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MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon review: Sleek looks and strong performance

By Koh Wanzi - 13 Aug 2016
Launch SRP: S$599

Introduction

Stealthy looks and a ton of features

The board is tricked out with carbon fiber finish on the VRM and PCH heatsinks.

There’s not a lot to be said about motherboard aesthetics these days. Is it black? You bet it is. Does it have a dazzling array of onboard lighting options? Probably. But every now and then, manufacturers do something that really help a board stand out in the looks department, and this is one area that MSI has been doing really well in.

Since the first Intel Z170 Titanium edition board that we saw last year, MSI has rolled out more Titanium boards with striking titanium-colored PCB and heatsinks and rich feature sets geared toward extreme overclockers. It also introduced new boards with carbon fiber finishes, like the X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon and Z170A Gaming Pro Carbon. It’s not quite titanium, but if we’re going to be honest here, carbon fiber does look very, very cool.

There's plenty of RGB LEDs to go with the stealthy look.

With that said, the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon appears aimed at filling the gap between the extravagant X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon and the more mainstream Z170 board. It’s an Intel X99 board, which means it’s made of enthusiast-grade stuff, but it isn’t quite as over the top as the X99A Godlike Gaming Carbon and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

In fact, at S$599, it’s fairly reasonably priced, and you get a whole lot of features that should be enough to keep most users happy.

We’ve already taken a closer look at what the board has to offer in our preview article here, so we’ll look only at the software the board has to offer, before skipping ahead to the performance results in the next section.

 

MSI Gaming App and Command Center

While the ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming has the Aura lighting control software, MSI has its Gaming App. When used in tandem with a compatible MSI graphics card (we tested this with the MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G), you can control all the LEDs on both motherboard and graphics card in tandem, or tweak the colors and effects in the individual lighting zones.

There’s actually four independent zones on the board itself, so there’s quite a wide range of possibilities at your disposal. In addition, you get to choose from several different lighting styles, or simply set the lights to pulse in time to your music.

MSI Gaming App

The Gaming App itself also supports an on-screen display (OSD) for system information like CPU usage, frequency, and temperature. The OSD can be displayed in games as well, for easier monitoring of overclock stability for instance, and the supported games include even the latest titles like Overwatch and Tom Clancy’s The Division.

Then there’s the MSI Command Center, which is really a sort of value-added OS-based overclocking utility. You can use it to monitor clock speed of each core (although for our 10-core Intel Core i7-6950X we seemed only to be able to view 8 cores), and tweak the CPU ratio or base clock from the OS itself. With that said, enthusiasts will probably prefer to do their adjustments within the BIOS itself, but the Command Center – the UI is intuitive enough – provides an alternative should they want a different interface.

MSI Command Center

8.5
  • Performance 9
  • Features 8.5
  • Value 8
The Good
Metal reinforced PCIe, DIMM, and M.2 slots
Wide range of LED customization options
Value-added features like Game Boost knob and EZ debug LED
Dual BIOS
The Bad
No onboard Wi-Fi
Location of M.2 socket may expose it to heat from GPU