To go along with Intel’s latest launch all of the motherboard manufacturers also have lots of new boards as well. So it isn’t a surprise that we have had a few of the new Z490 boards show up in the office. I’m going to take a look at them over the next few days. Most of the boards that were sent over are higher end, but MSI sent over their MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFI which isn’t a budget board but is a little easier on the wallet. Its name may be a little long, but at just under $270 is it a good sweet spot for a Z490 build? Today I’m going to find out!

Product Name: MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

Review Sample Provided by: MSI

Written by: Wes Compton

Amazon Affiliate Link: HERE

 

 

Specifications

Processor

-Supports 10th Gen Intel® Core™ and Pentium® Gold / Celeron® processors for LGA1200 socket

-Onboard graphics output are disabled when using the F SKU processors.

Chipset

Intel® Z490 Chipset

Memory

4x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 128GB1

Supports 1R 2133/2666/2933 MHz1

1DPC 1R Max speed up to 4800+ MHz

1DPC 2R Max speed up to 4266+ MHz

2DPC 1R Max speed up to 4400+ MHz

2DPC 2R Max speed up to 4000+ MHz

Supports Dual-Channel mode

Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory

Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)

Expansion slots

3x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots*, support x16/ x0/ x4 or x8/ x8/ x4 mode

2x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots

Onboard graphics

1x HDMI port, supports a maximum resolution of 4096x2160 @30Hz

1x DisplayPort, supports a maximum resolution of 4096x2304 @60Hz

Maximum shared memory is 1GB

Multi-GPU

Supports 2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology

Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology

Storage

Intel® Z490 Chipset

  • 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports
  • 2x M.2 slots (Key M)
    • M2_1 supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s, 2242/ 2260/ 2280/ 22110 storage devices
    • M2_2 supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s, 2242/ 2260/ 2280 storage devices
    • Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready
    • Supports Intel® Sma

Raid

Intel® Z490 Chipset

  • Supports RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
  • Supports RAID 0 and RAID 1 for M.2 PCIe storage devices

USB

Intel® Z490 Chipset

  • 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps ports (4 Type-A ports on the back panel, 1 Type-C internal connector)
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps ports are available through the internal USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps connector
  • 6x USB 2.0 ports (2 Type-A ports on the back panel, 4 ports through the internal USB 2.0 connectors)

ASMedia® ASM3241 Chipset

  • 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20Gbps port on the back panel

Audio

Realtek® ALC1220 Codec

  • 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
  • Supports S/PDIF output

LAN

1x Realtek® RTL8125B 2.5Gbps LAN controller

WiFi &Bluetooth

Intel® AX201

  • Supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/ax, MU-MINO Rx, 2.4GHz-5GHz (160MHz) up to 2.4Gbps
  • WiFi 6 Pre-Certified
  • Supports Bluetooth® 5.1 , FIPS, FISMA
  • The Wireless module is pre-install in the M2 (Key-E) slot

Internal Connectors

1x 24-pin ATX main power connector

1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector

1x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector

6x SATA 6Gb/s connectors

2x M.2 slots (M-Key)

1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps Type-C port

1x USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps connector (supports additional 2 USB 3.2 Gen 1 5Gbps ports)

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

1x 4-pin CPU fan connector

1x 4-pin water-pump fan connector

6x 4-pin system fan connectors

1x Front panel audio connector

2x System panel connectors

1x Chassis Intrusion connector

1x 4-pin RGB LED connector

2x 3-pin RAINBOW LED connectors

1x 3-pin CORSAIR LED connector

1x Serial port connector

1xTPM module connector

1x TBT connector*

1x RTD3 connector

1x Clear CMOS jumper

Back Panel Ports

PS/2 Combo Port

DisplayPort

USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (Type-A)

LAN Port

HD Audio Connectors

USB 2.0

HDMI Port

USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20Gbps (Type-C)

USB 3.2 Gen 2 10Gbps (Type-A)

Wi-Fi / Bluetooth

Optical S/PDIF OUT

Dimensions

ATX Form Factor

12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm)

Mounting

9 mounting holes

Operating System

Support for Windows® 10 64-bit

Box Contents

Motherboard
User Manual

Quick Installation Guide

MSI Case Badge

Product Registration Card

1 to 2 RGB LED Extension Y Cable
Driver DVD

Case Screw Guide

Corsair RGB LED Extension Cable

2 x SATA Cables

Rainbow RGB LED Extension Cable

Promotion Card

MSI Product Catalog

 

 


Packaging and Accessories

MSI’s packaging for the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi, like just about every board anymore has a color rainbow on the front of light coming from the back of a supercar. I’m not sure what that has to do with motherboards other than the Carbon branding. But it does look cool. I would always prefer to just have a picture of the board on the front though. MSI branding is up in the top left corner along with Intels required badges in the top right. Then the long name is all in the bottom right under a bar that shows that this is an Intel Motherboard which I think might be a little unneeded with the Intel logos in the other corner. The back of the box does at least have a picture of the board. They also have a specification listing and a line drawing of the rear I/O which is nice. They do highlight key features, but there aren’t any additional pictures to go with them like most boards have. But you can get an idea of what you are buying with the features, pictures, specs, and drawing at least.

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Inside the board, the board comes wrapped up in a static protective bag, and then it sits in a cardboard tray. That is all on top of all of the accessories and documentation which live down in the bottom of the box.

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For documentation the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi comes with a full user manual as well as a quick installation guide. MSI also tucked a paper about case standoffs as well to make sure you don’t install the board with a case standoff poking into the back of the board and shorting things out. You get a sheet of label stickers which I’ve honestly never needed but is always a welcome addition and a metal MSI Gaming case badge. Then you get a few marketing things like a join the MSI rewards program card and a folded up small book with other MSI products inside. There is also a card reminding you to register your card as well. Then last but not least a software disc which includes drivers and software from MSI, but I would still always recommend downloading the latest if possible.

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There aren’t too many accessories with the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi but you get a few cables at least. There are two bags with SATA cables, one in each bag and all blacked out. The black and grey cable is an RGB Y cable that allows you to turn one of the traditional four-pin RGB headers into two. Next to that is what they call the rainbow RGB extension cable or an extension cable for addressable RGB lighting. Then on the right, they also include an adapter for Corsair LEDs which is a cool way to integrate some of the most popular LED products in with the motherboard lighting controls. The small baggie also gets you multiple tiny M.2 mounting screws.

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You can’t have WiFI in the product name and not also include a WiFI antenna as well. What you get is a basic design with a wide base. The base does also have rubber feet and a small magnet inside to help attach to some cases. You aren’t going to reach too far away with the cord length not being too long but it is enough to get it up on top of your case or maybe up on to your desk if needed.

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Board Layout and Pictures

A few generations of motherboards ago MSI set out to redefine their product lineup to simplify things with short designations that show exactly what the board is focused on. I’ll be honest and even being in the industry the naming still hasn’t stuck with me. But here is the breakdown. MEG is their highest end, MPG is tuned for high gaming performance, MAG is more of a budget-focused gaming product, and then they have the pro lineup with PRO. That helps us understand where the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi lands, even before looking into it anymore. MSI does have four boards for the Z490 launch in the MPG range, however. I do think that they could drop the gaming from the name to simplify things then we would still know that this is a Z490 board for Intel, a high-performance gaming board, and the carbon would let us know that the board is blacked out and WiFi obviously lets us know that it has wireless. I dig the new look MSI is going with the carbon lineup. There is still some fake carbon fiber but it is more realistic now and the black and grey theme is always welcomed. Unless you are trying to build a white build of course. The Z490 Carbon is a traditional ATX board and comes in at 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm, nothing about its layout is unusual or different.

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For cooling the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi does have a moderate amount of heatsinks and covers, but not the full board coverage that we are starting to see on all of the ultra-high-end boards. What that means is you get a normal VRM cooling solution with machined/extruded aluminum heatsinks on the top and side of the CPU socket. They keep the 14 total VRMs cool with the breakdown being 12 for the CPU and 2 for the memory. Those two heatsinks have a heatpipe running between them and MSI has machined in a lot of fins that you can see on the side profile to add additional cooling capacity. The chipset heatsink is a thin grey anodized aluminum heatsink with MSIs gaming dragon on it and a carbon fiber section that extends out over the top of the heatsink that slips between the PCIe slots where one of the X1 length slots is. Then the two M.2 covers are actually a little weird to me because they have a rounded shape that doesn’t match the chipset cooler next to them. One of those is a darker grey and the other is a lighter grey and they both come off with two screws with the M.2 slots under them along with thermal tape which comes preinstalled.

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Being a higher-end board the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi does have a full cover over the rear I/O which extends out over the VRM heatsinks. The carbon fiber weave look is molded into the plastic but from a short distance it looks surprisingly good and there are a few clear plastic areas for some of the boards RGB lighting here as well.

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Starting up in the top left, let’s take a look at what the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi has going on for features. This area is, as usual, mostly filled with the VRM heatsinks and the rear I/O. It does also have the CPU socket itself which interesting enough with most of this board being black or grey isn’t one of the tinted sockets like all of the other boards I have in to check out. For CPU power there is one 8-pin power-up between the top heatsink and the rear I/O and a second four port. There is also one four-pin PWM fan header down below the left heatsink which is ideal for rear case fans.

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The top right has a little more going on starting with the four DDR4 DIMMs which are all in black. One notable thing is that the memory slots don’t have the additional metal shielding that most boards are adding. There is a four-pin PWM fan header to the left of the memory and then the right edge has FOUR more putting us at 6 so far. There is also an addressable RGB header right with them and a Corsair RGB header with it. Farther down there are a few small LED indicators to help diagnose boot issues. This is especially important because this board does not have a status screen or for that matter a power button. The power button is more for testing, which in my case was a bummer but I do understand that it isn’t needed once the case is installed typically. Below that is the standard 24 pin motherboard power and then there is a new style USB 3.2 Gen 2 front-panel header for a Type-C front panel connection.

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The bottom right corner has the chipset cooler taking up a lot of room but along the right and bottom edge they did still fit a lot. Below the USB 3.2, Gen 2 connection previously mentioned is a normal USB 3.2 header which is orientated at a right angle so you don’t have to have that cable sticking up. Next to that are four SATA ports which are also at a right angle. The front panel connection is in the bottom right corner and there aren’t any labels or color codes so plan on having to bust out the manual. Next to that is the case speaker if you have one. Then also in the corner is a four-pin RGB header and a three-pin addressable RGB header as well. Over on the left is one older USB 2.0 header along with a cool manual switch to turn off the RGB lighting.

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The bottom left corner is where you will find all of the PCIe slots which the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi does have three PCIe x16 length slots. Two have metal shields on them but they don’t all get x16 bandwidth so here is the breakdown. The top slot gets a full x16 as long as the middle slot isn’t used. When both are in use they both get x8 and then the bottom slot is always x4. There are also two x1 slots slipped in. Also, there are two M.2 slots hidden under the heatsinks as well with one above the PGU and one down below the middle x16 slot. Both of those support x4 PCI drives or SATA drives and I love that the top M.2 slot isn’t up under the GPU so it should run much cooler. Down on the bottom edge, we have the rear audio connection on the left along with a four-pin RGB header next to it. Then two more PWM fan headers for a total of 8!

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For the onboard audio, MSI did split things apart on to its own PCB and you can see the split section filled with resin. There isn’t a big shield over anything and this isn’t a high-end audio setup but it does have quality caps, just fewer than what we might see on the high-end boards. It runs on the Realtek ALC1220 Codec and what MSI called Audio Boost 4.

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The back of the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi mainly shows off that nice flat black PCB finish. I like that MSI slipped most of the required certification logos back here to keep the top cleaner and they also included three arrows to show where to not have your motherboard standoffs. Between that and the included paper, they clearly have had a LOT of people fry boards that way. You can also see the split PCB for the onboard audio really well here where it is split all the way up to the rear I/O and down to the front panel connection.

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The rear I/O shield on the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi comes preinstalled which is extremely nice. No worrying about getting it to fit perfectly or forgetting it and taking everything apart. It is blacked out like the board with the exception of the labels. So here is the breakdown. It does have display connections for both DisplayPort and HDMI. You also get two older USB 22.0 and a legacy PS2. I would trade that PS2 port for two more USB any day. There are four more Type-A USB ports that are red and are all USB 3.2 Gen 2. But it is the Type-C connection that caught my eye. MSI included the newer USB Gen 2x2 which is twice as fast on this board. I also like that he Type-C port doesn’t look like a Type-A port, I’ve plugged a few Type-C’s into Type-A’s and shorted and shut down the whole PC (opps) when trying to plug it in around the back of the PC in the dark. There is just one NIC which is the Realtek RTL8125B 2.5G NIC which should mean better network speeds in the future as 2.5G and 10G start to get into more network devices. I’m not sure why they didn’t go with the Intel though. The two WiFI plugs are of course for the included antenna and that is a newer WiFi 6 wireless NIC as well. Then on the end, you get a traditional audio layout including optical out. MSI does have the main audio out marked with white around it and a red connection. Overall I like what you get, other than wishing there were more USB ports. I don’t need this many Gen 2 Type-A ports as well, all of my gen 2 devices are all Type-C.

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BIOS

We used to get lots of pictures to show some of the BIOS functionality but I’ve found that it is a lot easier just to have a video clicking through all of the options where you can pause and check anything out. MSI has their Click BIOS 5 for the MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi and like most, it is split up into the EZ mode and the advance mode. When you first boot in you are in the easy mode which helps prevent inexperienced people from changing things they shouldn’t change. The easy mode has one-click options to turn on the XMP profiles and a basic CPU boost and you can also drag and drop to change the boot priority. They also let you get at M-Flash which is what you use to update your BIOS and turn things like the lighting and audio controller on and off.

The advanced BIOS still has the same one-click boosts up top as well as the drag and drop boot options that are available on every page. You also have information on your hardware and current temperatures and clocks speeds. They then break things down into three sections on the left. Normal settings, overclocking, and then M-Flash. Like I said before M-Flash is where you can update your BIOS at. The normal settings page has a few options. The first is system status which just shows you information like your current BIOS revision, serial numbers, and shows you what is plugged in. You can also change the date and time.

The advanced tab in the settings menu is where nearly all of the chipset settings are at. They break things down by subsystems like PCIe, Thunderbolt, USB, and so on. This is where you can turn on legacy settings for example but even settings like power loss settings which I would think would be in the boot section are also here. I should also point out that every option anywhere in the BIOS does offer a hint or description over on the right side of the BIOS to help you figure out what things are. I somehow skipped boost and security, sorry about that, but they have the standard options in them. There wasn’t anything that stood out for me.

The overclocking section is where MSI has moved any option that is overclocking related which included overclocking your CPU and your memory and all power settings. Early on you can get into the advanced CPU configuration which you can change power and turbo settings including turning MCE or what MSI called Enhanced Turbo on or off. Power limits can be set which control a lot of the auto overclocking. Overclocking the base clock is there as well as more detail options like the amplitude and slew rate. Memory is below all of that and again they have the main few features on the main overclocking page then everything else is hidden in the advanced configuration page. MSI also has their Memory Try It! Option which can test and try to help make memory more compatible. Then below memory is all of the voltage settings for everything, CPU specifications, memory information by the stick, and CPU features. 

 


Test Rig and Procedures

 

Test System

CPU: Intel Core-i9 10900K – Live Pricing

Cooling: Noctua NH-U12S for cooling - Live Pricing

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste - Live Pricing

  Memory:   Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB 16GB 3000 MHz – Live Pricing

Storage:   WD Black SN750 1TB – Live Pricing

Video Card: Nvidia RTX 2080 SUPER FE - Live Pricing

Power Supply: Corsair TX750M - Live Pricing

Case: Dimastech 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 and Time Spy on its regular setting

In Game Tests

The Division 2

1080p, In-Game benchmark, Ultra detail with v sync turned off

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands

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

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

1080p, In-Game benchmark, High detail setting

Far Cry 5

1080p, In-Game benchmark, High detail setting

Subsystem Testing

Passmark

Passmark Advanced network test

VRM Temps

Temperatures tested using a Flir One Pro while running AIDA64 stress test on the FPU setting


Performance

For testing, I have been saying for years that motherboard benchmarks don’t hold much weight because you are still using the same CPU, memory, and GPU and those are what play big roles in how fast your PC is. But I do run a few tests just to make sure everything is running the way it should and it also lets us see what the system can do. In this case, it is the i9-10900K and an RTX 2080 which is a potent combination. Until I test more boards however the results don’t say much, but I can say having seen into the future with those other boards that the MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi does run right with the other boards tested. I also test network performance and this is the one area that you sometimes see a difference. Sadly I wasn’t able to get a new switch in before the launch to put the 2.5G network to the test, but I was still curious if the 2.5G NIC would see any slowdowns on a Gigabit network which is what most people will be using it on. With the wired test showing 950.9 Mbits per second I think we can say for sure that it doesn’t. The WiFi 6 results were okay but not as fast as I was able to see on other WiFi 6 devices like in my WiFi 6 test.

3DMark – Fire Strike

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

Physics Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

20547

23183

29186

3DMark – Time Spy

Motherboard

Overall Score

Graphics Score

CPU Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

11179

10907

13021

PCMark 10 Score

Motherboard

Overall Score

Essentials

Productivity

Content Creation

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

8041

11286

9964

12548

Passmark PerformanceTest 9.0 - Overall Score

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

8981.5

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

114.24

Shadow of the Tomb Raider – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

150

Far Cry 5 – High Detail - Average FPS

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

147

Average Network Speed - Mbits/Sec

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi – Wired (1G network) Realtek RTL8125B

950.9

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi – WiFi 6

616.5

VRM Temperatures

On Heatsink

On VRM

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

131.F

159.7F

           


I also tested out thermals with our thermal camera. I wanted to see if there were any hot spots on the board which there wasn’t other than at the VRMs like expected. The hot spot under the GPU ended up not being that warm as well. As for the VRM cooling, the hottest spot in between the VRMs and the CPU after running the AIDA64 FPU stress test was at 159 while the heatsinks were running cooler at 131.

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I also took a look at the built-in lighting. The MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi has lighting on the rear I/O cover and then around the chipset cooler, it has an underglow effect. By default, it rolls through colors and it isn’t too much or too little and just enough lighting to tie into your theme even before you add any other case or fan lighting. Having the Corsair integration was also nice given how popular their RGB lighting/fans are.

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Overall and Final Verdict

I have to admit that the carbon lineup has come a long way over the years. Early on I felt like the fake carbon fiber look was tacky and they do still include a few touches of it. But the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi ends up being more of a simple blacked out board which offers a simpler look that some of the more expensive boards. MSI kept costs down by not adding fancy 10G network cards and stuck with a lot of what is offered from the Z490 chipset but that does still get you a 2.5G NIC, WiFi 6, and a surprisingly large number of USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. Being more of a mid-range gaming board it also has some more premium features like the rear I/O shield which comes premounted and a large cover over the top of the rear I/O that helps with that clean look. I think my favorite feature has to be the inclusion of a USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C port which is twice as fast as a normal Gen 2 port and the only way you can run a drive like the WD Black P50 SSD. You get a good mix of internal connections including a Corsair RGB connection which is cool. I wouldn’t mind another USB 2.0 header but with a Type-C front panel option, you should be all set.

My only complains are relatively small. There isn’t a diagnostic readout screen, they did include the basic boot LEDs but it is nice to have a screen with an error code when you have a problem. As a reviewer, I would prefer to have a power button. I also really wish there were more USB ports on the rear I/O, a lot of bandwidth was used for those Gen 2 ports but you only get two USB 2.0. It is most likely because I have written it countless times now, but I also think the name could be cut down to be a little simpler.

As for pricing, the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi comes in at $269.99 which I am considering to be mid-range with boards starting at $150 and going up to $800. At $269.99 it has the Z490 Aorus Pro AX and the ROG Stix Z490-F Gaming as direct competition. The ROG doesn’t include WiFI at that price and it has one more VRM than the Aorus but is otherwise similar in features.  MSI balances the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi with some premium features without making it a full on high-end board which makes it a good option in the mid-range.

 

fv5recommended

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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Hummer's Avatar
Hummer replied the topic: #38756 24 May 2020 18:48
Is it possible to run the PCIe lanes in a x8/x4/x4 configuration? There is a 'CPU PCIe Lanes Configuration' in the BIOS but in the video walkthrough you dont go into the submenu.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #38757 25 May 2020 18:17
The only two options are x16/ x0/ x4 or x8/ x8/ x4

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