MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC Motherboard Review
Features and Motherboard Layout
Courtesy of MSI
- Supports 8th Gen Intel® CoreTM / Pentium® Celeron® processors for LGA 1151 socket
- Supports DDR4 Memory, up to 4000+(OC) MHz
- MYSTIC LIGHT: 16.8 million colors / 17 effects controlled in one click. MYSTIC LIGHT EXTENSION supports both RGB and RAINBOW LED strip.
- Lightning Fast Game experience: 2x TURBO M.2, Intel Optane Memory Ready. M.2 Shield, LIGHTNING USB 3.1 GEN2
- AUDIO BOOST 4 with NAHIMIC 2+: Reward your ears with studio grade sound quality for the most immersive gaming experience
- DDR4 Boost: Fully isolated, shielded and optimized DDR4 PCB design to give your DDR4 memory a performance boost.
- GAMING LAN and Wireless support, powered by Intel®: The best online gaming experience with lowest latency and bandwidth management.
- MULTI-GPU: With STEEL ARMOR PCI-E slots. Supports 2-Way NVIDIA SLI™ & 3-Way AMD Crossfire™
- VR Ready: Best virtual reality game experience without latency, reduces motion sickness.
- Military Class 5, Guard-Pro: Latest evolution with high quality Japanese components for best protection and efficiency.
- In-Game Weapons: Game Boost, GAMING Hotkey, X-Boost, WTFast.
- EZ Debug LED: Easiest way to troubleshoot.
- Click BIOS 5: Award-winning BIOS with high resolution scalable font, favorites and search function.
- GAMING CERTIFIED: 24-hour on- and offline game and motherboard testing by eSports players.
The Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard features a matte black PCB with a silkscreened white design in the form of rays spreading from the top left and bottom right of the board. The board gets its "Carbon" moniker from the carbon fibre overlay accessorizing the rear panel cover and chipset heat sink. The board's heat sinks are chromed and black colored aluminum, blending well with the base colors and giving the board an aesthetic that should blend well with most system builds. The ATX form factor provides more than enough surface area to house the integrated features, as well as giving the board compatibility with most available consumer enclosures.
The board back is almost completely free of components, posing no problems with case mounting or mounting the CPU backplate.
MSI designed the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard with a 10-phase digital power system in an 8+2 configuration. As part of MSI's Military Class 5 design, the board's power system includes Titanium chokes, 10 year-rated Dark capacitors, and Dark chokes for superior power delivery and system stability under the most intense circumstances. The CPU VRMs are cooled a wrap-around aluminum cooler to the top and right of the CPU socket.
The board's 8-pin ATX12V power connector is located to the upper right of the CPU socket, in between the two VRM heat sinks. There is also a 4-pin RGB LED header in close proximity to the ATX12V connector.
The board has a total of two integrated PCIe x4 M.2 slots, one sandwiched in between the CPU socket and the primary PCIe x16 slot (slot M2_1), and the other underneath PCIe x1 slot 3 (slot M2_2). The slot M2_1 M.2 cards up to 110mm in length, while the other supports cards up to 80mm in length. MSI chose to integrate a cooler into the M2_1 slots design. Both M.2 ports are keyed for M-key slot devices with standard SSD, PCIe x2, PCIe x4, and Intel Optane type M.2 drives supported. Note that the two M.2 slots can be used in a RAID array. M.2 slot M2_2 shares bandwidth with SATA slots 5 / 6 with both slots disabled when a PCIe type M.2 drive is seated and slot 5 disabled with a SATA type M.2 drive seated. M.2 slot M2_1 shares bandwidth with SATA slot 1 with SATA slot 1 disabled when a SATA type M.2 drive is seated.
The integrated M.2 cover plate / cooler integrated into M.2 slot M2_1 is a thin aluminum plate with factory-installed thermal tape. It fits snuggly over the installed M.2 device with its curved sides allowing the cover plate to fully envelope and seal the device to the board. We will cover how effectively the plate cools an active M.2 PCIe x4 device later in the review.
The board has a total of four DIMM slots with Dual Channel memory mode active with modules in slots 1 / 3 or 2 / 4. The board supports up to 64GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 4400MHz. Note that memory speeds above 2667MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. The slots are reinforced with a metal cage that sits in between and around the slots, giving the whole construction additional support and strength.
Directly below the DIMM slots are a USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, several 4-pin fan headers, the EZ Debug LED block, and the Corsair RGB LED header. The EZ Debug LED block illuminates when there are problems detected with the monitored areas - CPU, DRAM, VGA, and BOOT. The Corsair RGB LED header (JCORSAIR1) can be used for connecting Corsair RGB LED strips directly to the board, controllable via the MSI software. To the upper right of the DIMM slots is the 4-pin CPU fan header.
The Intel Z370 chipset is covered by a low profile black heat sink with an MSI-branded carbon fiber overlay. The chipset sink has RGB LEDs below its surface, illuminating with the board powered and making for a nice ground-effects style look. In addition to the two PCIe x4 M.2 slots, the board was designed with six SATA III ports - four in the port block directly below the chipset and two board-mounted ports to the left of the chipset. Additionally, there is a USB 3.0 header to the right of the SATA port block, also mounted parallel to the board's surface for cleaner cable routing. To the left of the port block is a 4-pin system fan header. SATA ports 5 / 6 share bandwidth with M.2 slot M2_2 with both ports disabled when an M.2 PCIe device is installed and port 5 disabled with an M.2 SATA device installed. SATA port 1 shares bandwidth with M.2 slot M2_1, being disabled with an M.2 SATA device installed in the board.
The board contains a total of six PCIe slots - three PCIe x16 slots and three PCIe x1 slots. The PCIe x16 slots can be used in x16 / 0 / x4 or x8 / x8 / x4 modes. The primary and secondary PCI x16 slots are reinforced with steel overlays for additional slot strength when using the board in a vertical orientation. The CMOS battery and CMOS reset jumper are located in between the portions of the primary and secondary PCIe x16 slots.
The board's integrated audio components are located just above the PCIe ports with the Audio Boost 4 logo stamped into the surface of the audio chipset. The audio subsystem lives on an isolated PCB to minimize line-noise and distortion caused by other integrated components. The PCB separator line illuminates according to the color scheme configured through the Windows Mystic Light applet. The front panel audio connector is located to the lower right of the audio PCB, along the board's upper left edge.
MSI integrated support for connecting an RGB LED strips directly into the board using the RGB LED headers located in the upper left, lower left, and lower right quadrants of the board. The RGB header in the upper left of the board supports standard 12V RGB LED strips, while the header in the lower left supports a 5V rainbow-style RGB strip. Connecting an RGB LED strip to any of the headers synchronizes the strip color and activity with that of the motherboard's integrated LEDs. The board is shown with an external RGB strip connected to the header in the board's upper left quadrant. Notice that the board has multiple integrated RGB zones (in addition to the RGB header) - around the CPU VRM heat sinks, lining PCIe x16 slots 1 and 3, integrated into the underside of the board's audio separator line, in the Z370 chipset, and the underneath the board by the DIMM slots.
In the upper left of the board are the front panel audio header, and RGB LED header, a 4-pin system fan header, a trusted module port header, and LED power Demo header. In the lower left board quadrant are the USB 2.0 headers, the system debug header (JSPI1), the chipset LED power header (JPIPE_LED2), the chassis intrusion header, two of the integrated SATA ports, and the 5V Rainbow RGB LED header.
Along the board's middle left edge are the trusted module port header, the DEMO LED power header and DEMO button, and the chassis speaker and front panel headers. The DEMO power header and button are used by retailers to demo the board's LED effects without the need to hook it into a full system or PSU.
The board contains the following integrated ports in its rear panel assembly: a hybrid PS/2 port, two USB 2.0 ports (black), four USB 3.0 ports (red), two USB 3.1 10Gbps ports (red) - one Type A and one Type C, an Intel I219-V GigE RJ-45 port, DisplayPort and HDMI video ports, an S/PDIF digital audio output port, and five analogue audio output ports. The USB 3.1 Type A and Type C ports are stacked and sandwiched in between the video port, controlled via an ASMedia chipset. The four USB 3.0 ports (below and to the left of the RJ-45 port) are controlled by the Intel Z370 chipset controller.