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MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon Motherboard Review

AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Included Software (Other)

Turbo Boost Max 3.0


tb3.jpg

As it is a major component of the new Intel 6-series CPUs MSI has opted to include Intel's Turbo Boost Max 3.0 app. Past the obvious call-outs in the BIOS, the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 application itself is the heart of all things “Best Core” and actually needs to be installed to insure the proper functionality of this feature. Within it, there’s an enable / disable function, a setting which indicates that a foreground application will have priority and a box which allows you to add or remove programs to be prioritized.

In addition to all of that, the Turbo Boost Max 3.0 program will also allow you to set core affinity on a by-core basis per application so, for example, a user could dedicate four cores for a specific game while the other six will be reserved for something like video rendering. This can essentially override the “Foreground App Has Priority” setting for applications that are running in the background but nonetheless using processor cycles. For those of you who think this sounds familiar, Microsoft has promised their Windows 10 Redstone update will seamlessly allow for the assignment of applications to specific cores. Intel’s application meanwhile brings this functionality to previous versions of Windows as well.


FastBoot


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Fast Boot is utility that allows for an easy and automatic way to enter into the BIOS immediately after a restart. This is extremely handy for overclockers who tend to reboot their systems quite a bit as they dial in clock speeds. Unlike many others, this program also allows you to turn on or off MSI’s FastBoot option without having to enter the BIOS first.


Nahimic Audio



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In a similar vein to what Creative SoundBlaster suite offers enthusiast who use motherboard equipped with their proprietary controller, MSI includes Nahimic software enactment suite for some of their gaming orientated motherboards. In addition to the usual features like a full-band equalizer, noise reduction capabilities, and tweaking of individual channel volume levels this app also boasts advanced features such as noise tracker which overlays a transparent radar and arrow on to your screen to visually represent where noises are coming from in the game. Obviously this feature, much like ASUS' Sonic Radar, will get you banned from serious competitive LAN events but can certainly increase enjoyment of game for those who are hard of hearing.


Gaming App


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Oddly enough the standalone Gaming application is actually the software consumers will have to use in order to configure the onboard LED Mystic Lighting if they don't want to use the Android/iOS app. Its here you will find both preset and manual configuration options.

While we are not overly fond of most of the included presets the nifty CPU temperature option is the exception. This option will change the LED colors based on how hot/cool the CPU is – allowing for simple one glance diagnostics of your CPU temperature!

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Of course this application is not just about the LEDs and is also where you can adjust which Game Boost overclocking option is active – if any. It goes without saying that any changes will require a reboot of the system before they are enacted, but overall this is a nifty little program that is much more useful than it was in previous generations.


RAMDisk


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With RAM becoming cheaper and capacities increasing, it is nice to see that MSI includes free RAMDisk utility. This standalone program allows for creating fairly powerful RAM Disks and includes some very nifty advanced features such has automatically configuring IE, Chrome and Firefox to use it for their cache abilities, so while not the most advanced we have ever seen it is more than adequate for most users’ needs. Creating and using it is as easy as ticking one box and –if necessary – assigning a drive letter to the newly minted RAM disk.

USB Speed Up


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Much like ASUS and their custom USB Boost application, MSI now includes their own application which can increase overall file performance over the Universal Serial Bus. It does this by using custom drivers that can potentially increase overall performance. However, in testing you will want to insure that the Universal Serial Bus is clear of other devices and you are interested mainly in large file sequential performance. If on the other hand you are transferring multiple small files across multiple devices, we do recommend leaving this feature off. Thankfully this app makes turning off or on this feature a veritable snap.
 
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AkG

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Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation



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In order to test how different hardware combinations will fit onto the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon, we installed a Noctua NH-U12S, a 32GB Kit of Corsair LPX Vengeance DDR4-3333 memory and an PNY GTX 980 Elite OC video card. The PNY GTX 980 is a long length, dual-slot GPU so it should so it should provide a good reference for other premium video cards and highlight any spacing issues. The NH-U12S is a moderately sized aftermarket CPU cooler so it should provide a good reference for other coolers so we can see if there any clearance issues around the CPU socket.


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We must admit to being very impressed with the amount of room between the CPU socket area and the eight DIMMS. Even by 2011-v3 standards MSI really knocked this critical factor out of the park, so much so that RAM height will not matter if users use moderately sized CPU cooling solutions. This is even more true of thinner profile models like the Noctua U12-S which even in dual fan configurations offered a noticeable gap between the fan and the RAM. This is especially true if you only populate 4 of the 8 DIMMS.


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At the end of the day this is an ATX form-factored motherboard so while MSI were able to work miracles, if consumers are interested in massive air based models like the Noctua D14/D15 – and they should be if they want to overclock 6950X CPUs via air! – then we strongly recommended standard height RAM as the cooler will overhang the first and possible second DIMM sockets in each bank. This issue will really only impact anyone interested in running at significant overclocking levels, but it is for this reason we consider water based Closed Loop Coolers and even All In One mainstream models to a more optimal choice.

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It also goes without saying that even though the fans in more standard sized CPU cooling solutions will not actually touch the RAM there is not enough room between the DIMM banks and the CPU socket that active memory cooling devices will properly fit without interfering with the fan's airflow. Few kits will actually require active cooling but as more and more high performance kits – such as the fantastic Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3333 32GB kit – come with their own cooling devices this is another good reason to opt for water over air based cooling solutions.

On the positive side the combination of excellent spacing between the DIMMS and socket area combined with only one VRM heatsink and an extremely clean CPU socket area makes installation of damn near any CPU cooling solution will be a walk in the park – no great feats of finger flexibility required. Brilliant stuff!


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If anything switching gears from air based units to water based units proved to be even more uneventful as everything that makes this a very air friendly motherboard also makes it an even more water cooling friendly board. This is so true that unless you purchase a truly oversized waterblock you should run into no installation issues with this motherboard – and even with large waterblocks a bit of patience is all that should be needed. In our case our more standard sized XSPC RayStorm was a breeze to get mounted.

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On first blush enthusiasts may not be overly enthused with seeing that the first PCIe slot being x16 and not an x1. We say this as with typical motherboard layouts and designs, if the first slot eschews the x1 configuration it means that the space between the DIMMS and the back of the video card is going to be limited. Sometimes enough that consumers will first have to uninstall the video card before being able to replace the RAM.

While technically the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon's first slot is an x16 and not x1 this is a non-issue with this motherboard. This is because MSI has simply not included the x1 topmost PCIe slot and instead used this space more optimally. As mentioned the DIMMS themselves are moved down about half a slot so as to give the CPU socket area more room while the other half provides enough of a gap that the RAM can be accessed even when a video card is installed. Of course it does help that the lower half of each DIMM does not use a securing latch.

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There are however a few issues with the PCI-E slot layout that will result in frustration for some consumers. However, MSI has done a very admirable job in minimizing these issues as well. Basically longer expansion cards will block SATA/USB/etc ports which is a very common issue with all ATX motherboards, but with this board it really will come down to how many video cards you plan on installing.


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For example, if consumers opt to use the topmost x16 slot expect to have the lower USB 3.0, Type-C header port and even part of the first two SATA ports covered.


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If anyone opts for the secondary x16 slot they will find the M.2 port and four SATA ports blocked. Using the third x16 slot will cover the U.2 port and make using the corner vertical SATA ports difficult. More importantly it will depress the red button on the Game Boost dial and this can cause the occasional system issue to crop up when trying to change the Game Boost setting via software or the BIOS.

The last x16 slot is all but unusable by anything larger than single slot designs. This is because it will not only cover four SATA ports, the E-SATA port, as well as the usual USB headers but will also block the front panel header. This last point is exacerbated by the odd location of this critical header. Given these issues we recommend plugging in the various cables before using any of the x16 slots.
 
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AkG

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Test System & Testing Methodology

Test System & Testing Methodology


To full test the built in over-clocking abilities of a given motherboard, we have broken down testing into multiple categories:

Stock Turbo Boost - To represent a 6950X at stock with turbo enabled.

Automatic OC
- To represent a X99A Gaming Pro Carbon at best proven stable overclock achieved via included automatic overclocking (4.3GHz).

Manual OC –To represent an experienced overclocker that is looking for the optimal long term overclock to maximize system performance while keeping voltage and temperatures in check (4.5GHz).

We chose benchmark suites that included 2D benchmarks, 3D benchmarks, and games; and then tested each overclocking method individually to see how the performance would compare.

The full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:

3DMark 8
3DMark 2013 Professional Edition
AIDA64 Extreme Edition
Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
SiSoft Sandra 2013.SP4
SuperPI Mod 1.5mod
RightMark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5
Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark
Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark
Tomb Raider
BioShock Infinite


Instead of LinX or P95, the main stability test used was the AIDA64 stability. AIDA64 has an advantage as it has been updated for the Haswell architecture and tests specific functions like AES, AVX, and other instruction sets that some other stress tests do not touch. After the AIDA64 stability test was stable, we ran 2 runs of SuperPI and 2 runs of 3DMark to test memory and 3D stability. Once an overclock passed these tests, we ran the full benchmark suite and then this is the point deemed as “stable” for the purposes of this review.


To ensure consistent results, a fresh installation of Windows 8.1 was installed with latest chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) from the manufactures website.


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Our test setup consists of an Intel 6950X, one NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780 video card, 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3333 memory, a Intel 335 180GB SSD, and a WD Black 1TB. All this is powered by an EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2 1000 watt PSU.

For cooling we used a Corsair H110i GT AIO w/ four 140mm fans attached. For hardware installation testing we also used a Noctua NH-U12S, and a XSPC Raystorm waterblock.

Complete Test System:

Processor: Intel i7 6950X
Memory: 32GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-3333
Graphics card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780
Hard Drive: 1x 180GB Intel 335 SSD. Western Digial Black 1TB.
Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 1000 P2
CPU Cooler: Corsair H110i GT AIO

Special thanks to Corsair for their support and supplying the DDR4 Ram Kit.
Special thanks to EVGA for their support and supplying the SuperNOVA 1000 P2.
Special thanks to NVIDIA for their support and supplying the GTX 780
 
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AkG

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Feature Testing: Onboard Audio, and USB 3.1 Performance

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


<i> While this motherboard is mainly orientated towards PC enthusiasts, the upgraded onboard audio is one of its main selling features. As such, it behooves us to see exactly what this upgrade brings to the table. To do this we have used RightMark Audio Analyzer.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/noise.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/thd.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/dr.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

Even though these results are not at the top of our charts they represent a marked improvement over what previous MSI motherboards could do. Put simply the combination of a excellent controller with good op-amps and good Chemicon capacitors is a winning one. So much so that it would take audiophile grade equipment to tell this board's abilities from the best of the best. We doubt many Gaming Pro Carbon owners will own such expensive equipment.



Feature Testing: USB 3.1 Performance


For the USB 3.1 device we have used an Asus USB 3.1 enclosure which uses a pair of Samsung 840 EVO 250GB drives, and is powered by an ASMedia ASM1352R chipset.


Crystal DiskMark


<i>Crystal DiskMark is designed to quickly test the performance of your drives. Currently, the program allows to measure sequential and random read/write speeds; and allows you to set the number of tests iterations to run. We left the number of tests at 5 and size at 100MB. </i>

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<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/cdm_r.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/cdm_w.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>


Real World Data Transfers


<i>No matter how good a synthetic benchmark like IOMeter or PCMark is, it cannot really tell you how your hard drive will perform in “real world” situations. All of us here at Hardware Canucks strive to give you the best, most complete picture of a review item’s true capabilities and to this end we will be running timed data transfers to give you a general idea of how its performance relates to real life use. To help replicate worse case scenarios we will transfer a 10.00GB contiguous file and a folder containing 400 subfolders with a total 12,000 files varying in length from 200mb to 100kb (10.00 GB total). </i>

<div align="center"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/copy_lg.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/copy_sm.jpg" border="0" alt="" /> </div>

As expected the USB 3.1 abilities are damn good, sadly also as expected the USB 3.0 output (aka USB 3.1 Generation 1) is a bit more variable than we would like to see. Basically the VIA Labs controller that powers the rear IO ports is going to produce noticeably inferior results versus what the front case ports can offer. We dislike variability and are unsure exactly what the reasoning was for using this aging controller instead of a USB 3.0 HUB. In either case the end results are still good, but are certainly a weak link in the Gaming Pro Carbon's chain.
 
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AkG

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Oct 24, 2007
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5,270
Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking

Feature Testing: Software Auto-Overclocking


If there is one area that we were truly excited to test it was the X99 Gaming Pro Carbon's onboard 'automatic' overclocking features – or what MSI once called 'OC Genie' but now calls 'Game Boost'. As with Z170 series, this catchall phrase covers a lot of ground and the number of options will vary from board to board. For example, at one end of the spectrum you have entry level Z170 MSI 'Arsenal' motherboards like the Tomahawk AC which will come with a whopping single setting. Yeah. On the other end of the spectrum however is where the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon resides as it comes with not one, not two, not five, but seven options – or technically eight if you include the 'off' setting. Either way that is an insane number of possibilities and blows the doors off anything ASUS or GIGABYTE has to offer.

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Each of these seven Game Boost options can be accessed in one of three ways and the method used does not matter in the least. The first method is via an old fashioned looking dial on the motherboard itself. Simply turn the knob to eleven – and yes it is labeled '11' - for maximum auto overclocking or keep it at more sedate – some would 'sane' - levels if you don’t want extreme clock speeds and voltage. Put bluntly this feature is tailor made for open bench users who may not precisely love overclocking - as you literally have at your fingertips enough overclocking options to make full-on manual overclocking less enticing than it usually is for all but hardcore enthusiasts.

The only major issue with this approach is that there are eight settings crammed on to a small dial. As such, dialing in the right setting can be cumbersome at times and incorrect settings tended to be frequent.

More importantly this dial can be knocked askew during installation of other components so users who do opt for this method of auto overclocking may want to insure the setting is dialed in after installation. This issue could have been alleviated with the use of a more advanced dial / knob system; one where the user first has to lift up and then turn to adjust the Game Boost setting.

This option however is only the tip of the iceberg, and won’t appeal all that much to average consumers – as who really wants to take their cases’ side panel off, reach in and turn a physical knob if they don’t have to. For most the next two options are where they will spend most of their time. The first is via the included MSI software and while some people are not fans of software-based solutions this one is pretty much the exception that proves the rule. This is because all the software does is send a custom command to the board to use a given Game Boost profile. Thus there really is no software overhead or even fears of the software overclocking going awry.

With that being said, for anyone who doesn’t exactly trust 'software' overclocking – even if it does just send a custom command to the motherboard to use the Game Boost settings – the last option is probably the most optimal. That’s the interactive Game Boost 'dial' icon located in the top left corner of the BIOS. It carefully threads the needle between ease of use, and perceived stability. Simply press the center to turn this feature from 'HW' (for Hardware based changes) to 'SW' (for software based changes) and then select the number you want, reboot… and enjoy. As an added bonus, there is no knob to be knocked askew as the SW option overrides the physical knob, though it can be overridden by first hitting the red button on the top and then turning the knob.

Now on to the actual eight settings and the pros and cons of each. With the exception of the 0 or off option, all are factory preset configurations so the amount of voltage they send may be a touch less than optimal for your particular processor. However, since there are seven individual settings most users will easily find a happy medium between heat output and sheer performance.

At first the naming scheme used may seem a littleodd since each setting isn’t labeled 0 through 7 (with 0 being off), rather they start out sensible enough at 0, then 1, then 2, then… things get strange as it skips to 4, then 6, then 8, then 10, and finally 11. In either case the first six are actually straightforward in that they represent the increase in CPU ratio that the setting will apply. To be precise a given setting will take the single core turbo ratio, apply it all cores and add in whatever the number the factory preset has been called.

In practical terms this means 0 equals stock 3.4-3.5GHz, 1 equals 3.6GHz for all ten cores of in a 6950X CPU, 2 is 3.7GHz, then 3.9GHz, 4.1GHz and 4.3GHz. The last two are where it gets a bit interesting in that the 10 setting represents 4.5GHz for two active cores and 4.4GJz for when more than two are active whereas the 11 setting is a whopping 4.7GHz on two active cores, plus 4.6GHz when more than two cores being active.

Unfortunately, while all that is fairly straightforward, the XMP limitations for each of these Game Boost options is a bit more nebulous. The Zero setting is easy as it will not activate the RAM's XMP profile however setting 1 through 8 will activate the XMP but only if its DD4-2666 or lower… and only 10 and 11 will activate the XMP profile up to DDR4-3200. Thankfully even if your RAM is faster it will set them to 2666 or 3200 and not fail like was the case with certain Z170 motherboards with similar limitations.

As you can see these Game Boost settings are as clear as mud, but not as esoteric as it first appears. On the positive side, MSI has finally listened to consumers and in addition to increasing the CPU ratio, they also increase the UNCore settings. However, here things are extremely straightforward as all seven set the Uncore to the same 3.1GHz from stock 2.8GHz.

Beyond deciphering the various Game Boost settings, the other critical factor consumers need to understand is that each of these are factory presets and MSI does not guarantee them to be stable. This is because there is no stability testing phase and no built in method of adjusting the voltage. As such not all settings will be stable with your CPU and not all will be stable with your CPU cooling solution. This is especially true of the '11' setting which may indeed give a conspicuously large overclock but uses an equally large amount of voltage – so much so that when we saw the 1.550v setting we immediately shut the rig down for fear of inadvertently taking this nearly $2400 (CAD) processor on a suicide run. Yeah. Use this setting with caution.

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For reference these are the settings you can expect from each of the seven settings. Setting 1 will use 36 (CPU) and 31 (uncore) ratios with 1.100v.

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Setting 2 will use 37 and 31 ratios with 1.150v. These Game Boost settings are easily doable with even moderate air based coolers.

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Setting 4 uses 39 and 31 ratios at 1.150v.

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Setting 6 uses 1.250 voltage to hit 41 and 31 ratios. These two we would recommend good high end air cooling or water based to ensure that thermal limiting does not happen.

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Level 8 is 4300MHz and 3100MHz at 1.350voltage so we are getting to the very limits of air-based cooling solutions.

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Level 10 is 44 and 31 with a blistering 1.450 voltage setting. We consider this to be a touch higher than we personally would recommend for a long term overclock.

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Last but not least is the extreme 11 setting of 46/31 at 1.550V. For this dual bay AIOs would be a good starting place and we would even recommend CLC models and even fully custom loops -as our Corsair dual 140mm AIO with four high performance fans already struggled with level 10. Honestly, we would avoid this setting altogether.

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Please note due to the fact that we were extremely uncomfortable with Setting 11, and Setting 10 being above our personal 1.4V hard limit on maximum voltage we have settled on Setting 8 for all testing going forward. We feel this is a good long term, stable overclock setting and we honestly doubt most consumers would be unhappy with 4.3GHz on all ten cores, uncore set to 3.1Ghz and DDR4-2600 performance levels.
 
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AkG

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Manual Overclocking Results

Manual Overclocking Results


Let's start this section with the large, angry elephant in the room: the 6950X CPU. Due to the fact users will be dealing with the overclocking of ten cores, things can be a bit trickier than usual. Basically, unless you get a really, really good CPU sample there is going to be one core that will always become a bottleneck, holding back an overclock from being truly long term stable.

That finicky core is going to require more voltage than the rest and this in turn is going to create more heat as you have to boost voltage to the cores in an all or nothing method. This is part and parcel of multi-core processors and has been an issue since the very first multi-core was offered – and enthusiasts started overclocking them. It is just with ten cores the margins are smaller and more care will have to be taken to ensure that an overclock is truly 100% stable and not just 'mostly stable'. This in no shape nor form is the fault of the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon motherboard and rather MSI has done everything possible to make getting a stable overclock as easy and painless as possible – just don’t expect to whip through the overclocking process 'like usual'.

Another thing to remember is that Intel has somewhat overcome this limitation by introducing true per-core overclocking through their “best core” practice. This means you can prioritize certain cores and allocate additional duties to them. MSI facilitates the usefulness of Intel’s new addition by calling out the predetermined “best core” in their BIOS. In practice this means higher overclocks can be targeted towards that one core but unfortunately it is impossible to increase just one voltage point on the processor. Hence, we are going to remain in the “all or nothing”mode.

Another thing to note is that even though the i7-6950X may be rather mild mannered at stock settings once you start to overclock it, it creates a ton of heat. If you are even seriously considering some of the higher Game Boost settings do yourself a huge favor and purchase a good high performance dual bay AIO. We consider the excellent Corsair H110i to be a minimum standard and if you can afford even higher performance CLC models that can be upgraded to use two dual bay radiators… you may want to think long and hard about doing just that.

Heat buildup is something MSI can’t really mitigate but they have done a very good job at giving some options to help lessen those heat loads. While we would have preferred to have seen additional 'CPU' fan and 'Sys Fan' headers in and around the CPU area, the combination of two alongside a dedicated water pump header should be more than enough to properly control the copious amounts of fans overclocking will require.

Now on to the actual manual overclocking results. First and foremost, the refined BIOS which accompanies the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon is filled with overclocker-friendly features. Unfortunately, the central area that changes based on what section you have selected is still a touch on the small side and enthusiasts will find themselves needlessly scrolling to find a specific setting they want to adjust. We strongly recommend populating the Favorites page with any feature you think you will need – it will save you time in the long run. This however is about the only issue we have with the BIOS side of the equation as small things like pre-configured RAM overclocking profiles are nice touches that can lead less experienced consumers in the right direction.

The same holds true for all the Game Boost settings as the '11' setting will be a pretty good starting point for consumers looking for even more performance. Make no mistake this is one of the few boards where going higher than DDR4-3200 on the RAM, gaining a higher uncore and / or pushing 4.4GHz on the cores is the only time that anyone should consider true manual overclocking. The Carbon’s included automatic features are just that good… and even then will provide an excellent foundation for enthusiasts to 'tweak' an overclock to create a manual one.

The BIOS is only one – admittedly large – portion of overclocking at there are just as many non-BIOS interface features that go into creating a truly user-friendly overclocking experience. Here is where MSI goes from being almost perfect to being merely good.

First and foremost is MSI needs to take a page from ASUS' Republic of Gamers products and include truly advanced features such as BIOS Retry options. This new generation will take a bit of getting used to and until someone gains experience working with it… expect to spend time with failed POSTs due to 'wrong' settings. Having to start over from scratch and manually re-enter in a bunch of settings (yes you will invariably forget to save a profile to the included overclocking profile slots) means that the 'journey' will take longer than it has to.

Thankfully even though we did run into many, many POST issues from incorrect settings not once did the system fail to recover. We never even ever felt the need to throw the BIOS switch and try again with the 'back-up' BIOS. This isn’t something that can be said about all motherboards and it will give less experienced consumers a boost in their confidence levels – as there really is no downside to trying manual overclocking besides lost time.

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In the end, we did create a successful all-core overclock that was better than the “safer” automatic profiles while remaining within our voltage tolerances. Not only were we able to push all cores to 4.5GHz but also increased the Uncore to 3.2GHz and boosted the RAM to DDR4-3400.

This board is enjoyable to work with and creating a successful overclock will fill you with pride and satisfaction in a job well done… and when dealing with such bloody expensive systems isn't that a major reason we all purchase them in the first place?
 
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AkG

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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System Benchmarks section we will show a number benchmark comparisons of the 6700K and motherboard using the stock speed (Turbo 3 enabled), Software OC (4.3GHz), and our manual overclock(4.5GHz). This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and UNcore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/results.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>


SuperPI Benchmark


<i>SuperPi calculates the number of digits of PI in a pure 2D benchmark. For the purposes of this review, calculation to 32 million places will be used. RAM speed, RAM timings, CPU speed, L2 cache, and Operating System tweaks all effect the speed of the calculation, and this has been one of the most popular benchmarks among enthusiasts for several years.
SuperPi was originally written by Yasumasa Kanada in 1995 and was updated later by snq to support millisecond timing, cheat protection and checksum. The version used in these benchmarks, 1.5 is the official version supported by hwbot.</i>

<div align="center">
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/akg/Motherboard/MSI_X99A_Gaming_Pro_Carbon/pi.jpg" border="0" alt="" />
</div>



CINEBENCH R11.5


<i>CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation.

In this system benchmark section we will use the x64 Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario. The Main Processor Performance (CPU) test scenario uses all of the system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral "No Keyframes" animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.</i>

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Sandra Processor Arithmetic & Processor Multi-Media Benchmarks



<i>SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. The software suite provides most of the information (including undocumented) users like to know about hardware, software, and other devices whether hardware or software. The name “Sandra” is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means "defender", "helper of mankind".

The software version used for these tests is SiSoftware Sandra 2015. In the 2015 version of Sandra, SiSoft has updated operating system support, added support for the latest CPUs, as well as added some new benchmarks to the testing suite. The benchmark used below is the Processor Arithmetic benchmark which shows how the processor handles arithmetic and floating point instructions. This test illustrates an important area of a computer’s speed.</i>

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PCMark 8 Benchmark


<i>Developed in partnership with Benchmark Development Program members Acer, AMD, Condusiv Technologies, Dell, HGST, HP, Intel, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Samsung, SanDisk, Seagate and Western Digital, PCMark 8 is the latest version in FutureMark’s popular series of PC benchmarking tools. Improving on previous releases, PCMark 8 includes new tests using popular applications from Adobe and Microsoft.

The test used in below is the PCMark 8 Home benchmark. This testing suite includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user such as for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for the system.</i>

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AIDA64 Benchmark


<i>AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.

</i>

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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
3D and Gaming Benchmarks

3D and Gaming Benchmarks


In the 3D and Gaming Benchmarks section we will show a number of benchmark comparisons of the 6950K and the motherboard using the stock speed (turbo 3 enabled), highest, safe and stable software overclock of 4.3GHz and our manual overclock of 4.5GHz. This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by the various overclocking options this board has to offer.

For reference the CPU speeds, memory speeds, memory timings, and uncore speeds used for these tests are as follows:

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3DMark Fire Strike Benchmark


<i>The latest version of 3DMark from FutureMark includes everything you need to benchmark everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. And it's not just for Windows. With 3DMark you can compare your scores with Android and iOS devices too. It's the most powerful and flexible 3DMark we've ever created.

The test we are using in this review is Fire Strike with Extreme settings which is a DirectX 11 benchmark designed for high-performance gaming PCs. Fire Strike features real-time graphics rendered with detail and complexity far beyond what is found in other benchmarks and games today.</i>

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Sleeping Dogs Gaming Benchmark


<i>Sleeping Dogs is an open world action-adventure video game developed by United Front Games in conjunction with Square Enix London Studios and published by Square Enix, released on August 2012. Sleeping Dogs has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.


The settings used in the testing below are the Extreme display settings and a resolution of 1920x1200. World density is set to extreme, high-res textures are enabled, and shadow resolution, shadow filtering, screen space ambient occlusion, and quality motion blur are all set to high.</i>

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Metro: Last Light Gaming Benchmark


<i>Metro: Last Light is a DX11 first-person shooter video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features action-oriented gameplay. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play. Scene D6 was used and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are Very High for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200. DirectX 11 is used, texture filtering is set to AF 16X, motion blur is normal, SSA and advanced physX turned on and tessellation is set to high.</i>

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BioShock Infinite Gaming Benchmark


<i>BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games, and published by 2K Games released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.

The settings used in the testing below are UltraDX11 for quality and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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Tomb Raider Gaming Benchmark


<i> Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game. Published by Square Enix released in March 2013. The game has a benchmark component to it that mimics game play and an average of four runs was taken.


The settings used in the testing below are Ultimate default settings for quality, VSync disabled and a resolution of 1920x1200.</i>

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AkG

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 24, 2007
Messages
5,270
Conclusion; MSI's Affordable X99 Sets the Bar

Conclusion


When looking through the product stacks of motherboard vendors’ second generation X99 offerings, there’s an unmistakable air of sameness. With the exception of countless LEDs, many of the feature sets look like carbon copies of their predecessors. Not only is it boring but pricing is still high and there’s not much there to entice potential buyers away from the Z170 platform. MSI’s X99A Gaming Pro Carbon on the other hand is like a breath of fresh air. This board successfully blends an extremely fair price with a litany of enthusiast-facing options and a novice-friendly feature set. It really is like the best of both worlds and we wouldn’t be surprised to see this board single-handedly carry MSI’s X99 lineup going forward.

Despite not being part of any “high end” product category, everything about the Gaming Pro Carbon feels well thought-out and highly polished. Now granted there aren’t any superfluous add-ons but we’d actually argue many users would never fully utilize some of the features available on $400+ alternatives for their gaming-focused system. Don’t mistake this board for being a bare-bones example either since everything from the Game Boost dial to the fantastic layout prove that MSI has listened to feedback.

Past the items we spent the most time on, there’s also a surprisingly capable 8-phase Military Class V power delivery subsystem, the inclusion of a x4 capable M.2s port and a native U.2 storage port. When the excellent GPU <i>and</i> RAM reinforcement via MSI Steel Armor are taken into account alongside understated yet highly adaptable (via integrated LEDs) looks, the MSI X99A Gaming Pro Carbon simply oozes value.

On the BIOS and software side of the equation the Pro Carbon is also crazy impressive given its asking price. While knowledgeable consumers will not be overly surprised by the new BIOS or software package both are still the best that MSI has released to date. Sure there is room for improvement in the form of a preloaded favorites page, and perhaps making the BIOS’ central section a bit larger but those are simply minor gripes standing in the way of absolute perfection.

Now there is actually one hiccup worth discussing at length: the Game Boost dial. While we absolutely consider it to be the best hardware-based automatic overclocking features around, it is actually a double edged sword. Basically it is so darn easy to manipulate that we fear it being bumped at some point and pushing a higher overclock than intended. In addition, since the overclocks it institutes are generalized presets, far too much voltage is pushed into the CPU at higher settings.

Even with these relatively minor issues taken into account this is one of the best MSI motherboards we have tested to date. No matter what your skill level, no matter what you consider to be most important –be it features or the ability to overclock- the X99A Gaming Pro Carbon is almost sure to satisfy. The very fact that MSI was able to do all this and keep its price aligned with Z170 based motherboards is simply fantastic. If you are looking for a relatively inexpensive board to run alongside a shiny new Broadwell-E chip, run out and look at this one.


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