So you are building a new system centered around Intel's latest 8th Generation of Core processors, and you don't know what motherboard to buy. You have read reviews, but still can't make up your mind, so you start researching each motherboard on the forums and other outlets where people talk about details.
If you are like many people, you probably haven't learned the ins and outs of the circuitry on a motherboard, and this guide will compare many of the different implementations of hardware we see on Z370 motherboards. The guide will help you traverse the sea of motherboards with more ease, and help you make a better decision when it comes to buying a motherboard.
Let's starts with the first step; cost. Z370 motherboards aren't the cheapest, and most people leave the motherboard as one of their last parts, and typically only spend as much as they can afford. Within that range, you will come to a few models that might entice you. Once you figured out your price, then you can focus on features you need. Your needs can depend on anything from how many M.2 slots you need to the need for RGB LED headers.
Our guide will help you differentiate between everything from types of USB type-C port implementation to voltage regulators found on the market. Since there are a lot of competitors in the motherboard world it's easy to come up with a rule of thumb for pricing; more expensive motherboards are typically higher quality and offer better feature implementation. Although that isn't always the case, we do find general trends that make it true.
The Z370 platform is much like the Z270 platform; it offers the same features but support for the new 8th generation of Core processors. The socket has a few more pins that were not used on Z270 motherboards set up to improve power delivery on Z370 motherboards.
The CPU still offers x16 PCI-E 3.0 that can be split into two x8/x8 slots or three slots at x8/x4/x4. Two DRAM channels support up to four memory DIMMs at 2666MHz, and the CPU also offers integrated GPU outputs. The chipset is where most of the IO comes from. That includes USB 3.0, SATA6Gb/s, and PCI-E lanes for devices. Every device from a USB 3.1 controller to your LAN utilize PCI-E lanes for connectivity to the system.
Intel's Z370 PCH offers 30 high-speed IO (HSIO) lanes. Of the 30 lanes, 24 offer PCI-E, SATA, and USB; 14 of those are flexible. Flexible lanes can be configured as two or three different types of ports (LAN PCI-E, PCI-E, SATA, or USB). Of the first ten ports (out of 30), six have to be USB, and the remaining four can also be configured as USB, for a total of 6-10 USB 3.0 ports from the PCH. Six of the flexible lanes can be SATA6Gb/s.
Three groups of four PCI-E/flexible PCI-E offer Intel PCI-E storage/RST support, and those groups are typically used for M.2 slots, and they support RAID of the M.2 slots. There are a total of five ports that can be used for Gbit LAN. All of the bandwidth from the devices goes through the direct media interface to communicate with the CPU, which is rated for x4 8GT/s lanes, which is like x4 PCI-E 3.0 or 3.5GB/s of raw bandwidth.
What to Expect
This guide will go over the different layouts, systems, circuits, and features that different Z370 motherboards provide. It will also provide insight into factors you should beware of, such as USB 3.1 ports, controllers, type-C controllers, and even little-hidden tricks vendors use. I will cover these differences between motherboards and different chips used, and attempt to rank certain things such as VRMs and controllers.
I will typically show you the best offered on the market (typically on motherboards that cost over $200), and then what's typical on the market (typically on boards that cost $150-200. This guide will not tell you exactly what model to buy, for that, you have our reviews. This guide will give you more insight into reviews, motherboards, and the Z370 platform in general.
I also strongly encourage anyone who is looking to buy a motherboard to download the user manual from the product website. Motherboard manuals are extremely useful, and vendors put a lot of effort into making them mistake-free. The manual will alert you to everything from switching and sharing of bandwidth to the type of fan headers used on the motherboard.
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