Intel product brief spills the beans on the Z390 chipset

Intel made the details of the long-rumored Z390 chipset official yesterday when it posted a product brief for the platform controller hub on its website. Going by that document, Z390 motherboards will be the first overclocking-friendly models built with the same chipset silicon that underpins today's H370, B360, and H310 boards. That means whenever Z390 boards arrive, they'll support Intel's Integrated Connectivity, or CNVi, wireless modules and native USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports from the chipset alongside eighth-generation Core CPUs. In short, Z390 relieves the odd-man-out Kaby Lake PCH of its duties for Intel's eighth-generation platforms.

The block diagram of the Z390 chipset. Source: Intel

Aside from its overclocking capabilities and useful integrated connectivity features, Z390 will be the second eighth-generation-CPU-ready platform to allow for the bifurcation of the 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes from Coffee Lake chips for multiple graphics adapters or PCIe SSDs. Folks looking to build enthusiast-class systems with Z390 can install two graphics cards with PCIe 3.0 x8 connections or install one graphics card and two PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs on a Z390 board, going by Intel's examples.

Z390 also includes some minor peripheral connectivity improvements compared to H370. Z390 boards can have as many as six USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports from the chipset, compared to a maximum of four for H370 and B360. Intel also says Z390 can be tapped for as many as 10 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (read USB 3.0) ports, as well as 14 USB 2.0 ports—same as Z370. Thanks to Intel chipsets' flexible I/O lane architecture, those ports likely can't be enabled all at once, but they do give motherboard makers a rich set of building blocks to put together as they spec out their Z390 lineups. Last but not least, Z390 supports Intel's Optane Memory caching technology.

Ultimately, folks looking for earth-shaking changes to Intel's platforms won't find it with Z390—or at least that's what this new information seems to tell us. It appears the release will be more about ensuring feature consistency in the company's 2018 product lineup than shaking up the status quo.

According to some leaks, Z390 motherboards will launch in the third quarter of this year. Intel's product brief doesn't make any mention of potential new processors that might drop into these motherboards beyond stating that Z390 boards will support eighth-generation Core CPUs. Whether Z390 will support or is meant to support the launch of the company's long-rumored eight-core Coffee Lake parts will hinge on whether those parts launch as eighth-generation models. It seems we'll have to wait until the second half of this year to find out for sure. Thanks to TR tipster SH SOTN for the heads-up.

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