MSI Z490 Ace motherboard: Sturdy VRM, benchmarked

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Finally, here’s the Intel build we’ve been working on! Thanks to producing a new Intel 10-series overclocking Pro Cast episode for MSI, we’ve got the MSI Z490 Ace in the studio which we really put through its’ paces. We were able get some great performance gains in Cinebench vs the i9-9900K setup last year. Intel actually has 4 chipsets out to work their new 10th gen CPUs, none of the previous 100, 200 or 300 series will work as it’s physically a different socket, Socket LGA-1200.

The fastest DDR4 ram needs MSI Z490 Ace’s chipset

If you plan to use the newest fastest ram, you need the Z490 chipset as Intel has locked out high-end memory overclocking, link for a great video where Linus addresses this. If you choose an h410, b460 or h470, DDR4 frequency is capped for i7 to i9 chips to 2933, and i3 to i5 to 2666 megahertz.

So if you’re looking for the fastest Intel performance, you really need to be looking at the Z490 chipset for your new motherboard. Today, we’ll check out the features and performance of the MSI Z490 Ace!

And if you decide to grab this board and buy through our affiliate links, it does help us out a bit here, so thanks for your support. Just a reminder, if you want to keep up with our releases and occasional contests you should follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all at techspinreview.

MSI Z490 Ace – Quick summary

The MSI Z490 Ace is an enthusiast offering, notably best-in-tier VRM solution perfect for overclocking, and features like steel armor for all slots, SLI and crossfire capable, Lightning 20G USB and what MSI’s calling chest armor, providing rigidity. A very good choice for motherboard.

The latest MSI Z490 Ace motherboard has the newest Intel LGA-1200 socket supporting 10-series processors only, retailing for $400 dollars US, guessing about 340 British pounds, $565 Canadian, and $11900nt in Taiwan.

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MSI Z490 Ace motherboard: Sturdy VRM, benchmarked

This ATX sized 6-layer PCB design has a robust power solution, they’re using a robust 8x Intersil Digital PWM controller setup, feeding 16 of 90 amp smart power stages into 16 titanium choke 3s, for a 16 plus 1 phase solution.

This MSI Z490 Ace has triple m.2 Gen3 NVMe slots at 32 gigabits a second transfer speed, all equipped with MSI’s Shield Frozr heatsink solution. And there’s a chest shield on the back which acts to strengthen the board.

In this high end board we expected to see Steel Armor and it’s here reinforcing all 3 Gen3 PCIe slots which can run x16/0/4, or 8/8/4, a requirement of Nvidia SLI, and Crossfire is also supported.

The four DDR4 slots support 32 gig modules for up to 128 gigs at 2933 MHz, with DDR4 Boost, 1 or 2 sticks of DDR4 can overclock to a possible 4800 megahertz with selected modules, and the slots have Steel Armor for your piece of mind.

Overclocking the MSI Z490 Ace motherboard: snappy, responsive

The rear I/O shield top has more Mystic Light accents, but MSI have put in work under the hood, with an integrated fan and heat pipe combo provide active VRM cooling when running at full load.

The MSI Z490 Ace uses dual 8-pin ATX power connectors to provide steady power while overclocking, so make sure your power supply has dual ATX 8-pin.

For connectivity, the rear panel is equipped with WiFi 6, the 802.11ax spec, along with Realtek 8125B 2.5 gigabit LAN and Intel I219V gigabit LAN, Lightning Type C 20G, 3x Gen2 Type A, 2 Gen1 A’s, and 2 USB 2.0, note there’s no HDMI or DisplayPort.

Build quality good on the MSI Z490 Ace

The front has six sata-3 ports which you can configure with Easy Raid and m.2 Genie, and for USB, 1 Gen2 Type C, 2 Gen1 A, and four USB 2.0. For audio there’s a Realtek® ALC 1220 with ESS SABRE combo DAC, and this board supports DirectX 12. And MSI’s Mystic Light shows through the Ace logo on the integrated rear I/O shield,/ as well as part of the controller shield, on the bottom right of the board.

We’re testing this out with an Aerocool 1000 watt power supply, more power than we need, you can definitely get away with a 700 to 800 watt PSU. Importantly it has dual ATX 8-pin to supply this hungry CPU when overclocking.

We have 32 gigs, that’s 2x 16 gigs of Corsair Vengeance LPX at 4600 megahertz, and it also ships with this RAM cooler with interchangeable face plates, which useful at full overclock. Windows 10 Pro version 2004 is installed on the boot drive, which is an XPG 8200Pro 256 gig NVMe m.2 drive, and that inserts under the m.2 shielding easily, and the MSI Z490 Ace is using the latest available BIOS which is v122 Beta.

On graphics duty is an MSI RTX 2070 Super Gaming X, and cooling is handled by a capable MSI CoreLiquid 360R, a 360 mil all in one water cooler. If you’re doing overclocking on a 10900K, we recommend a 360 mil rad as the Intel 10th gen gets super hot, super fast.

Before the results, a quick reminder that if you want to connect with us online, we’re on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at techspinreview. And there’s links below if you decide to grab a new motherboard, you can support the channel by using our affiliate links to buy, it’ll help us out here, with no extra cost to you.

MSI Z490 Ace Benchmarks + OC

Doing overclocking on this board was pretty snappy and responsive with the BIOS and restarting, which made changing values and tweaking much less time-intensive. For base results we’re seeing 2665 points in Cinebench R15, and 6394 in Cinebench R20, this versus last years i9-9900K which has an R15 of 2044 and 4810 for Cinebench R20.

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Blender’s BMW shows the 10900K posting 2 minutes 46 seconds(166), a full minute faster than the older CPU. (3m 52-232). This year we adopted Blender’s Classroom in our test results, we got 8 minutes 54 seconds at stock(534), our 9900K coming in at 13 minutes 8 seconds(788). Blender’s performance relies heavily on core count and speed, and is boosted by fast memory, the 9900K test rig used 3200 megahertz DDR4.

We have an overclocking guide we developed with MSI using this exact setup, and there is headroom to drive it up to 5.2 if you get a good CPU, ours booted at 5.2, but was stable at 5.1 gigahertz. In R15 we got 2726 and R20 obtained 6578 points, a bit of an improvement in both those Cinebench tests.

We shaved off 4 seconds in Blender’s BMW coming in at 2 minutes 42, and Classroom took a hair under 10 seconds less, this is with default RAM settings. With XMP on, the 4600 megahertz ram delivered a 2746 in R15, 6551 in R20, and a second and a half faster for BMW at 2 40 and 7 seconds faster in Classroom at 8 minutes, 37 seconds.

BMW 2.40.86/ 2.41.19/ 2.41.01 – 2.40.86 (160)
CLS 8.38.27/ 8.37.27/ 8.38.13 – 8.37.27 (517)

At 5.1 gigahertz we were seeing temperatures of 90 to 95 degrees Celsius, 93 average during testing, though lowering the OC to 5 flat reduced the temperatures by 10 degrees, we saw that the wattage draw was just under 300 watts for 5.1, and a hair under 250 watts at 5.0 gigahertz. Of course, those pro overclockers out there will do better, please drop a comment if we can tweak something to get even better numbers!

We really liked the active fan plus heat pipe combo

So overall, we found the build quality was very good, and we really liked the active fan plus heat pipe combo, which really helps to keep those VRMs cool under heavy load. Speaking of VRMs, at the jump we mentioned they are best-in-tier, doing our own research and checking a few other reviews confirms this excellent performance, so if you’re doing overclocking, then the MSI Z490 Ace is a top pick for that.

The ports included for connectivity are decent, especially with the inclusion of a Lightning 20G USB type-C, though we would have liked to have seen at least an onboard HDMI, that always helps with setup, though perhaps it’s omitted for overclocking reasons.

It’s great to see Wi-fi 6 here, and for an entry level to mid-tier board, we’d be happy with 2.5 gigabit ethernet. But this is a more costly enthusiast motherboard, and for this price, we would expect to see 10 gigabit ethernet onboard. Granted market adoption is still slow, but we’re really pushing for this change- as more 10 gigabit motherboards hit the market, the price for 10 gigabit routers and switches will also come down, so we want to see this on motherboards at or above 250 dollars.

Active fan + heat pipe on the MSI Z490 Ace is good

We do like the m.2 heatsinks, they transfer heat decently and they’re very well machined to fit into the front plate of the board. Speaking of the front plate, the design is good, and nothing about MSI’s design, we just wish more of it was visible with a graphics card installed, and both SLI and Crossfire are available options.

As for the chest plate, if you’re doing testing it does lift the board up and protect some connections on the back, as well as providing hidden strength, as it’ll be facing your motherboard tray.

We saw a review where they complained the heatsinks and metal had sharp edges, well princess, perhaps building a PC isn’t for you! Seriously though, sure the VRM heatsinks and metal armor do have some pokey edges, but handling the board carefully you won’t have issues. We didn’t.

As this is the high-end tier, at just under 400 us for this motherboard, this is really aimed at enthusiasts who want to push their new 10900K or just have an excellent VRM solution with connectivity options. If you’re looking to get a new Intel 10th gen and are on a budget, there are other options for each range, at 300 the MSI MEG Z490 Unify still has active cooling and steel armor PCIe with triple m.2,HDMI and DisplayPort, Lightning 20G and Wi-fi6.

If you need budget Wi-fi6 then at 270 bucks there’s the MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi, or the 200 dollar MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi both still retaining HDMI, Displayport, Lightning 20G USB, and down to two turbo m.2 slots. For 190 bucks we like the MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk, still retaining all previous connectivity except for WiFi, the diagonal type design is unique and the RGB reflection off grey paint is more visible. We purchased the Z390 Tomahawk and with daily use, we’re still very impressed.

Thanks again go to MSI for the MSI Z490 Ace, which allowed us to do some head to head testing on that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Now the real follow-up question to this is, should you be looking at Intel or AMD for your next build? Next up we have some case reviews, including one that is currently under NDA… stay tuned! Please take a second to hit Like, subscribe, and the bell. Thanks for your time, and we’ll see you on the next. Bye for now.

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Rick Novlesky

Rick balances his work for Techspin writing, shooting and production with equal parts of sleep deprivation and coffee intake.