MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

by - 4 years ago

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Final Thoughts


Pricing 

The MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON is currently available from reputable online retailer Box, for £119.99. It’s nearest competitor is the ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING which has a market price of £124.95. As you can see, MSI has launched the motherboard at a very enticing price point and offers various improvements over their nearest rival including a 600 ohm dual amplifier, RGB illumination and more! Both solutions provide great value, but this is certainly going to become a popular choice for users wanting a more neutral colour scheme.

Overview

Since the release of Intel’s latest enthusiast platform, there has been a plethora of motherboards featuring unusual aesthetic choices compared to the previous generation. Unfortunately, the i7-6700K is still an expensive proposition and continues to hover around the £300 mark. Despite this, motherboards like the Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON exemplifies the kind of performance possible on a sensible budget. At £119.99, the motherboard evokes such a luxurious feel and I fell in love with the carbon-fibre design. This theme works so well alongside jet black memory or white components. As a result, there’s so many options at your disposal especially when you consider the Mystic Light technology transforms the overall look within a few clicks. It’s quite evident that the motherboard’s styling makes it stand out from the crowd and I have to commend MSI for adopting a simple design which works superbly.

It’s not all style over substance though because the motherboard utilizes premium capacitors, chokes and other essential electronics. This in combination with the wonderful BIOS allows the end-user to reach significant frequency boosts on their Skylake CPU. On another note, the motherboard’s layout is designed to support high-end cooling apparatus and everything is positioned in a logical manner. As a result, it’s possible to conduct very clean cable management and work around the CPU socket without any restrictions. Although, the large heatsinks might inhibit in the install process slightly with a large air cooler. However, once it’s fitted, this shouldn’t cause any additional problems. The counter argument revolves around the idea that there’s enhanced heat dissipation through the hefty heatsinks, and it’s impressive to see these on a motherboard just over £100.

The motherboard lends itself to high-speed transfers rather nicely through a wide array of USB 3.1 ports, and 32Gb/s M.2 connector. Whether you’re using a Type-A or Type-C connector, it’s so simple to reach those enhanced bandwidths without purchasing an additional expansion card. Furthermore, MSI rectified the 180-degree SATA ports and adopted a right-angled finish. Now, the connectivity placement makes more sense, and it’s easier to connect all of your devices.

MSI’s Click BIOS 5 caters to novices aiming to overclock a CPU in the shortest time possible and providing every possible setting to help professional overclockers set fantastic benchmark scores. The EZ mode really is a complete joy to use and contains essential tweaks such as enabling your memory’s XMP profile. This means beginners don’t feel overwhelmed by the BIOS and slowly gain confidence while navigating through each section. If you’re an overclocking master, then there’s more than enough to attain frequencies beyond 5.0GHz on water, but this obviously depends on the silicon lottery. I wouldn’t say it’s the best option for LN2 though because I’d prefer to see an LED post readout, and dip switches to disable DIMMs/PCI-E slots. This really isn’t the motherboard’s target market so it’s not something to be overly concerned about. Saying that, I do believe an LED readout would help matters to determine which component is causing system instability.

In terms of performance, the Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON excelled itself across CPU, memory, network and audio tests. While there were a few mid-range results, these generally occurred when the difference remained within a margin of error. As such, re-running the benchmark a few times could yield a slightly different order. Overall, the motherboard either reported the best score we’ve seen or maintained a top three spot. This speaks volumes of the product’s value when you consider it’s trading blows with alternatives retailing at a higher price. If you want a top performing, low-cost solution, then the Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON is going to be difficult to beat!

Pros

  • Amazing RGB illumination
  • Comprehensive software package
  • DDR4 Boost enhances stability with high bandwidth DIMMs
  • Fantastic performance in every benchmark
  • Great selection of USB 3.1 ports
  • Impeccable value-for-money
  • Intuitive BIOS packed full of features
  • PCI-E x16 steel armour eliminates GPU droop
  • Perfect for extreme overclocking barring LN2
  • Premium electronics
  • Stunning aesthetic design
  • Superb audio hardware

Cons

  • No LED Post for diagnostics

“The MSI Z170A PRO GAMING CARBON builds on the incredible framework of its red and black brother while offering astonishing value-for-money. The company has crafted one of the best Z170 packages on the market in terms of performance, reliability, overclocking functionality and aesthetic design. For these reasons, it fully deserves our Editor’s Choice award.”

Editors-Choice

MSI Z170A GAMING PRO CARBON (LGA1151) Motherboard Review

Thank you MSI for providing us with this sample.

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look & Layout Analysis
  3. The Test System and Test Software
  4. BIOS and Overclocking
  5. Software Overview
  6. CPU Performance
  7. Memory Performance
  8. Storage Performance
  9. Networking Performance
  10. Audio Performance
  11. Power Consumption
  12. Final Thoughts
  13. View All

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