Board Layout and Pictures
My initial impression of the MAG Z690 Carbon WiFi is that when looking back at some of the older original Carbon boards they have changed things up significantly for the better. The original Carbon designs relied heavily on fake carbon fiber always looked weird and too over the top. The Z690 Carbon WiFi on the other hand is a good looking board. At its base, the board is very blacked out with the black PCB and all of the heatsinks and plastic components being all black. But that isn’t to say there isn’t any styling, they do have the MSI Gaming dragon logo by the rear I/O and an angled checkerboard look printed across most of the heatsinks. Beyond the dragon logo, the branding isn’t too in your face as well, at least not without any lighting turned on.
Around the CPU socket, MSI has the Z690 Carbon WiFi loaded up with VRMs along with flat black heatsinks on both the top and side. Those heatsinks are tied together with a heatpipe to spread the heat around for better cooling. The Z690 Carbon WiFi has 18 phases for the vcore, each handling 75 amps each, and then there is one for the iGPU as well.
Starting in the top left corner. A majority of this area is filled with the CPU socket and the heatsinks for the vrm. But to the left of that is the rear I/O and that has a large cover which does have a second of weaved carbon fiber and then the dragon logo. Up on the top edge, they have the heatsink notched around the two 8-pin CPU power connections. Also if you look closely you can see that the cover over the rear I/O does have vents here to help let some heat out of that area.
For the top right corner, there is a lot more going on. Starting with the four DDR5 DIMM slots which are next to the CPU socket. Then above those up on the top edge, they have two PWM fan headers for a CPU fan and a pump then next to them is the JRainbow header which is for addressable RGB lighting. The Z690 Carbon WiFi then has a two-digit post status readout in the corner. Moving down the right side edge there is another system fan PWM header then a Corsair plug for plugging in Corsair branded products. Below that but on top of the 24-pin motherboard power, there are four small LEDs that are also used for post diagnostics that will lock to which area of the boot to help find issues. Then below the 24-pin power, the Z690 Carbon WiFi has one original style USB 3.2 header and then one of the new plugs for type-c connections.
Down in the bottom right quarter of the Z690 Carbon WiFi, the chipset heatsink covers a majority of the board here. MSI also has the M.2 heatsinks running down next to that heatsink so that they tie all together. On the right edge next to the chipset cooler they have a set of six SATA plugs at a right angle. Then along the bottom, they have a row of connections lined up. Starting on the far right in the corner they have the front panel connection along with the speaker hookup above it. The JBAT1 header is for an intrusion beeper. Then there are three PWM fan headers altogether. Above those, they have a trusted platform plug. Then two USB 2.0 headers as well as another PWM fan plug.
The bottom left ¼ of the Z690 Carbon WiFi has the PCIe slots as well as the M.2 slots which I will get into in just a minute. Then along the bottom, they continue the row of header connections along the bottom that runs from one side to the other. Starting from where we were before on the right the JTBT1 header is a thunderbolt 3 plug. The JPWRLED1 plug is for powering the RGB lighting when displaying the motherboard. Then next to that the JRAINBOW1 header is a season addressable RGB plug for addressable RGB lighting, this one also has a switch next to it that allows you to turn off the onboard lighting as well. Next to that is a standard four-pin RGB header for normal RGB lighting. Then on the far left, they have the front panel audio header.
Most of the bottom left corner is filled with the M.2 slots and PCIe slots so let's check those out as well. All of the M.2 slots are covered by a total of three large heatsinks that all link up with the chipset cooler. Each comes off and has thermal tape on the back to help pull heat out and away from any M.2 drives you install. The Z690 Carbon WiFi has five M.2 drives in this area which is an impressive amount of storage. The top M.2 slot also has cooling on the underside of the drive. The top M.2 drive is a PCIe 4.0 running directly off the CPU and then the next two are also PCIe 4.0 but those run off the chipset. Then the last two down at the bottom which are next to each other are both PCIe 3.0 and also off the chipset as well. MSI does note that the bottom right M.2_5 slot supports Intel Optane Memory if you were to use that and the bottom left M.2_4 when used will disable the SATA7 port. The first, third, and fifth M.2 slots all have built-in clips on the hold down standoffs that allow you to hold the drive down without a screw and tools. As for the PCIe slots, there are three in total hiding between all of the M.2 slots. The top two also have the steel armor around the slot. All of the M.2 slots also have steel armor as well. The two armored PCIe slots both support up to PCIe 5.0 and run directly off the CPU. If you use one slot you will get x16 speeds and if you need to use both they will drop down to x8 for each. Then the bottom slot which is x16 in length is a PCIe 3.0 slot running at x4 and this slot runs off the Z690 chipset.
For the rear I/O, I love that the Z690 Carbon WiFi does have an integrated shield to make installation easier and to avoid the times when you put everything together and remember you forgot to install the shield. It is all blacked out which should match most cases and each connection does have a label in grey. They also have the MPG branding on the far left. Starting on the left they have a small button hidden away as a BIOS flash button for updating the BIOS without having a CPU installed. Next to that, you get a tower of USB 2.0 plugs then they have two display connections for CPUs with onboard video. You get a DisplayPort and an HDMI. Next to that is a second stack of four USB plugs, these are all USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and the bottom one is highlighted for use with the BIOS flash. The next stack has a USB Type-C down at the bottom which runs at USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 and then another type-A above that which is 3.2 Gen 2 again like the other red ports for a total of 10 USB connections which is awesome. Then at the top of that stack, the Z690 Carbon WiFi has one ethernet which runs at 2.5G and uses the standard Intel I225V controller. Next to that are the wireless antenna connections which give the Z690 Carbon WiFi the WiFi in its name. This is an Intel WiFi 6E and also handles Bluetooth 5.2. Then on the far right, it has the standard audio array including an S/PDIF connection.
The back of the Z690 Carbon WiFi gets us another look at the blacked out PCB which on this side has more of a gloss finish. But what you are most likely going to spot first are the bright white circles that have warnings to avoid bumping the PCB into motherboard standoffs as well as arrows that point to spots where you might get standoffs in the wrong locations. The back also has all of the certification logos hidden back here which helps keep the top looking clean. Beyond that, this side makes it easier to see the split PCB for the audio circuit and we can also see the power VRMs on the back here along the side and top of the CPU socket.
Before moving on I did want to check out the lighting on the Z690 Carbon WiFi. Down at the chipset cooler some of the random spots are transparent and lit up by the lighting behind it but most of those are covered up when the video card is installed. You can however see the Carbon branding as well as the overall light spilling out around the heatsink. Then up on the cover over the rear I/O, they also have the MSI Gaming dragon logo lit up. Both have addressable RGBs. With the small accents covered by the video card, what we are left with is mostly just backlit branding which I don’t typically like. What the Z690 Carbon WiFi has isn’t too overdone or in your face at least, however.