Introduction & Specifications
The difference between budget and high-end boards in the current age can be the difference between a medium end and high-end graphics card when spec’ing up a final build. One element of MSI’s gaming-focused marketing strategy is providing users with solid and good reliable products, whilst remaining affordable and feature rich!
In today’s review, we get to grips with an entry level option to Intel’s 8th generation Z370 chipset in the form of the MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS motherboard. With support for AMD 2-way CrossFireX, this board could be the perfect companion for someone building a budget-friendly system, but while keeping to a mainstream chipset such as the Z370 platform.
Let’s take a look at the full specifications and then we’ll feast upon the Z370 GAMING PLUS motherboard itself…
• Supports 8th Gen Intel® Core™ i3/i5/i7 processors for Socket LGA1151
• Intel® Z370 Chipset
• 4 x DDR4 memory slots, support up to 64GB
– Supports DDR4 Up to 4000MHz
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Supports ECC, un-buffered memory
– ECC UDIMM memory (non-ECC mode)
• Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
• 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots (Modes: 16, 4)
• 4 x PCIe 3.0 x1 slot
• 1 x DVI-D
• 1 x D-Sub
• 1 x Displayport™ port (1.2)
• Supports 2-Way AMD® CrossFire™ Technology
• Intel® Z370 Chipset
• 6 x SATA 6Gb/s ports
• 1 x M.2 slot (Supports Intel Optane Memory – 8th Gen Processor required)
• Intel® Z370 Chipset
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10 for SATA storage devices
• Realtek ALC 892 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
• 1 x Intel i219 Gigabit LAN controller
Back Panel I/O Ports
– 1 x PS/2 mouse/keyboard combo port
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 1 x VGA port
– 1 x DVI-D port
– 1 x DisplayPort port
– 1 x LAN (RJ45) port
– 4 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A ports
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
• 12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )
• ATX Form Factor
MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS Closer Look
The Z370 GAMING PLUS sits towards the lower end of the Z370 models currently on offer with a general focus on value orientated gaming, as opposed to balls to the walls overclocking and even users looking to run SLI graphics configurations to make your eyes pop and mouths water. It’s much better to judge a product on what it has got as opposed to what it hasn’t got, but in terms of style, the full black PCB design with red contrasting lines and alternative design look very good in my opinion. The board might not have full RGB LED functionality on the board itself (only red LEDs), but included is a single RGB header to allow for use with compatible RGB LED strips.
The board has 4 memory slots for DDR4 memory with speeds up to DDR-4000 and 64GB in maximum capacity allowed. This is a significant improvement over the last range of models with only the most stringent of overclocking focused boards running 4000MHz memory and above.
With 6 SATA 6Gb/s ports being ample for most users, the board also makes use of a single M.2 slot which sits just above the top PCIe x16 3.0 slot. Please note that when in use, it disables the SATA1 slot on the motherboard due to bandwidth.
A steel reinforced full-length PCIe x16 3.0 slot is present with a second slot in red plastic which runs in x4. This makes AMD 2-way CrossfireX configurations plausible, but NVIDIAs SLI is not supported due to the lack of a PLX chip; a cost-cutting effort from MSI here.
On the rear I/O of the Z370 GAMING PLUS, we have the following ports/inputs/connections…
2 x USB 2.0 ports
4 x USB 3.0 ports
1 x RJ45 port
1 x D-sub port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x DisplayPort
5 x 3.5mm audio connectors for onboard audio
There is a distinct lack of USB 3.1 available here, but this is clearly a cost-cutting measure and most other brands in the same price range also do this. The inclusion of an HDMI port over the DisplayPort would be more favorable for me, but I can see that MSI couldn’t choose both and went with what they think was best (the design team I mean).
Test Setup & Performance
Motherboard: MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS
CPU: Intel Core i3-8350K @ 4.0GHz (Stock)
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
The MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS is a solid option for users on a strict budget and hasn’t got the need for some of the more cost adding features such as USB 3.1 Gen2 ports (10Gb/s). For what this board lacks, it makes up for in other areas, which is to say that unless you’re primarily after a basic Z370 motherboard on a budget, then this board most likely wouldn’t get a look in either way!
Starting with the pricing, you can pick the MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS up for around £125/$129 depending on your country of purchase and all in all, it’s a very good price all things considered. Yes, certain premium features have been omitted purely for cost-cutting measures to keep the board competitive with other brands entry level Coffee Lake based Z370 models. Without beating around the bush, but you know a motherboard is focused on value when the audio is powered by the cheaper Realtek ALC892 codec and not the usual 1220 featured on the previous Z270 models. Pricing is the key factor here and despite the decent and mid-level features, basic PCB and red and black design, I can’t imagine MSI are making any money from this model, if at all!
Performance wise, there wasn’t anything abnormal, especially not compared to other boards we have tested and everything seems to be ship shape. Users expecting to use multi-graphics card configurations may look to more expensive and feature rich boards for their setups, but what this board does offer is fairly adequate. This includes 2 x PCIe x16 slots with only AMD CrossfireX being supported; this board doesn’t feature a PLX chip, unfortunately. There are no USB 3,1 Gen2 ports featured either which I have previously touched on, which is a little disappointing given this is a brand new platform, but some sacrifices had to be made in order to keep the pricing competitive.
The solid red and black theme strikes a bit of colour back into the gaming brands as a lot of manufacturers have opted for more neutral and subtle aesthetic changes from Z270 to Z370. I personally like the styling and although not classed as RGB, the board does feature a single RGB header for added customisability; not much, but enough to keep some people satisfied I would imagine.
If your looking for a cheaper way onto the new Z370 Intel Coffee Lake architecture, then the Z370 GAMING PLUS from MSI should certainly be considered. The pricing is decent, albeit still a little higher than I would like to see and the design is certainly minimalistic with its red and black theme…but the board is decent all-around and it has to be respected!
Buy from CCL: £120.36 (at the time of the review)
Huge thanks to MSI for sending a sample of the Z370 GAMING PLUS in for review.
- Decent value option for those on a budget
- Not everything needs RGB and the Z370 GAMING PLUS is a solid example of why!
- Decent components across the board including the Realtek ALC892 audio codec
- Lots of bare and unused PCB space on this board
- No USB 3.1 Gen2 ports implemented
- No NVIDIA SLI support featured
- Could come in a few pounds/dollars lighter to make it even more competitive.