Motherboards nowadays will mostly run in two directions: the gaming route or the budget-friendly route. These directions are mostly defined by sub-brands that help market the kind of motherboard they are. Its very rare to see motherboards that relish on the fact that they are neutral but still offer enough flexibility to cater to many requirements. ASUS’ Deluxe series is one such series which has evolved to what we have today with their new PRIME Series motherboard. Today we have the ASUS PRIME Z370-A LGA1151 motherboard which offers a great balance of features and mainstream looks with a mature, professional look.
Intel 8th-Gen: Mainstream 6-core and Entry-level Quad-cores
Intel has always been on the dominant side of the market for a good part of the decade due in part to AMD’s lack of competitive offering but with the release of the Ryzen 7 and the entire Ryzen MSDT family, Intel has been shaken if not completely rocked from its foundation with AMD’s resurgence. Intel has been criticized for lazily riding its tick-tock cycle which has now been stalled and we’re going to be seeing the 3rd 14nm offering from Intel with the 8th-gen Coffee Lake processors. The annual cycle of MSDT CPU releases with little improvements from Intel now ends with the release of the Intel 8th-gen family of desktop processors.
This is an unprecedented moment as Intel has never had three product generation available in a single year and with the announcement of the EOL for the Skylake family, the Coffee Lake will exist side-by-side with the relatively new Kaby Lake processors. This has put Intel under fire for releasing in such an abrupt fashion, basically announcing the imminent EOL of the Kaby Lake family.
It makes sense for Intel to go down that route though as they have pretty much pre-planned their new processors years in advance and this is just a contingency plan for them in ever such a case that a competitor threaten their market position. With AMD offering core count and value, Intel had to retaliate in a similar fashion. Enter the Intel 8th-gen desktop processors.
Intel 8th-gen processors (codenamed Coffee Lake) are the first mainstream desktop (MSDT) products from Intel to feature 6-core, 12-threads and also welcomes the mainstream debut of the quad-core Core i3 SKUs. This means that going forward, quad-core processors may now be the entry-level mainstream core count with AMD also going such a route with their Ryzen 3 SKUs. At launch, we have the following processors announced:
|Processor||Base Clock||Turbo Frequency||Core/Thread||Unlocked||Intel Smart Cache||Memory Support||Intel Optane Support||Price|
Leading the pack is the 6-core Hyperthreaded (12-threads) Core i7-8700K. The first non-HEDT targeted 6-core from Intel. This is joined by the i5-8600K, another 6-core model which sees the debut of 6-core Core i5 SKUs. We also see another unlocked Core i3 with the i3-8350K, a quad-core product along with the entry level i3-8100.
All products will support Intel Optane memory and aside from the Core i3 variants that support DDR4-2400, all SKUs will have native support for dual-channel DDR4-2666.
A New Generation of Motherboards
The new 8th-Gen Intel processors will be accompanied by a new motherboard chipset. Despite using an LGA1151 socket dubbed LGA1151v2, it uses a different pin configuration than Skylake and Kaby Lake-compatible boards prior (Intel 100 and 200 respectively) making them hardware incompatible with each other e.g. Kaby Lake will not work on Z370 boards and Coffee Lake processors will not work on Z270 or lower boards. That said, Intel has introduced some new features into the chipset which we’ll in detail in our motherboard reviews.
As you can see from the platform diagram above, Intel isn’t introducing much features with its Z370 chipset but motherboard vendors are free to be creative with the available I/O of the Z370 or add in their own via 3rd-party chips. For now, at the minimum we have multiplier overclocking support on K-unlocked processors on the Z370 as well as native USB3.1 Gen1 support, PCIe Gen3, Intel LAN, and Thunderbolt3 (only if implemented by board vendor.)
ASUS PRIME Z370-A Features
- Ready for the latest Intel processors: LGA1151 socket for 8th Generation Intel Core desktop CPUs
- 5-Way Optimization: One-click, system-wide tuning delivers optimized overclocks and intelligent cooling for CPU or GPU-intensive tasks
- ASUS OptiMem: Careful routing of traces and vias to preserve signal integrity for improved memory overclocking
- Industry-leading cooling options: Comprehensive controls for fans and water pumps, via Fan Xpert 4 software or the acclaimed ASUS UEFI
- Next-gen connectivity: Supreme flexibility with Intel Optane memory ready, Thunderbolt 3 and dual M.2 support
- M.2 heatsink: Ultra-efficient heatsink reduces M.2 SSD temperatures by up to 20°C for unthrottled transfer speeds and enhanced reliability
- ASUS Aura Sync: Controllable onboard RGB lighting that can be easily synced with an ever-growing portfolio of Aura-capable hardware
The ASUS Prime Z370-A continues the evolution of the new PRIME series as a main series of products from ASUS that are focused for mainstream users that want something that focuses on the essentials as well as overall quality than over-the-top and special use-case features. The Prime Z370-A is the entry level addition to the family and serves as a budget friendly-option in the PRIME family together with the PRIME Z370-P. The packaging is done mostly in black with a glamor shot of the motherboard in the front. Large, bold prints highlight the model name with the large AURA Sync badge just below. Bullet icons highlight the features of the motherboard. ASUS further details most of the features of the motherboard in the back along with the spec sheet and highlights of the board.
Inside the packkage we have a bundle consistent of the I/O shield, a fan holder, documentations and manual, a driver installation disc, the CPU insert tool, SATA cables, SLI HB bridge, M.2 mounting screws and a CableMod discount voucher.
The Prime Series shares many new aesthetic details as the newer ASUS motherboards but still has that distinct PRIME look to it with the slanted lines on the heatsinks. The PCB gets some sprucing up with bold accent prints and the I/O shroud gets some nice cut out similar to ROG but with a more tame styling. The PCB is quite clean and is well layed out with minimal messy clusters on the board. The back is well made with almost zero protruding solder points.
The Prime Z370-A is equipped with a 10-phase power delivery design enough for most of the new parts from Intel and is made of decent components that is designed to endure even stressful usage scenarios.
We have four memory slots and the board is capable of supporting up to DDR4-4000 sticks via OC. We recommend something around DDR4-3200 to DDR4-3600 for best stability and performance.
The board has a total of six SATA ports but as you’ll find out later, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind if you plan to use many of these.
At the back we have a USB3.1 Type-C and Type-A port. We also have video output consisting of a DisplayPort, HDMI port and DVI port. Further I/O include legacy USB2.0 and USB3.0. We also have a single RJ45 port powered by an Intel i219-V LAN controller along with multi-channel audio coming from an ALC1220 backed by ASUS Crystal Sound 3 technology.
Merging in with the PCH heatsink is a M.2 slot. This slot shares its bandwidth with SATA 5 and 6 so those will be disable when this port is used.
The bottom half of the motherboard shows us a good picture of possible configurations of this motherboard. As the board supports both NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX, you can get away with a dual-GPU configuration and still have a spare x16 slot running x4 for another GPU for physics or maybe a soundcard. Note that all x16 slots are split when running multi-card configuration. Please see manual for actual figures.
The motherboard has a dedicated AIO pump header to power popular AIO liquid cooling products in the market. Curiously, its placed at the bottom of the rear I/O shroud along with another fan header.
The upper M.2 slot is shared with SATA1 so that will be disabled if you populate this port.
Processor: Intel Core i7 8700K
Motherboard: ASUS PRIME Z370-A
Memory: Corsair Vengeance RGB DDR4-3600 2x8GB
Storage: WD Blue SSD 1TB
Graphics Card: ZOTAC GTX 1080 Ti AMP! Edition
Cooling: Thermaltake Water 3.0 360mm
Power Supply: Seasonic Platinum P1000
Display: ViewSonic VX2475Smhl-4K
Notice: As many already know, most motherboards will have varying frequency multipliers and this may affect performance overall. As this is part of their out of the box configuration we see it fit to use them as is. All data presented here in are with the default motherboard settings for stock performance. Overclocked performance will be indicated where needed. For non-Z series motherboards, all benchmarks are performed on DDR4-2133 default settings.
As always, we’ll let the numbers do the talking.
Rendering and Encoding
Temperature and Power Draw
In this test we’ll measure how much manufacturer-set BIOS settings affect temperature and power draw. As we’re dealing with pre-launch samples, more mature BIOS may change these over time.
We really don’t put too much stock on individual component temperatures as they will vary depending on usage and we do not benchmark using extreme loads anymore as they’re not reflective of real world applications. To stress the CPU, we use a 20-minute run of AIDA64 stress test. We recorded the peak CPU temps and cross-match HWINFO and AIDA64 readings. For power readings, we measure the peak system draw.
It’s very hard to find fault in the ASUS PRIME Z370-A motherboard. First off, its price pegs it at a competitive place against most other high-end boards and with most motherboards just a touch between each other in terms of performance, the ability to perform on a higher level is mostly dictated by how lucky you are with your processor and how good the tweaking options are in your motherboard. Of course good cooling helps but for the most part those 2 things mentioned are plenty enough to make the difference between a 5Ghz daily stable system and 4.8Ghz-only machine. Of course that’s totally up to luck but having the ability to fine tune settings to get your system to that level is also a welcome feature. The PRIME Z370-A comes with a solid BIOS to tweak your system and while it may lack ROG-level customization, there is still a wide array of options to play around here for performance seekers and advanced users.
Connectivity options are plenty on the board making it quite scalable and flexible for most users who are looking to maximize the Z370 chipset. There’s not much here in terms of 3rd-party addition but ASUS does know how bolster its stock offering with improved design and the likes. The M.2 which merges seamlessly with the PCH heatsink is a nice touch and adds a layer of performance with function as some M.2 SSDs do heat up and perform less when they do. The M.2 slots also fully support NVMe PCIe X4 which is good enough for plenty of modern SSDs.
MSI’s PRO Series and GIGABYTE’s Ultra Durable line are the main competitor for the PRIME series but they just don’t give that premium vibe when looking at them. Feature-wise though they are neck to neck but I’d leave the choices to probably GIGABYTE or ASRock if you’re choosing between stock offerings as MSI hasn’t been on the forefront of any improvement since maybe 3 generations ago. Back to the topic though, the PRIME Z370-A offers plenty of features to satisfy system builders going as far as to even support SLI setups so gamers can take advantage of a simpler motherboard for their build. Those looking for a more mature, professional look also will find the more subdued design of the PRIME Z370-A more inviting than any of the “gaming” branded products out there.
With a street price of just above Php10,000, the ASUS PRIME Z370-A is a bit premium for a non-gamer motherboard but it does hold itself high with its excellent quality and bolstered feature set. If you’re looking for a platform to serve as a stable yet functional foundation for a scalable build, the ASUS PRIME Z370-A is great choice. There’s plenty of connectivity options and the system is tweaker-friendly for even advanced users.
ASUS backs the PRIME Z370-A with a 3-year warranty. We give it our B2G Silver Award and B2G Editor’s Choice Award!