The methodology of choosing a motherboard for a flagship Core i5 has always been one of balance. This applies similarly even when choosing a motherboard for Intel Core i5-12600K, a CPU that some mistaken dub as a “10-core processor” as opposed to it being a proper “6+4-core hybrid CPU” that utilizes both P-Cores and E-cores.
While we want as many of the new features the Z690 chipset has to offer, to identify the right motherboard for the Core i5-12600K, we need a balanced compromise in terms of performance, features, and especially price that makes sense. Therefore, we have carefully curated this detailed guide containing the best motherboards for Intel Core i5-12600K that perform great and have all the necessary features but are also reasonably priced.
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro
Best Overall – Yeah, “best overall” may be a stretch to say for any DDR5 Alder Lake motherboard at the moment. But, if you are investing in Z690 for its various new technologies, the Aorus Pro is definitely your best option in terms of balancing features with cost.
SpecificationsForm Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 16+1+2, 90 amps each | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR5-6200+ (max) | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort | Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, x4 USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0 | Storage: 3x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5GbE ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless
- Opens up DDR5 options in the next year or two without breaking the bank
- Has every Z690 feature in at least one (or more) port, header, or connector
- USB ports galore (13 total, and no, that doesn’t include headers yet)
- DDR5 sticks easily eat up the cost of the motherboard (for now)
- Jet-black finish… but with wide grey heatsink sections?
Affordability, features, ultimate connectivity, and a splash of future-proofing. That is the overall package that the Z690 Aorus Pro is able to offer. At a cost that competes with the Z690 Tomahawk, you get access to a robust power delivery system, four M.2 sockets, all the USB ports you can possibly use, and perhaps most importantly, DDR5 memory access.
The comparatively lower cost of the board can offset some of the dough that you’re supposed to allocate for the currently-very-expensive DDR5 modules. In other words, it is capable of unleashing the full potential of the Alder Lake architecture at the exact mid-range point where performance and cost are still pretty much balanced.
One very slight drawback of the Aorus Pro is that it doesn’t support WiF 6E. This is kind of ironic since the main theme of this board seems to be providing a (near) future-proofing platform in the form of new technologies that the Z690 chipset can offer. You’re not really missing out too much, but the inclusion of it would have made this choice even more perfect.
MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WiFi
Runner-up – Mid-level high-end that never fails to impress with its massive storage options and more-than-enough build quality. It also sports a nice default RGB setup for light show enthusiasts out there. Though, it can be quite pricey.
SpecificationsForm Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 18+1+1, 75amps each | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR5-6666+ (max) | Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 5.0 x16 (or x8/x8), 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, x1 HDMI | Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, x5 USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 2.0 | Storage: 5x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5Gbethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6E wireless
- Maxed storage options
- Signature MSI-style onboard RGB
- Stable and reliable configurability
- Four rear I/O USB 2.0 ports (on an upper high-end board)
- A Thunderbolt port could have easily swapped with the USB 2.0 ports
Another solid entry for the mid-range 12600K that offers a lot of different features and options, the Z690 Carbon Wifi continues to live up to its reputation as MSI’s crossroad entry between high-end and mid-range.
First off, its 18+1+1 VRM phases are a tad bit more superior to the Tomawak, ensuring clean, regulated power for both the 12600K’s P-cores and E-cores. It has not one, but two PCIe 5.0 x16 slots routed directly to the CPU, and a very generous five M.2 connectors for all the NVMe SSDs that you’ll ever need. Ten different USB ports are also kind of convenient, although we do have to question the necessity of including four USB 2.0 ports instead of just one Thunderbolt 4 and two USB 2.0 for its Rear I/O.
Truth be told, though, if not for the significant cost difference compared to the Z690 Aorus Pro, the Z690 Carbon WiFi would have probably made this one the best overall. After all, it does a offer a few things more in excess compared to Gigabyte’s mid-range offering.
MSI PRO Z690-A WiFi DDR4
Best Value – the obligatory MSI PRO series offering continues its legacy in Alder Lake as the bread and butter bang-for-the-buck overclocking machine of Core i5 (and previously Core i3) unlocked K-SKUs.
SpecificationsForm Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 14+1+1, 55 amps each | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-5200+ (max) | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x16,, 1x PCIe 3.0 x1 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, x1 HDMI | Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, x1 USB 3.2 Gen 2, x2 USB 3.2 Gen 2,4x USB 2.0 | Storage: 4x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5Gb ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless
- Good Z690 on the cheap
- More connectivity without the bloat (compared to the non-Wifi version)
- Simple, sleek, and unobtrusive
- No built-in I/O shield (as usual)
- Ports and headers are pretty basic (like, B660-level basic)
If all you really need is enough power to safely drive a Core i5-12600K throughout its consistent all-core turbo workloads, or tinker with a very slight OC, then the PRO Z690-A should be more than enough with its 14+1+1 55a configuration. This, combined with its entry-level cost should already be justification enough for its use. However, it’s such a bang-for-the-buck deal because it also manages to offer a full, albeit minimized, suite of non-CPU Z-chipset features, such as the latest PCIe support for both its standard x16 slots and multitude (four or more) of M.2 slots.
On the flip side, however, the PRO Z690-A also inherits the same very basic layout, never looking quite different from its ultra-cheap B-chipset and H-chipset counterparts aside from getting bigger and bigger heatsinks each numbered iteration.
In fact, this particular mobo series still managed to go into unlocked territory all these years without a built-in I/O shield (something that even Gigabyte’s more modest Z-chipset offerings have since then solved a couple of generations ago). Also, while the rear I/O features every type possible at this time, there’s usually only ever one of them available by default.
… With the exception of USB 2.0 ports, of course.
Gigabyte Z690 UD AX DDR4
Best Budget – Very simple, and yet robust, and surprisingly has a wide performance range. If 11th Gen furnace cooling wasn’t an issue, then you’re going to have a fun, albeit budget, time with this 12th Gen “Ultra” offering.
SpecificationsForm Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 16+1+2, 60 amps each | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-5333+ (max) | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x1 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, x1 HDMI | Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, x1 USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0 | Storage: 3x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5GbE ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless
- Robust VRM cooling compared to its competition
- Also slightly better VRMs within the same tier
- Gets quite a number of mid-range features despite being entry-level
- Still maintaining those weird brown design accents
- Audio controller is on the lower end
- Doesn’t offer onboard buttons for tweaking and configuration
This time Gigabyte trumps the budget entry once again for Intel Z-chipset motherboards with its surprisingly robust Z690 UD AX DDR4. As with most entry-level motherboards, even for Z690 chipsets, features are rather plain and simple. There are no configurable internal buttons (CMOS reset, power toggle, etc.), connectivity is very noticeably scaled-down, and non-VRM heatsinks do not extend beyond the chipset area, though the obligatory single M.2 heatsink is still there.
That is, with the stark exception of its VRM and VRM heatsink. In fact, it delivers almost the same level of performance as the Aorus Pro, ensuring that the mid-range 12600K would never miss a beat during its combined P-core E-core workload operations. That’s like, having the performance of the Best Overall entry, without its price!
Well, you still have to deal with all the drawbacks mentioned earlier, plus a few rather odd choices like the use of a very basic sound chip. Or the fact that it offers considerably fewer rear I/O ports, even compared with some ITX motherboards! (though every type is, of course, still properly covered, plus headers, if your PC case can go wild with them)
Asus TUF Gaming Z690-Plus WiFi D4
Best DDR4 – It’s an easy-to-setup Z690 board that can offer all features at the upper mid-range without feeling too basic as heck. Performance is excellent straight out of the box, though it can be a little bit meager for people who really love tinkering with their CPUs.
SpecificationsForm Factor: ATX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 14+1, 80 amps each | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-5333+ (max) | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x16, 2x PCIe 3.0 x1 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, x1 HDMI | Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, x1 USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0 | Storage: 3x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5GbE ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless
- Offers all Z690 tech even at the smallest implementation
- Quite cheap for a mid-range option
- Nice storage expansion options
- CPU tweaking can be tricky for some users
- Strictly mid-range only
The TUF Gaming Z690-Plus D4 is the best middle ground option when it comes to price and performance. You can enjoy the full Alder Lake experience without busting your hard-earned cash on DDR5, or (unnecessarily) skimping on technical features and connectivity options. At least when compared to heftier competitors like the MAG Z690 Tomahawk anyway.
As for its system use case and design, it has more or less the same build philosophy as motherboards like the Aorus Pro. That is, it offers all Z690 features at smaller scales (fewer ports and connectors), giving priority to all the technology upgrades rather than redundancy. With the obvious exception of Thunderbolt ports, since it’s Asus’ “affordable gaming” product line, after all.
VRM configuration is rather… basic, compared to even some of the lower-end entries on this list. But then again, this is the Core i5-12600K we’re talking about with its “cooler” 120 to 150-watt max turbo, so that should still be more than enough.
Unfortunately, for those who miss the deep black and bright yellow aesthetic of classic TUF motherboards, yeah, we understand that predicament. Guess on that note it’s also becoming more and more similar physically to Gigabyte’s classic Aorus as well.
Gigabyte Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4
Best ITX – the Z690I Aorus Ultramight still be a bit limiting physically as a mini ITX motherboard, but it provides both an easier economical and technological gateway to Alder Lake for the signature form factor.
SpecificationsForm Factor: mini ITX | Socket: LGA 1700 | VRM: 10+1+2, 105 amps each | Memory support: 2x DIMM, up to 64GB, DDR4-5333+ (max) | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16 | Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, x1 HDMI | Rear USB: 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2,2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0 | Storage: 2x M.2, 4x SATA 6Gbps | Network: Intel 2.5GbE ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6wireless
- Hefty on internal headers and rear I/O ports
- Backplate design makes for easy handling and snug installation
- Premium finish, well-balanced build
- BIOS update absolutely necessary prior to use
- NVMesetup may obstruct standard tower air coolers (even some AIO base plates)
Not a ROG Strix, but the Z690I Aorus Ultra DDR4 sure does cram its features just as competitively. To start off, we have the obligatory 10+1+2 105a phase design, which should be overkill for a Core i5-12600K for this type of form factor. Then we have a compressed mix of connectors and headers, which would house your NVMe drives, as well as vertical stacks for various front panel connectors (including one weirdly hidden wired front audio one). As for its rear I/O, it competes fairly nicely even with other mid-range and lower-end ATX Z690 boards.
One very bizarre requirement for the motherboard to work without configuration issues is the need to do a BIOS update first. At the very least it can work as intended if properly set up, but do keep this in mind if you intend to use the lower NVMe slot as a boot drive, or are setting up XMP profiles beyond 3600Mhz and 1.4V. Future factor releases of this motherboard would definitely come with the BIOS update in place. But for now, users will have to deal with this necessity.
In addition, you might also want to remember the typical cooler fitting issues related to stacking NVMe configurations, which this motherboard also uses (it can’t have rear M.2 slots due to the backplate). And no, not even AIO base plates are exempt from this problem, so be sure to double-check before purchasing a cooling solution for this motherboard.
Manufacturers have since then learned the lessons of cutting margins in power delivery and heat dissipation from the disaster of 11th Gen CPUs. As such, finding the right Z690 motherboard for the Core i5-12600K wasn’t exactly that difficult. If we exclusively consider the option for a single-build perspective, we can even insert a couple more cost-effective entries like the Asrock Z690 Phantom Gaming 4.
But the point of adopting Alder Lake now is to maximize its new performance as we head towards the brand new tock phase. In the end, you’re going to want to open yourself to higher options so that things like future DDR5 memory or potential Raptor Lake upgrades (for those who chose to continue supporting DDR4) would simply be a matter of a BIOS update in the near future.