MSI MEG Z490 Godlike Review: Godlike Indeed

MSI has a lot of motherboards in different price categories. Among its range, the Godlike series sits at the top with premium features along with a luxurious price. As the most powerful and feature-packed motherboard from MSI, will the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike be able to justify its deluxe price tag?

MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

CPU Support Intel 10th Generation Processors, LGA 1200
Chipset Intel Z490
VRM 16+1+1 Virtual Phases, ISL69269 PWM Controller
Memory 4 DIMM Slots, up to 5000MHz, up to 128GB, Dual Channel
PCIe Slots 3x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x1
Multi-GPU Support NVIDIA SLI, AMD CrossFIreX
Storage 3x M.2 Slots PCIe 3.0 x4, 6x SATA III
Audio ESS E9018 Sabre, Realtek ALC1220
Networking Aquantia AQC107 10G, RealTek RTL8125B 2.5G, Intel AX201, WiFI 802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.1
Internal Headers 1x USB 3.2 Gen2 USB Type-C, 2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0, 1x TPM-Header
Cooling Headers 1x 4-pin CPU, 8x 4-Pin Fan, 1x 4-Pin AIO Pump, 2x Thermal Sensor
RGB Headers 1x 4-Pin RGB, 2x 3-Pin RGB, 1x Corsair RGB
Rear I/O 2x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, 4x USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A, 2x USB 2.0, 2x Thunderbolt 3 Type-C, 2.5Gb LAN, 10Gb LAN, WiFi and Bluetooth Antenna Headers, 1x PS/2 Combo Port, 5x 3.5mm Audio Jack, 1x Optical S/PDIF
Form Factor E-ATX

Comet Lake-S

Simply put, Intel’s Comet Lake-S is its 5th iteration of the Skylake architecture, which basically means that it’s 14nm++++. Despite the rather stagnant 14nm node, they have made strides to improve the process in order to pump out more performance, provide additional security, and higher core counts.

Intel is offering quite a few processors under the Comet Lake-S name. From 10-core, 20-thread high-end offerings like the i9-10900K to modest processors like the Celeron range. On the top-end of the scale, Intel is offering different frequencies to their SKUs:

  • Base Frequency – Minimum frequency that the CPU will run at if not at thermal limits.
  • Turbo Boost 2.0 – Highest frequency that the CPU will run at below power limits.
  • Turbo Boost Max 3.0 – Initially available in HEDT processors, Turbo Boost Max 3.0 recognizes the four most performing cores and ups their clocks to 5.1GHz or to 5.2GHz in single- or dual-core instances.

The latest technology for Intel’s search for higher clocks is Velocity Boost. This affects both single and all-core turbo speeds under specific conditions. An additional 100MHz will be added to its clock speeds so long as the temperature stays below the limit of 70°C. Motherboard manufacturers, however, are allowed to bypass the set thermal limits. This allows the processor, paired with an appropriate motherboard, to reach higher clocks even when the temperature is higher than the 70°C recommended maximum.

Intel’s latest processors will also have a thinner die. This enables better heat transfer from the die to the IHS. With all the cores inside the chip, any bit of added efficiency in cooling is a welcome addition.

LGA 1200 and the Z490 Platform

Intel is moving away from LGA 1151 and is now using LGA 1200 socket on Comet Lake-S processors. This means that they will now require a new platform. At the time of this review, the only boards shipping that can house the Intel 10th generation CPUs are motherboards with the Z490 chipset.

Comet Lake-S processors will strictly be PCIe 3.0-compatible processors, which is quite a step down from PCIe 4.0 compatibility that the other team has. The Z490 platform, however, is PCIe 4.0 compatible. There is a caveat, however, current motherboards don’t support PCIe 4.0 yet although some boards have been future-proofed for PCIe 4.0 usability. This means that future processors from Intel on the Z490 chipset will fully support the next generation PCIe standard.

Intel is also pushing their new I225-V controller, which promises 2.5Gb Ethernet although it’s up to their partners if they are going to implement it on their motherboards. Of course, WiFI 6 (802.11ax) will be supported by the chipset in order to deliver the fastest wireless speeds possible at this time.

As for data connectivity, the Z490 chipset will now have support for up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, up to 10 USB 3.2 Gen1 connections, as well as six SATA III ports for SATA-based SSDs and HDDs. Higher end boards can also be fitted with USB 3.2 Gen2 2×2 ports, but that’s up to the board maker if they will put it into their boards.

Unboxing

The MSI MEG Z490 Godlike is encased in a quite premium box with a flap that reveals some of its key features as well as an MSI badge for you to keep. Opening the box reveals a complete set of accessories as well as an MSI M.2 Xpander-Z Gen4 card.

The MSI M.2 Xpander-Z Gen4 S card uses one of the PCIe 3.0 x16 slots on the motherboard to add two more PCIe 4.0 M.2 NVMe slots to your storage options. Removing the top cover of the expansion cards reveals mounts for two drives with thermal pads in order to draw heat from the drives. If that’s not enough, there is also a small fan to further cool the installed drives.

Weirdly enough, it uses the PCIe 4.0 even though as of this time, the Z490 chipset only officially supports PCIe 3.0. This leads us to believe that the card will be future-proof when the time comes when Intel supplies the mainstream market with next generation motherboards.

Also inside the box are the standard set of documentation, MSI’s product catalogue, and a quick installation guide. Surprisingly, there’s also a fully colored guide for the motherboard’s connection which is helpful for both first time and experienced builders.

The MEG Z490 Godlike has quite the assortment of cables and accessories, which are a step above on most motherboards in the market. It comes with three RGB cables, (Corsair, Rainbow RGB Extension, Y RGB Extention), six braided SATA III cables (three of which are angled), two thermistor cables, and labels for the cables.

The board also comes with its own WiFi antenna to boost the onboard WiFi signal and a USB flash drive. The flash drive can be presumably used for BIOS updates or just a general storage option.

Up close with the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike

In terms of design, the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike comes with a primarily metal design with two colors: black and a bluish tint on some of the panels. The board hides all the circuitry in a suit of armor which leads to an additional hint of superiority over lesser motherboards.

The top half of the Godlike is rife with high-end features that would make any PC builder grin with enthusiasm. It comes with an 8+8 CPU power connector at the top with 16+1+1 virtual phases powered by an ISL69269 PWM Controller.

Due to the higher overclocking potential of the Godlike, MSI is implementing thick heatsinks for all the VRMs with a heatpipe that distributes the heat in order to prevent concentration. In addition, two small fans will kick in whenever they reach 60°C much like with their graphics cards.

Its four DIMM slots are all reinforced with steel in order to add to rigidity and overall quality. The MSI MEG Z490 Godlike officially supports up to 5000MHz RAM if you’re only going to use two slots for dual-channel RAM. The board does support more dual-channel RAM, but populating all the slots will support only up to 4400MHz which is still pretty impressive.

The MSI MEG Z490 Godlike has quite a lot of options when it comes to external cooling. A total of 9 4-pin fans are littered across the board accompanied by a single 4-pin AiO pump connector as well as two thermals sensor ports where you can connect the aforementioned thermistor cables.

Internal USB connections come aplenty in the Godlike. There’s a single header for USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C, two headers for USB 3.1 Gen1 which can support up to four ports, as well as two USB 2.0 headers which can populate another four USB ports.

The board wouldn’t be considered a flagship if it did not support RGB lighting. As such, it comes with one 4-pin RGB header for 5050 LED lights, two 3-pin RGB headers, and a single Corsair RGB header. The MSI Dragon on the I/O shield and the Godlike logo on the PCH are also RGB-compatible allowing for a full lighting design of your choosing.

Besides the RGB support, MSI takes another step to more customizability by adding an OLED screen near DIMM slots. It can be customized via the MSI Dragon Center but by default, it displays Lucky the Dragon and acts as its Q-Code reader for quick diagnosis. If the codes produced by the screen is a bit cryptic, there are also tiny LED lights for the GPU, RAM, and CPU to let you know if there are any problems.

Its rear I/O comes with a pre-built shield, which removes the possibility of forgetting the shield after you have built your rig. Like its internal headers, the I/O has plenty of options for expandability. It comes with two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports, four USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, two USB 2.0 ports, five 3.5mm audio jacks, an Optical S/PDIF-Out, two Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C connections, 2.5Gb and 10Gb LAN, as well as WiFi (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.1 antenna connectors. The rear I/O also has a Clear CMOS button, a Flash BIOS Button, and for overclockers and keyboard purists, a PS/2 port for mouse and keyboard.

The southern half of the Godlike comes with a bountiful selection of PCIe expansion options. You have access to three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that supports x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4 modes allowing for multi-GPU solutions depending on your graphics card. At the bottom is a sole PCIe 3.0 x1 slot for smaller add-in cards.

Removing the bottom armor reveals the board’s M.2 slots. All three are running at PCIe 3.0 x4 for maximum performance that the chipset can muster. The first two also share bandwidth with the six SATA ports found at the right-hand side, which means that some of the SATA ports will be disabled if you use the top two slots.

System and Benchmarks

It is time to stop gushing about the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike’s high-end features and start putting it to the test. Although it’s safe to assume that this kind of motherboard will be paired with a flagship like the Intel Core i9-10900K, limited availability of the processor forced us to instead use a non-K Intel Core i7-10700. Special shoutout to MSI for lending us their MAG CoreLiquid 360R ARGB AIO for cooling.

Test Bed
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-10700
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 Founders Edition
  • RAM: Team Group T-Force Vulcan Z 2x 8GB DDR4-3200
  • Motherboard: MSI MEG Z490 Godlike
  • PSU: EVGA 650 GQ Gold 650W
  • Cooler: MSI MAG CoreLiquid 360R ARGB AIO
  • OS: Windows 10 Build 1909
  • GPU Driver: NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready Driver 451.67 WHQL
Synthetic Benchmarks
CPU-Z 1.80

CPU-Z is a freeware that gathers information on some of the main devices of your system such as processor name and number, codename, process package, cache levels, mainboard and chipset, as well as memory type, size, timings, and module specifications. It also offers real time measurement of each core’s internal frequency and memory frequency.”

Cinebench R15

Cinebench R15 CPU test scenario uses all of your system’s processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene. This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores. In fact, CINEBENCH can measure systems with up to 256 processor threads.This test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects which in turn contain more than 300,000 polygons in total, and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights, shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is displayed in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.”

7-Zip 16.04

7-Zip is a file archiver with a high compression ratio for ZIP and GZIP formats, which is between 2 to 10% better than its peers, depending on the exact data tested. And 7-Zip boosts its very own 7z archive format that also offers a significantly higher compression ratio than its peers—up to 40% higher.”

wPrime v2.10

wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton’s method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we’re searching, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.”

3DMark Fire Strike

Designed to showcase the DirectX 11 API, the Futuremark 3DMark Firestrike became a standard in benchmarking as it not only tests the capabilities of the GPU, but also the capabilities of the whole system for a complete stress test.”

3DMark Time Spy

With its pure DirectX 12 engine, built from the ground up to support new API features like asynchronous compute, explicit multi-adapter, and multi-threading, Time Spy is the ideal benchmark for testing the DirectX 12 performance of modern graphics cards.

Gaming Benchmarks

Just like with the Intel Core i9-10900K, the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike allowed the Intel Core i7-10700 to perform to its utmost speed in order to deliver consistent framerates. It’s unfortunate that we received that a non-K processor for this review.

Given the better cooling and high-end features that the motherboard has, we expect that it can overclock compatible processors to their limit. Hopefully, we can revisit this motherboard in the future with a better processor to see what it can achieve in terms of overclocking.

Conclusion

Priced at USD 740 or at around PhP 36,000 in the Philippines, the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike does have an incredibly steep asking price. That price tag, however, gets you an arrangement of high-end features such as a beefy power delivery setup, support for high-speed RAM, and a wide array of expandability options for storage and cooling.

Faster networking speeds have also been implemented on the Godlike allowing enthusiasts access to 2.5Gbps and 10Gbps wired connections as well as support for 802.11ax. Expansive RGB customizability will always be a requirement at its price point and in that aspect the board delivers.

One of the real downsides of the board is inherent to the Z490 platform. As you might know, Z490 only officially supports PCIe 3.0 at this time. With the Red Team already looking ahead and implementing PCIe 4.0 on their boards, this puts Z490 in a slight disadvantageous position for consumers.

Realistically, however, PCIe 3.0 has barely been saturated by modern GPUs. M.2 drives, however, have started to take advantage of the latest PCIe standard allowing for more options for storage. At this time, PCIe 3.0 will still be relevant for the foreseeable future.

But where does this put the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike? In our point of view, all of its features are not invalidated by a relatively older PCIe standard. With an assortment of high-end and exotic features, the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike is definitely one of the leading motherboards in the market at the time of this review. If you manage to scrounge up the cash for a high-end Comet Lake-S build, then the Godlike should definitely be one of the motherboards you should consider.