Rather suddenly, we have a bunch of new motherboard chipsets on our hands. There’s the new X470 for AMD boards, but Intel has no fewer than four of its own, all for 8th-generation Coffee Lake CPUs. The Z370 chipset rolled out last fall, and the B360, H370, and H310 all landed just recently. But why so many? What are the differences and similarities, and why would you choose one over another? This guide will help you make sense of Intel's 300-series chipsets so you can figure out which one is right for you.

Coffee Lake and the Z370 tease

The first of the bunch, the Z370 chipset, debuted alongside the first Coffee Lake processors in October. Coffee Lake brought significant upgrades from Intel’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake chips, the most notable of which was the addition of more cores and threads. An increase in cores and threads means that the CPU can perform more tasks simultaneously, thereby granting your PC better performance with applications and scenarios that can take advantage. Coffee Lake’s two flagship chips, the Core i7-8700K and i7-8700, boast six cores and 12 threads compared to their Kaby Lake counterparts’ four cores and eight threads. The core count increase holds down the line, with the new 6C/6T Core i5 CPUs replacing the previous generation’s quad-core chips of the same name, and the Core i3 processors getting a bump from two cores and four threads to four cores and four threads.

The 8th-gen CPUs are built on another refinement of Intel's 14-nm process node, and they come with slight increases in memory speed, cache size, and integrated graphics. Although the move from Z270 to Z370 wasn’t significant in terms of specifications, the new chipset required a Coffee Lake CPU instead of a Kaby Lake chip and thus cemented the platform transition: Intel 8th-generation Core Processors and 300-series chipsets needed one another. Fast forward several months, and the 300-series family grew by leaps and bounds when Intel outed the H370, B360, and H310 chipsets to give gamers multiple options for building new Coffee Lake-based systems.

Performance boosts abound

The biggest advantage Z370 has over its brethren is the fact that it allows overclocking. It’s also the only chipset in the bunch that lets you split the CPU’s PCIe lanes to enable two- or three-way multi-GPU setups, and it’s the only one that offers RST support for CPU-connected PCIe storage. Gamers eager to milk every drop of performance out of their systems will want to roll with a Z370 motherboard.

Intel Optane Memory support on the Z370, H370, and B360 chipsets provides a built-in way to increase system performance by speeding up load times for applications and games. You can drop an Optane M.2 stick and use it to accelerate a boot drive, or you can use it to boost secondary storage, like the spacious HDD where you store your Steam games. Although Optane can give a nice performance nudge to SSDs, where it really zings is in goosing HDD performance. You can also use an Optane SSD 800p or 900p as a blazing fast boot drive.

The other 300-series chipsets have an advantage over the Z370 when it comes to wireless connectivity. They boast integrated Intel Wireless-AC support, which includes 802.11ac Wave 2 for Wi-Fi connectivity, as well as Bluetooth 5. Wave 2 wireless supports MU-MIMO, and with compatible routers like ROG's Rapture GT-AC-5300, it uses an extra-wide 160Hz channel to push throughput well over gigabit speeds. You can find this tasty feature baked into some of our new motherboards, including the ROG Strix H370-I Gaming and ROG Strix B360-I Gaming.

Curiously absent from the Z370 chipset is second-gen USB 3.1, which makes a welcome appearance in the newer 300-series chipsets. USB 3.1 Gen 1 offers up to 5Gbps of peak throughout, whereas the USB 3.1 Gen 2 spec allows twice that speed for a whopping 10Gbps. The H370 and B360 chipsets support four of these next-gen USB ports each.

Generally speaking, the 300-series chipsets have sufficient HSIO lanes, but the Z370 and H370 lead the way with 30 each, while the B360 has 24. HSIO, or "high speed input/output," refers to the multi-purpose pathways that supply all the PCIe, SATA, LAN, and USB connections that a given chipset can support. More HSIO lanes means more flexibility for our motherboard designers, which in turn gives gamers more leeway in how they want to set up their systems.

  Z370 H370 B360 H310
Overclocking Yes No No No
Processor PCI Express 3.0 Configuration Support 1x16 or 2x8 or 1x8+2x4 1x16 1x16 1x16
Memory Channels/DIMMs Per Channel 2/2 2/2 2/2 2/1
Integrated Intel Wireless-AC Support No Yes Yes Yes
Maximum High Speed I/O Lanes 30 30 24 14
PCIe 3.0 Lanes 24 20 12 6 (Gen 2 only)
USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gbps) 0 4 4 0
USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) 10 8 6 4
Intel Optane Memory Support Yes Yes Yes No
SATA 6 6 6 4
Intel RST Yes Yes Yes No
Intel RST PCIe RAID (0, 1, 5) Yes Yes No No
Intel RST SATA RAID (0, 1, 5, 10) Yes Yes No No
Max. Number of Intel RST for PCIe Storage Ports (x2 M.2 or x4 M.2) 3 2 1 0

The business of pleasure

The Z370 and H370 chipsets are clearly built for gaming, whereas the H310 is more of an entry-level affair. It has fewer HSIO lanes and lacks support for Optane Memory, Intel RST, and USB 3.1 Gen 2. Although the "B" in B360 technically refers to "business," this chipset has plenty to offer gamers. In fact, save for a slight reduction in the number of HSIO lanes and corresponding USB and PCIe connections, plus the lack of RAID support, the B360’s specs match those of the H370 blow for blow. Check out the ROG Strix H370-F Gaming and ROG Strix B360-F Gaming side by side for a full breakdown of how that plays out at the motherboard level.

ASUS has a slew of ROG motherboards built on the 300-series chipsets, including the Z370-based ROG Maximus X family and several B360- and H370-based Strix models. Check out the ASUS Z370 motherboard guide at Edge Up for a comprehensive comparison of all our Z370 gaming motherboards. That site's introduction to ASUS H370 and B360 motherboards rounds out the family with affordable models built for a range of form factors.