Skip to main content

Cheap Coffee Lake: Three Intel H370 and B360 Motherboards, Tested

Our Verdict

The H370M-ITX/ac is packed with networking interfaces but comes up a few connectors short in other places. It looks like a good value for any buyer who wants a small non-overclocking motherboard and doesn’t need those missing interfaces.

For

  • Compact form factor fits more locations
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet
  • Low-cost Wi-Fi with minimal impact on pricing
  • High electrical efficiency

Against

  • Single M.2 storage slot
  • No I/O-panel Type-C connector
  • No front-panel 10Gb/s USB header
  • Voltage-based control available to only one fan header (of three total)

Fresh Coffee: The New H370 and B360 Motherboard Chipsets

Today's official rollout of the Intel H370 and B360 chipsets is the starting gun for the debut of a horde of new, more affordable motherboards for 8th Generation Intel® Core™ processors. That's a desktop-hardware development long awaited by PC builders and upgraders, who have been bound, until now, to Z370-chipset-based motherboards and waiting for budget-minded boards for the "Coffee Lake" family of desktop chips. (See our coverage by Paul Alcorn of the new chipsets' launch.)

With these new-for-2018 chipsets decloaking, we got our mitts on three new enthusiast-targeted boards based on these "mainstream"-grade chipsets. Our test boards are from ASRock, MSI, and Gigabyte/Aorus, and each is a different form factor. But properly defining what makes for a “mainstream” motherboard in this new chipset reality gets a little complicated--so buckle in and let us explain.

The New "Coffee Lake" Mainstream

Let's recap where things are today. We know that CPUs based on the LGA 1151 socket continue to define Intel’s mainstream platform (as opposed to the higher-end LGA 2066 processors under the Core X-Series banner), and that chipsets beginning with "Z" are traditionally sold to performance enthusiasts as the overclockable, multi-GPU compatible version of its mainstream platform. The Z-series motherboards lead, and lower-model chipsets are later introduced with the same CPU compatibility but fewer features. For today's launch, the H370, B360, and H310 offer lower-cost compatibility for the 8th Generation Intel Core processors which had, until today, required a somewhat-expensive Z370 motherboard.

Yes, the nuances are a tangle, and we invite anyone who doesn’t care about the details to jump to Page 2 of this roundup for the start of the blow-by-blow on each board we have in hand. For the rest of us, though, the conversation starts three years ago, with Intel's premium Z170 chipset, which was rumored to have four HSIO resources that would have been available for PCIe--but were held in reserve. PC enthusiasts and other keen observers of the market guessed that those pathways might have been reserved for Thunderbolt controller integration. But when the Thunderbolt-equipped boards came out, they didn’t use those pathways.

The follow-on Z270 chipset launched with four additional pathways. So, those of us who remembered the Z170’s reserved pathways questioned whether the Z270 was new silicon, or just a new name for the old silicon. And when Z370 came out, it appeared to be little more than a name used to differentiate "Skylake" and "Kaby Lake" motherboards (that is, those supporting 6th- and 7th-generation Core processors) from Coffee Lake (8th-generation Core) ones. Regardless of whether the Z170 had persisted in its original form under new names, or had some kind of minor bugs patched along the way, that’s a lot of years to get out of a design.

What we've seen in our pre-launch analysis, though, is that the new mainstream chipsets on display here today appear to be far closer to a complete revision than to reheated designs.

Integrating USB 3.1 Gen2

The biggest advancement with these new chipsets for value-seeking desktop users is that Intel now integrates USB 3.1 Gen2, which (confusingly enough) is the original 10Gb/s generation of USB 3.1. Those familiar with recent USB gyrations may recall that "USB 3.1 Gen1" is just a rename of USB 3.0, which is meant to assure users of compatibility with Gen2 devices, but at USB 3.0's lower 5Gb/s speed. Regardless of the naming games that marketers have played, the takeaway here is that users now get their 10Gb/s USB ports without paying, roughly, an extra $10 for each two-port add-in controller.

Gigabit Wi-Fi: The New AMR?

A bit of motherboard history here: Some of us remember the concept of the Audio/Modem Riser (AMR) from the days when people didn’t want to pay for motherboards loaded with low-quality audio and networking codecs. Frustrated buyers of mainstream motherboards were offered codec-free boards that had a worthless riser slot where a PCI slot should have gone. Fortunately, Intel’s latest riser interface makes dual use of a hybrid M.2 Key-E slot, so that users can choose whether to install an industry-standard PCIe-based module, or Intel’s proprietary CNVi module, in the same space.

By integrating several of the main components within the chipset, Intel has produced a 1.73Gb/s Wi-Fi module that costs about as much as its previous 867Mb/s PCIe-based module. Attaining the new speed requires an access point with a 160MHz channel, which comes with its own set of pluses and minuses that you’re probably searching the internet for right now. But this is a neat little addition to keep an eye on in these new chipsets. Some boards will support CNVi; others not.

The New Chipsets: Core Details

Tradition holds that new mainstream Intel chipsets are based on the most recent Z-series chipset, with a few features disabled. That’s not the situation this time, as Intel wasn’t ready with a new Z-series chipset when it decided to break off the Coffee Lake processor series from prior platforms. Overclockers are instead left waiting for the next Z-series to launch while the mainstream H370 and B360 are based on the Q370. Here is a breakout of the current 300-series chipset lineup, with the new ones added...

Intel 300 Series Chipset Features Table (April 2018 Updates)
Z370Q370H370B360H310
DDR4 OverclockingYesNoNoNoNo
On-CPU PCI Express*3.0 Configuration(s)1x16 or 2x8or1x8+2x41x16 or 2x8or1x8+2x41x161x161x16
Independent DisplayPorts / Pipes Support3/33/33/33/33/2
Memory Channels / DIMMs per Channel2/22/22/22/22/1
Processor OverclockingYesNoNoNoNo
Integrated Intel Wireless-ACSupport (CNVi)NoYesYesYesYes
Intel Optane Memory SupportYesYesYesYesNo
Maximum High Speed I/O Lanes3030302414
Maximum USB 3.1 Ports: Gen 2 / Gen 10/106/104/84/60/4
Maximum SATA 6Gb/s Ports66664
Maximum PCI Express* 3.0 lanes24 (v3.0)24 (v3.0)20 (v3.0)12 (v3.0)6 (v2.0)
Intel Rapid Storage TechnologyYesYesYesYesNo
Maximum Intel RST for PCIe Storage Ports (x2 M.2 or x4 M.2)33210
Intel RST PCIe RAID 0, 1, 5YesYesYesNoNo
Intel RST SATA RAID 0, 1, 5, 10YesYesYesNoNo
Intel RST for CPU-attachedIntel PCIe StorageYesYesNoNoNo

Q370 is the corporate-minded member of this family, with support for Intel's vPro, while H310 is the most budget-minded of the lot. (We haven't received an H310 board for review yet.) H370 makes a host of changes, apart from the big one in all of these new chipsets: no CPU overclocking. It drops the ability to split CPU-based PCI lanes across multiple devices; it reduces the number of USB 3.1/3.0 ports to four and eight; it reduces the maximum number of chipset PCIe lanes to 20; it limits Intel RST to two NVMe drives; and it removes the ability to use RST with CPU-based NVMe drives. That still leaves enough resources to fill out a basic ATX or even a somewhat-elaborate MicroATX motherboard configuration; on our next page, we’re about to show you an ASRock H370 Mini-ITX motherboard, in a form factor that could be a little cramped to use all those features.

B360, a step down from H370, makes a few more sacrifices. The key changes? This chipset drops to 24 total HSIO lanes (which includes everything from PCIe to SuperSpeed USB), reduces the maximum number of USB 3.0 ports (to six), reduces the maximum number of PCIe lanes (to 12), limits Intel RST to a single NVMe drive, and loses integrated RAID capability for SATA drives. One might think this cheaper chipset a good match for the connector limitations inherent in Mini-ITX. On page four, we'll investigate a B360 MicroATX motherboard and see how the limitations of both the chipset and form factor shape up against each other.

MORE: Best Motherboards

MORE: How To Choose A Motherboard

MORE: All Motherboard Content

  • ghettogamer
    no under $80 mobo yet?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    20852628 said:
    no under $80 mobo yet?
    We can see that MSI tried to push the top end of the B360 range with the Micro ATX sample submitted, so I wouldn't be surprised to see lesser B360 boards for $80. Below that will be H310, and I doubt anyone wants to show those off.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    Now if we could just get cheap graphics cards we'd be back in business!
    Reply
  • Saga Lout
    When the miners are staring at bankruptcy, they'll be glad to get a reasonable price.
    Reply
  • 1_rick
    20852654 said:
    20852628 said:
    no under $80 mobo yet?
    We can see that MSI tried to push the top end of the B360 range with the Micro ATX sample submitted, so I wouldn't be surprised to see lesser B360 boards for $80. Below that will be H310, and I doubt anyone wants to show those off.

    Newegg's got about a dozen sub-$80 boards, mostly H310, but several B360s.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    20853375 said:
    20852654 said:
    20852628 said:
    no under $80 mobo yet?
    We can see that MSI tried to push the top end of the B360 range with the Micro ATX sample submitted, so I wouldn't be surprised to see lesser B360 boards for $80. Below that will be H310, and I doubt anyone wants to show those off.

    Newegg's got about a dozen sub-$80 boards, mostly H310, but several B360s.
    Thanks Rick, I figured the bottom of the B360 market would be around $80 and with in-store discounts maybe a bit less. I don't think I'd recommend the H310 for much.

    Reply
  • bit_user
    20852687 said:
    Now if we could just get cheap graphics cards we'd be back in business!
    When is the last time you checked?

    Newegg has new GTX 1080's starting at $610, GTX 1060's from $270, and RX 580's from $350.

    Not exactly cheap, but prices have been dropping every week, for nearly a month.
    Reply
  • Lutfij
    20852687 said:
    Now if we could just get cheap graphics cards we'd be back in business!
    Amen to that brudda!

    20852738 said:
    When the miners are staring at bankruptcy, they'll be glad to get a reasonable price.
    Yeah, miners! :'(

    Nice article/review/writeup Thomas. Keep up the great work!
    Reply
  • sunsanvil
    I would have been very interested in seeing you evaluate these boards with an upper end non-K processor. Its one thing to say that less expensive boards will tend to be coupled with lower end CPUs, but in the case of the Intel x70 family, the Z370 is all but pointless for anything which does not have a K at the end of it. That means that finding out how H and B boards make out with something like an i5-8600 or i7-8700 would be quite relevant, particularly as it relates to power delivery during all-core max turbo situations.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    20932240 said:
    I would have been very interested in seeing you evaluate these boards with an upper end non-K processor. Its one thing to say that less expensive boards will tend to be coupled with lower end CPUs, but in the case of the Intel x70 family, the Z370 is all but pointless for anything which does not have a K at the end of it. That means that finding out how H and B boards make out with something like an i5-8600 or i7-8700 would be quite relevant, particularly as it relates to power delivery during all-core max turbo situations.
    There are of course other reasons to use a Z, including support for DDR4-3200 etc, SLI/Crossfire, and CPU-based NVMe.

    Your point is also appropriate, and the combination of these two points could leave one question why I didn't use the 8700K in the first place and tell readers "if the board can handle this it can certainly handle that". We used to do things that way until angry budget-gamers came in and said "we don't use expensive CPUs on cheap motherboards". And so we'd be left testing the boards on at least two processors...and heck the higher one might as well be the 8700K since we already have it right? And we'd at least get to show whether or not these boards can lock-in the highest "stock" Turbo Boost ratio with that one, right?

    Reply