Along with the 13th generation Core processors to update the desktop platform, Intel also introduced the Intel Z790 chipset, and motherboard manufacturers immediately offered new devices based on it. Today we are reviewing an interesting MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 model based on a top PCH with support for DDR4 standard RAM.
Intel Z790 chipset
If you compare the functionality and specifications of the Intel Z790 and its predecessor, the Intel Z690, then obviously the appearance of the new chipset can rather be called a tribute to motherboard manufacturers who need to update their range of devices.
The difference is so subtle that it’s hard to see even in a spec sheet. Both chipsets support Core processors of the 12th and 13th generations, allow you to overclock both the processor and the RAM. Both connect to processors via DMI 4.0 x8 and have 28 PCI Express bus lines at their disposal. The redistribution of available links according to standards is the main difference between the two chipsets. If the Intel Z690 has a configuration of 16/12 for PCI-E 3.0/4.0, then the Intel Z790 provides a redistribution towards higher speed lines – 8/20 PCI-E 3.0/4.0. That is, the new chipset offers more lines for connecting high-speed peripherals. However, of course, these are maximum values and a potentially available opportunity, while the actual implementation depends solely on specific board models.
|Intel Z790||Intel Z690|
|CPU support||12th/13th generation Intel Core||12th/13th generation Intel Core|
|Memory Support||DDR4-3200; DDR5-4800/5600||DDR4-3200; DDR5-4800/5600|
|Communication with the processor||DMI 4.0 x8||DMI 4.0 x8|
|PCI-E 4.0 bus lines||20||12|
|PCI-E 3.0 bus lines||8||16|
|USB 3.2 Gen1 ports (5 Gb/s)||up to 10||up to 10|
|USB 3.2 Gen2 ports (10 Gb/s)||up to 10||up to 10|
|USB 3.2 Gen2x2 ports (20 Gb/s)||up to 5||up to 4|
|SATA 6 Gb/s ports||up to 8||up to 8|
|RAID support||RAID 0, 1, 5, 10||RAID 0, 1, 5, 10|
Another difference between the Intel Z790 and the Intel Z690 is an increase from 4 to 5 supported USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports with a bandwidth of up to 20 Gb/s. The practical benefit here is small, so even on top mods you will not see more than 1-2 ports of this standard on any board.
Yes, the differences between Intel Z790 and Intel Z690 are few, but the nuances of specific devices based on them lie in details that are not always noticeable at first glance. First of all, this is the strengthening of the processor power stabilizer unit. The Raptor Lake chips, in addition to increasing performance, have also increased power consumption, especially when it comes to older models with unlocked multipliers. We remind that for such CPUs, the specified thermal package of 125 W is only the first energy step, while the defined PL2 level is up to 251 W. And we are talking about the regular mode of operation of the processors. Therefore, the load on motherboards increases additionally. In such conditions, the appearance of Intel Z790 is another opportunity for manufacturers to tighten VRM parameters for updated board models, if for some reason devices on PCH of the previous generation did not take into account the appearance of such powerful processors.
|Model name||MSI MPG Z790 EDGE Wi-Fi DDR4|
|Processors||Intel Core 12/13 generations (Core i9/i7/i5/i3-12xxx/13xxx), Pentium, Celeron|
|Form factor||ATX, 305×244 mm|
|RAM||4×DIMM DDR4, up to DDR4-5333+; 128 GB|
|Expansion slots||1×PCI-E 5.0 x16; 1×PCI-E 4.0 x16 (x4 mode); 1×PCI-E 3.0 x1|
|Drives||5×M.2 PCI-E 4.0 x4; 7×SATA|
|Network||1×2.5 GbE LAN (Intel i225-V); 1×Wi-Fi 6E (Intel AX211, 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.3)|
|Front panel ports||4×USB 3.2 Gen1; 4×USB 3.2 Gen2; 1xUSB 3.2 Gen2 (Type-C); 1×USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (Type-C); HDMI 2.1; DisplayPort 1.4; 2x antenna; 5x audio; S/PDIF|
|Fans||8×4 pin (PWM/DC)|
|Estimated price||16,500 UAH (~$410)|
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 delivery kit
The board comes in a box with a somewhat unusual design in light colors. Included with the device, the manufacturer offers a short paper quick installation guide, two SATA cables, an external amplification antenna for the wireless network controller, fixing racks for M.2 storage devices and a set of stickers for marking interface cables and decorating fans with logos.
Finally, the times have come when drivers and proprietary utilities are offered on a separate flash drive, and not on an optical disc, which is mostly already perceived as archaism. The progressiveness of the board configuration is also evident in the absence of the usual paper manual.
Design and layout
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 is made in ATX format with standard dimensions of 305×244 mm. The model is based on the Intel Z790 chipset and supports all processors for the LGA1700 platform, both 12th generation Core chips (Alder Lake) and 13th generation Core processors (Raptor Lake). Of course, working with the latter will not require a previous firmware update, as boards on Intel 6xx series chipsets require.
The board has a 6-layer PCB with double the thickness of the copper layer. The printed circuit board has a mask of black color with a matte surface coating. Elements of radiator structures of the cooling system have a characteristic silver color, natural for aluminum products.
Radiators cover a significant area of the board, so in the general visual perception you can notice a clear contrast of the surface and radiator blocks. Already traditional for older MSI models, the protective cover above the interface panel is not a decorative element, but part of the overall massive structure, which is directly used to cool the elements. On the radiator itself, there is an overall profile with an image of MSI’s signature keeper of the gaming iron – a dragon. The constant symbol has an additional highlight, which we will get to later.
Looking at the appearance of the MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4, we immediately notice a large number of chokes lined up in rows next to the processor connector. A fairly powerful power subsystem was implemented for the board, which received an 18-phase configuration – 16+1+1.
At the same time, the circuit uses Smart Power Stage elements with a maximum operating current of up to 90 A. This is a noticeable difference from the models of the previous generation. For example, for the MSI model of the same line, but based on Intel Z690, assemblies with a peak of 75 A were used. The power consumption of the 13th generation Core chips has increased, so the additional power of the power unit of the stabilizer will not be superfluous.
To cool power assemblies, as well as VRM throttles, radiators with an increased heat dissipation area are used. As we have already noted, one of the radiators generally has gigantic dimensions, allowing it to simultaneously perform the role of a decorative casing. In addition, the design uses a heat pipe that is in direct contact with the elements. This allows for faster heat distribution and more efficient use of the capabilities of both radiator units.
To improve heat transfer in contact areas, gaskets with a declared thermal conductivity of 7 W/(m·K) are used.
Additional power for the processor is supplied using two 8-pin connectors, which is quite expected for a model of this level.
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 is equipped with slots for standard DDR4 RAM. It would be strange to expect otherwise, given the name of the model itself. Core chips of the 12th and 13th generations support both DDR4 and DDR5, so manufacturers give potential buyers the opportunity to decide on the type of memory themselves, offering board models designed for one type and another. By the way, the MSI range also includes the MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI modification with identical functionality, only equipped with slots for DDR5.
Returning to the MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4, we note the presence of four slots for DDR4, allowing the use of up to 128 GB of memory. Declared support for kits up to DDR4-5333+, provided a pair of the same-level models is used.
The board has three PCI Express interface slots for connecting expansion cards. The main full-format PCI-E 5.0 x16 received a metal reinforcing casing (Streel Armor), as well as a latch with an increased blade area for more convenient pressing when removing the video card. In this case, the existing PCI-E 5.0 processor lines are not shared. The possibilities of using SLI/CrossFireX connections are not provided. However, at this stage, graphics card developers have played with multi-adapter solutions in desktop configurations. We are not talking about such connections at all, including for discrete graphics of the new generation based on the Ada Lovelace and RDNA 3 architectures.
And in general, the PCI-E 5.0 x16 slot can still be considered an option for the future, because both key developers of discrete graphics, as well as Intel joined them, were satisfied with the capabilities of the PCI-E 4.0 standard bus in their new solutions.
The board also has a second full-size PCI-E x16 slot, for which the Intel Z790 chipset implements PCI-E 4.0 x4 capabilities. Another slot available on the board is PCI-E 3.0 x1. In general, the list of available connectors for additional expansion boards can be called the minimum necessary, especially for a board of this level. On the other hand, for most cases, such possibilities will be enough.
But what the owner of the MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 will probably not have to complain about is the ability to connect M.2 storage devices. As many as five connectors and landing pads are provided on the board for the use of SSDs of a similar format.
M.2 drives are often used not only as fast system SSDs, but also in all other cases. Therefore, if the motherboard allows it, then of course it is better to organize the data storage of the required capacity precisely with the help of models of this form factor.
The first M.2 port, located above the PCI-E x16 slot, uses PCI-E 4.0 x4 processor lines. The landing platform allows you to install drives up to 110 mm long. In addition, this port also has additional features.
It is for M.2_1 that additional cooling of the drive elements on both sides is provided. As you can see in the photo, the radiator plate with a heat-conducting strip is already pre-fixed on the site. This is a useful application especially for high-capacity SSDs with double-sided flash layout.
Screwless SSD mounting does not cause much surprise, except that it adds comfort during system assembly. But in this case, the MSI developers decided to go even further, offering to fix the main radiator without the help of a screwdriver.
A mechanism with additional supports and a latch allow you to securely fasten the radiator plate to the SSD.
For all other M.2 drives, a screwless system of fastening the SSD itself is provided, but to install the radiator unit, you will still have to arm yourself with a screwdriver. In this case, rather massive aluminum plates of coolers should be noted. It is also a plus that additional blocks are provided for all M.2 drives.
Note that four of the five connectors are designed for connecting an SSD with a PCI-E interface. Nominally, all connectors are designed for PCI-E 4.0 x4, but thanks to backward compatibility, models designed for the PCI-E bus of previous generations can also be used on the board. As for M.2 models with SATA, only one of the five ports (M.2_3) allows you to connect a drive with this interface.
For MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4, the possibility of connecting M.2 storage devices supporting PCI-E 5.0 is not provided. For the LGA1700 platform, in general, the use of such SSDs actually depends on the will of the motherboard manufacturers. The fact is that the Core processors of the 12th/13th generations have 16 PCI-E 5.0 lanes, as well as 4 PCI-E 4.0 lanes. The chipsets do not offer PCI-E 5.0 at all. If you want to connect the highest speed SSDs, you need to split the PCI-E 5.0 processor links into x8+x4+x4 and organize the interface conversion to M.2. Manufacturers agree to do such manipulations only for top models. Unfortunately, MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 was not included in the selected pool. M.2 PCI-E 5.0 ports on the Intel Z790 from the nearest models starts with the more expensive MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WIFI.
As for the native SATA ports for the respective devices, the MSI M PG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 has seven such connectors at its disposal. A row of six ports is located on the right side, with one more near the bottom edge.
To configure the cooling system, the board offers eight 4-pin connectors. One of them has increased power with a current of up to 3A, for connecting the pump of the liquid system. Another one is also reinforced to 2A – for the processor cooler. The rest are one-ampere for connecting case fans. All connectors are controlled independently, and allow you to choose the method of regulation (PWM or DC).
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 does not pamper owners with options for management on an open stand. Of the auxiliary options, only the EZ Debug LED primary diagnostics system is available here with a set of four LEDs. By the way, although it is simple, it is quite a convenient mechanism that allows you to quickly find out which node causes problems with starting the system.
Another element that is found, it seems, only on MSI boards is the hardware toggle switch for turning off the RGB backlight (LED_SW1). If the illumination of the system unit is not initially included in your plans, feel free to switch it to the OFF position, then it will not be possible to activate it even through software in the settings.
The MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 sound subsystem is implemented on the Realtek ALC4080 controller, and specialized capacitors are used in the circuit. An isolation track is provided to partially isolate the zone, and the signals of the right and left channels are transmitted on different layers of the printed circuit board.
For additional customization, only standard capabilities with basic options are provided.
The sound is bright, with rich bass. Compared to a high-quality USB DAC (Topping D10), it is too bright, the motherboard sounds sharp against its background, there is a little too much bass. The DAC gives a noticeably softer and more balanced sound. But, of course, such comparisons with an integrated solution can be considered an exaggeration. Discerning music lovers will not focus on integrated sound at first.
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 is perfectly prepared for network connection. The Intel 2.5 Gb/s controller is responsible for the wired connection. To work with wireless networks, the board is equipped with a three-band Intel WiFi AX211 controller (Wi-Fi 6E), providing a maximum data transfer rate of up to 2400 Mb/c and supporting Bluetooth 5.3.
The module for working with wireless networks is fixed in the area of the interface panel. A fairly large external antenna is provided to amplify signal reception/transmission.
The interface panel as a whole is quite saturated. First of all, we note the presence of an already fixed plug for installation in the case. The list of ports is quite representative. The panel has two video outputs – DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1. Four USB 3.2 Gen1 (USB 3.0 – 5 Gb/c) and the same number of ports are also located nearby in USB 3.2 Gen2 with a bandwidth of 10 Gb/s. In addition, there are two USB Type-Cs, one of which also offers 10 Gb/c, while the other implements USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 with double the bandwidth at 20 Gb/s. As you can see, the increase of potentially possible chipset channels at such a speed is difficult to turn into an advantage in practice. Intel Z790 models, as in the case of Intel Z690 devices, at best offer one or two USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports. By the way, there really is a practical benefit from high-speed USB – the range of external storage devices for which a channel of 20 Gb/s is not superfluous is gradually increasing.
The interface panel of the board also has an Ethernet socket, connectors for connecting the wireless module antenna, five audio connectors and an optical S/PDIF output. Two additional buttons allow you to quickly clear the CMOS memory and activate the BIOS firmware from an external USB drive.
On the back side of the PCB, you can see the isolation track of the audio subsystem, and also make sure that the heatsinks on the power elements and the chipset are attached with screws.
As for the external decoration of the MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4, here the developers have limited themselves to the elegant RGB illumination of the logo with a dragon on the casing of the interface panel. Bright colors in the basic design of motherboards are used less and less often, and this is a good trend. However, if necessary, it’s not a problem. For cases when there is a desire to flood the interior of the system unit with light, the board provides one connector for an RGB tape made of 5050 elements, as well as three connectors for connecting addressable ARGB garlands of the second generation.
Of course, it is possible to synchronize the backlight using the MSI Mystic Light proprietary protocol, and the necessary settings can be made in the MSI Center application.
UEFI and software settings
MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4 uses the Click BIOS 5 shell with a familiar interface.
EZ Mode allows you to configure basic parameters, choose an XMP profile for memory, a drive for booting, and configure the cooling system’s operation algorithm.
For finer settings, go to Advanced mode. A wide list of parameters is available here, which will satisfy even the most demanding enthusiasts. Among the key options, we note the ability to change the power supply voltage of the computing cores of the processor in the range of 0.6–1.72 V, which opens up opportunities not only for experiments with overclocking, which the processor itself does well in general, but also allows for more interesting down-volting from a practical point of view to reduce energy consumption.
The power supply voltage of RAM modules is regulated within 0.85–2.2 V.
For software configuration of the platform, the manufacturer suggests using MSI Center. The complex includes a whole list of additional options, starting from flexible definition of the operating mode of the liquid cooling system and backlight synchronization, ending with setting the priority of network traffic and system monitoring.
Test bench configuration
- Processor: Intel Core i5-13600KF (6/12+8; 3.5/5.1 GHz + 2.6/3.9 GHz)
- Cooling system: MSI MPG CORELIQUID K360
- RAM: 2×16 GB DDR4-3600 Kingston FURY Beast DDR4 RGB (KF436C18BBAK2/32)
- Video card: MSI GeForce RTX 3080 SUPRIM X 12G LHR
- Drive: MSI SPATIUM M480 PCIe 4.0 NVMe M.2 (2 TB)
We used a Core i5-13600KF processor to test the capabilities of the motherboard.
A very balanced model from the new Raptor Lake chip line. A good price-performance ratio makes it possible to recommend this particular CPU even for advanced gaming configurations. For such systems, the connection with the GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card looks almost the most attractive in this class. It just so happened that we also used the MSI GeForce RTX 3080 Suprim X 12G LHR graphics adapter for the test configuration. We couldn’t resist running a few tests that are only partially related to the motherboard.
The combination of CPU+GPU allowed us to score 18,452 total points in the Time Spy stage, while the graphics – 18,931 points, and in the processor test we have 16,141 points. The additional screen shows that during testing, the processor frequency remained stable at 5100 MHz.
In the GeekBench 5 synthetic test, the Core i5-13600KF processor scores 1,974 points in a single-threaded load and 14,733 points in multi-threaded mode.
It was also interesting to get the results in the popular Cinebench R23. Here, the 20-thread processor also shows very good performance – 1928/23964 points. Judging by the comparison charts presented in the test, the performance of the Core i5-13600KF under multi-threaded load is very close to that shown by the 24-core 48-thread server chip Intel Xeon W-3265M (2.7/4.6 GHz; TDP 205 W ). The last one was introduced in 2019 and costs $6987. We are far from putting an equal sign between these processors, but as we can see, they are very similar in some tasks. However, the capabilities of desktop CPUs have improved significantly in recent years.
The Cinebench R23 multi-threaded test is also a good opportunity to evaluate the processor’s power consumption. HWinfo64 records peak bursts of up to 221W with an average of 195-200W. As you can see in the screenshot, all the productive cores worked at 5100 MHz, and the frequency of the energy-efficient cores was kept at 3900 MHz. A serious load, it is also a good opportunity to evaluate the temperature mode of operation of the elements of the power subsystem of the motherboard. According to the obtained indicators, the MOS assembly warmed up to only 53.5C. These are very good figures, especially considering the processor load of 200+ watts.
In our case, the MSI MPG CORELIQUID K360 liquid system was used to cool the CPU, while the Core i5-13600KF warmed up to 84C under load. Therefore, when it comes to even the top chips of the Core i5 series from the Raptor Lake line, you need to first think about the most effective cooling. The high performance of 10-nanometer chips is not least achieved through increased frequencies and supply voltage, which affects power consumption and heating.
We also checked the heating of the power elements when the processor was loaded during the AIDA64 stress test. As it turned out, such a stage caused less stress on the system. The power consumption of the processor was kept at the level of 165 W, while the CPU cores worked at 5000/3900 MHz. In such conditions, the MOS elements on the board warmed up to 49C. An oversized cooler with a heat pipe helps to distribute heat and use the entire radiator structure more efficiently. However, it should be taken into account that at the time of the tests the temperature in the room was 19-20C.
As for overclocking the processor, the Core i5-13600KF mostly, after a slight increase in the supply voltage, allows you to increase the frequency of the productive cores to 5.4-5.6 GHz, and the energy-efficient cores to 4.3-4.4 GHz. In such cases, the power consumption of the CPU increases significantly, so additional overclocking does not have much practical benefit. More interesting is the search for a compromise mode that allows you to get maximum speed with minimum consumption.
To test the capabilities of the MSI MPG Z790 EDGE WIFI DDR4, we used a dual-channel RAM kit 2×16 GB Kingston FURY Beast DDR4 RGB (KF436C18BBAK2/32) DDR4-3600.
According to the available XMP profile, the set has a delay formula of 18-22-22-39 and a supply voltage of 1.35 V. Usually, after activating this mode, the set worked stably.
In this case, we get transfers at the level of 51–54 GB/s and a total latency of about 69 ns.
The kit also worked without problems after switching to DDR4-4000 mode without changing the delay formula and supply voltage. In this case, we draw your attention to the fact that the board allows you to use Gear1 for such conditions. Bandwidth increased to 55-59 GB/s with a latency of 65.5 ns.
The modules from the existing kit use SK Hynix CJR (C-die) memory chips, so we initially did not count on frequency records when trying to overclock. After superficial experiments, it was possible to obtain stable operation of the set in DDR4-4400 mode at 20-26-26-48 and a supply voltage of 1.4 V. After increasing the effective frequency of the chips, the bandwidth increased to 58-64 GB/s with a total delay of 67.5 ns.