They say beauty is only skin deep, but when it comes to gaming hardware, that adage probably doesn’t entirely apply. MSI today unveiled the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, its latest Intel X99 motherboard that follows in the footsteps of the X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon and Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon boards that were announced at CES this year.
The timing of the launch is no coincidence, and MSI likely wanted the board to drop just ahead of Broadwell-E’s launch (ASUS has already announced refreshed X99 boards, while Gigabyte is saving this for Computex). MSI actually first hinted at the new board in a teaser video released last week, where we were treated to tantalizing shots of sleek carbon fiber finishes and RGB lights.
In fact, the video is rather telling of the direction that MSI is now taking with its motherboards, where aesthetics are just as important as having a good feature set. Remember last year’s MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition? That was a hint of sorts about MSI’s intentions – in a market where there’s often little to differentiate similarly-priced boards in terms of performance, the company is looking for new and more striking ways to stand out.
Right off the bat, two features on the new X99A Gaming Pro Carbon jump out at you, and they have nothing to do with performance. As the name suggests, this board is decked out in full carbon fiber regalia, most notably on the VRM and PCH heatsinks, and also on the shielding for the audio circuitry. While carbon fiber in and of itself isn’t anything to shout about, we’ve to admit that it looks good on the MSI board. And when combined with the all-black PCB, it should really appeal to enthusiasts looking to keep their build nice and stealthy.
The other feature is what MSI calls Mystic Light. We’ve already seen this on MSI’s other X99 and Z170 motherboards and graphics cards, so you’re probably already familiar with it. Nevertheless, if you want RGB lighting, well, you’ve got it. The LEDs are concentrated around the VRM and PCH heatsinks and the audio shielding, and can be customized from up to 16.8 million colors and 17 different lighting effects via MSI’s Mystic Light app on your PC or mobile device.
But now for the actual substance behind the board. MSI has extended its metal slot reinforcements, or what it calls Steel Armor, to its M.2 and DDR4 memory slots. All four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots also have the feature, which serves to protect the slots from damage under the weight of heavy, high-end graphics cards. Similarly, MSI claims that Steel Armor helps to ensure a more stable interface between the SSD and the M.2 socket, and also to reinforce the RAM slots in the event that you install a RAM cooler.
It also supports up to 128GB of DDR4-3466 memory, which is pretty typical for an Intel X99 motherboard.
The board utilizes a 8-phase power design, and a closer look reveals beefy titanium chokes that look similar to what we saw on the Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium. As we noted then, titanium chokes do indeed have higher temperature limits, higher inductance density, and longer lifespan than traditional ferrite core chokes, so this should theoretically translate into improved reliability and a longer lifespan.
When it comes to audio, the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon features what MSI calls Audio Boost 3. This means support for 8-channel surround sound, a 115dB SNR, and the ability to playback high-resolution audio files with a sampling frequency of 192kHz at 24-bit. We also aren’t surprised to see that it includes the same Nahimic Sound Technology found on a whole lot of other MSI motherboards and notebooks, an enhancement that supposedly provides clearer audio and voice communications.
And as expected of an Intel X99 motherboard, MSI’s latest offering has quite a wide range of ports and connectors. This includes 10 SATA 6Gbps ports (including two SATA Express), one M.2 socket, and a dedicated U.2 connector for hooking up 2.5-inch NVMe drives like the Intel 750 series SSDs. A separate USB 3.1 Type-C front panel connector is located next to the SATA ports, which lets you route the connecting cable to the front more neatly.
Here’s a look at the rear I/O panel. MSI has included a total of four USB 2.0 ports (black), two USB 3.0 ports (red), and two further Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (also red). USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports offer up to 10Gbps of bandwidth with compatible devices, which should be a nice boon for those of you who often have to transfer large files to your PC. There’s also a convenient button that allows you to clear CMOS, and a legacy – and pretty unnecessary – PS/2 port.
Finally, there’s the usual range of knobs and buttons that we’ve come to expect from an MSI board, including a debug LED (located in the top right corner) and the GameBoost knob. The latter automatically boosts the CPU’s BCLK when you turn it, although this means that you’ll have to reboot the system for the changes to take effect.
The MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon will retail locally for S$599, with availability expected very soon. In addition, customers will be eligible for a free MSI DS502 gaming headset, which can be redeemed from PC Care & Solution at Sim Lim Square (limited to the first 10 customers who redeem it). Customers will need to bring along their purchase receipt and a serial number cutout.
The promotion will run till 30 June.