The MSI MEG X399 Creation Motherboard Review: The New 16-Phase Shark In Townby Gavin Bonshor on August 13, 2018 8:59 AM EST
When it comes to hardware features MSI has given the MEG X399 Creation all it can, with elements suited for workstation users such as dual Intel LAN, features gamers can sick their teeth into such as a Realtek ALC1220 audio codec, and a beefy power delivery for the most ardent of overclockers. The X399 Creation has a total of three M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 slots, with the middle of the three slots getting extra attention thanks to an integrated M.2 heatsink (which shares cooling responsibility with the chipset heatsink). If you can imagine an amalgamation between a gaming and workstation motherboard, the MEG X399 Creation would be it.
|MSI MEG X399 Creation E-ATX Motherboard
|TR4 / SP3r2
|Memory Slots (DDR4)
Up to DDR4-3600
|2 x Intel I-211AT Gigabit (1 GigE)
Intel 9260NGW 802.11ac Wi-Fi (Wave 2)
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)
|4 x PCIe 3.0 (x16)
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)
|2 x PCIe (x1)
|Eight, RAID 0/1/10
|1 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA (middle slot) - 22110
2 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA (top / bottom slot) - 2280
|USB 3.1 (10 Gbps)
|1 x Type-A
1 x Type-C
|USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)
|8 x Rear Panel (Type-A)
4 via Header
|4 via Header
|1 x 24-pin ATX
2 x 8-pin CPU
1 x 4-pin Molex PCIe
|1 x CPU (4-pin)
6 x System (4-pin)
3 x extend fan (4-pin)
|1 x USB 3.1 Type-A (USB 3.1 Gen 2)
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen 2)
8 x USB 3.1 Type-A (USB 3.1 Gen 1)
2 x Network RJ-45 (Intel)
5 x 3.5 mm Audio Jacks (Realtek)
1 x S/PDIF (Realtek)
1 x BIOS Flashback+ Button
1 x Clear CMOS Button
2 x MMCX antenna connectors (2T2R)
The inclusion of the Xpander-Aero M.2 PCIe card allows for an additional four NVMe M.2 drives to be installed. MSI also omitted to include a 10G LAN port and opted to use dual 1 GigE LAN instead. MSI has also included 802.11ac Wave2 Wi-Fi capability for users looking to utilize high-speed wireless networks. There has also been a massive focus on providing one of the best set of cooling options they have offered on a motherboard of late with a total of ten 4-pin fan headers dotted across the PCB. The X399 Creation also offers users ten USB ports with the capacity to extend this by a further eight through the use of internal headers.
As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch, and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible.
It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.
|AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X,
16 Cores, 32 Threads, 3.4 GHz (4.0 GHz Turbo)
|MSI MEG X399 Creation (BIOS 7B92v10)
|Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 360
|Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W Gold PSU
|4x8GB GSkill TridentZ RGB DDR4-3200
|DDR4-2666, 1.2 V, 16-18-18-35 1T
|ASUS GTX 980 STRIX (1178/1279 Boost)
|Crucial MX300 1TB
|Open Test Bed
|Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives, in essence, an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.
Many thanks to...
Thank you to ASUS for providing us with GTX 980 Strix GPUs. At the time of release, the STRIX brand from ASUS was aimed at silent running, or to use the marketing term: '0dB Silent Gaming'. This enables the card to disable the fans when the GPU is dealing with low loads well within temperature specifications. These cards equip the GTX 980 silicon with ASUS' Direct CU II cooler and 10-phase digital VRMs, aimed at high-efficiency conversion. Along with the card, ASUS bundles GPU Tweak software for overclocking and streaming assistance.
The GTX 980 uses NVIDIA's GM204 silicon die, built upon their Maxwell architecture. This die is 5.2 billion transistors for a die size of 298 mm, built on TMSC's 28nm process. A GTX 980 uses the full GM204 core, with 2048 CUDA Cores and 64 ROPs with a 256-bit memory bus to GDDR5. The official power rating for the GTX 980 is 165W.
The ASUS GTX 980 Strix 4GB (or the full name of STRIX-GTX980-DC2OC-4GD5) runs a reasonable overclock over a reference GTX 980 card, with frequencies in the range of 1178-1279 MHz. The memory runs at stock, in this case 7010 MHz. Video outputs include three DisplayPort connectors, one HDMI 2.0 connector and a DVI-I.
Further Reading: AnandTech's NVIDIA GTX 980 Review
Thank you to Crucial for providing us with MX200/MX300 SSDs. Crucial stepped up to the plate as our benchmark list grows larger with newer benchmarks and titles, and the 1TB units are strong performers. The MX200s are based on Marvell's 88SS9189 controller and using Micron's 16nm 128Gbit MLC flash, these are 7mm high, 2.5-inch drives rated for 100K random read IOPs and 555/500 MB/s sequential read and write speeds. The 1TB models we are using here support TCG Opal 2.0 and IEEE-1667 (eDrive) encryption and have a 320TB rated endurance with a three-year warranty.
Further Reading: AnandTech's Crucial MX200 (250 GB, 500 GB & 1TB) Review
Corsair kindly sent a set of their Vengeance LPX low profile, high-performance memory. The heatsink is made of pure aluminum to help remove heat from the sticks and has an eight-layer PCB. The heatsink is a low profile design to help fit in spaces where there may not be room for a tall heat spreader; think a SFF case or using a large heatsink.