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Review mainboard MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC

Ngày đăng : 14:39:52 06-12-2017
1. Packaging and Contents

  
The front of the box the MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC comes in means business. Although it might not be immediately obvious, what you see here is what you will get. The rear of the box has all that important information regarding its specifications and looks good, but I would like to see the board pictured in the middle rather than offset.

 
The box opens to reveal the board clad in a high-quality anti-static bag. It's these little things that stand out for me when it comes to product packaging.

 
You get the standard accessories you'd expect; several SATA cables, wiring for LED strips to connect to the board, and the Wi-Fi card stuff. Here's all I found:
  • Quick installation guide, manual, support DVD, and other papers
  • 1x Rear I/O cover
  • 2x SATA 6Gb/s cables
  • 1x SLI HB bridge
  • 4x RGB LED wires
  • 2x Wi-Fi antenna
 
The bundled Wi-Fi card is a custom MSI unit called the HERALD AC, which uses a PCIe x1 slot and USB to connect to the system. The antennas are widely spaced apart, which isolates each from the other. The actual Wi-Fi controller attaches to the HERALD AC card via a mini-M.2 port and has an Intel-branded M.2 card in place.

2. Board Layout


 
MSI has really tightened up the "carbon" look of this series of boards with carbon-fiber-looking bits all over. The board is mostly devoid of any color at all otherwise. There are many screws protruding from the back of the board; the heatsinks for the MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC are also ready for removal if you want to go full water-cooling.

 
The socket area of this motherboard is fairly cramped, with capacitors and such very close to the socket in all directions, but even so, there is plenty of clearance for pretty much any cooler you might want to use. The DIMM slots are clad in metal to aid in EMI elimination while adding some strength to the slots for long-term deployments in tough thermal environments.

 
You get two M.2 ports on the MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC, with the upper slot carrying MSI's own M.2 shield to help deal with those hotter PCIe drives, while the bottom slot has no cooler and is also a bit shorter in length.

 
The PCIe expansion slots offered by the MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC consist of three PCIe x16 slots and three PCIe x1 slots. The x16 slots are very standard in their connectivity, with the bottom slot connected to the chipset and always capable of a x4 electrical link.

 
The board's bottom edge has your standard USB and audio headers, along with RGB LED connections and a couple of SATA ports.

 
Rear I/O duties are cared for with a total of eight USB ports of varying flavors, as well as DisplayPort, HDMI, audio plugs, a LAN port, and a PS/2 port to round it all out. This board could use a couple more USB ports on its rear, but eight is most definitely sufficient. The LAN port is powered via the Intel controller pictured above.

3. BIOS Overview
Clocks Range Interval
CPU BCLK: 98.00 MHz ... 538.25 MHz 0.01
Memory Dividers: 800 MHz ... 4933 MHz
Voltages Range Interval
CPU Voltage: 0.600 V ... 1.520 V 0.005 V
DRAM Voltage: 0.600 V ... 2.200 V 0.010V

MSI is that brand that has come the furthest with their BIOS development over the years, so much so that what they have on offer these days is so solid it is hard to find any faults with any of their BIOSes. MSI has a very keen mind towards making sure that memory compatibility issues are something nearly any user will not have with their products, and they offer a huge amount of tweaking options for overclocking to make sure you can safely push your system to the limit without having to know the ins and outs of how a BIOS works. Just set your multiplier and a voltage or two, maybe enable XMP, and everything else is done for you, so you can spend more time playing games and less time on stability testing. There are profiles here for overclocking both the CPU and your memory, and they work rather well to be honest, without too much added voltage from these automatic profiles like I have seen on some other products. This is a board for gamers, so it is truly engineered to meet a gamer's needs, and it does that very well. The MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC definitely lives up to expectation when it comes to its BIOS.

   


   


   


   


   


   


   


   


   


   


   


  


  


  

4. Board Software
 
MSI has also really tightened up their software offerings for their motherboards with a large number of tools available for nearly every aspect of your system. Rather than just plopping a huge number of shortcuts onto your desktop, MSI now offers everything contained within App Manager, which really does manage those apps. The software will notify you of updates to the tools when updates are available and provides a simple one-click option to have them all automagically updated for you, which makes sure you have the most current versions installed easily and conveniently. 

  
MSI also provides several MSI-branded versions of third-party software, such as CPU-Z and Intel's XTU, shown above.

 
You do also get the very useful Nahamic2+ software for audio tweaking (not like this board needs it by default) and the DragonEye software for viewing video in games that support it.

 
You also get the WTFast gaming software, a software that is touted to help with eliminating internet latency by providing a direct path to gaming servers for many popular titles that use online connectivity. This particular software I have put to some use, and I found it to work depending on your geographic location and which game you play, and it also updates regularly, so you get the best there is on offer every time you play.

5. Audio Testing

  
MSI truly understands how important audio is for gaming. They have taken extra care and time in designing their audio circuit to ensure that you get one of the best audio reproduction designs ever by default, and as if that wasn't enough, they've also included the Nahamic2+ software to ensure you can tune the audio's qualities that much more to your ears. What the Nahamic software does is something you really just have to experience for yourself to understand; I've asked many users of MSI motherboards with this software what they think, and their responses have been overwhelmingly positive. RMAA results without the Nahamic software in use are below:
 

RightMark Audio Analyzer



6. Storage Interfaces & Performance
Storage Support
SATA: 6x 6 Gbps Intel Z370
M.2 (Upper, 32 Gb/s): 1x PCIe 3.0 x4, SATA Intel Z370
M.2 (Lower, 32 Gb/s): 1x PCIe 3.0 x4,SATA Intel Z370
USB:
(rear)
2x USB 2.0
4x USB 3.1 Gen1
1x USB 3.1 Gen2, Type-A, 10 Gbps
1x USB 3.1 Gen2, Type-C, 10 Gbps
Intel Z370
Intel Z370
ASMedia ASM3142
ASMedia ASM3142
USB:
(internal)
4x USB 3.1 Gen1
4x USB 2.0
Intel Z370
Intel Z370

Drive testing is the area where we can easily compare how a motherboard performs compared to another, while also eliminating things that can give the wrong impression, such as differences in CPU or memory used. No matter what your configuration is, you should see results that are nearly identical no matter the board, right? WRONG. This is the one place (well, other than audio) where a board maker's board design really shows its strength or weakness. Of course, there are some inherent platform differences in performance that cannot be ignored; Intel's X299 has much lower drive performance overall compared to other platforms, a strange oddity I discovered to apparently hold true no matter which board for that platform you choose. It might be something as simple as the added PCIe complexity adding a bit of latency or some other such factor, yet no matter what the cause, the difference is clearly there. If drive performance is something that is really important to you, you should be looking at Z370 products right now, NOT X299. At times, it seems that Intel X299 HEDT boards offer 10% less performance over most drive interfaces unless an external controller (usually provided by ASMedia) is used to drive the added ports. Below are some results for you to see these differences by, and hopefully, these will help you decide which platform is truly right for you.
 

HDTune Pro (SATA 6Gb/s)


 

HDTune Pro (USB3.0 Front Panel)


 

HDTune Pro (USB 3.1 Type-C)


 

HDTune Pro (NVME M.2)



7. Value & Conclusion
  • A board truly designed for GAMING
  • Excellent power efficiency - VRM ready for overclocking
  • Intel LAN
  • Bundled PCIe Wi-Fi card
  • Decent drive performance 
  • Dual 32 Gb/s M.2 ports
  • Fan control could offer more
  • RGB LEDs all over (yet done very nicely)
  • Limited BCLK OC of non-K CPUs
9.8
The MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC is truly near-perfect. Of course, those of you not into RGB LEDs have your bit to say, but beyond that, there is literally nothing I would call negative about this board. I really had to dig deep to find something to comment about. It's priced right, is filled with useful features and options that are going to be put to use while GAMING, and when put to the test and pushed hard while filled with multiple high-end VGAs, it didn't falter one bit.

Today's motherboard market is filled with designs that cater to specific users of one sort or another, but by and far the largest category of users is going to consist of those who use their PCs for playing video games. Manufacturers understand this, so we've got numerous options catering to this user type from all brands, for all budgets. None, however, are as focused on GAMING as MSI's GAMING products are, and that's not just some marketing madness. MSI truly wants you to have a great experience as a gamer when it comes time to build your own PC, and this board, the MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC, truly sets the bar high, and so much so that everyone else is trying to jump over it. I don't think many others succeed in the way MSI does.

Priced at roughly US$200, the MSI Z370 GAMING CARBON PRO AC sits in the same price range as the almighty ASRock Taichi boards, the ASUS STRIX series, and Gigabyte AORUS products. The STRIX lacks Wi-Fi or costs more and has nowhere near enough USB plugs on the back panel. The AORUS boards are a bit more expensive, as is the Taichi. The Taichi also has less RGB goodies. What MSI has on offer here with the Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC is definitely different from the rest, and that Wi-Fi? You can buy the board without it if you don't need it, and that saves you a little bit of cash you could spend elsewhere and makes this board just that much better as a value-oriented proposition. All this wraps up into a tight bundle few can compare to and most don't even try to achieve, and you should take notice of that... I know I have.
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