MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon in the test

There is no large selection of chipsets for those interested in Intel's current Coffee Lake processors. Intel's eighth core generation CPUs currently have to be used in the Z370 chipset with the LGA1151 socket. Since the Z370 chipset represents the top model from Intel, the corresponding boards are unfortunately expensive. We take a look at the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon, which MSI still ranks in the middle class of its gaming motherboards, and examine its strengths and weaknesses in the test.

Intro

Only with the introduction of further processors in April 2018 does Intel plan to introduce further chipsets for the 8th generation of the core processors, which the manufacturer presented in October last year. The 8th generation models still have 1.151 contacts and in principle could have been used in the previous socket LGA1151 mainboards of the 200 series without any problems. But Intel had decided that the new generation also needed new chipsets, and only made the high-priced Z370 chipset available at the start. The selection of motherboards should be correspondingly thin and expensive.

But far from it. The manufacturer MSI alone offers a total of six mainboards with this chipset in its gaming portfolio and groups them into its gaming classes Arsenal, Performance and Enthusiast. In addition to the gaming portfolio, MSI also comes up with other motherboards with the chipset, so that you can look forward to a proud offer of ten motherboards. The selection is hardly smaller with the competition, so that one cannot necessarily speak of few alternatives. But as a rule, Z370 motherboards can hardly be found for less than 100 euros in the entry-level prices.

Today we take a look at the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon, which has an average price of 160 euros.

General overview

Intel Z170 vs. Z270 vs. Z370 at a glance

Chipset comparison Z370 Z270 Z170
base LGA1151 LGA1151 LGA1151
CPU support Coffee Lake (Gen8) Kaby Lake (Gen 7) Kaby Lake (Gen 7)
Skylake (Gen 6) Skylake (Gen 6)
Storage support DDR4 DDR4 DDR4
memory channels 2 2 2
maximum memory slots 4 4 4
PEG combination options 1 x 16 1 x 16 1 x 16
2 x 8 2 x 8 2 x 8
1 x 8 & 2 x 4 1 x 8 & 2 x 4 1 x 8 & 2 x 4
Maximum displays 3 3 3
DMI version 3.0 3.0 3.0
maximum number of USB ports 14 14 14
maximum number of USB 3.0 ports 10 10 10
maximum number of SATA 6 Gb / s ports 6 6 6
PCIe 3.0 lines (including CPU) 24 24 20
Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology) Ja Ja Ja
maximum number of RST PCIe connections (M.2 / SATA Express) 3 3 3
Intel Smart Response Technology Ja Ja Ja
Intel Optane Technology Ja Ja No

With the introduction of the Z270 chipset, Intel only made marginal changes compared to its predecessor, the Z170. The two main points are the number of PCI Express 3.0 lines, which has increased by four lanes, as well as the support of Intel's Optane technology. If you look at the new Z370 chipset, you don't see any difference apart from the naming.

The manufacturer practically did not react to all the criticism that Intel countered from the press - neither in the run-up to briefings nor afterwards. From various sources at the mainboard manufacturers it was then learned that Intel's primary reference specification for the new LGA1151 socket would have enabled the older processors to be operated in principle, but only if these specifications were strictly adhered to. Instead, Intel offers motherboard manufacturers more alternatives to supply different pins with more voltage.

In addition, the pin assignment has changed slightly. Pins that were still inoperable on Gen 7 processors have now been partially put into operation. Whereas 170 pins with voltage tasks were used in the Z270 and Z128, the Z370 has up to 146 pins. In addition, other pins could be assigned in a modified form - depending on the motherboard partner's discretion.

As a result, this would mean that Intel implemented the new chipset "only at the request" of the mainboard partner - we do not want to follow that completely. At least Intel would have been well served by explaining the problem, explaining the motives and creating a clear demarcation by changing the name. This is what they did with the LGA2011 socket with the addition “v3”. It was omitted here. Some motherboard manufacturers call the new socket LGA1151 v2 internally, so you should take note of it in the future.

Key data and scope of delivery MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon

In the previous chapter we have shown what the Intel chipset itself can or offers. The table below shows what the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon has in its luggage.

Key data MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
base LGA1151 (v2)
chipset Intel Z370
form factor ATX
CPU support Coffee Lake (Gen 8)
Storage support DDR4
maximum memory clock specification DDR4-2666
maximum memory clock OC DDR4-4000 +
Storage slots 4
maximum memory support 64 GByte
PCIe x16 slots 3
USB ports 14 (max)
8 x USB 3.1 Gen1 type A
1 x Gen2 Type C
1 x Gen2 type A
4 2.0 x USB
USB ports I / O panel 8
2 2.0 x USB
4 x USB 3.1 Gen1
2 x USB 3.1 Gen2
M.2 ports 2
SATA III 6
RAID 0/1/5/10
Audio Realtek ALC1220
SPDIF / analog
7.1 support
Monitor connections HDMI
DisplayPort
LAN 10/100/1000 Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN controller
serial ports 1 x PS2
Fan connectors 1 x 4-pin CPU
1 x 4-pin connection water pump
4 x 4-pin system fans
Features RGB lighting
What's in the box Manual
Driver CD
I / O shield
Cable fixings
2 x SATA cables
SLI bridge
Wi-Fi Bluetooth PCIe plug-in card
various RGB connection cables
Street price (as of March 2018) 159 Euros

MSI naturally emphasizes the two existing M.2 slots, whereby one is intended for Intel's Optane technology, the second is connected via x4 PCI Express cables.

The Gaming Pro Carbon from the mid-range gaming range has everything the gamer needs on paper and more. In addition, MSI has installed LED lighting in various areas, which can be controlled using software - the manufacturer speaks of "Mystic Light Sync".

If the gaming series, the MSI mid-range, was more or less familiar with debug displays as standard, we miss that in today's test candidate. But the focus on RGB lighting has grown significantly. This is also reflected in the scope of delivery, which also offers a Wi-Fi Bluetooth PCIe plug-in card, in case you want to use your home PC as a Wi-Fi access point. Here we are at the point where the user has to decide whether he needs this supplement. As a rule, households today are structured in such a way that wireless devices can be used in practically all areas. If this is not the case, the plug-in card is also of little use at this point.

In any case, we don't miss anything in the scope of delivery, and the equipment is impressive. For this, the potential buyer then has to pay 160 euros on the counter. We were able to spot cheaper MSI boards with Z370 chipset for just under 100 euros.

Impressions

The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon is visually appealing and fits in well with the manufacturer's series of gamers. The full ATX board appears in a typical black version. The decorations in the area of ​​the chipset cooler and the I / O shield cover are made of carbon, which is the reason for the name. Overall, the look is not overloaded, but with accents and quite classy. In addition to the taste in optics, there is then hard fare. The LGA1151 (V2) socket is surrounded by a total of ten converters for a stable power supply. In doing so, however, the templates of the previous Socket 1151 mainboards were adhered to, so that no completely new developments were necessary.

The driver modules of the power supply, which can heat up significantly under high load, are additionally cooled by passive heat sinks, which in turn have been adapted in the style of the rest of the mainboard design. The distance to the four DDR4 memory slots was designed generously so that memory modules and expansive heat sinks should not experience a collision if possible. In addition, if only two memory modules are fitted, the first and third slots remain empty, which increases the distance to the CPU cooler a little more. Of course, the space advantage does not apply when fully equipped. The equipping of the second and fourth bank when using two modules is not a unique selling point of MSI, but has become the rule.

According to the compatibility list for the processors, only Intel's latest generation 8 core CPUs can currently be used - the socket 1151 models of the sixth and seventh generation do not start on this board! The DDR4 memory can be equipped with a maximum of 64 GB. Officially, the Coffee Lake memory controller only supports DDR4-2666. MSI also speaks of support up to DDR4-4000 + in "OC operation". The latter means that this can work, but does not have to, and is no guarantee that OC memories with DDR4-4000 purchased in stores can also be operated on the new Carbon without any problems.

The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon offers a total of three PCI Express x16 and three PCI Express x1 slots - but only in the physical version. When equipped with two graphics cards in the first and second PCI Express graphics card slot, the two pixel accelerators are only controlled with 2 x 8 PCIe lines per slot. If you get the idea of ​​using a third graphics card, the first slot is controlled with eight PCIe lines, in 2 and 3 then only with four lines each. The bandwidth naturally suffers as a result. From then on, even at NVIDIA, SLI operation is more or less out of fashion; There is no longer any talk of more than two graphics cards.

In addition, MSI calls the cladding of the first two PCI-Express graphics card slots with a metal border “Steel Armor”. This is currently in vogue with gaming boards, and while there is sometimes talk of better shielding, the main reason is actually a frame reinforcement of the slot in the event that particularly heavy graphics cards are installed in the first slot. In principle, however, it is also possible to stow type x16 expansion cards in the two other x4 slots - they do not necessarily have to be graphics cards.

MSI has also placed a serial interface on the I / O shield, namely a PS / 2 connection - we already know this from the Tomahawk of the previous series, to which the Carbon has great similarities. In addition, there is an HDMI and a DVI connection, if the integrated graphics solution of the processor is used. This, in turn, is new - the predecessor had DVI-D and HDMI. In addition to the Gigabit LAN interface, there are also the audio connections, which are controlled via the Realtek codec and offer analog connections via the digital SPDIF Out that deliver up to 7.1 HD surround sound.

For the USB ports, MSI has implemented two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.1 generation 2 ports. The latter are implemented as type A and type C. There are also four USB 3.1 ports, but they are generation 1 - i.e. with a lower bandwidth.

Internally, MSI has further options to offer via these eight external USB ports, which then have to be implemented optionally via accessories or housing connection options. In any case, there is no suitable accessory in the scope of delivery to lead the internal connections to the outside.

Of course, the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon also offers two internal M.2 connections for SSDs or one for Intel's Optane technology, both connected at full speed via PCI Express 3.0 lines (Twin Turbo M.2). In addition, there are the six SATA III connections (370 Gb / s) that are usual for the Z6 chipset. In addition to the design, there is LED color support, which can be adjusted using MSI software and sets accents (Mystic Light).

Practice

Function tests

Function tests MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
BIOS / UEFI update nothing special
Windows 10 installation okay
Driver integration okay
USB 2.0 burner Samsung okay
Standby mode:
S1 / S3 / idle state okay / okay / okay
Network operation:
Surfing / downloads / home network okay / okay / okay
Fan control 4-pin PWM several profiles pre-assigned
further possibilities via software
Boot options USB stick: okay
HDD: okay
USB DVD: okay

Compatibility tests

Compatibility tests MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
Speicher see below
processors Intel Core i7-8700K: okay
Intel Core i5-8400: okay
graphics Cards NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080: okay
AMD Radeon RX 480: okay
USB: DVD burner: okay
SanDisk Extreme Pro USB3.1: okay
Canon-IXUS-Digicam: okay
HDD / SSD: SanDisk Ultra II 960 GB: okay
Crucial MX300 525 GB: okay
Seagate ST2000VX

memory compatibility

Storage kit SPD detection XMP detection Manual DDR4-2400
Corsair Vengeance DDR4-3000 (LPX CMK-16GX4M2B300C15) okay okay okay
Crucial Ballistix DDR4-2400 (BL S8GD240FSC) okay okay okay
G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3600 (F4-3600C16D - 16GTZ) okay okay okay
G.Skill Trident Z DDR4-3200 (F4-3200C16D - 16GTZB) okay okay okay
Geil DDR4-3200 CL16 (GEX416GB3200C16DC) okay okay okay

Load tests

Load tests MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
Memory / CPU Prime95: okay
Applications PCMark 8: okay
3D games AC Syndicate; OK
Batman - Arkham Knight: okay
Battlefield 1: okay
Deus Ex - MD: okay
Doom: okay
Mafia III: okay
Rise of the Tomb Raider: okay
The Witcher 3: okay

Audio quality

We determined the audio quality with the latest version of the RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.1. For this purpose, we used the software to determine the sound quality of the sound chips on the circuit board in the range of 24 bit, 192 kHz. This should currently correspond to the high audio quality of a Blu-ray Disc.

Since the test signal is picked up at the output of the sound card during the tests and then fed back directly to the input of the chip with a cable, the quality of the cable used has a not insignificant influence on the results achieved. In order to keep the influence as small as possible or comparable, we therefore use a cable from [i!] with gold-plated jack plugs.

If you would like to find out more about the following tests for audio measurement and their meaning, you will find a detailed explanation in this glossary.

Benchmarks

As a rule, mainboards with the same chipset should only differ marginally in terms of performance. Significant differences only arise if any automatic overclocking options for CPU and / or memory are switched on, otherwise the deviations should be rather small or within the range of the measurement tolerance. This also applies to the hard disk / SSD performance, provided that the same chip requirements apply. Differences can result from additional controller chips or the connection of an SSD (SATA or PCI Express, especially M.2 SSDs).

To assess the performance, we use PCMark 8 from Futuremark and rely on its test suites Creative, Home, Work and Storage.

Creative

 

In the Creative Suite, Futuremark uses web surfing, video conferences for playback and encoding, image processing and video editing as well as music conversion for performance evaluation. Different scenarios are used, which Futuremark also evaluates and weights differently. Futuremark is also placing the games area in the creative area, and two of the tests then also include "mainstream gaming" in different resolutions.

PCMark 8 passed these test areas a total of three times in order to achieve a useful average. The run on a Core i7-7700K takes just under an hour.

The fact that the new Z370 platform simply cannot be compared with each other remains problematic. The processors of the sixth and seventh core CPU generation from Intel can no longer be used in the new LGA1151 V2 socket. That's why we used the smaller eighth generation model in the form of the i5-8400. But the Futuremark tests clearly show that more CPU cores cannot generate a profit compared to higher clocks.

PCMark 8 suite

Creation Suite

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i7-8700K]

5766
MSI Z270 Tomahawk
[i7-7700K]

5661
MSI Z170a Gaming M7
[i7-7700K]

5552
MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i5-8400]

5482
Points (higher values ​​are better)

Home

With the Home Suite, Futuremark is - as the name suggests - geared towards an average domestic use. Once again, internet surfing and a small amount of image processing are added to the balance. A bit of video editing and office work are involved, and when playing, you tend to see the casual gamer here.

Again, these tests are repeated every three times before a remedy is formed. However, due to the lower requirements, the test suite also requires less time and is completed in around 30 minutes.

The judgment of the results remains. The mean of the completed tests cannot take advantage of the additional cores of the new processor on this platform and is more based on the clock rate of the processor itself. Ultimately, the i7-8700K is needed so that the flag of the new chipset hangs in the wind - a fair one Comparison is not possible.

PCMark 8 suite

Home Suite

MSI Z170a Gaming M7
[i7-7700K]

4644
MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i7-8700K]

4625
MSI Z270 Tomahawk
[i7-7700K]

4535
MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i5-8400]

4133
Points (higher values ​​are better)

Work

 

Futuremarks Work-Suite can be understood as typical office use in the company. Spreadsheets and word processing are in the foreground alongside internet use and video conferencing. The requirements made here are practically the lowest of the three PCMark 8 test suites.

Here too, Futuremark draws the mean from three complete benchmark runs. This test suite can also be completed in around 30 minutes.

The judgment of the results remains. The mean of the completed tests cannot take advantage of the additional cores of the new processor on this platform and is more based on the clock rate of the processor itself. Ultimately, the i7-8700K is needed so that the flag of the new chipset hangs in the wind - a fair one Comparison is not possible.

PCMark 8 suite

Work suite

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i7-8700K]

3866
MSI Z170a Gaming M7
[i7-7700K]

3809
MSI Z270 Tomahawk
[i7-7700K]

3790
MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i5-8400]

3431
Points (higher values ​​are better)

storage

Futuremark's storage suite also tries to orientate itself in a practical way and draws less on synthetic applications than on known applications. Their start, load and storage times are in the foreground. Games like World of Warcraft or Battlefield 3, Adobe professional programs like Photoshop, After Effects or Illustrator and of course Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint are consulted.

Here, too, Futuremark must complete the test runs every three times before a remedy is formed. The performance values ​​primarily depend on the storage medium used (SSD or HDD), and of course on the way the medium is integrated into the system. The test runs take about 45 minutes in our system with SSD on SATA III (6 Gb / s).

In this area, it doesn't really matter to Futuremark which CPU clock you are dealing with. The storage drives and their controllers that are used are more important. Therefore, the results are hardly out of line.

PCMark 8 suite

Storage Suite

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i5-8400]

4976
MSI Z270 Tomahawk
[i7-7700K]

4967
MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon
[i7-8700K]

4958
MSI Z170a Gaming M7
[i7-7700K]

4951
Points (higher values ​​are better)

Summary

A fair performance comparison between the platforms used today is not possible, simply because Intel has different CPUs at the start, which are not comparable and incompatible with one another. That doesn't do any harm, because the Z370 chipset is simply an infusion of the Z270 chipset and therefore has no real advantages to offer. It is just a necessary evil if you want to rely on the latest generation of core processors from Intel, because there is currently no other substructure.

This will follow shortly, when Intel releases further CPUs for the new LGA1151 (V2) socket, because cheaper offshoots in the chipset area will then also come. That is also the only shortcoming that we have to blame in today's MSI - or rather Intel - test. To be able to rely on the new CPUs, you have to rely on the Z370, which is a bit expensive.

It is of little use that MSI picks out a board for the middle class of gaming for testing. The MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon does what it should, offers a lot of features and a well-rounded package, because the LGA1151 platform is also mature, has received enough BIOS updates and is therefore basically recommendable. As a result, the test candidate does not make any mistakes today, but with around 160 Euro In terms of purchase price, it remains an expensive mainboard at the level of the competition, which is supported by expensive processors.

An Intel Core i7-8700K costs currently around 320 euros, a Core i5-8400 still beats around 220 Euro to book. And so the CPU plus motherboard, which is necessary, make the music. Anyone willing to pay this price will not make a mistake with the MSI board presented today!

Test environment

Hardware:

Software:

  • Windows 10 64 bit - latest updates
  • Drivers for integrated hardware, if possible Windows 10-based
  • Graphics card driver GeForce WHQL 376.33

About David Maul

David Maul is a qualified business IT specialist with a passion for hardware