional port next to them nestled between the RJ45 Intel 2.5 Gb LAN port and a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C port. To finish things off, 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 left 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 MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4. MSI has included their M.2 Shield Frozr heatsinks, which have 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.
The power section on the z690 EDGE consists of a 16+1+1 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 75 A Dr.MOS type Renesas RAA 220075R0 MOSFETS. They terminate with premium alloy chokes and long-life capacitors for a high-quality power delivery system. This setup provided ample power for our i9 12900K at 5.1 GHz.
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
Below are images of some of the IC’s found on the board.
Chemicon Audio Caps
Intel SLNMH I225-V Ethernet Controller
Below is a picture of the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 on the test bench, where you can see the Mystic Light in action!
MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software
The MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 BIOS has 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 overclocking section or subsections.
Below is a slideshow of the remainder of the BIOS.
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 all of your RGB LED customization.
User Scenario Custom Profile DRAM Voltage
FROZR AI Cooling
Test Setup and Performance of the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4
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.
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 3600 MHz Gear1 using the XMP profile.
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. Prompting us to include some undervolted performance numbers where a -0.200 V offset on the CPU core voltage was used, and for comparison, we also have our overclocked performance with the CPU at 5.1 GHz on all P-Cores with E-Cores at 4.0 GHz.
We have also included some DDR5 results in our graphs to compare the two platforms. The DDR5 used was a 2 x 32 GB kit of Corsair Vengeance at 4400 MHz.
Memory Performance Tests
AIDA64 – Memory Bandwidth and Throughput
AIDA64 Cache and Memory Benchmark
AIDA64 Memory Benchmarks
AIDA64 – CPU Tests
AIDA64 CPU Benchmarks
AIDA64 – FPU Tests
AIDA64 FPU Benchmarks
Our memory tests show that the different RAM generations make little difference in the CPU and FPU tests aside from Photoworx, which appears to get a significant boost from the extra bandwidth. The 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 DDR4 options, the MPG Z690 EDGE pulled ahead in most tests, but the gains are marginal.
Cinebench, Corona, and 7Zip Benchmarks
The results above are interesting; aside from the OC results, the undervolted numbers were slightly better than leaving the EDGE at stock. Looking across the platforms, DDR5 only seemed to have an advantage in 7 Zip, again, taking advantage of the added bandwidth.
Pi and Prime Based Tests
SuperPi, WPrime, and Blender Benchmarks
As was mentioned earlier, the MPG Z690 EDGE, like other boards we’ve tested, tends to give too much voltage at stock settings causing it to throttle in more demanding benchmarks. As you can see from the results above, running the EDGE with a -0.200 V offset improved the performance across most of our tests and didn’t affect stability. On the other hand, the memory speed made slight differences in some of the tests, but for the most part, the results were very close regardless of memory settings.
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.
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
1080p Gaming Benchmarks
As with the 2D benchmark results we saw previously, the gaming benchmarks were similar regardless of the settings. However, it does appear that the same updates did help in some of our game titles, specifically Far Cry6, where the 12900K got a 20 FPS increase since we first started testing in November.
1440p Gaming Benchmarks
The 1440p results are pretty typical as this resolution relies more on the GPU than the CPU.
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme Results
The 3DMark Firestrike results are very similar across the board as well.
Power Consumption Comparison
There’s a big difference between the stock settings and undervolted settings in temperature and power usage, up to 90 W, as seen in our AIDA64 stability test. When left at stock, our temperature would hit 100° C almost instantly in our Blender stability test, causing the CPU to throttle its speed to compensate.
Overclocking with the MSI MPG Z690 EDGE
Overclocking on the MPG Z690 EDGE DDR4 was pretty straightforward as far as the BIOS was concerned: select the multiplier and adjust the voltage to compensate. The result was an all-P-core overclock of 5.1 GHz with the E_Cores at 4.0 GHz. You’ll find the overclock performance numbers in the graphs above. These overclock settings pushed our cooling limits, as shown in the temperature graph above. Heavy benchmarks like Blender’s Fishy Cat pushed the CPU temperatures up to 100°C, not enough to cause throttling or impact the overall performance, but it did max out our cooling solution.
Intel Core i9 12900K 5.1 GHz
The MSI MPG Z690 EDGE WIFI DDR4 is well equipped for a motherboard in its price range and has a lot to offer any user. The EDGE has a solid 16+1+1-phase power section, 6-layer server-grade PCB, and more than adequate heatsinks. There are four M.2 sockets and six SATA ports on the data storage front, 15 possible USB connections, and Thunderbolt 4 compatibility. The RGB lighting with an On/Off control switch is scattered across the motherboard with a large MSI Gaming Dragon logo on the I/O cladding and enough RGB/ARGB headers for expansion to keep any RGB LED aficionado happy.
Overclocking on the EDGE went well. The BIOS was easy to navigate, and the board handled itself very well overall. We weren’t disappointed with the overclocking headroom, managing a 5.1/4.0 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 EDGE did well running DDR4 3600 at a 1:1 IMC gear ratio without any extra tweaking in the BIOS and performed slightly better than the Valkyrie. We were also able to run DDR4 4000 MHz Cl17-17-17 1:1 by manually setting the Gear Ratio. The memory ran stable through an AIDA64 memory test and also required no additional tweaking in the BIOS as the EDGE set adequate System Agent voltage on its own.
We can find the MPG Z690 EDGE online, currently priced at $320 on Newegg.com. There’s a fair amount of competition in this price range. A quick search on Newegg found the AMSrock Z690 EXTREME, the GIGABYTE Z690 AERO G DDR4, and the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-A Gaming all carry similar options, and they all have a warranty period of three years. The Z690 EDGE is a good-looking motherboard, right at home in the gaming and overclocking arena, delivering solid performance once we tweaked the voltage. Overall the EDGE gives you everything the Z690 platform offers at a reasonable price.