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MSI MPG Z590 Carbon EK X Review: EK Waterblock Meets Gaming Carbon WiFi

MSI’s MPG Z590 Carbon EK X sets its sights on enthusiasts on a moderate budget, with an included monoblock, four M.2 sockets and robust power delivery.

MSI MPG Z590 Carbon EK X
Editor's Choice
(Image: © MSI)


For Z590, MSI has changed up its software offerings. We used to have several individual programs to adjust the system. But MSI has moved to an all-in-one application called MSI Center. The new Software is a central repository for many of the utilities (12) MSI offers. These include Mystic Light (RGB control), AI Cooling (adjust fan speeds), LAN Manager (control the NIC), Speed Up (for storage), Gaming Mode (auto-tune games), among several others (see the screenshots below for details). The User Scenario application has a couple of presets for system performance and is where you manually adjust settings, including CPU clock speeds and voltage, RAM timings, and more.

Overall, I like the move to a single application. The user interface is easy to read and get around in. However, sometimes loading these applications takes longer than I would like to see. To that end, MSI Center did an excellent job of pulling everything in.


To give you a taste of the Firmware, we’ve gathered screenshots showing most BIOS screens. MSI’s BIOS is unique from the other board partners in that the headings aren’t at the top but split out to the sides. In each section, all the most frequently used options are easy to find and not buried deep within menus. Overall, MSI didn’t change much here, moving from Z490 to Z590 and their BIOS continues to be easy to use. 

Test System 

As of March 2021, we’ve updated our test system to Windows 10 64-bit OS (20H2) with all threat mitigations applied. On the hardware front, we’ve switched to all PCIe 4.0 components. We upgraded our video card to an Asus RTX 3070 TUF Gaming and the storage device to a 2TB Phison PS5-18-E18 M.2. Along with the hardware changes, we’ve also updated the games to F1 2020 and Far Cry: New Dawn. We use the latest non-beta motherboard BIOS available to the public unless otherwise noted (typically during new releases). The hardware used is as follows: 

CPUIntel i9-11900K
RAMGSkill Trident Z Neo 2x8GB DDR4 3600 (F4-3600C16Q-32GTZN)
GSkill Trident Z Royale 2x8GB DDR4 4000 (F4-4000C18Q-32GTRS)
MotherboardAsus TUF Gaming RTX 3070
CPU CoolerCorsair H150i
PSUCorsair AX1200i
Operating SystemWindows 10 64-bit 20H2
Graphics DriverNVIDIA Driver 461.40
SoundIntegrated HD audio
NetworkIntegrated Networking (GbE or 2.5 GbE)

Benchmark Settings 

Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
PCMark 10Version 2.1.2508 64
Essentials, Productivity, Digital Content Creation, MS Office
3DMarkVersion 2.17.7137 64
Firestrike Extreme and Time Spy Default Presets
Cinebench R20Version RBBENCHMARK271150
Open GL Benchmark - Single and Multi-threaded
Application Tests and Settings
LAME MP3Version SSE2_2019
Mixed 271MB WAV to mp3: Command: -b 160 --nores (160Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 1.2.2
Sintel Open Movie Project: 4.19GB 4K mkv to x264 (light AVX) and x265 (heavy AVX)
Corona 1.4Version 1.4
Custom benchmark
7-ZipVersion 19.00
Integrated benchmark
Game Tests and Settings
F1 2020Ultra Preset - 1920 x 1080, TAA, 16xAF (Australia, Clear, Dry)
Far Cry: New DawnUltra Preset - 1920 x 1080

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Joe Shields
Motherboard Reviewer

Joe Shields is a Freelance writer for Tom’s Hardware US. He reviews motherboards.