With the launch of Z390 motherboards, you might be wondering if you're missing out by not jumping to gaming motherboards built around the latest chipset from Intel. This question becomes even more pertinent if you're already using a Z370 motherboard.
Z370 vs Z390: A Quick Overview
So, let's take a look at the main differences between these two high-end chipsets from Intel and help you figure out whether an upgrade is in order.
Want a quick comparison? Here's a table that outlines features from both Z370 and Z390:
Memory Channels/DIMMs per channel
Independent Display Ports
Maximum PCI-Express 3.0 Lanes
Total USB Ports
Maximum USB 3.1 Gen 2 Ports
Total SATA Ports
RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel Optane Technology
As evident from the table above, the main specification-related differences between Z370 and Z390 are CNVi Support and USB 3.1 Gen 2 Ports. However, there are many other changes from an engineering and efficiency standpoint from MSI that should have both gamers and power users excited. I'll quickly go over what brand-new features Intel brings to the Z390 chipset before detailing what else to expect from them.
CNVi Support: 2x2 802.11ac Wireless
Intel's integrated connectivity (CNVi) allows much faster wireless connectivity thanks to the bulk of the wireless module being moved to the chipset. What does this mean for you? It grants you access to high-bandwidth wireless connections (supporting speeds up to 1.73 Gbps).
This improves on the previous Wi-Fi standard by almost doubling the maximum bandwidth. Moreover, since the chipset houses much of the wireless module, information can be exchanged much more rapidly.
While it shouldn’t have any noticeable effects on improving simple browsing and video streaming, those hoping to play fast-paced multiplayer games on a Wi-Fi connection should have a better experience.
However, issues caused by factors like distance from the router, layout of your home/office, quality of your internet connection, and so on, can still mar your gaming sessions on a wireless connection.
USB 3.1 Gen 2 Ports: Integrating the Latest USB Standard
Some motherboard manufacturers did add USB 3.1 Gen 2 Ports to some Z370 motherboards by implementing third-party controllers. Nonetheless, direct integration of the latest USB standard into the Z390 chipset will not only make data transfers and responsiveness snappier, but it also allows for a higher number of these built-in ports.
With a maximum port count of 6, compared to the 0 of the Z370, Z390 motherboards are a no-brainer if you own devices that leverage the USB 3.1 Gen 2 standard.
Is that all?
Well, from a technical specification standpoint, yes. That's it. However, if you’re planning to use Intel’s latest 9th Generation processors, read on.
Although Z370 motherboards will be compatible with the newly-launched 9th Generation Intel CPUs, it is still not a bad idea to upgrade to the Z390 platform. Unlike Z370 motherboards, the Z390 motherboards have been specifically designed to get the most out of 9th Generation Intel processors.
The design improvements and tweaks go beyond simple compatibility. Extended heatsinks and improved thermal designs make Z390 motherboards better suited to house the newest Intel CPUs – offering both better operating temperatures and stability. The beefy multi-phase VRMs and heat shields are the icing on the cake. They will ensure that you can overclock the brand-new processors to the very limit without running into thermal throttling issues.
Of course, the slew of Z390 motherboard releases have left most wondering what to buy. If you’re on the lookout for a motherboard that balances price, performance, features, and looks, I recommend the MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK.
MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK – What makes it the Best Value Motherboard?
The MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK is not only priced attractively, but it also brings a host of premium features to this price range. A parallel 8 phases VRM will help you overclock your processors even higher, without compromising on stability or running into power delivery issues or heating.
Many of these features won’t be found on motherboards in this price range, which is what makes the TOMAHAWK one of the best Z390 motherboards out there.
Let's go over a few of the features that make this motherboard stand out:
Pre-installed I/O Shielding
We've all been there. Dreading an electrostatic discharge that might damage our pricey hardware or worrying that the I/O shield wasn't installed properly.
With the MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK motherboards’ pre-installed I/O shielding, this is no longer an issue as it protects against any electrostatic discharge damage. Moreover, it ensures that you don’t have to disassemble your PC all over again to install an incorrectly-lodged I/O shield. This makes the installation process easier as well as safer.
Cooling : M.2 Shield FROZR
Even the very best solid-state drives will start to underperform when they become too hot (due to thermal throttling). And considering the fact that NVMe drives are usually right next to relatively hot hardware parts like graphics cards, CPUs, and power supply units, they do tend to become hot quite often.
The M.2 Shield FROZR thermal solution on the MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK shields your SSDs from excessive heat using a heatsink specifically crafted for this very purpose. This ensures that your solid-state drives can perform to the best of their ability without getting throttled by heat even during long gaming sessions.
Cooling : Extended Heatsink
High-end CPUs tend to generate a lot of heat, causing system temperatures to go up. This rise in temperature does negatively impact performance. However, an extended heatsink covers crucial electronic parts to ensure that they remain relatively cool even when you’re on those long gaming sessions that push your system to the limit.
The MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK features an extended heatsink design with a 26% increase in heatsink surface area. There is a very noticeable system temperature drop of right around 8-10°C when comparing it to motherboards without this improved design.
Stable Power Supply : 8 + 4 Pin Power Supply (CPU Power Connector)
Boasting an 8pin + 4pin CPU power connector, this motherboard can handle even the top-of-the-line processors in the 9th Generation Intel Core™ Lineup – including the formidable Core i9 9900K.
These connectors ensure that your CPU gets not just enough power, but also makes sure that it gets stable power that enhances your overclocking and resulting gaming experience. So, you can push your processor to the limit without worrying about power.
MSI's Digital Power Design enhances power delivery even further. It provides faster and undistorted current to your CPU with pin-point precision – delivering better overclocking conditions.
Speed : Dual Intel LAN
This motherboard boasts dual Gigabit Intel LAN. These two high-quality networking components are optimized for gaming on an international stage. You can be sure of reduced CPU overhead and exceptionally high TCP and UDP packet throughput. What does this mean for you as a gamer? The lower CPU overhead means that your games can use the CPU much more effectively – translating into higher FPS. Moreover, a combination of the dual network solution and the MSI Gaming LAN Manager will enhance your online gaming experience by reducing latency as much as possible.
WiFi : Intel CNVI Ready
Like other motherboards with the Z390 chipset, the MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK is also Intel CNVi ready. This brings the fastest 802.11 ac Wave2 wireless standard to your PC for the very first time – upping the maximum bandwidth to 1.734 Gbps (1734 Mbps). This is a considerable improvement over the previous 802.11 ac standard that had a maximum bandwidth of 0.867 Gbps (867 Mbps).
Wrap-up: Should you buy a Z390 Motherboard?
As always, the answer isn't that simple. On one hand you do save money by not upgrading to the latest Z390 motherboards, but on the other, you miss out on a host of performance, stability, and thermal enhancements they bring when you're using a 9th Generation Intel CPU.
If you plan to use a 9th Generation Intel CPU, you can't ignore the performance uplift they grant, in addition to Z390 exclusive features.
Furthermore, the MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK gives buyers a viable option that provides great value to gamers without compromising on quality or performance. The TOMAHAWK gives gamers access to premium features like pre-installed I/O shields and M.2 shield FROZR– ensuring better performance and peace of mind at reasonable prices.
So, gamers who want to get the most out of their 9th Gen Intel processors should grab a Z390 motherboard, even if you already own a Z370 motherboard. Not only will you be able to push your CPUs to higher clocks, but you will also enjoy better thermals and all-round system stability.
For more information about the feature of MSI's Z390 motherboards, check the video below.
Here are my recommendations for those on the fence:
If you're rocking an older Intel processor and don't plan on upgrading to a 9th Gen CPU
Stick to the Z370 motherboard you’re using. However, if you want access to improved Wi-Fi and access to USB 3.1 Gen 2 (exclusive to the Z390 chipset), you should think about jumping to a Z390 motherboard.
If you're using an 8th Generation Intel Processor and do plan to upgrade to the 9th Gen
Grab a Z390 motherboard. Even if you’re on a budget, value options like the MSI MAG Z390 TOMAHAWK are an excellent choice. You can enjoy better overclocking and thermals on your current processor, while being ready to equip your rig with a 9th Generation Intel processor as soon as it arrives at your doorstep.