When Intel or AMD launches a new mainstream CPU family, they usually do so with a number of new chipsets. For example, the 7th generation core series, code-named "Kaby Lake", was launched with 5 supporting chipsets, of which you are probably familiar with 3. AMD also released Ryzen with 3 desktop chipsets, A320, B350 and X370.
When Intel launched the core series & # 39; Coffee Lake & # 39; the 8th generation, they did it with a single chipset, the high-end Z370. To date, this has meant that the cheapest Intel 300 series motherboard you could get your hands on was around $ 110. Now, about half a year later, Intel is ready to launch its cheaper chipsets, including the B360. We also have some H370 boards on hand, but today we're going to focus on the slightly cheaper B360 boards.
What are these cheaper B360 boards missing compared to the Z370 boards that we already have?
First of all, even with an unlocked K processor, B360 cards don't support CPU or memory overclocking. This means that automatic overclocking functions like multicore improvement are also not available.
They also do not support RAID, offer fewer PCIe lanes for the CPU and fewer USB ports – although the B360 chipset offers native USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, which the Z370 chipset completely lacks. Z370 cards can also support up to three M.2 ports, but the B360 is limited to a single port.
|Function / ability||Z370||B360|
|CPU PCIe lanes||1×16 or 2×8
or 1×8 + 2×4
|PCIe lanes for chipsets||Up to 24||12th|
|SATA ports||Up to 6||Up to 6|
|USB 3.1 Gen2 ports||0||Up to 4|
|USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports||Up to 10||6|
|Total USB ports (USB 2.0 + USB 3.1)||14||12th|
|Intel RST PCIe 3.0 M.2 memory||3rd||1|
|PCI-E RAID 0/1/5 support||Yes||No|
|SATA RAID 0/1/5 support||Yes||No|
|Intel PCIe memory with CPU connection||Yes||No|
The B360 chipset does not support overclocking of the DDR4 memory and is therefore limited to the maximum frequency that is supported by the integrated memory controller. This means that all Core i5 and Core i7 models can run up to DDR4-2666, while the Core i3 models are limited to DDR4-2400.
B360 cards support XMP. However, if you use modules with a DDR4-3000 profile, for example, the timings associated with the 3000 specification are loaded when the profile is loaded.
MSI kindly provided us with two new B360 motherboards for testing. They say that in their own internal tests, they found no performance difference between B360 and Z370 motherboards. This claim is based on tests conducted on their top-end model, the Gaming Pro Carbon, using the Core i7-8700K.
We were interested in testing cheaper models, so we requested the B360 Gaming Plus and the small B360M PRO-VD, which completely does without VRM cooling. Prior to the release of the affordable 300 series chipsets, there were concerns that the 6-core parts on these cheaper motherboards might not perform as well as the Z370 models.
MSI is confident that this is not the case with its premium model B360, the Gaming Pro Carbon, a motherboard for $ 140. But what about the cheaper B360 Gaming Plus for $ 115? Let's compare the Core i7-8700 and the Core i5-8400 on this new B360 board with the god-like MSI Z370. You know the one that costs more than $ 500.
First, a look at the memory bandwidth performance. As you can see, all test configurations use DDR4-2666 memory, the highest specification supported by the B360 chipset when using a Core i5 or i7 processor. The Z370 card can use memory with higher specifications with these processors, but let's not worry for now. As you can see, the performance with the Z370 or B360 card is exactly the same.
It continues with the Cinebench R15 multithreaded scores. Starting with the Core i5-8400, we see that it delivers the same score with the box cooler on both boards. Also note that this CPU when testing with a not faster with aftermarket cooling is ambient air temperature of 21 degrees.
The situation is different with the Core i7-8700. When using the box cooler, we see the same performance on both B360 and Z370 boards. However, if we install a tower-style air cooler, the score increases by 5% because the i7-8700 changes from an all-core turbo frequency from 4.1 GHz to 4.3 GHz because thermal throttling is no longer a problem represents.
This increase in performance was observed on the B360 board, but it is exactly the same result on the Z370 model as well.
When using the Corona benchmark, we see similar performance for both the 8400 and 8700 when both chipsets are used.
It is the same when testing with POVray. Here we see that with a better cooler, the render time was reduced by 2% with the Core i7-8700.
More of this can be seen when testing with Blender. So I'm going to complete the application tests here and try a few games.
Here we see that when playing Battlefield 1, the experience on the B360 board is the same as on the Z370. Please note that we are considering the performance of 1% lower frame time converted to an FPS metric.
Similar results were found when tested with Far Cry 5. The difference between the two motherboards can be reduced to the error limit.
This is an interesting result, the feature-rich Z370 Godlike is significantly more power hungry than the B360 Gaming Plus. The overall system consumption of the Core i5-8400 was reduced by 25% with the B360 card, while the consumption of the 8700 was reduced by 13%. So it seems that these cheaper motherboards will help improve the performance per watt of Intel 6-core CPUs.
So the MSI B360 Gaming Plus had no problems finding an extreme Z370 motherboard with locked Coffee Lake CPUs. Of course, both cards were deliberately limited to DDR4-2666 memory. The Z370 board is pulled away in certain workloads and games in connection with a memory with a higher frequency, this is a matter of course.
As mentioned earlier, MSI suggests that the B360 Gaming Plus will be available for retail at $ 115, making it the cheapest Z370 boards on the market. MSI's own Z370 Gaming Plus only costs $ 130 and for the price of a cheap meal you get a few extras, not least the overclocking of CPU and memory.
Ideally, B360 buyers want to spend less. We may have surpassed it here, but we persuaded MSI to hand over their B360M PRO-VD, which they say will be around $ 85, although that's the suggested price and is likely to cost less, at least we hope we really do. For the same money, you can buy the MSI B250M Mortar, and this is a motherboard of significantly higher quality. Realistically speaking, we're more likely to think of $ 60 to $ 70. We have to see where prices are going in the next few weeks.
What we can tell you is that the B360M PRO-VD is a super simple motherboard and the cheapest model that MSI will offer in the B360 series. Apart from the basic chipset functions, nothing special has been added to this tiny Micro ATX card. There are only two DIMM sockets, no VRM cooling of any kind, and no HDMI or Displayport connectivity.
There is none of the natively supported USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, just the six Gen 1 ports and half a dozen USB 2.0 ports. MSI has an M.2 port built in, which is very nice, although we're not sure how many users looking for an extremely affordable B360 board will use M.2 storage, but it's available when needed.
Now the VRM is the most worrying aspect of this board, but before we get too carried away, we find that there aren't many of you reading and planning this article, a $ 300 core i7 processor to stick on a motherboard under $ 100. The B360M PRO-VD is more of a Core i3-8100 motherboard, possibly a Core i5-8400, but probably not a Core i7-8700. Still, we wanted to see how the 8700 developed, so we started here.
When loading the Intel XTU software, we can already see that the MSI B360 PRO-VD has been downgraded to a maximum turbo boost power of 65 watts and a maximum short power consumption of 82 watts. In comparison, the B360 Gaming Plus was configured for 95 watts and 119 watts. This 31% drop in performance will no doubt affect the Core i7-8700, but should not affect the Core i5-8400.
When starting Cinebench R15, the 8700 only scored 1211 points, but ignoring this run and averaging four other runs resulted in a score of 1160 points. Please note that we use the DeepCool Gammaxx 200T. We know what to do with the crappy box cooler. So let's remove the thermal throttling variable from these results. This is 16% lower than what we saw with the MSI B360 Gaming Plus.
If we adjust the Turbo Boost parameters in the XTU software to that of the B360 Gaming Plus, we run Cinebench R15 four more times. The B360 PRO-VD now gave a score of over 1350 points and this is not quite as good as what we achieved with the Gaming Plus, but we will call this error rate with just under 2%.
We could further increase the Turbo Boost settings in the XTU software, but a long-term stress test shows why this is only an advantage for short benchmarks. Here we have a complex Blender workload and in just 30 seconds we have a bit of hiccups.
Everything looks good in the first 30 seconds, the 8700 holds 4.3 GHz on all 6 cores and we rip through this workload. In this way, the motherboard winds the 8700 back down to 3.2 GHz for 7 seconds before cranking it up to 4.3 GHz for 8 seconds and then repeating the process.
The reason for this is that the VRM of the motherboard overheats or at least reaches the thermal limit, then reduces the power consumption of the Core i7-8700, cools down by a few degrees over a period of 7 seconds and then starts up the power supply again until the thermal limit of the VRM is back, which, as I just said, took about 8 seconds.
Without gluing some kind of heat sink to the MOSFETS, it is not possible to avoid this throttling problem with the Core i7-8700. MSI doesn't expect too many people to pair this processor with their cheapest B360 motherboard, and even if you do so without any problems, it's only slower than a board with sufficient cooling.
But what about a high-end CPU that you'd rather pair with a budget board like the Core i5-8400? Without making any changes to the configuration of the B360 PRO-VD, the Core i5-8400 scored 877 points on the fourth run, which corresponds to what we saw from the Z370 Godlike. This is great, but what about a long-term test? Time to start Blender again.
With a TDP ceiling of 65 watts, the Core i5-8400 left us space and only occasionally reached a peak value of 62 watts. Throughout the test, which lasted over an hour, the 8400 held a constant 3.8 GHz without flinching for a second. The Gammaxx 200T keeps the CPU very cool at below 60 degrees and we have never seen a throttling.
This means that ultra-budget boards like the MSI B360 PRO-VD are perfect for use with locked Core i5 processors like the 8400. While it works flawlessly with the Core i7-8700 without improving the cooling you can expect up to a 20% performance hit. This is based on a single affordable B360 board. We will update you as needed as more boards arrive.
At the moment, you can safely conclude that anyone who wants to build a Core i5-8400 rig on a tight budget can do so with something like the MSI B360 PRO-VD. However, we strongly recommend that you consider something more sophisticated like the B360 Gaming Plus if you are serious about your computer.