Our next board partner in the roundup is MSI. MSI brings ten Z370 motherboards to the table, from the entry-level Z370-A Pro to the flagship Z370 Godlike Gaming. We have divided these up by MSI's existing product stack delineation. We'll start with the Enthusiast Gaming line, then cover Performance Gaming, Arsenal Gaming, and Pro lineups. 

MSI Z370 Godlike Gaming

The Godlike Gaming is an E-ATX sized board which comes with a lot of features. One of the first features that stuck out in my mind is a triple Killer E2500 LANs + Killer Wi-Fi, along with U.2 support and support for five M.2 based devices when using the included PCIe riser card. It also comes with a beefy power delivery and a Game Boost knob for easy overclocking. Can we still turn it up to 11? (Ian: yes, it goes up to 11)

The Z370 Godlike Gaming’s appearance is an all-black PCB with dark gray shrouding all over the board. Not only is the back panel IO and audio section covered, so is the right side of the board starting from the chipset heatsink on all the way up to the onboard power, reset, and game boost overclocking buttons. RGB LEDs find their way under these shrouds as well as under the PCH heatsink and miscellaneous places around the board. There are additional headers on the board for adding more RGB, all of which are controlled my MSI’s Mystic Light App. The VRM heatsinks are large hunks aluminum but appear to not be connected to each other. All the full-length PCIe and memory slots are reinforced, as well as the three onboard M.2 slots which are using MSI’s M.2 Shield to help cool the drives.

Memory slot support is the platform standard here as well with four slots supporting up to 64GB, up to a supported speed of DDR4-4133, which is one above the other boards in the product stack which max out at DDR4-4000. All the memory slots are steel reinforced and use a one-sided locking mechanism. The board has a total of four full-length reinforced PCIe slots and one x1 slot, which combined can handle 2-way SLI and up to 4-Way AMD Crossfire. This means that the CPU uses an x8/x4/x4 layout from the processor, using slots 1, 2, and 4, while the bottom full-length slot is from the chipset. Slots 1 and 4 are used in a dual GPU configuration allowing for adequate spacing between the cards for better cooling, so the options become x16/0/0 for single cards, x8/0/x8 for dual cards, and x8/x4/x4 for triple cards.

The storage options on this board are plentiful in number and type. On the board are three PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, all using MSI's M.2 Shield. There is also a possibility to add two more M.2 drives through an add-in card, which is bundled with the board in certain regions. SATA support runs the same as the other boards at six and supports RAID 0, 1,5, and 10. A fairly unique addition is a single U.2 slot. The M.2 slots, U.2 port, and SATA ports are partly switched (using one might disable something else), so be sure to check the manual for the breakdown.

There are a total of 10 fan headers on the board scattered all around the board; all of which can be controlled via the BIOS or MSI Command Center. Audio functionality is handled by the Realtek ALC1220 codec and includes Nichicon and WIMA audio caps as well as an ESS E9018 DAC for driving headphones. The Z370 Godlike also has a debug LED, power and reset buttons, as well as the Gameboost overclocking knob.

MSI quadrupled down on the Rivet Networks Killer products and have three E2500 NICs on board as well as Killer 1535 Wireless LAN and Bluetooth (4.1) module. This is because the board can act like a networking switch through the updated Killer software: users can have the motherboard act as a passthrough for other devices set up nearby, such as a console or a NAS. In order to enable this feature, Killer required the motherboard to have at least three of its network controllers. If the main internet access is acquired through one of the ethernet ports, the motherboard can use the Wi-Fi module as a local access point to the network, enabling wireless devices around the system. The only drawback to this feature is that the PC needs to be on and awake at all times.

There are three USB3.1 (10 Gbps) ports handled by the ASM3142 controller with one Type-A and one Type-C on the back panel and another Type-C port available through the internal connector. We also see two native USB 3.1 (5Gbps) ports on the rear panel and four controlled by the ASM1074 hub. The rest are available through internal USB connectors. The back panel IO contains the Killer Wi-Fi module, a CMOS reset button, combination PS/2 port, the three Killer NICs, a plug audio stack with SPDIF and a 6.3mm headphone jack. Because the back panel does not have video outputs, a discrete GPU is a requirement for this motherboard.

MSI Z370 Godlike Gaming
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link
Price Amazon US
Size E-ATX
CPU Interface LGA1151
Chipset Intel Z370 Express
Memory Slots (DDR4) Four DDR4
Supporting 64GB
Dual Channel
Support DDR4 4133+
Network Connectivity 3 x Rivet Networks Killer E2500 LAN
1 x Killer 1535  Wi-Fi w/Bluetooth (4.1)
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC1220
PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU) 3 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots @ x16, x8/0/x8, x8/x4/x4
PCIe Slots for Other (from Chipset) 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots @ x4
1 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots @ x1
Onboard SATA 6 x Supporting RAID 0/1/5/10
Onboard SATA Express None
Onboard M.2 3 x PCIe 3.0 x4 - NVMe or SATA
Onboard U.2 1 x PCIe 3.0 x4 
USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) 1 x Rear Panel Type-C (ASMedia)
1 x Rear Panel Type-A (ASMedia)
1 x Onboard Header
USB 3.1 (5 Gbps) 2 x Rear Panel (Native)
4 x Rear Panel (ASMedia Hub)
2 x Onboard Headers
USB 2.0 3 x Headers
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin EATX
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V
1 x 6-pin PCIe
Fan Headers 1 x 4-pin CPU
1 x 4-pin Waterpump
8 x 4-pin System Fan
IO Panel 1 x Clear CMOS button
2 x Wi-Fi Antenna connectors
1 x PS.2 keyboard/mouse port
6 x USB 3.1 (5 GBps) Type-A ports
3 x LAN (RJ45) ports
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
1 x USB 3.1 Type-A
1 x 6.3mm stereo headphone jack
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio Jacks
ECS Z370 Lightsaber MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon and Pro Carbon AC
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  • rocky12345 - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    Great article and a lot of work put in to get it out for us to read thank you.

    My only issue is and it is nit your fault is why these companies feel the need to totally blanket the market with basically the same boards just a different model number and basically a few tiny changes and spray paint it a different color and use the word gaming and put something x or x1 or k,k3 etc etc. For crap sakes just release three models not 7-10 models of the same crap it is pretty much just greed I guess.

    The whole market is like this now with anything computer related of and if it has the words GAMING or RGB in it's got to be good for sure. My fav is that gaming mouse pad next it will have RGB lighting in it...lol
    Reply
  • CitizenZer0 - Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - link

    Agreed Reply
  • carldon - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    Excellent summary and table in the last page. Good work!!! Reply
  • imaheadcase - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    I got a few questions:
    1. Why do they put USB 2.0 ports if USB 3.0 is backward compatible anyways? Why not just all USB 3.0 ports..it can't be price.
    2. Why do they have such a vary in memory timings? For %99 of people memory timings are not really a big deal right? Maybe in old PC days it was.
    3. Mini-ITX vs Micro-ITX..isn't it silly both exist in first place? Any reason for this..the diminsions are really close to the same. In fact, most Micro-ITX is simply removing lots of stuff from mobo that you really want to begin with.
    Reply
  • lordsutch - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    I'd imagine they want to offer as many ports as they can without taking away too many PCIe lanes. The other option would be to embed a USB 3.x switch (or a PCIe switch) but of course now each port wouldn't simultaneously be able to operate at peak speed and 3.x switches are probably more expensive than USB 2 controllers. Reply
  • imaheadcase - Sunday, October 22, 2017 - link

    Ahh didn't think about that aspect. Reply
  • DanNeely - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    Some USB audio and 2.4ghz wifi/bluetooth devices have had interference problems in 3.0 sockets. Dunno if they're fixed on new hardware (supposedly onboard hubs were a lot worse than chipset ports in this regard so room for QC to make it better); but even if they are there's going to be problems with once burned customers not trusting them.

    As pointed out elsewhere USB3 competes with PCIe lanes/SATA ports on the southbridge. Especially on full ATX boards if you go to max out the number of PCIe lanes to expansion slots and m.2 ports in addition to the lanes used on board for networking and audio you can get down to only a half dozen or so 3.0 lanes left from the chipset; but still able to hit 14 USB ports total by going USB2 with the rest.

    People using older OSes (Windows 7 says hi) can't use USB3 ports to install the OS without jumping through a lot of hoops (the OS sees them as not USB2 and can't talk to them).

    If any board size is at risk of going away it's probably full ATX; although for enthusiast sales I suspect it'll hold on better than mini ATX due to bigger is better irrationality.

    MiniITX still has a decent capability gap vs mini ATX; but it's much smaller than it was a half dozen years ago when it only made sense if you were making a tiny box and were willing to accept major performance compromises to do so. Now as Mini ITX's capability continues to goes up and the need for expansion cards other than a single GPU goes down it's eating into an increasing chunk of Mini ATX's marketshare.

    On the high side mainstream chips don't really have enough PCIe lanes to make good use of the extra 3 cards of space possible on the bigger boards/ Meanwhile multi-GPU gaming - the main reason an enthusiast would need a full size mobo is steadily going away (fewer games supporting it each year, no support for 3/4way at all in the newest cards from either company); and unless you need 2 GPUs + something else or extra space around the CPU for crazy OCing Mini ATX does almost everything that could be needed.
    Reply
  • MadAd - Sunday, October 22, 2017 - link

    > If any board size is at risk of going away it's probably full ATX; although for enthusiast sales I suspect it'll hold on better than mini ATX due to bigger is better irrationality.

    Irrationality indeed. I would have thought by now instead of a measly 5 mATX choices out of 50+ that it would be instead maybe 5 fullsize ATX with the main battleground being the two slot mATX market.

    Its just laziness on the manufacturers side, with nobody steering the market to innovate on size. Theres nobody driving form factors, the CPU companies are present on all form factors so they dont need to drive change, the board partners are all set in their ways just slapping new images on mildly reworked designs so they dont have any need to innovate, weve seen video card manufacturers can shrink designs to better fit smaller factors but we still get chunky easy to produce cards for mainstream use as retooling would be an added cost, its just rolling train of new but nothing new generation after generation.

    PC design is falling into mediocrity and I just wish the main players (intel+amd/board partners/nvidia+amd) would all get together to drive SFX/ITX and force retire ATX to the strictly enthusiast market, and maybe appeal to a more contemporary home user community (rather than just gamers which is where the marketing all seems to be these days) again too.
    Reply
  • Liltorp - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    It is really true that the MSI PC Pro has a legacy PCI connector? I could use this for my TV tuner. But I thought PCI was not supported by newer boatds/CPU`s? Reply
  • Morawka - Saturday, October 21, 2017 - link

    Has anyone noticed how cheap these new Z370 motherboards are? Most are under $180 and there are several sub $130. Reply

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