MSI Z170A Gaming PRO CARBON Review

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Final Words & Conclusion

Final Words & conclusion

So you trim down a motherboard to make it price competitive and then beef it up again with a nice skin and RGB LEDs. Heck that is actually is working for me :) The Carbon Gaming Pro Z170A has plenty of features for any given PC gamer with his or her DiY build including multi-GPU functionality. The dark black looks make the product look pretty nice as well (albeit taste is a personal thing of course). If the Rear IO connectors would have had black shielding I would have liked it even better really. The matte black looks good and is applied thanks to the new coating technology MSI currently has embedded. One thing though, i am just not getting as to why this product is called Carbon? Nothing styling wise resembles a carbon feel aside from a hint of carbon (stickers) on the heatsinks. Ah well. The motherboard is rock-solid, MSI is offering one of the better performing products with a budget price (in the Z170 segment). being more mainstream it does lacks a few features though. I do miss my ol' trusty AC WIFI and perhaps a second Ethernet jack. Also a DisplayPort connector are on my wish-list for this motherboard. But at a price level of roughly 150 USD, I can live without them if I had to make that choice. Performance wise the board seems to rock the 6700K processor we threw at it. Intel doesn't make and thus offer any reference motherboards anymore, so it is hard to define a reference processors performance point as the board mother-partners will do everything in their power to tweak out the last bit of performance. And sure, that's not a bad thing but there can be some platform (brand) performance differences. But yeah, the extra performance you see is mostly related to the higher base clocks. That's just the processor side, I mean the Z170 offer it all in terms of features, stability and reliability really, heaps of USB 3.0/3.1 connectors, plenty SATA3 ports, super dual fast M.2. and a lovely audio solution.

USB 3.1 Gen 1 versus Gen2

I have mentioned this a couple of times already - the industry is pulling a bit of a cheap trick. Most boxes (packaging) are listing USB 3.0 (5 Gbps) as USB 3.1 (Gen 1). Read that well as it means that USB 3.1 Gen 2 is the new REAL 3.1 connector with 10 Gbps. Totally lame and confusing for the end users. So remember, if you read USB 3.1 Gen 1, that really is 100% the same old USB 3.0 connector, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 is the new 10 Gbps connector. Still with me? This motherboard has two proper USB 3.1 connectors are the rear side, one normal sized and the other a small C-type connector.


Combined with 6 SATA 6 Gbps ports we can hardly complain about anything. Nice are the recent developments on the M.2 interface, pop in a M.2 compatible PCI-E SSD and you'll see your SSD quickly perform in the 700/800 Mb/sec range. With the new NVMe devices like the 950 PRO from Samsung all of a sudden we hover at 2,500 MB/sec thanks to the x4 PCIe Gen 3.0 interface connection allowing it 32 Gbps of bandwidth to work in. We-like-it-a-looooot. 


I stated it on the first paragraph, taste differs per person, but I like really like how the all black SLI PLUS is looking. Where I commented the two metal plated PCI-Express x16 slots in a previous review, they now make sense in an all matte dark design. The motherboard has what I like to call HALO LEDs (rear side of the PCB) to create a bit of a an affect. So yeah this is just a very lovely looking solution for the enthusiast PC gamer at this price level.

New is the RGB configuration of the leds, again lovely as a feature though RGB LEDs are getting a little tiresome as EVERYTHING and ANYTHING has RGB LED's these days. And with every option comes another software suite to control them. Mind you that the heatsink and audio and backside LEDs are all RED and not configurable in RGB (just animation). However the lower left battery of LEDs are RGB configurable (and can be animated as well). Please check the video on the mystic light page of this review if you haven't done so to get a better idea an understanding of the lighting system.

Performance & Tweaking

The overall performance in combo with the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon I'd again rate as "good" for a quad core Core i7 6700K and good for the Core i5 6600K. Temps remain reasonable at default clocks, temperatures when the CPU is overclocked with added voltage definitely seem to be a notch better opposed to Haswell but still can rise fast and hot. Depending at your CPU you can clock these Skylake processors anywhere from 4.6 to 5.0 GHz depending on a bit of luck. At such a high clock you will need a lot of voltage, 1.40 maybe passing 1.50 volts when you reach the 5 Ghz barrier on your processor. 


The Bottom Line

The Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon motherboard from MSI is a hit within its price segment really, for roughly 150  bucks (both USD and EURO) it offers a great performance motherboard with decent features versus good looks. I do miss AC WIFI, but other than that within this price range, really we cannot complain the slightest bit even. Well, look at the photo below... again how cool would it have been to see the rear IO connectivity shielded in a black color eh ? ;)


Aesthetically the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon is a good looking motherboard that you can easily match with dark components. The components that you add can be matched up in colors with the RGB LEDs. All things combined make this a nice looking piece of hardware with proper USB connectivity, an Intel Gigabit jack and very decent tweaking options that make this a good choice if you are on a more limited budget or simply refuse to pay too much money for an enthusiast class motherboard. Any XMP 2.0 enabled DDR4 memory can be easily configured by enabling the profile in the BIOS. You will gain excellent features combined with seriously nice performance and very decent energy consumption levels. I have no doubt that some of you can reach 4.8 ~ 5 GHz on the CPU with this mobo, even this mainstream MSI motherboard will certainly allow it. The overall combination of the motherboard with a Core i5 6600K or Core i7 6700K will be impressive. As such the product at roughly a 150 bucks comes in as pretty good value.

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