Intel tends to introduce new chipsets every time it launches processors, and the latest launch of the ninth Era Core line is not any exception. In comparison with the eighth Gen-contemporary Z370 chipset, the Z390 chipset represents only a slight tweak to the components. It integrates a USB three.1 Gen 2 controller for as much as 10Gbps ports and Intel Wi-fi-AC with assist for as much as gigabit Wi-Fi speeds. Not all motherboards will ship with full entry to every part listed within the chipset’s spec sheet, however the $290 MSI MEG Z390 ACE has all the necessary containers checked, with just a few extras ticked for good measure. That is to not point out MSI’s inclusion of a novel “Mystic Mild Infinity” panel that ought to intrigue PC builders searching for quirky new angles on in-case bling. If you wish to go the deluxe route in your subsequent PC construct/improve with a ninth Gen Core i9 processor, and tweak it, too, that is the board to get.

A Monochromatic Monster Mobo
The MEG Z390 ACE is an MSI Fanatic Gaming mannequin. (That is the place the abbreviation “MEG” comes from.) The board is supplied with an Intel Wi-fi-AC 9560 adapter that helps theoretical information charges as much as 1,733Mbps, in addition to Bluetooth 5.zero. Different standout options embody spectacular overclocking capabilities, assist for a number of video playing cards, twin eight-pin CPU energy connectors (for beefed-up energy supply), and a big power-phase array designed to let the speedy, power-hungry Intel Core i9-9900Ok run free.
Though the Z370 chipset-based boards will work with Intel’s ninth Era processors (after a BIOS replace), few are constructed just like the MSI MEG Z390 ACE. MSI has its sights set on critical players, avid overclockers, and energy customers with deep pockets.

The MSI MEG Z390 ACE encompasses a matte-black PCB with some angular grey accent stripes that add visible aptitude. There are additionally some white labels for headers, the mannequin, and the producer, in addition to key options corresponding to “Core Increase” and “DDR4 Increase.” The built-in I/O protect is roofed with a shroud that extends over the thick heatsink on the left facet of the processor’s voltage regulation module (VRM). The highest portion of the VRM has one other heatsink that makes good contact with the power-delivery parts, and a warmth pipe spans the 2 VRM heatsinks.
Cumbersome VRM heatsinks, in addition to needlessly tall DRAM heatsinks, have lengthy been the bane of DIY builders preferring tower-style air coolers and top-panel-mounted liquid-cooling radiators. MSI seems to really feel their ache, because the capacitors closest to the socket are left uncovered, and the chokes are solely partially lined. The true workhorse of the VRM, the MOSFETs, are the one parts which might be absolutely lined, and there is a thermal pad to make sure uniform contact throughout the heatsinks. The audio parts situated on the left facet of the MEG Z390 ACE characteristic a black plastic shroud labeled Audio Increase HD. (Baffled by all this? See our information to motherboard lingo, Shopping for a Motherboard: 20 Phrases You Have to Know.)

MSI has added shiny metal plating soldered onto the PCB, what it dubs “Metal Armor,” to the DDR4 reminiscence slots and PCI Specific slots to assist cut back EMI and add some power to those parts. DDR4 Increase is the title MSI provides to its optimized traces and remoted reminiscence circuitry. The chipset heatsink is a considerable piece of stable metallic with angular designs surrounding MSI’s acquainted, stylized dragon brand. The M.2 heatsink really sandwiches your SSD between two heatsinks, to make sure you by no means encounter performance-robbing thermal throttling.
You get areas for a whopping three M.2 storage gadgets on this motherboard, however just one will get a heatsink. That being stated, I do like that the heatsink-equipped M.2 slot is the one which’s least more likely to be lined with a graphics card. The highest-most M.2 slot can accommodate Sort-22100 SSDs, whereas the 2 decrease slots prime out at Sort-2280, or 80mm lengthy. (Take a look at our information to the most effective M.2 SSDs and our information to SSD lingo.)
No enthusiast-class motherboard is full with out at the very least slightly RGB frippery, although the MEG Z390 ACE has lower than most. The one programmable built-in RGB LEDs come within the type of the so-called “Mystic Mild Infinity” panel on the shroud masking the I/O ports-and-shield space. The Infinity panel consists of a single strip of LEDs bounded by a pair of parallel mirrors that create an “infinity mirror” regressing impact.

You additionally get three RGB LED-strip headers on the motherboard. Those on the prime and on the backside are for 12-volt 5050 RGB LED strips, and a 5-volt WS2812B header on the backside of the board is designed for connecting an individually addressable LED strip. A Corsair-specific connector lives on the highest fringe of the MEG Z390 ACE for connecting a Corsair fan hub or Corsair-branded LED strips.

In the event you’ve constructed an Intel-based system previously a number of years, you will instantly acknowledge the LGA 1151 socket’s securing mechanism. All 4 dual-channel reminiscence slots are to the correct of it. This motherboard additionally helps Intel Excessive Reminiscence Profiles (XMP) for overclocking reminiscence speeds as much as and past four,000MHz. MSI peppers the correct fringe of the board with some nifty extras, together with bodily energy and reset buttons, a Sport Increase knob (humorously, it goes to 11), debug LEDs, a debug-code show, voltage checkpoints, and two front-panel headers for USB three.1 Gen 2 port cables.

Regardless of the handful of supreme options on the MSI MEG Z390 ACE, that is nonetheless Intel’s mainstream platform, which signifies that many of the processors you plug into the LGA 1151 socket could have built-in graphics. The Intel Core i9-9900Ok I used to check this motherboard, for example, has the UHD Graphics 630 for gaming, however the rear I/O on this motherboard would not characteristic any video outputs, so you’ll nonetheless want a discrete graphics card if you happen to plan to construct a system out of the MSI MEG Z390 ACE.
Scattered in among the many M.2 slots are three PCI Specific three.zero x16 slots for CrossFire and SLI multi-GPU configurations. A single graphics card will get the complete 16 lanes, but when two playing cards are put in, they are going to be restricted to eight lanes apiece. Though two-way SLI is your restrict for Nvidia playing cards, you may set up three AMD-based graphics playing cards in a CrossFireX configuration, which ends up in eight lanes allotted to the top-most slot, whereas the 2 remaining playing cards are left with simply 4 lanes every.

A trio of PCI Specific x1 slots is obtainable, as properly. The remainder of the storage subsystem past the M.2 slots consists of a collection of six SATA 6Gbps ports, turned 90 levels to make connecting and disconnecting them simpler.

I/O Ports Galore
I’ve seen designs with built-in I/O shields like this one on a handful of the most recent motherboards from Gigabyte and MSI, and I adore it. In the event you’re putting in this motherboard right into a case that is already filled with parts, having the I/O protect bolted in place is an actual comfort.
On the panel, beginning on the prime edge, you will discover MSI’s BIOS Flashback and Clear CMOS buttons, which simplify updating the BIOS with minimal , and get you again into the BIOS within the occasion of a failed overclock. You additionally get a powerful 10 USB ports: 5 USB three.1 Gen 2 Sort-A ports, one USB three.1 Gen 2 Sort-C port, and 4 USB 2.zero ports. That prime USB 2.zero port has a pink rim to suggest that it is the one that you’re going to want to make use of if you happen to plan to improve the BIOS utilizing the BIOS Flashback button.

Above the USB three.1 Gen 2 ports is an RJ-45 LAN port, which corresponds to the Killer E2500 Gigabit LAN controller. Killer’s and software program use Superior Stream Detect 2.zero to decrease in-game latency by giving the packets that correspond to your multiplayer gaming periods the very best precedence. Streaming-media packets additionally get entry to the categorical lane due to Killer’s NIC.
If you wish to go wi-fi, then you may simply bolt on the exterior antenna to the pair of Wi-Fi coaxial connectors between the financial institution of USB ports and the rear audio jacks. As I discussed above, the controller behind this motherboard’s Wi-Fi functionality is the Intel Wi-fi-AC 9560, which is the highest-performing IC obtainable on Intel’s Z390 motherboards.
Additionally again listed below are 5 audio jacks that assist as much as eight-channel HD audio delivered by way of the Realtek ALC1220 codec. The rear I/O additionally options an optical S/PDIF port for a premium audio expertise. The MEG Z390 ACE’s Audio Increase HD skills discuss with the built-in audio amplifier that helps studio-grade headsets. The left and proper audio channel traces are on separate PCB layers, to cut back interference. MSI depends on a collection of Chemicon capacitors, which the corporate suggests delivers a “heat” sound. You can even set up the Nahimic Audio Enhancer software program to tweak the sound to no matter temperature you favor.

Given the lusty energy draw we noticed when overclocking the Intel Core i9-9900Ok, any motherboard that hopes to maintain tempo will want some critical energy supply. On this board, you will spot twin eight-pin CPU auxiliary energy connectors within the upper-left nook. The VRM consists of a complete of 12 phases devoted to the CPU, so the possibilities of an sudden voltage drop hitting the processor are minimal. Hardcore overclockers even have entry to a collection of jumpers designed to allow LN2 overclocking, such because the Low Temperature Boot Jumper, and the Sluggish Mode Booting Jumper.
Most skilled overclockers work from the BIOS menu, however MSI’s Sport Increase overclocking knob is a particular shortcut. After enabling Sport Increase HW Mode from the BIOS, you may twist the knob by all 11 settings to step up voltage and core frequency. The core-frequency increments that the knob clicks by rely upon the processor put in. As an example, the Intel Core i7-8700Ok overclocks to as much as four.8GHz with the knob set to the primary place, to four.9GHz on the second place, 5GHz on the fourth place, and so forth. Set to 11, Sport Increase will try to overclock your i7-8700Ok to as much as 5.4GHz. That stated, I might not advocate utilizing the Sport Increase knob to overclock an i7-8700Ok to something past 5GHz.

Cooling a high-performance motherboard is critical enterprise, and MSI clearly would not take the duty evenly. This board has a complete of seven fan headers, and the 2 on the highest fringe of the board are devoted for an all-in-one-style pump and CPU fan, respectively. MSI additionally put in seven thermal probes: two for the CPU, one close to the VRM, two close to the top-most PCI Specific slot, and two beneath the chipset heatsink. If you would like, you may hop into the BIOS to take full management of your fan curves and thresholds, or use the MSI Dragon Middle software program. (Search for fan settings within the Efficiency menu.) The system fan headers are all properly positioned across the edges of the board to make sure you do not have to compromise your cooling plan due to poor header placement.
The front-panel headers for the facility, reset, and laborious drive exercise LEDs are situated to the left of the hardwired energy and reset buttons. You will additionally discover two units of front-panel USB three.zero headers, one on the underside of the board, and one other astride the SATA ports.

Bundled Extras and Testing Expertise
The MEG Z390 ACE has a handful of odds and ends included within the packaging. Along with the Wi-Fi antenna, which doubles as a headset stand if you happen to mount it to the wall, is a high-bandwidth SLI bridge, three LED-strip adapters, a case badge, 4 6Gbps SATA cables, the software program disc, SATA label stickers, the handbook, a quick-start information, a guaranty card, and an MSI Gaming promotional card. Additionally, though it isn’t within the field, MSI is providing a free copy of Murderer’s Creed Odyssey to anybody who buys this motherboard earlier than December 31, 2018.

As I’ve stated quite a lot of occasions already, the system I constructed to check out the MEG Z390 ACE options an Intel Core i9-9900Ok. I populated two of the DIMM slots with 16GB of dual-channel G.Ability Sniper X DDR4-3400 reminiscence. For the Home windows 10 boot drive, I relied on a 240GB Essential BX300 SATA SSD. I put in the parts into an Alpine White EVGA DG-77 case and used the Fractal Design Celsius S36 closed-loop liquid cooler to flush warmth away from the processor’s STIM-fused built-in warmth spreader.
For my recreation testing, I put in an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 card, working on the Founders Version clock speeds.

A BIOS Crash Course
The MSI MEG Z390 ACE options MSI’s Click on BIOS 5 UEFI BIOS, which has two working modes; EZ, and Superior. The previous hides quite a lot of the extra obscure controls which might be designed to allow you to alter the parts’ efficiency. The latter assumes you might have some expertise and unlocks all settings.
In EZ mode, the UI is pretty intuitive, letting you allow XMP profiles, alter the boot-device order, study parts, and take a look at sensor information. Overclockers might want to use Superior mode nearly solely.

From the EZ mode most important display screen, you may click on the Monitor to view CPU and System followers, curves, and temperatures in real-time…

You can even take handbook management over these settings proper from this menu. Though the followers can detect whether or not or not the gadget plugged in is a PWM or voltage-controlled gadget, you may override these settings for every header.

ninth Gen the Deluxe Means
I hear it time and time once more from inexperienced builders, that the motherboard is the place they actually need to lower your expenses. It is true, the worth of the MSI MEG Z390 ACE is considerably larger than that of the most cost effective Z370 motherboard that’ll assist the Intel Core i9-9900Ok. However a motherboard that is not able to maintaining with this processor will restrict the voltage that it has entry to, and you should have left some important efficiency on the desk. This isn’t the case with the MEG Z390 ACE.

The board is fairly, well-built, and punctiliously designed, and it lights up like Infinity Christmas if you happen to’ve acquired the requisite LED gentle strips and a transparent case facet panel. However a very powerful factor the MEG Z390 ACE does is give Intel’s newest processor, essentially the most spectacular mainstream chip I’ve ever examined, all of the room it must run like mad. You do not want many of the extras this board provides. However if you wish to set up at present’s prime mainstream CPU, and get essentially the most out of it that you would be able to, you owe it to your self to get a motherboard just like the MSI MEG Z390 ACE.

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