MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Review

Author: MAC
Date: January 31, 2017
Product Name: Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon
Part Number: Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon
Warranty: 3 Years
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Having already reviewed Z270 motherboards from the likes of ASUS, ASRock, and GIGABYTE, we are starting off the new month with a look at an interesting model from the last of the big four motherboard manufacturers, Micro-Star International, better known as MSI.

The model that we are going to be reviewing is the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon, which as you might have guessed features a carbon fiber aesthetic. While carbon fiber might be a premium material, thankfully this motherboard retails for a fairly reasonable $175 USD / $230 CAD. Starting off with an attractive price is always a good position to be in, but only if the product doesn't exhibit any signs of cost cutting. Thankfully, at least on paper, this model has everything that we have come to expect from a modern motherboard.

Going down the specs list, we see that the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon has a 10-phase CPU power design, three physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, six SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, one of which features a unique M.2 Shield heatspreader/heatshield. There is also one Intel-powered gigabit LAN port, two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 headers, two USB 2.0 headers, an RGB LED light strip header (more on that below), and since we’re talking about headers, one of its six fan headers supports high current water pumps.

Those who plan on utilizing Kaby Lake's new HD Graphics 630 integrated GPU will have to make due with either DVI-D or HDMI 1.4, which is a rather limited assortment compared to some of the competition. Hopefully, if you're building a new Kaby Lake system you can afford a discrete graphics cards. With the visuals sorted, it's time to focus on sound. This model has been outfitted with the Audio Boost 4 onboard audio solution, which is based on the brand new Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel codec, and is bolstered by a Texas Instruments OP1652 op-amp and Japanese audio-grade capacitors. As has become an industry standard, there is also physical PCB-level audio separation line that protects the audio components from EMI. Given the gaming focus of this motherboard, MSI have also licensed the feature-rich Nahamic 2 audio suite, which will give gamers and budget audiophiles a great deal of tweaking capabilities.

Love it or hate it, no gaming-oriented motherboard is going to leave the factory unblemished by RGB LED lighting in 2017, and the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon is no different. MSI's implementation is called Mystic Light, and it gives users a choice of 16.8 million colours and 17 effects to choose from. With four lightning zones that can be independently controlled, and a both a Windows and mobile app, there is a lot here for computer builders that want to create an eye-catching system.

MSI have elected to carry over their well-liked Click Bios 5 from Z170 to Z270, which is largely fine by us. However, it will be interesting to see what their singular automatic overclocking feature - known as Game Boost - can achieve in the face of very impressive results from the competition. We are also anxious to try out their revamped software suite, which features a whole host of interesting applications.

Overall, the MSI Z270 Gaming Pro appears to be hit all the right notes. Now it's time to see whether that holds true once we power it on and start testing and tweaking everything it has to offer.


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