In­tel Z390 mother­boards re­vealed

Z390 PLUGS THE GLAR­ING HOLES I N Z370.

PCWorld (USA) - - Contents - BY BRAD CHA­COS

WHAT’S IN­SIDE IN­TEL’S NEW HIGH­END CHIPSET

Anew chip de­mands a new moth­er­board chipset, and on Oc­to­ber 8, In­tel and its part­ners re­vealed a wide ar­ray of Z390 mother­boards to ac­com­pany the new 9th-gen Core pro­ces­sors ( go.pcworld. com/9cp). Z390 builds atop the foun­da­tion set by ex­ist­ing Z370 boards. Its ca­pa­bil­i­ties come as no sur­prise, as In­tel pub­lished doc­u­men­ta­tion ( go. pcworld.com/d) de­tail­ing the high-end chipset all the way back in May. Nev­er­the­less, Z390’s ar­rival gives In­tel a new flag­ship moth­er­board lineup and should fi­nally bring the bizarre, drawn-out saga of In­tel 300-series mother­boards to a co­he­sive close.

Last year, In­tel’s 8th-gen “Cof­fee Lake” pro­ces­sors launched in Oc­to­ber 2017 with only en­thu­si­ast-class Z370 mother­boards in tow. In April, In­tel fi­nally re­leased the full lineup of 300-series mother­boards ( go.pcworld.com/30), but sur­pris­ingly, the cheaper H370, B360, and H310 chipsets in­cluded premium fea­tures that Z370 lacked. They in­te­grated sup­port for speedy 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports into the chipset, and also moved a lot of the func­tions needed for wire­less net­work­ing into the plat­form con­troller hub it­self with In­tel’s CNVI wire­less-ac tech­nol­ogy ( go.pcworld.com/a).

The new Z390 chipset launch­ing along­side the Core i9-9900k ( go.pcworld.com/9), Core i7-9700k ( go.pcworld.com/97), and Core i5-9600k ( go.pcworld.com/96) weaves those swanky ex­tras atop Z370’s al­ready for­mi­da­ble ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Specif­i­cally, Z390 boards will in­clude up to six USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (com­pared to four in the lesser-priced chipsets). Z390 mother­boards can also in­clude in­te­grated 802.11ac wire­less ca­pa­bil­i­ties if the moth­er­board man­u­fac­turer chooses to do so. Z390 mother­boards also in­clude in­te­grated SDXC (SDA 3.0) sup­port and a newer In­tel Man­age­ment En­gine (IME)

firmware ver­sion.

Be­yond that, Z390’s spec­i­fi­ca­tions mir­ror Z370’s, in­clud­ing sup­port for CPU over­clock­ing with com­pat­i­ble K-series chips, RAID set­ups, and Op­tane Me­mory ( go.pcworld.com/oa). Yes, it’s mostly an in­cre­men­tal up­date. In­tel’s 8th-gen and 9th-gen pro­ces­sors will run on both Z390 and Z370 mother­boards, though you’ll need to ap­ply a BIOS up­date to run a 9th-gen part on a Z370 board. If you’ve al­ready in­vested in a Z370, it’s prob­a­bly not worth­while to up­grade to Z390 un­less you need those USB 3.1 Gen. 2 ports. If you’re build­ing a new sys­tem from scratch, how­ever, Z390 is clearly the bet­ter op­tion.

This chart (on the right) from our com­pre­hen­sive guide to In­tel 8th-gen mother­boards ( go. pcworld.com/z3) shows what you get from the ex­ist­ing Z370, H370, B360, and H310 chipsets. Z390’s un­der­ly­ing specs match Z370’s ex­cept for the hand­ful of new fea­tures men­tioned above.

Even prior to the of­fi­cial launch of In­tel’s 9th-gen Core chips on Oc­to­ber 19, more than 50 mother­boards with the Z390 chipset ( go. pcworld.com/gi) were al­ready avail­able at Newegg from all the usual sus­pects, though EVGA’S Z390 mother­boards ( go.pcworld. com/39) were still listed as “com­ing soon.” The cheap­est one avail­able was the Gi­ga­byte Z390 UD for $130 ( go.pcworld.com/3), while at the high end you’d find fully loaded flag­ship op­tions like the $350 Asus ROG Max­i­mums XI Code ( go. pcworld.com/xi), the $300 As­rock Taichi Ul­ti­mate ( go.pcworld.com/sr1), the $290 Gi­ga­byte Z390 Aorus Mas­ter ( go.pcworld.com/z, pic­tured at top), and the ri­donku­lously over-thetop $600 MSI MEG Z390 God­like ( go.pcworld. com/mg), which comes with an M.2 ex­pan­sion card and a video cap­ture card to let you record your most glo­ri­ous gam­ing mo­ments.

You’ll find Z390 mother­boards with var­i­ous ca­pa­bil­i­ties and fea­tures at prices be­tween those ex­tremes at Newegg ( go.pcworld.com/y).

An In­tel block di­a­gram of the Z390 chipset

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