MSI is ready with seven new socket LGA1151 (300-series) motherboard models based on Intel’s upcoming Z390 Express chipset, which the company recommends to make the most out of its upcoming 8-core processors. Among MSI’s new motherboards are the MEG Z390 GODLIKE, the MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon, MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Edge, the mini-ITX MPG Z390I Gaming Pro Edge, Z390 Gaming Plus, MAG Z390 Tomahawk, and the Z390-A Pro. MSI probably feels that everyone and their aunt are selling motherboards with the Gaming moniker it perfected, and wants to throw in more brand extensions to differentiate its products. The MEG brand, abbreviating “MSI Enthusiast Gaming,” is top of the line, and debuted recently with the MEG X399 Creation. The MPG (MSI Performance Gaming) series is a notch below MEG, and covers the upper mid-range. The MAG (MSI Arsenal Gaming) covers the entry-mid range gaming-grade motherboards, including the popular Tomahawk and Mortar brands.
MSI positions the MEG Z390 GODLIKE as your go-to board to max out the Core i9-9900K with connectivity and features packed to the brim, combined with a strong CPU VRM setup to overclock the living daylights out of the 8-core chip. Clad in aluminium+ABS, including a back-plate, this board offers connectivity for up to five M.2 PCIe SSDs (including a riser card), a U.2 port, an HDMI streaming card that offloads your CPU for streaming, a massive 18-phase VRM that delivers HEDT-levels of current to your LGA1151 processor, and a monochrome LED display.
The MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon is the next best board from the lineup. You get premium audio and networking, including WLAN, but with an overall lighter feature-set than the MEG GODLIKE. A simpler 10-phase VRM powers the CPU, and storage options are narrowed to just two M.2 slots, one of which is covered with a heatsink. The MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC is based on the same exact PCB as the Gaming Pro Carbon, but comes with a lighter onboard audio solution, ordinary (non gold-plated) rear I/O connectors, and cost-cutting in other areas such as ports and slots (lack of metal reinforcement).
The MPG Z390I Gaming Edge AC is the sole mini-ITX offering in this lineup, and its designers have made sure it’s packed to the brim with features. You get a 5-phase CPU VRM that’s split between two areas, each cooled by a heatsink (rare for a mini-ITX board), and a unique contraption that sandwiches the Z390 chipset between the PCB and the M.2-2280 slot that’s cooled by a heatsink. High-grade audio and Intel WLAN make for the rest of it, besides a healthy dose of RGB LED lighting controls.
The MAG Z390 Tomahawk is this generation’s offering for the unexpectedly popular “Tomahawk” brand from MSI, characterized by silver + black color scheme, with heatsinks and other metal design elements resembling body covers of a Tomahawk missile; this board features a light yet well laid-out design that doesn’t exclude M.2 SSD cooling. Lastly there’s the MPG Z390 Gaming Plus and the Z390-A Pro, which are mutually identical, but for the Gaming Plus having a more racy color scheme, red LEDs, and a PCB cutout near the storage connectivity area. Both boards stick to the feature-set of the Z390 PCH, and could be among the least expensive Z390 boards out there.