MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi motherboard review

Intel’s 12th generation is upon us, and with the move to socket LGA1700, we now have a new range of motherboards to support its latest and greatest features. Support for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 memory are just two highlights. Harnessing the coverage of the new platform, we have the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi. At $399, it doesn’t come cheap but offers solid performance, overclocking options, and an aesthetic that matches the cost of entry.


Current price: $399 (Amazon)

MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi – Overview

MSI’s Carbon series has always been a mid-range between price and performance, but with this latest release, it’s sure to become one of MSI’s top picks for enthusiasts. This is especially true for users who plan to overclock (assuming you have a chip that supports it) thanks to its excellent power delivery system (more on that later).


The Z690 Carbon WiFi is one of MSI’s premiere motherboards and is packed with a rich feature set, plenty of I/O, and enough connectivity for power users. What it won’t be is advanced support for extreme overclocking but at a mid-range $399 price tag, that’s understandable, to be expected, and not something most users would try. It has a sleek, RGB-enabled design that should work fine in most PC cases (unless you’re using a white theme like Our own Damien Gula likes).

Starting with connectivity, the rear IO panel features four USB 2.0 ports, five USB 3.2 Type-A ports, and one USB 3.2 2×2 Type-C port for your ultra-fast external storage. The back panel also supports full-size HDMI and DisplayPort connections, 2.5G Ethernet, a WiFi 6E antenna jack, and 5-channel audio support, including optical. Front-panel connectivity support includes four USB 2.0 connections, two USB 3.2 Type-A ports, and a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C.


Moving to the internals of the board, it offers support for the latest DDR5 memory but no DDR4 support. Therefore, we recommend that you do not purchase this board if you do not have support for DDR5 memory. However, if you do, the Carbon can support overclocking speeds of up to 6666 MHz. These kits are expensive but can significantly increase the frame rate in the game.

The board makes good use of its PCIe lanes. The Z690 supports 20 PCIe 5.0 lanes, 16 of which are dedicated to graphics cards and four for PCIe Gen 5 storage (also compatible with Gen 4 drives). The chipset then adds another 12 lanes for the PCIe Gen 4 NVMe drive. To meet this, WiFi Carbon offers five M.2 slots and three PCIe x16 slots (two slots are reinforced with steel). For slower SATA-based storage, there are also six SATA slots.

When it comes to overclocking, few things matter as much as a clean, stable power supply. To meet this, the board supports an 18+1+1 phase power distribution system. Power components are also passively cooled with fleshy heatsinks and heatsinks to dissipate heat. The CPU is also powered by a dual 8-pin connection to provide stable and abundant power.

The BIOS is full of options for precise overclocking, just like we’ve seen with previous models. If diving into the BIOS is too intimidating, it also supports one-click overclocking using the MSI Center software. The Carbon series offers an excellent mid-range price for performance in this respect.


I also have to call out one of my favorite features – in fact I wouldn’t buy another motherboard without it: the debug LED. This little read shows the status code, so if your system fails to boot, you can pinpoint exactly which component is causing the problem. It’s an extremely useful feature, especially if you’re an inexperienced builder.


When it comes to networking, you can count on great speeds. Wired LAN is 2.5G and supports 10Mbps, 100Mbps, 1Gbps and 2.5 Gbps. As for WiFi, the board supports the latest WiFi 6E protocol, which is theoretically even faster. You’ll need a powered router and a direct line of sight (apart from the top tier internet plan) to maximize that connection, but you won’t need to sacrifice speed if you can’t run a direct ethernet cable to your personal computer. The Carbon also comes with a large and rechargeable WiFi antenna for improved reliability.

Finally, we have aesthetics. In keeping with the Carbon name, the dashboard is decorated with Carbon fiber. It looks great but is a fingerprint magnet, so you’ll need to wipe it off once you’re done. It’s also RGB enabled with the “Carbon” logo on the chipset and MSI’s Dragon logo on the I/O/heatsink panel. It looks great without being exaggerated, although if you’re using a large GPU the Carbon logo will be blocked.

MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi – Performance

Intel Test System #1: WiFi Carbon MSI MPG Z690, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, ADATA XPG Lancer DDR5-5200MHz, Nvidia RTX 3090, Samsung 970 Pro NVMe 1TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply, Windows 11 (updated) full update).

Intel Test System #2: ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 32GB DRAM Kit, Nvidia RTX 3090, 1TB Samsung 970 Pro NVMe, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Watt Power Supply , (fully updated).

AMD Test System: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master Motherboard, Corsair iCUE Elite LCD 360mm, G.Skill TridentZ Royal DDR4-3600MHz 32GB DRAM Kit, Nvidia RTX 3090, Gigabyte AORUS NVMe Gen4 SSD 2TB, Corsair HX-1050 1050 Power Supply Watt, (fully updated).

Since the MSI Z690 Carbon WiFi is the first motherboard we’re testing this generation, we won’t have the usual range of competing products to chart. Instead, I’ll position it against some of our flagship motherboards and processors from the previous generation, including the Core i9-11900K and AMD Ryzen 9 5950X loaded into the ASUS Z490 Maximus XII Extreme and Gigabyte X570 AORUS Master respectively. These charts will be expanded as we get more samples to test and collect data on.







MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi – Overclocking

Overclocking support on the MSI Z690 Carbon is very rich. The BIOS is filled with options for adjusting voltage levels. As for memory, you can of course just pick your preferred XMP profile and call it a date, but the BIOS also makes it easy to drill in and tweak individual times and parameters to push. Your set goes even further.

In my assessment of 12900K and 12600K, I mentioned using Intel’s own utility to dial in during overclocking. For this review, I reset everything to its default settings and worked in the BIOS to overclock each of the cheap ones. My results are no different from before, but it is worth mentioning that MSI’s BIOS is one of the most intuitive and easy to work with among the major brands. I would still give ASUS the edge in full control, but MSI feels more user-friendly to me.

Since the results were the same, here’s what I wrote at the time to overclock both the 12900K and 12600K:

For the 12900K I was able to achieve a steady overclock of 5.3GHz on the Performance cores at 1.4v. Surprisingly I was able to do this using Intel’s own tuning utility; it has made a lot of progress and while enthusiasts will almost certainly feel more confident working in the BIOS, I wanted to see what could happen and am happy with the development. Now for the bad news. Reaching that overclock resulted in the processor running at 93-95C during gaming. While benchmarking, it hit 100C pretty quickly causing the CPU to slow itself down again. This is too hot to be comfortable, and I can’t recommend people overclock with these temperature results. The standard boost behavior is effective at getting the top FPS as it is, so most gamers will be best off leaving it alone.

The Core i5-12600K performs much better in terms of temperature. In the same Aida64 stress test, it only reached a peak temperature of 66 degrees. During gameplay, it moved closer to 53 degrees. Not bad at all! As a result, I was able to consistently overclock 5.1GHz at 1.39v. The temperature here peaks at 85°C.

Another thing to keep in mind is that overclocking on these CPUs, and then removing their power limits, is going to produce tremendous power. The Core i9-12900K produced an incredible 442 watts of power at 5.3 GHz. Core i5-12600K less but still huge: 323 watts! On stock settings, they run almost consistently at maximum turbo power consumption. These processors are capable of great performance, but they are much less efficient than AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series.


At $399, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi doesn’t come cheap. However, what you get for that money is impressive, with excellent overclocking support, DDR5, additional M.2 NVMe ports, extended connectivity, and blazing fast networking. If you’re building or upgrading a PC and want a baseline that’s ready to grow with you in the future and don’t mind paying a little extra for it, this is a great option.

The product described in this article is provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. | MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi motherboard review


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