The waiting game has come to its end with Intel announcing the availability of its new 200 Series chipset motherboards that goes with the 7th Gen Core Processors starting from today onward.
We managed to get our hands on one of the latest 200 series motherboards a few weeks earlier for the firsthand experience with the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, mega thanks to MSI Malaysia for the provision of both the motherboard and the CPU to make this review possible. With no further adieu, let’s move on with the review and see what kind of new features and improvement we can expect from the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon.
(As MSI Malaysia has yet to announce the MSRP of the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, we will revisit this article to update its MSRP once it has been confirmed)
The MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon ships in a rather unique packaging that comes with a race car that has a rainbow-ish reflection on its windshield, which you can assume the relation of the word ‘carbon’ in its name, as well as its onboard RGB features for those who is into RGB decorative lighting for their system. Brief features and specifications of the motherboard can be found at the back of the box, i.e its steel cover fortified DIMM slots and PCIe slots, MSI’s renown use of military class 5 components for their motherboards, etc.
The included accessories are 2 x SATA cables for storage devices, rear I/O cover, Drivers CD, RGB extension cables, user’s guide, quick installation guide, SLI bridge for 2-Way SLI configuration, label stickers for cables.
The Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon
In terms of design, the first thing we’d say is that the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon looks way much better than its predecessor, the Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon. It has the same black overall look that is complimented with a larger area of carbon fiber like finishing on its chipset heatsink, VRM heatsink, as well as the rear I/O cover that makes it one of the best choices for those who is into a black themed build.
The steel shroud as mentioned earlier, also known as the DDR4 steel armor and PCIe steel armor from the previous generation of Intel 100 series chipset motherboards, has been highlighted to have more solder points on the PCB to provide additional strength and rigidity to the slots that gives not only extra durability, but also protect signals against electromagnetic interference on both the DIMM slots and PCI-Express that results in a better performance delivered compared to most traditional design.
MSI has actually decided to include not one, but two USB 3.0 port for the front I/O for those with higher demand and needs more USB 3.0 than most users.
As for the SATA port, you’ll find a total of 6 on the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon and this time, no SATA Express ports available.
Other than the usual 2-way SLI for NVIDIA graphics card and 3-way CrossFire for AMD Radeon graphics card, the notable improvement on the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon over its predecessors of the Intel 100 series chipset motherboards is the Twin Turbo M.2 and support for Intel Optane Memory which utilizes PCIe Gen3 x4 performance that is capable of up to a whopping 32 Gb/s transfer speed. The M.2 shield on the 2nd M.2 slot is the patent pending thermal solution from MSI, which at as a heatsink to dissipate heat generated from the installed M.2 or Optane device.
On the isolated audio PCB, the Audio Boost 4, you’ll find this High quality Chemi-Con Audio Capacitors that is meant to deliver better audio quality for gaming over most onboard audio conventional design, which then complimented by the bundled Nahimic 2 audio software.
As for the rear I/O, you’ll find a PS/2 port and 2 x USB 2.0 port for the peripherals i.e keyboard, mouse; HDMI and dual-link DVI-D ports for display, a USB 3.1 type-A and type-C each for the new generation devices that supports both interfaces, 4 x USB 3.0 ports, RJ45 Ethernet port and the audio jacks.
Click BIOS 5: EZ Mode
The EZ Mode comes with a very, very simple user interface that features pretty much all the basic needs for the beginners who wants to play around with the basic BIOS settings before going further with the advanced settings, i.e configuring boot device priority, BIOS flashback feature, one-click system boost with Game Boost and the easy one-click XMP button.
Click BIOS 5: Advanced Mode
The advanced mode will be the place to mess around with the settings once you’ve gotten yourself familiar with the relevant parameters. This is literally the place where the veterans or advanced users who cares about each and every setting that will affect the overall system performance will spend most of their time to meddle around with the settings for both the CPU and memory, importing or exporting overclocking profiles and more to their heart’s content.
Software: MSI Command Center
The MSI Command Center, MSI’s proprietary OS based system performance tweaking software doesn’t seem to have any significant changes this time, so there’s nothing to worry for if you’re planning to make a jump to the new Intel 200 series chipset.
Software: Nahimic 2 Audio Software
Nahimic, an audio company that helps to develop 360-degree systems for the French military in the past, licensed its Nahimic audio software to MSI to provide a more immersive gaming audio for its users. Other than its preset based audio boost feature, the Nahimic audio software comes with additional features such as noise cancellation for a microphone, as well as a screen recorder for gamers or game streamers to share their gaming experience with the world at ease.
CPU & Memory Overclock Overview
We started off our CPU overclocking using MSI’s one-click system determined auto overclocking feature, Game Boost, which gives a pretty decent result that goes around the clock speed of 4.8GHz and 4.9GHz with the Intel 7th Gen Core i7 7700K. Do note that the Game Boost feature is just like the system determined auto overclocking utility from other brands, which is limited to the CPU only and memory overclocking will requires you to manually adjust all the relevant settings.
As usual, overclocking the CPU manually is always the best if you clearly knows the outcome of the parameters that you’ll be adjusting, as according to the behavior of different components. We’ve managed to get the same i7 7700K to run at 5.0GHz, which is the highest frequency we can achieve due to the limitation on our CPU cooling – anything beyond 5.0GHz will result in an undesirable temperature of 94°C that causes thermal throttle, and could potentially kill the CPU.
Moving on the memory overclocking, we’ve managed to push the Apacer Commando DDR4 2800MHz kit a little more to 3000MHz without any adjustments done to the memory timing. Ramping up the kit to 3200MHz will require minor adjustments to the memory timing, as well as the DRAM voltage, but it’s still considered easy enough for those who are just getting started with memory overclocking.
3333MHz is achievable on the same kit, but it requires additional adjustments on the secondary timings, system agent, and IO voltage. The timing is rather loose, though, but it managed to go through games benchmark and AIDA64 memory benchmark and stability test without any issue.
Based on the performance, features and aesthetics delivered, we’d say that the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon would fit just right for users who seeks for the balance in between the aesthetics of the current RGB trend and some adequate overclocking features that doesn’t burn a hole in the wallet.
While the bling from the RGB lighting isn’t really our thing, we must say that we’re quite satisfied with the overclocking result achieved – stable 5.0GHz speed on the Intel 7th Gen i7 7700K, a 3333MHz result on a 2800MHz DDR4 kit that doesn’t go beyond 3200MHz while tested on the previous gen platform, the results are significant enough to convince us to take the leap of faith to upgrade our existing test bench.
As MSI has yet to announce the MSRP for the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, we will revisit this article to update the price once it’s available. Assuming that the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon will come with the MSRP that goes around the same as its predecessor, the Z170a Gaming Pro Carbon at the RM7XX to RM8XX mark, it’ll definitely be a fantastic choice for a budget-conscious build, as it has pretty much everything a gamer or enthusiast need.
Solid build quality
Good overclocking headroom
Good software bundle, especially the Nahimic audio software
Use of high-quality components
Support for USB 3.1 type-C and type-A devices
Support for PS/2 legacy port
Absent of power ON/OFF switch, reset switch and clear CMOS switch can be tough for those who has less experience in overclocking