MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Carbon Pro AC Review
There is just a tenner separating the pricing of the Gaming Pro Carbon and the Gaming Edge motherboards in the MSI range, and looking at the two motherboards in such close quarters it's very difficult to tell them apart. It could almost be a good 'spot the difference' competition. The main changes are that the Carbon Pro has reinforced DIMM slots and a M.2 heat spreader built in to the bottom heat sink. Otherwise it's nearly impossible to tell them apart.
The Z390 chipset, as we've just said, is relentlessly consistent across almost every partner motherboard which means that it almost doesn't matter your budget, you're guaranteed to get something which performs well and the Gaming Carbon Pro is no exception to this rule. It overclocks our Core i9-9900K to the all-important 5 GHz mark whilst keeping the memory running at a smooth 3200 MHz. It isn't only in CPUz that the Carbon looks good either, as it was fairly good throughout our testing too.
Indeed our testing revealed two things. Firstly that the Carbon Pro isn't as consistent as the Tomahawk we've recently looked, except when it is. We know that sounds like a juxtaposition but it actually isn't. The Carbon either had the overclocked and stock results tightly grouped in the middle of our graphs - most tests but especially our Gaming and SiSoft Sandra results - or the stock setup slipped a little down the order whilst the overclocked setup moved higher, until they almost bracketed the graph - see PC Mark 8 or 3D Mark.
Of course the thing that it is always important to bear in mind is that very best and very worst Z390 results are still a tiny distance apart, thanks to the excellent solidity of the Intel chipset design. So although you could glance at the MPG Gaming Carbon Pro and come away from it less impressed than you were with the Tomahawk or other motherboards we've reviewed, the reality is that if the price and looks tempt you into putting the Carbon pro into your basket you will not be disappointed with your purchase.
You might be wondering why the Carbon Pro is £30 more than the Tomahawk for basically the same specifications, but that can easily be answered if you look at the pre-installed IO shield, the Mystic Light RGB LEDs built into the main heatsink, and the blended M.2 heat spreader and chipset heatsink cooler. Also the Carbon Pro has a front panel USB 3.1 Type C connector missing from the Tomahawk. Nothing that is going to set the world alight but enough to mean that the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Carbon Pro is easily a match for the Tomahawk in the value for money stakes.
The Carbon Pro might not be as gaudy with its use of the mock-carbon as earlier models in the MSI range might have been but we think it is all the better for it and with enough performance to keep everyone happy and a few quality-of-life improvements over the cheaper Tomahawk board it's a sensible purchase for anyone on a budget but who likes a little flair to go with their solid foundation.