We wouldn't usually talk about a microATX motherboard as being miniature-sized. Yet, in the world of high-end desktops, that form factor is positively petite. It's difficult enough to cram all the hardware for a standard desktop mobo into a smaller size. When the intended CPUs have quad-channel memory and a plethora of PCIe connectivity, things can get trickier still. MSI is up to the challenge, though: bear witness to the new X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC.
In case it wasn't obvious, this is a microATX motherboard presenting an LGA 2066 socket for Intel's Core-X family of CPUs. Due to its size, the mobo skips a few expansion slots and has half the RAM slots we usually find on that platform. You can still pack on 64GB of memory, though, and given the fact that multi-GPU gaming with over two cards is all but dead, the board should still have the slots to easily satisfy most gamers.
Seeing as it's a part of MSI's Performance Gaming family, this board is packed with pretty lights and a Mystic Light LED header. Overclockers will enjoy the back-panel CMOS clear button and multi-BIOS switch, as well as the BIOS Flashback feature that lets you re-flash the board without a CPU installed. There's also a dedicated header for water-cooling pumps.
Builders basing their rigs on the X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC can take advantage of the board's eight SATA, dual M.2 sockets, and the pair of Intel-powered gigabit Ethernet ports. An Intel controller also powers the included 802.11ac Wi-Fi-plus-Bluetooth module that comes pre-installed in its own slot. External devices can connect to one of the three ASMedia-based USB 3.1 ports or to one of the six chipset-provided USB 3.0 connectors.
Despite the presence of a X299 chipset, MSI says the board doesn't support the Kaby Lake-X Core i7-7740X and Core i5-7640X CPUs. We reckon gamers will do just fine with one of Intel's Skylake-X CPUs, though. If this seems like the perfect motherboard for your new rig, keep an eye out. The MSI X299M Gaming Pro Carbon AC has yet to appear at e-tail, but it should pop up at any moment now.