MSI Z370 Godlike Gaming 'Coffee Lake' Motherboard Review

Feature-packed motherboards often exceed the ATX specification out of necessity, and the Z370 Godlike Gaming follows that concept with a slew of slots and on-board controllers packed tightly on a 10.7”-deep board. Because it's over an inch beyond the 9.6” (or 9.625”) depth of standard ATX, MSI affixes the EATX label so common among boards around this size. Far short of the 13” full EATX specification, it also fits any ATX case that has the extra inch of clearance at the front edge, as well as XL-ATX cases. We’ve been adding motherboard depth to ATX case reviews for a few months, just to assist builders in assessing their complete options.

But what exactly does all that extra room get us?

Specifications

Based on its ability to support four-way CrossFireX with a graphics card in the bottom slot, XL-ATX may appear to be the best (safest) choice in cases. On the other hand, that fourth slot shares PCIe pathways with so many other devices that we’re reluctant to use it. Among the Z370 Godlike Gaming’s premiere features, Killer xTend requires all three network controllers.

That’s right, we said three Killer E2500 PCIe network controllers. Add to that the Killer Wi-Fi, and you’ll get the options to use the on-board components as a network switch and access point in addition to the regular Killer features of packet and bandwidth prioritization. The label “xTend” pays homage to the typical remote placement and cable connection of a gaming PC, as the additional access point could eliminate the need for a range extender.

Other I/O-panel features include the expected pair of USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A and Type-C ports, six USB 3.0 ports (aka USB 3.1 Gen1), a CLR_CMOS button, five 1/8” analog audio jacks, digital optical audio, and a ¼” jack driven by an ESS Sabre 9018 DAC through an ESS headphone amplifier.

The Z370 Godlike Gaming’s top-front corner features a button to force entry into the UEFI interface, a button to force a retry after a boot hang, a two digit status code display, a row of voltage detection points (for your voltmeter), power and reset buttons, a “Game Boost” knob with seven factory-defined overclock configurations, and a row of LEDs that show which device is being initialized during the boot process. That last feature allows users who don’t remember status codes to understand where the boot process “hung” without looking up those codes.

The bottom edge features a selector switch for the backup firmware ROM, and a set of switches to disable any of the three upper (CPU-based) PCIe x16-length slots, just in case your GPU overclock goes wrong. Keen eyes will also notice two of the 2-pin thermistor headers nearby (the other is next to the 24-pin power socket), along with two of the board’s 10 fan connectors, three USB 2.3 headers, one USB 3.0 header, and two RGB headers along that same bottom edge. One of the RGB headers is designed for 12V RGB strips, the other for 5V “Rainbow” strips.

The Z370 Godlike Gaming feeds the upper three x16-length slots from the CPU, automatically switching from x16-x0-x0 to x8-x0-x8 and x8-x4-x4 modes as those slots are populated. SLI excludes the use of four-lane slots, but the bandwidth benefit of direct PCIe 3.0 connections should make these adequate for three-way CrossFireX. Unfortunately, the USB 3.1 front-panel header for Type-C ports limits the length of the second card to 10.1”. And while you could move that card to the bottom slot, doing so would force it to share bandwidth with other chipset-connected devices (including storage and networking), give up the features described several paragraphs above, and likewise lose access to the second USB 3.0 front-panel header located on the bottom edge.

Shared pathways also force builders to choose between U.2 connector and a second M.2 slot. A slow-mode jumper is found behind the U.2 connector, which forces the CPU to clock down at boot to overcome “cold bug” boot failures when using extreme cooling (such as liquid nitrogen). A “flashback” button above the back edge of the U.2 connector forces firmware updates using an onboard ASIC, which gets around the problem of updating for newer processor compatibility without having an older one handy.

The Z370 Godlike Gaming installation kit includes a driver disc, six SATA cables (four short, two long, three with a single 90° end), an I/O shield with two additional decorative covers, a USB expander connection cable, three cable-mounted thermistors, an RGB lighting Y-cable, an HB-SLI bridge, two Wi-Fi antennas, an internal USB 2.0 hub (labeled Xpander) with adhesive-backed Velcro mounting tape, an RGB strip, MSI’s Xpander-Z M.2 adapter, a case badge, and a large pile of documentation including cable label stickers.

M.2 Xpander-Z image ID: 708492

The M.2 Xpander-Z supports two M.2 drives using eight PCIe lanes. For optimal performance (and to support both modules), we’d recommend using it only in the third x16-length slot, and only with a single graphics card.

The included RGB LED is a rainbow model from Phanteks. Both accessory I/O shield covers are magnetic, and the USB “Xpander” breaks out a single two-port header to four two-port headers.

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  • karma77police
    Nice board!
    0
  • John Philips
    If AMD really wanted to bury Intel, they should release a mainstream cpu with at least 24 PCIE lanes and higher clock .
    0
  • Embra
    Looks to be $500.
    0
  • michaelhinchey
    Why are the hdmi specs never included with these reviews?
    0
  • wirelessmikey
    whats with the video, never works!!!
    0
  • berezini.2013
    Not even going to read this article. All msi products are garbage.
    0
  • berezini.2013
    Ever since the all-msi build I have done; (Half the motherboard caught on fire with default settings, melted speaker cables near the case, and all caps poped like popcorn in the popcorn popper, I've never looked at another msi product and never had any dangerous issues again) Im way better off. BTW Msi motherboard and MSI graphics cards together are not compatible. Don't even try.
    0
  • BugariaM
    What about VRM design?
    Again a handful of cheap 2c mosfets from NIKOS?

    Well, purely my opinion - instead of the three useless Killer E2500 PCIe, it's better to have one Intel-based NIC

    ---
    Pretty superficial review ...
    Where is tech p0rn?
    1
  • mablt
    Well, tech issues aside - IMHO it is the best named board ever - "Godlike Gaming with a Coffee Lake processor" - the imagery is stupendous! ;^)
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Why are the hdmi specs never included with these reviews?

    The specs table drops down to reveal this:

    Video Ports


    I hope that answers your question :D
    0
  • samer.forums
    Such expensive boards for Z series should never exist. people will never pay $500 for 16 lanes motherboard what so ever ...

    The whole point about the Z series is lower price point ... lower lanes (16 only) , half memory bandwidth (no Quad channels) . why would any one pay a high price for a product designed to be entry level ?
    0
  • samer.forums
    Anonymous said:
    Not even going to read this article. All msi products are garbage.



    wrong, Their Graphics Products are the best .. they have the best cooler in the market . Silent and best performance. The x series .
    0
  • michaelhinchey
    I used to live in California. They need more lanes too. Just like these boards.
    0
  • Lucky_SLS
    ^ nice one.

    It's usually Asus that comes with the most extravagant go to board for overclockers and those with too much cash. Hoping that this time there will actually be some competition ;)
    1
  • C_peter
    Too many cooks spoil the soup. The article mentioned some features aren't available when another set of features is active. So not buying it.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Too many cooks spoil the soup. The article mentioned some features aren't available when another set of features is active. So not buying it.

    That should be "too many cooks spoils the broth". Without the extra "s", it could mean "many cooks spoil broth...too many". But with the extra "s" your treating the "many cooks" as a singular group, rather than a plural of individual cooks :D
    Proof of this can be found by changing "too many cooks" to "too much input".

    BTW, I see official grammar sites would disagree with my assessment, but that's because they aren't actually thinking about what's being said. Instead they're apply the rules for the sake of rules. Such is the case with "Sandy and I went to the market" but then "And Bill went to the market with Sandy and me". The "me" will make them throw fits until they actually think about what's being said. My experience with language professors indicates that most will refuse to consider these special cases.

    We can still refer to the original, and I can say that the original author was grammatically correct when he wrote:
    "When an undertaking hath been committed to many, it caused but confusion, and therefore it is a saying, Too many Cooks spoils the Broth".

    To avoid argument, it's better to say "too much change spoils the result" rather than "too many changes spoil/spoils the result". And that type of argument avoidance can also be shown in the earlier version of the broth saying: "The more cooks the worse pottage"

    Then again, fine words butter no parsnips...
    0
  • Matthew Renna
    Actually, this is one fancy looking board, I wouldn't like it very much because it lacks any older style pci slots and only has one pci express slot. While it has four slots for gpus, I would rather have the extra pci express and pci slots than being able to add four gpus.
    0
  • Matthew Renna
    lol I meant to type although in the beginning of the comment.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Actually, this is one fancy looking board, I wouldn't like it very much because it lacks any older style pci slots and only has one pci express slot. While it has four slots for gpus, I would rather have the extra pci express and pci slots than being able to add four gpus.


    Well then use the bottom slot as an x1 and maybe avoid some PCIe pathway conflicts in the process?

    Anonymous said:
    lol I meant to type although in the beginning of the comment.


    Allllrighty then!
    0
  • Matthew Renna
    wait you can use a gpu slot as a x1?
    0