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What Do We Know About the Z390?


Although the Z390 first came to our attention last year, the enthusiast community seems to have forgotten about it a little thanks to an almost complete lack of additional information. In the meantime, we have the Z370, which is already plenty high-end for most people. It’s not clear exactly what will make the Z390 special compared to the $300+ Z370 boards you can go out and buy right now, but there are some things we do know.

More Cores
Just a little while ago an actual Z390 system showed up on the SiSoft Sandra database. While there isn’t much to go on here, it does tell us two things. First of all, it confirms the Z390 for sure and proves working samples of boards with this chipset already exist.

Secondly, the database entry seems to suggest support for upcoming 8-core CPUs, which makes perfect sense since AMD is eating Intel’s multi-core lunch right now.

Unlocking Coffee Lake
Apart from supporting some sort of 8-core Coffee Lake CPU, it’s traditional for Z-series chipsets to go along with unlocked versions of current Intel CPUs. In other words, these boards are meant for overclocking. Currently there are three K-series unlocked Coffee lake CPUs. There’s the i7 8700K, i5 8600K and i3 8350K. The i7 has six cores and 12 threads.

What we really need is an i9 K-series for desktops. We are probably getting a hexa-core i9 for laptops in the form of the i9-8950HK, but we’re talking about an 8-core i9 or at least an i7.

Feature Requests
In light of the Z370, one might wonder about additional features. It’s not likely that current Z370 boards are going to work with 8-core chips thanks to power limitations. Plenty of Z370 boards are already running hot just handling 6 cores and 12 threads. This suggests that the main value the Z390 will bring to the table comes in the form of better power delivery and cooling. Some Z370 boards also have issues with per-core bandwidth and efficiently sharing pathways on the board, which the Z390 could address. We’d also like to see more PCIe lanes over and above the 24 lanes currently offered by the X370. After all, it’s high time for a major update from Nvidia and it wouldn’t be great if the latest and greatest chipsets can’t provide enough bandwidth for high-end multi-gpu configurations.

The i3 models are all quad-core, the i5s are all hex-core. The same goes for the i7s, but then there’s hyperthreading which yields 12 threads. All in all, this is a distinct shift up the line and we have AMD Ryzen to thank for that at least in part.

Wait and See
Until we know exactly what Coffee Lake CPUs will be announced this year, its not clear whether Z390 is worth getting excited about yet. It really depends on which CPUs will be exclusive to the new chipset. Since we are at the end of Q1 for 2018, we might not have to wait much longer for announcements. So here’s hoping that Intel will blow us away!