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MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi review: a top high end mini-ITX motherboard

MSI's high-end mini-ITX Z790 motherboard for Intel CPUs is the only one with three M.2 slots, plus it's well-cooled and has great onboard audio.

Our Verdict

The MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi is the only high-end mini-ITX Z790 board with three M.2 ports, plus it has good cooling, plenty of other features, and great audio performance too.

Reasons to buy
  • Three M.2 ports
  • Excellent UEFI
  • Great audio performance
Reasons to avoid
  • CPUs can run a little warm at stock speed
  • No Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4
  • Limited Type-A USB ports on the I/O panel

There are mini-ITX motherboards for Intel’s LGA1700 socket from every major manufacturer, and the MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi sits at the upper end of the scale price-wise, retailing for $330 (£330). This is considerably less than the Asus equivalent but pricier than the Gigabyte Z790I Aorus Ultra, so MSI has the tricky task of trying to stand out.

It doesn’t have the Thunderbolt support of the Asus ROG Strix Z790I Gaming WiFi, and the Gigabyte equivalent has nearly as many features for a whole lot less. However, the MSI Z790I Edge WiFi has one killer feature: three M.2 ports. With 4TB M.2 SSD prices at an all-time low, that’s a very attractive proposition, making this a clear contender for our best motherboard guide.

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Along with this storage advantage, the Edge also has USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports with the full 20Gbps bandwidth, 802.11ax Wi-Fi, and 12 power phases. As this is a Z-series motherboard, it supports multiplier-overclocking for Intel’s K-series CPUs, such as the Core i5 14600K, too.

Specs

The MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi specs list is:

Chipset Intel Z790
CPU socket LGA1700
Memory support 2 slots: DDR5
Expansion slots One 16x PCIe 5.0
Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC4080
Networking Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi, Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN
Cooling 3 x 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, VRM fan, M.2 heatsinks
Ports 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 4 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, HDMI, DisplayPort
Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170 (W x D x H)

Design

This is a mini-ITX motherboard that marks a change from MSI’s previous black designs, with its silver and white finish. The board itself looks great, with large heatsinks cooling the VRMs and the topside M.2 ports, the latter of which are stacked on top of one another.

The MSI MPG Z79i Edge wifi motherboard on a laminate surface

There’s no onboard RGB lighting, so you’ll need to hook up additional lighting strips to its RGB headers if this is a must-have feature. Meanwhile, the layout is reasonable but a little cramped in some places. For instance, the case fan header is lodged between the M.2 heatsink and 16x PCIe slot, so you’d need to remove the former or your graphics card in order to plug a fan into it.

One quirk of the layout is that the top of the I/O shroud and integrated I/O shield both feature ventilation holes for an included chipset fan. Thankfully, this proved to be quiet in operation and only spun up under heavy loads.

Features

While MSI offers a cheaper version of this board based on the B760 chipset, it lacks the Z790 board’s killer feature of three M.2 ports. Two of these drive slots support PCIe 4.0 SSDs and the third is limited to PCIe 3.0, but this still allows you to add a considerable amount of very fast storage, or have an upgrade path to add more drives in the future.

Not only is this a generally useful feature anyway – allowing for the elimination of any storage-related cables, but it particularly plays into the design desires of a mini-ITX PC, where space is at a premium. It’s also worth noting that 4TB M.2 SSDs often cost more than two 2TB versions of the same model, meaning opting for multiple smaller SSDs can sometimes save you money.

This board is designed to accommodate Intel’s 12th, 13th, and 14th Gen CPUs, as well as enable overclocking, so its large heatsinks and 12-phase power delivery are important. The VRM heatsinks are actively cooled by a small fan that switches on at a VRM temperature of about 65°C. Both top side M.2 ports, which are stacked on top of each other, are equipped with heatsinks as well.

The MSI MPG Z79i Edge wifi motherboard

Sadly, there’s no Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4 support, but you do get a 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port on the rear panel, and on the Type-C front panel connector, which can run the latest external flash drives at fast speeds. It only has six Type-A USB ports on the rear I/O panel, though, which is the bare minimum for a high-end motherboard in our books.

Handily, this board also supports 14th-gen CPUs out of the box, so there’s no need for BIOS Flashback, but there is a CMOS clear button here too, plus three audio jacks and antenna connectors for the 802.11ax Wi-Fi.

There are also three 4-pin fan headers, which is fairly standard for a mini-ITX motherboard as they rarely have more. As usual, there’s just one PCIe slot, which is also PCIe 5.0 compatible, and if you have hard disks or 2.5-inch SSDs, there are four SATA 6Gbps ports too.

BIOS/UEFI

MSI’s UEFIs are usually clear and easy to navigate, and the MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi is no exception. It’s easy to find important settings, such as enabling the XMP memory profile, while all your overclocking settings are housed within a single section.

We’re particularly keen on MSI’s fan control section, where you have full control over each header, with the option to switch inputs to something other than the CPU, plus you can switch fans off below certain temperatures and switch between PWM and voltage modes.

The ports on the MSI MPG Z79i Edge wifi motherboard

Performance

If you’re concerned about audio performance,then you’ll be pleased to know the dynamic range of 111dBA, noise level of -111dBA, and Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) result of 0.00124 are excellent and right up there with the best onboard audio we’ve seen.

Meanwhile, the VRMs were kept to a maximum temperature of 66°C thanks to all those heatsinks and the small fan. Meanwhile, our PCIe 4.0 SSD peaked at 68°C in our stress test, which is a good 10-12°C away from throttling, recording 7,039MB/s and 6,790MB/s read and write speeds, which are in line with expectations for our Kingston Fury Renegade test drive.

The video encoding test score of 976,698 from our benchmark suite was reasonable, but we’ve seen slightly better from other boards. The same was true in Cinebench R23, with the score of 23,511 being similar to the mediocre score we saw from MSI’s MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi.

Our test Core i5 13600K CPU did get a little hot under multi-threaded workloads, often dropping from an all-core boost of 5.1GHz to 4.9GHz until the temperature fell again. We did manage to overclock our CPU to 5.7GHz on all cores with a vcore of 1.35V on this board, though, which is a lower voltage than the one applied by the board at stock speed.

The MSI MPG Z79i Edge wifi motherboard

Price

The MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi price is $330 (£330), making this an expensive LGA1700 motherboard option. However, its trio of M.2 slots and good overall performance go a long way to making it offer reasonable value overall.

Verdict

If you want a premium mini-ITX Intel Z790 motherboard, and three M.2 ports, then there aren’t any other options, but thankfully the MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi is also a fantastic motherboard in its own right. You get the latest Wi-Fi technology, USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 front and rear Type-C ports, decent audio, and enough VRM and M.2 cooling to power high-end hardware.

It lacks some high-end features, though, such as Thunderbolt 4, USB 4, and a PCIe 5.0 M.2 port, which are present on the competition from Asus’ Intel and AMD mini-ITX boards. We’d like to have seen a few extra Type-A USB ports too, but otherwise this board is a great choice if you’re building mini-ITX PC, particularly if you want to add a lot of storage.