Intel H370 and B360 Motherboard Review Feat. ASUS ROG STRIX H370-F, ASUS ROG STRIX B360-F and AORUS H370 Gaming 3

Apr 10, 2018

The CPU market has seen a resurgence since the last year. We got to see AMD's Ryzen and Intel's Coffee Lake families which brought attention back to the CPU space after being overly shadowed by the GPU market. Yes, I get it, GPUs are awesome but it isn't like CPU aren't as much important as the products that feature GPUs, it's just that CPUs have been way too boring since we first got Sandy Bridge. Even pre-Bulldozer era was great for the CPU industry where we got to see frequent clashes between the two rivals (Intel and AMD) generation after generation.

This action quickly faded after Bulldozer disappointment and Intel caught a grip of the CPU market for several generations. However, Intel's dominance in this industry and AMD's failures meant that the industry would eventually slow down, making Intel clumsy, knowing that had control over the desktop market and we then go to see several generations of refreshed upon refreshes. Even new architectures like Haswell or Skylake didn't look like much of a leap as was seen with Sandy Bridge or first generation Core processors.

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Just about the time Intel had slowed down, Ryzen from AMD launched and woke up the blue team again. Once again, both companies are now engaged in a battle for the best high performance and main stream processors. The CPU industry is live and vivid once again. Gone are the days of quad and dual core processors reigning over the sub-$200 US segment and now we have proper chips in the entire category, for gaming, for multi-tasking, for media streaming.

So when Intel launched their latest CPU family to tackle AMD's Ryzen, they did launch a full stack ranging from Core i3 to Core i7 chips. However, the platforms supported were only based on the higher end Z370 chipset which falls in the top spectrum of the 300-series PCH lineup. We had to wait till April of 2018 to get the more mainstream products (H310/B360/H370/Q370) from retail shelves. Now the time has come that these boards are available and in consumers reach at very low price points.

So to find out how well do these boards handle the 8th gen Coffee Lake CPUs and are they well equipped to house the top-end Core i7 6 core processors too, I'll be testing out three different 300-series motherboards.

These include the AORUS B360 Gaming 7 Wi-Fi, ASUS ROG STRIX H370-F and the ASUS ROG STRIX B360-F.

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Intel 300-Series Express Chipset Family Detailed - Intel's Full 300-Series PCH Stack, Now Available To Consumers

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 features several chipsets and while Z370 was first to hit market, other SKUs are now available too in a wide variety of motherboards.

The 300-series 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 300 series feature set and what it offers over the previous 200 and 100 series platforms.

Intel 300-Series 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 (Z370 Specific Only)
  • 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¬†(Z370 Specific Only)
  • 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 Wireless AC Support
  • Intel Smart Sound Technology with Quad Core Audio DSP
  • Up To 24 Chipset PCIe 3.0 Lanes
  • Up To 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 vPro Technology Support (Q370 Specific Only)

Expected Intel 300-Series Kaby Lake Refresh and Cannon Lake PCH Features:

Chipset NameCoffee Lake S (KBL-R) PCH / Z370 PlatformCoffee Lake S (CNL-H) PCH / 300 Series (Z390/H370, B360, Q370, H310)
Process Node22nm14nm
Processor8C, 6C, 4C (6 Consumer SKUs at Launch)
Enhanced IA and Memory Overclocking
Gen 9 Intel Graphics GT2 (Up To 24 EUs)
Consumer Only
8C, 6C, 4C, 2C (Full corporate/consumer SKU stack at launch)
Enhanced IA and Memory Overclocking
Gen 9 Intel Graphics GT2 (Up To 24 EUs)
Corporate/vPro & Consumer
MemoryUp To DDR4-2666 (Native)Up To DDR4-2666 (Native)
Media, Display & AudioDP 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
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
I/O & ConnectivityIntegrated USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
Thunderbolt 3.0 (Alpine Ridge)
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
StorageNext Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0
Next Gen Intel Optane memory
PCIe 3.0, SATA 3.0
SecurityIntel SGX 1.0Intel SGX 1.0
Power ManagementC8 SupportC10 & S0ix Support for Modern Standby

Motherboard OEMs which include ASUS, ASRock, Gigabyte, MSI, Biostar, Colorful, ECS and others will be offering their own H370, H110, B360 and Q370 chipset based motherboards. Till then, you can check out the differences between the new chipsets below:

New Intel 300-Series Chipsets:

Chipset NameIntel H310Intel B360Intel Q370Intel H370Intel Z370
SKU Target MarketConsumerConsumer / CorporateCorporateConsumer / CorporateConsumer
High Speed I/O Lanes1424303030
Total USB Ports (Max USB 3.1)10 (4)12 (6)14 (10)14 (8)14 (10)
Total USB Ports (Gen 2 / Gen 1)0 / 44 / 66 / 104 / 810
Max SATA 3.0 Ports (6 Gbps)46666
Max PCIe 3.0 lanes6 (Gen 2.0 Only)12242024
Max Intel RST PCIe Storage Ports (M.2)01323
Intel Optane SupportN/AYesYesYesYes
Integrated Intel WIreless AC SupportYesYesYesYesN/A
Intel Smart Sound TechnologyN/AYesYesYesYes
Intel vPro Technology SupportN/AN/AYesN/AN/A

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 300 series improves substantially.

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 300 series 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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