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Intel 300-series motherboards explained: Z390 vs. Z370 vs. H370 vs. B360 vs. H310

Which Intel motherboard will have to you purchase? After first of all launching with the Z370 chipset by myself in October 2017, Intel fleshed out the 300-series lineup with a complete vary of motherboard choices in April, entire with great further options no longer integrated in Z370. It then plopped a cherry on best by means of freeing enthusiast-class Z390 motherboards along the Ninth-gen Core processors in October 2018. Those motherboards will have to paintings with each Eighth-gen and Ninth-gen Core CPUs (although older fashions might want a BIOS revision to toughen the brand new chips) so that you’ve were given choices galore now.

Must you purchase a Z390, H370, B360, or H310 motherboard for the ones fancy options that weren’t to be had when Z370 rolled out? Does it make sense to splurge on a high-end Z370 or Z390 chipset anyway? Let’s read about what every Intel 300-series motherboard chipset gives so you’ll make the best choice whilst you purchase an Intel CPU.

Editor’s notice: Ultimate up to date to incorporate the discharge of latest Z390 motherboards.

Z390 vs. Z370 vs. H370 vs. B360 vs. H310

You want a brand new Intel 300-series motherboard if you purchase an Eighth-gen or Ninth-gen “Espresso Lake” processor. Older motherboards don’t paintings with Intel’s present CPUs, and that comes with the hot 100- and 200-series choices for Skylake and Kaby Lake chips. Whilst Espresso Lake chips are in large part based totally round the similar structure as the ones predecessors, the brand new processors pack in additional cores, which means that they’ve other energy necessities.

Right here’s a take a look at uncooked specs for every of the Intel 300-series motherboard chipsets to be had to shoppers. You gained’t see the brand new Z390 motherboards within the chart; they replicate the elemental loadout of the Z370 chipset, however with a handful of extra options added, together with as much as six rapid USB Gen. 2 ports.

intel motherboard chart Rob Schultz/IDG

Z370 motherboards and Z390 motherboards are the gold usual, constructed for fanatic PCs. Those are the one Intel motherboards that toughen CPU and reminiscence overclocking (you probably have an unlocked Ok-series chip), or take care of gaming rigs with more than one graphics playing cards, no less than till Z390 forums transform to be had. They’re loaded with essentially the most PCI-E lanes, possible USB ports (with one notable caveat—extra on that once), and RAID garage choices. As flagship chipsets, additionally they be offering essentially the most high-speed I/O lanes. Extra HSIO lanes let board makers divvy out extra options, like NVMe SSD connections and SuperSpeed USB ports, as they see have compatibility.

Z390 motherboards launched a 12 months after Z370 and added the niceties presented within the extra mainstream choices. Its elementary loadout suits Z370’s functions, however you’ll additionally get Intel wi-fi networking, local SDXC toughen, and as much as six USB three.1 Gen. 2 ports built-in, in addition to a more moderen Intel Control Engine (IME) firmware model. For those who’re development a brand new machine from scratch, go for Z390 and its ample USB three.1 ports over Z370, until you’ll discover a similar Z370 board at a steep cut price. For those who already personal a Z370 board, it doesn’t make a lot sense to improve to Z390.

gigabyte arous z390 master 2 Gigabyte

Gigabyte’s Z390 Aorus Grasp motherboard.

Listed below are one of the vital choices in Newegg’s Z370 variety. The upper you pass up in worth, the extra further options you obtain.

And listed below are one of the vital choices in Newegg’s Z390 variety. Once more, spending extra will get you extra extras, however the base configurations have a tendency to be relatively equivalent.

evga h370EVGA

H370 motherboards are just a notch under Z370 and Z390, and highest for individuals who don’t love to tinker. Those forums don’t toughen overclocking, more than one graphics card setups, or one of the vital extra unique Intel Fast Garage Era options. Rather then the ones area of interest fanatic options, and a few variations in USB three.1 toughen, H370 in large part mirrors Z370.

Listed below are one of the vital choices in Newegg’s H370 selection:

msi motherboardsMSI

B360 motherboards start shaving more off. You’ll get fewer USB ports, fewer HSIO and PCI-E lanes, and barely any RAID support via Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology. But they still pack speedy USB 3.1 Gen. 2 ports and Optane Memory support to boost hard drive speeds to near-SSD speeds. Look at these as solid-value motherboards for mainstream computers.

Here are some of the options in Newegg’s B360 selection. Once you start creeping too far north of $100, however, you might be better off opting for an H370 motherboard, unless a B360 selection includes a specific key feature that isn’t available in your budget with H370.

gigabyte h310 motherboard Gigabyte

H310 motherboards really strip things back. Far fewer USB and SATA ports are supported. It doesn’t support PCI-E 3.0, only the slower PCI-E 2.0, and you can’t use Intel’s Optane Memory technology like you can with the other options. The memory setup only supports a single DIMM per channel, reducing overall bandwidth. RAID options are nonexistent. These ultra-basic motherboards should only be considered for bargain-basement systems with simple needs. They lock you out of a lot of niftier new features that’ve blossomed in Intel’s ecosystem in recent years.

Here are some of the options in Newegg’s H310 selection. There isn’t much variety here, nor fancy gaming brands.

Intel 300-series motherboards: Feature comparisons

The Z370 chipset might have one of the mightiest spec sets on paper, but the other options pack some features that the original 300-series motherboards lack, and the stripped-down H310 is the only chipset that can’t run Intel’s hard drive-boosting Optane Memory.

Z390, H370, B360, and H310 motherboards integrate support for speedy 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen.2 ports into the chipset, which you can see listed in the comparison chart above. That should help bring the blisteringly fast tech to more affordable motherboards, as vendors will no longer need to pay for a third-party controller—this uses Intel’s own technology. Z390 packs six ports; the others pack four. Z370 has none. Adding USB 3.1 Gen. 2 ports eats into a motherboard’s stash of HSIO lanes, though.

asus rog motherboard Asus

All Intel 300-series motherboards except Z370 can support USB 3.1 Gen. 2 and integrated Wi-Fi.

The new boards also move a lot of the functions needed for wireless networking into the platform controller hub itself, using Intel’s CNVi wireless-AC technology. Highlights include integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi support and up to 1733Mbps speeds with Intel’s highest-end companion RF module, which Intel says is far faster than most Wi-Fi options available.

Equipping extra hardware to fully activate the functionality can add to the cost of a motherboard, and it’s an option for motherboard vendors—not a requirement. Don’t expect to see Wi-Fi on every H370, B360, and H310 motherboard, in other words, especially as you move further down the price scale. (Gigabyte, for example, sells an optional “CNVi WiFi upgrade kit” for some of its motherboards.) If yours includes it, you’ll want an 802.11ac “Wave 2” router that can take advantage of CNVi’s full potential, like the Asus RT-AC87U.

intel desktop core platform stuff Intel

Z390, H370, B360, and H310 motherboards also include “modern standby” features that lets computers sleep to save energy, but listen for a wake word (in smart speaker-like fashion) and quickly resume. Modern standby functionality previously existed in laptops, but this is a first for desktop PCs.

Once again, motherboards based on the Z370 chipset don’t include any of this new native functionality, though hardware makers can add Wi-Fi and USB 3.1 Gen. 2 capabilities via add-in controllers. 

Little extras

aorus lit ram slots Gigabyte

The RGB LED-illuminated light strip and RAM slots on the Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3.

The final part of the equation is finding a 300-series board with finishing touches that fit your needs. While the information above describes the guts of every Z390, Z370, H370, B360, and H310 motherboard, vendors can tweak and configure their hardware in different ways, so two H370 boards (for example) might have slightly different port configurations and wildly different features, such as RGB lighting, fancy audio, one-button overclocking, et cetera.

[ Further reading: The best SSDs you can buy ]

But now that you know the basics of what each Intel 300-series chipset offers, you can quickly narrow down your search for the perfect Intel motherboard for you.

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