Gigabyte Z690I review.jpg


Photo Credit - Gigabyte

Review by Chris aka Revenant



Gigabyte. What happened? You could have had the best board of the Alder Lake launch...

There is a difference between a bad motherboard, and one that has merely got quirks. Too few USB ports? It's annoying but I can deal with it. VRM that can't handle a CPU causing a performance hit? Bad. A BIOS layout I personally find obnoxious? Meh, I can learn it. A BIOS that doesn't even support half the advertised features? Bad.

So where does the Gigabyte Z690I DDR4 rank? Well...

The Gigabyte Z690I DDR4 is by far one of the worst motherboards I've ever used in my 40+ years on this planet. It's so bad that I can't even give it a full performance review because I can't get benchmarks to remain stable long enough to run on it. Different RAM, CPUs, GPUs, and SSDs don't make a difference. There is a fundamental flaw somewhere in the board's design that keeps causing crashes, and I'm not the only one experiencing it.

Let's rewind the clock for a minute.

When Intel's Alder Lake platform launched, consumers were excited about the incredible performance. What they weren't excited about was the incredible cost of DDR5 memory. To make matters more difficult for SFF enthusiasts, there was only one ITX option with DDR4 support; The Gigabyte Z690I.

On the surface, it looked like a home run for Gigabyte. The VRM spec was solid 10+2+1 phase with an actual finned heatsink. It had the latest Realtek 4080 sound chip, and supported dual PCIE 4.0 NVME drives. Connectivity was good with 8 USB ports of varying speed, 2.5Gbe networking, and Wi-Fi 6 support. Most importantly, it supported DDR4 memory up to DDR4-5333. All of this looked great, and I joined several members of SFFN in actually purchasing this board for use in my own personal system.

Then things went downhill fast.





Photo Credit - Gigabyte / To Gigabyte's credit, it's a really nice looking design with true VRM heatsink.



As with any brand new platform, there are going to be teething issues. It's a fact of life, and I won't punish Gigabyte for having to do rapid BIOS revisions. What I will say is that if your marketing team has time to design a box labeling all of these features, they better damn well have some kind of support out of the box. Let's start with the first problem: Memory.

A month after Alder Lake's official launch I was struggling to get RAM that would work in this board. Gigabyte did address this with a BIOS update (eventually), but regardless it delayed my build until I found some sort of RAM that worked. Eventually, the CAS 14 DDR4-3600 GSKILL Trident Z I purchased did end up working, but not for a substantial time after launch.

Next there is the PCIE issue. This board cannot run the primary PCIE slot at PCIE 4.0. This also means you can't run the primary M.2 slot at PCIE 4.0. This cut the performance of my Samsung 980PRO test drive in half, and potentially gimped my graphics cards in the future. Why it can't do this is unknown, but what is known is that attempting to do so generates hundreds of thousands of WHEA errors, and grinds the computer to a slow lockup. This happened with three different test GPUS, two different PCIE 4.0 riser cables, and the card in the slot itself.

Getting support for this issue, which has been widely reported by other users of the board, has been an absolute nightmare. Gigabyte has basically ignored the issue with no official account on forums and Reddit admitting to the issue, and contacting them directly only yields what amounts to a non-response. I contacted Gigabyte support on 1-14-2022, and the last I've heard from them is on 3-23-2022 with them saying they will update me when their team gets back to them.

I'm going to include the chain of e-mails.







And then....





At this point there is a delay in my communication due to my second child being born, having a post birth illness, and having to spend time in the intensive care unit at our local children's hospital.







And here is the video I sent to Gigabyte...




I still haven't heard back from them after sending the video. Nothing. Dead silence.

Regardless, the system was at least usable at PCIE 3.0. However, that wouldn't last for long. On 3-28-2022 Gigabyte released the F8c BIOS. I downloaded and successfully updated the board. However, the system was now so unstable I couldn't even get Windows to boot for more than a few seconds. So any usability was out the window.

My solution at this point was simple; I bought a different board, and paid the DDR5 tax. Allegedly, in the main Reddit thread about this motherboard, Gigabyte is going to allow people to RMA them. However, their official support hasn't said anything regarding this to me in my support ticket. I don't have time to wait for months for Gigabyte to fix this, so I've moved on.

Bottom line: Do not buy the Gigabyte Z690I.



Pros:

  • Real VRM heatsink.
  • Decent BIOS layout.
Cons:

  • Unstable.
  • Can't use PCIE 4.0.
  • Getting support is difficult.
 

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Arboreal

King of Cable Management
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
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Thanks for outlining the pain and hard work getting this board to work, not a good situation.
As you said, on paper it looked ideal.

In this paragraph towards the end, did you mean PCIE 3.0? "Regardless, the system was at least usable at PCIE 4.0. However, that wouldn't last for long. On 3-28-2022 Gigabyte released the F8c BIOS. I downloaded and successfully updated the board. However, the system was now so unstable I couldn't even get Windows to boot for more than a few seconds. So any usability was out the window."

Alder Lake is incredible tech, but fearsomely complicated to use and tame particularly in SFF
 
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Revenant

SFF Guru
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Revenant Tech
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Apr 21, 2017
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Thanks for outlining the pain and hard work getting this board to work, not a good situation.
As you said, on paper it looked ideal.

In this paragraph towards the end, did you mean PCIE 3.0? "Regardless, the system was at least usable at PCIE 4.0. However, that wouldn't last for long. On 3-28-2022 Gigabyte released the F8c BIOS. I downloaded and successfully updated the board. However, the system was now so unstable I couldn't even get Windows to boot for more than a few seconds. So any usability was out the window."

Alder Lake is incredible tech, but fearsomely complicated to use and tame particularly in SFF

Wow. Thanks for catching that typo! Man...that could be really confusing.

I was planning an article about how to tame AlderLake for SFF, but the Gigabyte board really threw a wrench into the works with that.
 
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rfarmer

Shrink Ray Wielder
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Jul 7, 2017
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Sorry to hear about all the problems @Revenant, thought I would share my similar but different issues. I bought this board shortly after release and didn't have any of the issues I saw others have. M.2 worked fine and XMP profile loaded without problem. I was running a Gen 3 riser and GPU at the time and didn't have any problems with it. Fast forward and with GPU prices finally dropping I was able to pick up a 3070 Ti FE for close to MSRP. Put it in my Ghost with the Gen 3 riser and immediately started having WHEA errors, this was with the lane speed set to PCIe 3.0. I was still on the F5 BIOS so headed over to Gigabyte and saw they had the F8c BIOS so grabbed that and flashed the BIOS. I totally forgot about changing lane speed and surprisingly my PC booted with display with my Gen 3 riser. No WHEA errors but crashed while gaming, it was at this point I lost my display so changed lane speed to PCIe 3.0 and displays came back and so did the WHEA errors. I happen to have a DAn A4-H20 with Gen 4 riser so installed that in my Ghost. Well the WHEA errors went away but I started having crashing issues similar to yours when just browsing or watching videos. I didn't realize this was a motherboard problem and thought it was a problem with the riser cable, I have seen similar problems from people with riser cables that weren't fully compliant. Since I have a Ghost I went ahead and ordered the Cobalt PCIe 4.0 riser cable, both because it wasfrom Louqe and also it seemed to be a really good cable. When first installed everything worked perfect, PCIe 4.0 speed and no WHEA errors. After that every 4 o5 reboots I would have WHEA errors again but after a reboot it was fine. Well it finally got to the point where I got constant WHEA errors when lane speed was set to Auto or Gen 4. So I change lane speed to PCIe 3.0 and right now everything is fine with no crashing.

One thing I noticed which is strange is in your video you got to 65,000 errors and then it stopped, with mine the errors never stop and reach into the millions. When this happens my CPU is running at a constant 7 - 9% load with nothing running, this is coming for Windows Hardware Diagnostic Service constantly running trying to figure out where all these error are coming from.

So I am at the point now of just waiting, my PC is working fine so I will wait and see if Gigabyte will resolve this, it not I will upgrade when z790 releases. One thing strange, or I should say two things, I was at Gigabytes site earlier checking for BIOS updates and noticed 2 new itx motherboards. z690i Aorus Ultra Lite DDR4 and z690i Aorus Ultra Plus DDR4. Plus seems identical to the original, the Lite has a different WIFI module and PCIe 3.0 only. I have a bad feeling that they are ready to dump the original Aorus Ultra DDR4.

Edit: I just saw on reddit they are saying the official announcement will be on Monday and you can apply for a RMA at that time, apparently the Plus version is an update of the original.
 

ignsvn

By Toutatis!
Moderator
Apr 4, 2016
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... in your video you got to 65,000 errors and then it stopped, with mine the errors never stop and reach into the millions.
 
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Revenant

SFF Guru
Original poster
Revenant Tech
Editorial Staff
Moderator
Gold Supporter
Apr 21, 2017
1,212
1,972
Sorry to hear about all the problems @Revenant, thought I would share my similar but different issues. I bought this board shortly after release and didn't have any of the issues I saw others have. M.2 worked fine and XMP profile loaded without problem. I was running a Gen 3 riser and GPU at the time and didn't have any problems with it. Fast forward and with GPU prices finally dropping I was able to pick up a 3070 Ti FE for close to MSRP. Put it in my Ghost with the Gen 3 riser and immediately started having WHEA errors, this was with the lane speed set to PCIe 3.0. I was still on the F5 BIOS so headed over to Gigabyte and saw they had the F8c BIOS so grabbed that and flashed the BIOS. I totally forgot about changing lane speed and surprisingly my PC booted with display with my Gen 3 riser. No WHEA errors but crashed while gaming, it was at this point I lost my display so changed lane speed to PCIe 3.0 and displays came back and so did the WHEA errors. I happen to have a DAn A4-H20 with Gen 4 riser so installed that in my Ghost. Well the WHEA errors went away but I started having crashing issues similar to yours when just browsing or watching videos. I didn't realize this was a motherboard problem and thought it was a problem with the riser cable, I have seen similar problems from people with riser cables that weren't fully compliant. Since I have a Ghost I went ahead and ordered the Cobalt PCIe 4.0 riser cable, both because it wasfrom Louqe and also it seemed to be a really good cable. When first installed everything worked perfect, PCIe 4.0 speed and no WHEA errors. After that every 4 o5 reboots I would have WHEA errors again but after a reboot it was fine. Well it finally got to the point where I got constant WHEA errors when lane speed was set to Auto or Gen 4. So I change lane speed to PCIe 3.0 and right now everything is fine with no crashing.

One thing I noticed which is strange is in your video you got to 65,000 errors and then it stopped, with mine the errors never stop and reach into the millions. When this happens my CPU is running at a constant 7 - 9% load with nothing running, this is coming for Windows Hardware Diagnostic Service constantly running trying to figure out where all these error are coming from.

So I am at the point now of just waiting, my PC is working fine so I will wait and see if Gigabyte will resolve this, it not I will upgrade when z790 releases. One thing strange, or I should say two things, I was at Gigabytes site earlier checking for BIOS updates and noticed 2 new itx motherboards. z690i Aorus Ultra Lite DDR4 and z690i Aorus Ultra Plus DDR4. Plus seems identical to the original, the Lite has a different WIFI module and PCIe 3.0 only. I have a bad feeling that they are ready to dump the original Aorus Ultra DDR4.

Edit: I just saw on reddit they are saying the official announcement will be on Monday and you can apply for a RMA at that time, apparently the Plus version is an update of the original.
Good catch with the Reddit post. I’ve had the errors go to the millions before. In this video the system just crashes at 65K and reboots.
 
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