MSI Z270i Gam­ing Pro Car­bon AC

Z270 ITX of­fer­ing.

APC Australia - - » Latest Reviews - IN­TEL Z270 MOTHERBOARD $290 | AU.MSI.COM Zak Storey

In the early noughties, an in­ter­est­ing con­cept arose from our fer­vent pur­suit of more pow­er­ful tech­nol­ogy: as tran­sis­tor size shrank, ef­fi­ciency per watt in­creased, and die size fell, man­u­fac­tur­ers ag­gres­sively pushed for smaller and smaller de­vices. The ITX form fac­tor was de­vel­oped in 2001 by VIA Tech­nolo­gies as a way of shrink­ing desk­top com­put­ers to a more man­age­able size, and it has since be­come a sta­ple for en­thu­si­asts look­ing to build a tiny desk-sit­ting pow­er­house.

MSI’s Z270i Gam­ing Pro Car­bon is the first in the lat­est line of Kaby Lake boards we’ve seen that deals with ITX. And we’ll be hon­est: although the on-board sup­port is as good as, if not bet­ter than, it has ever been, the rear I/O gives us pause. This isn’t lim­ited to MSI, though — Gi­ga­byte, Asus, and ASRock have all stripped down the rear I/O of their ITX of­fer­ings and put about 25 per­cent less stuff on it. Be­cause, you know, ITX sys­tem users have fewer pe­riph­er­als, or some­thing. Yeah, we don’t get that logic ei­ther. Any­way, let’s com­pare the Z97i Gam­ing AC against the Z170i Gam­ing Pro and the Z270i Gam­ing Pro Car­bon. The Z97i has four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 con­nec­tions, giv­ing a to­tal of eight. The Z170i has four USB 3.1 and two USB 2.0, for a to­tal of six. And the Z270i has three USB 3.1 and two USB 2.0 — a to­tal of just five. It sounds like a petty com­plaint, but look at the plethora of pe­riph­er­als that con­nect via USB, and it’s easy to see how quickly those con­nec­tions can be taken up. A mouse, a dual-port key­board with a pass-through, a we­b­cam, a USB head­set — that’s five ports taken up im­me­di­ately. Got a wire­less don­gle? Too bad. A wire­less con­troller? Not any more.


USB woes aside, MSI’s Z270i Gam­ing Pro Car­bon is a solid board. It’s nice to see the ITX lay­out get fi­nalised, with 24-pin and 8-pin power get­ting con­crete place­ment, and SATA and USB be­ing more ac­ces­si­ble than be­fore. The re­in­forced DDR and PCIe ports, although laugh­able, do give you a lit­tle more as­sur­ance — the weight of a GPU isn’t go­ing to shat­ter them. And the M.2 PCIe x4 slot on the back keeps us happy when it comes to su­per-fast stor­age.

Per­for­mance was con­sis­tent, as al­ways, with lit­tle vari­ance be­tween many of the bench­marks. Mem­ory la­tency took a hit, and our X265 bench­mark was the worst of the boards we’ve tested so far, but that was made up for by the lower power draws.

Over­clock­ing was a lit­tle un­der par — our low­est un­der­volt from stock was 1.1V, the high­est of the boards we’ve tested, and we man­aged 5GHz at 1.32V, com­pared to the 1.3V of last is­sue’s more over­clock­ing-ori­ented XPower Ti­ta­nium. It is a solid of­fer­ing — it’s just a shame that the rear I/O is shrink­ing at such a rate.

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