Looking at the Motherboard as a Backbone
The motherboard is the backbone of the system, in our case it's a C7Z370-CG-IW, which is Supermicro's high-end mini-ITX motherboard. Many people like mini-ITX because of the form factor, and vendors have found many ways of adding in the latest features in the small form factor.
Recently I found a post on Reddit where the guy was adding two SATA cables into his shopping cart. I immediately informed him that motherboards almost always comes with at least two SATA6Gb/s cables, and that he had no reason to buy one. In our case we also get a case badge, IO shield (not pictured), WIFI antenna, and some other odds and ends. The good news is that our Kingston SSD came with a red SATA cable (most SSDs don't come with cables), which would have clashed with our color scheme, so we were happy Supermicro included black ones.
The CPU you see in this picture is not the CPU you will receive, you will receive a retail Intel box CPU (yes, we will include the letter from the former CEO and the certificate of authenticity). We wanted to mention the importance of paying attention to fan headers. Supermicro motherboards have high current headers, typically rated up to 2A. In this case, the motherboard has two headers that support up to 2.5A each, which means you can use splitters on them. Most motherboards only support up to 1A. We used a case with two fans built in, and we used a cooler that controls its own fans and doesn't require motherboard power or control, so we avoid having to use splitters.
The rear IO panel is also a good thing to look at depending on the number of USB devices you will be using. In our case we would have enough to power our keyboard (two), mouse (one), mouse pad (one) and still have a few reaming. However, our keyboard has a pass through, so our mouse pad can plug into it, and then our mouse pad has a pass through that allows our mouse to plug into it. In the end we were able to open up two more rear USB ports, and we still have our front USB ports open for our headset charging cable and transmitter.
There are two main storage connectors on modern motherboards. You have the M.2 slots (left) and then you have SATA ports (right). Now, M.2 slots can operate in SATA mode or PCI-E/NVMe. While SATA6Gb/s runs at a maximum of 6Gbps or roughly 550MBPS, M.2 slots can operate at many different speeds including x2 PCI-E 2.0 (10Gbps), x2 PCI-E 3.0 (16Gbps), x4 PCI-E 2.0 (20Gbps), or x4 PCI-E 3.0 (32Gbps). M.2 slots also need to specifically support SATA or PCI-E, so make sure your motherboard's slot can support the speed and type of drive you buy before you buy the motherboard and drive. Good news, in this case our motherboard supports up to x4 PCI-E 3.0 and SATA M.2 drives. We can also see that this motherboard features an internal USB 2.0 header that will provide two USB 2.0 ports if hooked up for a USB 2.0 panel.
The motherboard also features an RGB LED header, and keep in mind its front panel headers are located at the top of the motherboard. The motherboard also features a USB 3.0 internal header and a BIOS in a socket so you can easily repair your motherboard if the BIOS gets corrupted. Thankfully Supermicro also has a BIOS recovery system, and you can find instructions for how to use it in Appendix 5 of the manual.
If you are more of a tactical user and prefer messing with physical hardware, then you will like the fact that Supermicro is one of the only remaining motherboard vendors that gives you both software and hardware means (jumpers) of accomplishing certain tasks such as disabling features, switching modes, and activating BIOS recovery. The motherboard's voltage regulator is also an extremely important part of a motherboard. In this case, they used a very high quality VRM. The MPS MP2955V is a digital multiphase VR13 controller (4+2 phases in this case), and it's the same controller (different last letter) we saw on SuperMicro's full-ATX motherboard.
The new PWM controller works with the integrated power stages. SuperO uses the MP86908 50A power Intelli-Phase integrated power stages. The VRM filter stage uses 51A CooperBussman high-current power inductors. That means at maximum it should be able to output 200A, which at 1.3v (typical 8086K max voltage under AIO water cooler) is roughly 260W of power, which is more than enough for a decent overclock on an 8086K (pulls 109W stock at 4.3GHz all core with AVX under synthetic Intel Burn Test load). Our thermal testing results for this motherboard reveals that it can handle a 8700K at 4.9GHz (CPU limit on most Z370 motherboards) with ease, so we hope to hit 5GHz all core with ease and still maintain lower temperatures on the rear of the motherboard, which is a sign of a sustainable VRM load.
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- Page 1 [Our Mission and Part Selection]
- Page 2 [Looking at the Motherboard as a Backbone]
- Page 3 [Putting It Together Using Best Practices]
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