In name only is Intel’s Z370 chipset a new platform. In reality motherboard vendors are re-releasing their Z270 models, locked to new Intel Coffee Lake CPUs, with any revisions and lessons learned based on media reviews and customer feedback from the Z270 generation. That means this launch wave of Z370 motherboards are surprisingly matured given their relatively “young age”.
MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC isn’t identical to its Z270 predecessor but there isn’t a great deal of difference between the models either. Like it’s predecessor it shapes up to be a well-executed mid-range offering for Intel’s new flagship chipset on the mainstream platform.
MSI has picked an optimal array of connectivity covering storage, USB and PCIe. Similarly, MSI kits the motherboard out well in terms of its VRM solution and the UEFI BIOS that accompanies that. The choice of audio and networking components is high quality and befits the price point of this motherboard. Most consumers not requiring WiFi would do well to ditch the AC SKU for the standard model and pocket the difference for something else.
MSI still has some things to refine such as the Mystic Light software which suffers from some annoying bugs and the LEDs could do with being a bit brighter too, though the overall solution is still strong and fit for purpose. We’d have liked to see a second CPU fan header for a motherboard of this calibre, the Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon was exactly the same, but a system fan header can be used as a workaround.
This motherboard is light on overclocking specific features with no onboard power, reset or clear CMOS buttons. There’s no code reader or dual BIOS but a debug LED system and a competent UEFI is enough to make the board easy to use for overclockers.
Z370 motherboards seem to be a tad more expensive than their Z270 counterparts at this launch, which isn’t unusual for new products. The incentive to buy a Z370 platform motherboard is intricately linked to the appeal of Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs in the current DIY PC market. Intel’s decision to lock this new chipset to Coffee Lake does little to open it up its appeal to a wider audience.
Nonetheless, Coffee Lake, particularly the 6-core unlocked i5, does offer a realistic alternative to the X299 (LGA2066) or X399 (TR4) platforms for users who want more than 4 cores but don’t quite need all the other platform features that attract premium pricing and increased power consumption. Intel does, of course, still have AMD’s 6- and 8-core Ryzen options to contend with – Ryzen offers more cores on a similar mainstream-level platform.
Making the assumption that a consumer has decided on Intel Coffee Lake CPUs and the Z370 platform after weighing up the relative merits of all viable alternatives (Ryzen, Threadripper, Skylake-X, Kaby Lake-X, Kaby Lake), then MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC or not) is a suitably refined foundation for that system.
MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC has a suggested retail price (SRP) of £189.99 in the UK and is sold with a 3 year warranty as standard.
- Optimal blend of connectivity for the platform
- Pleasing RGB lighting and functionality
- M.2 shield is effective
- Highly functional UEFI with good overclocking options
- Attractive neutral aesthetics
- High Quality Realtek ALC1220 audio
- PCIe and DDR4 slot shielding
- Light on overclocking specific features
- Extra CPU fan header would be ideal
- Unnecessary software still an issue
- Intel Z370 is locked to Coffee Lake CPUs only
KitGuru says: A solid foundation for any Coffee Lake CPU, MSI’s Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a refined and well-rounded Z370 option.