Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we are taking a look at another high-end H370 motherboard, and ASUS STRIX mini-ITX motherboard. It has dual NICs, but it also carries Intel's new 160Mhz WIFI controller that can go up to 1.73Gbps but also supports all types of Wireless AC. The motherboard features high-end aesthetics including heat sinks, integrated IO shield, and some nice backside LEDs. Let's take a look at what the Strix H370-I Gaming has to offer.
The STRIX H370-I GAMING features dual x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots (one supports SATA), dual Gbit LAN ports, Intel's new 1.7Gbps Wireless-AC, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, and SATA6Gb/s.
The STRIX H370-I GAMING cost $136.99.
Packaging and STRIX H370-I GAMING Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box and packaging as small and compact, but the motherboard is well protected.
The accessory package includes two SATA6Gb/s, RGB extension cable, front panel header extensions, M.2 mounting brackets, M.2 screws, zip ties, WIFI antennas, ROG stickers, driver DVD, and manual.
We find three fan headers on the motherboard, they are circled in red and blue, and the blue header is an AIO pump header. All headers can be configured for PWM or DC operation modes. While the fan headers can utilize multiple temperature sources, there is also an external temperature header so you can use an external probe as a temperature source. The STRIX IO area shroud covers up most of the IO panel, but it also covers up a lot of the VRM heat sink. The back of the motherboard has some ICs but also an M.2 slot.
The rear IO panel features a DisplayPort, HDMI, three USB 3.0 type-A ports, a USB 3.1 type-C port, two USB 3.1 type-A ports, two Gbit LAN ports, two WIFI antenna, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF out.
There are two M.2 x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots, the top M.2 slot also supports SATA6Gb/s drives and has a heat sink mechanism for M.2 drives.
There is a USB 3.0 internal header, two SATA6Gb/s ports on the edge, and front panel headers right below an addressable RGB LED header. Two more SATA6Gb/s ports are located near the PCH heat sink, and there is a temperature probe header and clear CMOS header right above the PCI-E x16 slot.
The motherboard also has status LEDs at the top right corner of the motherboard. The motherboard's heat sinks are also screwed into the motherboard.
ASUS STRIX H370-I GAMING Circuit Analysis
STRIX H370-I GAMING Circuit Analysis
The STRIX H370-I GAMING shows some secrets when we remove the heat sinks.
The VRM is in a 4+2 phase configuration for the CPU VCore and iGPU voltage rails. The Digital+ ASP1400 controller is probably something from Richtek, as the drivers are from Richtek. The CPU VCore phases each use an On Semiconductor NTMFD4C86N dual N-Channel MOSFET that should be capable of 20A each phase. The iGPU phases are made up of one high-side and one low-side MOSFET, the On Semi. 4C10B and 4C06B.
There are also smaller single phase VRMs made up of a uP1540 controller and 4C06B and 4C10B MOSFETs, and those VRMs are used to power memory and secondary CPU power rails.
ASUS STRIX H370-I GAMING Circuit Analysis Continued
STRIX H370-I GAMING Circuit Analysis Continued
The audio codec is the Realtek ALC1220, and it has been upgraded with OP1688A and RC4580 amplifiers for voltage and current. Gold electrolytic audio capacitors and a physical PCB divide are used to improve audio quality.
An Intel i219v PHY provides the GBit LAN port from Intel, while a Realtek RTL8111H is used for the second Realtek based Gbit NIC.
A two-port Pericom PI3EQX USB 3.1 re-driver is used to improve the signal from the PCH to the two type-A ports. The ASMedia ASM1543 type-C controller is used for the USB 3.0 type-C port on the rear IO panel.
An Intel 9560NGW is used as the Wireless-AC controller, which is rated up to 1.733Gbps if it uses the 160MHz band. A Nuvoton NVT6796D SuperIO is used for the motherboard fan and other control, with a 128Mbit BIOS ROM used for the system UEFI.
An SMT32F microcontroller is used to control the RGB LEDs on the underside of the PCB, and this chip needs to be on the motherboard since every single RGB LED is individually controlled. An AURA RGB LED controller controls the addressable RGB LED header.
BIOS and Software
ASUS's UEFI for this motherboard is pretty much like their Z370 UEFI, except for the fact that you can't really overclock the CPU (platform limitation). Fan control in the form of a GUI and a manual input menu is present and easy to use. The UEFI has two operation modes as well; an EzMode and an Advanced Mode, which is what most people will use.
ASUS offers a lot of software including Ai Charger, AURA, Dual Intelligent Processors 5 (which includes many other software applications), AI Suite 3, GameFirst IV, RAMCACHE II, Clone Drive, and EZ Installer.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS STRIX H370-I Gaming
- CPU: Intel i5-8400
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: GTX 1080 Ti - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston KC1000 480GB
- 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 RM1000i - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASUS 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
- Network: ASUS XG-U2008 10Gbit Switch
ASUS added in a microcontroller specifically to control the LEDs on the rear of the PCB on the right side of the motherboard. It allows ASUS to address each individual LED and creates a unique effect not common on other motherboards. I really like the effect, and I hope in the future they do it all around the back of the motherboard with enough LEDs, so there are no gaps.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
It seems that some boards have some sort of performance boost, possibly from a newer BIOS microcode or because of vendors tweaking Turbo on all cores or BCLK. The motherboards should all perform the same, and we expect this to become to the case as time goes on as the other vendors catch up on microcode or tweaks to Turbo multipliers. Actually, we have confirmed this to be the case, as more recent testing of GBT and ASR motherboards not shown score roughly the same as the ASUS and MSI boards.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
ASUS's storage and networking performance are top notch, although we only tested the Intel NIC in this case and not the Realtek.
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, I thought the audio was solid. 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 lower temperature on the 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 above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The STRIX H370-I GAMING's VRM is decent for an H370 mini-ITX motherboard; although I am not sure why ASUS hid half the heat sink under a plastic shroud, it still does okay as long as you have some sort of airflow. 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
New WIFI Controller: The STRIX H370-I Gaming uses Intel's latest Wireless-AC controller that offers speeds up to 1733Mbps if you have a router that supports the 160MHz band. It's a solid controller and should help future-proof the motherboard.
Dual M.2: The motherboard offers two M.2 slots that operate up to x4 PCI-E 3.0. The one on the top side also gets a heat sink to help cool it down, and the one on the underside of the PCB also supports SATA based M.2 drives.
Aesthetics: ASUS put a lot of effort into aesthetics on this motherboard that many people might not realize. They added a dedicated microcontroller solely for the RGB LEDs on the underside of the right side of the PCB. The dedicated controller allows individual control over each RGB LED so that you can produce some cool underside glow effects. The IO shield is also integrated, and the IO area is covered. You do get an addressable RGB header.
Triple USB 3.1: The rear IO panel offers you three USB 3.1 ports, two are type-A, and one is type-C.
Two NICs, but one is Realtek?: It's been quite a long time since I have seen a Realtek NIC on a ROG product, at least a wired NIC. While it's not a huge issue since performance isn't terrible, you should be aware, so you can use the Intel one first.
The ASUS STRIX H370-I Gaming is a stylish H370 motherboard with excellent Intel wireless networking and a bunch of other solid features. We really enjoy how ASUS has shaped the motherboard's aesthetic identity; we like the IO shield, the IO cover, and the push towards addressable RGBs. Just like other products, it's not without its drawbacks; the IO cover does cover up part of the VRM heat sink, and rear USB type-A is a bit low. The VRM should be good enough to handle any non-K CPU, but we would push you towards an air cooler or solid airflow with a water cooler.
We really love how the motherboard's only RGBs sit underneath and provide a neat glow, and the way ASUS has designed the motherboard means it will be a stylish addition to your build that you probably won't want to hide away. Platform features are all present, the UEFI was solid, and the motherboard has pretty much everything you need for an enthusiast non-K Coffee Lake build. So if you are in the market for a stylish high-end mini-ITX H370 motherboard, give the ASUS STRIX H370-I Gaming a look.
The Bottom Line: ASUS's STRIX H370-I Gaming reinforces ASUS's commitment towards making the STRIX brand the go-to for gamers who want features and style in the same more affordable package.
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