Feature Packed & OC Friendly: ASRock Z690 Taichi Review

Motherboards

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Whatever the cause, Z690 motherboards are currently selling for around $80 more than their predecessors. The sub-$200 models initially promised are simply nowhere to be found, and that makes the value criticisms of our previously tested Z690 Extreme WiFi 6E a little too harsh. With that out of the way, there are a few things that would give better-featured models an even greater cost premium over their predecessors, such as the added cost of PCIe 5.0 compliant bridges that are required to get us CPU PCIe bifurcation (sharing the CPU’s sixteen PCIe 5.0 lanes across two slots).  You’ll want that feature if you’re running Crossfire or hoping to eventually try a PCIe 5.0 storage device, which will probably come next year. Putting those considerations up front, it’s time to look more closely at a truly high-spec model, the Z690 Taichi.

That introduction puts the Taichi’s main feature advancement over the Extreme WiFi 6E up front: The two upper PCIe x16 slots can be configured as a single PCIe 5.0 x16 pathway, or as two PCIe 5.0 x8 pathways, while the third x16-length slot gets only four PCIe 4.0 lanes from the Z690 chipset (PCH).  All three are trimmed with metal reinforcement, but the metal looks more substantial for two that get CPU lanes.

The I/O port selection is far more generously equipped than our previous review model, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports that also support USB 4.0 at up to 40Gb/s transfers (2×2 mode) and, of course, dual monitors via Thunderbolt DisplayPort protocol. We also see two 10Gb/s and four 5Gb/s USB Type A ports, a 2.5Gb/s and a 1Gb/s network port, five stereo minijacks for analog connections at up to 7.1 channels, an optical SPDIF digital audio output, an HDMI 2.1 port that’s limited to 60Hz maximum refresh at 4k resolution, 2T2R antenna jacks for onboard Killer WiFi 6E at up to 2.4Gb/s, and a BIOS Flashback button that allows firmware updates without reliance on any CPU. Having said that, some ports share a controller so that you’ll never see more than 40Gb/s to Thunderbolt devices regardless of whether you have one or both ports connected.

Oh, and the gears on the decorative top cover occasionally spin in ten segments clockwise, then counterclockwise, on a firmware-configured timer.

The Z690 Tachi includes a black-anodized brushed aluminum back brace, which could add style to open-frame chassis builds. Though slightly more functional than the moving gears, its primarily aesthetic.

Some may argue that the M.2 drive covers are likewise aesthetic, since these drives typically run better when warm and often include their own heat sinks when the manufacturer feels that the heat is too great (of course, many of those are aesthetic as well). On the other hand, the graphics card support bracket exhibits pure function over form, as do the broad selection of ports and card interfaces. Power, reset and Clear RTC (BIOS) buttons are present in addition to the basics, as well as a two-digit alphanumeric status code (aka Port 80) display and an internally-located 5Gb/s USB Type A port, all of which are likely meant to convenience open-bench overclockers. Oddities that are a little harder to explain are the seventh SATA port located next to the diagnostics display, and the four-pin USB 2.0 half-header seen just forward of the DIMM slots.

The graphics card support mentioned above isn’t mounted to the board, but instead rests over two mounting holes at the Z690 Taichi’s lower leading edge. ASRock includes two M3 and two #6 mounting screws with 8mm shafts to fit the standoffs of most cases.

Stripping off the voltage regulator heat sinks and decorative covers reveals a very busy board that lacks nothing more than a couple extra M.2 slots when compared to the similarly priced MSI MEG Z690 Ace but alas, the MSI board provisions a mere two lanes to one of its slots by converting its third x16-length slot to x1. The competing Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero also offers five M.2 slots, but two of those are mounted on a riser card that consumes the center PCIe 5.0 slot to achieve this via an adapter card, while. That means Asus has only three M.2 slots onboard and that only four of MSI’s are useful to anyone who needs to maintain the bottom x16-slots native four-lane configuration.

That’s not to say that the Z690 Taichi makes perfect use of the Z690 platform’s available resources, as its third M.2 slot also runs in x2 mode, and our device count comes up four PCIe 4.0 lanes short of the platform’s allotment. Where did those lanes go? Please see our December 1st update at the end of Page 3 for a description of what we missed…and how we missed it!

The lower front corner includes two of the Z690 Taichi’s eight fan headers, an Intel-style front-panel button/LED header, a header for legacy 3-pin power LED and beep-code speaker leads, Power/Reset/Clear CMOS buttons, and the Port 80 style status code display. The oddball seventh SATA port and BIOS Flashback ASIC can be seen on the left side of this image, and a USB 2.0 dual-port header sits just past the left edge of the image.

The lower rear corner has Realtek’s ALC1220 audio codec and ESS SABRE 9218 DAC for Front Panel Audio (headphones), the front panel HD Audio cable header, a CLR_CMOS jumper (in case the button doesn’t work?), a traditional RGB port, one (of three) ARGB port, tow more fan headers, and a header for an external TPM module. Also visible is that the PCIe x1 port is open-ended, but the placement of the battery holder make it unlikely that anyone will attempt to use it with a longer card.

The Z690 Taichi’s upper front corner has two more ARGB headers, and two more fan connectors. We found out the hard way that those fan pins are perfectly aligned to get shoved under a fingernail when pressing the DIMM release latches, and now that you’ve been warned you’re less likely to suffer that fate.

A Renesas RAA 229131 voltage regulator controls 20 RAA22010540 MOSFETs, which are said to supply up to 105A each! Even if we could overclock a 12th Gen Core CPU at a mere 0.5V, that would allow up to 1050 watts. At a realistic 1.5V overclock, these parts could output nearly twice as much as a standard US wall jack could possibly feed the power supply. While this collection of parts appears overkill, having this much surplus capacity also means that regulator is assured to never be over-stressed.

 ASRock Z690 Taichi
SocketLGA 1700
ChipsetIntel Z690 PCH
Form FactorATX
Voltage Regulator20 Phases
 Rear I/O
Video PortsHDMI 2.1, (2) Thunderbolt 4 Display
Rear USB(2) 40Gb/s Type-C (USB4/Thunderbolt 4)
(2) 10Gb/s Type A; (4) 5Gb/s Type A
Network Jacks2.5GbE, Gigabit Ethernet, (2) Wi-Fi Antenna
Audio Jacks(5) Analog, (1) Digital Out
Legacy Ports/Jacks
I/O Panel ExtrasBIOS Flash
 Internal Interface
PCIe x16(2) v5.0 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)
(1) v4.0 (x4)
PCIe x8
PCIe x4
PCIe x1(1) v3.0
CrossFire/SLI2x / ✗
DIMM slots(4) DDR4
M.2 slots(2) PCIe 4.0 x4, (1) PCIe 3.0 x2 / SATA
SATA Ports(7) 6Gb/s
USB Headers(1) v3.x Gen 2×2, (2) v3.x Gen1, (1.5) v2.0, (1) Gen1 Type-A port
Fan Headers(8) 4-Pin
Legacy InterfacesSystem (Beep-code) Speaker, 3-pin PWR LED
Other InterfacesFP-Audio, (1) RGB LED, (3) ARGB LED, TPM
Diagnostics PanelNumeric
Internal Button/SwitchPower, Reset, CLR_CMOS / ✗
 Controllers
SATA ControllersIntegrated (0/1/5/10)
Ethernet ControllersKiller E3100G PCIe, WGI219V PHY
Wi-Fi / BluetoothKiller AX1675x WiFi 6E (2.4 Gb/s) / BT 5.2 Combo
USB ControllersJHL8540 Thunderbolt 4, ASM3042, ASM1074
HD Audio CodecALC1220
DDL/DTS Connect
Warranty3 Years

Does anyone remember USB 2.0 breakout plates? These began showing up decades ago to address the problem that AT (that is, pre-ATX) form factor motherboards had no space on the I/O panel for USB.  ASRock includes such an adapter with its Z690 Taichi, probably to deal with an observation this editor continuously made at another site regarding the need for nothing newer to host a keyboard and mouse. It does seem silly to waste high-bandwidth ports on those two devices, but perhaps not as silly as including an ancient adapter that was designed to address a problem that no longer exists. ATX has plenty of port space.

Other included items are the software guide, a 30mm auxiliary fan, a 40mm fan bracket, user manual, support disc, WiFi antenna, a Tachi logo postcard, a logoed keyboard key, a keyfob, and two hook & loop cable ties (we didn’t check for Velcro branding). The 30mm fan or 40mm fan bracket (with builder-selected fan) are designed to fit the forward end of the voltage regulator cooler but will only be “needed” when the board is installed into cases that have insufficient airflow. The Z690 Tachi already has a voltage regulator fan built into its rear heat sink, which is connected to the upper heat sink via a heat pipe. Our thermal tests will of course verify this statement.

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