Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra

Up Close - MSI MEG Z490I Unify

Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra

Up Close - MSI MEG Z490I Unify

The packaging for the MSI MEG Unify definitely falls into the no nonsense category. Given how many rainbow gradients appear on hardware boxes these days the shadowy nature of the Unify design is a nice change and very attractive.

Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

It's amazing how different the three ITX motherboard designs are. You would imagine that with nearly identical specifications they would also look pretty much the same, but that's clearly not the case. The MSI MEG Z490I Unify eschews gaudy RGB lighting and instead opts for a flat black look with rubenesque curves on all the heatsinks.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

Normally the 12V CPU power input seems small on an ATX motherboard, but here on the ITX ones it shows how little room there is and how careful the designers have to be to squeeze everything on. The power phase heatsink has to have a cut out just to get it on all. Not a micron of space wasted.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

At the top we have two CPU fan headers alongside a system fan header, with the MSI RGB connector tucked away in the middle of the PCB edge.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

At the bottom right hand corner we find the vertically mounted, RAID SATA ports sitting alongside the front panel USB 3.2 Type-A and Type-C connectors.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

The heatsink that handles keeping everything, uncluding the Optane supporting M.2 slot, is a very curvaceous design in keeping with the power and IO section heatsink designs. We like it a lot and it adds a premium feel to the Unify. Additionally the braced PCI Express 3.0 slot keeps with the monochrome aesthetic that dominates the MSI MEG design.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

MSI have clearly gone all in on the power design, using an 8 phase 90A Smart Power Stage with Ti3 chokes and Intersil ISL99390B SPS to ensure that even our frugal Intel Core i9-10900K will have enough power for your most extreme overclocking efforts.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

Lastly around the back we find the regulation suite of connectivity options, with all types of USB represented, including the Thunderbolt 3 that is such a cornerstone of the Z490 chipset. If you want a simple system there are display outputs should you have a CPU with integrated graphics, whilst networking comes in both Realtek 8125B 2.5G and Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 flavours.


Z490 ITX Roundup, ASUS Strix vs MSI Unify vs Gigabyte Aorus Ultra  

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