As you all should know by now, I hate RGB in PCs – I think they are a waste of time and only serve to show the world that someone has more money than sense. Kinda like that guy who puts a spoiler on his Opel Corsa because he thinks he will be able to corner better. Unfortunately, I am in the minority as both Rob and Keegan will die on the RGB hill swearing that it adds an additional 10% to your framerates. Thankfully MSI have decided to try and mediate this battle with their latest enthusiast motherboard the MSI MPG Z390 Pro Carbon AC.
Aesthetically. the board is pleasing to the eye; a good layout with easy to reach areas making installation of components simple. The included M.2 heat spreader is welcome for dual graphics card setups as the heat from the second lower card will cause some heat issues for the NVMe drive. Installation of the M.2 is simple; just pop off the cover, install the drive, and pop the cover back on. Be careful with the small screws, though, as they are easy to drop and lose, and finding the holes to screw them back in can be a bit difficult.
Unfortunately, the top M.2 slot does not include a heat spreader and sits just above the top 16X PCI-E slot, so if you are going to run two drives, that one will suffer from some heat issues. The placement, and consequent lack of a heat-spreader, is curious, but most of us will only use one M.2 drive and will, thus, use the bottom one with the heat-spreader.
With four DIMM slots supporting dual channel memory up to DDR4, you shouldn’t have any issues with upgrading your RAM as much as your budget will allow.
The CPU is the standard Intel LGA 1151 socket, supporting up to an i9-9900k, so for those of you who are lucky enough to have secured one, this board will serve you well. In terms of the rest of the features, it offers support for five USB 3.1 Gen 2, 4 USB 3.1 Gen 1. and 6USB 2.0 slots; 3 PCI-E x1 expansion slots, and six SATA III 6Gb/s slots. Basically, it has all your storage and interface needs sorted out.
Graphically. it can support 2-way SLI and up to 3-way Crossfire. so if you want to run a multi-GPU system you can. Having said that, these days, SLI on 10-series cards does not give you much of an advantage and the jury is still out on whether RTX NVLink is worth the premium you will pay for additional cards.
In terms of rear I/O, I am pleased to see that MSI have integrated the I/O shield into the board. so no more futzing with the case to ensure that the shield is secure or even, and I am embarrassed to admit that I have done this; forgetting to install the shield, building the system, and then have to disassemble to install that stupid piece of metal that invariably cuts you.
At the back, you get two USB 2.0, one Type-C, one Type-A 3.1 Gen 2, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1. Also included is an ethernet jack supporting Gigabit LAN. Included on this board is a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card, supporting 802.11 a/b/g//n/ac, and Bluetooth 2.1 respectively. The latter is of more interest to me as I prefer ethernet for my desktops since they sit right next to my router in the study.
Onboard sound is the now almost standard, with a Realtek 7.1 chipset, and if you really have to, you can use the onboard graphics chip via the HDMI 1.4 or Displayport 1.2 ports.
Once installed (an easy enough process) I fired up the included MSi Mystic Light software that controls the RGB, and if your memory and video card lights are compatible, can control those too. I didn’t have any other RGB lights and controllers to test but assume that there is a whole long list of compatible third-party systems out there, that can also be controlled by this software. The software is simple and easy to use, and I can see some obsessives (ed - me) spending hours getting the effects and shading just right so that us reasonable folk can laugh at them. Have at it RGB fans, you are welcome to your little corner of the lighting universe.
MSi Dragon Center is the heart of this board, being the software that will allow you to tweak your overclock settings and fan curves to squeeze out that smidge of additional performance. I have to admit that, while I am not a huge fan of overclocking, the extra flexibility is welcome, as that will allow you to extend the useful life of your components, delaying the inevitable and dreaded, “which component will I upgrade while I see if I can survive off Salticrax and Two Minute Noodles this month” decision.
Having the ability to create different profiles and easily change voltages, multipliers, and other mysterious settings is convenient and easy, but beware of pushing things too far as that will crash your system. My advice is researching your components and the software thoroughly before embarking on an overclocking adventure, to make sure that you understand all the pitfalls and, more importantly, how far you can push things. Also, make sure that your cooling solution is up to standard; a simple air cooler may not be enough and investing in an AIO liquid cooler is advisable.
Experimenting with the fan curve is also quick and easy, allowing you to create a custom curve that keeps things cool, yet quiet, for as long as possible. Having this sort of flexibility is great, even if you don’t overclock, as it allows you to reduce fan noise when you think that the default curve is too aggressive. As stated, the software allows you to save multiple profiles so that you can create one for whatever occasion takes your fancy. You may have one for everyday use, one for gaming, and one for that overclock competition you are having with your neighbour. If you are doing the last one, I suggest you both take a break and go grab a beer, you obviously need it.
If you really want more control, you can mess around in the BIOS, which is easy to use and navigate. The options are numerous and for those who love messing about in the BIOS, they will be in heaven.
Testing the board in games was a pleasurem as I experienced no difficulties in setup or with temperatures, even at slightly overclocked CPU and RAM speeds. I say slightly, as I am still wary of destroying expensive components by being too aggressive, but at the same time, I don’t like to overdo things. I’ll leave the aggressive overclocks to the YouTube madmen. Everything was stable and I experienced little to no stutters or other issues.
In summary the MSI Z390 MPG Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a brilliant board for enthusiasts, and gamers alike, who know what they are doing and want to overclock. The support for expansion and additional components is welcome and will make any gamer with a budget to match their ambitions very happy indeed. All in all, I can heartily recommend the board for your next build.
Grumpy Old Man who still collects toys (THEY. ARE. NOT. DOLLS), PC Gamer lured to the Dark Side of console gaming, comic book reader and fan of all things pop culture.
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