On our test bench today is a specialized motherboard from the guys at ASUS Republic of Gamers, and oh boy, what a motherboard it is. I’m talking about the ROG Maximus X Apex Z370 motherboard which is built on the E-ATX form factor and brings another type of avenue to conventional gaming themed boards for Intel’s Coffee Lake 8th generation processors. I am of course talking about overclocking and performance. Also on the test bench is the Intel Core i3-8350K quad-core processor which notes a jump in the desktop CPU segment from 2 to 4 physical cores in the Core i3 models and an extra 2 cores on the Core i7 range. Is the i3-8350K a force to be reckoned with in gaming compared to other models in our graphs? Let’s take a look at the specifications of both.
ROG Z370 Maximus X Apex
Intel Core i3-8350K
|CPU Type||Intel Core i3|
|Manufacturing Process||14 nm|
|No. of Cores||Quad Core|
|No. of Threads||4|
|Core Ratio||40 x|
|Clock Speed||4.0 GHz|
|Max. Turbo Speed (On 2 Cores Only)||N/A|
|Intel Turbo Boost Max Technology 3.0||No|
|DMI Speed||8 GT/s|
|Unlocked Core Multiplier||Yes|
|Unlocked Full Range Base Clock (B-Clock)||Yes|
|Max. Memory Size||64 GB|
|Max. Memory Speed||DDR4 – 2400|
|Max. Memory Channels||2 (Dual Channel)|
|ECC Memory Support||Not Supported|
|Intel Optane Memory Support||Yes|
|Scalability||1 Socket/Processor ONLY|
|Max. PCIe Lanes Supported||16|
|Processor Graphics||Intel UHD Graphics 630|
|Base GPU Speed||350 MHz|
|Max. GPU Speed||1150 MHz|
|Max. GPU Resolution||4096×2304 (4K) @60Hz|
|L3 Cache||*See Intel Smart Cache*|
|Intel® Smart Cache||8MB|
|Thermal Specification||100 °C|
|Heatsink||Not Included, Sold Separately|
So, starting with an overall look at the board, the Z370 Apex has a uniquely X shaped PCB as featured on the other ROG Apex boards (Z270 & X299). With the motherboard having a clear focus on overclocking, the board itself has a whopping 10 fan headers with 3 running at 1A meaning they cannot be controlled and run at 100% speed. 7 of them are designed for regular fans including PWM with a separate header for AIO CPU cooler pumps.
The Apex features 4 x full-length PCIe 3.0 slots with the top 3 x16 lanes (plated with metal brackets) being run directly from the CPU with the bottom slot running at a maximum of x4 being driven directly from the PCH chipset. These slots can run in the following configurations:
In addition to the full-length slots for graphics cards, there are 2 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slots for devices such as network adapters, sound cards and even RAID cards. In addition to this, the Apex only features 4 x SATA3 ports which makes this board unsuitable for users with lots of multiple drives for storage purposes. In a different approach to most other vendors, the dual M.2 PCIe x4 slots are populated via an additional DIMM.2 card which has a specific slot right next to the 2 x RAM slots.
In terms of memory support, the Z370 Apex has support for a stupidly crazy maximum of 4500MHz (OC) on the memory, with a maximum capacity of 32GB supported in total. The idea behind the dual slots is to provide a faster and more efficient track length between the CPU socket and the memory slots direct which allows for better memory performance, as well as tightened latencies; perfect for overclockers to get the most from their memory.
Focusing directly on overclocking here, the board itself has a variety of tools directly suited to more extreme methods of overclocking. Featured are power, reset, OC retry and safe booting button which is complemented by a trio of switches. These switches include a slow mode which puts an x8 multiplier instantly onto the processor, an RSVD switch to help alleviate cold bugs when using sub-zero cooling methods and a pause switch. The Apex also features a dual BIOS with the jumper being located on the board.
Planning on overclocking? Of course you are, that’s why you’re looking at the Apex right? Well, the Apex has dual 8pin 12V CPU power inputs and a solid 8+2 power phase design to supplement this. Controller wise, the Intel Coffee Lake supported Apex sports dual LAN ports on the rear I/O with one being controlled by the standard Gigabit Intel I219V controller, and the other being a high grade and top spec Aquantia AQC108 5 Gigabit Ethernet controller. Controlling the onboard audio is an EMI shielded and rebranded Realtek ALC1220 (ROG SupremeFX S1220) codec which is regular for mid-range and upwards Z270/X299/Z370 offerings.
Finishing off with the rear I/O: there’s a clear CMOS button, BIOS Flashback button, 2 x PS/2 connectors for a keyboard and mouse, 6 x USB 3.0 ports, 2 x LAN ports, a single USB 3.1 Type-A port, a single USB 3.1 Type-C port and 5 x 3.5mm audio connectors with a single S/PDIF output. Very acceptable for a board of this calibre and if the USB ports offered aren’t enough, more are available through internal headers.
Test Setup & Performance
Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus X Apex Z370
CPU: Intel Core i3-8350K @ Stock (4.0GHz)
CPU Cooling: be quiet! Silent Loop 240mm
GPU: ASUS ROG GTX 1060 STRIX 6GB
RAM: Ballistix Elite 3000MHz 16GB (2x8GB)
PSU: be quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 1000w
OS: Windows 10 Professional x64
In the interest of fairness and to show real-world performance, the processor was left at stock. All of the motherboards and processors saw in the graphs below are set with multi-core enhancement enabled (on supported models) and are at the mercy of the motherboard itself.
2D CPU Benchmark Performance
3D CPU & GPU Benchmark Performance
So, we’re at the end and the testing has been done, but what’s the verdict on both board, and processor? There’s a bit to point out and a few things to discuss, so let’s get right into it with minimum fuss, fluff and hassle!
ROG Maximus X Apex Z370 Motherboard Review: Our Verdict
- Top quality VRM
- Overall design, aesthetics and RGB lighting options
- Inclusion of a 5G network controller (Aquantia AQC108)
- Tons of cooling support thanks to 10 x fan headers
- Overclocking focused motherboard for performance users and extreme overclockers looking to take Intel’s Coffee Lake under cold conditions
- Pricing is very reasonable considering (£304 at Amazon UK)
- Only 4 x SATA 6Gbs available making storage options limited
- E-ATX form factor limits the majority of the cases which can be used (forward thinking and planning is key here)
Following on from our previous Apex branded ROG motherboards, the Z370 variant does exactly what it says on the tin. The Z370 Apex has a slightly different approach however as not only has the latest Apex variant been subjected to a host of other upgrades including a 5 Gigabit LAN on top of the regularly used Intel-based LAN, but customisation has been improved with a total of 4 RGB headers; albeit none of them addressable which is something ASUS has pushed on their boards for the last 6 months and beyond.
With a price tag of around £304 at Amazon UK, it’s clear that the board is designed for pushing the limits of Coffee Lake, but this is entirely dependant on the silicone lottery. Our Core i3-8350K sample from Intel was hardly a testament to overclockers and is a relatively poor clocker. This is something we have to deal with going forward in our Z370 reviews, but rest assured, overclocking isn’t the be all and end all of the talking points, although, on this board, it’s certainly one of the Apex’s strengths. All in all, the Apex is a fantastic option for sub-zero overclockers, performance users and enthusiasts.
Intel Core i3-8350K Review: Our Verdict
- The i3 is now quad-core, how isn’t that brilliant?
- Core i3-8350K with 4 cores is cheaper than the Core i3-7350K with 2 cores
- IPC gains are apparent, small, but still there
- Generally, good overclockers even though our sample is not!
- Better single threaded performance than AMD’s Ryzen processors
- As mentioned, only relatively small IPC gains over Intel’s 7th generation Kaby Lake processors
- No stock cooler is provided
- General Coffee Lake processor availability is poor, to say the least in retail channels
- You need a Z series motherboard to unlock the multiplier
The Core i3-8350K in comparison to the Core i3-7350K is a certain winner and for gaming, the Core i3-8350K is a top choice. The pricing over the previous dual-core i3 iteration is a good move from Intel, but the 6 core i5-8400 isn’t that much more and if you’re not particularly interested in overclocking, offers much better price per watt performance overall.
Some call £150-160 expensive for a quad-core processor these days, but I certainly digress on this point. Intel has made a notable effort to improve costs for consumers since AMD made 2017 all about Ryzen; Intel had to fire back in some way. Sure, Intel’s Coffee Lake processors have taken the fight to AMD, but you can’t win back market share if people can’t actually purchase the chips, making things a moot point. To sum it up as easily as possible, the Intel Core i3 8350K is a winner for us and if you’re gaming, the i3 is going to do you just fine. The lack of Hyperthreading makes this quad-core option relatively unsuitable for content creators, especially compared to the Core i5/i7 Coffee Lake models, but it will certainly finish the task, albeit at a slower rate.
Huge thanks to Intel and ASUS Republic of Gamers for sending the samples in for this review.