MSI MEG X399 Creation Threadripper Motherboard Review

MSI’s MEG X399 CREATION motherboard gets put to the test like no motherboard we’ve ever reviewed to date. We beat the hell out of this motherboard on all of our test benches over the last month. We used the MEG for most all our Threadripper 2990WX and 2950X testing so we have a good handle on just how good it is.

continued...

Overclocking

I spent an unusually long amount of time overclocking the MEG X399 Creation. We really put this thing through the wringer with both Kyle and I trying to push AMD’s flagship 2990WX processor to the limit. This puts an incredible strain on the voltage hardware and electrical subsystem. When you really put the screws to the system, everything clearly gets taxed a lot harder running the 2990WX than it does with the 2950X. The MOSFET coolers would reach temperatures that sometimes exceeded 143F. Both CPUs were incredibly well behaved. There were few differences between each CPU in terms of what settings had to be manipulated to achieve the positive results. The 2990WX required me to manually adjust the SOC voltage to 1.1v where the 2950WX didn’t. Load-line calibration had to be set to maximum for the 2990WX. I didn’t have to do that for the 2950X.

As for the final results, I gathered overclocking data both manually and by using Precision Boost Overdrive. I was able to achieve a lot more manually in some cases, but it came at a high cost of power consumption and considerable heat load on both processors. Naturally, the 2990WX was worse in this regard than the more modest 2950X. Both CPUs are demanding, but the demand placed on a motherboard by the 2990WX is almost unreal.

AMD Threadripper 2950X - PBO

Article Image Article Image

With PBO enabled, I saw clocks as high as 4.3GHz on some cores. As shown in the screenshot above the processor was running at 4.25GHz. these results were better than those of my manual overclock most of the time. However, after several hours I would see the clocks drop in some cases down to 3.9GHz or so on all 16 cores and 32 threads. However, heat and power management was considerably better than it would’ve been on manual despite being able to maintain 4.2GHz seemingly indefinitely.

AMD Threadripper 2950X - Manual

Article Image Article Image Article Image

I used 1.40v when overclocking as this was necessary for stability. Kyle was able to get away with less voltage for some reason using the same CPU and RAM. I believe he saw similar results at 1.375v or 1.38v if I remember right. I needed 1.4v but we do have slightly different testing setups. I’ll let him speak to that. However, as I said earlier I had no trouble overclocking this CPU. It worked very well and impressed me with reasonable thermals and the overclocks achieved were decent for a 2950X. As you know, AMD CPU’s don’t clock extremely high.

AMD Threadripper 2990WX - PBO

Article Image Article Image

With PBO enabled, the experience was quite different than that of the 2950X. The 2950X did as good on PBO as it did manually, and in some respects it did better. The 2990WX was basically the opposite. It worked well but it ended up running at 3.7GHz or so on all cores when left to run for long periods of time. CPU temperatures were quite good, running at about 67 degrees Celsius. Given the load it was under this isn’t bad.

AMD Threadripper 2990WX - Manual

Article Image Article Image Article Image

I used 1.38v for overclocking the 2990WX. It was surprising that I could get away with less voltage than I used on the 2950X but that’s what happened. I think it’s a matter of the 2990WX simply being the best binned cores available. Generally speaking, overclocking this CPU was very easy. However, I did have to set the SOC voltage to 1.1v and set the load-line calibration to its highest level to maintain stability at these clocks. Once dialed in everything was perfectly stable and I worked better than I expected. I really didn’t expect to see anything beyond 3.8GHz at best with this many cores under full load. Temperatures reached upwards of 80c or more, but always remained stable. No throttling occurred but as you can imagine, the entire motherboard and everything on it was running extremely hot.

RAM

Normally I make a footnote about how RAM performed using the system with a given CPU. However, we had multiple modules in play here so I thought I’d talk about the experience. Another reason for this is because RAM compatibility has been rough since the introduction of DDR4 RAM with Intel’s X99 chipset. Things got much worse when AMD started really competing again. AM4 was a disaster in this regard originally and although X399 was better, it still has its issues from time to time. At first I used some G.Skill Flare X modules running at DDR4 3200MHz. These are optimized for AMD’s Ryzen and we didn’t even use a matched 32GB kit. We used dual 16GB kits with the same part numbers. I can get more out of that RAM in some cases but it wasn’t my focus here. I stuck with the DDR4 3200MHz clocks set by the XMP profiles. Voltages and timings detected properly and once the profile was chosen I was able to forget about the RAM and move on.

I had to get the G.Skill RAM back to Kyle and finished off the testing with some Corsair DDR4 3866MHz modules. These were a 32GB kit comprised of four modules. This RAM wasn’t nearly as well behaved. I had to set the voltages a little higher 1.365v to achieve system stability. Initially, the system wouldn’t POST and I had to clear the CMOS and dial in the memory voltage manually after selecting the XMP profile and configuring a memory clock speed of DDR4 3200MHz. This RAM can run faster of course, but I didn’t spend a lot of time trying that as it wasn’t our main focus. One final note; Both CPU’s behaved identically regarding memory settings and clock speeds. Stability was also identical between the two once everything was dialed in.

The Toll of Overclocking

We don’t normally talk specifically about how the hardware handled overclocking so much beyond whether or not it was capable of doing so. We do often discuss the temperature of the MOSFET coolers and this case is no different. With the 2990WX I saw temperatures of 143F on the MOSFET coolers without direct airflow on this, but this is on an open test bench. This is on the high side but honestly, this isn’t bad considering how hard that CPU can push the electrical system of your motherboard. As Kyle pointed out, this thing can draw more than 800 watts at the wall. I didn’t measure this in my specific configuration, but I can confirm that this is a beast. I have two test bench setups I run with. This is so I can test two motherboards concurrently. This gives me more time with each motherboard as I can stretch the time I have a board on the bench while I begin work on the next article.

Both setups are virtually identical save for the waterblock and the power supplies connected two them. The drives, top deck station, EXOS 2.5 cooling systems, tubing, etc. are all the same otherwise. The Threadripper system was using my old Thermaltake Toughpower 1200 watt PSU. This thing is about 10 years old now but as Paul’s article on the matter stated, this PSU is still pretty capable after so many years. That said, mine was probably used harder than the one Paul tested. Mine was in dual socket machines and power-hungry builds that ran dual GTX Titan X’s and everything else over the years. I finally decided to retire it when I built my current rig and go with a fresh Corsair 1200 watt unit which tested well at the time.

Doing lighter work, this PSU was capable of powering all the Threadripper configurations I’ve tested in the last year until the 2990WX came along. I could get to the Windows desktop and perform standard testing on subsystems and the like. However, when I began loading the CPU the system would go to a black screen and shut off completely. I’d have to cycle the PSU and power the system back on. After two or three attempts at this I realized that this wasn’t going to work and I replaced the PSU with the Corsair 1000 watt unit I had on my other bench. I may have to replace the Thermaltake Toughpower entirely as it may not hold up to serious testing anymore.

The 2950X worked fine on the Thermaltake Toughpower, but it may have well degraded the PSU to the point of failure. I am not certain, and I will have to investigate this later. In any case, the PSU is likely toast. If you buy a 2990WX, you need to make sure that your other components are up to the task. This includes your cooling system, case fans and of course, the power supply. You can’t afford to skimp with these Threadripper CPUs.

Conclusions

Dan's Thoughts:

The motherboard was the pinnacle of stability provided there wasn’t a mitigating factor creating issues such as a failing power supply or rather a power supply that couldn’t handle the load of the processor under torture conditions. All the integrated features worked very well aside from the usual nightmares that go along with configuring storage on AMD processor-based systems. If you install the OS to a given device, you can’t change the controller modes without causing issues. On Intel based motherboards, I’ve been able to install the OS to a standalone SATA drive even if the controller is in RAID mode. On the AMD side, I can’t do that on the modern chipsets. Or at least, I’ve had no luck with that. It doesn’t even detect the volumes and that’s something I’ve seen on all AM4 and TR4 motherboards.

All that aside, everything else worked perfectly and even the storage stuff would have worked fine if I simply set it up without having to change it so often to pull the numbers. If you want to go back and adjust the storage configuration down the line things get potentially problematic on this platform. This is something to keep in mind rather than something to dissuade you from going the AMD route. On the plus side, MSI has done a magnificent job with its three PCB mounted M.2 slots and its Xpander Aero card. We seen M.2 to PCIe adapter cards bundled with motherboards but nothing on this level. It’s a cool piece of hardware that seems inspired by the commercial products from HP and Dell. This gives you a total of seven M.2 slots out of the box which is incredible. The rest of the bundled accessories are well executed and is certainly a lot of things included with this motherboard but that’s the real stand out item.

So now we get to the real heart of the matter and that’s whether or not you should buy this motherboard. So far, this is the first refresh X399 motherboard I’ve tested. Usually there is a lifecycle these things and that lifecycle goes something like this: New chipsets, sockets, and CPUs come out creating a need for new motherboards. A refresh or variant CPU of some type is released a year later which uses the same old chipset or some refreshed chipset variant. A new motherboard is released that’s optimized for the new CPU. However, the first-generation motherboards should support the new CPU with a UEFI update. The cycle is not any different, however, some motherboard manufacturers have chosen to update their designs with their offerings for new Threadripper CPU’s while others haven’t.

The MSI MEG X399 Creation needs to be placed in the proper context. I'm not talking about how it isn't necessarily a gaming part as other HEDT motherboards fall into the same category. I’m talking about how this motherboard compares to other X399 motherboards both past and present. Comparing this motherboard to the others in the proper context is crucial considering how demanding the latest Threadripper CPUs can be. The 2950X should be good to go on any X399 motherboard with a BIOS update. However, the 2990WX is a beast without equal. When you’ve got a processor that’s causing the system to pull over 800 watts at the wall in a relatively simple configuration that's cause for some concern about the longevity of a motherboard and its VRM design is one of the biggest contributors of that.

I spent a lot of time overclocking different CPUs on the MSI MEG X399 Creation. I also spent a lot of time testing the expansive and frankly exhausting list of features. After all of the work that’s gone into working with this motherboard I’m confident in saying that MSI has a real winner on their hands. The MSI MEG X399 Creation is easily one of, if not the best X399 motherboards available today and quite possibly one of the best motherboards MSI has ever produced. I know it's expensive. Then again, $500 doesn’t seem all that unreasonable when it’s being paired with a $1700 CPU. The MSI MEG X399 Creation isn’t a value level offering by any means but it is one of the best possible options for a Threadripper based system. You owe it to yourself and your CPU to give the MEG X399 Creation a serious look if your in the market for a shiny new AMD HEDT CPU.

Kyle's Thoughts:

We have been holding off a bit on this review till I got a wider range of experience with these new X399 motherboards, namely the MSI MEG X399 Creation being reviewed here, the Gigabyte Aorus X399 Xtreme, and the ASUS ROG Zenith Extreme, which happens to have been on the market for a year now and was a "lead board" when the Threadripper launched last year.

First and foremost, if you are going to be overclocking a 2990WX, you are going to be likely be best off using AMD's Precision Boost Overdrive. As much as I have tried, I still have not been able to get our 2990WX overclocked to 4.0GHz across all cores and be "bulletproof" in terms of stability. Our usual bullet proof is multiple hours of Prime95 FFTs. Running this 2990WX at 4GHz across all cores in Prime95 will ramp the CPU package power up to about 500W, with it sometimes pulling over 1000 watts full system power at the wall. Interestingly , we have found that our Seasonic 1000W Prime Ultra would have issues with this load under Prime95 and Gooseberry. We would start the test and the system would shut down due to the PSU's Short Circuit Protection (SCP) kicking in, but we are still researching what exactly is going on as it could have something to do with OverCurrent Protection (OCP) as well. We had to move to a Thermaltake 1250W PSU to remedy this cutoff issue. (We are also adding 50% and 100% loads to our Transient Load Testing we do in our PSU reviews to address this and study it more.) We have never seen a load like this put on any of our PSUs in the past that loaded those so quickly. The easy way to think about it is that the PSU thinks there is something wrong with your system and turns itself off. This long workload with our full XSPC cooling system, would result in our system becoming heat saturated and seeing coolant temps in the upper 90F/32C range. With the 2990WX and Precision Boost Overdrive, things stay in a much more manageable range, but you do not get the clocks you would get with successful hand overclocking. WIth 2990WX PBO we would see CPU package power spikes around the 500W mark with "only" pulling a peak ~800W at the wall. With a heat-soaked system we were seeing 2990WX clocks hover tightly around the 3.7GHz mark.

Even with a fan blowing directly on our VRM heatsinks we were seeing the surface of the heatsink getting up to a little over 100F/38C and the components down on the board that we can get a thermometer on at about 135F/58C. Quite frankly, those are much lower temperatures than we anticipated and a testament to MSI's power design and cooling execution on the MEG.

Talking about the 2950X overclocking, you just simply do not run into these issues as you are not dealing with the same power levels due to having two less dies and less Infinity Fabric to power. I was able to lock in our 2950X at 4.2GHz with 1.376v vCore selected in the UEFI, which equated to an actual vCore more around 1.368v, but this is dynamic so you will see it fluctuate. CPU LLC set to Low. Even under full Prime95 loads for hours, our heatsinks were only showing 90F/32C on the surface and 125F/52C for power components we could measure down on the board. All in all, the MEG's power supply design easily handles the overclocked 2950X, which of course is a great thing.

To achieve a bulletproof 4.2GHz with the 2950X you are very likely going to need a hefty water cooling system however. An AIO might get you there for shorter workloads that are full-threaded, but those systems are going to heat-load quite quickly, and not be able to handle the heat produced. We are using a full XSPC rig that and consists of a XSPC Raystorm Neo Water Block, RX480 V3 Radiator, and D5 Photon Reservoir/Pump Combo V2. Even with this cooling system, you can see one of our die temperatures reaching ~82C. In the screenshot below, you will also see the package power at 325W with Prime. Don't think that is far from realistic either. Our Gooseberry render with Blender has pushed just as much power using the 2950X and PBO, so reaching 325W package power and pulling over 500W at the wall, is very doable with real-world app usage if you are loading up all the threads.

Article Image

Setting up Precision Boost Overdrive on the MEG X399 Creation will take a bit of work in the UEFI. The values that you need to adjust in Ryzen Master are not exposed unless you do this. The Precision Boost Overdrive setting is hidden in the Processor Features menu. From there you will need to go in and set whatever PPT, TDC, and EDC levels you want. I mention this because this is not the same on all motherboards we have tested. On the Gigabyte X399 Aorus Xtreme, those PBO levels are already exposed in Ryzen Master.

SoC Power ("PPT Limit"): measured in watts, the amount of power the CPU can draw before boost levels off

VRM Current ("TDC Limit"): measured in amps, the amount of current we let the motherboard deliver to the CPU before boost levels off

CPU Electrical Design Current (EDC) as a % of board capacity

The MEG will allow you to set all these PBO variables at "1000." We found with the 2950X, we could set all these variables at the 1000 mark and run PBO with great success. So basically we are allowing PBO to do the max of whatever it will allow the CPU to do in terms of clocks. The 2990WX is not as forgiving. Setting the 2990WX at max PBO values will give you a system that will break quickly under load. We found that reeling these in to 500/500/500 netted us solid and unbreakable PBO results. Pushing to 550/550/550 would break the system. That successful setting was used for the PBO data you saw on the previous pages. PBO could probably use a bit of work in terms of tuning for the 2990WX in terms of just working automatically, because you can still use PBO and power and temp can still get out of hand. In a way this is a testament to the MEG X399 Creation in that it actually has enough power to push the boundaries of what PBO was probably tested at during development.

The Bottom Line

The MSI MEG X399 Creation is likely one of the finest motherboards we have ever worked with. It certainly leaves us feeling it was "overbuilt," which is a good thing. However, do not expect to throw this motherboard into a poorly ventilated case with just average cooling and expect to see the results we have shown you here. Keep in mind that we have seen 800 watts being pulled at the wall, with the GPU at idle! All that heat has to go somewhere, and if you are not specifically addressing this, you are setting yourself up for failure. We would very much suggest that the motherboard power components have a direct airflow source and exhausting all that heat is going to be a requirement if you are looking at overclocking or using Precision Boost Overdrive with your processor.

$500 for a motherboard is a lot of money, and after coming away from abusing the MEG X399 Creation for a month, it is worth every dollar. We would suggest it holds value on its power design alone. However the MEG is chock full of features that are fairly exciting as well. The fact that you have the ability to lay down seven M.2 drives on this single board, with the use of the included "Xpander-Aero" card certainly adds to the overall value when and if you decide to use it. I can very well see the MSI MEG X399 Creation making into some of our personal builds around here very soon.

I would also suggest going back and reading our Threadripper 2950X Overclocking article. We used the MEG X399 Creation for all the testing in that review, and we also do address air cooling the 2950X there. It is doable, but do not expect the same results that you would get using a custom water cooling loop.

If you like our content, please support HardOCP on Patreon.

Article Image

MSI MEG X399 Creation Threadripper Motherboard

Discussion