MSI MPG X570S Carbon EK X review: A motherboard for water-cooling enthusiasts

At a glance

Expert’s Rating

Pros

  • Included monoblock makes for an unique build for the right water cooling enthusiast
  • Both variants include a robust feature set, such as four M.2 slots, PCIe Gen 4, and good networking
  • Attractive design and RGB, especially on the EKWB monoblock
  • Updated X570S with no chipset fan, and mature BIOS

Cons

  • Carbon EK X is more expensive than typical X570 motherboards
  • Requires a custom loop to work 
  • Could have additional 1Gbe LAN included
  • No major performance advantage over cheaper X570S MSI Carbon Max motherboard

Our Verdict

The MSI MPG X570S Carbon EK X takes aim at a niche segment of water-cooling enthusiasts, offering features and style for a relatively affordable price.

Best Prices Today: MSI MPG X570S Carbon EK X

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AMD’s AM4 Ryzen platform has enjoyed a long, prosperous life. The X570 family represents the best that the platform has to offer, and with the refresh of X570 “S” variants, the platform still has plenty of relevance. 

The MSI X570S Carbon EK X is a special motherboard—as you’ll be able to tell at first glance. It’s nearly identical to the regular MSI X570S Carbon Max, but adds a water-cooled monoblock from EKWB in place of traditional VRM heatsinks. Coming in at $499 to $549, the EK X variant asks a hefty premium over the $319-$339 air-cooled Carbon Max. (The majority of that cost being the monoblock itself.)

We’ll discuss the features, specs, best CPUs to pair, and who this motherboard is for. Will performance or simply aesthetics play a role in deciding if this is a viable option for you? Let’s find out!

MSI X570S Carbon EK X: The specs

The elephant in the room is the massive EKWB monoblock that comes included. This will cool both your CPU and VRM areas, requiring a custom loop to function. 

MSI X570S Carbon EK X EBWB Monoblock

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

If you’re not the water-cooling type, the MSI Carbon Max uses more traditional cooling methods. Here’s what else you can expect from the MSI X570S Carbon EK X:

  • ATX form factor (12×9.6 inches) 
  • Included EKWB monoblock and EKWB leak tester 
  • No chipset fan (in either X570S models) 
  • Support for AMD Ryzen 2000, 3000, and 5000 CPUs 
  • 14+2 phase digital VRM
  • DDR4 support
  • PCIe Gen 4 (on Ryzen 3000 and 5000 CPUs) 
  • 4 M.2 slots
  • 10 USB ports on back, including USB C Gen 2  
  • Intel Wi-Fi 6E AX210
  • Realtek 2.5Gbe LAN
  • 3- and 4-pin RGB headers, plus Corsair-specific header 
  • 8 SATA 6GB/s ports 
  • Integrated I/O shield 
  • USB Gen 2 3.2 
  • Clear CMOS and BIOS flashback
  • Realtek ALC4080 codec
MSI X570S Carbon EK X I/O shield
An integrated I/O shield is always welcome.

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

MSI X570S Carbon EK X EKWB Leak Tester
The included leak tester will help you check for leaks in your liquid-cooling loop.

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

MSI X570S Carbon EK X: Unique features

The X570S MSI Carbon EK X and its Carbon Max counterpart are very capable motherboards with a rich feature set. Your choice is simple: 

If you’re planning a custom water-cooled loop, the EK X variant is likely worth the extra cost as it includes the awesome monoblock. Otherwise, the Carbon Max will give you 99 percent of the experience with traditionally cooled builds for a nice price savings. 

In the box you’ll get some nice included accessories too, such as the EK leak tester, USB drive with drivers, small screwdrivers, and the usual cabling assortment. 

Positive features: 

  1. EKWB partnership includes a beautiful waterblock, and EK leak tester
  2. Networking: 2.5Gbe LAN and Intel Wi-Fi 6E provide solid connectivity
  3. Three M.2 slots with cooling shields
  4. Capable power stages and cooling on both EK X and regular variants
  5. PCIe Gen 4 for M.2 and GPU slots with newer Ryzen CPUs
  6. DDR4 is stable and widely available at great pricing 
  7. Supports a large number of modern AMD CPUs, including the new 5800X3D
  8. Clear CMOS and BIOS flashback are great tools to have 
  9. Plenty of modern USB connectivity 
  10. Attractive design, especially the EK X monoblock variant 
  11. Both variants remove the chipset fan 

Downsides:

  1. The Carbon EK X is not for everyone—extra cost and complexity target solely the water-cooling enthusiast 
  2. Installation of the monoblock can be tricky for builders new to these type of motherboards
  3. Not much real-world performance difference between the more expensive Carbon EK X and the cheaper Carbon Max 
  4. Lacking 10Gbe LAN and a second 1Gbe port 
  5. Support will end with Ryzen 5000, plus no DDR5 means limited future proofing
MSI MPG X570S Carbon EK X
MSI’s Shield Frozr heatsink cools the M.2 slots.

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

MSI X570S Carbon EK X: Design

The Carbon EK X has a stunning design with its massive monoblock and attractive carbon-inspired look. The monoblock itself lights up with RGB, and tasteful RGB accents also adorn the motherboard itself. 

The monoblock also includes a spinning flow meter, letting you know that liquid is pumping through. 

Functional motherboard plating and covers add to the design while keeping M.2 drives cool underneath. 

MSI X570S Carbon EK X

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

The MSI X570S Carbon Max variant looks strikingly similar, with some RGB lettering on the bottom saying “Carbon” instead of “Carbon EK X” to differentiate the models. Without the monoblock, it still has a nicely designed VRM cooling area.

MSI X570S Carbon Max
The MSI X570S Carbon Max

MSI

MSI X570S Carbon EK X: Performance and BIOS

Both motherboard variants can easily handle even the mighty Ryzen 9 5950X in both CPU and VRM temperatures. It’s easily at home with any other Ryzen CPU, naturally, though we recommend sticking with Ryzen 5000 offerings to take full advantage of the features and cooling available here. 

While the monoblock will typically provide better cooling and cover the VRM area, real-world differences are miniscule between this and the Carbon Max. For this reason, the primary draw for using a monoblock-equipped motherboard is for the unique aesthetics it provides, and as the backbone of a larger custom loop which would include your GPU (where you’ll typically find the greatest temperature improvements). 

The MSI BIOS is straightforward to use, having a simple and advanced mode. Here you’ll have plenty of CPU tweaking options, along with fan controls and BIOS update options. 

MSI has also introduced new software called the “MSI Center,” which aims to integrate RGB, fan, and other system control. Your mileage may vary with such software; the interface can be a bit clunky and buggy. (But it does provide some system critical control that’s otherwise only available in the BIOS.)

 X570S MSI Carbon EK X BIOS

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

MSI X570S Carbon EK X: Bottom line

The X570s MSI Carbon EK X is the perfect motherboard for the intended niche, enthusiast builder. It’s expensive for an X570 offering, but is still one of the more affordable “water-cooling” focused motherboards on the market, making it a good value for someone doing a custom loop. 

Compare it to the Asus Z690 Extreme Glacial pictured below, for example, which can cost as much as $2,000—that makes the $499 price tag of the MSI Carbon EK X a relative bargain. 

Asus Z690 Extreme Glacial
Asus’s monoblock motherboard, the Z690 Glacial, is $2,000, making the Carbon EK X seem like a bargain.

Thiago Trevisan / Foundry

Admittedly, the Carbon EK X’s target audience is small, so most builders will be better served by the Carbon Max variant, which is cheaper and performs similarly.

That being said, while the monoblock variant does not have much competitive in its price range, the regular Carbon Max goes up against other very capable options in the segment—such as the X570 Gigabyte Aorus Master, and Asus X570 ROG Crosshair VIII Hero

If you’re that special enthusiast that must have every ounce of aesthetics, performance, and fun-to-tinker-with features, the Carbon EK X is still a very unique motherboard that has little competition in this space. Just remember to keep that EK leak tester handy, and have fun building!

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