The only high-end mini-ITX Z790 board with three M.2 ports and it has good cooling, plenty of other features and great audio performance too.
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. 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. This means that you can stack three 4TB versions of the best SSDs onto the PCB and have up to 12TB of super-fast NVMe storage, all with no extra cables. 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 Z790 motherboard guide.
Along with this storage advantage, the Edge also has USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 ports, 802.11ax WiFi, and 12 power phases. As this is a Z-series motherboard, it supports multiplier-overclocking for Intel’s K-series CPUs too.
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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, which are stacked on top of one another.
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. The layout is reasonable but is a little cramped in some places. For instance, the case fan header is lodged between the M.2 heatsink and PCIe slot so you’d need to remove the former or latter to be able to plug a fan into it. The top of the I/O shroud and integrated I/O shield both feature ventilation holes for an included chipset fan too. This proved to be quiet in operation and only span up under heavy loads.
While MSI offers a B760 chipset version of this board, 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 in the future.
Not only is this a generally nice feature to have – allowing for the elimination of any storage-related cables – 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 accomodate 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 too.
Sadly, there’s no Thunderbolt 4 or USB 4, 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 that can power the latest external flash drives. 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. It 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 WiFi.
There are 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 2.5in SSDs, there are four SATA 6Gbps ports too.
MSI’s UEFI’s 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.
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) of 0.00124 are excellent and right up there with the best onboard audio we’ve seen.
The VRMs were kept to a maximum 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/sec and 6,790MB/sec read and write speeds.
The video encoding test score of 976,698 from our Custom PC 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.
The CPU did seem to get a little hot under multi-threaded workloads, often dropping from an all-core boost of 5.1GHz to 4.9GHz till the temperature fell again. We did manage to hit an overclock of 5.7GHz with a vcore of 1.35V, which was a lower voltage than the board applied at stock speed.
- Three M.2 ports
- Excellent UEFI
- Great audio performance
- 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
The MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi specs list is:
|2 slots: DDR5
|One 16x PCIe 5
|8-channel Realtek ALC4080
|Intel 802.11ax WiFi, Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN
|3 x 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, VRM fan, M.2 heatsinks
|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
|170 x 170 (W x D x H)
MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi price
The MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi price is $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 reasonable value overall.
Price: Expect to pay $330 / £306.
MSI MPG Z790I Edge WiFi review conclusion
If you want a premium 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 WiFi 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 that are present on the competition from Asus’ Intel and AMD mini-ITX boards and we’d liked to have seen a few extra Type-A USB ports too, but if three M.2 ports are going to be a boon for your mini-ITX PC then it’s a great choice.