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MSI MEG Z390 ACE Motherboard Review

Rating: 9.0.

Intel's Z390 platform continues to be a firm favourite with the DIY enthusiast audience, in large part because of the excellent performance delivered by the Core i9 9900K. That processor, however, is more power-hungry than its predecessors and motherboard vendors have necessarily responded with higher-end power circuitry. MSI's Enthusiast Gaming (MEG) ACE motherboard crystallises this approach with 12 phases purely aimed at powering all eight cores with overclocking.

The MSI MEG Z390 ACE is designed to be a high-end performer loaded with connectivity and features, leading MSI to make bold design decisions. One of those is completely doing away with the integrated graphics to maximise board space for connectivity and CPU VRMs; things MSI believes the overclocking audience demands.

MSI hasn't just got tunnel vision on VRMs though, MSI has gone all out on connectivity with a hefty eight USB 3.1 10Gbps ports, three M.2 slots, four RGB headers and both wired and wireless networking solutions. Troubleshooting and overclocking features have been implemented generously as well: a clear CMOS button, onboard diagnostic LEDs, debug code reader, BIOS flashback and VRM monitoring sensors all come included.

MSI has managed all of the above while still coming to market at a lower or similar price point to many of its rivals. On paper at least, MSI looks to have pulled it off, but let's find out how the MEG Z390 ACE stands up to scrutiny.

Form Factor ATX, 24.4cm x 30.5cm
CPU Socket Intel LGA 1151 v2
Infineon International Rectifier IR35201 in 6+1 actual phase operational mode, 12+1 virtual phase mode
6 x Infineon International Rectifier IR3598 phase doublers
12 x ON Semiconductor NTMFS4C029N (high-side) and 12 x On Semiconductor NTMFS4C024N (low-side)
Chipset Intel Z390
Memory DDR4, 4 DIMMs, up to 64GB, up to 4500MHz+ with OC
On-board Graphics Not supported (no display outputs or iGPU VRM)
Discrete Graphics Nvidia 2-Way SLI or AMD 3-Way CrossFire
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe 3.0 X16 (from CPU, 16x/0x/0x, 8x/8x/0x or 8x/4x/4x)
3 x PCIe 3.0 X1 (from PCH)
Storage 2 x M.2 SATA III 6Gbps or PCIe 3.0 X4*
1 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 X4 only*
*Bandwidth sharing between SATA and M.2 ports
USB 8 x USB 2.0 (4 Rear, 4 Front, from PCH)
4 x USB 3.0 (4 Front, from ASM1042)
8 x USB 3.1 10Gbps (4 Rear Type-A, 2 Front Type-C from PCH, 1 Rear Type-A and 1 Rear Type-C from ASM3142)
Networking 1 x Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet
Intel Wireless-AC 9560
Audio Realtek ALC1220 7.1 channel HD audio with ESS Sabre 9018 32-bit Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC)
RGB 1 onboard RGB lighting zone (rear I/O)
2 x 12v G R B
1 x 5v Digital Addressable
1 x Corsair-specific 5v Digital Addressable
Fan Headers 7, all support 3/4pin (1 x CPU, 1 x PUMP, 5 x SYS)
Rear I/O
Clear CMOS Button
4 x USB 2.0 Ports
1 x Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN
2 x Wi-Fi /Bluetooth Antenna Connectors
5 x HD Audio Connectors
6 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Ports Type A+C
1 x Optical S/PDIF-Out
UEFI AMI compliant

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