In one of the coolest collaborations of the year so far, MSI and EK Water Blocks have come together to create a new Z490 motherboard, the MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X. It is armed with an EKWB CPU block with integrated RGB LEDs which also provides cooling to the power delivery, it includes a 12+1 VRM design, with two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, Realtek 2.5 G Ethernet, and an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6.

One of the most important aspects to consider when buying Intel's Comet Lake 10th generation processors is cooling. The Core i9-10900K is a hot CPU, even at stock, and with the performance gained via Intel's Thermal Velocity Boost, performance cooling is more important than it ever has. There are only a handful of Z490 models that include water blocks, and they aren't cheap. The ASRock Z490 Aqua is $1100, while the GIGABYTE Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce is $1299. This model is expected to retail for $400.

Enter the MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X, which looks to offer the benefits of custom water cooling on Intel's hot running 10th generation desktop processors, but with a much more wallet-friendly cost. Its most significant selling point is the EKWB custom monoblock which cools both the CPU and the 12+1 phase power delivery. The integrated RGB LEDs in the monoblock can be controlled with MSI's Mystic Light software. There are three full-length slots which can operate at x16/x0/x+4 or x8/x8/x+4, with two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots too.

The four memory slots can support up to DDR4-4800 with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB, while two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 and six SATA ports make up the board's storage capability. The design is based on its natural carbon inspired theme with black carbon patterning across the rear panel and sections of the monoblock, as well as the PCIe armor and chipset heatsink.

There is also a range of connectors including a USB 3.2 G2 20 Gbps Type-C, four USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel. For users looking to use Intel's UHD integrated graphics, MSI has included a DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI pair of video outputs, while a PS/2 combo caters to users with legacy peripherals. For networking the Z490 Carbon EK X is using a Realtek RTL8125B 2.5 G Ethernet controller, while an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 adds support for BT 5.1 devices. In regards to internal connectors, MSI includes a single USB 3.2 G2 Type-C header, one USB 3.2 G1 Type-A header which supports two ports, and two USB 2.0 headers which support up to four ports. 

The MSI MPG Z490 Carbon EK X has an MSRP of $400, which is very reasonable for all of the board's features, including the custom EKWB monoblock which cools the processor and power delivery components. So far this is the third Z490 model to include a monoblock by default and costs a third of what GIGABYTE are charging for its flagship Z490 Aorus Xtreme WaterForce model. It's not as high-end, but the Z490 Carbon EK X offers a more affordable entry point into the custom water cooling market with the Carbon EK X, and it looks good too.

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Source: MSI

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  • sonny73n - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    This water cooling setup looks really nice and neat.
  • close - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Sure, LEDs right? I mean if you love Christmas trees you can't not love this...
  • sonny73n - Saturday, June 6, 2020 - link

    You should pay attention to the last picture more closely. This rig has 2 separate water cooling systems but the tubing is very well managed. It will even look better with the LEDs off.
  • hopearhodes30 - Thursday, June 11, 2020 - link

    I was without work for 6 months when my former Co-worker finally recommended me to start freelancing from home… It was only after I earned $5000 in my first month when I actually believed I could do this for a living! Now I am happier than ever… I work from home and I am my own boss now like I always wanted…Everytime I see someone like that I say START FREELANCING MAN! This is where I started. W­­W­W. iⅭ­a­s­h­68­.Ⅽ­O­Ⅿ
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    The only concern I have with this sort of setup is that it makes water cooling required; which means if I suffer a hardware failure I can't just yank the block off and slap my spare 212 heatsink on to keep my system running until I can get and assemble a replacement loop because if I did so the naked VRMs would cook themselves.

    That also means it wouldn't have any future past being my main machine, because for secondary/hand me down boxes I absolutely don't want to be screwing around with a custom loop.
  • GokieKS - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Unless they completely cheap out or screw up on the VRM (which generally MB manufacturers are very good at designing these days), you'll be fine without active cooling on them for a while. At most you'd have to turn down the OC or reset it to stock (actual Intel guidelines stock, not whatever MB BIOS sets to as stock with MCE or whatever) until you replace it.
  • Spunjji - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    Agreed, but I think it's a step in the right direction for product differentiation that actually adds some sort of value without blowing out the budget.
  • Dug - Wednesday, June 3, 2020 - link

    Not a bad price considering. But I wish it had standard heatsinks for vrm's. That way if you decide not to water cool the mb, it would still be useable.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    My question is if you are not going to cool the MB with water why would you buy this in the first place? Seems like putting a automatic gearbox alongside a manual incase the driver doesnt want to use the clutch.

    If you dont want to water cool the mobo, or are on the fence, why not buy the standard carbon instead?
  • back2future - Thursday, June 4, 2020 - link

    like they named this technology "CARBON", seems a suitable usage for that element

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