NZXT today announced its first-ever motherboard, the NZXT N7, a $300 Z370 board with integrated HUE RGB and GRID fan controller. This is NZXT’s first attempt at a motherboard, and seems to take a very NZXT-approach to everything: It’s visuals first, with this one, using the company’s newfound perforated design aesthetic across a steel surface plate on the board. NZXT has a lot of interesting – and odd – design decisions in the N7 motherboard. We’ll walk through some of those today.
The NZXT N7 motherboard is an ATX Z370 option, and we think we found NZXT’s OEM partner – we’ll save that for the end.
With our Best AM4 Overclocking Motherboards content up, we figured it was time to publish something in the same vein for Intel. Intel presently has two mainstream platforms: the 200-series and 300-series, with the former hosting Kaby Lake CPUs (like the i7-7700K, presently on sale) and the Skylake-X/KBL-X series (X299), while the latter hosts the new Coffee Lake series (i7-8700K, i5-8400). Oddly, Intel decided against launching Coffee Lake with lower-tier B-series motherboards, so we’re left with only Z370 to fill both the mainstream and enthusiast segments of Coffee Lake.
We rummaged through the Internet’s Black Friday sales to find the best Z370 and Z270 Intel motherboards, including boards we think fitting for the 8700K, 8500, 8300, and 7700K. If you missed our previous content, we have a GN Pick Black Friday Sales guide (that lists some CPUs), a DDR4 memory sales guide, and a Best CPUs of 2017 listing. For those unsure of which CPU to buy, we have reviews of the i7-8700K here, the i5-8400 here, and the i3-8350K over here. If you’re interested in Ryzen stuff, check out our motherboard round-up or Best CPUs guide, both linked above.
This week’s hardware news recap covers major AMD Ryzen CPU sales (read more here), Intel Optane Xpoint DIMMs, new fabs spinning-up for Coffee Lake production, and more. Not covered in this news recap is the Gigabyte BIOS security push for Intel’s vulnerabilities and the FCC regulations (or lack thereof). You can learn more about those at the respective links.
Supporting news items for the week include Samsung Z-NAND, CaseLabs’ SMA8, FireFox Quantum, and more.
As usual, the show notes are below the embedded video.
Coffee Lake returns to the bench for its third review, with benchmarks now focusing on the Intel i3-8350K unlocked 4C/4T CPU. The 8350K (on Amazon here) essentially usurps the market of the previous i5-7600K, but is potentially squelched by CFL brethren i5-8400 CPUs, planting the 8350K in the same price/performance positioning as the 7350K in January.
The 7350K was a good idea, but the wrong launch price. Pricing later fell by ~$30 and made more sense, but the initial ~$180 retail availability was far too high to be worthwhile. Now, with the gap between an i5 and an i3 emphasized with 6C i5 CPUs, those differences become more noteworthy. The i5-8400, ignoring the absence of sensible partner boards, is priced at around the same target as the 8350K (+/-$10). Again, assuming you can find any – and assuming retailers can stick to one price. The R5 CPUs are also more appropriate comparisons against the i3-8350K, despite the i3/R3 naming equivalence. In terms of price, the R3s target a completely different market, and are not an appropriate price-to-price comparison for the 8350K.
As a reminder before getting started, we deployed a new testing methodology with Coffee Lake (our 8700K review), and have not yet fully re-populated our CPU charts.
Hardware news for the last week includes discussion on an inadvertent NZXT H700i case unveil (with “machine learning,” apparently), Ryzen/Vega APU, Vega partner card availability, and Coffee Lake availability.
Minor news items include the AMD AGESA 18.104.22.168 update to support Raven Ridge & Pinnacle Ridge, Noctua’s Chromax fans, and some VR news – like Oculus dropping its prices – and the Pimax 8K VR configuration.
Find the video and show notes below:
The Intel i5-8400 review got delayed from initial publication when we figured it’d be worth adding 2666MHz gaming tests. 3200MHz is our standard DDR4 memory speed, providing a solid baseline across Intel and AMD CPUs, but makes less sense for lower-end CPUs with questionable memory speed support. “Questionable” is used here because, as of now, we are not sure whether B/H boards will support only the native memory speed of 2666MHz or higher multipliers. Some board vendors have suggested a possibility of unlocked memory multipliers of 32/36x, but haven’t confirmed, while other sources have suggested a maximum speed of 2666MHz. Because we cannot reasonably confirm either, we decided to just test both, then let the chips fall where they may in 1Q18. That’s the launch period for the B/H boards, as we understand it, and means that the i5-8400 will make much more sense in 1Q18 than now.
As it stands now, the i5-8400 launch seems confused: The only pairing options are Z370 motherboards, which – although cheap ones exist – just don’t make a whole lot of sense for a locked CPU. It’s extra money spent where there need not be extra spend, leaving for a CPU ecosystem that becomes muddied and mismatched. That doesn’t mean the CPU is bad, of course, but it does mean that real-world motherboard pairings of the CPU will likely be far more reasonably priced in a few months.
As has always been the case, including in the i7-8700K review, we are testing with MCE disabled. Our follow-up MCE coverage was not because we had originally tested with it enabled, but because we wanted to demonstrate the performance differences. Anyone capable of reading that piece in its entirety should be aware of that, as the two boards were averaged, though clearly literacy is not always the case – so we’re reiterating it here. MCE off. Plain and simple, as it always has been. We are still using the Ultra Gaming Z370 board.
This episode of Ask GN was filmed a few days ago, but we ended up with so much content (like the H500P review and Vega 64 Strix PCB analysis) that we postponed its publication. The episode tackles popular topics of thermals and thermal testing, which have recently received more public interest, and also covers some top-level discussion of power, thermals, and electricity.
We spend most of the time discussing motherboard differences -- a story we've been harping on since January -- and how different board voltages affect CPUs in different ways. The rest of the intro is spent explaining thermal testing difficulties and challenges, and how we can best normalize for those in review content. The timestamps are below the video embed:
This week's hardware news recap includes some follow-up discussion from our Intel i7-8700K review, primarily focused on addressing incorrect references of thermal testing cross-review/cross-reviewer. We also talk Coffee Lake availability and pricing, as it was unknown at time of finalizing the review, and dive into some of the new Z370 motherboards. EVGA's Z370 FTW and Classified K have both been announced (and we followed-up with EVGA to get pricing information), alongside a new Micro board in Z370 format.
Beyond this, we've got the usual listing of new product announcements and industry news, including USB3.2's specification, headless video cards, Star Citizen 3.0 alpha pushed to Evocati, and AIM's death.
This content piece aims to explain how Turbo Boost works on Intel’s i7-8700K, 8600K, and other Coffee Lake CPUs. This primarily sets forth to highlight what “Multi-Core Enhancement” is, and why you may want to leave it off when using a CPU without overclocking.
Multi-core “enhancement” options are either enabled, disabled, or “auto” in motherboard BIOS, where “auto” has somewhat nebulous behavior, depending on board maker. Enabling multi-core enhancement means that the CPU ignores the Intel spec, instead locking all-core Turbo to the single-core Turbo speeds, which means a few things: (1) Higher voltage is now necessary, and therefore higher power draw and heat; (2) instability can be introduced to the system, as we observed in Blender on the ASUS Maximus X Hero with multi-core enhancement on the 8700K; (3) performance is bolstered in-step with higher all-core Turbo.
Intel’s Coffee Lake CPUs aren’t a hard “response” to Ryzen; the CPUs have been taped-out for a while now, but the response appears to align more with the release timeline and pricing. X299 moved forward to compete with Threadripper, and Coffee Lake received a similar treatment. One thing we won’t know, of course, is whether the pricing is some sort of a response to Ryzen. Intel’s i7-8700K premiere CL CPU carries an MSRP target of $360 1ku, a $10-$20 jump over Kaby Lake 7700K CPUs with fewer cores and similar frequencies. Either way, the i7-8700K is here now, and we’ve got a densely packed review covering most aspects of Coffee Lake.
Our Intel i7-8700K review will focus on delidding, liquid metal application, overclocking, gaming & streaming benchmarks vs. Ryzen, power draw, and production benchmarks. Our i5-8600K review will post separately, as this is dense enough as-is.
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