Motherboard Layout & PCB Features Continued

Power Delivery

The MSI MEG X570 Unify is built using a 6 layer PCB. MSI naturally says this is a “server-grade PCB” which is somewhat misleading. Many server boards have 8+ PCB layers, but X570 motherboards are made from different materials and comparing different boards by layer count alone isn’t really all that useful. You can have good 6 layer boards and bad 10 layer boards.

The MSI MEG X570 Unify’s VRM design consists of a 12+2 phase power delivery system. It features a IR35201 voltage controller, which tells us that this is actually a 6+2 native phase design utilizing doublers as this controller is incapable of going beyond a 6+2 phase configuration. The extra 2 phases are for SOC voltage. The VRM uses six IR3599 phase doublers from International Rectifier. Essentially, what you need to know is that this design is common, albeit older.

It’s the same VRM design found on the MSI MEG X570 ACE motherboard and it works just fine. It isn’t as high end as some other options, but it is more than capable of handling AMD’s Ryzen 9 3950X. The design features Dr. MOS, IR3555 MOSFETs and Titanium chokes. The power stages are 60A, and while the design isn’t groundbreaking in any way, it’s extremely capable.

The motherboard features dual 8-pin power connectors for the CPU, which is actually overkill, as each supports some 380w by themselves. On something like an Intel Core i9 10980XE, you can make a case for this, but on a 3950X you just don’t need this much power. However, MSI does actually use this extra power for the PCIe slots and avoids having to use a separate Molex or SATA power connector for PCIe x16 slots in multi-GPU configurations.

Memory Support

The MSI MEG X570 Unify supports up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM at speeds in excess of 3600MHz. Naturally, it supports dual channel memory mode operation. The slots aren’t color-coded but are marked adequately on the PCB to denote the proper configuration. A single power phase is used for the DIMM slots, which isn’t surprising. Also, the memory slots use two locking tabs instead of the single-sided variety I prefer. However, there are no clearance issues with the PCIe expansion slots, so that’s not an issue here.

MSI doesn’t really talk about their memory topology in their specifications, but claims exceptional memory compatibility and overclocking upwards of 5,000MHz. Unfortunately, I don’t have modules that will run that fast to put that to the test or I would. Like most X570 motherboards it uses a daisy chain memory topology. Effectively, the trade-off is that while it doesn’t allow four modules to clock as well, it does allow two DIMM configurations to clock higher. The truth is, you only need to be able to get to about 3800MHz. Speeds beyond this mean having to run ratios between FCLK and Memclock.

Expansion

The motherboard has three M.2 SSD slots. Two of which support both NVMe and SATA type devices and drives as long as 80mm. The other slot doesn’t support SATA type devices but does support drives as long as 110mm. The MSI MEG X570 Unify supports 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports. It also supports RAID 0, 1, and 10. The M.2 slots are all sandwiched in between each of the standard PCI-Express expansion slots.

The M.2 SSD slots also feature MSI’s Frozr heat sink design, which is marketing speak for M.2 heat sinks. These slots have aluminum covers which double as heat sinks. A thermal pad is attached to the bottom of each of these covers. These feature the same blacked-out aesthetic that MSI employed everywhere else on the motherboard.

As I stated earlier, the chipset is cooled via an active heat sink. That is to say that the heat sink has an embedded fan in it. MSI calls the chipset cooler its “Zero Frozr” cooler. The truth is, this is nothing special. Like all X570 motherboards with active chipset cooling, the fan doesn’t actually come on until the chipset is under heavy load. On the test bench, the chipset fan never activates and hasn’t on any X570 motherboard I’ve tested.

The expansion slot area is well designed. You have each of the PCIe 4.0 slots spaced apart in a way that allows sufficient room for dual GPU configurations. While 3-Way Crossfire is possible here, the last slot isn’t ideal for it. Your case would have to allow a double slot card to hang over the PCB. In between the first two PCIe slots you’ll also find some PCIe x1 slots. The expansion slots support a x16/0, x8/x8, or x8/x8/x4 modes.

The expansion slots features what MSI calls it’s PCIe Steel Armor. This is a steel reinforcement to prevent plate bending and damage from sheering. The slots also have paddle style retention tabs. These are generally easy to use even in crowded configurations. You will note the chipset fan on board as well.

Back Panel I/O

The back panel features a built-in I/O shield. This is an example of the trickle-down effect as this was a feature that was limited to high-end motherboards not too long ago. The I/O shield here is very well laid out and it is marked extremely well. You can tell what everything is used for and it makes hooking things up very easy. On the back panel, we have a clear CMOS button, BIOS flash button, a combination PS/2 keyboard or mouse port. Wireless antenna connections, 7x USB ports. These are a mixture of USB 2.0 and Gen 1 and 2 USB 3.2 ports. There is also a single USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port. Naturally, there is an RJ-45 port and 5x mini-stereo jacks for audio. Lastly, there is an optical out port as well.

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28 Comments

  1. On Page 2, where you take a shot of the mobo layout – it appears you still have the protective sticker on the chipset HSF (“Play Hard, Stay Silent”). Was that intentional, or is that not a sticker and part of the intended aesthetic of the motherboard?

    1. No, it wasn’t intentional. It was something I realized at the end of the review process and didn’t have time to go back and reshoot the photo. Even if I had, it might not have matched the others in terms of lighting. I didn’t want to redo all the board shots as a result of my own OCD.
  2. @Brian_B That is a sticker that is there that you need to take off before use.

    And isn’t this one of the MSI boards reported to have poor overclocking because of the VRM configuration running hot?

  3. Also, I left a comment via the Leave A Reply block in the article. I had expected it to link back to this thread, but it doesn’t appear to have. Was that intended to link back to this discussion forum, or is it it’s own thread/discussion separate from the forum?

    I’m cool either way, just didn’t know what the expectation was. Just to clarify, I am logged into the WP front end, the comment does show as coming from my account, so it wasn’t that I was not logged in.

    Bloody buggy integration. It un-configured itself for no apparent reason. If I’ve fixed it, then this comment will show up both in the forums and on the article page. Not sure we can sync back the missing ones – sorry about that!

  4. I’d love to review the MSI TRX40 Pro 10G. Unfortunately, AMD never sent us a Threadripper CPU. We buy stuff as we need it, but sadly, Threadripper’s price point makes it cost prohibitive for us at this time. That said, I have seriously contemplated buying a Threadripper 3960X, using it for a couple of reviews and throwing it into my own system but I’ve had more pressing financial concerns.

    Ok, well if I pick one up or some other board I will post short review/tests here. Maybe late next month.

  5. Good review, thanks. But this guy will not spend more than $200 on a motherboard, and I would like to aim for much less than that. $150 is ok, $100 is even better. Not talking about Threadripper or exotic stuff.
  6. Good review, thanks. But this guy will not spend more than $200 on a motherboard, and I would like to aim for much less than that. $150 is ok, $100 is even better. Not talking about Threadripper or exotic stuff.

    We’re looking at doing a couple of budget X570 boards up next, so that may be relevant to your interests. Depends what @Brent_Justice can drum up for Dan…

  7. What does MEG stand for? MSI’s Extremely Greedy?

    Given the price point of motherboards like the Unify, that doesn’t really fit. If the "MEG" prefix was tied to motherboards like the GODLIKE exclusively, then you’d be right.

  8. Nice review, and nice MoBo!

    I’m thinking of going MSI for the next overhaul (R7 3700X).

    Here would be my typical usage scenario:
    – Use the AMD Wraith HSF
    – No CPU OC’ing (primarily gaming, so I’m more focused on the GPU)
    – All DIMM slots populated (4x8GB single rank modules)
    – Single GPU, and nothing else populating any other expansion slots

    Any thoughts on the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus?

  9. Nice review, and nice MoBo!

    I’m thinking of going MSI for the next overhaul (R7 3700X).

    Here would be my typical usage scenario:
    – Use the AMD Wraith HSF
    – No CPU OC’ing (primarily gaming, so I’m more focused on the GPU)
    – All DIMM slots populated (4x8GB single rank modules)
    – Single GPU, and nothing else populating any other expansion slots

    Any thoughts on the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus?

    I have some thoughts……………..

    -The Wraith is a bare bones, I don’t want to spend any money type of heat sink. If we were back in the old days when CPU clocks were fixed and it got the job done while making an awful racket (as stock coolers tend to do) you would be fine. That’s not how things work today. Clocks are variable and adjust based on thermals and other variables. If you use a low end cooler, your CPU will not boost as often or even clock as high as a better cooled CPU will. Getting a better quality air cooler will pay dividends in performance. Even on a "stock" CPU.

    -Overclocking doesn’t matter in this context. There are only really two kinds of overclocks with Ryzen 3000 series CPU’s. Manual all core overclocks and per CCX complex overclocks. Since you’ve chosen a Ryzen 7 3700X, you are in luck in that you only have a single chiplet rather than two. One of these tends to be substantially worse than the other, limiting overclocking potential. You won’t be held back by one "****let" on a 3700X. You also won’t need quite as much in the way of power delivery to overclock. Even so, you will find that overclocking a single CCX probably won’t benefit you that much. Manual all core overclocking on a 3700X can be potentially useful as you have much lower boost clocks than you would on a 3900X or 3950X.

    -This is a bad idea. Don’t do it. Stick with two DIMMs and two DIMMs only. Ryzen 3000 series CPU’s love higher memory clocks and tighter timings. You will not achieve this with four DIMMs. There is a point of diminishing returns after 3800MHz as Infinity Fabric clocks and memory clocks require a divider at that point. So, you don’t need ultra-expensive RAM, but going to four DIMMs means your limiting your RAM speed to DDR4 2933MHz or DDR4 2666MHz. Some people will achieve better, but you won’t be doing it on that board more than likely. While MSI’s do clock RAM fairly well, you need one of their better ones. I’ll get to that in just a moment.

    -This is fine. No one uses SLI anymore. Not even me. And I’ve used SLI from the 6800 Ultra days all the way through the GTX 1080 Ti. I used AMD’s Crossfire whenever I went AMD during that time as well. If I thought for a second I could get some extra performance consistently out of a second RTX 2080 Ti, I’d have a second one and I’d be running SLI. So you are good on this front.

    -To be blunt. MSI’s cheaper motherboards for X570 have VRM’s that run way too **** hot. To the tune of about 30-40c hotter than they should in some cases. MSI’s MEG X570 Gaming Ace and MEG X570 Unify are about as low as you really want to go if your going with MSI. Yes, that’s right. You need to be at about $300 or better with MSI or you aren’t getting what you are paying for. Hardware Unboxed did a good job of covering this. Eventually, MSI even admitted that the design of their lower end VRM’s were pretty bad.

    In other words, I wouldn’t go with such a low end motherboard from MSI. If you are looking to spend less than $250 on a motherboard, stick with GIGABYTE or ASUS.

  10. Dan, you got my hopes up and I go try to buy it and everyone is out, Both New Egg & Amazon say unavailable and do not know if they will get any more in stock. o_O
  11. I keep wondering should I buy one of these boards when they come in stock since I plan on upgrading to the 4000 series eventually or should I wait? Not sure what’s going to happen with supply and demand in the future.

    Edit: I bought one of these boards off Amazon to "fiddle" with. Won’t be here until June. I plan on possibly going to Zen 3 when those come out so due to the shortage now on boards I wanted to get one in hand.

  12. Thanks for the thorough review. I’ve been considering purchasing an MSI MEG X570 Unify MB for some time now. I just want to confirm that the board does not support RAID for the M.2 NVMe drives. While the manual doesn’t seem to mention it, the manual for the X570 ACE seems to allude to NVMe RAID, but doesn’t come right out and say it is supported. I’ve seen people claim in other posts that they are running Sabrent Rocket NVMe drives in a RAID 0 config on a Unify MB, so I’m seeking the truth… The ACE and Unify are fairly similar. They run the same PIDE/SATA, and System/Chipset drivers. And, while the BIOS versions are off, they both run a derivative of AMI 7C35V, and the comments in the BIOS updates are identical even though the ending versions are different. I’d just like to know for certain if this board can handle RAID 0 on NVMe drives.
    Thanks once again.
    Steve
  13. Thanks for the thorough review. I’ve been considering purchasing an MSI MEG X570 Unify MB for some time now. I just want to confirm that the board does not support RAID for the M.2 NVMe drives. While the manual doesn’t seem to mention it, the manual for the X570 ACE seems to allude to NVMe RAID, but doesn’t come right out and say it is supported. I’ve seen people claim in other posts that they are running Sabrent Rocket NVMe drives in a RAID 0 config on a Unify MB, so I’m seeking the truth… The ACE and Unify are fairly similar. They run the same PIDE/SATA, and System/Chipset drivers. And, while the BIOS versions are off, they both run a derivative of AMI 7C35V, and the comments in the BIOS updates are identical even though the ending versions are different. I’d just like to know for certain if this board can handle RAID 0 on NVMe drives.
    Thanks once again.
    Steve

    I just fired it up and looked through the BIOS and did not find a single thing alluding to being able to configure RAID for the NVMe devices. It’s possible I didn’t look in the right place, so I can page @Dan_D to see if I’m looking in the wrong place.

    1. Thanks for the prompt response. I’d really like to know for certain. I’ve posted a question on Newegg.com, and have also tried emailing MSI. The onboard M.2 sockets are nice, but not a huge benefit if RAID 0 isn’t available. RAID 0 on 2 or 3 NVMe cards would really make this baby fly.
  14. It doesn’t help that MSI’s specifications aren’t terribly clear on the subject. The way it’s worded in their detailed specifications, it gives the impression that support for NVMe RAID can go either way. However, I was never able to figure out how to enable it. Therefore, I do not believe it supports the feature at all.

    Typically, you have to go into a higher price bracket to support NVMe RAID. Also, I have tested the feature on higher end MSI boards, so I am confident that the MSI X570 Unify does not support the feature.

    1. It would appear to be possible based on what I’m reading on various forum threads. Just in case you get a chance to try it out, this doc has the instructions.
      https://1drv.ms/b/s!AhF0C_g0rDpxjX72o6P8tNwfCPtz?e=QPKL3U
      I’m still evaluating boards. I was about set on the Unify, but now I’m considering the Asus Hero, Gigabyte Aorus , or ASRock Taichi as possible alternatives. Really liked the looks of the Unify, but a PC needs more than looks.
  15. Well this board is looking like the one that will replace now my defunct ASUS CrossHair 6 Hero. Now I will try to run 4 B-Die sticks with her, 32gb, 3600MHZ+ would be the goal. Unexpected failure with the Crosshair but that is how it goes sometimes, lasted 3.5 years and died.
  16. Dan,
    I just purchased this board. I was looking to get a X570 Tomahawk, but they are as expensive as the unify and the unify has a few more features. My main concern is that this board does not support M.2 NVMe. Your review says that two slots do support NVMe however, a article I just read said the Unify does not support NVMe. I scoured the MSI website and nowhere do I read about NVMe support. Where did you get your info? Thanks
  17. By the way, nice review. I did see under expansion you said " The motherboard has three M.2 SSD slots. Two of which support both NVMe and SATA type devices and drives as long as 80mm." yet you said it does not support NVMe Raid " The MSI MEG X570 Unify does not support M.2 NVMe RAID. Therefore, we obviously don’t have numbers for that." Why one and not the other?

    Dan,
    I just purchased this board. I was looking to get a X570 Tomahawk, but they are as expensive as the unify and the unify has a few more features. My main concern is that this board does not support M.2 NVMe. Your review says that two slots do support NVMe however, a article I just read said the Unify does not support NVMe. I scoured the MSI website and nowhere do I read about NVMe support. Where did you get your info? Thanks

  18. By the way, nice review. I did see under expansion you said " The motherboard has three M.2 SSD slots. Two of which support both NVMe and SATA type devices and drives as long as 80mm." yet you said it does not support NVMe Raid " The MSI MEG X570 Unify does not support M.2 NVMe RAID. Therefore, we obviously don’t have numbers for that." Why one and not the other?

    Unless I misread your response…

    I think you must have missed it.

    Step 1. Go here: https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/MEG-X570-UNIFY

    Step 2 read this:

    • Lightning Fast Game Experience: PCIe 4.0, Triple Lightning Gen4 x4 M.2 with M.2 Shield Frozr, StoreMI, AMD Turbo USB 3.2 Gen2.

    View attachment 612

  19. Dan,
    I just purchased this board. I was looking to get a X570 Tomahawk, but they are as expensive as the unify and the unify has a few more features. My main concern is that this board does not support M.2 NVMe. Your review says that two slots do support NVMe however, a article I just read said the Unify does not support NVMe. I scoured the MSI website and nowhere do I read about NVMe support. Where did you get your info? Thanks

    NVMe and RAID have nothing to do with each other. RAID support is a matter of enabling the feature via firmware. Nothing more. In any case, the specifications list RAID support, but not specifically for the M.2 slots. Typically RAID support is listed for the M.2 devices specifically when the support is there. I don’t have the motherboard in my possession anymore to check it but I could have missed it. MSI’s product page isn’t super clear on it.

  20. NVMe and RAID have nothing to do with each other. RAID support is a matter of enabling the feature via firmware. Nothing more. In any case, the specifications list RAID support, but not specifically for the M.2 slots. Typically RAID support is listed for the M.2 devices specifically when the support is there. I don’t have the motherboard in my possession anymore to check it but I could have missed it. MSI’s product page isn’t super clear on it.

    Not to mention some motherboard companies are letting the windows raid mean raid support.

    Problem here is that tonget raid support you would need all of your nvme ports in use passing through the raid controller logic. What happens on many of these boards is the first or first two nvme ports are direct to cpu. The rest are actually through the motherboard chipset. What you would need to have is a pcie nvme raid controller card in an x8 or x16 slot to actually get a solid raid controller. (With a couple gig of built in raid cache would help.)

  21. Not to mention some motherboard companies are letting the windows raid mean raid support.

    Problem here is that tonget raid support you would need all of your nvme ports in use passing through the raid controller logic. What happens on many of these boards is the first or first two nvme ports are direct to cpu. The rest are actually through the motherboard chipset. What you would need to have is a pcie nvme raid controller card in an x8 or x16 slot to actually get a solid raid controller. (With a couple gig of built in raid cache would help.)

    It’s just the first M.2 slot that goes through the CPU. There are 4x PCIe Gen 4.0 lanes dedicated to storage off the CPU. It is possible to split these, but you end up with a configuration of 2x M.2 slots that only have 2x PCIe Gen 4.0 lanes each. They also have the option of using those lanes for SATA ports. I have yet to see a manufacturer offer anything but a single 4x PCIe lane M.2 solution with those lanes.

    NVMe RAID implementations on motherboards simply use 8x PCIe lanes (which gives them 2x slots) off the PCH. There is no caching or anything like that. There is no dedicated ASIC for parity calculations which is ideal for RAID 5 and RAID 6 support.

    Every motherboard I’ve ever worked with in the consumer market implements these things the same way. The only difference is between Intel vs. AMD. AMD implements one M.2 slot through the CPU and the rest through the PCH. Intel does all three through the PCH.

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