Final Words & Conclusion
It is hard to grasp how small this motherboard is, and then see the product perform as it does? I mean we need to replace our LCS cooler, but 5 GHz on this compact Mini ITX board was no problem. You can also mount a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti on there if you wanted too, as well as a super fast NVMe M2 SSD. That's all fairly crazy stuff, and it doesn't stop there as you get a second Ethernet jack, a proper audio solution as well as AC WIFI. Of course, you are limited in the number of PCIe slots, (just the one) and perhaps some SATA connectors but yeah, Overclocking wise we reached ~5.0 GHz on all six cores 100% stable. But even so, in its default non-overclocked setup is already very fast of course.
Performance & tweaking
Once tweaked we noticed that the six cores like a bit of extra voltage, we expect all-core tweaks in the 5.1~5.2 GHz marker to need 1.35~1.38 Volts on the processor. While that does increase power consumption, it wasn't something that scared me away. Some platforms will and procs will also be able to manage a lower voltage. We did use an ES sample, perhaps the final retail product can do with a little less juice. If you plan a tweak at that 5 GHz marker then remember my remarks on cooling, you will need LCS, that or a very good heat pipe cooler. Again, we have been using an ES sample so I cannot say anything conclusive on the final retail products (these might run a tiny bit cooler). The infrastructure that Z370 offers is easy to use, you increase the CPU voltage and multiplier and you are good to go. Another plus for the Intel platform is that over the years they have been able to refine their memory controllers, pop in anything XMP 2.0 and you have a 90% chance it'll work straight out of the box with very fast memories. Mind you that all our tests are performed at 3200 MHz DDR4, similar to Ryzen and Threadripper to remain objective and for fair play on both sides.
Some perspective then .. of how small the board really is! How cute is that?
Z370 with six cores and twelve threaded proc equals to a 95 Watt TDP processor. With the system at idle with a GeForce GTX 1080 installed / 16 GB memory / SSD and the Z370 motherboard, I hovered at roughly 50 Watts in IDLE. That's just fine and normal really, but the load values are okay as well. When we stressed the processor 100% run we reach roughly 150 Watts with the 6-core 8700K part. When we game we hover at ~250 Watts with the GeForce GTX 1080, but obviously that factor is dependent on the type of graphics card you use of course and sure, most games certainly do not utilize the six CPU cores. Overall I have no worries here.
For Coffee Lake (8th Gen Intel procs) DDR4 may be clocked a notch faster at 2400/2667 MHz as per Intel reference. We always say, volume matters more than frequency. A 3200 MHz kit, for example, is far more expensive and does offer better bandwidth but the performance increases in real-world usage will be hard to find. Unless you transcode videos over the processor a lot. As always, my advice would be to go with lower clocked DDR4 memory with decent timings, but get more of it. Don't go for 8 GB, get four DIMMs and in total a minimum of 16 GB. The reason we test at 3200 MHz is simple, we do the same for AMD Ryzen and want to create a fair and equal playing ground for both. Please keep in mind that with two DIMM slots you have a maximum of 32GB you can install.
The smaller motherboards get, the more awesome they seem to be. At roughly 150 bucks, that conclusion is not at all different for the Gigabyte Z370N WIFI. The mini ITX form factor allows you to build a very tiny compact PC, that potentially oozes out ridiculous numbers in performance and features. Obviously, the compact design equals some limitations, these would be two DIMM slots and thus a max of 32GB memory installed, and just that one PCIe x16 slot. Then again, you have AC WIFI, dual GigE Ethernet, nice audio, a fully fetched and fast M2 slot, four SATA ports and a platform that can hold any Coffee Lake processor, as well as the option of tweaking it, quite easily in the BIOS.There isn't much LED activity, other then the bottom side of the PCB + you get an RGB connector you can use. Hey, I'm down with that choice. Connectivity wise in terms of your PCIe slots for your graphics subsystem you just get that one full x16 Gen 3 lanes for one graphics cards. We expect Coffee lake to be able to manage the 5 GHz domain on all cores with exceptions running up towards 5.2 GHz (all-core). I base this metric on high-perf air coolers and proper liquid cooling. From there on-wards you are looking at proc ASIC quality and cooling being the more important denominator. Concluding, this is something small and tiny that comes at a nice price while being feature-packed on that 17x17cm form factor. Something this small deserves a big award, it is a Top pick from Guru3D.com
** This review has been performed with the CPU bug patch, however, Gigabyte does not have its BIOSes updated. Performance might differ on CPU and more importantly, 4K NVMe SSD in the future **
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