A New Player in Motherboards: Our NZXT N7-Z37XT Review

It’s not every year that we see a new motherboard brand. Heck, it’s not even every 10 years. In the world of enthusiast-level PCs, certain things are relatively easy, while others present larger challenges. Slapping a label on an Asetek-made CLC? Relatively easy. Hiring a designer to work with an established production facility to make a variation of an existing case that looks slightly different than everything else? Not too difficult. Getting that facility to produce an entirely new case design that may involve new tooling? Slightly challenging.

But producing an entirely new motherboard from a clean sheet? Only the most experienced motherboard brands would do that. Until now?

Labeled as having been designed in California and manufactured in China, the N7-Z37XT is NZXT’s first foray into the motherboard market. We aren’t given details about how much control the ODM was given concerning its circuit design, although it’s likely that NZXT was at least responsible for specifying which connectors to use and where to put them.

Designed to support NZXT’s Grid+ (fan) and Hue+ (lighting) controls, the N7-Z37XT is available with either -W1 white or -B1 black shrouds.

Specifications

Conspicuously absent from the N7-Z37XT spec sheet are any USB 3.1 Gen2 controllers, in an enthusiast market where nearly every traditional brand has recently upgraded to the latest PCIe 3.0 x2 version. Some boards in its price class even have two of those, the second dedicated to a recently-introduced front-panel header. We’ve only tested one case with the newer Gen2 connector, but it will be interesting to see if NZXT introduces one that isn’t supported by this board.

Boards in the N7-Z37XT’s price class typically have dual gigabit Ethernet as well, and the absence of that extra feature leaves a noticeable gap in the I/O panel. On the other hand, a few absent features have allowed NZXT to avoid resource sharing, which is something its competitors aren’t even attempting to do. All of the N7-Z37XT’s features can be used simultaneously.

Intel’s Z370 PCH is still limited to 30 HSIO resources, and NZXT employs 29 of those as two NVMe M.2 slots, two additional PCIe x4 slots, a PCIe x1 slot, eight USB 3.0 ports, and four SATA ports. NZXT fills some of the I/O panel with USB 2.0, which doesn’t require HSIO resources. We also find enough analog audio ports to support 7.1 surround, Line In and Line Out simultaneously, along with an optical S/PDIF output, HDMI, DisplayPort, and a CLR_CMOS button.

While it’s possible to configure up to four NVMe drives using a combination of four-lane M.2 and four-lane PCIe x4 slots, the chipset’s link to the CPU is still limited to Intel’s four-lane DMI. And while there isn’t any HSIO sharing that would disable slots or devices, the CPU’s separate x16-lane PCIe controller still serves the two x16-length slots in either x16/x0 or x8/x8 modes, using automatic detection of a second card to make that transition. There are no magic tricks or latency-inducing hubs; just a design that’s well-planned to make full use of available resources.

Available in blue, red, purple, white, and black, heat sink shrouds are made of the same painted steel as the larger motherboard shroud. Removing the upper heat sink shroud also eases access to connectors along the upper edge.

Removing two plastic covers exposes the two M.2 slots and a Port 80 diagnostics code display. A third plastic piece of similar style covers nothing of import, and was likely added to match the style of the M.2 covers.The primary USB 3.0 connector and four SATA ports can also be seen from this angle.

The bottom edge has a front panel HD-Audio header, power and reset buttons, three USB 2.0 headers, a second USB 3.0 header, four fan headers, an AC-97-style front-panel button and LED group, a BIOS IC selector switch, and a button that, when deployed, copies the active firmware ROM over the inactive ROM.

The N7-Z37XT’s upper edge has five fan headers and an RGB LED connector. A second RGB LED connector is seen in the rectangular shroud hole near the top of the front edge.

While the black plastic I/O hood is screwed on, the painted steel motherboard shroud is secured with metal snaps. Underneath these are a traditional-looking upper-range board with matte-black mask.

The original N7-Z37XT installation kit includes four SATA cables, two magnetic/adhesive RGB lighting strips, two RGB adapter cables, two RGB extension cables, a single-link SLI bridge, an I/O shield, and a nondescript set of threaded hardware. NZXT is revising the contents of its next motherboard shipment to remove the RGB strips and cables, and has reduced its MSRP by $50 to match this hardware reduction. A few buyers will likely "luck out" by receiving the original kit at the new, lower price.

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33 comments
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  • darthbonehead
    How can you make a $300 motherboard look cheap and nasty?

    Don't like the N7 branding either, NZXT should steer clear of that.
  • Gregory_3
    Those heat sinks had better be effective. As attractive as it looks, I'm not sure about the wisdom of placing a layer of plastic over the soldered components.
  • deepblue08
    Not sure I dig the 1980's refrigerator look
  • PureBlackFire
    complete lack of USB 3.1 gen 2/type C connectivity, wifi, blue tooth, competent vrm cooling and close ecosystem lighting and fan control are what somebody considers "moderately" reduced feature set for a $300 motherboard? I'd say it's a sub par first offering from a company new to the motherboard market. at $180 this isn't a bad board, but even at $180 you can get all the relevant features here and USB 3.1 gen 2.
  • falifluche
    No point for NZXT to build a MB factory so who is it built by according to you TH ?
  • Karadjgne
    So NZXT throws a bone to the Asus Sabertooth. At $200 it'd be an interesting option, but for $300 it's an aesthetics appeal only board.
  • AnimeMania
    Making your own Z370 motherboard can't be that big a deal since CyberPowerPC did it as well.
    https://s.cppc.co/spec/getspec_share.aspx?n=MOTHERBOARD&v=CyberpowerPC%20Z370%20SLI%20Xtreme%20ATX%20w%2F%20RGB%2C%20802.11ac%20WiFi%2C%20USB%203.1%2C%202%20PCIe%20x16%2C%204%20PCIe%20x1%2C%206%20SATA3%2C%202%20M.2%20SATA%2FPCIe%20%5BIntel%20Optane%20Ready%5D&x=MB-470-101&f=www

    Maybe you can find one and review it as well, I certainly wouldn't select one without a review.
  • delaro
    Added Aesthetics at a premium cost with sub par budget board performance, heat and features. Well now why would anyone waste money on it?
  • Crashman
    2091854 said:
    Those heat sinks had better be effective. As attractive as it looks, I'm not sure about the wisdom of placing a layer of plastic over the soldered components.
    It's not plastic, except for those thin strips between the slots. The rest is steel. The manual says to leave the plastic strip off if you put an M.2 drive there...

    2634574 said:
    No point for NZXT to build a MB factory so who is it built by according to you TH ?
    I'm sure if you look long and hard you'll figure something out, it's not like NZXT spilled the beans.

    1011591 said:
    So NZXT throws a bone to the Asus Sabertooth. At $200 it'd be an interesting option, but for $300 it's an aesthetics appeal only board.
    I thought Sabertooth was plastic? Anyway, the whole time I was testing it I kept coming up with "it's a fine board, too bad about the price", so I tried to write that in the nicest way :)
  • Karadjgne
    About the only contract mobo builder I can think of that wouldn't have issues with direct brand competition conflicts would be Foxconn, and they definitely have the resources to design and/or manufacture mobo's to vendor specs.
  • PureBlackFire
    1011591 said:
    About the only contract mobo builder I can think of that wouldn't have issues with direct brand competition conflicts would be Foxconn, and they definitely have the resources to design and/or manufacture mobo's to vendor specs.

    this motherboard is made by ECS.
  • Karadjgne
    Oh.. Oh...
  • Tanyac
    That price will probably translate to around $450 - $475 AUD by the time they reach us. And we get only 4 sata ports (Well, wont fit my, I have 6 sata devices). The 9 fan headers is good, and I have to agree with other comments.. The plastic look doesn't impress.

    But what's worst about this board.. It's NZXT and dependent on their CAM software, which is an absolute telemetry and stability/reliability nightmare..
  • Crashman
    1749954 said:
    That price will probably translate to around $450 - $475 AUD by the time they reach us. And we get only 4 sata ports (Well, wont fit my, I have 6 sata devices). The 9 fan headers is good, and I have to agree with other comments.. The plastic look doesn't impress. But what's worst about this board.. It's NZXT and dependent on their CAM software, which is an absolute telemetry and stability/reliability nightmare..
    It's steel. If you decide it looks like plastic, that's on you :)
    Maybe they'll sell it for $300 AUD as well, just to boost the brand?
  • robodan918
    Looks terrible. Performs meh. No USB 3.1 10Gbps (A or C ports). No built-in wifi. Only 2x 16x slots. Thanks Tomshardware I won't go anywhere near this
  • g-unit1111
    2091854 said:
    Those heat sinks had better be effective. As attractive as it looks, I'm not sure about the wisdom of placing a layer of plastic over the soldered components.


    Yeah it reminds me of the old Asus X79 and Z97 boards where they had that cheap "armor" on the whole board and it wound up trapping hot air underneath the board. And then their response was 2 even cheaper plastic 40mm fans to circulate the air, and it would just recirculate the hot air instead of blowing it out.

    Quote:
    Looks terrible. Performs meh. No USB 3.1 10Gbps (A or C ports). No built-in wifi. Only 2x 16x slots. Thanks Tomshardware I won't go anywhere near this


    You're not really supposed to use Wifi on desktops anyways, that's what the LAN port is there for.
  • g-unit1111
    1839266 said:
    Making your own Z370 motherboard can't be that big a deal since CyberPowerPC did it as well. https://s.cppc.co/spec/getspec_share.aspx?n=MOTHERBOARD&v=CyberpowerPC%20Z370%20SLI%20Xtreme%20ATX%20w%2F%20RGB%2C%20802.11ac%20WiFi%2C%20USB%203.1%2C%202%20PCIe%20x16%2C%204%20PCIe%20x1%2C%206%20SATA3%2C%202%20M.2%20SATA%2FPCIe%20%5BIntel%20Optane%20Ready%5D&x=MB-470-101&f=www Maybe you can find one and review it as well, I certainly wouldn't select one without a review.


    That looks almost identical to the Asrock Z370 Taichi - Cyberpower must contract out to Asrock's manufacturer for these.
  • Crashman
    537231 said:
    2091854 said:
    Those heat sinks had better be effective. As attractive as it looks, I'm not sure about the wisdom of placing a layer of plastic over the soldered components.
    Yeah it reminds me of the old Asus X79 and Z97 boards where they had that cheap "armor" on the whole board and it wound up trapping hot air underneath the board. And then their response was 2 even cheaper plastic 40mm fans to circulate the air, and it would just recirculate the hot air instead of blowing it out.
    Quote:
    Looks terrible. Performs meh. No USB 3.1 10Gbps (A or C ports). No built-in wifi. Only 2x 16x slots. Thanks Tomshardware I won't go anywhere near this
    You're not really supposed to use Wifi on desktops anyways, that's what the LAN port is there for.
    I won't be running Cat6 to my wife's PC. And when the cable company was blocking me from using an access point (they'd send a kill signal to the modem), I used my PC as an access point. So there's two examples. Of course I soon switched service providers and no longer needed to use my PC as an access point.
  • AnimeMania
    537231 said:
    1839266 said:
    Making your own Z370 motherboard can't be that big a deal since CyberPowerPC did it as well. https://s.cppc.co/spec/getspec_share.aspx?n=MOTHERBOARD&v=CyberpowerPC%20Z370%20SLI%20Xtreme%20ATX%20w%2F%20RGB%2C%20802.11ac%20WiFi%2C%20USB%203.1%2C%202%20PCIe%20x16%2C%204%20PCIe%20x1%2C%206%20SATA3%2C%202%20M.2%20SATA%2FPCIe%20%5BIntel%20Optane%20Ready%5D&x=MB-470-101&f=www Maybe you can find one and review it as well, I certainly wouldn't select one without a review.
    That looks almost identical to the Asrock Z370 Taichi - Cyberpower must contract out to Asrock's manufacturer for these.


    Thanks, it is identical to the ASRock Z370 KILLER SLI/AC with a new paint job.
  • g-unit1111
    8708 said:
    ]I won't be running Cat6 to my wife's PC. And when the cable company was blocking me from using an access point (they'd send a kill signal to the modem), I used my PC as an access point. So there's two examples. Of course I soon switched service providers and no longer needed to use my PC as an access point.


    They can do that?

    I only have the Wifi routing to my PCs because the first one is far away from any router to be able to run cable, and the second one is an Asrock board with built in Wifi that actually performs pretty decent. I would prefer to run CAT 6 but I'm not going and poking holes through walls to run cables.
  • redgarl
    How can you defend this? The efficiency is abysmal.
  • Crashman
    537231 said:
    8708 said:
    ]I won't be running Cat6 to my wife's PC. And when the cable company was blocking me from using an access point (they'd send a kill signal to the modem), I used my PC as an access point. So there's two examples. Of course I soon switched service providers and no longer needed to use my PC as an access point.
    They can do that? I only have the Wifi routing to my PCs because the first one is far away from any router to be able to run cable, and the second one is an Asrock board with built in Wifi that actually performs pretty decent. I would prefer to run CAT 6 but I'm not going and poking holes through walls to run cables.
    Long story short, I had a modem/router/access point, the cable co said I needed an upgrade to get the latest speeds, I said "Nah, I'm fine with my current speeds"...so after six months or so of arguing with them they began throttling me down to like 128k. I relented, they came out and put in a new modem and said if I wanted a router and Wi-Fi from that point forward I'd have to rent it from them, and I basically told them where to go. I added my own AP/Router and they started sending signals to terminate the connection. I called them and they said my hardware was crap, I needed to rent from them. So I got a new AP/router and it worked for a while, but then they started sending out the kill signal again. This was in the router logs. Both routers. I had a discussion with them and they basically said that I wasn't paying to connect multiple devices to my internet connection so I was basically trying to steal from them, and that to make things right I had to rent my equipment from them. So that's when I started using my PC as an access point. It had a second Ethernet port that I'd use for my test systems, so everything passed through my PC and the modem only saw one device, a PC. But to heck with them I said, and now I'm on DSL.

    Technical details? I'm not a network expert so I had to actually look up all the stuff I was seeing in my logs to determine what was even going on at the time.
  • Crashman
    251426 said:
    How can you defend this? The efficiency is abysmal.
    Efficiency deficiency could have have excluded an award if one were on the table. On the other hand, you'd experience the same issue on any other board if you were using fixed voltage for your overclock, and we have to think about those users before getting, as Questors would say, "Uppity" about efficiency.
  • Karadjgne
    Motherboard performance is a benchmark. That's it. Ppl as users couldn't tell performance differences if they tried, the speeds at which these boards operate are so far in excess of what's humanly possible to determine. There's only the add-ons like ASR killer lan or Asus ROG bios that sets any board apart firmware wise.

    Lack of USB 3.1 A/C ports? So what? Most of the world has no use for those ports as USB3.0 is just now starting to become popular with manufacturers. Many things are still using USB2.0 headers as there's honestly no need for the bandwidth 3.0 brings.

    Motherboard wifi is a gimmick. I have wifi on my MSI Z77 Mpower and have used it exactly once. It got outdated that fast, it runs half the speeds of my $15 TP-Link. Not even close to what's capable with hardwire. And the firmware hasn't seen any driver updates since Oct 2013. My cell phone has faster up/down speeds than the mobo wifi on the same frequency with the phone sitting on top of the pc. To me, lack of wifi on a mobo just means more space for more important stuff.

    2x pcie x16. With lackluster sli/cf support and even less mgpu support from DX12, more than 2x pcie x16 slots is a waste of space and resources. Then you add in cards like the gtx1080ti and sli/cf becomes relatively pointless for anyone other than a crypto-miner.

    As far as I can see, the only thing about this board that's totally out of whack is the price. It's got some gimmicks that are slightly different to other mobo's, but that's true of any vendors lines, but still remains a perfectly usable board for a good majority of ppl. It's just priced far beyond what that same majority of ppl would pay for a usable board.