MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview

MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview

MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview

Over the past few years, the MITX form factor has exploded in popularity, with gamers the world over trying to create a compact console killer PC which does not compromise when it comes to delivering enthusiast-grade PC gaming performance
In 2017, the ITX scene is expected to bring with it a huge range of new cases and other hardware offerings, with the SFX PSU form factor growing in popularity and AMD’s upcoming Ryzen CPU lineup coming with low enough TDPs to facilitate the creation of Mini-ITX AM4 motherboards. 
Today marks the launch of Intel’s Kaby Lake series CPUs and with it the launch of Intel’s Z270 chipset, which means that we will finally be seeing some new ITX motherboards, including MSI’s new Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC. Let’s find out how many features MSI can fit into the MITX form factor and if this motherboard can truly offer enthusiast performance with no compromises.  

MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview


With Kaby Lake comes increased CPU clock speeds, both at stock and when overclocked, making this the perfect time to create a system with a compact form factor, powerful CPU cores and enough performance to easily outperform modern consoles.  

When compared to MSI’s Z170I Gaming Pro AC, the new Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC has been upgraded in almost every possible way. This new design moves to a new Digital PWM power design, adds a 4-pin RGB LED (MSI Mystic) header, becomes more durable with reinforced DDR4 memory slots and PCIe slots as well as adds some component and software updates to the motherboard’s audio and connectivity options.      

Below is an image which showcases this motherboard’s upgraded components compared to MSI’s older Z170I Gaming Pro AC.     


MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview


On the rear of the motherboard, the Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC has a single Turbo M.2 port, which has support for Intel’s upcoming Optane storage technology and today’s fastest M.2 NVMe SSDs.  

On this motherboard’s rear IO, this Z270I Pro Carbon has everything that you can expect from a modern Z270 motherboard, with dual USB 3.1 ports (1x Type-A and 1x Type-C), dual USB 3.0 ports, dual USB 2,0 ports, Intel Gigabit LAN, A PS/2 port as well as several audio outputs.  

One other thing that MSI has been able to do is fit three PWM fan headers onto this motherboard, which is a vast improvement over the single fan header that this motherboard’s Z170 counterpart had.


  MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview  MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview


There are a few sacrifices that this MSI’s Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC makes to maintain its small MITX form factor, sporting only a single M.2 slot, two DDR4 memory slots and a mere four SATA connections. That being said, MSI has managed to pack in everything that even a high-end gaming PC requires, as two DDR4 memory slots can easily sport 16GB or 32GB of RAM with the correct memory DIMM capacities and four SATA connections plus an M.2 slot is much more than the majority of PC builders require for storage. 

In this motherboard’s small form factor, MSI has even been able to place RGB LED mounts on the back of the motherboard, giving this motherboard a lot of colour customization options. Beside this motherboard’s wireless card there is a 4-pin RGB header, which can be controlled using MSI’s Mystic LED software, making this one of the first ITX motherboards that are compatible with RGB LED strips, which is great news for ITX gamers who are fond of RGB illumination. 

  MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview  MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC Preview




ITX components often come with compromises, after all, you can only fit a certain number of features into a compact form factor. When looking at the MSI Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC, we can see that there are limits to what the MITX form factor con offer, though none of them are deal-breakers and none of them prevents users from creating powerful compact systems.

Every generation motherboard manufacturers manage to push more features into the ITX form factor, so much so that this motherboard offers a similar feature set to many high-end ATX Z170 motherboards, featuring a full speed M.2 slot and full RGB LED strip control, which can be controlled using MSI’s Mystic software.  

When looking at MSI’s last generation Z170I Gaming Pro AC, we can see that MSI has made some significant improvements to its Z270 counterpart, adding reinforced DDR4 memory slots, additional fan headers, improved audio components and an upgrade to a new digital power deliver system. With the move to Z270 MSI are offering their users a lot more than they did with Z170, making it worth of consideration of all who are looking to build using the LGA 1151 socket in 2017. 

As an MITX motherboard, there is very little to fault here, as MSI have managed to fit a surprising number of features into the Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC. While the WiFi solution with its visible cables and green PCB are an eyesore, they can be removed if the user does not wish to use this motherboard’s onboard WiFi solution.

Many of the limitations of the ITX form factor can be easily worked around, with 16GB DDR4 DIMMs being readily available to create a system with 32GB of system memory and a single M.2 slot and four SATA connections already being surplus to the requirements of most PC builders. 

We do plan on conducting a full review of this motherboard at a later date, including dedicated overclocking tests and full performance testing. Here is a link to our Intel i7 7700K and 7600K Kaby Lake review. 


You can join the discussion on MSI’s Z270I Gaming Pro Carbon AC motherboard on the OC3D Forums.