MSI MEG X670E ACE Motherboard Review – Overview and IC Analysis

MSI’s MEG X670E ACE is a gaming motherboard with high-end enthusiast level features designed to take full advantage of the new AM5 platform and Ryzen-7000 series CPUs. The X670E ACE is built with PCI-E 5.0 slot support, strong CPU power delivery, and M.2 flexibility in mind. It is an enthusiast motherboard designed to deliver all around.

Video Part 1 – Unboxing and Overview

Video Part 2 – Teardown and IC Analysis

Package design is sturdy and inside the main box are two boxes; one with the motherboard and the other with accessories and the add-in-card (AIC).

Accessories are plentiful and include MSI’s x8 PCI-E Gen 5 XPander Dual AIC (two x4 PCI-E 5.0 M.2 slots), SMB cable for AIC, HDD LED extension for AIC, 16GB driver USB stick, four SATA6Gbps cables, WIFI antenna, front panel extension dongle, RGB Y-Splitter cable, addressable RGB LED extension/4-to-3 pin cable, two thermal probes, extra M.2 locks, cable and case stickers, and a quick installation guide.

The motherboard features eight fan headers that are capable of PWM or DC mode operation. The single CPU fan header is circled in red, and it has an auto-detect feature to determine its default mode. There are also two PUMP headers circled in blue; by default they operate in PWM mode. There are also four system fan headers circled in green, and those are DC mode headers, so they will work with pretty much any fan type. You can change fan mode in the UEFI or through MSI’s Windows application. As far as presentation goes, the motherboard has a sleek anodized black metal look to it and the dragon logo, the “ACE” lettering on one of the M.2 slots, and the triangle on the chipset heatsink all feature RGB illumination. The default RGB mode is a slow rainbow cycle. There is a water cooling header for a water-cooling flow meter, it is circled in purple. There are also two headers on this motherboard that can accept external temperature probes (included) that can be used to help regulate fan speed.

The motherboard has a metal back panel, and it does actually cool down the back of the PCB right below the PCI-E 5.0 M.2 slot. The backside of the VRM is cooled by its own thicker backplate, which looks much like a backplate for a water-cooling block.

The motherboard has plenty of rear panel I/O functionality. There is a clear CMOS button, flash BIOS button, SMart button (reprogrammable to be reset, turbo fan, RGB control, or safe boot), two USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) type-C ports, a USB type-C USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) port with DisplayPort capabilities, eight USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) ports, a 10Gbit LAN port, WIFI 6E antenna, and 7.1 gold plated audio with S/PDIF out.

All PCI-E slots support PCI-E 5.0 and operate (from top to bottom) at x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4. The bottom PCI-E 5.0 x16 (electrically x4) slot shares bandwidth with the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 card on the rear I/O, so you can use one or the other. There is also a PCI-E bifurcation setting available in the BIOS, The M.2 slots between the x16 PCI-E slots are all PCI-E 4.0 x4 slots supporting PCI-E/NVMe drives.

The motherboard features six SATA6Gb/s ports, but two stacked ports furthest to the left are from an ASMedia controller and do not support RAID functionality. All the M.2 slots have a latch mechanism for locking the drive in place, but only the PCI-E 5.0 one has a tool-less heatsink design.

In the upper right corner of the motherboard we find some status LEDs and a POST code display. There is also an addressable RGB LED header and four fan headers. The motherboard offers an extra PCI-E power input header to enhance motherboard power as well as the power to JUSB2 (up to 60W with the plug or 24W without), which is a USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) type-C header furthest away from the power inputs. The type-C header in-between the PCI-E power input and JUSB is a USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) header.

In the bottom right corner things start to get interesting! For starters, you get some voltage read points, a power button, and a reset button. There are four pairs of headers located immediately to the right of the power button. These headers can do things such as enable LN2 mode for booting when subzero, a slow boot header for booting when less than stable, a Smart button jumper (same thing as IO button), and a JBAT1 header (clear CMOS). There is also an addressable RGB LED header. On the right we have a picture of more headers; two USB 2.0 internal headers and two temperature sensor headers.

Further down the motherboard we find the sole RGB LED header as well as the 3rd addressable RGB LED header, a dash header (for an external MSI accessory), an LED switch, and a BIOS switch. In the image on right we find an SMBus header, which is meant to be connected to the MSI XPander Gen5 M.2 card.

The VRM heatsinks are really well done. We get a direct touch heat pipe attached to a thin fin array heatsink, and the power stages and the inductors are cooled by 7W/mK thermal pads. The back of the VRM utilizes a single piece aluminum bracket that stabilizes the VRM heatsink and also cools the backside of the PCB.

Here we have the motherboard without heatsinks. Pretty much everything on this motherboard except for a few ports are directly connected to the chipset, but the motherboard has a ton of ICs doing the work under the cover of heatsinks.

The VRM here is a beast. It is configured in a total of 22+2+1 power phases for the CPU+SOC+MISC phases. The CPU power phases are doubled. The MISC phase is all the way in the top left corner, followed by 22 phases in an L-shape for the CPU core, and then the two bottom rightmost phases are for the SoC power.

The Infineon XDPE192C3B is the digital PWM controller used on this motherboard, it is a dual output PWM. The 11 phases for the core are doubled through routing each PWM channel from the PWM controller to two fully integrated Smart Power Stages (SPS). Each CPU power stage is an Infineon OptiMOS TDA21490 SPS capable of 90A output, so you have 1980A of theoretical current capability, but obviously you wont be able to draw anywhere near half that. The miscellaneous (MISC.) VRM utilizes a single phase MaxLinear MXL7630S Point of Load (POL) integrated VRM rated for up to 30A.

The SoC VRM utilizes two phases of TDA21472 OptiMOS, which are 70A fully integrated SPS. Shifting our attention to memory power, we find a chip labeled “QZ=9B”, which is a Richtek RT8125 single phase PWM with gate drivers. We can also find some Sinopower SM4503N and SM4337 MOSFETs for a single phase memory VRM.

The Marvell AQC113 is a 10Gbit NBase-T controller capable of 10Gbit, 5Gbit, 2.5Gbit, and 1Gbit. Audio on the MEG X670E ACE is actually quite good, which is something I can’t say about all X670 boards. We find the Realtek ALC4082 USB based controller/codec supporting up to 120dB SNR output and 115dB SNR input. The Sabre ES9280AQ is used as a USB DAC with built in headphone amplifier. The motherboard also features Nippon Chemi Con audio capacitors and an isolated analog audio section on the PCB.

The AMD and MediaTek co-developed RZ616 provides up to 6GHz-band Wireless AX rated to 160MHz and Bluetooth 5.2. It is theoretically capable of speeds up to 2.4Gbps over WIFI.

On the rear IO we have a USB type-C port angled at 90 degrees and it is from an ASMedia ASM3241 located on a daughterboard and uses an ASM1541 configuration channel (CC) Logic chip. The daughterboard shares bandwidth with the 3rd PCI-E 5.0 x4 slot, if you install a card into the PCI-E x4 slot, it will disable this controller.

Here is MSI’s M.2 XPander-Z Gen 5 Dual card. It has its own clock generator on board, features two x4 PCI-E 5.0 slots and is capable of handling 25110 M.2 drives. It has an active heatsink fan, switches for both M.2 and fan LEDs, HDD LED through-jumpers (connect motherboard HDD LED to JMB1 and then connect JCASE1 to case HDD LEDs), a 6-pin PCI-E power plug, and an SMBus header. The required HDD extension cable and SMBus cable are included.

I will leave the MEG X670E ACE block diagram here because it will help explain what we are seeing further down:

MSI MEG X670E ACE Block Diagram, Manual Page 573

The motherboard has a lot of rear IO ports, and all that USB 3.2 Gen 2 and Gen 2×2 needs to be handled. Let’s get started with this alphanumeric jumble with the DIODES/Pericom PI3EQX2024, a common USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20Gbps) re-driver for the rear chipset based 20Gbps type-C port. There are three Pericom PI3EQX1004, which are USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) re-drivers for six of the rear USB 3.2 Gen2 ports. Two of those re-drivers will be for four ports from chipset A, and one will be for two ports from the CPU. Finally, we have two Pericom PI3EQX1002EZ; one from the CPU probably for the Flash BIOS port and the other from chipset B for the type-A above the 20Gbps chipset A linked type-C port. We also find an ITE IT8856 Power Delivery 3.0 (PD3) controller for USB type-C and a PI3DPX1207 DisplayPort 1.4/USB3.2Gen2 re-driver for the combo type-C/DP port on the rear IO. If you are wondering why the newer chips have the DIODES symbol on them, it is because DIODES bought Pericom, so new stuff is branded DIODES but for now retain Pericom marking codes.

We also find a Nuvoton NCT5635Y GPIO controller (one of many controllers) to handle certain motherboard management tasks (like smart button perhaps), and an Alpha and Omega AOZ1212 3A buck converter.

All those previous chips we saw for USB were for the rear IO, now lets move to the internal header hardware. The two USB 3.0/USB3.2Gen1 (5Gbps) headers are derived from a USB 3.0 hub, the ASMedia ASM1074 and an ASM1464 one lane 5Gbps USB repeater. There is also an ITE IT8856 Power Delivery 3 (PD3) controller, an ASM1543 and PI3EQX1004 for the upper USB 3.2 Gen2 type-C header, a PI3EQX2024 re-driver for the USB 3.2 Gen2x2 (20 Gbps) type-C header, and a Texas Instruments 3A buck-boost converter for what we assume are different USB power delivery modes.

We have typically seen PCI-E MUX/DeMUX combo chips in the past and then maybe some re-drivers where needed, but in this case we have something different for PCI-E 5.0 switching. We find two chips, the Texas Instruments 5PR412 and the 5PR421, both operate as re-drivers, but one type operates as a MUX and the other as as DeMUX. The diagram below displays how a typical configuration would work for these chips. In the past, we have seen a total of eight chips used for the purpose of moving around x8 PCI-E lanes and re-driving them, this chip should cut that down to four chips and reduce the foot print, but as you can see they are directional. We counted the number of chips, and there are a total of four 5PR412 and six 5PR421. It looks like they are used for simple re-driving alone in certain cases such as the x4 PCI-E 5.0 M.2 slot. They should also be handling the bandwidth sharing between the PCI-E 5.0 x4 slot and the ASM3241. There is also an ASMedia 2480B two lane PCI-E 4.0 switch, which we think might be used as control circuitry.

The MEG X670E ACE features an RC26008 external clock generator, so it is capable of unlinking PCI-E bus (async) if you want to overclock the CPU through bus speed. On the motherboard we also find two Winbond 256Mbit/32MB BIOS ROMs, and a Fintek chip F75540 that we have seen on many motherboards before, the “504AN”. It is used to provide direct USB to BIOS flash back capabilities for emergencies.

We have the main SuperIO, the nuvoton NCT6687D is used for fan control and other functions. Further down we find a nuvoton NUC1261NE is a 32-bit ARM based microcontroller we have seen used before for LEDs, a NCT7802Y specifically for hardware monitoring, and a NCT5635 GPIO (2nd on the board) possibility used to help other features like more fan control. Lastly, we find an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA6Gb/s controller that provides two extra SATA6Gbps ports on the rear IO.

The MSI MEG X670E ACE is one of the more simple yet complex motherboards in regards to IO. The features are simple and straightforward and their origin is well known, but their implementation is complex and that is part of what you pay for. Most of the IO on this motherboard comes directly from the chipsets and the CPU, and MSI decided to go all out with USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 and USB 3.2 Gen 2, PCI-E 5.0, and M.2. The overclocking features as a nice touch and hardware control and monitoring is very capable. We were also impressed with the overkill VRM and its heatsink. In regards to hardware and features, we approve of this product. Stay tuned for the second half of this review that will cover the UEFI, thermals, and performance.

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