We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi review

This Z790 motherboard packs in lots of features, including built-in Wi-Fi, PCIe 5 M.2 support and Realtek 4080 audio, but it also costs a lot of money.

MSI MPG Z790 Carbon Wi-Fi review image showing the product on a red PCGN background.

Our Verdict

The MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi is a solid motherboard, but it lacks the excitement needed to carry a half-a-grand price tag.

Reasons to buy
  • Tool-free M.2 port and heatsink
  • Good M.2 and VRM cooling
  • Feature-packed I/O panel
Reasons to avoid
  • Expensive
  • Lacks pizzazz
  • Far cheaper boards offer similar features

Just like its Tomahawk-branded sibling, the MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi costs a lot more than its Z690-based predecessor and supports the same CPUs. However, the Z790 motherboard includes a PCIe 5-capable M.2 port, and its USB 3.2 Type-C header is now Gen 2×2 capable.

What’s more, the I/O panel now features a CMOS-clear button and a Smart button, which can be used to reset the PC, switch all the fans to maximum speed, or perform several other tasks via the EFI.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At PCGamesN, our experts spend hours testing hardware and reviewing games and VPNs. We share honest, unbiased opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 specs

The MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi specs:

Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
Chipset Intel Z790
CPU socket Intel LGA1700
Memory support 4 slots: max 128GB DDR5 (up to 7600MHz)
Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC4080
Networking 1 x Intel 2.5 Gigabit LAN, 802.11ax Wi-Fi
Cooling Seven 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, VRM heatpipe, M.2 heatsinks
Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x M.2 PCIe 5, 4 x M.2 PCIe 4, 6 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 2 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C header, 1 x LAN, 3 x surround audio out

MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi features

You also get the tool-free M.2 port and heatsink we saw on the MSI MPG B650 Carbon WiFi, and an extra power phase for the CPU, giving you a 19+1+1 power delivery system.

However, that price is still hefty, especially when the cheaper Asus ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi D4 offers similar features except that PCIe 5 M.2 port. There’s a lot to like here, though. The MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi board looks great, with massive heatsinks covering the M.2 ports and VRMs, with the latter linked by a heatpipe too. All of its M.2 ports have heatsinks and SSDs are cooled on both sides, plus there’s an LED POST code display and MSI’s EFI is much easier to navigate than ASRock’s equivalent.

That said, MSI’s software is clunky and easily bettered by that of Asus’ boards. The latter has better fan control both in software and the EFI, with additional options for temperature sources, including their thermal probe headers, which are useful for custom water-cooling loops.

As you’d expect, you also get 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet, and the extra money over the ASRock boards buys you 802.11ax Wi-Fi along with Realtek ALC4080 audio. Plus you get a handy total of eight Type-A USB ports.

MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi performance


During testing, we unfortunately saw the same all-core boost drop as we saw on the MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4, with our Core i5-13600K’s clock speed falling from 5.1GHz to 5GHz, but it still performed better than the Tomahawk in our heavily multi-threaded video encoding test with a score of 1,029,277 compared to 942,749.

The Carbon still couldn’t crack 24,000 points in the Cinebench multi-threaded test either, lagging behind other manufacturers’ boards, albeit by just a few hundred points. This score rose to 25,963 with a 5.7GHz clock speed applied to our Core i5-13600K’s P-cores.

Meanwhile, the Realtek ALC4080 audio system’s dynamic range of 106dBA and noise level of -106dBA bettered both ASRock boards, but both Asus boards managed to achieve better results in RightMark’s Audio Analyzer software. Finally, our PCIe 4 SSD stayed below 59°C under load, returning a read speed of 7,059MB/sec and write speed of 6,793MB/sec and the Carbon’s VRM temperature never rose above 53°C once overclocked.

MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi review conclusion

While it’s a solid motherboard, the MSI MPG Z790 Carbon WiFi doesn’t feel like it’s worth $500 – it lacks the necessary pizazz, generous feature set, and wow factor you’d expect at this price.

If you want to splash out, we recommend spending the extra cash for the lavish Asus ROG Maximus Z790 Hero, but unless you’re desperate for DDR5 support and a PCIe 5 M.2 slot, we recommend most people save some money and go for the Asus ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi D4 instead. For more options, check out our guide to the best gaming motherboard, which covers a range of specs to suit different budgets.