The Z690 boards for Intel's 12th Gen CPUs are eye candy

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·Senior Games & Tech Producer
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Intel historically has always had good looking motherboards, such as the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme, the ASRock Z490 Aqua and the MSI MEG Z590 GODLIKE. 

This stems from the insane market share that it has when it comes to PC users, something rivals AMD has been chipping away at slowly but not surely.

According to the Steam Hardware & Software Survey for October 2021, Intel still owns 69 per cent of the CPU market share, at least when it comes to users playing games on Steam. 

This means that the majority of gamers on Steam are still using Intel CPUs in their computers for gaming. 

Although its market share has been steadily declining after the launch of AMD’s Ryzen series processors, Intel is still the go-to platform for many gamers and work-oriented users alike due to its stability.

Because of this dominance, board partners like ASUS, MSI and ASrock tend to create more aesthetically pleasing motherboards for the platform, because they are convinced that the end user will buy them anyway, banking on Intel's familiarity and reliability if they’re looking to upgrade their CPUs.

It is no different for the launch of Intel’s 12th Gen processors

We were sent the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero for the testing of the 12th Gen CPUs, and I must say, this is the most beautiful Hero motherboard I’ve seen. 

I own the Asus Crosshair VII X570 Hero for my personal AMD build, and it doesn’t hold a candle to how the Z690 Hero looks. 

Just to clarify, I am not saying that the AMD motherboards look bad in any way, it’s just that Intel boards always look much better.

Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero out of the box (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero out of the box (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

Perhaps the most aesthetically prominent feature of Z690 Hero is what Asus calls the “pixelated Polymo Lighting” on the motherboard’s IO cover. 

Previous versions of the Hero’s IO cover only had the ROG or the Hero logo plastered on them with a little bit of RGB to make it stand out. 

The Z690 Hero’s IO cover, however, has pixelated lights in them that can both spell out the Hero logo and the ROG logo. I wish I could change what it shows, but sadly, that is not possible because it’s not an LCD screen in any way.

The Hero logo cycles with the ROG logo on the pixelated screen. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The Hero logo cycles with the ROG logo on the pixelated screen. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

When the motherboard is turned off, the IO cover looks like it has a mirrored reflective panel on it, and will definitely blend in with builds that utilise the mirror and reflective motif, like a build using Corsair’s 570X Mirror case or the Lian Li O11 Dynamic PCMR edition.

On the functionality side, we all knew that the new Intel platform was going to come with massive changes to its interface by integrating PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 memory. But Asus went the extra mile to provide users of the Z690 Hero with a more pleasant PC building experience.

Gone are the tiny screws that you would need to use to screw your NVMe SSDs down to your board. Asus has included a quick lock mechanism for the NVMe slots that you can use to keep your SSD in place, and also easily dislodge when you need to remove it.

The new NVMe latch makes it easy to swap SSDs (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The new NVMe latch makes it easy to swap SSDs (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

Asus has also included a quick release button for your first PCIe slot if you ever needed to pull out your GPU. 

This is extremely helpful because in other motherboards, you needed to manually unlock a little knob at the PCIe slot to remove your GPU or whatever you placed in the slot. This tends to be extremely difficult, especially when you have GPUs that are pretty large in size that block this knob.

One other nifty feature that this motherboard provides is the 60w quick charge through your case’s front panel USB-C, provided your case has the wiring and capability to do so. Asus includes a 6-pin PCIe port beside the USB-C connector on the motherboard to enable this feature.

What does bug me about with the Z690 Hero is its price. The Hero line of motherboards were usually the mid-upper echelon of motherboards, together with the likes of the Asrock Taichi line and the MSI Ace line. These motherboards usually sit around the range of US$380 to around US$500, and have been selling for around $SG$650 – SG$850 in Singapore for both AMD and Intel versions of them

The Z690 Hero is going for US$599.99 worldwide, or S$1,121 in Singapore. We do not know the Singapore pricing for the MSI Z690 Ace or the Asrock Z690 Taichi, but they are also priced at US$599.99 and US$589.99 respectively.

This is a HUGE jump in pricing to get an Intel 12th Gen motherboard in this tier. 

Granted, maybe there are more parts needed to make these motherboards functional (the 12th Gen CPUs do use A LOT of power), but consumers that are looking to purchase these motherboards better have extra cash in hand, as it is not going to be a cheap upgrade.

Other pretty Z690 boards in the market

There are also other extremely good-looking motherboards that are going to be released for Z690;

The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Formula is a great motherboard if you are looking for a pure white build with watercooling (US$799).

The MSI Z690 Unify is a no-nonsense, all-black, no RGB motherboard (US$489.99).

The ASrock Z690 Steel Legend is a great budget option with good components and pleasant aesthetics for any kind of themed build (US$269.99).

For an even more budget option, the MSI PRO Z690-A WIFI DDR4 looks pretty good for its price, and even includes support for DDR4 if you do not want to upgrade to DDR5 just yet (US$219.99).

All in all, you are definitely going to get a great looking motherboard if you do decide to upgrade to Intel’s 12th Gen. 

But there is a steep price to pay. Even the lower end motherboards are more expensive than their previous generation’s equivalent. 

Coupled with the fact that you will need to possibly get some new DDR5 as well, you are looking at spending quite a bit if you want to upgrade to Intel’s 12th Gen processors.

But like I wrote in my previous article about things to watch out for if you are planning to upgrade to the new CPUs, at least the upgrade from Windows 10 to Windows 11 is free. 

And you will definitely need to upgrade to Microsoft’s newest OS, because we found that there is quite a difference in performance between those two versions of Windows.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy being headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.

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