Intel’s Z390 platform is the successor of Z370 for the Coffee Lake Refresh generation. We have collected all upcoming motherboards as an overview.
Z390: What Intel’s new platform does for you
Intel’s ninth generation of Core i processors, the i9-9900K and i7-9700K, introduce eight-core processors to the mainstream for the first time. Typically for Intel, a new chipset, called Z390, comes out with the new generation. This is based on the Z370 chipset, but differs in some points. It is manufactured in 14nm instead of 22nm. Basically, much remains the same. There are concrete differences with the features. In this generation there is directly integrated USB 3.1 on up to six ports. USB 3.0 is possible on four further ports. The USB 3.1 controller, which is no longer required, freed up two additional PCIe lanes, which is why a total of 13 free lanes instead of 11 lanes are now possible. In addition, Z390 now supports WiFi-AC and Bluetooth 5.0 by default. However, an additional chip is still required for this, there is no direct integration.
Those who currently own a Coffee Lake processor and a Z370 mainboard have little reason to upgrade their mainboard. However, many might be interested in upgrading from a six core to an eight core like the i9-9900K. Fortunately, all new processors continue to run on the Z370 mainboards. Since there are no successors to B360, H370 and H310, these are also compatible with the ninth generation of Intel processors.
Overview of all Z390 mainboards
However, if you are about to make a new purchase and need to upgrade the entire platform right away, you can already grab a Z390 mainboard. The differences to the predecessor are relatively small. Only Asus has added an interesting new feature with the support of Double Capacity RAM. The remaining features are mostly cosmetic in nature. Often larger heat sinks are installed. Also the RGB lighting increases steadily. Altogether we list here already 60 mainboards, which are available soon or already at the dealers. However, it is not certain for all mainboards whether they will also be available in Europe.
The manufacturer ASRock starts the new Intel generation with a total of 12 mainboards. Established brands like the extremely popular Taichi mainboards remain, while there are no more Fatal1ty mainboards in this generation. ASRock replaces this brand with the Phantom Gaming brand already known from the graphics cards. The Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 is the flagship together with the Z390 Taichi Ultimate. Both come with WiFi-AC and Blueotooth 5.0. A special feature can also be found in the LAN ports. Both motherboards each have three of them, two of them with Gigabit speed. The Taichi Ultimate also comes with a 10G port, the Phantom Gaming 9 with a 2.5G port.
The normal Taichi mainboard comes without a 10G port and without Bluetooth 5.0 support. ASRock also offers the Z390 Extreme4 as a somewhat slimmed down high-end model parallel to the Phantom Gaming brand. Among them are the Z390 Pro4, the Z390M Pro4 as micro ATX board and the Z390M-ITX/ac as beginner mini ITX mainboard. The Phantom Gaming series comprises a total of six versions, starting with the Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 as a high-end model. These are followed by the Z390 Phantom Gaming 6, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI/ac, the Z390 Phantom Gaming SLI and the Z390 Phantom Gaming 4. There is also a Mini-ITX version called Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac.
Asus introduces 20 motherboards to the market for the Z390 launch. With the Prime, TUF Gaming, ROG Strix and ROG Maximus XI series there are few surprises. In addition to the optical innovations there is a special feature that Asus has integrated into its mainboards. The ROG Maximus XI Apex, the ROG Maximus XI Gene and the ROG Strix Z390-I support double capacity RAM. These particularly high RAM modules each have a capacity of 32 gigabytes and enable 64 gigabytes of RAM in dual-channel mode. This is especially important for the Mini-ITX mainboard, as it doubles the capacity. The memory sticks are not compatible to other mainboards, because there is a slightly different pin assignment. However, conventional modules will still fit into the slots.
The Prime mainboards are still the entry level for Asus. The Prime Z390-P is the cheapest model and looks almost naked without a heat sink. There is also a Micro-ATX version of it called Prime Z390M-Plus. The Prime Z390-A is significantly better equipped, also optically. For workstation users, a WS Z390 Pro will be released later. Asus defines The Ultimate Force series as the entry point for the gaming market. This year a total of five mainboards with Z390 chipsets will be released, which are equipped differently. The TUF Z390-Pro Gaming is the top model of the series. It is followed by the TUF Z39-Plus Gaming (Wi-Fi) and the Micro ATX version TUF Z390M-Pro Gaming (Wi-Fi). The Plus model also comes as TUF Z390-Plus Gaming in a version without Wi-Fi, just like the TUF Z390M-Pro Gaming.
The ROG Strix models are clearly more noble and also optically probably the most well-known. This year there is a total of four mainboards. The ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming is again the flagship, followed by the ROG Strix Z390-F Gaming. The entry level mainboard is the ROG Strix Z390-H Gaming. With this motherboard Asus eliminates the built-in RGB lighting and relies on a red and black color scheme. With the ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming, there is again a Mini-ITX model with support for the double-capacity RAM modules.
The ROG Maximus XI series is very wide-ranging this year. Asus launches a total of seven models in this series. The smallest board is the ROG Maximus XI Gene, which is designed as a micro ATX mainboard. The ROG Maximus XI Hero is the entry into the series. It is available in three versions. Once as ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) with integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, once without wireless connections and once as ROG Maximus XI Hero BO4 as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 special edition. The ROG Maximus XI Code and the Maximus XI Formula follow above. Both come with a stylish cover called ROG Armor including backplate. The Formula model also relies on integrated VRM water blocks from EKWB. The absolute high-end model is the ROG Maximus XI Extreme, which can accommodate Asus’ DIMM.2 expansion card as an EATX mainboard.
EVGA is somewhat more exotic than the other mainboard manufacturers. The American company launches two motherboards with a Z390 chipset, the Z390 Dark and the Z390 FTW. The layout of the Z390 Dark does not correspond to the usual layout of other mainboards. The socket is turned 90 degrees to the left, the DIMM slots for the RAM are located above the socket. EVGA only uses two of them, which is why a maximum of 32 gigabytes of dual-channel RAM are possible on the motherboard. The large EATX mainboard also comes with angled connectors for the 24-pin and the two 8-pin EPS connectors, which are located right next to the 24-pin port. In general, EVGA has angled almost all connectors on the motherboard. With its special layout, a 17-phase VRM design, a large heat sink for the phases and many distributed sensors in the mainboard itself, the Z390 Dark is primarily intended to appeal to extreme overclockers.
A more consumer-oriented motherboard is the Z390 FTW. It comes with two full-fledged x16 PCIe ports and also the full four DIMM slots for the RAM. The layout largely corresponds to that of an ordinary mainboard. There are a total of nine USB 3.1 ports (internal and external) and three M.2 slots, two as M- and one as E-Key. Both mainboards are not yet available in Europe.
Gigabyte starts with a total of 10 motherboards for the new Intel generation. The Aorus series, which is represented by a total of six motherboards, is particularly present this time. Among them, Gigabyte positions three more mainboards of the gaming series and a beginner mainboard called Z390 UD, which is currently the cheapest available Z390 mainboard. Also in this generation, the manufacturer remains true to the orange accent color. The absolute high-end model is the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Master. It is the only Gigabyte mainboard with two 8Pin EPS connectors for the CPU and is intended to appeal especially to overclockers. The Aorus Master is also the only model to feature start buttons, a BIOS reset and a BIOS switch directly on the board. Additionally there are Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi-AC and Thunderbolt.
The Z390 Aorus Ultra looks confusingly similar to the Aorus Master, but comes with a 4+8 pin EPS connector, no buttons and no wireless connections. Among them are the Z390 Aorus Pro WIFI and the Z390 Aorus Pro. These differ from each other only with the support of Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi AC, which is only supported by the Wi-Fi model. Both models come with fewer PCIe slots than the two top models. The Z390 Aorus Elite with the correspondingly reduced scope of equipment serves as the entry into the Aorus series. With the Z390 I Aorus Pro WIFI there is also a Mini-ITX model.
The Aorus series includes the gaming series, which is divided into three models. The top model is the Z390 Gaming SLI. Below them follows the Z390 Gaming-X, which is also available as Z390 M Gaming in Micro-ATX format and costs as much as the ATX mainboard. Compared to the higher-quality model, you have to do without SLI here. The whole series also consistently does without RGB lighting. As an absolute entry-level, Gigabyte also offers the Z390 UD with a greatly reduced range of functions.
MSI also changes the names of the mainboards a bit with the launch. Already known terms are introduced into the series. The manufacturer introduces the abbreviations MEG, MPG and MAG. The designations can be found on almost all of the 11 mainboards available at the start. The top models carry the MEG seal and are called MEG Z390 Godlike and MEG Z390 Ace. Among them are two Pro Carbon mainboards with the names MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon and MPG Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike as the flagship comes next to the Asus Maximus XI Extreme as the only mainboard with an EATX format, four mechanical x16 slots and a dual BIOS. There are two 8-pin and one 6-pin EPS connector for the power supply.
The MEG Z390 Ace is the little brother of the Godlike and comes with marginally less features. With two 8pin EPS connectors, it is nevertheless designed for strong overclocking. The Ace is also lavishly equipped in terms of connections. Interestingly enough, MSI completely avoids integrated RGB lighting in the Ace except for the I/O cover. Furthermore, the two MEG top models do not support the internal graphics unit of the Intel CPUs.
In addition to the two Pro Carbon models, there are other cheaper models in the MPG series. The MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC and MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC models can be found slightly below the Pro Carbons. The MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC is a micro ATX model. Both models are equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There is also a Mini-ITX derivative as MPG Z390I Gaming Edge AC. Among them is the MPG Z390 Gaming Plus, which together with the MSI Z390-A Pro is a cheap Z390 entry board.
The MAG series includes the two models MAG Z390 Tomahawk and MAG Z390M Mortar. The MAG Z390M Mortar comes in Micro-ATX format. Why exactly these models are called MAG is not yet quite clear to us. Probably, it’s about the fact that both models differ a bit from the otherwise quite catchy MSI design.
NZXT started at the beginning of the year as a mainboard manufacturer. The NZXT N7 Z370 was the first version of the manufacturer, which actually became known for its eye-catching cases and water coolers. The design line is also reflected in the mainboards. With the NZXT N7 Z390, the American company now introduces the successor to the N7 Z370. The simple design has remained practically the same. Also technically very little has changed. NZXT now offers Bluetooth 5.0 and Wi-Fi AC in the N7 Z390. An I/O panel is now also permanently installed. The mainboard can again be colour-matched to the customer’s wishes with different steel panels. With a price recommendation of 279.90 euros, it is a rather high-priced motherboard and will not be launched until December.
Supermicro is a manufacturer, which does not appear in Europe often. The mainboards are rather found in the server area. This might change with the Z390 mainboard series. The total of four models are named C9Z390-PGW, C9Z390-CGW, C9Z390CG and C9Z390-CG-IW. The C9Z390-PGW is the flagship of the series in dark colours. It comes with four mechanical x16 ports and all kinds of connections. In addition to two M.2 ports, two U.2 ports are also installed, which can already be described as rather exotic. The top models C9Z390-PGW and C9Z390CGW also come with a 10G LAN port and integrated WLAN-AC as well as Bluetooth 5.0.
The motherboards below have to do without covers or heat sinks in the design and come with fewer PCIe ports. Even the U.2 ports can only be found in the top model. There are plenty of USB 3.1 ports of both generations on all mainboards. The C9Z390-CG-IW is designed as a mini-ITX version and also comes with Wi-Fi AC. Whether the motherboards will be available in Europe is not yet known.
Buy Supermicro Z390 mainboards:
Should I upgrade from Z370 to Z390?
Clear answer: No! If you own a Z370 mainboard, you have practically the same features as Z390 offers. A pure upgrade from the motherboard doesn’t pay off. However, if you want to sell both your processor and your motherboard in order to switch to the new platform, you can do so. But even a pure upgrade of the processor doesn’t need a new platform, as the Z370 is also compatible with the new eight-core processors. Especially at the beginning, the prices of the Z390 mainboards are still relatively high, which is why you should definitely save money here.
Conclusion: Z390 brings practically nothing new
While in the run-up to the launch of the Z390 many rumors were still going around that many new features would enter the platform or that the Intel eight-core processors i9-9900K and i7-9700K would only work with Z390, we were almost disappointed after the launch. If you disregard the implementation of significantly more USB 3.1 ports and the better energy efficiency due to the 14nm production, you quickly get the feeling that the Z390 is actually completely unnecessary. Those who already own a Z370 mainboard have no real reason to switch to the new platform. Both Intel and the mainboard manufacturers probably hope for potential buyers from a different source. If you’re switching from an older platform like Haswell or Skylake, you’ll probably prefer the Z390 mainboard. However, the typical Intel drop of bitterness still remains. The next generation of processors is probably not compatible with the platform.