NZXT has launched two new motherboards for Intel 12th Gen processors – the N7 and N5 Z690. Both use DDR4 memory rather than pricier DDR5, and retail for $300 and $230 respectively.
You can see a video review of the N7 Z690 below
We’ll be focussing on the N7 Z690 here, which has on-board 802.11ax Wi-Fi, PCIe 5.0 support, three M.2 slots for the latest SSDs. Its main feature, though, is the large shroud that covers the PCB, which is available in black or white. There are plenty of black motherboards out there, but relatively few white ones, but with white cases and graphics cards in hot demand, clearly owners of those will want to pair them with a white motherboard too.
Both N7 and N5 Z690 boards come with CAM support – NZXT’s fan and lighting software control. In fact, you’ll need to use this to quickly set your PC’s fan speeds if you’re into that level of tweaking, as there’s no visual fan curve tweaking section in the EFI – only individual settings.
The CAM software is easy to use and worked without a hitch, allowing you to control the response of each fan header on the motherboard with either a pre-set speed or custom curve, with the option to pick between processor and graphics card temperatures for the control input. However, the lighting didn’t seem to have any options for picking your own colour – only from a selection of presets, which did at least include white or NZXT purple.
Previous versions of NZXT’s motherboards have had issues with M.2 SSD temperatures due to the fact the slot covers enclosed the SSD in a confined space devoid of airflow while not providing a heatsink to dissipate heat. This was mainly an issue with powerful PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs, which did throttle if put under load for more than a minute or two.
Thankfully NZXT has listened and added a heatsink to the top slot, which saw the SSD temperature peak at 45°C – over 30°C lower than it did on previous versions of the motherboard. If you’re interested in VRM temperatures, these hit 54°C using a Core i9-12900K under full load for 10 minutes, which is well away from being warm enough to cause issues. Delving deeper into the power settings, both PL1 and PL2 limits were set to 241W as default and this did lead to very high power consumption in multi-threaded workloads. Prime95 for example saw 390W drawn by the system, which is around 70W higher than Z690 boards I tested a few months ago.
In addition to Wi-Fi there’s a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port, while there are seven USB ports on the back panel made up of USB 2, USB 3 and USB 3.2 Gen 2 in addition to a Type-C 2×2 port and corresponding Type-C header if your case has the necessary hardware to use it.
The board also offers USB BIOS Flashback, on board power, reset and CMOS clear switches and Realtek 1220 audio. The power delivery sports 13 CPU power phases and to keep your PC cool, there are seven fan headers, all of which can be controlled in the CAM software.
$300 is at the upper end of what you’d expect to pay for a mid-range Z690 motherboard, but you do get the gorgeous white details in addition to some useful testing tools and CAM support. NZXT has also fixed the temperature issue with the top M.2 slot and everything else you’d expect to see at this price is here such as Wi-Fi, PCIe 5.0 support, decent VRM cooling and plenty of ports.
The two issues, though, are high power consumption and what appears to be a lack of any way to pick the color of connected lighting accessories from a color palette or even pick red or green for example. Various effects plus purple or white are on offer, but ultimately if you want more control you’ll need a separate controller. I’m waiting to hear back from NZXT on this issue.
Other than those flies in the ointment, this is a solid motherboard for the cash and clearly a must-have for anyone that specifically needs a white motherboard that can handle Intel’s latest processors.