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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

Performance Benchmarks

Test Setup

Here's the system configuration we used to test the ROG Strix X99 Gaming:

  • Intel Core i7-6950X (3.0GHz, 25MB cache)
  • 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2133 (Auto timings: CAS 15-15-15-36)
  • MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Gaming X 8G (GeForce Driver Version 368.81)
  • Kingston HyperX 3K 240GB SATA 6Gbps solid state drive (one single NTFS partition)
  • Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

As we noted in our review of the ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming, we don’t have many Intel X99 motherboards to compare the board with, especially since we've chosen to use the new 10-core CPU, so we’ll use the latter board as a point of comparison for the MSI board.

Test motherboards compared
  MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming
  MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon ASUS ROG Strix X99 Gaming
Launch SRP
  • From S$599
  • From S$599
Processor Support and Chipset Type
  • Supports Intel Core i7 Processors in the LGA2011-3 package
  • Intel X99 Chipset
  • Supports Intel Core i7 Processors in the LGA2011-3 package
  • Intel X99 Chipset
Memory
  • Quad Channel DDR4 memory technology
  • 8 x DIMM slots
  • DDR4 3466(OC)/ 3400(OC)/ 3333(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2933(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2666(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2200(OC)/ 2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
  • Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
  • Max. capacity of system memory: 128GB
  • Quad Channel DDR4 memory technology
  • 8 x DIMM slots
  • DDR4 3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
  • Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
  • Max. capacity of system memory: 128GB
Storage
  • Intel® X99 Chipset:
  • 10 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (2 ports from SATAe port)
  • - SATA1~6 support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
  • - SATA7~10 only support IDE mode and AHCI mode
  • 1 x M.2 slot (Key M)*
  • - Supports up to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gb/s
  • - Supports 2242/ 2260/ 2280 storage devices
  • 1 x U.2 port */ **
  • - Supports PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe storage
  • 1 x SATAe port* (compatible with 2 SATA ports)
  • - Supports up to PCIe 2.0x2
  • Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology
  • New Intel® Core™ i7 X-Series Processors :
  • 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Support PCIE SSD only)
  • 1 x U.2 port, support PCIe 3.0 x4 NVM Express storage
  • Intel® X99 chipset :
  • 1 x SATA Express port, Compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s),
  • Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Recovery Technology
Audio
  • Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
  • - 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
  • - Supports S/PDIF output
  • ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
  • - Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
  • Audio Feature :
  • - SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
  • - Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
  • - Audio amplifier: Provides the highest-quality sound for headphone and speakers
  • - Premium Japanese-made audio capacitors: Provide warm, natural and immersive sound with exceptional clarity and fidelity
  • - Sonic Radar II
Video
  • Supports 3-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
  • Supports 3-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
  • Supports NVIDIA® 3-Way SLI™ Technology
  • Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
  • Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
  • Supports AMD 2-Way CrossFireX Technology
Networking
  • Intel I218-V Gigabit LAN Controller
  • Intel I218-V Gigabit LAN Controller
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
  • Supports MU-MIMO
FireWire (IEEE 1394)
  • N.A.
  • N.A.
Rear I/O
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ mouse combo port
  • 4 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x Clear CMOS button
  • 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 port
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port
  • 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
  • 5 x OFC audio jacks
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
  • 1 x USB 3.1 (red)Type-A
  • 1 x USB 3.1 (black)Type-C
  • 4 x USB 3.0 (blue)
  • 4 x USB 2.0 (one port can be switched to USB BIOS Flashback)
  • 5 x Audio jack(s)
  • 1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
  • 1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v4.0
Internal Connectors
  • 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • 10 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  • 1 x SATA Express connector
  • 1 x M.2 slot
  • 1 x U.2 port
  • 2 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 2.0 ports)
  • 2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors (supports additional 4 USB 3.1 Gen1 ports)
  • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C port
  • 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • 1 x 4-pin Water Pump connector
  • 3 x 4-pin system fan connectors
  • 1 x Front panel audio connector
  • 2 x Front panel connectors
  • 1 x TPM module connector
  • 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  • 1 x Slow mode booting jumper
  • 1 x GAME BOOST knob
  • 1 x Power button
  • 1 x Reset button
  • 1 x Multi-BIOS switch
  • 1 x RGB LED connector
  • 1 x U.2 port
  • 1 x AAFP connector
  • 1 x Aura RGB Strip Header
  • 2 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.0 port(s)
  • 2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
  • 1 x SATA Express connector: , Compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports
  • 1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Support PCIE SSD only)
  • 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
  • 1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
  • 1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s)
  • 2 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
  • 1 x Thunderbolt header(s)
  • 1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
  • 1 x 4-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
  • 1 x EZ XMP switch
  • 1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
  • 1 x DRCT header(s)
  • 1 x MemOK! button(s)
  • 1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
  • 1 x CPU OV
  • 1 x Power-on button(s)
  • 1 x Reset button(s)
  • 1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
  • 1 x Water Pump header (4-pin)
  • 1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
  • 1 x 14-1 pin TPM connector
  • 1 x COM port header
  • 1 x High AMP Fan header (4-pin)
Expansion Slots
  • 4x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots
  • - Support x16/ x0/ x0/ x0, x16/ x16/ x0/ x0, x16/ x16/ x0/ x8, x8/ x16/ x8/ x8 with the CPU that supports 40 PCIe lanes.
  • - Support x16/ x0/ x0/ x0, x16/ x8/ x0/ x0, x8/ x8/ x8/ x0, x8/ x8/ x8/ x4 with the CPU that supports 28 PCIe lanes.
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots
  • 3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 ( x16, x16/x16, x8/x16/x8 mode with 40-LANE CPU; x16, x16/x8, x8/x8/x8 mode with 28-LANE CPU)
  • 1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
  • 2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Form Factor
  • ATX Form Factor, 30.5 x 24.4cm
  • ATX Form Factor, 30.5 x 24.4cm
Other Features
  • ROG RAMCache
  • Overwolf
  • GameFirst IV
  • ROG Aura
  • - Aura Lighting Control
  • - Aura RGB Strip Headers
  • USB BIOS Flashback

 

Benchmarks

The following benchmarks were used to test the motherboards:

  • BAPCo SYSmark 2014 (ver 1.5.1.47)
  • SPECviewperf 12.0.2
  • Cinebench R15
  • Futuremark 3DMark (2013)
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

 

SYSmark 2014

SYSmark is a general productivity benchmark suite that measures the response times of tasks on a PC using real-world applications like Microsoft Office 2013 and Adobe Photoshop and simulated user input. Task response times are used to generate a performance rating that reflects actual user experience, so the faster a PC responds to application workloads, the higher its score will be. The method of measuring response times can take many forms, such as the time it takes for an application to show a pop-up completion message, or how long it takes a progress dialog to disappear and for a user to regain application control.

All in all, we weren’t expecting any major differences in performance, given that we were running identical setups on both motherboards. This was the case in SYSmark, which evinced negligible differences between the two boards. The MSI board took the lead in the overall score, but for all practical intents and purposes, the boards performed the same here.

 

Maxon Cinebench R15

Cinebench is a benchmark tool used to compare CPU performance across different systems, so we’ll be using it to evaluate how well the Intel Core i7-6950X plays with the two motherboards. The test scenario uses all of the system’s processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene, making use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores.

Once again, performance was remarkably close, but the lead went to the ASUS board this time.

 

SPECviewperf 12.0.2

SPECviewperf is used to measure the 3D graphics performance of systems in professional applications. Each individual workload, called a viewset, represents graphics and content from an actual real-world application. Compared to SPECviewperf 11.0, this latest version of SPECviewperf includes updated traces from the latest application versions and is designed to provide a more accurate indication of GPU performance in the actual applications.

SPECviewperf actually runs a total of eight different viewsets, but we’ve picked just three to display here. The maya-04 viewset is derived from Autodesk’s Maya 2013 application. Lightwave-01 from PTC is no longer tested – instead, it’s been replaced by creo-01, also from PTC. We also included the new energy-01 viewset, which puts the board through some professional volume rendering applications.

The results were once again virtually indistinguishable here. For certain benchmarks, the differences even amounted to less than a single point. Suffice to say, the boards are neck-and-neck with each other in terms of performance, and no practical differences can be drawn from these results.

 

Futuremark 3DMark (2013)

3DMark is a synthetic gaming benchmark that tests graphics and computational performance at different resolutions, starting at 1080p and going all the way up to 4K. A series of two graphics test, one physics test, and then a combined test stresses your hardware in turn to assess its performance. And because of the physics test that keeps the GPU load low while running gameplay physics simulations on the CPU, all three 3DMark Fire Strike tests scores also include an element of CPU performance.

Both boards traded blows here, with the ASUS motherboard coming ahead in Fire Strike, and the MSI taking the lead in Fire Strike Extreme and Ultra. Having said that, the differences are again too little to make a difference in real-world performance.

 

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Finally, we ran Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor to get an idea of real-world gaming performance. As per the graph, you can see that the performance gap was once again insignificant. In fact, they were remarkably consistent with each other, as both the ASUS and MSI board came within a single frame of each other at all the tested resolutions.

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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
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