If you are in the market for a 12th or 13th-generation Intel motherboard, you would’ve come across multiple different motherboards, but which one should you choose for your ultimate PC build?
The release of the Intel Alder Lake CPUs came with four new types of motherboards: Z690, H670, B660, and H610. In this article, I am going to compare the two most popular options – Z690 and the B660.
This article will dive into the specs and detailed technical breakdown of each motherboard. Along the way, I will simplify the jargon, which will help you understand each aspect of these motherboards in a better way.
After extensively comparing both motherboards in a Z690 vs. B660 head-to-head format, I will highlight the use cases of these motherboards so you can make a more informed decision.
There is a lot of information to dig in, so without further ado, let’s begin.
Brief Overview of the Z690 Chipset
The Z690 is the highest-end motherboard chipset that Intel offers for Alder Lake processors. It comes with all the bells and whistles and showcases the capability of Intel’s Alder Lake platform.
As such, the Z690 chipset is superior compared to any other Alder Lake motherboard chipset. However, this article’s premise is to determine whether the price premium this Z690 chipset commands is worth it over the B660 chipset.
Brief Overview of the B660 Chipset
The B660 is the mid-range chipset for Intel Alder Lake CPUs. It cuts down on specs and features that are exclusive to the Z690 chipset. However, the B660 motherboards are considerably less expensive than the Z690 and contain mass-market appeal, which makes them a favorite of many consumers.
So, in the article, I will establish if the B660 motherboard is enough for most people or if it is necessary to pay more for the Z690 motherboard.
Z690 vs B660: In-Depth Comparison
A distinct verdict on which motherboard chipset is better can only be given after a detailed comparison. To decide the winner, we will explore the overclocking prospects, PCIe Lane count, high-speed USB capability, and more of these motherboards. So, let’s get to it.
1. Specs Overview
|CPU Support||12th Gen Alder Lake||12th Gen Alder Lake|
|Overclocking Support||CPU and Memory||Memory Only|
|Mem Channels / DPC||2/2||2/2|
|Chipset Link||DMI 4.0 x8||DMI 4.0 x4|
|Max No. of PCIe Lanes||28||14|
|Usable PCIe Gen 4||12||6|
|Usable PCIe Gen 3||16||8|
|CPU PCIe Configurations||1×16+1×4 or 2×8+1×4||1×16+1×4|
|SATA III (6Gbps)||8||4|
|RAID 0,1,5 Support||PCIe/SATA||SATA|
The Z690 motherboard chipset, being the high-end option, takes the lead in the specs department. From the table, we can see that the Z690 chipset blows the B660 chipset out of the competition in each and every spec.
However, specs often tell half the picture, so you should glance at specs but don’t really base your decision on them.
2. CPU Support
CPU support is instrumental because the last thing you want is to replace the motherboard every so often. Both the B660 and Z690 motherboards are designed to support Intel’s 12th-generation Alder Lake processors, which means they can run Intel 12th-generation i3, i5, i7, and i9 processors, respectively.
While the B660 motherboard has support for Intel 12th generation i9, it cannot fully power the said processor. Therefore, an Intel i9 on a B660 is a big no-no, and you should opt for a Z690 motherboard if you want to power an Intel i9 processor.
The Z690 motherboard also gets the advantage of better next-generation support. All Z690 motherboards have gotten next-gen BIOS. Therefore, users who want to use 13-generation Intel processors on the Z690 motherboard can do so by updating the motherboard BIOS.
Z690 being the high-end motherboard chipset, has better support for 13th-generation processors. Although the B660 also supports 13-generation Intel processors, motherboard manufacturers have been slow to roll out BIOS on them, and some B660 have even not received the BIOS yet.
Hence, if we compare the two motherboards through the longevity lens, the Z690 is slightly ahead of the B660 because it provides a more convenient upgrade path. However, if you are unlikely to upgrade to an Intel 13th-generation processor, the B660 motherboard should be fine.
Overclocking means boosting the performance of the hardware by tinkering with the clock speed and voltage. Overclocking can be of two types – 1) CPU overclock and 2) Memory Overclock.
Intel CPUs follow unique guidelines for overclocking. Only the Intel CPUs that end with the Letter (K) can be overclocked. For instance, the Intel i5 12400 is not overclockable. On the contrary, the Intel i5-12600K is overclockable, and folks can tinker with its clock speeds and voltage to find their preferred setting.
If you have or plan on having an Intel processor that ends with a (K), then you need the Z690 motherboard, like the MSI MAG Z690 Tomahawk. Only the Z690 motherboard supports overclocking, and you won’t find this option on a B660 motherboard.
The second type of overclock is the memory overclock. When shopping for RAM, I am sure you might have checked its speed. Most gamers buy DDR4 RAM that clocks in at 3200MHz, but do you know that unless you overclock the RAM, it runs on the default 2133MHz speed? Well, you know now.
Therefore, memory overclocking is quite necessary to get the full performance out of the computer’s RAM. Luckily, intel has not skimped here, and both the Z690 and the BB60 motherboard chipsets contain support for memory overclocking.
4. PCIe Lanes
The Peripheral Component Interconnect Express (PCIe) is a high-speed computer expansion bus standard used to connect various types of components, such as graphics cards, storage drives, etc., directly to a computer’s motherboard.
The PCIe Lanes are highways that carry the signal from the hardware component to the motherboard’s chipset. So, a higher PCIe lane count leads to better signal transmission because of the bandwidth increase.
The Z690 motherboard has 28 total PCIe lanes, while the B660 motherboard contains half 14 PCIe lanes. The difference in PCIe Lane count is quite staggering, limiting what you can and can’t do with the B660 motherboard.
If you want to install a high-end graphics card and stack the PC with a couple of NVME M.2 storage drives, be warned that a B660 motherboard cannot run the M.2 drives at their highest speeds. A B660, due to its 14 PCIe Lane configuration, is limited to a graphics card and a single NVMe M.2 storage drive.
On the contrary, no such restrictions exist on the Z690 motherboard. Since it has 28 PCIe Lanes, you can easily run a high-end graphics card and multiple NVME M.2 storage drives on it without any performance degradation.
Another advantage of the Z690 motherboard is that it comes with PCIe 5.0 support, the newest PCIe technology standard, as opposed to the B660 motherboard running the PCIe 4.0 standard.
However, as of writing this article, no graphics card supports PCIe 5.0. So, for now, it is a nice quirk which could be more useful in the long run
That being said, PCIe 5.0 is the PCIe standard of the future, and eventually, all graphic cards and storage drives will transition to PCIe 5.0. So, based on the future-proofing aspect, the Z690 motherboard will have an edge over the B660 because of the PCIe 5.0.
The Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) is the most important part of the motherboard. It controls and regulates the voltage going to other components, such as the processor and the memory.
The VRM ensures a consistent supply of voltage is maintained. Any fluctuation in voltage can cause instability and lead to PC crashes. In severe cases, it can also permanently damage the processor.
The VRM of the motherboard is also a factor when choosing which processor will run on it. For instance, an Intel i9 has a lofty voltage requirement. Therefore, only a motherboard with a capable VRM can handle the Intel i9.
The Z690 motherboard has a clear advantage when it comes to VRM. Since it is the more premium motherboard chipset of the bunch, it enjoys a better VRM. However, a B660 motherboard is not far back.
For instance, the Gigabyte Aorus Z690 Ultra has an 18-phase VRM. On the contrary, the Gigabyte B660 Aorus Elite has a 14-phase VRM.
In practical experience, the VRM of the Gigabyte Aorus Z690 can handle any Intel processor you throw at it. Meanwhile, the VRM of the Gigabyte B660 Aorus Elite can only run Intel i7 or lower.
The Direct Media Interface (DMI) links the CPU socket to the motherboard’s chipset. The CPU controls and executes the tasks of a computer while the motherboard acts, allowing for all that to happen since every component of the computer is connected to it.
A fast link between the CPU and the motherboard means data can be fed from the CPU to the motherboard chipset and vice versa much more quickly.
The Z690 motherboard has an X8 DMI link, while the B660 motherboard has an X4 DMI link. This means that on a Z690, there are 8 lanes bridging the CPU to the motherboard chipset, while in B660, there are 4.
As a result, the transfer of data and information is much faster on a Z690 motherboard than on a B660 motherboard. However, for a normal computer build, there isn’t much of a difference between the both.
That being said, the difference starts to show as the computer gets more high-end treatment, meaning better hardware.
USB ports are the backbone of a computer. They allow external devices to connect to the motherboard. Without USB ports, mice, keyboards, USB pen drives, headphones, and more won’t be able to connect.
With the arrival of external SSDs, high-speed USB ports have become quite important over the past few years. The latest high-speed standard in USB connectivity is the USB 3.2 Gen 2 port.
To maintain the hierarchy of the Z690 chipset, Intel has bestowed this type of motherboard with support for (4) USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. On the contrary, the B660 motherboard gets support for only (2) USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports.
Whether having multiple high-speed USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports is important depends on your needs. If you are in the line of work requiring you to connect multiple external SSDs or other gadgets requiring high-speed USB connection, you should opt for the Z690 motherboard. Otherwise, for normal day-to-day use, having two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports is plenty.
For some, the features might be a personal choice, but to keep the comparison fair, I have to reflect on them.
In this department, the Z690 is the clear winner. It comes with 2.5G Intel LAN by default, though many manufacturers like Asus, MSI, and Gigabyte specify their motherboard with 5G or even 10G Ethernet LAN.
The Z690 motherboard also has a much better audio codec than the B660 motherboard. All in all, if you are after features, the Z690 motherboard is the hands-down winner.
The cost is the most important consideration when buyers choose a motherboard. It is quite clear that the Z690 is priced higher than the B660 motherboard.
On average, you would pay $100 more for a Z690 motherboard over a B660 motherboard. So, you should ask yourself if the additional features, higher specs, overclocking support, and faster connectivity are useful to you.
At the end of the day, only you can answer if spending $100 more is justifiable and worth it or not.
Who Should Buy the Z690 Motherboard?
If you are buying an Intel (K) series motherboard, you should buy a Z690 motherboard to go along with it. Otherwise, you will lose out on overclocking.
Z690 Motherboard is also a great choice for PC enthusiasts who expect nothing but the best performance and features in a motherboard.
For a heavy user with the requirement for a lot of high-speed storage drives, the Z690 motherboard is ideal. It has twice the number of PCIe lanes compared to a B660 motherboard. Therefore, it can support multiple NVMe M.2 drives at full 5Gbps speed.
Who Should Buy the B660 Motherboard?
If you are on a budget and don’t want to spend an exuberant sum of money on a motherboard, the B660 offering should fit the bill. It costs significantly less compared to a Z690 motherboard.
The B660 motherboard is also ideal for a person who wants to build an entry-level computer for everyday tasks. Since the PC will be used for light usage, a Z690 motherboard will be overkill and a waste of money.
After this comprehensive comparison of the Z690 vs. B660 motherboard, I am sure you have your favorite motherboard by now. That being said, I want to reiterate the importance of buying the right motherboard for your needs. No motherboard is good or bad; all of them are perfectly viable in the right situation.
Check out some of the other motherboard comparisons.
- B550 vs. X570 Motherboards
- Z790 vs. Z690 Motherboards
- X570 vs. X670 Motherboards
- X670E vs. X670 Motherboards
- B650 vs. X670 Motherboards
- B660 vs. B760 Motherboards
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