Review: MSI MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI LGA1700 Motherboard
Looking to build a high-end Intel 13th Generation Raptor Lake PC? The MSI MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI might just be the board that you're looking for, with a beefy VRM setup and a host of other premium features.
Intel's 13th generation Raptor Lake processor and Z790 motherboard offerings have been on the market for some time now, and with compelling offerings such as the Core i5-13600K, or even the Core i9-13900K that is the undisputed king of the gaming and productivity hill at the present moment (albeit a very power hungry one at that), building a new PC on the LGA1700 platform does seem to be an attractive option, in spite of the fact that the socket will be end-of-life with no further upgrade path in the future.
Barring that, for today's article, we'll be taking a look at a premium Intel Z790 motherboard offering that is positioned at the high-end - the MSI MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI.
Summary of Specifications
- Processor Support: Intel 13th Gen Core processors & 12th Gen Core, Pentium Gold and Celeron processors
- Chipset: Intel Z790
- Memory: 4x DDR5 slots, max 128GB, up to DDR5 7600+ (OC) support
- Audio: Realtek ALC4080 audio codec
- LAN: Intel I226-V 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet
- WIFI: Intel WIFI 6E module with built-in Bluetooth 5.3
- Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe 5.0 x16, 1x PCIe 4.0 x16 (x4 mode), 1x PCIe 3.0 x1
- Storage: 6x SATA III, 1x PCIe 5.0 x4 M.2 (NVMe drives only - shares bandwidth with PCIe 5.0 x16 slot), 3x PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 (NVMe drives only), 1x PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 (NVMe & SATA drives)
- Form Factor: ATX
Packaging & Contents
The MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI comes in a bluish-purple box that features the MPG logo prominently on the front of the box.
Included with the board are the following accessories:
- 2x SATA III cables
- 1x 12V RGB Y-splitter cable
- 1x addressable RGB extension cable
- MSI thumb drive
- 4x EZ M.2 clips
- Quick start guide
- Regulatory information leaflet
- Sheet of MSI decorative stickers
The MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI comes in what MSI terms a "carbon black" colour scheme, with a black coloured PCB and large black heatsinks all around that feature subtle carbon-fibre like motifs.
As can be seen, it sports an integrated I/O shield design with large VRM heatsinks. Fans of RGB lighting effects will be pleased to note that the board comes with an illuminated MSI dragon motif on the I/O shield cover.
The heatsink for the Intel Z790 chipset is a passively cooled affair, and also sports a motif that summarises some of the key features that the board comes with.
Heatsinks are included for all five M.2 drive slots that the motherboard comes with. The heatsink for the first M.2 slot features a tool-less design, where removing it is a simple matter of pressing down on a latch found on the side of the heatsink, and pulling it up and away from the board.
VRM & Memory Support
Amongst other high-end Intel Z790 motherboard offerings, the MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI ranks amongst the top with its beefy 19+1+1 power phases with 105A power stages, which should allow it to properly harness the power of the range-topping Intel Core i9-13900K, and then some.
Memory support is by means of four DDR5 slots that provide support for up to 128GBs of RAM and the DDR5 7600+ standard (overclocked). The slots are of a dual-tabbed design, and serve up support for Intel's XMP 3.0 memory profiles.
Front Panel USB Connectivity
In terms of front panel USB connectivity, MSI has included a single USB 3,2 Gen 2x2 Type-C front panel header, as well as a USB 3,2 Gen 1 Type-A front panel header that provides for up to two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports.
Also included are two front panel USB 2.0 headers located along the bottom edge of the motherboard; the said headers each provide for up to two front panel USB 2.0 Type-A ports, for a total of four USB 2,0 ports.
Expansion Slots & Storage Options
The MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI comes with a single PCIe 5.0 x16 slot with the Steel Armour feature that reinforces the slot against heavy graphics cards.
Also included are a PCIe 3.0 x1 slot, as well as a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot that operates at x4 mode.
In the storage department, MSI has included six SATA III ports in a right-angled configuration so as to aid with cable management. SATA ports 5 to 8 are native to the Intel Z790 chipset, while ports A1 and A2 are powered by a third-party ASMedia ASM1061 controller.
A whopping five M.2 slots are also included with the board. Slots M2_1, M2_3 and M2_4 comply with the PCIe 4.0 x4 standard and support M.2 NVMe drives only, while slot M2_5 supports both M.2 NVMe and SATA drives - the slot also supports PCIe 4.0 x4 link speeds when a compatible NVMe M.2 drive is installed.
Slot M2_2 on the other hand, is a PCIe 5.0 x4 slot that supports NVMe SSDs only. Do note, that due to chipset limitations, where the Intel Z790 does not have dedicated PCIe 5.0 lanes for M.2 drives, MSI has designed the board such that the M2_2 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIe 5.0 x16 slot. That is to say, when a NVMe drive is installed on the M2_2 slot, the PCIe 5.0 x16 slot for a graphics card will operate at x8 mode instead.
Audio & Internet Connectivity
Powering the board's audio is Realtek's ALC4080, which is a premium audio codec. Internet connectivity on the other hand, is courtesy of Intel's I226-V controller that serves up 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, as well as an Intel WIFI 6E module that also provides for Bluetooth 5.3 connectivity.
Fan & RGB Headers
The MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI comes with plenty of fan headers. Seven of them, to be precise:
- 1x CPU_FAN1
- 1x PUMP_FAN1
- 5x SYS_FAN
Also included are two addressable RGB headers, as well as a single 12V RGB header. Do note that the included RGB Y-splitter cable that comes included with the board can be used to add an additional 12V RGB header, which could come in useful for folks who intend to add multiple RGB peripherals to their PC builds.
The board comes with a Thunderbolt add-on card header that is to be used in conjunction with a Thunderbolt add-on card that is sold separately by MSI.
Next to the Thunderbolt header is a JDASH1 header that is to be used with an optional MSI Tuning Controller module. Oddly enough, the Tuning Controller does not seem to be available to purchase as of the time of writing this article, and seems to have come included with previous generation high-end MSI motherboards - the MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI does not come with the said controller.
A LED_SW1 switch that is also located along the bottom edge of the board allows end-users to manually enable and disable the motherboard's RGB lighting effects.
Likely a feature that is targeted at overclockers, MSI's included a Safe Boot jumper as well that when enabled, forces the system to boot with default BIOS settings and a lower PCIe link speed.
Moving up top, a set of EZ Debug LEDs are included with the board - the said LEDs can be used to troubleshoot Power On Self Test (POST) issues. For end-users that would like more granularity in terms of troubleshooting POST issues, MSI has also included a Debug Code LED that displays progress and error codes during and after POST.
While not exactly a feature per se, the CMOS battery for the MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI comes in a two-pin affair that could make future battery replacement more of a hassle, especially since end-users would not be able to simply purchase a normal replacement CR2032 coin battery that is readily available.
The board comes with the following rear I/O ports:
- 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A (5 Gbps)
- 1x HDMI 2.1 (supports display output of up to 4K resolution at 60Hz)
- 6x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (10 Gbps)
- 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet port
- 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (10 Gbps)
- 1x USB 3,2 Gen 2x2 Type-C (20 Gbps)
- WIFI antennae connectors
- Audio jack connectors
Also included on the rear I/O are a Clear CMOS button, a Flash BIOS button that allows end-users to update the board's BIOS without needing to install a CPU, RAM and graphics card, as well as a Smart Button that can be mapped by owners of this board to perform a variety of different functions, such as to serve as a reset switch, or to serve as a fan speed control button.
Conclusion & Pricing
To sum up, the MSI MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI is a premium offering of an Intel Z790 motherboard that is targeted at higher-end DIY PCs, and should prove very capable in harnessing the power of high-end Intel 13th gen CPUs such as the Core i7-13700K and the Core i9-13900K. This is especially since it sports a beefy VRM setup that is hard to beat, alongside features such as PCIe 5.0 connectivity for both the graphics card and a M.2 slot, plenty of M.2 slots and plenty of USB 3.2 connectivity options - the list goes on.
Some minor downsides worth mentioning include the fact that the PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIe 5.0 x16 slot for a graphics card due to chipset limitations. In addition, I’m not a fan of the board’s two-pin style CMOS battery, where I would have preferred the battery to be in the usual CR2032 coin battery format,
As of December 2022, the MPG Z790 CARBON WIFI is currently available in Singapore for a price of around $729 Singapore dollars - international readers can purchase this board from online retailers such as Amazon and Newegg for a price of around $480 US dollars.
Get this board from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3iKImlM (affiliate link)
Get this board from Shopee Singapore: https://shope.ee/20M1kMIDAG (affiliate link)
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The motherboard featured in this article was a review unit provided on loan from MSI.