Today we are going to do a quick test and unboxing of MSI’s mid-range Arsenal Gaming motherboard– Z370 Tomahawk. This series, like the Performance and Enthusiast lines, is geared toward gamers. These weapons are stress-tested to achieve the best and most stable gaming experience you can possibly have.
Starting with the board’s packaging, you will notice the difference right away when comparing to last year’s Z270 Arsenal Tomahawk model. The current model now boasts its RGB Mystic Light feature whence unlike before, red LED is the only lighting effect.
Turning the box around, main features are broken down and explained briefly:
- Intel Gaming LAN – gives out the best and lowest latency in your online games by prioritizing specific internet connectivity
- Lightning USB – with the improved ASMedia 3142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 controller, it is 2x faster and more energy efficient.
- Audio Boost- high quality sound with RGB audio line effects
- EZ Debug LED – built-in troubleshooting LEDs tool for your board
- Turbo M.2 – Intel’s Optane Memory technology feature. Improves access of data files especially on normal hard drive setups.
- Mystic Light – the well renowned RGB software of MSI with 16.8 million colors and 17 LED effects. This year’s Mystic Light software is so different from the previous version
- Steel Armor – reinforced steel for the memory and video card slots.
CPU Support: 8th Gen Intel Core / Pentium / Celeron Processors
CPU Socket: LGA 1151
Chipset: Intel Z370 Chipset
Graphics Interface: 3x PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, supports 2-way CrossFire
Display Interface: DVI-D, HDMI – Requires Processor Graphics
Memory Support: 4 DIMMs, Dual Channel DDR4-4000+(OC)
Expansion Slots: 3x PCI-E x1 slots
M.2/SATA: 2x M.2 slots, supports Intel Optane Technology / 6x SATA 6Gb/s
SATA RAID: RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 – Available on ports SATA1 to SATA6
USB port: 2x USB 3.1 (Gen2, A+C) + 8x USB 3.1 (Gen1) + 6x USB 2.0
LAN: Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN
Audio: 8-Channel (7.1) HD Audio with Audio Boost
The Z370 Tomahawk uses a black PCB with grey accents across the board, while the IO cover and VRM/PCH chipset heatsinks are in gunmetal which is reminiscent of the outer body of a war-going tank. RGB LEDs are embedded at the back of the board, audio line, MSI logo and an extra JLED RGB header for connecting your favorite external RGB devices or strips can also be found near the bottom center of the board.
System fan port headers are well-placed around the board – 2x at the bottom, 3x near the top which includes the pump and CPU fan and 1x in the middle just above the first M.2 socket.
The four memory slots can hold up to a total of 64GB of RAM and can reach speeds of up to 4000+ Mhz through overclocking and with the help of MSI DDR4 boost technology. Sad to say, this model does not have Steel Armor for the memory slots.
MSI made sure you won’t run out of storage by equipping this board with 2x M.2 expansion ports. The first one is just below the CPU socket and able to hold up to a 110mm drive while the second one is between the full length PCIE slots and holds up to an 80mm drive. A RAID array should be possible by using both.
Lastly, the first full length PCIE x16 slot is fortified with MSI’s Steel Armor tech and is connected directly to the processor,skipping latency-prone bridges. The other two, while also full length slots, are running at x4 / x1 and connects to the PCH chipset. This also applies to the remaining 3x PCIE x1 slots.
The Z370 Tomahawk utilizes 10 digital power phase for its CPU socket and some black solid caps to stabilize the power and to make it more efficient. Achieving higher overclocks with these components is not a problem. The CPU socket is powered by an 8-pin power connector.
Close up shot of the PCH chipset heatsink and now with RGB LEDs – COOL!!!
The Tomahawk includes six angled SATA ports which supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. Also, on the right most part is a USB 3.0 header. All are positioned at 90 degrees for better cable management.
Moving on to the back panel. It consists of a PS/2 combo port, DVI-D and HDMI video outputs, ASMedia USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A ports, 4x USB 3.1 (5Gbps) ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, Intel Gigabit network controller, audio analog jacks and a SPDIF.
Lastly as for the bundle goes
- Registration Card
- Manual and Quick Guide
- Utility DVD Disc
- Black and grey IO back plate
- JLED cable extension
- 2x SATA 6 GB/s cables
Here now comes the exciting part. We will test out the board with the all new, hot and sensational 8th Gen Coffee Lake – i5 8600K 3.6GHz 6-core processor. Actually not just a simple test but to overclock the system as well. Whooppiieeee~~
Just a bit info about these Coffee Lake processors, they are actually an improved versions of the 14nm Kaby Lake– more cores and an improved Intel HD Graphics which are optimized for 4K and VR applications already.
Test Configuration System:
- Processor: Intel i5 8600K (ES)
- Motherboard: MSI Z370 Tomahawk with latest BIOS Version E7847IMS.100
- CPU Cooler: MSI Frozr XL
- Memory: 4x Kingston HyperX Fury 4GB DDR4 2133MHz
- SSD: Samsung CM871 128GB SSD
- Graphics Card: MSI GTX 1060 Armor 6G
- PSU: Antec TPQ-1200
- Windows: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
- Benchmark Software: 3DMark, 3DMark11, 3DMark CPU Vantage, Cinebench R11.5, Cinebench R15, CPU Queen, PCMark07
The last Intel system that I overclocked was a 6th Gen and that was like 2yrs ago already. There are lots of new voltage options under the overclocking tab for these MSI Z370s and honestly speaking I don’t know what most of them are for. So what I did is to change the value of the main voltages of the components and leave the rest in Auto.
It worked alright and I was able to hit a whopping 5.1GHz with all 6-core enabled and on air cooling. I was surprised at how good these Coffee Lake processors are with a vCore of 1.35v only.
Below is my BIOS configuration.
Note: Don’t forget to disable the power saving features and built-in components that you will not be using such as –Serial and Parallel ports. Disabling this stuff can help you reach higher overclocks and makes your OC more stable
As far as voltages go, don’t be afraid of changing the values. It will notify you if your voltages are too high already. The font color changes to red as a warning sign. Using high voltages requires a good water cooling system or liquid nitrogen cooling for extreme voltages.
FYI: Voltage do not degrade your components, it’s the heat. That is why your cooling solution for your system is very important.
For this section I just changed the vCore then if you are planning to achieve high Memory clocks, you have to change the voltages for the SA and IO but for me, only the vCore bec. I only overclocked the processor.
Another OC tip, manually adjust the DigitAll Power option of the MSI Z370 Tomahawk board. This greatly improves the stability and overclocking of the board.
Lastly, under the overclocking CPU Features. Don’t forget to disable the features you won’t be using (power efficiency, thermal monitor, etc). This also helps achieving higher clocks. There is also an option here where you can change the number of processor cores. Lowering the number of cores will also aid you on getting higher clocks without sacrificing or putting too much voltage on the processor’s vCore.
Once you have applied stress to your system and find it stable, you can now proceed to benchmarking your system. By the way, I used Aida64’s burn in test.
42% Overclock from the base speed 3.6GHz
- 3DMark11 Performance and 3dMark Conclusion:
Performance gain results for both Futuremark software was very minimal as these two tests relies more on Graphic Cards utilization. Even though you overclocked your Intel i5-8600K processor to 5.1GHz. It doesn’t increase your gaming performance a lot.
3DMark11 uses DX11 while the FireStrike from the 3DMark is DX12
- 3DMark CPU Vantage, Cinebench R11.5, Cinebench R15 and Aida64 CPU Queen
These are all CPU intensive software that is why we gained better scores with an overclocked system. Also, the benchmark software takes advantage of the processor’s multi-core technology. All calculations and rendering are assigned and distributed evenly to the cores.
Measure performance under common use scenarios or at the hardware component level and the software is intended for Windows 7 and Windows 8 system.
Basically from the results we gathered from this benchmark software, overclocking is not that important if you are just using your computer for browsing or using productive software suites like Word, Excel etc.
That’s it for my review. First of all I just want to say that MSI’s Z370 Tomahawk motherboard is not just your ordinary or normal gaming motherboard. It can do overclocking and performs great. The board is nicely priced around 9K plus pesos and comes with features what a gamer needs. Lastly, if you are an aficionado of RGB LED lighting, the new Tomahawk series comes with a hefty share of LEDs.