3 Best Motherboards for Intel Core i7-9700K in 2020

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Winner
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) Z390 Gaming Motherboard LGA1151 (Intel 8th 9th Gen) ATX DDR4 DP HDMI M.2 USB 3.1 Gen2 802.11AC Wi-Fi
Best Price
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO Carbon AC LGA1151 (Intel 8th and 9th Gen) M.2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 DDR4 HDMI DP Wi-Fi SLI CFX ATX Z390 Gaming Motherboard
MSI Z390-A PRO LGA1151 (Intel 8th and 9th Gen) M.2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 DDR4 HDMI DP CFX Dual Gigabit LAN ATX Z390 Gaming Motherboard
Model
ROG Maximus XI Hero
MPG Z390 Gaming PRO
Z390-A PRO LGA1151
Test Result
Test Result 9.7/10 Excellent April 2020
Test Result 9.4/10 Very Good April 2020
Test Result 9.3/10 Very Good April 2020
Manufacturer
ASUS
MSI
MSI
CPU Sockets
LGA1151v2
LGA1151v2
LGA1151v2
Power Connections
1x 24-Pin ATX, 1x 8-Pin EPS12V, 1x 4-Pin +12V
1x 24-Pin ATX; 1x 8-Pin EPS12V; 1x 4-Pin +12V
1x 24-Pin ATX; 1x 8-Pin EPS12V; 1x 6-Pin PCIe
Chipset
Intel Z390 Express
Intel Z390 Express
Intel Z390 Express
Graphics Interfaces
1x HDMI 1.4b; 1x DisplayPort 1.2
1x DisplayPort 1.2; 1x HDMI 1.4b
1x DVI-D; 1x DisplayPort 1.2; 1x VGA
Performance
Value for money
WiFi
WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n/ac ((max. 1,73 GBit/s); Bluetooth 5.0 (Intel Wireless-AC 9560)
Intel Wireless-AC 9560, Dual-Band, Max. 1,73 GBit/s; Bluetooth 5.0
optional
Pros
  • Best Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Great CPU Voltage support
  • Fast WiFi
  • Great Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Best Price - Performance Ratio
  • A lot Overclocking potential
  • Very cheap Price
  • Still good Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Power efficient
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Only two SATA cables included
  • None really
Winner
ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) Z390 Gaming Motherboard LGA1151 (Intel 8th 9th Gen) ATX DDR4 DP HDMI M.2 USB 3.1 Gen2 802.11AC Wi-Fi
Model
ROG Maximus XI Hero
Test Result
Test Result 9.7/10 Excellent April 2020
Manufacturer
ASUS
CPU Sockets
LGA1151v2
Power Connections
1x 24-Pin ATX, 1x 8-Pin EPS12V, 1x 4-Pin +12V
Chipset
Intel Z390 Express
Graphics Interfaces
1x HDMI 1.4b; 1x DisplayPort 1.2
Performance
Value for money
WiFi
WLAN 802.11a/b/g/n/ac ((max. 1,73 GBit/s); Bluetooth 5.0 (Intel Wireless-AC 9560)
Pros
  • Best Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Great CPU Voltage support
  • Fast WiFi
Cons
  • Expensive
Best Price
MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO Carbon AC LGA1151 (Intel 8th and 9th Gen) M.2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 DDR4 HDMI DP Wi-Fi SLI CFX ATX Z390 Gaming Motherboard
Model
MPG Z390 Gaming PRO
Test Result
Test Result 9.4/10 Very Good April 2020
Manufacturer
MSI
CPU Sockets
LGA1151v2
Power Connections
1x 24-Pin ATX; 1x 8-Pin EPS12V; 1x 4-Pin +12V
Chipset
Intel Z390 Express
Graphics Interfaces
1x DisplayPort 1.2; 1x HDMI 1.4b
Performance
Value for money
WiFi
Intel Wireless-AC 9560, Dual-Band, Max. 1,73 GBit/s; Bluetooth 5.0
Pros
  • Great Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Best Price - Performance Ratio
  • A lot Overclocking potential
Cons
  • Only two SATA cables included
MSI Z390-A PRO LGA1151 (Intel 8th and 9th Gen) M.2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 DDR4 HDMI DP CFX Dual Gigabit LAN ATX Z390 Gaming Motherboard
Model
Z390-A PRO LGA1151
Test Result
Test Result 9.3/10 Very Good April 2020
Manufacturer
MSI
CPU Sockets
LGA1151v2
Power Connections
1x 24-Pin ATX; 1x 8-Pin EPS12V; 1x 6-Pin PCIe
Chipset
Intel Z390 Express
Graphics Interfaces
1x DVI-D; 1x DisplayPort 1.2; 1x VGA
Performance
Value for money
WiFi
optional
Pros
  • Very cheap Price
  • Still good Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Power efficient
Cons
  • None really

We tested and compared the Best Motherboards for the Intel Core i7-9700K in terms of Performance, Price, Cooling and Ports. Above you can see the Ranking of the Motherboards and below you will find the in-depth analysis of each Motherboard for the i7-9700K.

Ranking First: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero review

Pros

  • Best Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Great CPU Voltage support
  • Fast WiFi

Cons

  • Expensive

With the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula we have already put a top class model of the eleventh Maximus series through its paces. But ASUS offers an equally interesting LGA1151v2 substructure with the ROG Maximus XI Hero, which we have examined more closely. How well one of the most popular ROG-mainboard variants scores, we’ll clarify in the test.

Whether it’s the Intel Core i7-9700K or AMD mainstream platform, ASUS provides a top class board with the Maximus-Hero and the Crosshair-Hero model, which can satisfy even enthusiasts. The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero is the direct successor of the ROG Maximus X Hero, which was equipped with Intel’s Z370 chipset. As a logical step, the ROG Maximus XI Hero finally accommodates the newer Z390-PCH.

In the basic equipment, the ROG Maximus X Hero and the ROG Maximus XI Hero are very similar, so that the differences have to be looked for in detail. Of course we will find these out. Furthermore, the benchmark results, which we will get to the bottom of, have to be correct.

Design and Hardware

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero design

From a purely visual point of view, clear differences to the predecessor can be seen. First of all, both M.2 interfaces are equipped with a passive cooler, but the VRM coolers have also been designed to be much larger in order to be prepared for the Core i9-9900K.

The additions are very similar to those of the ROG Maximus XI Formula, only in a minimally slimmed down form. Thus, ASUS supplies four instead of six SATA cables for the Hero. But this is a pain to bear, because the rest is identical. If the prospective buyer decides on the WLAN edition, a WLAN antenna is of course also included.

Intel’s Z390-PCH directly joins the 300 chipset series and rounds off the series upwards, starting with the H370, B360 and H310, also provides native USB 3.1 Gen2 and has also had a WLAN AC preparation integrated by Intel. The Z390 chipset thus represents a revision of the Z370-PCH and also enables CPU and RAM overclocking, but can control up to six native USB 3.1 Gen2 interfaces compared to the H370 and B360.

Due to the 14nm delivery problems, the Z370 chipset is not expected to disappear from the market completely for the time being. ASUS for example has re-released some of the Z370 mainboards from last year.

Intel’s Z390 chipset is manufactured in 14-nm lithography like the other models. Only the Z370-PCH still has the 22-nm production. CPU and memory overclocking is only possible in conjunction with the Z370 and Z390 chipsets, whereby an LGA1151v2 processor with the K suffix (open multiplier) is the prerequisite here.

At the very beginning we mentioned the larger VRM cooler. ASUS had to enlarge it a bit for the current model, so that the CPU power supply is also sufficient for the Core i7-9700K and the Core i9-9900K, when overclocking is mainly involved. Both VRM heatsinks are connected to a heatpipe and offer a significantly larger cooling surface overall than on the ROG Maximus X Hero.

Absolute agreement then prevails with the CPU power supply for the Intel Core i7-9700K itself, because it corresponds 1:1 to that of the ROG Maximus XI Formula. Thus the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) also comes with an 8+2 power supply and relies on SiC639 PowerStage MOSFETs from Vishay. The ASP1400CTB also takes care of the ten coils. For the power input, an 8-pin and 4-pin power connector was used, just as with the ROG Maximus XI Formula.

The four DDR4-UDIMM slots can hold up to 128 GB RAM and are released from ASUS to DDR4-4400, so most enthusiasts will be satisfied. These are driven by two coils.

But also the onboard comfort has obviously not been sacrificed. There is a power and reset button, a debug LED and four status LEDs. On the right side there are also two RGB headers, one of which is addressable. On the left of the main power connector we fortunately see a USB 3.1 Gen2 header for a type C interface.

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero gaming

But the arrangement of the three mechanical PCIe 3.0 x16 slots was also designed identically. While the two upper interfaces are in contact with the LGA1151v2 CPU (x16/x0 or x8/x8), the lower mechanical PCIe-3.0-x16 connector and the three PCIe-3.0-x1 slots operate via the Z390 chipset.

Of course, the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) does not get by without restrictions. On the one hand it should be noted that the lower mechanical PCIe-3.0-x16 slot shares the connection with the SATA ports 5 and 6. In this case the former operates in x2 mode. If the upper M.2 connector operates in SATA mode, the second SATA port is also deactivated.

A module with a length of 4.2 cm to 8 cm can be installed in the upper M.2 port and 4.2 cm to 11 cm in the lower port.

At the very bottom of the edge, two additional RGB-LED_Headers (1x addressed) as well as the MemOK!_II switch and the Retry button have been positioned.

There are six native SATA 6Gbps connectors in angled orientation. To the right and left of them there are numerous FAN, thus providing further comfort.

Following the current trend, the I/O panel of the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) is also pre-mounted, which prevents forgetting it during system installation. The I/O panel has four USB 3.1 Gen2 ports and two USB 3.1 Gen1 and two USB 2.0 ports. But also a PS/2 interface is again on board. With the help of a DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4b graphic output, the graphic unit integrated in the processor can be addressed if desired.

A Gigabit LAN port (Intel I219-V) as well as Intel’s wireless AC-9560 module (CNVi) were provided for the network area. The latter has a maximum WLAN transfer rate of 1.73 GBit/s and is also capable of the Bluetooth 5.0 standard. The usual audio connections remain. A CMOS clear and USB BIOS flashback button increase the comfort.

The onboard sound doesn’t come up short with the re-labelled Realtek ALC1220. It is supported by twelve audio capacitors, an ESS-ES9032P-DAC and a powerful headphone amplifier. To the left of the sound section, the Nuvoton NCT6798D monitors the voltages, temperatures and fan speeds.

ASUS has made good use of the ATX format’s space, but without neglecting the clarity. The silver colored cooling elements are of course a matter of taste, but we generally liked the very good workmanship. Two CPU fans cooling the Intel Core i7-9700K and three case fans can be attached to the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), which are of course adjustable. Furthermore, a header is provided for a water pump, and if this is not enough, the optionally available external FAN module can also be connected.

BIOS

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero data sheet

We have tested the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero with the BIOS version 0602, which has the following changes compared to the initial version

  • Improved system stability and performance
  • Updated Microcode for 8-core CPU (like the Intel Core i7-9700K)
  • Improved DRAM stability
  • Fixed USB device issue

Generally dark colors are conjured up on the monitor, matching the ROG mainboard. The individual points are highlighted in yellow and the remaining values are displayed in white letters. Starting in the upper left corner, the current date and time can be seen here. On the right side you can also change the general UEFI language. Also included is the “EZ Tuning Wizard”, which is a kind of overclocking wizard and should make it easier for newcomers to overclock. Dyed-in-the-wool overclockers will usually leave this function alone and instead set all settings manually. Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that beginners are not left out in the rain.

The next line displays the usual preliminary information such as the mainboard model incl. BIOS version, the currently installed CPU incl. clock frequency and the RAM capacity. Further to the right, the CPU and mainboard temperature are also shown, as well as the CPU voltage.

One floor below, an additional RAM status on the left side shows in which slots currently installed modules with which capacity and the currently applied clock rate are located. In addition, an extreme memory profile (XMP for short) can be selected if available. If you are interested in the currently connected storage devices, this information is available directly to the right. In addition, the fan speeds, which can also be set individually with the “Manual Fan Tuning” function, are also shown below.

On the right-hand side of the screen, the user can select the basic functional scheme. The normal mode is activated by default. However, “ASUS Optimal” and the “Power Saving” mode can also be activated. While the “ASUS Optimal” mode is designed for increased performance, the “Power Saving” mode allows for more efficient setup. Underneath, the boot order can be changed with ease. Either by clicking on “Advanced Mode” or by pressing “F7” we get to the advanced view, which we will now look at.

Advanced Mode: Optically identical to EZ Mode, but structured in the traditional way. The first menu item is the “My Favorites” feature, which displays the selection of frequently used functions from the BIOS, which the user can freely choose. To add or remove functions, click on the “MyFavorite(F3)” item above or press the “F3” key. This opens a separate window in which the functions can be selected.

On the “Main” page, some preliminary information such as the BIOS version, the installed processor model and some RAM information is displayed again. The menu language can also be changed here if desired. All overclocking functions are stored in the Ai-Tweaker tab, and once again a lot of functions have been implemented. Whether it is the clock frequency of CPU or RAM or the individual voltages, the user will find what he is looking for. To support you, what the individual functions do is explained below.

As always, the numerous onboard components can be configured using the next tab. Even though some information is constantly displayed on the right side of the hardware monitor, ASUS has implemented its own “Monitor” page, on which, among other things, the fans can be controlled. But also the temperatures and voltages are listed again.

All settings concerning the boot process have been parked on the “Boot” tab. Whoever feels disturbed by the boot logo can switch it off there. In addition, the boot overrides have been placed here, which can often be found on the last page. ASUS again provides some tools for this purpose. One of them is the “ASUS EZ Flash 3 Utility”, with which the UEFI can be updated either via a USB data carrier or via the Internet.

All UEFI settings can be saved in a maximum of eight profiles using the “ASUS Overclocking Profile”, which can also be exported and imported from a USB stick. “ASUS SPD Information” reads the Serial Presence Detect values from the DIMMs. And under “Exit” the set settings can be saved and also the default values can be loaded. Before the UEFI saves the settings, a small window shows all settings that have been changed. If you want to create useful notes, you don’t have to resort to a pen and paper, but simply use the “Quick Note” feature.

We rate the usability of the UEFI interface as acceptable. Navigation through the menus can be carried out in a mostly jerky way after long UEFI use, which we have had to criticize on several occasions. Apart from this fact, all selected settings were adopted to our complete satisfaction. There was also nothing to criticize in terms of stability.

Overclocking

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero hardware

With the help of the Z390 chipset and the ten CPU coils, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) is perfectly prepared for overclocking in combination with the numerous overclocking functions.

ASUS allows the ROG Maximus X Hero to change the BCLK from 40 MHz to 650 MHz. The intervals are also here a fine 0.05 MHz. In terms of CPU voltage, the user has plenty of options. The modes override, offset and adaptive are available. In override mode, the voltage can be fixed from 0.600 V to 1.700 V. In offset mode, the range of -0.635 Volt to +0.635 Volt in both directions is also very attractive. The whole thing takes place in 0.005 volt steps.

With the RAM dividers it reaches up to DDR4-8533, whereby operation with such a high clock frequency is very unlikely.

Because the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) has the same CPU power supply as the ROG Maximus XI Formula, we already assumed before overclocking that the Hero model is also capable of running the Intel Core i7-9700K stably at 5 GHz. But if the voltage specification of CPU-Z should be true, the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) even needed 35 mV less for stable operation. This could be related to the new BIOS version.

We also observed the VRM cooler temperature and “heated up” it with 5 GHz at a VCore of 1.350 Volt. After ten minutes of Prime, we could only detect a temperature of a little more than 50°C, although the voltage converters themselves were of course a little warmer.

But there were no negative conspicuous features in the RAM either. The XMP profile was correctly recognized and implemented and even with manual settings a stable result with tighter timings was possible.

Furthermore the user is free to use further features with AI Suite 3. TPU is responsible for the clock frequencies, but with the new Fan Xpert 4 the fans can be fine-tuned to the heart’s desire. The Digi+ feature continues to take care of the power supply.

In order not to neglect efficiency, there is the “EPU” item, where the four operating modes “Auto”, “Power”, “Power save” and “Absence mode” can be configured. At all times, the user has information such as CPU, including the Intel Core i7-9700K, and RAM clock, voltages, temperatures and fan speeds at the bottom of the screen. A click on the right gear pair also opens the setting options for the individual categories below.

Performance

The basic performance is absolutely consistent and meets the expectations, especially in connection with the Intel Core i7-9700K.

We will continue to log the boot time. We measure the time in seconds how long the mainboard needs to initialize all components and start the Windows boot process.

The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) needed about 14 seconds for initialization, which is on average.

Power Consumption

In addition to the important performance, the power consumption of the home PC is not an unimportant criterion. What is often underestimated is the fact that even the various mainboard models from the numerous manufacturers draw different amounts of power from the socket. One reason for this is the different BIOS versions used, which sometimes implement the referenced power saving mechanisms poorly or even incorrectly, or that onboard components should actually deactivate themselves when they have either been replaced by dedicated hardware or simply not used. In addition, the power supply can sometimes be blamed if more power is provided under Default Settings than is actually needed. This is exactly why efficiency plays an important role. So if the efficiency of the power supply is poor, more power is consumed. But the software should not be underestimated either, so it must also be well tuned to ensure satisfactory efficiency.

The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) has only received a few additional controllers. A LAN controller, a WLAN controller (Wi-Fi model only!) and an audio codec contribute their share to the power consumption.

First Test

We measured in Windows idle mode without load, with Cinebench 15 under 2D full load and with Prime95 (Torture-spanTest, full load). The respective performance values correspond to the total system consumption.

For the test the default settings are active, so that the majority of the onboard components are already activated. The graphics output is done via the Radeon R9 380. As already written above, all power saving features are enabled, which seems to have been implemented well with the values of a manual configuration.

In idle, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) can come up with a good energy efficiency. Our consumption meter showed a power consumption of 43.9 watts.

Apart from the ASRock H370M-ITX/ac, the Maximus XI Hero could set an editorial record with a consumption of only 135 watts and can even leave the efficient Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Master behind.

The situation is different in connection with Prime95, where the Gigabyte Z390 AORUS Master is positioned in first place. Nevertheless, the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) has put in an excellent performance with less than 130 watts.

The low power consumption is due to the low VCore under load, which was 1.101 Volt and thus in line with the ROG Maximus XI Formula.

Since most users don’t need all onboard chips, we conducted a test with only one activated onboard LAN and the onboard sound. If possible, existing additional chips are deactivated here. The voltages are still set automatically by the board, but all energy saving features are additionally activated manually. The Radeon R9 380 is still the primary graphics card.

USB-3.1Performance

ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero ports

The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) provides a total of five USB 3.1 Gen2 interfaces. Four are located on the I/O panel, another type C connection can be implemented via the front header. All five interfaces work natively with the Z390 chipset.

For the test we use the external Akitio NT2-U3.1 case, inside which we use two 2.5-inch SSDs of the type OCZ Vector 150 with a storage capacity of 480 GB each. The solid state drive comes up to 550 MB/s read and 530 MB/s write. Both SSDs work in the RAID-0 group, so that the USB 3.1 Gen2 interface can be properly utilized in combination with the Intel Core i7-9700K for example.

The Z390 chipset provides high USB 3.1 Gen2 data rates, but still can’t compete with the ASMedia ASM3142. Thus, a maximum of 923 MB/s in reading and 912 MB/s in writing was achieved, which must be treated as peak values.

The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) offers only four USB 3.1 Gen1 sockets. Two of them can be accessed directly from the I/O panel, the remaining two connections can be made via the front header. All four ports work directly with the Z390 chipset. For the USB 3.1 Gen1 performance test we also used the USB 3.1 Gen2 solution mentioned above.

The USB 3.1 Gen1 performance is absolutely satisfactory with read and write throughput up to 441 MB/s and 459 MB/s.

Verdict

Also this year, the new ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) represents the entry into the ROG Maximus series, whereby ASUS has not made too much of a red pen compared to the rest of the portfolio. Fortunately, the CPU power supply for the Intel Core i7-9700K has been transferred 1:1 from the ROG Maximus XI Formula to the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), which ensures very good results in this case as well.

The owner does not have to do without an extensive onboard comfort and gets not only access to a power and reset button, but also to a MemOK-II switch, a Retry, CMOS clear and USB BIOS flashback button. Also included are a debug LED and four status LEDs.

With the basic equipment ASUS naturally relies on four DDR4-UDIMM memory banks, which according to the manufacturer play along up to DDR4-4400 and can hold up to 128 GB RAM. The basic layout of the expansion slots with three mechanical PCIe 3.0 x16 interfaces is also identical to the ROG Maximus XI Formula. The ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) offers two small slots more with three times PCIe 3.0 x1.

For a total of six SATA devices, the board offers corresponding connections. In addition, two M.2-M key connectors were soldered again, for which ASUS provides one passive cooler each. A total of 15 USB ports are provided, five times USB 3.1 Gen2 (once internal), four times USB 3.1 Gen1 (twice internal) and six times USB 2.0 (four times internal). Should the desire arise to address the graphics unit integrated in the processor, this can be done via an HDMI 1.4b and DisplayPort 1.2 graphics output.

In any case, a 1 GBit/s LAN port is provided via Intel’s I219 V chip. The Wi-Fi variant also has a current WLAN ac and Bluetooth 5.0 module on board with the Intel Wireless-AC 9560. And of course, the SupremeFX audio feature, which is of course also found on the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), shouldn’t be missing.

In comparison to the previous model, the VRM cooler has been made much larger and is thus prepared for the two eight-core processors. At least with the Intel Core i7-9700K, the cooler temperature was only a bit more than 50°C. Absolutely praiseworthy, thanks to the excellent VRM range, is the outstanding energy efficiency.

As it is usual for ROG mainboards, the price for the ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) is naturally settled in the upper class. At least $290 for the ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi edition. For the price, however, the prospective buyer gets a very high-quality circuit board and a lot of equipment and features. That’s why its ranking First in the Best Motherboards for Intel Core i7-9700K.

Ranking Second: MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO review

Pros

  • Great Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Best Price – Performance Ratio
  • A lot Overclocking potential

Cons

  • Only two SATA cables included

After the announcement of the Z390-PCH from Intel, it was already expected that MSI will also manufacture and release new boards with the actual flagship chipset of the Intel 300 series. With the MEG Z390 Godlike and the Z390-A Pro we looked at two interesting motherboards. Now we take a look at the MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC.

Apart from the Pro series, MSI divides the remaining mainboards into three gaming product lines: Arsenal Gaming (MAG) for the beginner, Performance Gaming (MPG) for the middle class and Enthusiast Gaming (MEG) for the high-end. MSI’s MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is therefore part of the mid-range range and is also the most extensively equipped model.

And at first glance it looks very much like the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) from 2017. MSI continues to rely on the ATX format, on which four DDR4 DIMM memory banks, six SATA 6GBit/s and three PCIe 3.0 x16 and PCIe 3.0 x1 each, have also found shelter. There are also two M.2-M key interfaces on board again. In addition there are numerous USB ports, Gigabit LAN and an adequate sound codec.

As already indicated, at first glance hardly any changes to the previous model are visible. MSI has only extended the PCH cooler to the lower M.2 slot, which means that the SSD is better cooled. Two transparent strips have been incorporated in the upper left corner of the I/O cover, which are used for RGB lighting.

Hardware and Design

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO scope of delivery

Intel’s Z390-PCH directly joins the 300 chipset series and rounds off the series upwards, starting with the H370, B360 and H310, also provides native USB 3.2 Gen2 and has also had WLAN-AC preparation integrated by Intel. The Z390 chipset thus represents a revision of the Z370-PCH and also enables CPU like the Intel Core i7-9700K and RAM overclocking, but can control up to six native USB 3.2 Gen2 interfaces compared to the H370 and B360.

Due to the 14nm delivery problems, the Z370 chipset is not expected to disappear from the market completely for the time being. ASUS, for example, has reissued some of its Z370 mainboards.

Intel’s Z390 chipset is manufactured in 14-nm lithography like the other models. Only the Z370-PCH still has the 22-nm production. CPU and memory overclocking is only possible in conjunction with the Z370 and Z390 chipset, whereby an LGA1151v2 processor with the K suffix (open multiplier) is the prerequisite here.

In comparison to the predecessor model, it’s noticeable that MSI has installed one more CPU coil in order to be better prepared for the two additional cores in the Core i7-9700K and Core i9-9900K. In addition to the 8-pin EPS12V power connector, the additional 4-pin connector fits this.

Of course, four DDR4 DIMM memory banks including Steel Armor were installed. Even though the platform can theoretically hold up to 128 GB RAM, MSI specifies the maximum capacity as 64 GB. Effective clock rates of up to 4,400 MHz are mentioned for this. On the edge of the PCB we see a USB 3.2 Gen2 and USB 3.2 Gen1 header in addition to the 24-pin power connector. To the right of these are the four status LEDs, a 4-pin CPU and system fan, a 4-pin pump and Corsair RGB header.

The PCIe layout, on the other hand, corresponds exactly to that of the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC). Accordingly, it consists of three (mechanical) PCIe-3.0-x16 and PCIe-3.0-x1 slots each. The upper two PCIe-3.0-x16 slots work directly with the CPU, in this case the Intel Core i7-9700K, in x16/x0 or x8/x8 mode and were equipped with the Steel Armor feature. The rest communicates with the Z390 chip. With the lowest PCIe 3.0 x16 connector, there is effectively a maximum of four lanes.

Directly under the LGA1151v2 socket there is an M.2 slot without a cooler, the other one was placed in the lower space, which is equipped with a heat sink. Both slots accept a module with a length between 4.2 cm and 11 cm. On the left edge is MSI’s Audio-Boost-4 audio section, consisting of the Realtek ALC1220 codec, seven audio capacitors and also a headphone amplifier up to 600 Ohm.

On the Z390 version of the Gaming Pro Carbon (AC), all six native SATA ports were assembled together at an angle of 90 degrees, while two on the Z370 model were placed in the bottom right corner and vertically aligned (front view). On the current model, the second USB 3.2 Gen1 header is also angled at 90 degrees.

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO BIOS

MSI emphasizes that the M.2 slots and the six SATA sockets are connected to the Z390-PCH in combination. This means that all six SATA ports can be used as long as a module is operating in PCIe mode only in the upper M.2 slot. In SATA mode, SATA port 2 is unusable.

In the lower M.2 slot, on the other hand, SATA ports are always dropped if they are occupied. In PCIe mode, SATA ports 5 and 6 are disabled, whereas in SATA mode only SATA port 5 is disabled.

On the packaging you could already decipher that the I/O panel is pre-mounted. In terms of the number of USB ports, MSI goes back to six in the MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC), whereas there were still eight in the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC). But in return the number of USB 3.2 Gen2 ports has increased to four (once in the type C version). What remains are the two USB 2.0 connectors.

The rest remained the same with PS/2, DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 1.4b, Gigabit LAN and the audio interfaces.

We like the overall layout better than the predecessor. This is now because all six SATA ports have finally been placed together in the right place. Ideally, however, MSI would have deleted the PCIe 3.0 x1 slot below the upper PCIe 3.0 x16 slot.

Apart from that, MSI thought of all the important fan headers and a pump connection was not forgotten either. On the upper side the RGB lighting is kept discreet, but on the left side below the PCB MSI has installed some more RGB LEDs.

Overclocking

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO design

The MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) is excellently prepared for overclocking, either from the hardware or from the software. Eleven CPU coils fire up the Coffee Lake S CPU and get their power input from an 8-pin EPS12V and 4-pin +12V socket. Together with the UEFI settings, the LGA1151v2 CPU with K-suffix can also get a lot going.

MSI allows the MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) to change the BCLK from 97.50 MHz to 538.25 MHz. The intervals are a fine 0.01 MHz. The user has a lot of options in terms of CPU voltage. The modes override, adaptive and offset are available. With the first two modes, the voltage can be fixed from 0.600 V to 1.520 V.

The adaptive mode allows the use of an offset and at the same time a fixed voltage for the turbo mode, i.e. for the load situation. In offset mode, the margin of 0.005 V to 0.600 V in both directions is also very attractive. In all cases the intervals are 0.005 V.

A stable operation with 5 GHz was also possible with the MSI MPG Gaming Pro Carbon (AC), even if we had to apply 10 mV more VCore (1.330 V) in comparison to the MSI Z390-A Pro. The temperature of the VRM cooler, which was only minimally above 50°C, was also absolutely problem-free.

Without any problems and as expected, the effective RAM clock of 3 GHz could be reached. MSI releases the board up to DDR4-4400, in the BIOS the RAM dividers even reach DDR4-6000.

Power Consumption

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO compatibility

In addition to the important performance, the power consumption of the home PC is not an unimportant criterion. What is often underestimated is the fact that even the various mainboard models from the numerous manufacturers draw different amounts of power from the socket. One reason for this is the different BIOS versions used, which sometimes implement the referenced power saving mechanisms poorly or even incorrectly, or that onboard components should actually deactivate themselves when they have either been replaced by dedicated hardware or simply not used.

In addition, the power supply can sometimes be blamed if more power is provided under Default Settings than is actually needed. This is exactly why efficiency plays an important role. So if the efficiency of the power supply is poor, more power is consumed. But the software should not be underestimated either, so that it must also be well tuned for satisfactory efficiency.

The MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) has only received a few additional controllers. A LAN controller and an audio codec contribute their share to the power consumption.

We measured in Windows idle mode without load, with Cinebench 15 under 2D full load and with Prime95 (Torture-span test, full load). The respective performance values correspond to the total system consumption.

The default settings are active for the test, so that the majority of the onboard components are already activated. The graphics output is done via the Radeon R9 380. As already written above, all power saving features are enabled, which seems to have been implemented well with the values of a manual configuration.

Fortunately, the 40 W mark is only slightly exceeded in idle.

But even under load, the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) with Cinebench R15 (xCPU) doesn’t allow itself too much and is in a good range with 146.5 W.

The result looks a bit better with Prime95. The consumption meter showed us 135.9 W here.

The standard VCore turns out absolutely average with 1.208 V, which is even a bit lower than the in-house Z390-A Pro.

Because most users don’t need all onboard chips, we conducted a test with only one activated onboard LAN and the onboard sound. If possible, existing additional chips are disabled here. The voltages are still set automatically by the board, but all energy-saving features are additionally activated manually. The Radeon R9 380 is still the primary graphics card.

USB 3.2 Gen2 Performance

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming PRO ports

The MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) provides a total of five USB 3.2 Gen2 interfaces. Four of them are located on the I/O panel and one connection is enabled via an onboard header. All work natively with the Z390 chipset.

For the test we used the external Akitio NT2-U3.1 case, inside which we used two 2.5 inch SSDs of the type OCZ Vector 150 with a storage capacity of 480 GB each. The solid state drive comes up to 550 MB/s read and 530 MB/s write. Both SSDs work in the RAID-0 group, so that the USB 3.2 Gen2 interface can be properly utilized.

The USB 3.2 Gen2 test turned out satisfactory with values up to 927 MB/s read and 982 MB/s write.

Verdict

The difference between the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) from 2017 and the MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC) from last year can without question be called a logical evolution, because MSI has also taken advantage of the Z390-PCH. The VRM range has been minimally extended to be well equipped for the two eight-core processors, and the CPU power supply has also been extended with an additional 4-pin connector. And in the overclocking test, the VRM extension has undoubtedly proved to be useful in combination with the Intel Core i7-9700K.

A maximum of four DDR4 DIMM memory banks are of course a must in this case, so that the user can increase the RAM to up to 64 GB. MSI specifies a possible clock rate of up to effectively 4,400 MHz, which is already very reasonable. The whole thing is then additionally supported by the Steel Armor feature, which also applies to the two CPU-side PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (Good for the Intel Core i7-9700K). Additionally, three PCIe 3.0 x1 and an additional mechanical PCIe 3.0 x16 port with a maximum of four Gen3 lanes are available.

The six native SATA 6GBit/s ports enable storage expansion, but must share the connection with the two M.2-M key interfaces, which can each accommodate a module between 4.2 cm and 11 cm in length. The lower interface also has a passive cooler on board. On the side of the USB ports, four of the first USB 3.2 generation and one type C port of the second USB 3.2 generation can be tapped internally. On the I/O panel, the total number of USB ports has been reduced to six, but four of them work with the USB 3.2 Gen2 specification. However, the two USB 2.0 sockets have remained the same.

Also represented on the I/O panel are a PS/2 port, an HDMI 1.4b and DisplayPort 1.2 graphics output, one Gigabit LAN and the usual audio ports. The AC version also includes Intel’s Wireless-AC-9560 module, which can transmit with up to 1.73 GBit/s and also masters the Bluetooth 5.0 standard. What remains in both cases is the audio boost 4 feature with Realtek’s ALC1220, some audio capacitors and a headphone amplifier. All in all the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon ranks second in the best Motherboards for the Intel Core i7-9700K.

Ranking Third: MSI Z390-A Pro

MSI Z390-A Pro review

Pros

  • Very cheap Price
  • Still good Performance with the i7-9700K
  • Energy efficient

Cons

  • None really

In the past, we have mostly oriented ourselves towards upper class and high-end mainboards with Intel’s Z390 chipset. There are also some boards in the low price segment that don’t have to be badly suited for overclocking. That’s why we’ll dedicate this article to the MSI Z390-A Pro, which is available for an acceptable price.

Next to the ASRock Z390 Pro4 and the Gigabyte Z390 UD, MSI’s Z390-A Pro belongs to the cheapest Z390 mainboards – and with a price around $130, it is also the cheapest Z390 model from MSI. Of course, you can’t and shouldn’t expect an all-encompassing equipment for this price in today’s time, nevertheless, the buyer of the MSI Z390-A Pro won’t be completely let down.

MSI’s Z390-A Pro is part of the Pro series, was designed in ATX format and is intended for the entry into the overclocking world, whose features the Z390-PCH finally brings along. But from that point on, MSI has thought of an appealing equipment base: Four DDR4 DIMM memory banks, two PCIe 3.0 x16 (mechanical), four PCIe 3.0 x1, six SATA ports, two M.2 interfaces and of course numerous USB ports are also included.

Meanwhile, the MSI Z390-A Pro presents itself unusually simple in the ATX format, whose PCB wasn’t colored black but brown in this case. The VRM cooler has been enlarged above the I/O panel to cope with the temperature development.

Hardware and Design

MSI Z390-A Pro design

Intel’s Z390-PCH directly joins the 300 chipset series and rounds off the series upwards, starting with the H370, B360 and H310, also provides native USB 3.2 Gen2 and has also had WLAN-AC preparation integrated by Intel. The Z390 chipset thus represents a revision of the Z370-PCH and also enables CPU, like the Intel Core i7-9700K and RAM overclocking, but can control up to six native USB 3.2 Gen2 interfaces compared to the H370 and B360.

Due to the 14nm delivery problems, the Z370 chipset is not expected to disappear from the market completely for the time being. ASUS, for example, has reissued some of its Z370 mainboards.

Intel’s Z390 chipset is manufactured in 14-nm lithography like the other models. Only the Z370-PCH still has the 22-nm production. CPU, like the Intel Core i7-9700K and memory overclocking is only possible in conjunction with the Z370 and Z390 chipset, whereby an LGA1151v2 processor with the K suffix (open multiplier) is the prerequisite here.

The LGA1151v2 CPU is driven by nine CPU coils, which together form a 4+1 phase design and are controlled by the uP9521P PWM controller. In contrast, the high-side and low-side MOSFETs are from Sinopower and correspond to the designations “SM4337” and “SM4503”, which MSI also uses on other current motherboards. An 8-pin EPS12V power connector secures the power input. An optional 6-pin PCIe connector is also available.

According to MSI, up to 64 GB RAM can be installed in the four DDR4 UDIMM memory banks. The guaranteed possible clock (of course with corresponding DIMMs) reaches up to DDR4-4400 and is therefore above average.

One PCIe-3.0-x16 slot incl. Steel-Armor feature is connected to the LGA1151v2 processor with 16 PCIe-3.0 lanes. Instead, the four PCIe-3.0-x1 slots and the mechanical PCIe-3.0-x16 connector work together with the Z390 chipset without restrictions.

MSI has left an M.2-M key slot directly under the CPU socket, which can accommodate an SSD module with a length of 4.2 cm to 11 cm. The only thing to note is that SATA port 2 is deactivated if there is a SATA SSD in the M.2 slot. At the very bottom, however, there is also an M.2 slot in the E-key variant for an optional WLAN-CNVi module, such as Intel’s Wireless-AC 9560.

Realtek’s ALC892 on the left takes care of the audio part. Understandably, no ALC1220 is used at this point. But four audio capacitors are included for this.

The six SATA ports are natively connected to the Z390-PCH and therefore go to work with the SATA 6GBit/s specification. All of them are angled at 90 °. Two USB 3.2 Gen1 front headers are placed to the right of them, one of which is vertically and one angled.

The DisplayPort, DVI-D and VGA graphics output allows the processor’s built-in graphics unit to drive up to three monitors. USB ports provide two of each of the USB 2.0, USB 3.2 Gen1 and USB 3.2 Gen2 specifications. In the latter case, the type A and type C variants are available. The PS/2 interface remains the Gigabit LAN port and the six 3.5 mm jack sockets.

We can firstly state that MSI’s Z390-A Pro has created a good equipment basis for an entry level product, including overclocking support, and also in relation to the purchase price. Of course, you won’t find extensive onboard comfort or even additional connectivity options, such as a USB 3.2 Gen2 front header, here, but MSI stays true to itself and hasn’t forgotten the EZ debug feature in order to enable a quick trouble shooting.

Not to mention that in addition to a CPU Fan and Water Pump header, five System Fan headers are also provided, all of which can be controlled by PWM.

Overclocking

MSI Z390-A Pro ports

The MSI Z390-A Pro is perfectly prepared for overclocking, either from the hardware or from the software. Nine CPU coils fire up the Coffee Lake S CPU and get their power input from an 8-pin EPS12V socket. Together with the UEFI settings, the LGA1151v2 CPU with K-suffix can also get a lot going.

MSI allows the Z390-A Pro to change the BCLK from 97.50 MHz to 538.25 MHz. The intervals are a fine 0.01 MHz. The user has a lot of options in terms of CPU voltage with the Intel Core i7-9700K. The modes override, adaptive and offset are available. With the first two modes the voltage can be fixed from 0.600 Volt to 1.520 Volt.

The Adaptive mode allows the use of an offset and at the same time a fixed voltage for the Turbo mode, i.e. for the load situation. In offset mode, the range of 0.005 Volt to 0.600 Volt in both directions is also very attractive. In all cases the intervals are 0.005 volts.

We didn’t expect this, but it was possible for the MSI Z390-A Pro to run the Intel Core i7-9700K stably with a clock rate of 5 GHz without any problems. For this we had to apply a VCore of 1.320 Volt in the UEFI.

The temperature of the VRM cooler, which was always below 50°C, was also absolutely problem-free. Thus, the MSI Z390-A Pro is a real surprise when it comes to CPU overclocking – and a positive one at that.

Absolutely problem-free and as expected, the effective RAM clock of 3 GHz could be reached. MSI releases the board up to DDR4-4400, in the BIOS the RAM dividers even reach DDR4-6000.

Performance and Power Consumption

MSI Z390-A Pro slots

The basic performance lies exactly where it should lie.

We will continue to log the boot time. We measure the time in seconds how long the mainboard needs to initialize all components and start the Windows boot process.

With a POST time of just 11.35 seconds, the MSI Z390-A Pro boots pretty fast, so we have nothing to complain about in this area.

For the test the default settings are active, so that the majority of the onboard components are already activated. The graphics output is done via the Radeon R9 380. As already written above, all power saving features are enabled, which seems to have been implemented well with the values of a manual configuration.

The MSI Z390-A Pro presents itself from its best side in idle, as our consumption meter only showed 39.5 watts and is in an excellent range.

In return, it looks quite average under load with Cinebench R15 with 155.2 watts.

It looks a bit better under Prime95. Here it was 141.8 watts.

Compared to many other Z390 mainboards, the MSI Z390-A Pro puts on a bit more VCore. Namely 1.232 volts, which could be reduced a bit manually to further increase the energy efficiency.

Since most users don’t need all onboard chips, we did a test with only one activated onboard LAN and the onboard sound. If possible, existing additional chips are deactivated here. The voltages are still set automatically by the board, but all energy-saving features are additionally activated manually. The Radeon R9 380 is still the primary graphics card.

USB 3.2 Gen2 Performance

MSI Z390-A Pro ports

The MSI Z390-A Pro provides a total of two USB 3.2 Gen2 interfaces. Both are located on the I/O panel and work natively with the Z390 chipset.

For the test we used the external Akitio NT2-U3.1 case, inside which we used two 2.5 inch SSDs of the type OCZ Vector 150 with a storage capacity of 480 GB each. The solid state drive comes up to 550 MB/s read and 530 MB/s write. Both SSDs work in the RAID-0 group, so that the USB 3.2 Gen2 interface can be properly utilized in combination with the Intel Core i7-9700K.

With the RAID-0 array, it was a rollercoaster ride, but a balance can be drawn. The maximum values rose to 918 MB/s in reading and 977 MB/s in writing.

Verdict

Cheap mainboards with Z-chipset are often underestimated and smiled at when it comes to overclocking. Often the impression is given that a more expensive Z-mainboard is also better suited for overclocking, but this should not be generalized. Because this is definitely not true for the MSI Z390-A Pro, which was good for a surprise, especially when overclocking, and ran the Intel Core i7-9700K stable at 5 GHz with a moderate VCore. The VRM cooler remained below 50°C at this point.

Interestingly enough, the MSI Z390-A Pro only costs around $130, is part of the Pro series and is also the cheapest Z390 model from MSI. The equipment is of course very clearly arranged, but brings all the important things with it. This includes the four DDR4-UDIMM memory banks for a RAM expansion up to 64 GB, the six native SATA ports and two mechanical PCIe-3.0-x16 and four PCIe-3.0-x1 slots. An M.2 M key interface is also added to the storage equipment.

In contrast, the M.2-E-Key port, which is also available, offers the option of installing an Intel-CNVi module, such as the Wireless-AC 9560, so that WLAN-ac and Bluetooth 5.0 can also be optionally retrofitted. The wired network connection, on the other hand, is via a Gigabit LAN port (Intel I219-V). Of the six possible USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, at least two have made it onto the I/O panel, in addition there are generally six USB 3.2 Gen1 and six USB 2.0 ports each. A DisplayPort 1.2, DVI-D and VGA graphics output are also available. Appropriately, the Realtek ALC892 takes over the audio part.

We also liked the excellent energy efficiency in idle, whereas the board was rather average under load. So, if you are absolutely satisfied with the MSI Z390-A Pro’s equipment and still want to overclock properly, you won’t do anything wrong with this board in our opinion, that’s why it is ranking third in the Best Motherboards for the Intel Core i7-9700K.


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