With the wide range of new Coffee Lake based 8th gen CPUs from Intel, there needs to be just as much of a selection when it comes to motherboards. Not every board will fit each build or theme and depending on the CPU you may need more or less features. MSI has done a great job with a whole list of different models on Z370. For the launch, they sent over the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon, one of their higher end boards and I’ve been testing with it. Today I want to check out what they have going on for features and see how it compares to the rest of the market. Is the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon the board to get for your new build? Let’s find out.

Product Name: MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

Review sample provided for review by: MSI

Written by: Wes Compton

Pictures by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

 

Specifications

CPU

Supports 8th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors, and Intel® Pentium® and Celeron® Processors for Socket LGA1151

Chipset

Intel® Z370 Chipset

Main Memory

• 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64GB

- Supports DDR4 4000+(OC) to 2133 MHz Memory

• Supports Dual-Channel mode

• Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory

• Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

* Please refer to www.msi.com for more information on compatible memory.

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

• 1 x HDMI™ port, supports a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@30Hz, 2560x1600@60Hz>

• 1 x DisplayPort port, supports a maximum resolution of 4096X2304@24Hz, 3840X2160@60Hz,1920X1200@60Hz

Multi-GPU

• Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology

• Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology

Storage

• Intel® Z370 Chipset

• 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports*

• 2 x M.2 slots (Key M)

- Support up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s

- Support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe U.2 SSD with Turbo U.2 Host Card**

- M2_1 slot supports 2242/ 2260 /2280/ 22110 storage devices

- M2_2 slot supports 2242/ 2260 /2280 storage devices

- Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready for all M.2 slots

RAID

• Intel® Z370 Chipset

• Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices

• Supports RAID 0, RAID 1 for M.2 PCIe storage devices

USB

• ASMedia® ASM3142 Chipset

- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-C port on the back panel

- 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 (SuperSpeed USB 10Gbps) Type-A port on the back panel

• Intel® Z370 Chipset

- 8 x USB 3.1 Gen1 (SuperSpeed USB) ports (4 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)

- 6 x USB 2.0 (High-speed USB) ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB connectors)

Audio

• Dual Realtek® ALC1220 Codec

- 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio

- Supports S/PDIF output

LAN

1 x Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN controller

Internal I/O Connectors

- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector

- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector

- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors

- 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)

- 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)

- 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector

- 1 x 4-pin water pump fan connector

- 4 x 4-pin system fan connectors

- 1 x Front panel audio connector

- 2 x Front panel connectors

- 2 x 5050 RGB LED strip 12V connectors

- 1 x WS2812B Individually Addressable RGB LED strip 5V connector

- 1 x CORSAIR Individually Addressable RGB LED strip 5V connector

- 1 x TPM module connector

- 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector

- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper

Back Panel I/O Ports

- 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

Dimension

12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.4 cm x 24.3 cm)

ATX Form Factor

Mounting

9 mounting holes

 


Packaging and Accessories

So the box for the Gaming Pro Carbon has just a preview of the styling in the background with a touch of the RGB lighting and the carbon fiber finish. In the middle of the front they have the product name with stuff like the MSI logo up in the top left corner, the required logos from Intel in the top right, and then their mystic light logo in the bottom right. The back of the box has a lot more information. For starters they have a full photo of the board with the lighting lit up as well. The photo has a few key features with lines drawn to them and then on the right side, they have small breakdowns of what each feature is all about with photos and diagrams. Down along the bottom they also include a small specification listing and then a line drawing of the rear I/O so you know what your connections options will be. MSI does a good job showing everything you might need to know when buying in retail.

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Inside the box, besides the board itself, they did slip in a few different accessories. You get a whole pile of cables in small bags. You get two SATA bags with just one cable per bag inside. The next bag has an RGB header splitter, I love this idea. You can finally add more lights when needed. With the same theme, they included adapters for individually addressable LEDs to run Corsair or standard WS2812B lights. There is one SLI bridge, it is a solid PCB design with a black PCB but MSI slipped in their dragon logo up on top as well. The rear I/O shield is mostly black with red legends as well as red highlights around the main audio connection and the two super speed USB connections. Then for documentation, the board comes with a full manual, an install guide for the CPU, and a warranty/thank you card. With those, they also include a SATA cable label sticker sheet and a software/driver disc in case you can’t get online to get the most up to date drivers.

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Board Layout and Pictures

So the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon is a full ATX  board and its black, gray, and white color scheme is similar to their Pro lineup only the design on this is a little more “aggressive”. What I mean by that is where the Pro lineup is all about a clean and simple look the Carbon has white stripes across most of the black PCB, angular heatsinks, and fake carbon fiber on the I/O shield and chipset cooler. So while you do get the color neutral design the rest of the design is a lot more flashy. Personally, the design is a little over the top for me, mostly because of the fake carbon fiber, but I am happy they didn’t go with crazy colors at least. Unless you turn them on with the RGB lighting up under the board and built into the I/O shield.

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For cooling, MSI has three heatsinks. There is a low profile heatsink next to the PCIe slots to cool the chipset then two for the power circuity above and to the left of the CPU socket. The chipset heatsink is black and has an extremely angular design. To the extent that even on what you would think is the flat side, it is not parallel with the edge of the board. It has the MSI logo on top of the fake carbon fiber and a touch of silver as well. As for the power circuitry heatsinks, well they have a little more meat to them to do actual cooling. The mounting surface though isn’t very wide. They get wider and ad a few short grooves to add to the surface area. They are linked together with a plastic shroud but they don’t have any heatsinks connecting them together functionally, it is just an aesthetic look to combine them.

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The shroud that connects the two heatsinks also tucks up under the rear I/O shield. This also has a really aggressive style for the shape and I actually like the shape but I could go without the fake carbon fiber. I know it fits the name but a small touch of real carbon fiber would look WAY better. It has the Gaming Pro designation on it and between the silver and carbon fiber on the CPU socket side, it has an LED strip with addressable LEDs to add to the lighting, similar to what Strix boards have had.

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Okay starting up in the top left corner to take a closer look at the board features. This area is mostly filled with the rear I/O and the CPU socket, not to mention the two heatsinks and the plastic part connecting the two. But there are still a few things of interest. Down under the left heatsink, there is a well placed PWM fan header that is perfect for your rear mounted case fans. Then up top under the heatsink, MSI has also tucked in the 8-pin CPU power along with a small four pin RGB header for top mounted lighting.

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In the top right corner, there is a little more space for things. The biggest thing in this area are the four DDR4 DIMM slots. They all have metal shielding on them and use top and bottom clips for a more traditional memory installation. To the left of that there is one CPU fan header and then over on the right, there are two more PWM headers. This is also where you will find the 24 pin motherboard power and just below that the USB 3.0 header. Also in the area is what MSI called the EZ Debug LEDs, these basically show where in the boot process things are when they hang to help point in the right direction. There is also a small surface mounted LED that lights up when you have the XMP profile turned on with the memory. The last connection right up on the top corner is the new addressable LED header for even more customization with RED lighting.

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Moving down to the bottom right portion of the Carbon there is a second USB 3.0 header only this time it is installed at a right angle then next to it are four right-angled SATA connections. There is another fan header only this time it is just a 3-pin for some reason. Then down along the bottom, there are two more SATA connections only this time they face up. There are two USB 2.0 headers next to each other. The J Rainbow header is a 5-volt lighting header.

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Along the bottom left edge, there is another four pin fan header along with another traditional four pin RGB header. The front panel audio connection is over on the far left and you can see that MSI used a shield over the audio controller and high-quality caps as well as the split PCB that everyone is now doing.

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For PCIe options, you get three x16 length slots but only two have the metal shielding that adds additional support for today's heavy video cards. There are also three x1 slots as well with a double gap between the top two x16 slots. The x16 slots will run at 16 for the top with the middle disabled and x4 on the bottom or x8 in both shielded slots and x4 in the bottom. There are also two M.2 slots slipped in here. One up top with a metal shield that can go over it and a second down above the x4 slot. They both run at x4 and support PCIe or SATA drives.

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For the rear I/O this board seems a little bare without the wireless adapter of the otherwise matching Carbon AC model. You do get Displayport and HDMI ports but there is actually room for a DVI as well I’m surprised it wasn’t included. Over on the left, you get a PS2 port for those using old keyboards and mice as well as two USB 2.0 ports. Then over on the far right is the 5+optical audio connections with the main audio out highlighted in red. The Intel NIC is paired up with two USB 3.1 ports in red as well as two more above the HDMI port. Then the Type-C and the red port above it are both Gen 2 speed ports. Having red on the 3.1 and the faster Gen 2 ports is a little confusing though, I wish they would have colored the 3.1’s better there.

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The back of the board is the cleanest styled area. Here there aren’t any screen printed lines on the PCB so it is all blacked out with the exception of all of the required logos they have hidden back here. From the back, you can see that all three heatsinks are mounted with a screw from the back but with no backplates.

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BIOS

While this is Carbon themed board the BIOS that MSI didn’t reflect any changes, sticking with their red and black look. When you first boot into the BIOS you do land in the easy mode where you have one page and simple drag and drop options for most anything that the average user might need. You can drag and drop the boot options, turn on game boost overclock as well as XMP mode. There are also options to turn on and off a few other features as well as check out clock speeds and fan speeds.

The advanced mode shares some of the simple easy to use features that were across the top but now in the middle, you have an older text-based menu where you can flip through all of the advanced settings. Most options for board and CPU features can be found in the settings tab. Then from there, the overclocking tab has anything at all that is overclocking related. Most boards break things up a little more than this but I found this worked well and you could find anything you need with a little hunting. You can use a mouse or the keyboard depending on what you prefer. Over on the right, when you mouse over items it does give you tips in case you aren’t sure what an option does.

Beyond that, you can get into a hardware monitor screen where you can see temperatures and even change fan profiles. There is also a board explorer option that has a photo of the motherboard and lets you mouse over anything to see where each is plugged in. This is nice when trying to figure out which SATA port is hooked up to a specific drive for example.

 


Test Rig and Procedures

Intel Z370 Test System

CPU

Intel Core i7-8700K

Live Pricing

Cooling

Noctua NH-U12S for cooling

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

Live Pricing

Live Pricing

Memory

Kingston HyperX FURY DDR4 16GB Kit 2666MHz

Live Pricing

Storage

Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD

Live Pricing

Video Card

Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti

Live Pricing

Power Supply

Thermaltake 850w

Live Pricing

Case

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

Live Pricing

OS

Windows 10 Pro 64-bit

Live Pricing

Motherboard Testing

Passmark Performance Test 9.0

Overall PCMark score

PCMark 10

PCMark 10 standard test, not the quick or extended versions

3DMark

We run the 2013 Fire Strike test on the performance setting

In Game Tests

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

In game benchmark, ultra setting, 1080p

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

1080p, built-in benchmark run at the high setting

Subsystem Testing

Passmark

Passmark Advanced network test

 


Performance

For performance testing, I ran the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon through our normal benchmarks to confirm that there weren’t any weird performance issues. With the CPU, Memory, and GPU all being the same the results should be just about the same with the exception of when boards do stock overclocking. In this case, even with XMP on there wasn’t an issue with this with the Carbon. So the numbers in all of the tests are right in line with the Asus ROG Stix board that I covered at the launch. The same goes for the network speed results as both boards are running the same Intel I219-V controller.

Normally this would be the end of my testing but I actually had an issue with this board even before the rest of my testing. I had originally planned on doing the Coffee Lake testing on this board but I had issues with the 8700K overheating when doing temperature testing. This is actually why this coverage is only now getting published. After working with MSI they did replicate the issue and found a fix for it. So similar to the other overclocking issues during the initial Coffee Lake launch that caused a lot of drama, the Z370 Carbon did do things a little differently with their settings than the other board I tested. Specifically, the setting called CPU Lite Load under overclocking settings in the BIOS is set to Auto by default but when put under the synthetic load from AIDA64’s FPU test it causes the voltage to bump up to 1.36v. They did this for better memory compatibility but the extra heat it caused was too much for our Noctua NH-U12S. Turning this setting from Auto to Mode 12 drops the voltage down to 1.248v and fixed my temperature settings.

CPU temperature testing isn’t something I normally do on motherboard reviews so this does make me wonder if I have missed issues like this in the past. This also shouldn’t be an issue under normal usage so it may never come up, but if things are running a little warm it might be a setting to check out. 

3DMark

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

Physics Score

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

20338

23799

19461

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

20285

23679

19395

PCMark 10 Score

Overall Score

Essentials

Productivity

Content Creation

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

6850

9658

9367

9644

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

6853

9672

9408

9597

Passmark PerformanceTest 9.0 Overall Score

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

6126.2

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

6247.2

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands Average FPS

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

115.22

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

115.89

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Average FPS

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming

95.9

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

96.2

Average Network Speed

Asus ROG Strix Z370-F Gaming - Intel I219V

941.1

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon – Intel I219V

937.5

 


Overall and Final Verdict

Now that we have gotten a look at the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon’s features, aesthetics, software, and performance I can finally wrap it all up and run through the good and the bad. I’m actually a big fan of the color neutral theme that MSI went with on this board. With RGB becoming popular you do see it more but they have been great about having simple designs in their Pro lineup for a while now. This doesn’t lock you into any specific theme. The rear I/O shield is a nice touch as well, covering up all of the shiny metal back there and helping give a mostly blacked out look. The only thing I don’t like as far as aesthetics goes is the use of the fake carbon fiber. I know this is the Carbon model but the fake weave they used is especially fake looking, there are much better designs out there that make you wonder if it is really Carbon fiber, that would have made a big difference.

As for features the board isn’t exactly packed full of options, but you do at least get two M.2 slots and more than enough connections for any normal PC. The rear I/O could use a few more USB connections but overall the Carbon isn’t too bad.

The BIOS was solid and easy to navigate and it boots into its EZ Mode to prevent anyone getting lost if they don’t know what they are doing. Performance testing was interesting though. Overall the results were in line with other boards I’ve tested. It was the CPU heat issues that caused issues for me. MSI has this board set to feed more voltage when doing specific heavy loads to help with memory compatibility and this caused our 8700K to overheat quickly multiple times. I had to work with MSI to find a solution and I did document that in the performance section earlier. This won’t be an issue with normal use, but I do wonder if MSI should be updating their BIOS to prevent it from happening at all.

So the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon has an MSRP of $189.99, where does that put it in the market? Well just about smack dab in the middle honestly. This isn’t a budget board and with some Z370’s going for $400 it isn’t a high-end board as well. Feature wise it is in line with its pricing and MSI has a similar Gaming Pro Carbon AC with wireless should you need that. So overall the pricing is where I should be. Would I pick one up? Well, I like most of the board but the overheating issue would keep me away until I knew they updated that. It is fixable and frankly, it might not be an issue for lots of people in everyday use but all it takes is the one time you end up putting your PC under that load and wondering why it just bugged out and shut down.

fv5

Live Pricing: HERE

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: http://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

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