MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC ITX Review
If you've been following the PC hardware market for any length of time you'll remember that barely three generations ago you had to make a decision between having a normal ATX sized motherboard that had great performance, or an ITX board for size purposes with the tacit understanding that it wouldn't be as capable as the bigger motherboards.
With the ASUS Gene a couple of generations ago, and today with the MSI Carbon ITX, those days are gone. In fact this Carbon has incredible levels of performance hidden beneath its diminutive form. In the brief time between the initial release of the Z270 motherboards and today's review it is clear that MSI have spent a lot of time tweaking their BIOS. Whereas the big Carbon was good but unspectacular, the Carbon ITX is an overclocking monster. Any time you can bust the 5 GHz barrier on your CPU is a nice day, but when you can pair that up with an 'out of the box' one click 4 GHz DDR4 solution then you're really cooking on gas.
Now obviously there are some compromises to be made, all of which are just a side effect of having such a limited PCB size to arrange things. Even with this problem though the Carbon still has plenty of hardware crammed onto its tiny form factor. WiFi, Audio Boost, full size M.2 support, plenty of headers for MSIs RGB strip control, fans and front panel USB. Heck MSI have even gone and installed their metal bracing on both the DIMM slots and PCI Express 3.0 slot. As long as you go into it understanding that an ITX motherboard will have a reduced amount of extra features but still has more than enough power to run the type of system that most of us actually use - 16 GB DDR4, overclocked CPU, one beefy GPU - but with the benefit of fitting into absolutely any case that takes your fancy.
There are only a couple of minor negatives. Firstly because of the limited acreage on the Z270I Carbon there isn't much of the carbon effect which gives it its name. Not a massive issue, but worth noting. Secondly we didn't always achieve the kind of benchmarks we might have expected from a test or two given previous results we've seen with the Carbon AC and the inherent clock speed available from that meaty overclock. It was never slow or disgraced. Just the odd test is less.. good. If you'll forgive the atrocious grammar.
The MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC ITX motherboard is a pocket powerhouse, with bags of performance and overclocking prowess far beyond its diminutive stature, and should win our OC3D Performance Award..... However. With the crazy choice to hide the memory volts which is basically just a way to try and keep us from reporting whats really going on we are going to assume nothing there has changed from our original review, couple this with the lackluster (non existant) load line calibration we have decided to mark the board down to our entry level "Approved" award but in all honesty if we hadn't of had a good day it could have been nothing at all.
So come on MSI, you're clearly capable. Get the BIOS sorted, its letting the hardware down.