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Is Z690 Breaking All Limits?

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

We have received a care package from ASUS and it contains the body of next generation computing. It is Maximus Z690 Hero motherboard for Intel 12th gen processor and it certainly arrived in style!

Inside the first section we find the expected motherboard box, but there is more! Below next door we have Geil Polaris memory - this is the new 32 GB kit of DDR5 memory that is compatible with the new CPUs.

In the next box we also have a huge 360mm liquid all-in-one cooler which features a display as well as Noctua industrial PPC fans. Is ASUS hinting that Intel CPUs will run really hot? We will certainly find out, but that will need to be a separate article.

This is actually a pretty nice unboxing experience! And as always - the combination of deep red and black grabs the attention straight away.

Ok, now that we have opened all the boxes, let's go over some specs for the new ROG Maximus Z690 Hero. In the box we find the motherboard itself, right below it has all the accessories which include WiFi antenna as well as GPU anti-sag bracket. Next to this there is a nice USB drive with all the motherboard drivers and lastly we have something unexpected - this is the ROG Hyper M.2 Expansion card, using PCIE Gen 5 by 8 interface. It supports two M.2 drives with the first drive supporting PCIE Gen 5 and second running at PCIE Gen 4 speeds.

Before we get into the details of the board, let me run through a few important highlights. As mentioned earlier - this board is for the 12th generation of Intel CPUs. It is not backwards compatible as new CPUs use LGA 1700 socket in comparison to last gen LGA 1200. The socket itself is now slightly taller to accommodate the extra pins.

There are three main changes in this generation - we now have DDR5 support as well as DDR4 on some selected boards, there are 4 dimms slots supporting up to 128GB capacity, and, as it stands right now, this board can support RAM speeds way past 6000 MT (megatransfers).

With the launch of DDR5, there will be two types of memory modules - some will be unlocked ready for overclocking and some, lower end ones, may have locked voltage on the regulator, also known as PMIC. ASUS claims they have found a way to unlock it and push memory speeds higher and tighten the timings. They have also preloaded some profiles with optimised settings for main manufacturers such as Micron, Samsung and SK Hynix memory kits; it can be enabled in AEMP or ASUS Enhanced memory profiles - this is something we will certainly be testing.

Moving along the board, the top two expansion slots here are PCIE Gen 5 by 16 with support for bifurcation. The bottom slot is wired up to the Z690 chipset and is running at PCIE Gen 4 speed with just 4 lanes.

There are two somewhat unusual things on this board. Just to the right of the expansion slots there is a little button called “Q Release”, which is linked to the top PCIe mechanism. Pushing this, releases the lock and allows for easy removal of the expansion card. It is a nice little touch, as with the larger heat sinks around the motherboard and chunky graphics cards it sometimes is really hard to reach the locking mechanism.

Another unusual feature is the extra 6 pin power connector next to standard ATX power. This is actually supplementary power for the 16 lane PCIE expansions. By default these only have 27W of power flowing through them, with this additional power that number now goes up to 60W.

Next we have M.2 slots - there are three onboard, as well as two optional in the aforementioned Hyper M.2 add-on card. The top slot is PCIE Gen 4, wired up directly to the CPU, the bottom two slots are wired to the chipset. Left one is PCIE Gen 3 and the right one can be either PCIE Gen 4 or SATA.

I really like that all these M.2 slots feature the Q latch technology and we are slowly but surely moving away from using tiny little screws to secure down the drives. It was such a small thing but always caused such a big pain in the back side.

One thing to note about the Hyper M.2 Expansion - if you get yourself a PCIE Gen 5 NVME drive, then you must plug this card to the middle PCIE expansion slot to ensure it is compatible, overwise it will be running at PCIE Gen 4 speeds. Using this card will make both top and middle slots run at 8 lanes each.

And while we are on the subject of storage - there are 6 SATA connectors on the bottom right, as well as two USB 3 headers right next to them, both supporting 5 gigabit speeds. The USB C header just above supports a whopping 20 gigabit speed, however, to get that speed, make sure that whatever you are connecting is also supporting it.

Since this is a high-end board, it does not lack options for cooling your components. It boasts huge VRM heatsinks, as well as 8 fan headers. Three of the case cans also feature ASUS Hydranode technology which allows you to daisy-chain up to 3 fans per header and still control them individually.

At the bottom of the board there are also headers for water cooling, including water in-and-out temperature, as well as flow rate and a separate thermal sensor header.

If you were to install a bunch of fans, you are more than likely going to have RGB. This board has 3 ARGB headers, as well as a single RGB header to keep the system lit.

For overclockers and tinkerers it has the expected set of tools: there is start, reset button, as well as flex button that can be remapped to other functions such as booting into safe mode. At the top there is also a set of status LEDs, as well as Q code LEDs for error codes.

As far as communication is concerned - this motherboard features the latest WiFi-6 E standard, hardware for Bluetooth 5.2 and a single 2.5 Gigabit network port, which should keep most gamers happy.

At the back there are even more great options: CMOS clear and BIOS flashback buttons, HDMI 2.1 port and two Thunderbolt 4 ports. Next to them there are 7 more 10 Gigabit USB ports, one type C and 6 type A.

At the bottom there is a full array of audio ports for those who want to run their speaker system from the PC.

Overall this board has it all - support for the new PCIE Gen 5 standard, the new DDR5 as well as great connectivity. I am sure the price of this Z690 Hero will make people think twice about it, but if you want to get something high end - this may be it. We will delve deeper into performance in the upcoming video so do make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss it.


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