Long live DDR4 memory
The Tomahawk is a board that uses DDR4 memory to make the transition to the latest CPU and connectivity technology cheaper and easier.
Simple and functional design
Somewhat high price
No built-in RGB lights
With the new generation of Intel processors, the new and very expensive DDR5 memory has come into our lives. However, for today’s review we have a board with a Z690 chipset and compatible with PCIe 5.0 that still uses the well-known DDR4 memory.
Packaging and accessories
The Tomahawk arrives in a black and gray cardboard box that is decorated with a photo of the license plate on the front. On the back there is another similar photo but in this case with details about the main characteristics of this plate. Then I leave you with a list of what is inside.
- MSI MAG stickers
- MSI emblem
- User manual
- Fast guide
- SATA III 6Gb / s cables
- WiFi antennas
- Clips for M.2 ports
- 16Gb Pendrive
Design and build
The MAG Tomahawk is a license plate ATX format, so it has the typical dimensions of 30.5 x 24.4cm. It is built on a 6-layer black PCB which has a series of silkscreens in white and gray. Its design is quite simple and it can be a bit boring since the only color note is in the area dedicated to the integrated audio. But I’ll talk about this later.
Why do I say the only color note? Well, because unlike the vast majority of boards of this type on the market, the MAG Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 does not have integrated RGB lighting. However, it is compatible with this type of technology and has several connectors for the lights. Specifically, it has 3 A-RGB connectors 3-pin connector and a 4-pin RGB connector, spread across the board.
The closest thing to an integrated lighting are 4 LEDs that the plate has as a debug what MSI calls EZ Debug LED. These LEDs light up and change color as the equipment starts up and indicates, in the event of an error, which part is causing problems.
But leaving non-enlightenment aside. The most interesting thing about this board is possibly the type of memory it uses, I am talking about the well-known DDR4 memory. For this the Tomahawk has 4 slots that they admit up to 128Gb in total and supporting speeds of up to 5200MHz with overclock. Although, as you already know, depending on the memory that is installed, this speed can be very different.
Then we have the integrated audio which is made up of a Realtek ALC4080 chip and a handful of japanese capacitors. This type of solution usually offers quite acceptable quality and also supports 7.1 surround sound, so it is sufficient for most users.
To comply in this regard, the Tomahawk has a controller Intel I225V that provides you with a connection 2.5Gbps Ethernet. Besides that, it also has WiFi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2 wireless connectivity governed by a controller Intel XXXXX.
On this board there are a good number of PCIe ports but not all of them are what they appear to be. The first of them is a metal-reinforced x16 port that comes from the CPU and is compatible with the newest PCIe 5.0 standard.
Then you have 3 other ports more normal that come from the chipset. The first one is a x1 port and the other 2 appear to be x16 but the first is only x4 and the other is x1.
For storage, the Tomahawk has a total of 6 SATA III ports managed by the chipset. They are located in the lower right part of the plate and are arranged in different ways, 2 horizontally and another 4 vertically.
It also has 4 M.2 ports of different characteristics and with different origins. To make it easier, I will refer to them with numbers. The 1 comes from the CPU, it supports the standard PCIe 4.0 to x4 and it only supports NVME drives. The 2 is the same only it comes from the chipset. Then the 3 is somewhat rarer, it has the same origin as the 2 but it is PCIe 3.0 and supports NVME and SATA drives. Finally there is the 4 which is the same as 2 but also supports SATA drives.
Internal USB ports
Later I will tell you the number of USB ports that this board has on the rear panel. Now, I can tell you that the number of internal connectors is more than enough and there are a total of:
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A connector (2 ports)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connector (1 port)
- 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (4 ports total)
VRM and power delivery
In addition to the 24-pin ATX connector and because these new Intel processors can have very high consumption levels, the MAG Z690 Tomahawk has 2 8-pin ATX connectors.
These connectors feed directly to the VRM which consists of a total of 18 phases of which 16 of them are for the CPU.
In turn, these phases are formed by a series of MOSFETs MPS2118 of 70A each that are governed by a MPS2120 controller. The rest of the VRM is made up of metal chokes and solid capacitors high perfomance.
As I told you a few lines ago, it is time to reveal the number of USB ports on the rear panel and on the way all the other connections it has. The list is as follows.
- Button Flash Bios
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1
- 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2
- 2.5Gbps LAN (RJ45)
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2
- 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 × 2 (Type C)
- WiFi + BT antennas
- Optical S / PDIF output
- 5x Audio jack (s)
Extracted from the manual so that you are more clear about the location of each port or component on the PCB.
|Cash register||MSI MPG Sekira 100P|
|Base plate||MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4|
|Refrigeration||Arctic Freezer i35 RGB|
|Processor||Intel i5 12600K|
|RAM||Team Group Xtreem ARGB|
|GPU||AMD Radeon RX 6800XT|
|SSD||Asgard AN2 500Gb|
|Fountain||MSI MPG A850GF|
BIOS and software
The BIOS of this board, like most boards of this manufacturer, has 2 modes of operation. The first one is quite simple and intuitive and at a glance it allows you to see the main configuration options. The second way is more traditional and is intended for advanced users who want to fine-tune even the smallest detail.
Then, from the Windows environment, we have at our disposal the MSI Center suite that is common to most of the brand’s devices. This software allows us to keep the drivers updated, modify the behavior of the RGB lights that we install or simply monitor the equipment among a multitude of things.
Overclock and temperatures
Before talking about the capabilities of this board, I have to tell you a couple of things first. The first is that the day I did the tests was a pleasant winter day and the ambient temperature was close to 21º. The second is that to check the stability I used the well-known OCCT software in linpack mode for about half an hour.
In my case, instead of forcing the frequency of all the cores, I decided to change the ratio based on the number of active cores. This is the way the processor itself adjusts its speed and unsurprisingly the Tomahawk had no problem speeding up my test CPU.
But being more specific, I got a overclock 5GHz for all cores and 5.2GHz for only one. In addition to that, I was also able to increase the speed of the E-cores up to 4Ghz, all with an automatic voltage that barely touched 1.4v.
However, the memories gave me many more problems but I don’t think it was the fault of the plate. After all and according to Intel, this processor with DDR4 memory supports a maximum speed of 3200MHz and I was asking for much more than that.
However, I had no problem activating the XMP profile and reaching 4000MHz CL15 of the memories. I suppose that future revisions of the BIOS will allow to increase this figure somewhat although it is something that ultimately only depends on the CPU controller.
In this regard, the fact of using a CPU with only 6 cores is very important since it has a much lower consumption than the higher models. Now, you can see that the Tomahawk is a board designed to squeeze those processors since in my case the VRM barely reached 55º during the tests. This is why I have no doubt that with a processor like the 12900K you can also get good results.
Verdict and Alternatives
The MAG Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 is a board that has a simple and functional design that also has the latest technology in connectivity. It also has a good number of M.2 ports for storage and thanks to the generous integrated heatsinks they have a cool operation even with overclock.
But without a doubt the best thing about this board is the type of memory it uses. And it is that today the DDR5 is prohibitively priced and does not seem to improve performance enough to be worth the outlay.
Finally, the MAG Z690 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 has a price that seems to me to be somewhat high and that exceeds € 300 but I still recommend this board to anyone who wants to continue using DDR4 memory to assemble a state-of-the-art equipment.