MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Tested
Allow us to share a review of the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. One of the first motherboards to land on our labs for the Intel Coffee Lake CPUs.
The Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is one of the flagship Z370 models from MSI; complete with AC Wi-Fi onboard, hence the AC moniker. It is also equipped with loads of RGB lighting options and is shrouded in a race car inspired design. Typical of the Gaming Pro Carbon models. Learn more from the official product page and get it at Amazon.
|MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC|
|CPU Support||Intel Socket 1151 V2 for 8th Generation Core i7/Core i5/Core i3 Processors|
|Chipset||Intel Z370 Chipset|
|Slots||4x DIMM (Non-ECC)|
|Slots||3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (support x16/x0/x4, x8/x8/x4 modes)
3 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
|Onboard Graphics||Intel HD Graphics support|
|Multi-GPU||Supports NVIDIA 2-Way SLI Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX Technology
|Storage||6x SATAIII ports
2x M.2 slots (Key M)
|USB||Intel Z370 Chipset
ASMedia USB 3.1 controller
|Audio||Dual Realtek ALC1220 Codec
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 card
|Fan Connectors||1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
1 x 4-pin water pump fan connector
4 x 4-pin system fan connectors
THE 8TH GENERATION INTEL CPUS:
The Coffee Lake CPUs represents Intel’s renewed approach to mainstream computing. Notable features right out of the bat is the architecture’s increased core count compared to previous iterations. The Core i7 line-up for example now starts with 6-core/12-thread SKUs, while the Core i5 models gets 6-core/6-thread models. The release of full 4-core Core i3 CPUs is also unprecedented but is just proper to combat AMD’s $100 Ryzen 3 CPUs.
The 8th generation Intel CPUs are indeed all about more cores but there’s more to them. Turbo Boost is now back at 2.0, meaning that all cores of the CPU should now be able to achieve its stated maximum boost clock. This is opposed to the Kaby Lake’s Turbo Boost 3.0 feature, where a favored core could only reach the stated turbo frequency.
Coffee Lake CPUs now also officially supports DDR4 at 2666MHz, with the exclusion of Core i3 SKUs. Of course, it is still in dual channel mode so there’s still a market for HEDT platforms as far as bandwidth requirement are concerned.
THE INTEL Z370 CHIPSET:
The new Intel Z370 platform is required for the Coffee Lake CPUs to work in spite of its similarities with the Z270 chipset. While both platforms features the same number of CPU socket pins, the Z370 calls its own LGA socket as the 1151 V2.
A maximum of 40 PCI-E lanes could be utilized with the Z370 platform with 24 PCI-E lanes onboard. Intel’s board partners now has extra 4 lanes to work with; allowing then to experiment with various connectivity options.
Thunderbolt 3, Optane Memory and USB 3.0 support are also emphasized. USB 3.1 is still not natively supported so it’s up to the board partners to add such features.
PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES:
MSI’s packaging for the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC has been toned down for good. You’d now see the IO shroud as a part of the color box’s design.
The board comes with the usual paper works. Not a lavish bunch but they serve their purpose.
For the accessories, MSI had the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC bundled with an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 card. There are also RGB header extension cables, a HB SLI Bridge and a demo header for the RGB.
DESIGN, LAYOUT AND CONNECTIVITY:
The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a much cleaner motherboard in terms of design elements. That’s in contrast with the MSI Godlike series of boards.
Layout wise, we are looking at a motherboard with a good one – minus the CMOS battery location. The majority of main headers and power connectors are also located on accessible areas.
The back of the board shows us the PCI-E slot’s electrical properties. From top to bottom, we have a x16, x16, x1, x1, x8, x1 and a x8 PCI-E slot. That’s a total of 6 PCI-E slots.
The audio is separated from the rest of the components so we’re expecting good levels here as far as noise is concerned. As for the usual headers, we have plenty at the bottom togetehr with a button for a LED demo. There are also two native SATA ports at the bottom.
Storage options this side of the board are provided by 4 native SATA ports and dual USB 3.0 headers.
Back panel options are not far from lavish. USB 3.0 ports are plenty and we’ve got a PS/2 port for legacy devices just in case you’ve still got a good PS/2 mouse or keyboard lying around.
The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon features an identical UEFI experience with their Intel 200 series motherboards.
There are 2 main menus; the EZ Mode and Advanced. EZ Mode tackles more about set and forget stuffs, while Advanced will greet you with loads of overclocker friendly options.
While I like the Click BIOS 5, it’s already showing its age. The BIOS could use a face-lift, especially with the over sized buttons.
MSI had the board bundled with tons of applications that should help you optimize your system’s performance. That includes the following software tools:
- MSI Smart Tool
- X Boost
- Command Center
- CPU-Z MSI GAMING
- Live Update 6
- Gaming Lan Manager
- MSI Gaming APP
- Super Charger
- XSplit Gamecaster
- Nahimic 2
- TriDef VR
- TriDef SmartCam
- SteelSeriesEngine 3
While I find some of these softwares as bloats, the Command Center, Live Update 6, RAMDisk and the Gaming LAN Manager are keepers. The free XSplit subscription is also much appreciated.
TEST SETUP AND METHODOLOGY:
The system performance shall be evaluated by various benchmarking tools and applications. We are testing this system with the high-performance settings enabled at the OS, with the default UEFI configuration. Background processes such as anti-viruses and third-party applications are disabled as well. Outlined below are the applications and benchmark tools for reference:
|TEST SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS|
|PROCESSOR||Intel Core i5-8600K|
|MOTHERBOARD||MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon|
|CPU COOLER||Cryorig C1 Top Flow|
|MEMORY KIT||Crucial Ballistix Tactical DDR4 @ 2666MHz 2x4GB|
|GRAPHICS CARD||ASUS GTX 1060 STRIX OC 6GB|
|INTERNAL STORAGE||Crucial BX200 480GB|
|POWER SUPPLY||CORSAIR RM850X 850W|
|DISPLAY||27″ DELL U2715H + LG 43UF680T 4K UHD TV|
|OPERATING SYSTEM||Microsoft Windows 10 Pro|
CPU AND MEMORY PERFORMANCE:
- Super PI – 32M Calculations
- wPrime – 32M and 1024M Calculations
- AIDA64 Extreme Edition – Memory Benchmark
- GIMP – 7 MB worth of image processing
- HandBrake – 150 MB MP4 to H.264 video encoding
- WinRAR – Internal benchmark tool
- AS SSD – Storage performance
- RightMark Audio Analyzer – Audio performance
- AIDA64 Extreme Edition – Power consumption
- NetIO-GUI – Network Performance
The AIDA64 System Stability Test uses a 64-bit multi-threaded stress testing module to drive the system to its limits. Power readings are recorded with a watt-meter.
The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon features better power figures compared to the ASUS Z370-E Gaming.
CPU AND MEMORY PERFORMANCE:
Super PI is a single-threaded program that calculates pi to a specified number of digits after the decimal point. It is a widely used benchmark within the industry.
WPrime is a multi-threaded program that calculates a set number of square roots. It verifies the results by squaring them, then compares it with the original numbers.
The AIDA64 Memory Benchmark measure the data transfer bandwidth and latency of the system memory. We are measuring the latency on this benchmark.
Good performance output from the board here but it’s not breathtaking compared to the values we got from the ASUS board on the review.
GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation Program, is a free and open-source image editing tool. A 7 MB worth of images is be processed and converted to gauge the system performance.
HandBrake is a free video encoding tool that supports a wide variety of media codecs. A 150MB worth MP4 video is converted using the H.264 codec to gauge the system performance.
WinRAR is a file archive utility that can create, view and unpack numerous archive file formats. The software’s built in benchmark tool is utilized to gauge the system performance.
The productivity performance results of the motherboard is synonymous with our synthetics. It isn’t the fastest especially at GIMP; where CPU and memory performance matters.
AS SSD is a storage benchmarking software widely used throughout the industry. On this test, we are using its scoring system to evaluate our Crucial BX200 SSD’s performance using the system’s native SATA controller.
SATA III performance is excellent. Nothing is out of place here.
The RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) is a tool designed to test the quality of audio devices. We used a sampling rate of 24-bit at 48000Hz for the loopback test. We are essentially testing the quality of the line-in and line-out of the audio solution.
The noise level performance is generally very good at -91.8dBA. Frequency response is flat – just where I wanted it out of the box.
The NetIO-GUI is a good application to test any network’s performance. The LAN round trip time is our concern here, checking out latency anomalies if there are any. The client and server are connected on the network via Cat5 cables using a 100Mbps router.
RTT performance is nothing to worry about with <1ms of latency on any packet sizes tested. AC Wi-Fi however, had 4ms of latency (5GHz to 5GHz) on average.
WRAPPING IT UP:
The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a versatile motherboard that offers excellent set of features for a price of 12, 800 Pesos. It may not be the best performing board on our list, but it sure is capable on top of a quality design.
Build quality and layout wise, the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is great. For an instance, there is an emphasis on reinforcements, as seen with the steel plated DIMMs and PCI-E slots.
The motherboard’s features are also on point and we like the fact that MSI went with a PCI-E AC Wi-Fi instead of a soldering one. This is a value added option, allowing you to get the most out of the bundled stuffs.
The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a great value oriented motherboard in spite of the price. A well made motherboard for the Coffee Lake CPUs with a price to match.