The Voltage Regulator Module
The Z370 platform requires better power delivery standards than Z270 since CPU core count has been increased by roughly 50% across the board. We find a wide range of VRMs.
Some of the best VRMs we have seen are built upon integrated power stages, the ones seen above are from different vendors but both offer 60A at the power stage. The one on the left has integrated power stages with individual internal temperature and current sensing as well as increased cooling capability on the top of the package.
Inductors are also very important, but only some vendors use inductors with markings on the topside that allow you to find the specifications of the part. You also should check if the VRM has increased core count from proper doubling (using doubler and individual drivers) or some type of double component scheme where power stage parts are doubled. Intersil's newer digital PWMs and International Rectifier digital PWMs are what you typically find controlling the best VRMs.
The VRMs we see here are built on dual N-channel power blocks. The one on the left uses Texas Instruments NexFETs that are optimized for efficiency, and the one on the right uses Fairchild MOSFETs of similar power specifications. These solutions offer better integration and performance compared to discrete solutions we will look at next.
We find many models with PWMs that offer integrated drivers and doubling done by doubling VRM parts. These VRMs typically use discrete MOSFETs as well. These are acceptable, but don't offer the same thermal performance as the VRMs we looked at above. They get the job done, but you should try and improve airflow to the heat sinks on these VRMs. We can't tell you exactly what VRM is better than another, but our individual reviews thoroughly cover the VRMs and we have standardized thermal shots of each VRM in each review.
The VRM also needs to be fed power, and while a single 8-pin power plug for the CPU VRM is typically enough, we do find implementations with two 8-pin plugs or one 8-pin and one 4-pin plug. If you are overclocking many GPUs on the motherboard, it's a good idea to supplement PCI-E power, and some motherboards have a 6-pin PCI-E power plug or a MOLEX plug to provide that extra power. VRM cooling is also very important, but if you don't have a fan pointed at the VRM, just make sure you maintain positive air pressure.
Some motherboards are specifically designed for overclocking and provide many overclocking features in the forums of buttons and switches. These are very useful for liquid nitrogen. Some switches can downclock the CPU on-the-fly, disable features, and even pause the system. You also find buttons that can do things like re-apply settings, offering safe booting, and of course, reset and power the system. Some motherboards have voltage read points as well. Automatic overclocking profiles can also be applied on some motherboards with the press of a button.
The POST code display is one of my favorite tools for diagnosing anything wrong with the system, and I found one board that only offered one OC feature, the POST code display. While not every motherboard has a POST code display, most of them have boot LEDs that will hang up on the CPU, DRAM, VGA, or Boot device depending on where the problem is. Dual BIOS ROMs have also become popular and offer redundancy for the most important software in your system.
One vendor has unique features, such as the condensation detection sensor array we find on the back of the PCB to help with liquid nitrogen overclocking. That same motherboard also has a hole under the CPU socket where you can stick a temperature probe to detect proper CPU temperature.
Some motherboards also carry an external clock generator that is used to improve BCLK overclocking margins. Not many people overclock with BCLK, so it's not a big deal, but if you are going for insane RAM overclocking, many times a lower multiplier with higher BCLK can help. I found an IDT6V41606B on one board and an IDT6V41642B on another.
LLC and Memory Support
LLC is very important, and most vendors have their act together these days, either because they update their UEFI code to fix any issue or because they had it right to begin with. I would look at BIOS changelogs is forum user reports indicate no LLC, but most vendors have it fixed now. For memory support, each vendor puts out a Qualified Vendor List (QVL) for RAM and other components like SSDs either on their website or in their manual.
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