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MSI MEG Z390 Godlike Review

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike Review

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike 11The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike is one of the most expensive motherboards on the market. It’ll set you back $599 in the US and £545 in the UK, which is a vast amount of cash to spend on a motherboard. It’s also more than its key rival costs – the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme is around $50 and £45 cheaper. Can this board possibly justify an even higher price than one of our current favourites? Read the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike review to discover the truth.

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike Review – Design & Layout

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike costs more than its big rival from Gigabyte, but the MSI isn’t designed as a gaming product like the Aorus – at least not primarily.

Instead, the MSI is built for PCs that need power in other areas – like creative work, streaming and other productivity tools. It’ll be great in games, of course, but that’s not the main focus of this board.

That means the MSI’s design is a little more subdued than the Gigabyte product. The MSI doesn’t have the slab of metal on the rear that holds extra RGB LEDs, for instance, and its three M.2 heatsinks don’t have their own lighting. There are no extra illuminations in the audio circuitry, either.

Instead of that, you get loads of huge heatsinks made from different shades of grey metal. It makes the MSI look a little more grown up and serious when lined up alongside the gregarious Gigabyte.

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike 6That’s not to say that the MSI lacks its own bombast. There’s a mirrored section in the main heatsink at the top of the board that has RGB LEDs, and the MSI logo on the southbridge heatsink also lights up.

The southbridge heatsink extends across the board to the left, where it mutates into three M.2 covers. It also protects another section that holds a couple of fan connectors and an extra PCI power plug.

The southbridge heatsink extends up the right-hand side of the board, too – and encompasses one of the MSI’s most innovative features. It’s called the MSI Dynamic Dashboard, and it’s a small 256 x 64 LED screen. It  monitors component temperatures and clock speeds, handleserror diagnosis and can update the BIOS. You can also add your own designs.

There are other high-end features elsewhere. There are power and reset buttons at the bottom of the board, along with the MSI Game Boost Knob – which allows the CPU to be automatically overclocked to eleven different levels based on which CPU you have installed.

MSI 4You also get buttons to retry OC settings and to force a BIOS boot at the bottom of the board, and a switch for navigating two different BIOS files.

At the top of the board there is a more conventional row of diagnosis LEDs. You also get two eight-pin power plugs to deliver loads of CPU power. The Gigabyte shares these features.

Elsewhere, the MSI has ten fan headers – two more than the Gigabyte – and matches the Gigabyte with four lighting headers. The MSI also offers pairs of front-panel USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Type-C connectors, while the Gigabyte could only offer one each of those connectors.

There’s a lot to like here, but the MSI Game Boost and Dynamic Dashboard features are a little gimmicky. The Dynamic Dashboard is useful for extra information but is far from necessary. The Game Boost button won’t be useful for anyone who’s serious about overclocking and tweaking.

If you are serious about that kind of work, then the Gigabyte board will be better. It’s got a separate OC Touch circuit board packed with more adjustable, manual overclocking features. It also has the usual on-board buttons and a POST display.

MSI MEG Z390 Godlike 2The MSI’s storage ports are all perpendicular to the board, but the inclusion of extra USB headers and a U.2 port means that the right-hand side of the MSI is very cramped. The top of the board is busy, too, and the bottom row is rammed with ports – and there’s less room to work here because of the MSI’s huge slabs of metal.

As with any high-end board, the MSI is relatively easy to navigate as long as you’re slow and methodical. Just be careful when attaching components or tweaking the hardware.

Also be aware that the MSI uses the larger E-ATX form factor, which means that it’s 270mm wide. The Gigabyte also used this form factor, and we’d make sure your case will fit the motherboard before you order.

The MSI board doesn’t look quite as extravagant as the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme. There are clear differences in the MSI’s specification, too: it has more entry-level overclocking and tweaking features when compared to the Gigabyte, but that board had more enthusiast-level features. The MSI has more USB and storage connectivity, which hints at this board’s extra usefulness when it comes to creative and productivity PCs rather than for gaming.

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MSI MEG Z390 Godlike Review – Specification

1The MSI has the usual four memory slots, and they’re all supported with steel. Just like the Gigabyte, the MSI board supports 128GB of DDR4 memory. However, the MSI can run memory at a peak speed of 4,600MHz – 200MHz more than the Gigabyte could manage.

The MSI also differs from its rival when it comes to PCI connectivity. The MSI board has four PCI-E x16 slots, but just one PCI-E x1 socket. The Gigabyte had three PCI-E x16 slots and two PCI-E x1 connectors. The board you choose will certainly depend on what kind of expansion cards you intend to use.

MSI’s board supports the full range of multi-GPU protocols from Nvidia and AMD, but the situation isn’t as clear as slotting four GPUs inside the MSI and ramping up your games.

The top two slots can run at 8x speed, so those pair have enough bandwidth for running high-end graphics cards. However, using three or four cards means that the slots only run at 4x speed, which isn’t really practical. Still, most people won’t encounter this issue – because multi-GPU systems are becoming far rarer.

The Gigabyte had one fewer PCI-E x16 slot, but it still encountered those same limits. Suffice to say that both these boards are only really suitable for running two graphics cards rather than anything more – and that’s all most people will need.

MSI 8MSI goes further than its rival when it comes to storage connectivity. There are three M.2 connectors and six SATA 3 ports on the MSI, just like the Gigabyte, but the MSI also adds a U.2 connection to the board.

MSI also does more when it comes to audio – not surprising when this board is more suitable for work than the Gigabyte. The MSI has the familiar Realtek ALC1220 chipset, but it’s beefed-up with an ESS ES9018 8-channel 32-bit DAC that is better than the 2-channel hardware in the Aorus.

The two boards trade blows when it comes to rear I/O. The MSI has four USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, including a Type-C connector, and two USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. But it doesn’t have any USB 2, and overall it has three fewer full-size USB ports than the Gigabyte.

MSI fights back with a legacy-friendly PS/2 connector and a 6.5mm headphone jack – neither of which were included on the Gigabyte. At the rear you also get Clear CMOS and BIOS update buttons, and an adapter for the headphone jack is also included in the MSI’s box.

5Handily, MSI also includes a PCI expansion card with two extra M.2 sockets in the box alongside the usual bevy of extra cables. You even get an MSI Streaming Boost capture card with this motherboard.

The MSI has good connectivity, but this is one area where the Gigabyte pulls ahead. You get two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the MSI, but the Gigabyte has 10Gbps Ethernet. Both boards have 1.73Gbps dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 5.

The MSI and Gigabyte have similar PCI and memory connectivity. However, in plenty of other departments these two expensive boards diverge.

The MSI has better storage, including the extra M.2 card, and it has improved audio, streaming and capture capabilities. You get more on-board connectors, too, for fans and USB ports. It all bodes well for a motherboard with an eye on productivity.

However, the Gigabyte product does have better enthusiast-level tweaking features alongside its extra RGB LEDs and more eye-catching physical design – along with more USB ports at the rear.

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MSI MEG Z390 Godlike Review – Performance

It’s no surprise that the MSI delivered marginally better application performance than the Gigabyte.

Its Cinebench result of 1,539cb is comfortably better than the 1,514cb scored by the Gigabyte, for instance. The MSI returned results of 6,082 and 29,065 in the Geekbench single- and multi-core tests, and both of those are slightly ahead of the Gigabyte’s board.

It’s a good start for a board that is setting its stall out for productivity. The MSI also proved frugal. Its idle and peak power draw figures of 58W and 117W are both a few Watts lower than the outlandish Gigabyte product.

However, in other benchmarks the MSI was more ordinary. Its NVMe read and write speeds of 3,568MB/s and 3,264MB/s are reasonable, but both are behind the Gigabyte. The MSI’s SATA read and write speeds of 554MB/s and 529MB/s are fine, but neither are particularly quick.

The MSI wasn’t great with memory speeds, either. Its single-threaded bandwidth score of 24.84MB/s is a little better than the Gigabyte, but its multi-threaded speed of 25.13MB/s is a tiny bit worse. That’s a tad disappointing when this board is designed for work.

MSI’s board is inconsistent in gaming. Positively, it returned scores of 7,646 and 17,896 in the 3D Mark Time Spy and Fire Strike benchmarks. Both results that were a little ahead of the Gigabyte.

However, the MSI fell behind in most real-world tests. Its Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor minimum and average framerates of 84fps and 143fps are one frame quicker than the Gigabyte but two frames slower respectively. It was one frame behind the Gigabyte in both Shadow of the Tomb Raider tests.

We’re always talking about tiny margins in motherboard benchmarks, then. So, while the MSI does fall behind in some tests, it’s never going to slow down your computing in any noticeable way.

It’s a shame that the MSI’s impressive application performance was undermined by middling storage, memory and gaming pace. The MSI and Gigabyte both have their strengths in benchmarks, but neither takes a convincing all-round lead.

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3The MSI and Gigabyte boards both have similar prices, but their benchmarks and feature sets paint them are very difficult products.

If you’re interested in enthusiast-level tweaking and overclocking, or if you want a board primarily for gaming, then the Gigabyte is your best option.

MSI’s board is clearly better for applications. It has strengths in other areas, too. It’s got better storage and USB connectivity on the board itself, improved audio, more PCI-E x16 slots and the inclusion of an M.2 expansion card and a streaming capture card in the box.

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike is more suited to creativity and productivity than it is for gaming, and only the most demanding users will make use of this board’s multitude of features. If that’s you, though, then the versatile MSI does well to justify the cost.

The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike costs $599 in the US and £545 in the UKDiscuss our MSI MEG Z390 Godlike review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our MSI MEG Z390 Godlike review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Good application speed
  • Impressive audio and storage features
  • Loads of PCI-E x16 slots
  • Plenty of on-board connectors

The Bad

  • Not as quick in gaming
  • Some features are gimmicky
  • More expensive than key rival

The Specs

Socket: LGA 1151
Chipset: Intel Z390
Memory: 4 x 4,600MHz DDR4, maximum 128GB
PCI: 4 x PCI-E x16, 1 x PCI-E x1
Ports: 5 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x PS/2, 2 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 5 x audio, 1 x 6.3mm headphone
Storage: 3 x M.2, 6 x SATA 3, 1 x U.2
Audio chipset: Realtek ALC1220, ESS ES9018 DAC
Networking: 2 x Killer Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5

Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI MEG Z390 Godlike

About Author

Darren Roberts

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