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MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC Motherboard Review

Benchmarks & Conclusion

When paired with the directly-competing Core i9-7900X, the new motherboards slightly outperform the old X99 platform across 3DMark and PCMark. Although it's far less-expensive, the Core i7-7800X can’t stand up to the might of a 10-core CPU in 3DMark’s Physics test.

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My hopes that the moderately-priced i7-7800X would compete directly against the previous generation’s expensive 10-core CPU are dashed in Sandra Arithmetic. But the Core i9-7900X beats its predecessor by an even greater amount. Better still, the boards hosting these new processors are thus far performing consistently against each other.

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Minor inconsistencies between Asus and MSI motherboards creep in starting with Sandra Multimedia. MSI appears to have slightly more aggressive memory settings, but Asus leads Cinebench.

3D Games

The X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC leads the Prime X299-Deluxe across Ashes, F1 2015, and Metro. We always enable each CPU's full set of power savings features and disable non-stock turbo settings to make competitions fair, as we believe that overclockers prefer to choose their own settings. Perhaps some of Intel’s green technologies aren’t fully functioning on the MSI motherboard?

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Talos kicks MSI down a notch due to the heavy load of its Nahimic software suite in this specific game. The faded bars show how the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC performs with Nahimic Audio Solution disabled.

Timed Applications

Less is more in timed application performance, as less encoding time means more work gets done.

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The X299 Gaming Pro Carbon leads the Prime X299-Deluxe across our mixed workload, but falls behind in Adobe After Effects.

Power, Heat & Efficiency

I had suspicions about MSI’s potential power use after seeing it win too many benchmarks to call those wins coincidental, and the power chart confirms my suspicions. Full-load heat is also significantly higher.

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Considering the balance, the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC’s relatively consistent lead wasn’t large, unlike its increased power consumption. A retest may be required before comparing it to any future competitors.

Overclocking

While the Prime X299-Deluxe beats the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC at overclocking either processor, the reason for stopping is different. While the Prime X299-Deluxe experienced the traditional system crash when taking our Core i9-7900X from 4.3 to 4.4 GHz at 1.20V, that same CPU would throttle down its eighth core when pushed past 4.20 GHz on the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC.

Surprisingly, the Prime X299-Deluxe switches positions in memory bandwidth against the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, depending on which CPU is installed. We’ll likely find more consistency as these boards mature.

X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC costs less for fewer features, and the result is more performance per dollar. Perhaps I should have used a cheaper X99 motherboard as the baseline, just to knock the newer boards down a value peg?

Since we included several processors in these benchmarks, a processor-based adjustment reveals a little more about why a buyer who had not yet made the leap to a 6950X might be glad he or she waited for the 7900X. Value increases by nearly half when moving from the 6950X to 7900X, and by half again when scaling down from the somewhat-expensive 7900X to the mid-priced 7800X.

The value charts tell us less about the boards, since the difference that included features adds is vast. MSI’s board doesn’t include a second network controller, or a Thunderbolt 3 add-in card with DisplayPort cable, or the additional components that make the Wi-Fi controller 802.11ad, or the Asus motherboard's OLED verbose status displays, or extra fan module. The lack of those features means the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC also costs $120 less than the Asus motherboard, which seems on par if you tally up those features.

Unfortunately, both boards are slightly too immature to issue an award today. On the other hand, if we had to spend our own money on an X299 motherboard today, the X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is the board half of us could afford.


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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.