MSI's initial offering in the X399 space comes in the form of Gaming Pro Carbon AC. This board sits as the high-end board within the Performance Gaming lineup in previous generations. The Gaming Pro Carbon series tends to features for gamers and enthusiasts, using modern audio codecs, wireless capabilities, and aiming for high overclocking abilities.
Starting with the DRAM, we see eight slots covered with MSI's Steel Armor. Memory capacity is the same as other boards, holding up to 128GB in a quad channel configuration, and MSI promotes a maximum supported speed of DDR4-3600, although higher might be possible through overclocking further. MSI is promoting its DDR4 Boost technology, which they say optimizes the traces and fully isolates the memory circuitry for increased stability and performance.
With its extra-large TR4 socket and X399 chipset, the X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC supports AMD’s massive new processors. As we get into in great detail in the 1950X review linked above, the Threadripper CPUs are great choices for content-creation systems, thanks to their support for multi-threaded applications, but they also present some challenges to DIY builders. For one thing, installing a Threadripper processor is a more complicated undertaking than installing typical AMD or Intel processors. For another, your cooling options aren’t broad when installing a Threadripper. And what coolers you can find may not be able to handle the heat, if you choose to overclock one of these beasts.
Gamers and content creators will find plenty to like about the X399 chipset. Quad-channel DDR memory is supported—a must for any board facing off against Intel’s latest chipsets. The chipset is also capable of handling up to 66 PCI Express Gen 3.0 lanes and eight PCI Express Gen 2.0 lanes, and it goes big with plenty of USB 3.1 Gen1 and Gen2 ports and SATA ports.
The board's RGB lighting is relatively subtle, with a few key areas dishing out some vivid lighting. MSI also includes a bunch of fascias for the chipset, audio, and I/O shrouds in silver and gold that can replace the stock black carbon ones, which is a nice touch too.
We're not too sure why MSI went with a separate PCIe card for Wi-Fi - maybe it was to cram as many ports into the I/O panel as possible and still offer some 802.11ac usefulness, or maybe it was simply to save money compared to working out some way of integrating afn adaptor onto the PCB, but the card sports two of the usual antennas and Intel's 8265 dual-band Wi-Fi adaptor.
Because of the crowded layout, the right side of the motherboard is short on space. MSI stuck to the usual suspects here, putting the board’s eight SATA 6Gbps connectors, the 24-pin power connector, and the two big USB 3.0 header connectors on this edge.
We expected to see an internal front-panel USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C connector on a motherboard as luxurious as the X399 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, and it is there—but not in the typical right-edge location. MSI opted to put this new-style header connector on the bottom edge of the board, near the right corner. You can see it here, just to the left of the Reset button...
So long as the cable for the case’s front-panel USB Type-C connector can reach that far, the location isn’t a problem. That said, we’d rather have the standard front-panel headers (for the power/reset buttons, the activity LEDs, and so on) in the right corner, where they typically sit on motherboards. Because of the position of the USB Type-C connector and some other buttons, the front-panel headers are closer to the center of the board’s bottom edge.
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