Z690 vs Z790 Chipset

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Z690-vs-Z790 Motherboard Chipset

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Raptor Lake is an architecture that introduces the “tock” phase of Intel’s dual-generation support system. Thus, Intel’s 13th Gen processor will be released alongside the new Z790 chipset. However, the Z690 chipset will also provide support for Raptor Lake given the proper BIOS update.

But, with both Z690 and Z790 supporting both 12th and 13th gen Intel processors, what are the differences between the Z690 and Z790? And is the Z790 worth it over the Z690? In this article, we will answer those two questions pertaining to the Z690 vs Z790 and help you decide which chipset is best for your computing needs.

Z690 vs Z790 Motherboard Specs & Comparison Table

  Z690 Z790
CPU Compatibility* 12th Gen, 13th Gen* 12th, 13th Gen
CPU Overclocking? Yes Yes
Memory Overclocking? Yes Yes
DMI 4.0 Lanes x8 x8
CPU PCIe 5.0 lanes (iGPU) 1×16 or 2×8 1×16 or 2×8
CPU PCIe4.0 lanes 1×4 1×4
Chipset PCIe4.0 lanes 12 20
Chipset PCIe3.0 lanes 16 8
DDR Support DDR4 & DDR5** DDR4 & DDR5**
Max Memory Slots 4 4
Max Memory Capacity 128GB 128GB
SATA 6Gbps ports 8 8
Max USB 20Gbps ports 4 5
Max USB 10Gbps ports 10 10
Max USB 5Gbps ports 10 10
Max USB 2.0 ports 14 14
RAID Modes 0,1,5,10 0,1,5,10
Integrated Wi-Fi WiFi 6E WiFi 6E

*- After a BIOS update                                                                
**- Each motherboard supports only one type at a time, double-check as necessary

Differences Between Z690 vs Z790 Chipsets

Overall, the Z790 chipset is a relatively minor update of the Z690 platform, and thus major differences are non-existent. All of the changes are focused on either expanding connectivity or adding onboard component installation options. In fact, unlike AMD’s Zen 4 architecture that it is (eventually) designed to compete against, Raptor Lake continues support for DDR4 as Z690 does.

  • Native Alder Lake and Raptor Lake support – the Z790 is designed to support both Intel 12th Gen and 13th Gen Core CPUs out of the box. Z690 on the other hand requires a BIOS update.
  • Re-balanced PCIe connectivity – Some of the lower PCIe connections are removed in favor of higher ones. For example, the Z790 loses eight PCIe 3.0 lane connections over Z690, But those will instead be allocated for PCIe 4.0 lanes (from 12 to 20).
  • More M.2 slots for PCIe 4.0 drives – the re-allocated PCIe lanes also provide up to five M.2 slots, as opposed to the four currently available on Z690 motherboards.
  • One more USB 20Gbps port – the Z790 will have a total of five USB 20Gbps ports, which is also one more compared to the four USB 20Gbps ports on the Z690.

Z690 vs Z790 Overclocking

Both chipsets will support all overclocking features, regardless of whether it is for the CPU or for the memory. Stability-wise, you can expect all standard models of both chipsets to have decent overclocking since Raptor Lake compensates for efficiency per IPC gains. Most manufacturers would simply use slightly VRMs and controllers, if not the exact same ones for Z690 and Z790 models. The same goes for motherboard heatsinks (VRM, chipset, M.2 slots).

If you can get a CPU to boot properly, then the same headroom should be present. Original Alder Lake CPUs will boost to their already measured limits, while Raptor Lake CPUs would overtake its previous generation by a considerable margin.

Is Intel Z790 worth it over Z690?

Frankly speaking, no, a Z790 motherboard is not worth investing in over a Z690 motherboard. With pretty much the same features for most of its connectivity (PCIe 5.0) and power delivery quality, the Z690 easily trumps the Z790 due to availability and price alone. The rule of thumb is to simply find a Z690 motherboard with a reliable and intuitive BIOS flashback feature, update its BIOS for Raptor Lake support, and use it instead for your Intel 13th Gen CPU.

Of course, if you are not savvy enough to use BIOS flashback features on Z690 motherboards, or if you can get a good deal for the newer stuff, then a Z790 might be worth buying. Another consideration is if you can somehow maximize the bandwidth of Z790’s additional PCIe 4.0 lanes.

Why Choose a Z690 Motherboard?

If price and model availability is the better priority, then a Z690 motherboard would be the best choice, period. While Z690 motherboards are still quite expensive, you can expect Z790 motherboards to be much pricier. Also, with the launch of Raptor Lake, you can expect local tech stores to slap discounts on previous-generation products very soon, which of course includes Z690 motherboards.

The caveat, of course, is finding a motherboard that supports BIOS flashback features, so that you don’t have to buy a 12th Gen CPU to perform the BIOS update. By model flexibility, the brand we can recommend is Gigabyte, which offers BIOS flashback options even for low-tier motherboards. For other brands, double-check if the feature is available on the motherboard’s official spec page.

Why Choose a Z790 Motherboard?

If you don’t want to bother with the muss and fuss of BIOS compatibility, or if you have any specific purpose for its expanded data bandwidth, then the Z790 should be a good choice. It might be more on the expensive side. but if you can aim for solid and balanced entry-level models such as Gigabyte’s UD series or MSI’s Pro lineup, then the investment difference shouldn’t be that big.

For early DDR5 adopters, the Z790 chipset might also be worth considering simply because it is the “tock” mode for Intel’s dual-generation support system.

Final Thoughts

Intel Z chipset category is hardly the tier level where consumers are worried about the price. However, due to the technical similarity of Z690’s and Z790’s design, and with the rapid adoption of next-generation technologies we have yet to fully utilize, cost differences are ultimately what you should consider when choosing between a Z690 or Z790 motherboard.

Z690 should still be the default recommendation for DIY enthusiasts. But, if the price is right, Z790 can open the doors for higher levels of data transfer potential, if you have a reasonable use case for it.