[Building a PC] Part 1: Overview of CPU and Z370 Motherboard

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Currently, in order to building a PC running Core i8 (Coffee Lake), we can only select the Z370 motherboard. Furthermore, Intel has yet to announce their cheaper H and B series, leading to the fact that manufacturers release several different versions of the Z370 motherboard with all sorts of designs, features,  and prices.

Overview of CPU and Z370 Motherboard

In this article, I would like to share my understanding of building a PC, as well as provide you with the instruction of assembling a PC. In particular, I will talk about the motherboard and CPU, I also try to approach the simplest way so that you guys can do it with ease.

Overview of the 8th Generation Intel® Core™ i

Before choosing a motherboard, we have to determine the type of CPU we want to use, and here is the 8th generation Coffee Lake.

The matter is not what Core it is because choosing i3, i5 or i7 depends on your pocket as well as you’re your purpose of use.

It is important to note that each Intel CPU line only works with one or several chipsets. Coffee Lake only goes with the 300 series chipsets and currently only the Z370. Thus, the choice of compatible motherboards is not complicated, just see the motherboard whose name has “Z370” is guaranteed to use.

Although there have been tests showing that older CPUs such as Skylake or Kaby Lake can operate on the Z370 motherboard and, vice versa, the Coffee Lake is also compatible with the Z170 or Z270, Intel does not officially support it. Hence, the safe solution for you is still choosing the Z370 motherboard if you decide to go with the Coffee Lake CPU.

Differences between Intel i3, i5 and i7

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Presently, Intel has released several versions of the CPU of Coffee Lake line that you can refer to in the below table, the cheapest is the Core i3-8100 and the most expensive is the Core i7-8700K.

When comparing to the previous generations, gen 8th has several improvements with increasing multipliers for all versions. For the first time, Core i3 has 4 cores but no longer supports hyperthreading, Core i5 and i7 also have 6 cores. Moreover, Coffe Lake has a larger L3 cache, better Turbo-boost. However, you should be perceived that the maximum Turbo speed is only achieved with one single core. Depend on the number of active cores, the Turbo clock will have different levels.

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Here is a comparison of the benchmarks of the 8th generation Core models through Cinebench R15, Geekbench 3 and PassMark tests posted on CPU-Monkey. There are noticeable differences between versions.

However, given the current market price, such as the comparison between Core i3-8350K and Core i5-8400, you should choose Core i5 if there is no OC demand. Similarly, if you do not need the OC, the Core i7-8700 is still well-suited for most heavy-duty applications and games today.

Choosing a Z370 Motherboard

Z370 is the name of chipset family that supports the 8th generation Core processors. This chipset is not made by the motherboard makers themselves, but developed by Intel and sold to them.

With each generation of CPU, Intel will launch the corresponding chipset generation, which can be backward compatible or not. For example, the Z270 can support both Skylake and Kaby Lake, but the Z370 only supports the 8th generation Coffee Lake as I mentioned above.


Above is the Z370 chipset support diagram, you can see the correlation between this diagram and the specifications of a Z370 motherboard.

If you do not care about the compact, ATX is the most popular motherboard form, which is easy to buy and easy to use. Besides, there is no way that mATX and mini-ITX can compare with ATX motherboards, in terms of compatibility.

These forms, such as  ATX, mATX or mini-ITX, come with specific size, positions of the screw holes, the number of ports on the back panel, the power supply (PSU) support. In the picture above, you can see the difference in size and layout of these motherboard forms.

I borrowed from my friends 3 MSI motherboards including the Z370 Gaming M5, the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, and the Z370 Tomahawk. Although there are ATX forms and Z370 chipset, their prices are quite different. So where are the differences between them?

  • MSI Z370 Gaming m5
  • MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC
  • MSI Z370 Tomahawk

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As with the Z370 chipset, the specs of those motherboards will be the same, such as supporting socket 1151 with up to Core i7 CPUs, 4 RAM slots that support DDR4 memory with clock speeds from 2133 to 4000 MHz (OC) with dual channel mode. The ports are also the same as 3 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, 3 PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, 6 SATA slots, 2 M.2 slots, and the same number of USB 3.1 Gen1 and Gen2 slots in the back panel.

Comparing between Gaming M5 and Gaming Pro Carbon AC, those two have many similarities, such as the RAM slots, PCIe are all aluminum reinforced, having heat dissipation for an M.2 drive, having cover for all I/O ports. However, with the price difference is not too much, I will choose Gaming Pro Carbon AC because this version has more good things such as RGB Mystic Light, built-in Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth cards.

Looking at the Tomahawk, it is too a Z370 motherboard, but its price is notably cheaper. Why? Tomahawk, in my opinion, is manufactured towards the mid-range segment and is designed to be "just enough."

Except for such factors as capacitor quality and VRM, Tomahawk does not have many advanced features and especially does not support SLI. You should note that if you want to run multiple Nvidia GeForce graphics cards, your motherboard must support SLI bridge connectivity.

Despite having 3 PCIe 3.0 slots, Tomahawk will not be able to run multiple Nvidia GeForce cards because it does not support SLI. Tomahawk only supports CrossFire with AMD cards. Therefore, Gaming M5 or Pro Carbon AC will be a better solution than Tomahawk if you're thinking of getting more graphics cards in the future to have a better experience.

How to install a CPU?

When it comes to installing a CPU, you may afraid of putting down the socket lock owing to the fear of breaking it. However, every Intel or AMD CPUs is designed to fit with the socket. They cannot be wrong unless you are too unintentional or deliberately misaligned.

Besides, the socket and the CPU also have the directional arrow of the CPU, so all you have to do is mounting the CPU in the right place and locking it down confidently.

After installing a CPU, we will continue with applying thermal compound. I help you choose the right type of thermal grease and paste and use it properly. Please stay tuned and leave your comment below if you have any question.