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ASUS Maximus X Hero and ASUS STRIX Z370E LGA 1151 Motherboard Review – ASUS’s $250 and $200 US Offerings

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PRODUCT INFO

ASUS ROG Maximus X Hero

5th October, 2017
Type Motherboard
Price $249.99 US

Early in 2017, Intel released their brand new Kaby Lake platform, featuring a plethora of CPUs and motherboards. The Kaby Lake platform introduced nothing new over what Skylake and its boards already offered. It was simply part of Intel's yearly refresh and brought some modest clock speed upgrades and boards with added features (mainly by AIBs rather than the chipset itself).

But, a few months after Kaby Lake launched, AMD introduced Ryzen. A significant update to their processor family that not only brought IPC on par with modern Intel cores, but also delivered a mainstream platform with feature level parity with Intel's mainstream offerings. Ryzen also offered more cores on the mainstream platform, with multi-threading support and the major blow to Intel came in price to performance. Ryzen had done one thing, it had disrupted Intel's long running reign in the mainstream market by itself, we won't even mention Threadripper here as that is a whole other story.

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Meanwhile, Intel already had plans to update their mainstream family to higher cores, but AMD surprised them with the Ryzen lineup. As such, while the plans to bring higher core count CPUs were formulated long before Ryzen was even announced, the roadmap changes were made about a few months ago. So, what was expected to launch in early 2018 is launched slightly earlier in late 2017, Intel's first mainstream core count bump in more than 10 years.

Intel has officially launched the 300-series platform. Designed to support 8th generation core processors that are codenamed Coffee Lake, the 300-series offers new features and updates in the form that were essentially made to house the new generation of mainstream processors. The latest launch comes just a few months after Intel's 7th Generation core family which is very surprising, even for Intel. Today, I'll be testing ASUS's ROG Maximus X Hero and their ROG STRIX Z370-E Gaming motherboards with the Core i7-8700K processor which we tested back in October.

Intel Z370 Express Chipset - The Top 300-Series PCH

With the launch of Coffee Lake processors, Intel is also offering a new platform that is marked as 300-series. The Intel 300 series platform will feature several chipset SKUs but the first to hit the retail market is Z370.

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The Z370 platform is exclusively built to support Coffee Lake CPUs meaning that while we can expect later CPU launches to feature support on the current platform, all CPUs that came before will not work on the new motherboards. We have more details on this in the LGA 1151 socket section so here, we will be taking a look at the Z370 featureset and what it offers over the previous 200 and 100 series platforms.

Intel Z370 PCH Features:

The 8th gen desktop platform has a range of new features that mainly include:

  • More Cores
  • More Intel Smart Cache
  • Best In Class Design
  • Enhanced Overclocking
  • Improved 14nm Process

And of course, powering the new platform is the Z370 PCH. The PCH offers the following:

  • Improved Power Delivery for 6 Core Processors
  • Enhanced Package Power Delivery For Overclocking
  • Memory Routing Support for DDR4-2666
  • Rec.2020 & HDR Support, HEVC 10-bit HW Decode/Encode, VP9 10-bit HW Decode
  • Integrated USB 3.1 Gen2 (10 Gbps)
  • Intel Optane memory support
  • Intel Smart Sound Technology with Quad Core Audio DSP
  • 24 Chipset PCIe 3.0 Lanes
  • 10 USB 3.1 Ports With Up To 6 USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) Ports
  • Up To 6 SATA 3.0 Ports
  • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 16
  • PCIe 3.0 x4 Storage Support

Intel Desktop Platform Chipset Comparison

Chipset NameRaptor Lake-S (RPL-S) PCH / 700 Series (Z790)Alder Lake-S (ADL-S) PCH / 600 Series (Z690)Rocket Lake-S (RKL-S) PCH / 500 Series (Z590)Comet Lake-S (CML-S) PCH / 400 Series (Z490)Coffee Lake S (CNL-H) PCH / 300 Series (Z390/H370, B360, Q370, H310)Coffee Lake S (KBL-R) PCH / Z370 Platform
Process Node14nm14nm14nm14nm14nm22nm
Processor24,16C,12C,10C,6C,4C (TBD)16C,12C,10C,6C,4C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)8C, 6C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)10C, 8C, 6C, 4C, 2C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)8C, 6C, 4C, 2C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)8C, 6C, 4C (6 Consumer SKUs at Launch)
MemoryUp To DDR5-5600 (Native)
Up To DDR4-3200 (Native)?
Up To DDR5-4800 (Native)
Up To DDR4-3200 (Native)
Up To DDR4-3200 (Native)Up To DDR4-2933 (Native)Up To DDR4-2666 (Native)Up To DDR4-2666 (Native)
Media, Display & AudioeDP / 4DDI (DP, HDMI) Display CapabilitieseDP / 4DDI (DP, HDMI) Display CapabilitiesDP 1.2 & HDMI 2.0, HBR3
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
12-bit AV1/HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP With USB Audio offload
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
DP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
DP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
SoundWire Digital Audio Interface
DP 1.2 & HDMI 1.4
HDCP 2.2 (HDMI 2.0a w/LSPCON)
HEVC & VP9 10-bit Enc/Dec, HDR, Rec.2020, DX12
Integrated Dual-Core Audio DSP
I/O & ConnectivityIntegrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20G)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi6E/ 7 BT CNVio) with Gig+
Integrated SDXC 4.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 4.0
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20G)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi6E/ 7 BT CNVio) with Gig+
Integrated SDXC 4.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 4.0
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 (20G)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi6E/ BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 4.0 (Maple Ridge)
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi / BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Titan Ridge) w/ DP 1.4
Integrated USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi / BT CNVi)
Integrated SDXC 3.0 Controller
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Titan Ridge) w/ DP 1.4
Integrated USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Alpine Ridge)
StorageNext-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 5.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Next-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 5.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Next-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 4.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Next-Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Next Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Next Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, 6x SATA 3.0
Max PCH PCIe LanesUp To 20 (Gen 4)
Up To 8 (Gen 3)
Up To 12 (Gen 4)
Up To 16 (Gen 3)
Up To 24 (Gen 3)Up To 24 (Gen 3)Up To 24 (Gen 3)Up To 24 (Gen 3)
Max CPU PCIe LanesTBDUp To 16 (Gen 5)
Up To 4 (Gen 4)
Up To 20 (Gen 4)Up To 16 (Gen 3)Up To 16 (Gen 3)Up To 16 (Gen 3)
Max USB PortsUp To 5 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x1)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 1x1)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
Up To 4 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x1)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 1x1)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
Up To 3 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x2)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 2x1)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2 Gen 1x1)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
Up To 10 (USB 3.2)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
Up To 10 (USB 3.1)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
Up To 10 (USB 3.0)
Up To 14 (USB 2.0)
SecurityN/AN/AN/AIntel SGX 1.0Intel SGX 1.0Intel SGX 1.0
Power ManagementC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC10 & S0ix Support for Modern StandbyC8 Support
Launch202220212021201920182017

Intel LGA 1151 Socket Again - Now With Only 8th Generation Processor Support

Intel isn't moving away from the LGA 1151 socket anytime soon. We are once again looking at the same socket which has been doing the rounds in the mainstream market since 2015. There is however a major difference. There's no backward compatibility with Skylake and Kaby Lake processors.

That brings us to the next significant detail about the Intel 300-series platform. Intel is confirming that the Coffee Lake processors are only compatible with the 300-series chipset. The reason cited by Intel is the change in electrical lanes and power delivery that Z370 improves substantially. We did have a word with some motherboard manufacturers and while they reveal that Coffee Lake may work with older motherboards, it won’t deliver the same level of stability or clocking as on the Z370 series motherboards.

A more detailed analysis was posted by David Schor a few days ago which confirms the change in pin configuration on Coffee Lake processors, hence keeping the LGA 1151 socket on Z370 boards exclusive to Coffee Lake chips.

According to David, the reason we don't have Coffee Lake processors compatible with older series motherboards that feature the LGA 1151 socket is the change in pins. For instance, if the pin config changes on a processor, the sockets on the motherboard need to be configured as such. It's not a process that can be done via software as its more of a hardware level change.

When compared, the Coffee Lake processors have 391 VSS (Ground) pins which is an increase of 14 compared to Kaby Lake, 146 VCC (Electrical) pins which is an increase of 18 pins compared to Kaby Lake and about 25 pins that are reserved and a decrease of 21 pins from the 46 reserved on Kaby Lake.

Kaby Lake -> Coffee Lake

  • VSS (Ground): 377 -> 391 (+14)
  • VCC (Power): 128 -> 146 (+18)
  • RSVD: 46 ->25

Intel LGA 1151 CPU Pin Configuration (Coffee Lake vs Kaby Lake):

So one thing is clear, Intel was in fact telling the truth about electrical changes to the processors and socket in the 300-series platform. Furthermore, it's not just the reserved pins from Kaby Lake that have simply been populated. There are pins aside the reserved ones that were swapped with VCC pins and indicate a design tweak.

While we can put many theories to rest with this new detail, I think much of the confusion could have just been avoided if Intel clarified this themselves. Of course, if you are making the boards with a new PCH and new series of processors on the same socket that ran the previous CPU line, consumers would definitely want to know more about why the new platform that has the same socket cannot support their older chips. We previously heard about the LGA 1151 V2 naming scheme and that may have sorted some confusion but as we can tell, all motherboards still use the LGA 1151 naming scheme which may lead to people thinking that their 6th and 7th generation processors can run on the newer boards.

Cooler Compatibility With LGA 1151 Socket

Keeping the same socket has some advantages in the form of cooler compatibility. All users who are running the LGA 1151 socket or even LGA 1150 boards can use the same cooler on the Z370 boards without any hassle. The socket has the same dimensions and no changes are made aside from electrical changes that are specific to socket and processor pins. The socket assembly and mounting remains the same.

Intel does offer a separate boxed cooler but it will be a much better choice to get an AIB cooling solution since those offer better cooling performance. It is recommended for the unlocked SKUs that users run them on a high end air cooler or liquid cooling solution. Custom loop cooling will deliver even better results.

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