MSI MEG Z490 Unify Review


MSI MEG Z490 Unify Review


Whenever we're looking at the results of a motherboard, they usually turn up incredibly close results. Such is the solidity of modern manufacturing and how much of the technology is packed into the chipset, there really isn't anything that separates each motherboard apart from the amount of bells and whistles you get. For the Unify it is, on paper, equally as good as many of the more expensive options we've looked at. To wit;

MSI MEG Z490 Unify Price  

Now the Maximus XII Extreme, Godlike and Aorus Xtreme are clearly not competitors for the Unify. The Carbon and Strix-E are equally as good, and similarly priced. The Prime is much cheaper but the performance was a little less consistent and you're giving up some connectivity as well. Now this motherboard doesn't have any onboard RGB, but the extra cost of the MEG Unify is probably related to its use of 90A MOSFETs rather than the 60A or 45A ones. As we saw in our testing they aren't being stretched at all, with VRM temperatures a long way down the graph. What was surprising is how we just couldn't get our Core i9-10900K to be stable at 5.2 GHz, as we have with nearly all the others we've reviewed, but instead it topped out at 5.1 GHz. Any addition of volts only increased heat without actually helping the processor run faster, and throughout our testing it was clear that the extra 100 MHz on the other Z490 motherboards we've tested makes a difference.

All things are relative of course. We're still talking about over 5 GHz on all ten cores and twenty threads, and the Unify devours benchmarks with the panache that those numbers would imply. It's just not as good as the others we've looked at. At stock there are no such issues with the matching up to pretty much everything else.

What you end up with is a motherboard which is a strange mix of attractive and slightly disappointing elements. The power phases are tremendous and should easily get our Core i9 to the stratosphere, but doesn't quite. But this is still a sub £300 motherboard with 90A MOSFETs, the kind we've seen on the three flagship models. Equally we really like MSI's decision to eschew onboard RGB lighting and instead give you LED strip headers - including one especially designed for the popular Corsair setup - and make the plastic black, so if you don't want any lighting at all you aren't stuck with bright white plastics ruining your aesthetic. Three M.2 slots are more than enough for even the most storage rich user, whilst there are plenty of USB ports and networking options to ensure you can run all you need to.

MSI regularly provide BIOS updates, and we're sure that a future release will iron out whatever issue we have that is causing our CPU to overclock a little lower than other Z490s we've tested so far. The price and looks are very attractive, and it goes down a route that other manufacturers aren't taking, but dropping the onboard RGB lightshow that defines current hardware.

If you want a stealth motherboard, that has all the hardware necessary to run hard and fast, the MSI MEG Z490 Unify is both affordable and capable. It's just a shame that we couldn't quite squeeze that last 100 MHz from it.

MSI MEG Z490 Unify Review  

Discuss the MSI MEG Z490 Unify on the OC3D Forums.

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