it is a time to make a barbecue again and next grilled product or actually tandem are MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC (ATX) motherboard with assembled Intel's i5-8600K on it.
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Most important factors when I searched for new motherboard were:
- Overall reliability on manufacturer's support
- Ability for stable over-clocking CPU to ~5.0Ghz
- Minimum 2 slots for M.2 drivers (NMVe type)
- Minimum 2 PCIe ports for M.2 drives (NVMe) for future upgrades,
- Huge amount of USB ports, including 3.1 (also Type C)
- Possibility to install 64GB of RAM
- Mid-range price
At the time when I started my research it was really hard to find a motherboard fulfilling all these conditions.
Z370 was a completely new chipset and many manufacturers were just at the beginning of the road with new models prepared for Coffee Lake processors.
Gaming Pro Carbon AC was one of the first on the market and since the beginning it was on very narrow list, which included some of the ASUS products.
Week after week companies released or announced upcoming models but my list didn't changed much.
There was always something what did not satisfy me. Reasons were different, starting with small amount of USB ports, no wireless, price beyond my budget, etc.
I knew that the only solution available is to find some compromise. Of course I could buy extra extension PCIe card for both WIFI and USB ports instead of those built-in but I wanted to keep the interior's space free as much as possible. Oooh! I also preferred a neutral color, especially black but it was not that important factor like these mentioned at the beginning of the article.
Gaming Pro Carbon AC had everything (except WIFI) integrated. However, the WIFI PCI card is very tiny and in the same colors as the motherboard so visually it isn't invasive at all. Also price of it was where it should be in my opinion. In November I paid (in Germany) 199 Euro for it which was the lowest price on European market. Today you can find it even 15-20 Euro cheaper, depends on the country. At the end of this review I attached links to cheapest prices I found on Amazon (UK, US and DE). By buying via these links you will get probably the cheapest price on local market and without extra costs for you I will get some small percentage from this price which would help me to get funds for reviewing other products in future.
In ATX form you can choose between Gaming Pro Carbon and Gaming Pro Carbon AC, where AC stands for the version with bundled WIFI PCIe card
The smaller Mini-ITX version comes with built-in Wireless so no extra PCIe card necessary. The other important difference is it has only one PCIe slot so you will not be able to add second GPU for SLI or CrossFire configuration. It also can use max 32GB of RAM which was "no go" for my future upgrades. One M.2 slot was also not enough for me. The smaller version is however great if you plan to build tiny gaming rig.
If you ask me why high amount of USB ports was so important for me, the answer is very simple - controllers, external drives, more upcoming controllers - at this moment from all available ports in my system (including these from PC case and monitor), seven of them are already occupied.
Amount of M.2 ports was also something what I find as "must have". My goal is to switch completely from HDD to SSD drives, especially NVMe for system, which are much faster than any SATA SSD. Notice that by Gaming Pro Carbon both types of M.2 drives (NVMe and SATA) are supported.
Signal provided by WIFI card (with Intel AC8265 controller) is very strong and stable. I can't complain about it. No more rippling signal like I had on USB adapter. Even in competitive games it works flawless, no high latency notices as long as the game servers are in order of course.
WIFI card include Bluetooth function as well.
It is worth to mention that this motherboard has 6 fan headers in various places, making a life better when planning cable management.
I struggled on 4.9 level and can't get any higher number. However, it isn't fault of motherboard but CPU. I got a chance to borrow a second CPU unit (the same model) and got stable 5.1Ghz. After checking my own unit again, it failed. But I will try to play around voltage settings again and see if I can squeeze more from it. Conclusion? CPU units may vary from each other, even when they are exact same models but Gaming Pro Carbon handle overclocking absolutely great.
MSI provide various utility applications like the one responsible for firmware/driver updates, through few for network connection tunning, Overclocking or the one - MysticLight - for RGB light control. Amount of software available will vary, depends on the system version you use.
I tested few of those available for Windows 7 (64bit) and I have very mixed feelings about them.
The first one was MSI RAM Disk which I found very useful. If you don't know what RAM Disk is, let me explain it to you very briefly.
With this software you can assign unused amount of RAM to boost reading/writing speeds, which is especially helpful if you want to use edit or create heavy-weight files in software like graphic design or video editing. I recommend to check this short video from MSI where you will find probably better explanation and tutorial how to set this up.
Next software I checked was DPC latency tuner which let you control partially CPU/RAM like voltages or clock speeds. I prefer however to set and adjust everything via BIOS so did not use it for a long time.
Live Update 6 was another software I tested. From one side I found it very useful because it gives you information about new drivers updates but it is annoying that you can't mark some titles as hidden so they will not appear on the list every time the scan is made.
Fourth software is called Command Center which was the one I had biggest expectation in and at the end it was a big disappointment for me.
Command Center let you change values for CPU and RAM frequencies and voltages as well as to set fan speeds. However, it seems that settings responsible for fan speed control are saved only for this particular system session. In other words, after system reboot, values are set to default again. "Apply" or "Save" doesn't help here. I was really disappointed so at the end removed it from system and set everything in BIOS where everything works fine.
The last tested application was MysticLight. Another huge disappointment for me. To be honest, as long as you are not a big RGB fan and you don't want to play around lighting often, install it, set color you prefer, close app and forget about it. Generally I found it so bad as Command Center and will not spend more time about describing it.
I am in love with the dark gray as a main color covering PCB. There are some distinguish stripes with lighter grey shade going through the board which I found very nice for the eye, accenting the style but not shocking. PCIe and RAM slots contain chrome covers and real I/O panel as well as the chipset have dark and light gray covers. Very aesthetic in my opinion.
RGB lighting doesn't look that great however. I/O rear panel's cover as well as Chipset one have nice and smooth light but the diodes installed on the right edge makes dot-style lighting which I personally find like on some very cheap product. It would be nice to see more smooth lighting there, with no gaps between diodes. There are another two spots with lighting effect on the left side below I/O rear panel. Those looks like lines but still with visible gaps between the diodes. Those are however hardly visible due to the fact that one is placed below the WIFI card and second one on height where GPU card is assembled.
MSI also included three cables giving you opportunity to expand interior lighting.
One 50cm for Corsair HD RGB, one 80cm for Rainbow RGB type and one 80cm splitter 1 to 2 cable.
Apart of the overclocking problems I mentioned earlier, I had no problems.
During all tests I have made (including P3D + stream or video recording. Even when running P3D in background and other game in foreground, CPU load was under control and temperatures never exceeded 72 Celsius degrees. Everything is cooled by water in entry-level EKWB EK-KIT Slim 240 loop. This is important to mention because the radiator from this bundle is similar to those included in All-In-One closed loops. Anyway, max 72 degrees in stress isn't really bad. There is probably still a room to adjust the fan and pump speeds to keep a good balance between good performance and acceptable noise.
More over this particular water loop and reasons why I chose it you will find in one of the next upcoming review, dedicated to this particular custom loop only.
Besides of that I planned delidding CPU to apply completely different thermal compound under the IHS for better results. I'm not sure yet when it will be done. It will probably happen when I get all parts to switch soft tubes to hard ones in water loop so everything will be done at one day.
I also need to practice delidding with some very old Intel's CPU unit to make sure I will not brake the new one. It would be a shame if I had to throw nearly 300 Euro away. :-)
I pre-ordered 8600K in November and got it in my hands together with motherboard more than 6-7 weeks later. Back then I paid for it 280 Euro and couldn't find it cheaper. At this moment the prices are in wide-range spectrum, starting at 255 and ending at 320 Euro. Same as in case of motherboard, I found for you the cheapest prices for this moment and included links to Amazon deals below.
Another fact worth to mention is that 8600K keeps the best balance in price vs performance charts. As long as you won't work with heavy stuff like video editing, 3D modeling, etc, you don't need to spend money on i7-8700K. The lower sibling will do the job well, also in our simulators.
It has some contras like those with utility software or RGB but you can live with or without it. Especially RGB is something what each of us will have different preferences and what I don't like, you might find a very nice.
Even now when there is much more models on the market, I would get GAMING PRO CARBON AC again. It works as it should, it fills all my needs and it looks really aesthetic. MSI made another great product and what will be important for many of you, price tag of ~200 is more than a good.
In case of 8600K I believe it is a valuable processor and do its job. As I said, you can find it already cheaper than it was in pre-orders and even two or three weeks ago when the lowest price was ~320-330 Euro due to the shortage in distribution.
Visit MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC website for full technical specification and full size photos.
Visit Intel's website for CPU's full technical specification.
Check Amazon links below for the lowest prices of both components:
MSI Z370 GAMING PRO CARBON AC at:
Intel i5-8600K at:
Does anyone own this motherboard or CPU? What are your thoughts about it?
Leave a comment below. I wonder what is you personal experience with those parts.
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