Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
We recently saw Intel launch their 8th Generation Coffee Lake CPUs, and to use one of those CPUs you will need a Z370 chipset motherboard. All the major vendors have released Z370 chipset motherboards, but none of them went all-out with models that would be considered pinnacle creations within their own right, except MSI.
MSI brought out their top of the line GODLIKE series at launch, and it totes some technologies that are brand new, such as Killer's xTend technology.
Let's take a look at this heavily loaded, top of the line MSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING motherboard.
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING offers three M.2 slots, USB 3.1 on the rear IO and through an internal header, three GBit NICs (with switch capability), Wireless AC, 4-way CrossFireX capability, and a plethora of other top-of-the-line features.
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING costs $499.99.
Packaging and Z370 GODLIKE GAMING Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box for the Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has decent box art showing off the RGB LED capabilities of the built-in LEDs. The motherboard itself sits in its own box, and the accessories are in their own separate box. Everything is well protected from the elements.
The accessory package includes eight black braided SATA6Gb/s cables, two red braided SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, magnetic IO shield covers, 6.3mm to 3.5mm audio jack converter, three thermistor cables, RGB LED Y extension cable, SLI HB bridge, Case Badge, antenna, USB Xpander, M.2 XPander-Z, USB XPander Cable, SATA cable labels, Rainbow LED extension cable, rainbow LED digital RGB strip, driver DVD, manuals.
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has a total of ten fan headers, the most of any Z370 motherboard I have dealt with. All the fan headers offer hybrid PC/PWM mode operation, and the CPU header circled in red is in PWM mode by default, while the other headers circled in yellow or blue are DC mode by default. The header circled in yellow is rated up to 1.5A and works as a pump header if you like. All headers can reference different temperature sensors including external thermistor sensors (included) that plug into the three green headers. The motherboard's black and gray design makes it perfect for dark builds and case modders who want the motherboard to disappear into the background. There is a healthy number of RGB LEDs built into the motherboard, and they are used in a novel manner. The VRM is cooled from behind as well, which is promising.
The rear IO panel features PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse, six USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, three 1Gbit LAN ports (can act as a switch, one will be disabled depending on M.2 and the last PCI-E x16 slot), PS/2 keyboard/mouse, clear CMOS button, WIFI antenna, 6.3mm headphone jack, and 7.1 gold-plated audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
The PCI-E layout is simple; the top three x16 slots operate at x16/x0/x0, x8/x0/x8, or x8/x4/x4. The last PCI-E x16 slot is wired x4 to the PCH. However, it shares bandwidth with one of the M.2 slots, one of the Killer NICs, and two of the SATA ports. The motherboard does support up to 2-way SLI, but it also supports 4-way CrossFireX. The motherboard features three x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots. M2_1 will disable SATA1 if a SATA M.2 drive is used. M2_2 and the U.2 share bandwidth, and SATA5 will be disabled if you use a SATA based M.2 drive. M2_3 will disable the x1 PCI-E slot, the last x16 PCI-E slot, and the third Killer NIC if a PCI-E M.2 drive is used, or it will only disable SATA3 if a SATA based M.2 drive is used. The M.2 slots all have MSI's M.2 heatshields.
The motherboard includes eight SATA cables, but it only offers six SATA 6Gb/s ports (at least you can mix the colors around). The motherboard also features a right-angled USB 3.0 header and a USB 3.1 internal type-C header. To determine how SATA ports, M.2 ports, the U.2 port, and PCI-E ports will work with each other, please reference the manual as it has illustrations for different configurations.
We also get one 8-pin power connector and one 4-pin power connector on the motherboard. A six-pin PCI-E power connector can be found in the middle of the motherboard right above the PCI-E slots.
Two overclocking jumpers to force BIOS entry and to retry BIOS settings can be found at the top of the motherboard. We find a POST code display at the top of the motherboard, power and reset buttons, as well as a Game Boost button that will apply auto overclocking. Voltage read points are located at the top right corner of the board.
MSI's digital RGB LED header is called the JRAINBOW and has four pins (one extra than others for clock). We also find a clear CMOS jumper, slow mode jumper, FlashBack button, and USB 3.0 internal header in the lower-right hand corner. BIOS selection switch, a PCI-E disable DIP switch, and three USB 2.0 internal headers are located at the bottom of the motherboard.
We find an RGB LED header near the HD audio header on the motherboard. While MSI's VRM heat sinks do have a plastic top, they have a lot of fins and surface area right below the plastic covers.
MSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING Circuit Analysis
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING reveals its secrets when the heat sinks and shields come off.
The VRM on this motherboard is in a 12+4+1+1 phase configuration for the VCore, iGPU, VCCSA, and VCCIO. The main PWM is an IR35201, one of the most popular high-end digital PWMs on the market, and it's being used in 6+2 phase mode. Each power stage for the VCCSA and VCCIO is an IR3555 60A PowIRstages.
The motherboard uses eight IR3599 phase doublers/quadruplers in doubler mode to take 6+2 phases and double them to 12+4 phases. The VCCSA and VCCIO and the memory VRM use Primarion PV3205 digital PWMs and "4C024" and "4C029" SOP-8 MOSFETs from ON Semiconductor. The VCCSA and VCCIO each are one phase while the memory VRM is two phases.
MSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING Circuit Analysis Continued
Z370 GODLIKE GAMING Circuit Analysis Continued
MSI uses two Realtek ALC1220 120dB SNR audio codecs with integrated headphone amplifiers, one for the rear IO and one for the front panel HD audio header. To improve audio, MSI uses an ESS SABRE ES9018K2M DAC to convert digital signals to analog and an ESS SABRE 9602Q headphone amplifier for the 3.5mm jack. WIMA film capacitors and NIPPON CHEMICON electrolytic audio capacitors are used to improve audio quality. The motherboard has one of the most loaded onboard audio solutions of any Z370 motherboard.
The motherboard uses three e2500 Killer NICs from Rivet networks. The three NICs and the Killer 1535 Wireless-AC card produce a technology called Killer xTend. The motherboard acts as both a WIFI signal booster and a network switch. The built-in amplifier in the WIFI card allows it to receive a wireless signal from your router and then extend its range to other devices. You can also use either a wired or wireless NIC to connect to your main router, and then distribute that signal through the other NICs.
You could connect wirelessly to the main router and then provide signals to devices such as an Xbox, a NAS, or even a printer. Then you have Killer's redesigned software to prioritize your computers' bandwidth over that of the connected devices. I should also note that those five ASMedia ASM1480 quick switches switch around x4 PCI-E 3.0 between one of the Killer NICs and other devices such as the last x16 slot and one of the M.2 slots.
An ASMedia ASM3142 is used to provide the internal type-C header with USB 3.1 capabilities, but it also uses an ASM1543 as a type-C switch/CC logic chip and then two Pericom PI3EQX re-drive the USB 3.1 signal. We get another ASM3142 and ASM1543 at the rear IO panel where we have two USB 3.1 ports.
An ASMedia ASM1074 USB 3.0 hub is used to expand rear USB 3.0 from one port to 4. An IDT6V41606B clock generator improved BCLK clocking.
The nuvoTon NCT6795D Super IO manages monitoring, some fan control, and the PS/2 port. We also find multiple NCT5605Y and NCT7802Y which are hardware monitors and fan controls that provide the expanded fan and monitoring capabilities.
There are more than just a few of these ASMedia ASM1464 USB 3.0 re-drivers to improve USB 3.0 signaling around the motherboard. The chip labeled "104GFA" is most likely a microcontroller used for the digital RGB header and built-in RGB LEDs.
BIOS and Software
MSI's Z370 GODLIKE Gaming has a feature-rich UEFI with a revamped fan control GUI that offers the ability to reference one of many temperature sources. The motherboard does offer a basic introductory UEFI screen and an advanced UEFI mode for advanced users.
Overclocking features are plentiful, and everything you need to overclock the system is present. I can confirm that LLC is working correctly, and there are a ton of PWM settings you can fiddle with. I really like the dynamic or fixed frequency setting that will tune turbo and power saving settings if you want your CPU frequency to vary with load or stay at maximum all the time.
MSI includes LiveUpdate 6, Mystic Light, X-Boost, Command Center, MSI Gaming APP, RAMDisk, Nahimic 2, DPC Latency Tuner, TriDef VR, MSI Smart Tool, APP Manager, SuperCharger, Fast Boot, TriDef SmartCam, and SteelSeriesEngine 3.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: MSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING
- CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K
- Cooler: Corsair H115i GT - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Samsung 950 Pro 256GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Corsair Force LS 240GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - M.2 Drive: Intel 750 400GB U.2
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair RM1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: GIGABYTE PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- BIOS: A.0E
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has some pretty unique and tantalizing lights. The lines that are drawn by the translucent plastic on near the VRM are really cool.
The way the light is dispersed in the audio section and PCH heat sink are really neat; I am a big fan of the fan-out light style on the audio cover.
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has a strong VRM capable of delivering all the power required to overclock an 8700K. Overclocking the CPU to 4.9GHz was extremely easy, I set 49x for all cores, CPU mode to fixed, enabled XMP, set VCore to override mode at 1.3v, LLC to mode 2, and then increased PWM settings in the DigiALL menu.
Compatible Memory Overclocking Kits
In this section, I overclock four memory kits only using XMP, if the kit works then the results are below. I welcome memory vendors to send in their kits to be tested on each motherboard.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB 3600MHz 32GB (4x8GB)
The board easily overclocked the Dominator Platinum RAM to 3200MHz and the TridentZ to 3600MHz using just XMP.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
AIDA64 FLOPS and IOPS
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
These tests are done out of the box, so I have decided to include whether or not the vendor has implemented some type of default overclocking, such as multi-core enhancement. Multi-core enhancement is when the motherboard vendor pushes all cores to maximum turbo speeds instead of just one or two. MCE as I will call it, can cause instability if your CPU isn't great, and we would hope vendors would have it off by default, but it does offer a free performance boost out of the box. Some motherboards also might increase the BCLK a bit over stock to score higher, and some might even mess with the turbo boost table.
If we standardize settings, then most motherboards should perform the same, but in this case, we haven't. Overall, the Z370 GODLIKE GAMING does seem to use Intel's specifications for CPU multiplier, but there is also something else going on, as in the power consumption numbers we can see the motherboard consumes as much system power as a motherboard with MCE enabled. While the GODLIKE has more hardware than the other motherboards, it shouldn't pull as much without CPU intervention.
It seems that MSI has increased the BLCK a bit and to compensate they increased CPU voltage a bit as well, and perhaps used a modified turbo table. Either way, the motherboard's performance is solid.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has excellent storage and networking performance, that Killer wireless NIC is quite impressive, to say the least.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent. The motherboard's audio is one of the most loaded when it comes to Z370 motherboards. Not only does it have an ESS SABRE DAC, but also a dedicated amplifier from ESS as well. MSI also used two Realtek ALC1220s, one for the rear and one for the front panel HD audio header. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans to the right of the motherboard from the (Corsair H110i) radiator are left on automatic mode (ramps with internal block temperature). Additionally, a 120mm fan is situated right above the VRM, and it blows down at a medium rate (very quiet). Thermal Images are taken at loop 15 of Intel Burn Test
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
Thermal Testing at 4.9GHz/1.3v Overclocked Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans to the right of the motherboard from the (Corsair H110i) radiator are left on automatic mode (ramps with internal block temperature). Additionally, a 120mm fan is situated right above the VRM, and it blows down at a medium rate (very quiet). We standardize this test with a 4.9GHz on all cores with 1.3V real under load and take pictures at the 80% mark of HandBrake rendering a 4K video.
Up-close of the front and back of the VRM.
The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING's VRM runs full speed out of the box, and this could be due to the increased VCore, which seems to increase performance a bit over baseline. However, while it does seem to go full throttle at stock, temperatures on the rear of the motherboard never exceeded those on the front, which indicates that the motherboard's cooling mechanism works. We think the majority of the heat comes from the inductors on the motherboard, as they are unknown and the rest of the VRM is pretty similar to high-end offerings from other vendors.
I wouldn't worry about the VRM temperatures as long as you have decent case airflow. I will also mention that high-performance VRMs do come with the tradeoff that they run a bit hotter, especially when all phases are active at stock, it's like having a high-performance vehicle such as a Bugatti with a dozen internal water cooling systems. Overall the VRM is in the excellent range.
Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the MKSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING.
High-Performance VRM: High-performance VRMs are like high-performance cars, and the MSI Z370 GODLIKE GAMING has a high-performance VRM. While you can optimize it for power savings, why bother? It's designed to perform at its best at all times and uses top-of-the-line power stages (60A IR3555) and a very nice digital PWM. The LLC performance was also very good, and I had no issues with requiring more voltage or compensating for vdroop.
Killer xTend: Killer xTend is an awesome feature, and I know many people who would greatly benefit from it. Imagine you live in a home where the WIFI router that connects to your modem is in the basement, and you are upstairs with a NAS, an Xbox, and a printer. You want to network all three of them as well as your computer, but you will need to buy extra hardware, except now you don't need the extra router/access point because you have xTend. Killer xTend will allow you to connect to your basement router with the motherboard's WIFI controller, and extend that connection to the three other devices through the three Gbit NICs on the motherboard. That isn't where things stop either; the WIFI controller will also act as a WIFI range booster using the built-in signal amplifiers in the Killer 1535 Wireless AC card. You are not limited on how you connect to your basement router (so you can connect to it through a wire rather than through wireless means), and you can use Killer's software to prioritize your computer's bandwidth over the bandwidth of the connected devices.
Stellar Audio Setup: Addition of a second ALC1220 codec for two separate audio streams (rear IO and front header); check. Addition of an ESS SABRE DAC; check. Addition of an ESS SABRE headphone amplifier; check. Addition of a 6.3mm headphone jack, WIMA film capacitors, Nippon Chemicon gold audio capacitors, and physical PCB divide; check. The audio setup on the motherboard is the most intense I have seen on a Z370 motherboard thus far.
Fan Craze: The motherboard has ten hybrid DC/PWM mode fan headers, that's a lot. It also has two external temperature probe headers, and MSI includes two temperature probes. By all accounts, it's one of the most loaded Z370 motherboards.
Super Pricey: The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING is the most expensive Z370 motherboard on the market by $210, yes, $210 over the next runner-up.
Killer's xTend technology was actually pictured on the prototype of the Z270 GODLIKE GAMING that never launched, and I assume that MSI decided to wait for the new CPUs to pair up with the new technology. Killer's xTend technology and the heavily upgraded audio section of the motherboard are the two main reasons the motherboard costs as much as it does. The motherboard also offers a ton of overclocking features, a solid UEFI, and excellent quality. We find re-drivers all over the place to ensure excellent USB signal quality, and MSI has added a lot of hardware monitoring and fan control technology to ensure you never need to buy an external fan controller.
When it comes to RGB lighting, I appreciate that MSI includes a digital RGB (JRainbow) strip so you can mess with the new motherboard technology. The Z370 GODLIKE GAMING is the most high-end Coffee Lake motherboard you can currently buy, and it does have a lot to offer over the significantly less expensive competition.
If you are looking for the platinum-plated Swiss Army Knife of Z370 motherboards, give the Z370 GODLIKE GAMING a look.
The Bottom Line: MSI's Z370 GODLIKE GAMING might cost more than the CPUs it supports, but it offers unique technologies you won't find on any other Z370 motherboard and excellent quality in and out.
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