Venturing on to the finer details of our MSI motherboard, at the CPU socket we have LGA1151 being used and with the Intel Z370 chipset, this motherboard is able to work in conjunction with Intel’s 8the Generation of processors. If you do have a 7th Generation processor, it will not work.
A digital 10-phase power delivery system has been integrated onto our board and there is an 8-pin CPU EPS socket in the top-left corner. Covering the MOSFETs there are two large independent heatsinks which marry up to the plastic rear IO cover. Aesthetically, this all blends together very well.
A total of seven fan headers can be found on GAMING PRO CARBON AC. Three of these are – CPU, PUMP and Corsair LINK ready. The latter is a collaboration between MSI and Corsair which allows users to have a connection point for one of Corsair’s Hydro Series coolers.
Moving on to the memory area, we have four DIMM slots capable of accommodating dual-channel DDR4 – up to 64GB, 4000MHz and XMP is supported. There is even a tiny XMP LED to specify if XMP is enabled. MSI has given the slots some steel reinforcement to enhance the durability and it’s also worth mentioning that their DDR4 Boost technology has been applied also – this isolates the circuitry path to the CPU.
In the memory region MSI has included EZ Debug LED which indicates each stage of the boot process, easily identifying if there are any problems with BOOT, VGA, DRAM or CPU. Also included is a USB 3.0 header immediately next to the 24-pin ATX.
Immediately next to the storage ports we have another USB 3.0 header, this one is right-angled. Our only criticism with this is the exclusion of USB 3.1 headers. Case manufacturers are beginning to design cases with USB 3.1 on the front panel, including a compatible header would have future-proofed the motherboard.
As far as storage options go, there are six SATA 3 (6Gbps) ports – four are right-angled, while two are top facing.
Storage continues when we look at the PCI Express section too. Included on GAMING PRO CARBON AC are two M.2 slots which are PCI Express Gen3 x4 and Intel Optane Ready. The upper M.2 slot provides an “M.2 Shield” which is claims to reduce temperatures on M.2 drives – a thermal pad sits underneath and attaches to the chips on the M.2 drive and we have support for 42, 60 and 80mm SSDs.
Looking at the PCI Express slots specifically, this is populated by three PCI Express 3.0 X16 and three PCI Express 3.0 x1 slots. These X16s are wired for the following modes: 16, 8 and 4. The two upper X16 slots are again, reinforced with steel to help with EMI protection and particularly heavy graphics cards which can stress standard slots.
Taking care of the audio (to the left of the PCI Express), we have Audio Boost 4 which is driven by dual Realtec ALC1220 codec. This audio solution comprises of:
• Chemicon Audio CAPs
• Dedicated Headphone AMP
• De-Pop Protection
• Separated Audio Layers
All of which are physically isolated and the trace line has RGB lighting.
Last of all we arrive at the Rear IO section which includes:
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
- 2 x USB 2.0 Type-A ports
- 1 x DisplayPort port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A port
- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
- 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
- 1 x HDMI™ port
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
- 5 x OFC audio jacks
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
Along with the Gigabit LAN port for wired connections, there is also the option to utilise WiFi with this “AC” version of MSI’s motherboard. Included in the bundle we have an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 card which offers 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 technologies, a handy inclusion if you aren’t within distance of the router.