Packaging & Accessories: 9 out of 10
MSI really have upped their game and gone (almost) all out on the included accessories. Everything from including a USB flash drive instead of a disc for the drivers, to including one of the best ‘stock’ magnetic base mounts for the WiFi/BT antennas available, to even including extra EZ M.2 clips. They really did think of almost everything. With that said we are dinging them a point because the flash drive comes with an iso loaded on it and not the unpacked drivers/software/manual/etc. like it ‘should’.
Layout & Aesthetics: 22 out of 25
Once again MSI really have upped their game. Bluntly stated, this is such an elegant looking motherboard that that it puts ASUS’ STRIX and TUF line to shame. It simply will work in a wider variety of builds than the ASUS versions. On the layout front MSI got most things so right that the minor ‘quirks’ do standout all the more for it. For example, we love the new magnetic latch system the topmost M.2 slot uses. We do not ‘love’ the fact it cost us the rear 4-pin fan header. We love the fact that it comes with five M.2 slots. We do not ‘love’ the fact that biggest heatsink equipped one is not the PCIe 5.0 slot. Instead, the PCIe 4.0 connected to the CPU gets that ‘sink. We love how clean and elegant the board looks. We do not like the fact it is missing a power on button on the board, and only comes with one USB 5GBs front header. Not two like it ‘should’. In the grand scheme of things these are minor quirks. But they do mar an otherwise perfect execution.
Build Quality & Warranty: 27 out of 30
The MSI MPG Z790 Carbon is built like a tank. A tank that would have been right at home in the last generations MEG line-up… as that is basically what MSI has done. They took their last generation uber-high-end motherboard and worked that level of attention to detail and build quality into their mainstream Carbon model. As such, this motherboard is so impressive that we doubt many buyers will find a flaw or fault with what this board has to offer. This is a good thing, as unfortunately the warranty side the equation is not quite as explementary. Basically, MSI has given this board a three warranty and that is pretty much the de-facto standard for a motherboard these days. As such, it is average but nothing special.
Value: 32 out of 35
To us a mainstream motherboard has to be a great overall value if it is to succeed in todays economy and market. Thankfully, ‘excellent value’ is a great two-word summary for the MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi. Great looks. Great features. Very good useability. Overkill levels of robustness and durability. This motherboard almost has it all. So much so if MSI can work the missing features (e.g. USB front header) into the next gen while working the quirks out of it (e.g. PCIe 5.0 heatsink, only one M22110 port, etc.) their Carbon series will do to the mainstream market what their Pro do for budget buyers: dominate the competition. In the meantime, the MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi offers value that is head and shoulders above most of its competition and should be on your short list.
Final Score: 90 out of 100
With its combination of robust (bordering on overkill) power delivery subsystem, excellent BIOS, excellent value-added feature set, and very decent I/O ports few will consider the MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi anything other than a great motherboard. Of those that do find a few nits to pick an inexpensive USB daughter card and / or moderately expensive 10GbE NIC will make up for the ‘missing’ features. Even including the price of such add-ons, the MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi’s (total) price to performance ratio is so insanely good that it is a Real Deal of a motherboard.