MSI MEG Z390 ACE Motherboard Review

The MSI Enthusiast Gaming lineup expands once again with two Z390 offerings for Intel’s latest 9000 series CPUs. The MEG boards offer a blend of quality, features, with power delivery, and overclocking in mind. MSI has certainly raised the bar for its products over the last few years. So our expectations for the ACE motherboard are high.

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

At long last MSI has finally replaced the aging and tired Command Center with its new Dragon Center software! Right off the bat I can tell you that this utility is slick looking and far better than its predecessor in terms of design and aesthetics. This utility has a similar aesthetic to its Mystic Lighting software. MSI has made many good-looking utilities over the past but form is second to function. This one is probably its best attempt at both form and function. There is a slight learning curve to the software, but there is an easy secret to dealing with it. In the performance menu, you need to click on a profile and the settings or gear icon below that to access the tuning functions. This could be made more obvious assuredly.

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Once you figure out how to access the tuning functions, you are treated to a bunch of tiles which both allow for navigation and display information simultaneously. A gear icon can be found on any tile where there are settings to configure. This very streamlined interface is easy to use and works very well. MSI still likes to use its ridiculously far apart + and - buttons for adjusting variables such as those found in the voltages menu, but this is a minor issue. Current voltages are shown in green, where applicable and voltage ranges appear in gray for easy reference.

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The DRAM Timings menu utilizes the familiar drop downs for adjusting settings. These can be adjusted for each channel separately, or simultaneously for both channels. Many of the settings and submenus appear similarly to those found in Command Center. However, the interface works better here as its less cluttered and follows a more logical workflow. Fan duty cycles all use the same dial that Command Center did, although its cosmetically better and at least indicates which points equal a given cycle, such as 50%, 70% etc. The smart fan menus work the same as they did in Command Center where you plot out duty cycles vs. temperatures. Ultimately, this controls fan speeds. The alert thresholds menu has been overhauled and is now easier to use as well.

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One of the most significant improvements over Command Center is Dragon Center’s hardware monitor. You can choose what you want to monitor and it puts up a display of these items which is concise, easy to read, and aesthetically pleasing. There is a new gaming mode, so the Gaming App has apparently been improved and integrated into Dragon Center. This does some sort of "optimization" pass every time you launch it. What actually changes are unknown as nothing did when I reviewed clock speeds, voltages, or fan speeds. At no point did I notice a change in the display, so I’m not sure what "monitor" optimizations are done here.

Mystic Light

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Lastly, we have Mystic Light. This version is similar to what we’ve seen on the most recent MSI motherboards. It’s had some changes to make it easier to use than the first version which went to this style of menu. I found it very easy to use and unlike previous versions, it worked. You have many options for each visual effect, colors, light speeds and you can quickly select all zones or choose them individually for configuration. It also shows the effects on a graphic representation of the motherboard so you have an idea of what things are going to look like without actually looking at the motherboard itself. This is how an RGB software package should work.