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Asus Prime Z690-A – Evaluate 2022

In relation to motherboards, deciphering {hardware} distributors’ product names typically feels inconceivable until you’ve got an encyclopedia of chipsets and model strains in your head. As an alternative of significant names and numbers, you typically get pleasure phrases, like “Excessive” and “FTW” (further credit score to MSI for “Godlike”). Asus’ newest Intel motherboard is modestly known as the Prime Z690-A ($299.99), which does not let you know a lot besides the chipset, the top-end one for twelfth Era CPUs. Asus markets its Prime boards as all-around platforms, with the “A” designation reserved for the highest mannequin in a given collection. The Prime’s worth places it in aggressive waters, so we’re glad to say it cruises “Alder Lake” with out leaping the shark. However it does not dazzle us, both.

The Design: Stylish Contrasts

The motherboard’s white/silver/black coloration scheme is a pleasant different to the same old blacked-out boards. Anybody who’s constructed a system with a black motherboard inside a black case can let you know the darkish inside appears to gobble up unfastened screws sooner than a Dyson vacuum. The Asus’ black PCB, white silk screening, and matte blasted aluminum heatsinks distinction properly in opposition to each other (although they make pictures metering a nightmare). For just a little further flash, a single RGB strip runs down the highest VRM heatsink, simply over the rear I/O cowl.

Asus Prime Z690-A overview

Altogether, the Prime Z690-A has a properly balanced look—nothing that screams “Take a look at me!” or nothing that is attempting to cover. Like a well-cut go well with, it is a board that may have a look at residence in nearly any construct.

The massive heatsink across the CPU is not only for present, because it hides a sizeable 16+1 VRM whereas two eight-pin energy inputs peek out the highest. The setup can stably feed even essentially the most power-hungry processors, which is sweet information for overclockers. Like its ROG Maximus Z690 Hero sibling, the Prime has mounting holes for each LGA1700 and LGA1200 coolers for further compatibility, although if utilizing an LGA1200 mount, it is best to examine that your cooler has the fitting standoff top for correct mounting stress earlier than putting in. To associate with its twelfth Gen CPU socket, the Prime makes use of DDR5 reminiscence. Formally it helps modules as much as 6,000MHz, although it had no drawback with the 6,200MHz XMP reminiscence I used for this overview.

Asus Prime Z690-A CPU socket

To take care of the warmth and energy draw, Asus has outfitted the Prime with eight four-pin fan headers, all of which help each voltage and PWM velocity management. The 2 simply above the VRM heatsink are labeled for CPU cooler use and share the identical velocity management, however the remainder might be configured independently. All headers can provide not less than 1 amp of present (12 watts of energy), excellent news for anybody utilizing splitter cables to run a number of followers from a single header. For the liquid cooling crowd, one header is designated particularly for water pumps and may present a whopping 3 amps of present (36 watts of energy).

Storage, Growth, and Rear I/O

Not content material to let the CPU capabilities do all of the speaking, the Prime Z690-A boasts good storage choices with 4 M.2 slots, all able to operating at PCI Categorical 4.0 x4 bandwidth. The first M.2 slot, just under the CPU socket, is beneath an aluminum heatsink cowl and has thermal pads on high and backside. This slot connects to the CPU’s lanes and helps 42mm, 60mm, 80mm, and 110mm drives.

Asus Prime Z690-A M.2 and PCIe slots

The second M.2 slot is additional down, simply left of the chipset heatsink, and has no cowl or thermal sinks. The third and fourth are beneath the heatsink strip throughout the underside of the board and outfitted with high thermal pads. The three latter M.2 slots are managed by the Z690 chipset and may accommodate 80mm and shorter drives. (Slot three can match a 110mm stick.) The fourth slot can function in both PCI Categorical or SATA mode; all others are PCIe solely. Rounding out the storage interfaces are 4 forward-facing 6Gbps SATA ports on the decrease entrance edge. All eight drive connectors can function concurrently, since none of them shares connectivity lanes.

The Prime Z690-A presents 5 expansion-card slots. The highest slot, strengthened to assist help heavy GPUs, connects on to the CPU at PCIe 5.0 x16 charges. The opposite 4 are managed by the chipset at PCIe 3.0 speeds; there’s one four-lane slot, two single-lane slots, and a second 16-lane slot. The underside 16-lane slot is wired for x8 connectivity solely, and the handbook states it may possibly solely run at x4 bandwidth.

Asus Prime Z690-A rear I/O

Shifting round to the rear reveals an I/O panel with an built-in protect. Eight USB 3.2 ports—two Sort-C and 6 Sort-A—supply loads of peripheral connectivity. The highest 4 blue ports are USB 3.2 Gen 1 connections with 5Gbps bandwidth. The lighter cyan USB-A ports and one USB-C port are 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2, whereas the final Sort-C port is a doubled-up 2×2 Gen 2 port with as much as 20Gbps bandwidth. The bandwidth capabilities are clearly labeled on the again cowl, so you do not have to memorize a handbook diagram to be sure to’re utilizing the fitting port for a given peripheral or exterior drive.

Two video outputs, one DisplayPort 1.4 and one HDMI 2.1, deal with the CPU’s built-in graphics. The everyday audio connector array of 5 3.5mm jacks and a single S/PDIF socket are powered by a Realtek S1220A chip. The Realtek makes use of remoted traces on devoted PCB layers to scale back noise and interference. Asus claims playback has a 120dB signal-to-noise ratio, whereas the line-in jack can document audio at 113dB SNR. Networking duties are dealt with by an Intel I225-V controller with single 2.5Gbps jack. Regardless of the wi-fi community controller constructed into the Z690 chipset, the Prime has no Wi-Fi help.

Inside Connectors and Structure

Throughout the highest fringe of the board from left to proper are the aforementioned eight-pin CPU energy inputs and the 2 shared fan headers. Close to the nook is a CPU overvoltage jumper, letting you bypass CPU voltage limits within the UEFI for overclocking functions. Subsequent to that jumper are two RGB headers, one WS2812B-compatible addressable header and one Asus Aura connector. You will discover two extra fan headers beneath the CPU socket, tucked within the nook between the VRM heatsink and first M.2 slot.

Asus Prime Z690-A top half

Under the higher proper nook’s mounting gap are 4 LEDs representing the CPU, reminiscence, video, and boot parts of the startup course of. If an error happens when powering on, the corresponding LED will keep lit, serving to you discover the place the issue is. Persevering with down the ahead fringe of the board are the 24-pin ATX energy connector and headers for each USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 1. The decrease half of the motherboard’s ahead edge incorporates the 4 SATA ports, an influence button, and two fan headers (one among which is the 36-watt header).

Asus Prime Z690-A bottom half

As ordinary, you will discover the majority of the interior connectors alongside the underside fringe of the board. Beginning at left, there’s the entrance audio header, a fan header, two extra addressable Gen 2 RGB headers, and a Thunderbolt connector. Notice that to make use of the final you will want a separate Thunderbolt breakout card—there is not one included with the Prime.

Subsequent to the Thunderbolt header are a lone serial port, two USB 2.0 connectors, a transparent CMOS button, a thermal sensor header, one other fan header, and eventually the entrance panel management connectors. Customers of Trusted Platform Modules will discover the TPM header simply to the left of the CMOS battery. As with most motherboards, placing a double-slot card within the backside PCIe slot could make it tough if not inconceivable to really use TPMs.

The Construct Expertise

The Prime Z690-A presents just a few further creature comforts that make putting in it simpler than many different motherboards, significantly in the case of stopping the lack of essential mounting {hardware}. The M.2 warmth shrouds use screws with undercut threads, making them considerably captive, although absolutely retaining screws with C-clips could be even higher. The Prime’s M.2 slots additionally use the identical quick-release Q-Latch clips discovered on the Z690 Hero, as an alternative of these tiny, annoying screws that at all times appear to get misplaced. Cheers to Asus for that! Included within the field are two SATA cables and some rubber riser pads for single-sided M.2 drives.

Although the VRM heatsink is sort of massive, the 2 eight-pin connectors have loads of clearance for energy cables. The 2 CPU fan headers are usually not so lucky, as they straddle and are fairly near a stack of fins protruding from the VRM heatsink. It is probably not tough to attach a fan cable to them, however it may be tough in some instances. The heatsink creates a big basin across the CPU socket, leaving ample room for beefy air coolers just like the Noctua D15 used for this overview. Notice that the majority air coolers will doubtless cowl the 2 fan headers just under the CPU socket. In case you plan to make use of one among them for a rear exhaust fan, make sure to join it earlier than mounting the CPU cooler.

On the minus facet, the one fan headers on the forefront of the board are close to the underside nook. That is a protracted attain for top-mount and a few front-mount case followers with out an extension cable or a separate fan controller. You should use the 2 high headers for chassis followers, however bear in mind they share the identical velocity controller. I might want having a fan header or two up close to the 24-pin energy connector, maybe shifting the 2 headers from the underside of the board.

The onboard energy and clear CMOS buttons are useful for customers constructing on an open check bench. The ability button is just under the SATA ports, so double-slot graphics playing cards will not cowl it up (although 2.5-slot and triple-slot playing cards will). Sadly for testbed tinkerers, the Prime does not have a complicated error readout show, simply the color-coded standing LEDs within the higher proper nook.

A Temporary Take a look at the BIOS

Asus UEFI interfaces have stayed a lot the identical for a number of generations now, so anybody who has labored with one prior to now decade will likely be instantly conversant in the structure. Coming into the UEFI defaults to the EZ Mode web page, which supplies you all the essential data you want comparable to BIOS model, CPU clock frequency, temperatures, and fan standing.

Asus Prime Z690-A EZ Mode BIOSAsus Prime Z690-A fan settings

Inside EZ Mode, you can too configure fan profile curves, boot drive order, and reminiscence XMP profiles and toggle the automated AI Overclocking function. Throughout the highest of the display are hyperlinks for Aura RGB settings, a reminiscence stability check, and a search function to discover a particular setting. Sadly, what you will not discover anyplace is a setting to allow full HD decision within the UEFI. (It is nonetheless restricted to 1,024 by 768.)

Switching over to Superior Mode unlocks the, properly, superior options. Most notable are the overclocking settings discovered beneath the AI Tweaker tab, which has extra layers than Shrek’s favourite onion.

Asus Prime Z690-A AI Tweaker settingsAsus Prime Z690-A additional settings

The Superior tab additionally incorporates settings for the onboard units comparable to storage controllers, audio, and networking. Below the Monitor tab, you will discover extra detailed information about CPU and motherboard temperatures, voltage and present draw, and controls for all of the fan headers. You too can run an computerized Q-Fan Tuning utility, which finds the minimal and most velocity ranges of all linked followers and units customized management curves for every. Every fan curve is restricted to solely three factors, nonetheless.

Asus Prime Z690-A Q-Fan Tuning

To make it simpler to kind via the near-endless choices and settings, Asus supplies a My Favorites part. Right here you possibly can pin and set up particular person settings from numerous tabs into your individual customized listing.

Asus Prime Z690-A BIOS screen shortcuts

The Instruments tab presents miscellaneous options comparable to deciding on the default UEFI mode (EZ or Superior) and eight reminiscence slots so that you can retailer and recall most well-liked system settings. These profiles might be exported to a USB flash drive for backup and restoration. A nifty function known as Flexkey means that you can remap the front-panel reset button in addition on to the UEFI—no extra incessantly tapping F2 as your laptop boots. You too can obtain Asus’ Armoury Crate utility instantly from the UEFI, making it simpler to get present drivers for the motherboard and its built-in units when putting in a recent OS.

A Take a look at the Additional Utilities

The Armoury Crate suite is the massive focus of the in-Home windows utilities. Asus’ latest model of the suite largely replaces the corporate’s outdated AI3 software program on 6-series motherboards. It acts as a driver and software program replace hub and supplies entry to many settings discovered within the UEFI.

Asus Armoury Crate utility settings

For individuals who wish to tweak their methods however aren’t comfy poking round within the BIOS, it is a good choice. The controls aren’t almost as detailed as these within the UEFI, however you possibly can nonetheless set totally different overclock profiles.

Asus Armoury Crate CPU stats

The fan controls in Armoury Crate are almost similar to the UEFI’s, together with the Q-Fan auto tuning.

Asus Armoury Crate fan speed settings

Customizing RGB lighting schemes and patterns isn’t any drawback, both.

Asus Armoury Crate RGB effects

Verdict: An In a position Sufficient ‘Alder Lake’ Board

On the entire, the Asus Prime Z690-A does a variety of issues proper and little or no fallacious. For a lot of builders, that is a fantastic recipe for achievement. If you need a strong and reliable board that covers the requirements however does not overload you with choices, you possibly can do lots worse.

Asus Prime Z-690A wide shot

Sadly, that feels like damning with faint reward. We regularly want general-purpose motherboards to specialty gaming fashions for private builds, and wish to root for the Prime Z690-A, nevertheless it didn’t wow us. Its storage connectivity is sweet however not considerably higher than that of equally priced boards’. It has loads of fan headers for cooling fans, however the structure of these headers is not best. It has no Wi-Fi capabilities, nevertheless it is not considerably cheaper than boards that do. The one RGB lighting strip appears tacked on to examine a field, fairly than absolutely built-in into the design scheme. The plethora of rear-panel USB ports is a plus, however are USB ports sufficient to sway your shopping for resolution?

The Prime is much from being a nasty board; the truth is, it is a strong alternative. However we really feel it might be extra enticing at a reduction. With out one, this Asus does not carry a lot to set it aside from its rivals within the $280-to-$300 vary.

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