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James S.

James S.

Joined on 02/15/08

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Most Favorable Review

Solid, easy to install motherboard with lots of features

MSI PRO Z690-A DDR4 LGA 1700 Intel Z690 SATA 6Gb/s ATX Intel Motherboard
MSI PRO Z690-A DDR4 LGA 1700 Intel Z690 SATA 6Gb/s ATX Intel Motherboard

Pros: Lots of Fan connections. This is the first motherboard I've had that had enough connections for every fan so I didn't have to split a connection between multiple fans. There are 6 system fans, plus the two CPU fans, allowing for 8 PWM fan connections - be advised, all of the system fans default to 3 pin DC speed control mode. You have to change the setting in the bios to PWM for each fan for it to operate that way. 4 M.2 SSD slots. 2 PCIe only, 2 PCIe or SATA onboard. I am upgrading a computer which had a SATA III 6gbps M.2 drive and wanted to install a larger, and faster, PCIe M.2 Put them both in and cloned the old one to the new drive with no issues. Lots of room for expansion. And the M.2 slots come with a very simple retainer clip which allows you to add or remove M.2 drives without a screw driver. Neat little function for install. Since I'm not in the habit of removing drives it's not something I plan to make a lot of use out of, but it's a neat little feature. CPU Cooler clearance. I was a little concerned at first that the I/O shield and RAM would get in the way of my CPU Cooler. I have a Noctua NH-D15s chromax.black It's a large cooler and I was a bit concerned it may not fit. I was wrong. There was plenty of space for the CPU cooler. Getting the fan mounted between the two towers was a serious pain, but that's a knock on the cooler, not the motherboard. You shouldn't have any issues getting pretty much any cooler mounted to the board. Make sure you're cooler has the right mounting hardware for a LGA1700 slot though. I had to order the upgrade kit from Noctua. The 2.5 Gbps LAN port is...nice...I guess. My entire home network is 1Gbps so I won't be putting that to the test. This will also come up in the Cons section below though. Plenty of USB 3.x ports. The only USB I'm using at this time is the receiver for my Mouse and Keyboard, but if you need them, they're there. The BIOS was easy to operate once I figured it out. I've used other manufacturers in the past so I wasn't used to the MSI bios layout, but once I poked around a bit, I had things up and running like I wanted. No RGB LEDs. This board has no built in RGB on the board. It has plenty of headers for RGB strips, but there is no actual RGB built into the board itself. For ME, that's a PRO. I don't want my PC all glowy. Using the software that came with the board, i was even able to turn the RGB off on my MSI GTX1080!

Cons: packaging; or more specifically, what's not in the package. The board does not come with a manual. There is nothing in the packaging that shows you what connections are located where on the board, or what the orientation of the connecters are (things like front panel + and -). The manual IS available on their website; but I was rebuilding this system because it was down. You will have to have another device of some sort to download the pdf of the manual to scroll through. Plan accordingly. this one is VERY important if you plan to register the board with MSI for warranty purposes. There is a small sticker on the SIDE of the 24 pin power connector. If you're like me, it's underneath where the power cord will be coming in. that sticker has the serial number, and VERY IMPORTANT CHK number. You cannot register your board with MSI without the CHK number. It is not located ANYWHERE else, except for on the side of that connector. Don't be like me and have everything assembled and running, and then have to take part of it apart to get a picture of a tiny little barcode sticker. TAKE A PICTURE before you assemble this board. You will want that picture of that serial number/CHK number. TRUST ME. No RGB LEDs. I place this here under Cons because....well...a lot of people want RGB on everything. This board does not have any built in RGB. It does have plenty of headers to connect whatever RGB you want on it though. Now about that 2.5gbps LAN connection. Again, I don't have a network that can utilize it, but here's the part that's an issue. Windows 11, and presumably Windows 10, does not have default drivers for that LAN card. What this means is, you cannot get onto the network with that card, until you install the drivers for it. You can't install the drivers for it, unless you can get into Windows. If you are planning to use your current windows 11 install; make sure you install the network drivers for the card, BEFORE you take down your old system. If you use Windows Hello with a pin, you will have to sign into your account to reset your pin before it will let you log in. You can't install the drivers until you log in. You can't reset your pin...unless you can get on the network to sign into your account. Luckily I had a USB 2.4ghz wireless card laying around I could use temporarily. I assume at some point Windows will incorporate default drivers, but until they do, just be aware you'll have to install drivers before you can use the network card. The on board sound has standard 5.1 connections. I wish it had an optical connection for my soundbar I use. I'm running it on a 3.5 connection now, but that's shared with the front panel so I have to continuously unplug my headset when i want to use the speakers. It's a nuisance, but not a deal breaker.

Overall Review: I upgraded from an 8th gen i7, on an Asrock z370 motherboard to a 12 gen i7 and this z690 card. Between the processor jump and the motherboard jump it was a significant upgrade. My system is both running faster, and cooler actually. All of the connections on the board are very easy to get to. Installing it was simple, and after the drivers were all installed, everything so far has been running smooth for the past week. Right now (12/26/2021) there's not a lot of support for CPU coolers for the LGA 1700 slot. Most of the big name brand cooler companies have mounting kits available for their existing lineup. If you are planning to water cool, this probably won't be as much of a concern. Keep that in mind when you look for your cooling system. That's not a fault of the board, it's just that the chipset and slot are new enough right now that companies haven't made "accessories" available yet. The bios is a bit clunky. I've used ASUS, AsRock, Gigabyte boards in the past. The bios on those are a bit easier to use; but how many people spend much time in the bios right? You set it and forget it. I wish the onboard sound had an optical out connection. It's not a deal breaker for sure, and I'll probably add an actual distinct sound card at some point. Would I buy it again, oh yeah, of course. for the price point, with this chipset, it looked to be the best offer out there. Other boards may have the few features I missed, but the cost for them wasn't worth it to me. I'm currently running a mild overclock, on an almost silent fan speed, and this board stays plenty cool and does everything I've asked of it so far. MSI has been a good supplier of quality hardware and I don't anticipate any issues. I'll certainly update the review if anything changes. Disclaimer: this review is for the MSI Review Rebate Program.

12/26/2021