Motherboards PC Hardware

MEG MSI Z390 ACE – Top Tier VRMs and Nothing Less

MSI sent us one of their high-end Z390 motherboards meant for gamers who are looking for enthusiast grade features: the MEG (MSI Enthusiast Gaming) Z390  ACE – a fully packed high-end motherboard just a tier below their Z390 GODLIKE motherboard. Priced at an SRP of Php18,400, what kind of premium features can we expect?

What’s in the box?

MSI provided a good amount of accessories with the motherboard and they are as follows:

  • Four SATA cables (two right-angled and two-straight angled)
  • Two Wi-Fi Antennas (2×2)
  • SLI HB Bridge
  • Three RGB LED Extension Cables
  • MSI True Gaming Case Badge
  • MSI Warranty Card
  • MSI Gaming Promotional Card
  • SATA Label Stickers
  • Quick Install Guide
  • Instruction Manual
  • Driver Installation CD
Aesthetics

On the aesthetics side, the motherboard has a gunmetal grey color scheme with matching heat sinks. Interestingly, the back plate I/O cover is already pre-installed and the rear panel cover has an Mystic Light Infinity Panel with RGB lighting that can be customized using the MSI Mystic Light RGB Software.

The MEG Z390 ACE features four RAM slots that supports up to 64GB memory, three M.2 slots, six SATA ports, upgraded audio, a gaming focused ‘Killer’ network port, and the latest Intel Wi-Fi connectivity.

Mystic Light Infinity Panel
Quick Specs

Connectivity And Motherboard features

The motherboard has three full-length PCIe 3.0 slots that gives the possiblility of running a 3-way AMD CrossFire GPU setup but the PCIe bandwith allows an ideal Dual SLI setup with Nvidia GPUs. There is an overclock knob on the bottom right of the motherboard which is basically MSI Gameboost with overclocking presets.

Throughout the motherboard, you will find seven 4-pin fan headers and USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports on the real panel. The M.2 slot is sharing some PCIe lanes from the chipset so this is also something to keep in mind.

VRM power delivery AND COOLING

MSI’s spec’ed out the Z390 ACE to have a 13-phase power delivery and upon closer inspection, the VCore/CPU section is running twelve ON Semiconductor high-side and low-side MOSFETs which controlled by an 8-channel controller: International Rectifier IR35201 PWM controller which is also operating as a 6+2 phase. Each of the VCore phases features six individual doublers meaning the Z390 ACE is running a 6+2-phase design on the VCore.

Do take note that this motherboard has two 8-pin 12V ATX power inputs for the CPU power and a standard 24-pin ATX power.

The memory has a pair of ON4C024N low-side and ON4C029N high-side MOSFETs while the SoC has one ON4C024N low-side and one ON4C029N high-side MOSFET. With this configuration, the memory natively supports DDR4-4500Mhz which allows users to have an option to use high end DDR4 memory up to 64GB.

With the Intel Core i5 9600K overclocked at 5GHz with 1.478v using the Game Boost knob, the VRM temperatures were kept pretty cool by the heat sinks and the power delivery proved to be efficient with 30 minutes of stress testing with AIDA64. See photo below for the exact numbers.

The stress test was done on an open air test bench inside an air conditioned room with an ambient temperature of around 24°C. As for the CPU cooler, we opted to use the Noctua NH-U12S which kept the overclocked processor cooled down.

UEFI BIOS

MSI’s UEFI BIOS, Click BIOS 5 has been kept the same throughout different chipsets and gives that familiarity to someone who has been using MSI motherboards for a long time. The interface has some notable features such as the GAME BOOST and XMP profile selector.

You can opt to use the EZ mode or change to Advanced mode by simply pressing the F7 key which opens up more motherboard settings that you can modify.

There are extensive options that you use to overclock both your CPU and memory within the Advanced mode OC settings.

As for the hardware monitor and fan control, you can customize each fan header individually or you can choose to put them all at full speed by pressing F. PWM and DC mode will depend on the type of fans installed but do take note that there are hybrid fan headers that either run PWM or DC.

The motherboard explorer is a useful tool which shows an overhead view of the motherboard and it’s components. Clicking on the red ares will give basic information about the installed components.

MSI Software

MSI Includes a number of software for their motherboards and some of the notable ones are teh MSI Dragon Center, the MSI Mystic Light, and the Nahimic Audio Software.

The MSI Dragon center allows for performance monitoring as well as features for overclocking your CPU and memory through software.

The MSI Mystic Light is kind of a hit or miss depending on the motherboard tier and we’ve noticed that the high-end motherboards have more RGB options unlike the ones in the Gaming Plus and Titanium lineup.

MSI’s collaboration with Nahimic to provide the audio software for the motherboard is truly a godsend. The MSI Z390 MEG ACE uses the Realtek ALC1220 HD Audio Codec with an ESS SAbre 9018 32bit DAC that has support for 8 channels. The audio PCB has Nippon Chemi-con gold audio capacitors and it is physically separated with a line from the rest of the PCB for clean audio delivery.

Having used the Nahimic audio software in the past, I must say that it gives a huge improvement in audio quality with it’s simplistic interface.

We listened to the onboard audio without any software enhancement using our Kurzweil KS40 active studio monitor speakers on our usual 320kbps music playlist. It was nothing special at first but with the Nahimic software enhancements turned on, the audio came to life giving much-needed improvement on the sound quality. This can also be used with any headphones plugged directly on the motherboard.

Conclusion

Given that this is a high end offering from MSI, the MEG Z390 ACE has an extremely premium build with a great choice of motherboard components. The solid 13-phase VRM which operates in a 6+2 configuration is well built as it was able to handle overclocking easily. It has an amazing implementation of it’s onboard audio, it has onboard Bluetooth and WiFi, tons of connectivity options and a lot of PCIe slots. This motherboard will surely complement a fully kitted enthusiast grade gaming PC.

Manual overclocking with this motherboard has a lot of advantages though the Game Boost presets works just as well if you don’t mind feeding a lot of voltage on your CPU. But honestly it could use some rework. Some would be able to achieve a 5Ghz overclock with around 1.3v but when we tested the Game Boost preset on the Core i5 9600k, the amount of voltage that was fed to the Vcore was around 1.47v.

While the era of RGB craze is still going strong, the Mystic Light Infinity RGB panel on the MEG Z390 ACE is very subtle while the rest of the motherboard doesn’t vomit as much RGB anyway.

Overall we think that this premium motherboard is a true enthusiast hardware with premium components and features. With the MEG Z390 ACE just sitting a tier below the Z390 GODLIKE, you can expect it to deliver the best overclocking performance for your Intel processors at an SRP of $290.

Ira James
Editor-in-chief | Tech Journalist | AMD Ryzen and AOC Gaming influencer | PC Hardware Enthusiast |

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