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Intel Z370 vs Z390 Chipset Comparison

Written on October 8, 2018 by William George

Alongside the launch of Intel's 8th generation of Core processors, in October of 2017, the Z370 chipset was released. It was originally the only chipset to support these new CPUs, though other 300-series chipsets followed in early 2018. Even then, it was the highest-end option for building motherboards for this family of processors.

A year later, in October of 2018, Intel introduced the Z390 chipset to accompany the 9th generation of Core CPUs. These processors also work on older Z370 based motherboards, though... so if the new chipset is not required to run the new CPUs, what does it bring to the table?

Intel Logo

Z370 vs Z390 Specifications

Chipset Z370 Z390
Launch October 2017 October 2018
USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Ports 0 6
USB 3.0 (5Gbps) Ports 10 10
Maximum Total USB Ports 14 14
SATA III (6Gbps) Ports 6 6
PCI-Express 3.0 Lanes 24 24
Memory Channels 2 (Dual) 2 (Dual)
Maximum Memory Capacity 64GB 64GB*
Optane Support Yes Yes
Integrated WiFi 802.11ac No Yes
Intel Smart Sound Yes Yes
DMI Version 3.0 3.0
Intel ME Firmware Version 11 12
*64GB was the maximum at launch, using 4 x 16GB memory modules, but shortly afterward 32GB modules were announced - and Intel indicated that a future BIOS update for Z390 boards will enable support for 128GB totals

Above is a brief comparison chart showing some of the main features of the Z370 and Z390 chipsets, with differences in bold. As you can see, the majority of specs are the same between these chipsets. Memory channels and capacity are the same, as are the number of SATA ports, USB 3.0 ports, and PCI-Express lanes. The DMI version is the same too, and while Z390 uses newer Management Engine firmware that won't really have an impact on most users.

What are the major differences between Intel's Z370 and Z390 chipsets?

The two biggest differences between Z370 and Z390 are built-in USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) and WiFi 802.11ac support. Z370 had neither of those, though some motherboard manufacturers added them by using separate controllers. Z390 now has both integrated into the chipset itself and can handle up to six USB 3.1 ports.

Given the similarity in features and support for the same CPUs - Intel's 8th and 9th generation of the mainstream Core processors - the Z390 chipset is mostly just an updated version of Z370. There are lower-end chipsets in the existing 300-series as well, which drop some of the features in the chart above in order to cut costs for mass-market computers or add remote management features for businesses, but for our high-performance systems here at Puget we tend to stick with Intel's top chipsets. We are currently in the process of testing and qualifying Z390 motherboards, in order to update our line of workstations to the latest technology.

Should you upgrade to Z390?

If you have a computer with a Z370 motherboard already, there isn't a good reason to pay for an upgrade. Most boards using that older chipset have a USB 3.1 controller added in, and many also have third-party WiFi. If you are buying a new system, especially with a Core i9 9900K or i7 9700K, definitely get Z390.

Tags: Chipset, Comparison, Intel, Z370, Z390, Motherboard

Puget, all your PCs on Intel's mainstream platform should use the new Cannon Point motherboards, Z390, H370, B360 whichever you use. Please retire the Z370 from your Intel mainstream platform PC lineup..

Having native USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps support and speed is a must in 2018 going on to 2019. Faster transfer speeds help speed up workflows. Customers will thank you too.

Posted on 2018-10-08 20:51:36

We are qualifying new motherboards with the Z390 chipset, alongside the recently-announced Core i9 9900K and 9700K processors. Most of our existing motherboards already have USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps ports, though - just provided by an add-on chip instead of directly through the Intel chipset. It will be nice to have that directly on the chipset soon, though :)

Posted on 2018-10-08 21:04:53
Dennis L Sørensen

Native is always faster than add in chips.

Posted on 2018-10-09 14:35:48

10 Gbps USB 3.1 is definitely NOT a must, going into 2019.

What does the average person gain from 10 Gbps USB3, vs 5 Gbps USB3? Examples?

Posted on 2019-01-13 01:00:41

I won't build a computer without it, not for my wife or I anyway. I have quite a few external SSDs for transfering data between laptop and desktop that are 10Gbps, as is my iPad Pro. The speed difference is quite noticeable.

Posted on 2019-01-13 05:13:50

Most external SSDs cannot transfer data at 10 Gbps. Not even close.

And your pos iPad Pro DEFINITELY cannot write data to it's SLOW flash memory at 10 Gps!

omg you totally bought into the HYPE of 10 Gbps USB 3.1.


Posted on 2019-01-13 10:35:10

I'm an engineer, I don't buy into hype. I have many benchmarks I can show you where both my Samsung T5 and my Sandisk Extreme 900 are faster over 10Gbps than 5Gbps. I never said it fully saturated 10Gbps, I said the difference was quite noticeable, particularly with the Extreme 900--about twice the read speed and and a third faster writes. The same is true of RAID arrays like the LaCie 6big and 12big (even more so with 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3).

The iPad Pro (2018) is about 3 days old and I've done no external benchmarking on it yet. I did notice that iTunes backs it up faster with my 10Gbps USB-C cable than the 5Gbps USB-C cable that Apple included, but I haven't timed it with a stopwatch yet over several transfers and averaged it between the two for conclusive numbers. According to Passmark's PerformanceTest the internal NAND is capable of 626MB/sec writes and 1659MB/sec reads, which certainly warrants 10Gbps.

Posted on 2019-01-13 14:34:54

Samsung T5 does not have fast nvme ssd inside, it's just a slow SATA ssd. Specs show top speed of 540 MB/sec. 10Gbps USB3.1 is totally not needed.

Sandisk Extreme 900 can only do 600 MB/sec sustained, so again 10Gbps makes little difference compared to 5Gbps.

I'm surprised that you are so easily swayed by marketing fluff, you being an engineer.

Posted on 2019-01-13 21:21:23

Why the aggression and personal insults? You asked for examples, I gave some. These are real-world usages and benchmarks, not hypothetical maximum bus speeds that are un-achievable due to overhead, checksums, shared bus, etc. A good SATA SSD will absolutely fully saturate a 5Gbps USB 3.0 port and be faster on a 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. In the case of the Samsung T5 on both my laptop and desktop it will top out at about 420MB/sec read and 418MB/sec write at 5Gbps and hit 553MB/sec read and 503MB/sec write at 10Gbps. That's 30% faster reads and 20% faster writes over 10Gbps vs. 5Gbps. That makes a big difference in time when transferring 500GB or more of photos between computers.

The Sandisk Extreme 900 is rated at 850MB/sec, not 600MB/sec (though I've yet to actually see more than 800MB/sec in real world usage, probably because I use AES encryption). It's even more dramatic a difference between 10Gbps and 5Gbps, about 50% faster reads and writes.

I still have yet to actually time some transfers from the 2018 iPad Pro to compare 5Gbps vs 10Gbps, but there is a noticeable difference.

You could argue that it's not "needed", and that may be true for the average user, but Puget Systems are hardly average computers nor are their customers average. ;-) For me, taking 30-50% longer to transfer photos and video between computers or to a client's computer is money. And since it costs very little to get a computer with 10Gbps today, it's foolish not to use it if you have a device like the above that can actually benefit from it. I'd say the same of 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3, though you have to get into RAID arrays, several external displays, etc. to really utilize what that bus is capable of.

I'm still waiting for a 10Gbps Ethernet adapter that will run off USB 3.1 Gen 2 instead of Thunderbolt 3, I have no idea why no one has made one yet. It would be most convenient for laptops that don't have TB3.

Posted on 2019-01-14 05:01:07

Another consideration that I haven't mentioned yet is power, not just bandwidth. USB 3.0 has a max current of 900mA as a device and 5V @ 1.8A for charging (without data), where USB 3.1 Gen 2 is capable of 60-100W (5V @ 2A and 12-20V @ 5A), while still as a device. I doubt USB-C ports on laptops are going to be delivering that much power as your battery would die quickly, but it opens the door to portable printers, scanners, 3.5" drives, etc. without needing a separate power cord, not to mention charging your phone or tablet that much faster.

Posted on 2019-01-14 05:28:36

Why the aggression? I'm an engineer too and I hate to see one of my brothers buying-into the marketing bullchit.

So your T5 gets 503 MB/sec writes instead of 418 MB/sec? So that will save you all of 4 seconds on a 10GB file copy operation. WHO CARES!! hahah

The Extreme 900 is rated at 850 MB/sec only for short copy operations that can use the small fast SLC cache. Once that small cache is used-up, sustained speed is about 600 MB/sec. Read up on it, I am not kidding here.

With the iPad Pro 2018, you will most likely be writing data TO the tablet. Filling-up memory with videos for example. In that scenario, the slower write speed of iPad flash memory will not translate into much advantage for 10 Gbps USB 3.1.

I am most interested in 2.5 or 5 Gbps ethernet that runs over common Cat5e cables. The network adapters are available now, but the ethernet switches are still missing-in-action.

1 Gbps ethernet is ancient, and 100 megabytes/sec is too slow when common SSD drives run at 500 MB/sec.

Posted on 2019-01-14 07:33:54

I'm not buying into any marketing bullcrap, these are real world numbers and usages I have given you, things that impact me daily. I often transfer several TB of data with gigapans and timelapses for my photography, where a single image or file is much larger than 10GB. It results in hours of difference throughout a week or month if you are constantly moving files around. I totally get that this is not average for most people that are not content creators.

Regarding the iPad Pro 2018, it does not have a super slow write speed, it is NVMe internally. And you really can't use it as a storage device like you are thinking, I rarely write much data to the tablet, I'm almost always reading from it to back it up with iTunes. It uses something similar to PTP mode like cameras where you can read from it but not write to it from Explorer or Finder. You can only write to specific apps within iTunes itself, making it not as useful for a storage device. Apple needs to fix both that and add a file manager to it honestly, but that would challenge their MacBook Air sales I'm sure.

Laptops need to start shipping with 10Gbps ethernet for sure. Cost is not as big a factor as it was 2-3yrs ago, but maybe power consumption and heat still are. There are still not an abundance of affordable 10Gbps switches, but TPLink and QNAP are making some affordable ones, especially the recent, unmanaged QNAP model.

Posted on 2019-01-14 14:26:26

You are reading data FROM the iPad? How much new data can you create on an iPad? It's a media consumption device, and a poor one at that. iPad is essentially a giant iPhone running a weak phone operating system.

You are right that high power consumption is what's keeping 10Gbps off of laptops. But then the latest buggy overpriced pos Macbooks don't have ANY ethernet ports.


Posted on 2019-01-14 21:58:37

iTunes backups are not incremental, it doesn't back up new data only each time. I don't know why you are dumping all over the latest iPad Pro, it's actually an excellent tablet--especially with a pencil and keyboard, albeit expensive for sure. And it certainly isn't a laptop replacement either, until Apple gives it real file management.

But regardless, the topic was 10Gbps USB 3.1 and whether there were any examples of it being useful, if there was anything to gain. The iPad was almost a footnote in my first reply, my main benefit is faster transfer of data between my laptop and desktop (since there is no 10Gbps ethernet for the laptop) with SSDs and RAID arrays. I only mentioned the iPad as it's my newest device to also have it. 40Gbps Thunderbolt 3 is even more useful, but there aren't a lot of devices for it yet other than displays and RAID arrays. There IS however a 10Gbps NIC for TB3, still waiting for USB 3.1.......

Posted on 2019-01-15 03:07:43

"I don't know why you are dumping all over the latest iPad Pro"

For several reasons:

-iOS has been a bug-filled mess lately
-iOS is NOT a business class operating system
-no microSD slot
-no support for mouse
-battery is not user replaceable
-Apple Pencil is 100-dollars extra, should be included
-iPad is too heavy, too slippery, for extended use

Did you know that Tim Cook said that iPad Pro could replace a Windows PC? Have you ever heard of something so ridiculous?

Posted on 2019-01-15 07:08:07

> 32GB

is it really 32Gb and not 64Gb ?

Posted on 2018-10-09 00:54:53

Oh my goodness, totally a mistake on my part. It is absolutely 64GB, I just had a brain freeze apparently :)

Posted on 2018-10-09 01:05:32

I really wish they had upped that to 128GB. Sigh...

Posted on 2018-10-12 09:56:29

whats the max ram for z370? 64? or 128 with the bio update that allows for 9900k cpu on z370 mobo

Posted on 2018-11-01 07:59:36

128GB is coming around December it appears, if so, YAY!


Posted on 2018-11-01 10:34:49

Yes, that is when 32GB DDR4 memory modules are expected to hit the market. I would expect that, around the same time, we should get answers to whether the older CPUs and chipsets will also support these or not.

Posted on 2018-11-01 17:17:06

I'm not sure what will happen with older chipsets like Z370. It might be up to motherboard manufacturers to decide if they update the BIOS on older boards to support the newer, larger memory modules. All we know is that Intel has said the 9th Gen Core Processors will be able to support them, and so presumably at least the Z390 chipset should as well. The status of the 8th Gen chips (based on the exact same tech under the hood) and the older chipsets (like Z370) is currently unknown.

Posted on 2018-11-01 17:16:09

I am interested to see what motherboard brands Puget will end up qualifying in the Z390 motherboard product qualification testing. I imagine samples from MSI, Gigabyte, and Asus are being inspected. I am building a new system with the 9600K CPU and a motherboard with the Z390 chipset but as always I have a hard time determining whether to go with Gigabye, Asus, or MSI. These brands always seem somewhat equivalent but my two main concerns are reliability of course and post launch BIOS update support(for potential security bugs).

Brand RMA failure rate information such as the below found on https://www.hardware.fr/art... is really useful, but this information is a little old since it is from 2016. In addition, if you look at the previous years, the brands jump around as far as who is better than who so in the end it doesn't really help.

(2016 general MB brand failure rate according to hardware.fr)
Gigabyte 1.48%
ASRock 1.55%
ASUS 1.59%
MSI 1.63%

Posted on 2018-10-10 23:57:30

For full ATX size, we just qualified a Gigabyte board - the Aorus Pro WiFi. We are still working on mATX and ITX.

Posted on 2018-10-11 15:54:53

If I am not mistaken Gigabyte only has one z390 mATX motherboard so I compared it to the likes of MicroATX by ASUS and MSI. The feel of the BIOS GUI and the heat spreaders on the components of the Gigabyte motherboard seemed more appealing so I went with them. Fingers crossed!

Posted on 2018-10-15 20:54:39

i heard that gigabyte is doing it right with the vrm's on everything down to the elite and pro boards with a 12 phase. im sure the power delivery is up to the task but will all those extra phases help with clocks or clocks at lower voltages? is a strong enough built 8 or even 4 or 6 phase going to get the same clocks and voltages? i mean without taking heat\longevity into the equation

Posted on 2018-11-17 05:05:11

I honestly don't know enough about the engineering that goes into VRMs and power phases to say what the minimum needs are to get full clock speeds out of these CPUs - so I would recommend just looking at reviews of the specific motherboards you are considering to see how they do. Generally, though, the big motherboard brands should be okay... especially if you don't go for their lowest tier of boards, which tend to be the ones where features and quality are sacrificed in order to save a few dollars.

Posted on 2018-11-19 20:37:02

thanks for the reply. i found an extreme4 for 135 plus rebate and went with that. should be enough for my needs

Posted on 2018-11-20 21:49:55
mathieu soleil

% without quantities are useless, since there is no confidence intervals.

Posted on 2018-12-27 01:52:21

Not worth the upgrade from Z370 i think, but Is overclocking better with Z390 chipset?

Posted on 2018-10-11 04:34:40

I am not sure, as we don't do overclocking here at Puget. I would not expect that to be much different, though, and I think OC results will depend more on the individual CPU (if you get lucky with a good chip), the motherboard (BIOS settings and hardware quality), and the cooling setup. Personally, I find that Turbo Boost provides plenty of clock speed on modern systems, so I don't think there is a whole lot of need / reason to overclock anymore.

Posted on 2018-10-11 15:56:57

Newbie here, does this still work with the i7-8700k?

Posted on 2018-10-12 05:12:46

Yes, the Z390 still works with the older 8th Gen chips as well :)

Posted on 2018-10-12 17:58:17

Will you be comparing the ITX Z390 boards against the current Z370 boards? Particularly, VRM performance?

Posted on 2018-10-13 23:08:25

We are in the middle of qualifying Z390 motherboards, including an ITX form factor board, but I don't think we will be doing any performance comparisons or articles about it. I don't think the chipset itself should make any difference, though other aspects of the board like VRMs might be updated from older models because the newer 9th Gen CPUs can pull more wattage (due to more cores and higher clock speeds). If you are specifically planning a build with the upcoming processors in mind, you might as well go for a Z390 motherboard to be safe :)

Posted on 2018-10-16 22:40:35

So my question is...If I am mounting a new PC and buy an I7 9700K. Why should I buy Z390 if Z370 is much more cheaper than Z390. I mean...What is the benefits besides the USB ports and Wifi. The CPU will have some improvement in Z390? Is it worth? Thanks a lot.

Posted on 2018-12-01 17:26:33

The big differences are the two things you listed: built-in USB 3.1 ports and direct WiFi support. If you don't need either of those, then an older board could save you money. There are also the lower-end chipsets, like H370, to consider (as long as you don't want to overclock). There shouldn't be any CPU performance difference between any of the chipsets, if you are running the processor at stock speeds.

Posted on 2018-12-03 16:59:39
Новица Чворовић

What if i am getting i7-8700K, would you still recommend Z370 or should i go for Z390?

Posted on 2018-12-10 22:28:25

The Z390 still offers a couple newer features - namely the built-in USB 3.1 and WiFi - so if you would find those useful, it would be my personal choice. If you aren't concerned with those, an older Z370 board would save you money. Also, I should note that not every motherboard is going to have WiFi or fully utilize the capabilities of the new chipset... so keep that in mind, if you do want to go for Z390.

Posted on 2018-12-10 22:52:47