Walled-in design makes air-cooler selection difficult
Overkill features such as dual Thunderbolt 4 and 2.5Gbe LAN add to the price
The Asus ROG Strix Z690-I is pricey, but for your investment you will be rewarded with a small form and outstanding function all together in the best next-generation Mini-ITX motherboard on the market today.
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There was a time when you’d need a massive super-tower PC to even think about running high-end hardware. While that’s not quite the “computer filling an entire room in 1960” meme, today’s Mini-ITX capabilities sure make it seem like it.
Enter the Asus ROG Strix z690-I on Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake platform. It packs an incredible number of features and performance in a tiny package. DDR5? Check. PCIe Gen 5? Check. Thunderbolt 4? Check. Throw in support for Intel’s hyper-fast i9 12900K, and it’s truly awe-inspiring what builds are possible.
We’ll go over the features, pricing, and whether this motherboard will be right for you!
Asus ROG Strix Z690-I: The specs
This one’s easy: Want a small PC? You’ll need a Mini-ITX form factor like this motherboard offers. Typically, this would mean a compromise in both performance and features, but the Asus Strix Z690-I does an incredibly good job of conquering both. Let’s list the important specs, and then we’ll discuss how they matter in the real world. Oh, it carries an MSRP of $439.99, too. Miniature tech doesn’t come cheap!
Mini-ITX form factor (6.7×6.7 inches)
Support for Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake LGA 1700 CPUs
10+1 power stages with 105 amps
PCIe Gen 5 16x slot
Two M.2 slots with M.2 latch
Nine USB ports on back, including two Thunderbolt 4
Intel Wi-Fi 6E
Intel 2.5Gbe LAN
3- and 4-pin RGB headers
Four SATA 6GB/s ports
ROG front-panel SATA card
Integrated I/O shield
Clear CMOS and BIOS flashback
Realtek ALC4080 codec
Asus ROG Strix Z690-I: Unique features
The spec list above translates into a mini powerhouse for real-world use. Here are the features that will be most impactful, and a few items to watch out for. There aren’t many ITX options for the Z690 platform, and this one certainly tops the list in terms of features.
Networking galore: You’ll get fast Wi-Fi 6E, plus Intel 2.5Gbe LAN
Daughterboard with two PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots and additional connectivity
ROG front-panel card with four SATA ports
Robust power stages for handling even the i9 12900K
PCIe Gen 5 16x slot
Armory Crate software for all-in-one system control
Clear CMOS and BIOS flashback
M.2 latch for easier access
CPU cooler backwards compatibility with LGA 1700 and LGA 1200
Competent onboard audio
Well-rounded Asus UEFI BIOS for tweaking and configuration
Walled-off VRM and daughterboard design can make some larger CPU air coolers impossible to fit; check specifications prior to choosing parts
MSRP of $439.99 plus the added cost of DDR5 make this an expensive package suited for only high-end ITX builds
You may be paying for features you won’t use—such as Thunderbolt 4 and 2.5Gbe LAN
Asus ROG Strix Z690-I: Design
Not all Mini-ITX motherboards are designed the same: Yes, it’s still a square, but Asus has packed so many vertical features here that it reminds you of skyscrapers in a city.
There’s certainly a downside to such tall structures: You’ll be limited by clearance and compatibility with some CPU air coolers, so plan wisely. RGB even makes an appearance here, although it’s likely to be tougher to see in some compact small form-factor builds.
The two included “daughtercards” pack in features that would otherwise have trouble fitting on the motherboard itself, such as SATA ports and M.2 slots. It creates a robust design look that, coupled with the VRM heatsinks, screams performance.
Two more design elements that will make the DIY enthusiast happy: First, M.2 latches mean no more losing those tiny screws. Second, the integrated I/O shield makes sure it’s never forgotten—and comes in handy in cramped cases where it’d be more difficult to maneuver. This is a feature that’s been appearing on higher-end motherboards the last few years, so it’s great to see it here.
Asus ROG Strix Z690-I: Performance and BIOS
The included 10+1 power stages may not seem impressive when compared to monster E-ATX motherboards like the Z690 Asus Extreme, but with 105 amps it gets the job done.
Supporting Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake, the board will handle even the beefy Core i9 12900K CPU without issues. The 12700K also makes a great pairing for this motherboard, running slightly cooler than the i9 but performing almost as well in most gaming scenarios.
DDR5 RAM is also available here with two DIMN slots, the perfect number for Z690. Quad RAM setups of DDR5 currently do not run at their maximum speed even on the most expensive of motherboards, so you’ll have tight performance here with two slots at the advertised RAM speeds.
Rounding out the performance for everyday use is PCIe Gen 5 and 4, where you’ll get the most benefit out of the rapid Gen 4 M.2 slots.
If you want to further tweak performance, you have the capable Asus UEFI BIOS, much like on larger motherboards. Here you can set basic options or go all out on tweaking and overclocking. There’s even Ai overclocking available in the BIOS, which can be augmented by Asus’s Armory Crate and Ai suite software.
Small form-factor builds have gained a tremendous amount of popularity lately. It’s fun to be able to pack ridiculous power into a shoe-box sized system with few compromises. Want to cram a ferocious Nvidia GeForce RTX 3090 Ti and Intel Core i9-12900K in a tiny build? This motherboard is the one for that—and it’s easily at home with either a Core i5-12600K or a mid-range GPU.
If you’re looking for the best next-generation motherboard for your Mini-ITX build, the Asus Z690-I Strix is your best bet with the least compromise. It’s not the cheapest option at $439, but it packs a plethora of features that other Mini-ITX options lack. You’ll also be able to take full advantage of the performance of Intel’s 12th-gen CPUs.
There are certainly drawbacks and things to be aware of, however. Much like any small form-factor build, you’ll generally be more limited with space and clearance for components such as the CPU cooler. That’s no exception here, and special care must be taken to choose the correct RAM and cooler to appropriately fit with its walled-in design. If you can fit the price in your budget—including more expensive DDR5 RAM, and the 12th-gen Intel CPU of course, than this is the best small form-factor motherboard available for Z690. (And with such a rich feature list, the best available on any platform, period.)