MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 review

This Intel Z790 motherboard offers decent bang for its buck and a quality Realtek ALC4080 audio codec, but it lacks a few features compared to the competition.

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 top down view

Our Verdict

82%

A solid base for a Z790 system, but you can get better bang for your buck elsewhere.

MSI’s Tomahawk range of motherboards has previously really impressed us, with this board’s Z690-based predecessor being our pick of the bunch for that chipset. There’s a good $70 price difference between the MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 and the Z690 board, though, and this Z790 motherboard is up against some stiff competition.

ASRock offers much cheaper options in both DDR4 and DDR5 flavors, and the superb Asus ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi D4 only costs $50 more.

The Tomahawk gets off to a good start by being equipped with a better-quality onboard audio system than several other boards in its class, thanks to the Realtek ALC4080 codec. It also has an impressive count of seven SATA 6Gbps ports.

Comparatively, the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide has eight SATA ports and costs less money but lacks the Tomahawk’s USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 support on both its rear USB-C port and front panel header.

Every M.2 port on the Tomahawk has a heatsink and all of them support PCIe 4 as well, although none of them are PCIe 5-capable. The cheaper ASRock Z790 PG Riptide has a single PCIe 5 M.2 port and a hefty heatsink for that slot, while both the MSI and ASRock boards have a 16x PCIe 5 slot for graphics.

There are 16 power phases feeding the CPU, which is two more than you get on the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide, but both boards have equally massive heatsinks on them, with the MSI board having the advantage of offering a VRM temperature readout so you can keep an eye on the thermals.

The Tomahawk also boasts 802.11ax Wi-Fi, as well as USB BIOS flashback and CMOS-clear buttons, but its software is rather clunky. This is especially the case when it comes to MSI’s fan control suite, where the whole effort is less polished than either Asus or ASRock’s equivalents, even if the latter is very basic.

During testing with our Core i5-13600K, the Tomahawk also dipped down to 5GHz from 5.1GHz in multi-threaded workloads, resulting in some slower results than the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide in multi-threaded tests. The latter gained a video encoding score of 1,028,571 compared to 942,749 for the MSI, and Cinebench multi-threaded score of 24,268 compared to 23,989.

The MSI’s VRM temperature of 51°C was decent, though, as was the M.2 temperature of 60°C. Audio performance was slightly better than that of the ASRock Z790 PG Riptide as well, with a dynamic range of 100dBA and noise level of -103dBA compared to 95dBA and -93 dBA. MSI’s EFI is also excellent and we hit 5.7GHz across the P-cores with a vcore of 1.35V, boosting the Cinebench multi-threaded score to 25,814.

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 pros and cons

Pros

  • Wi-Fi included
  • Good VRM and M.2 cooling
  • USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C port and header

Cons

  • Cheaper boards offer nearly as much
  • Struggles to maintain all-core CPU boost
  • No PCIe 5 M.2 port

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 specs

The MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 specs list is:

Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
Chipset Intel Z790
CPU socket Intel LGA1700
Memory support 4 slots: max 128 GB DDR4 (up to 5333MHz)
Expansion slots One 16x PCIe 5, one 16x PCIe 4, one 1x PCIe 3
Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC4080
Networking 1 x Realtek 2.5 Gigabit LAN
Cooling Eight 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, M.2 heatsinks
Ports 7 x SATA 6Gbps, 4 x M.2 PCI-E 4, 4 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 Type-C header, 1 x LAN, 3 x surround audio out

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 price

Price: Expect to pay $300 USD / £329 GBP

MSI MAG Z790 Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 review conclusion

The MSI MAG Tomahawk WiFi DDR4 offers decent bang for your buck and trumps the Asus ROG Strix Z790-A Gaming WiFi D4 in a few areas too. The latter is a more solid option, though, with better software, fan control, a thermal probe header, quick-release PCIe slot, and a snazzier design, albeit for an extra $50. If this motherboard isn’t right for you, check out our guide to the best Z790 motherboard, which covers a range of specs to suit different budgets.