In the MSI product range, the MEG line of boards is the most prestigious, full of various «chips» and bonuses. One step away from the top there is the current guest of our laboratory — a model with the suffix Ace. A feature of such devices, which is a generation in a row, is the rejection of video outputs in order to strengthen the CPU voltage regulator. Here they approached this topic with all seriousness, providing the sector with power from two eight-pin sockets, and there are also a number of contact pads for special features for experiments involving extreme cooling.
A discrete DAC has been added to the audio codec, the network infrastructure has three adapters, and wireless supports the fastest connections. The heatsinks are massive, which makes the overall weight of the product impressive.
|Model||MSI MEG Z490 Ace (MS-7C71 VER:1.3)|
|Official product page on the Web||ua.msi.com|
|Processor socket||Socket 1200|
|Processors||Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, Pentium Gold (Comet Lake-S)|
|Memory||4 DIMM DDR4 SDRAM, 128 GB maximum:
2933–4800+ — A-XMP (OC)
|PCI slots||2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x16+x0, x8+x8)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x4)
2 x PCI Express 3.0 x1
|M.2||1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4, SATA 6Gb/s (Key M, 2242/2260/2280/22110)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4, SATA 6Gb/s (Key M, 2242/2260/2280)
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4 (Key M, 2242/2260/2280)
|Integrated video core (in the processor)||–|
|Number of connected fans||8x 4pin|
|PS/2 ports||1 (keyboard/mouse)|
|The port is USB||1 x 3.2 Gen 2×2 (1 connector on the rear panel (Type-C), ASM3241)
4 x 3.2 Gen 2 (3 connectors on the rear panel, Z490)
4 x 3.2 Gen 1 (2 connectors on the rear panel, Z490)
6 x 2.0 (2 connectors on the rear panel, Z490)
|Serial ATA||6 x SATA 6Gb/s (Z490)|
|RAID||0, 1, 5, 10 (SATA, Z490), 0, 1, 5 (M.2 PCI-E, Z490)|
|Built-in sound||Audio Boost HD:
Codec — Realtek ALC1220 (7.1, HDA)
DAC — ESS SABRE9018Q2C
|Networking||Intel I219V (Gigabit Ethernet)
Realtek RTL8125B (2.5 Gigabit Ethernet)
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 (Wi-Fi 2.4/5GHz (802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax), Bluetooth 5.1)
|LED Addressable Header||2x Rainbow, 1x Corsair|
|LED RGB Header||1|
|TPM||1x SPI (12 pin)|
|UEFI||UEFI AMI BIOS, 256 Mb Flash ROM (MX25L25673G)|
|Dimensions, mm||305 x 244|
|Additional features||EZ Debug LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, BOOT LED), EZ LED Control switch, Mystic Light Sync + Ambient Link, M.2 Shield, POST indicator, Thunderbolt Connector, Buttons: Clear CMOS, Flash BIOS, Power, Reset ( Smart); voltage measurement pins, AMD 3-Way CrossFireX and NVIDIA 2-Way SLI support|
|Retail price, $||477|
A large number of M.2 and SATA should not be misleading — they are partially related. The middle on the M.2_2 board excludes SATA5 and SATA6, meaning any M.2 device installed there will deactivate these two sockets. SATA2 will also be disabled if you prefer a product with a SATA interface in the M.2 form factor and install it in the first M2_1 in a row. For the lower M2_3, SATA lines are not provided at all, only PCI-E, this does not create inconvenience for classic SATA outputs. But even here, not everything is simple — the spike goes with the lower PCI-E x16@x4, so one thing will work at full speed, and in a duet everyone will get, respectively, two lines from the Z490. As a result, the maximum number of drives is nine, but the restrictions are serious.
Packaging and equipment
The box is solid, made of thick cardboard. I will note the new emblem of the MEG series.
Fan in the voltage stabilizer cooling structure! Yes, it is, the very first slide on the back of the box is dedicated to it.
- user manual, which illustrates and describes the UEFI sub-items in detail (in English);
- MSI Gaming Series logo sticker;
- a set of three fixing screws for M.2 format devices;
- multilingual quick installation guide;
- MSI Reward Program promotional flyer shares;
- set of twelve labels for labeling SATA cables;
- a small promotional booklet with MSI products;
- disk with drivers and proprietary software;
- buyer registration card;
- four SATA 6Gb / s cables, two of which have an L-shaped connector on one of the ends;
- three extension cords for connecting LED strips (a splitter for a pair of type 5050, one for type WS2812B and one more for Corsair strips, the shortest one);
- remote antenna with the possibility of fixing only one position, the stand is supplemented with a magnet.
The pad over the I / O ports is huge and it is plastic, and all for the sake of the built-in backlight.
Owners of completely transparent cases will appreciate the presence of a plate on the back of the board. Screws are used throughout.
The logo with the model name on the chipset cooler will also glow.
The upper M.2 slot is equipped with a separate heatsink, the two lower ones are combined, albeit symbolically, together with the chipset one.
The seat at the top allows the use of 22110 format devices, both bottom ones are limited to eight centimeters. Everywhere, an illustration of supported devices by interface type is conveniently applied.
Longitudinal sockets are equipped with six SATA and case USB 3.2 Gen 1.
Transverse — case 3.2 Gen 2 and two platforms for classic USB 2.0.
The top two PCI-E x16 slots are connected to the CPU, while all the others work with the Z490.
Not only four switches (Mux / DeMux) for sixteen lines (PI3DBS16412) are soldered, but also repeaters (ReDriver) represented by four PI3EQX16000ZHE. Such steps repeat the strategy of manufacturers on motherboards with AMD X570 hubs that support the fourth generation PCI-E, obviously, for exactly the same purposes, they created a similar “groundwork for the future” here.
Illumination near the chipset is created by LEDs soldered on the board with a lens directed upwards. I counted six.
The organization of the sound subsystem repeats the steps from the previous models of the manufacturer with the same index. Here, the elements are placed closer to the corner of the board, away from the CPU and VC. We have: a codec, a dedicated DAC, a group of capacitors; there are no discrete op amps.
LED_SW1 (EZ LED Control switch) allows you to instantly turn off the backlight. The POST code indicator, as well as the adjacent buttons, glows white. Subsequently, it displays the actual temperature of the processor, it is possible to select other options (in UEFI). It is also allowed to assign a different mode to the reset button, from those for which independent pairs of contacts are soldered nearby. For example, choose to automatically enter UEFI after starting the PC. As noted in the intro, there are a few areas that will come in handy for extreme overclockers, such as activating Slow Mode. There are two plugs for an external Thunderbolt card.
The four main system voltages can be measured independently using a multimeter, for this there are five points in the upper right corner. Four white indicators form the EZ Debug LED diagnostic block, another one is soldered near the RAM slots — the active status will symbolize the use of XMP.
A heat pipe connects both heatsinks in the voltage regulator subsystem. They are massive, ribbed, but at the same time quite squat. With a bench cooler, there were no problems during installation.
The pre-installed fan should work for blowing. I write “should” because even with standard UEFI settings, it was possible to make it work only by turning on the system, and only the moment it stopped was audible, reminiscent of HDD head parking. It has a four-pin connection, that is, data from the tachometer must be received in any speed range of operation. The connection of the panel with LEDs is also four-wire, but has a different type of connector to save assemblers problems.
A pair of NTMFS4C029N and NTMFS4C024N transistors from ON Semiconductor, together with the first inductor, provide the CPU with SA voltage, the remaining 16 inductors and ISL99390BFRZ assemblies from Renesas Electronics (Smart Power Stage (SPS) Modules) are soldered for the needs of CPU Voltage. On the back side there are eight doublers (PWM Doubler) ISL6617A, the ISL69269 PWM controller crowns the circuit, apparently it is eight-phase.
For two transistors, we took care of an individual thermal pad! Chokes do without them, as well as doublers on the back of the device.
Reinforcing plates were placed there in order to ensure the reliability of the structure (to avoid deflection of the board). The back plate is completely lined with a dielectric. There is enough padding space for all purposes, including full coverage of M.2 SSDs. The fan was used here on a double ball bearing.
The reset button is sympathetically highlighted in red, but for the entire time I have not had to test it, the system behaved predictably and in the event of “overclocking” it started up with the standard settings on its own. The inlets are small, and yet some sort of dust protection would be nice here.