Sunday, May 13th 2018

Intel Z390 Express Chipset Detailed

Intel released a product brief of its premium mainstream-desktop (MSDT) chipset, the Z390 Express. Positioned above the Z370 Express, the chipset has an exhaustive feature-set. It supports current 8th generation Core "Coffee Lake" processors, and is ready for the next-generation. Like all other 300-series chipsets, the Z390 interfaces with the LGA1151 processor over a DMI 3.0 chipset-bus. Much like the Z370, it features 24 downstream PCI-Express gen 3.0 lanes. Its storage setup remains unchanged from the Z370 - six SATA 6 Gbps ports with AHCI and RAID support; and up to three 32 Gbps M.2/U.2 connectors.

The differences begin with the chipset's integrated USB connectivity. The Z390 Express directly puts out six 10 Gbps USB 3.1 gen 2 ports, and ten 5 Gbps USB 3.1 gen 1 ports. If that's not a lot, it also puts out fourteen USB 2.0 ports (a total of 30 USB ports). Another major feature is Intel SmartSound technology, which the document specifies as an "audio/voice offload" DSP. This should, in theory, reduce the CPU's load in processing the audio stack. At the physical level it's still the company's "Azalia" HD audio bus wired to an audio CODEC with close to zero native signal processing. Perhaps some of that processing is done inside the chipset. The concept appears to be borrowed from edge-computing, and triggered by the rise in voice-command interface, so the chipset can natively process speech-to-text conversions.
With the Z390 Express, Intel is also updating the platform's networking feature-set. The chipset supports a 1 GbE MAC interface, and recommends motherboard manufacturers to include an Intel Wireless-AC 9560 card, with 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5. Almost every Z390 motherboard will feature wireless networking, and most of them will include Intel's recommended WLAN card pairing. No new CPU overclocking features are detailed in the document.
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50 Comments on Intel Z390 Express Chipset Detailed

#2
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"TheLostSwede said:
Where exactly does it say it supports two Gigabit Ethernet MACs?
I think you need to look at that diagram again, as the SMBus is a management bus.
You can obviously add as many Ethernet ports as you wish via PCIe.

Also, for those that want to read Intel's PDF, have a look here - https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/products/docs/chipsets/desktop-chipsets/z390-chipset-brief.html
Chipset supports up to two MACs. You can either give those to two 1 GbE controllers, or one 1 GbE and the WLAN card. This is no different than previous Intel chipsets. The chipset puts out MAC_0 and MAC_1 (two MACs), and on boards with just one Intel GbE controller, motherboard designers wire it to MAC_1 (for whatever reason, maybe they misread the docs), which results in the driver adding a "#2" to the controller's name string in device manager.

As you said, you can add as many networking controllers (with their native MAC) as you want, via PCIe or USB.
Posted on Reply
#3
TheLostSwede
"btarunr said:
Chipset supports up to two MACs. You can either give those to two 1 GbE controllers, or one 1 GbE and the WLAN card.

As you said, you can add as many networking controllers (with their native MAC) as you want, via PCIe or USB.
That's not how it works. Ethernet MACs and Wi-Fi MACs are quite different. Also, Intel is using something called CNVio for their new Wi-Fi stuff which as far as I can tell, is a reduced pin-count interface to keep costs down. Some details here https://en.wikichip.org/wiki/intel/cnvi
There's no way you could connect a wired Ethernet MAC to that.
Also, Gigabit over wireless is still just marketing.
Posted on Reply
#4
Hood
Nothing really ground-breaking here. More USB ports? SmartSound? Fast networking? No thanks, I'm fine.
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#5
TheLostSwede
"Hood said:
Nothing really ground-breaking here. More USB ports? SmartSound? Fast networking? No thanks, I'm fine.
You prefer no USB ports, stupid sound and slow networking then? :p
Posted on Reply
#6
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
I think Intel sees a future in which gamers yell at their PC "give me that x sword with a y spell" in the heat of gaming, and Microsoft is probably making Cortana as smart as Alexa/G-assistant. That's why the need for voice processing CPU offload.

So pro gamers will end up sounding like cattle auctioneers IRL (combining keyboard+mouse+voice for that competitive edge).
Posted on Reply
#7
Flanker
"btarunr said:
I think Intel sees a future in which gamers yell at their PC "give me that x sword with a y spell" in the heat of gaming, and Microsoft is probably making Cortana as smart as Alexa/G-assistant. That's why the need for voice processing CPU offload.

So pro gamers will end up sounding like cattle auctioneers IRL (combining keyboard+mouse+voice for that competitive edge).
You forget the gaming chair
Posted on Reply
#8
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"Flanker said:
You forget the gaming chair
And GodMode energy drink, so you could overclock your heart and blabber even faster.
Posted on Reply
#9
R-T-B
"btarunr said:
I think Intel sees a future in which gamers yell at their PC "give me that x sword with a y spell" in the heat of gaming, and Microsoft is probably making Cortana as smart as Alexa/G-assistant. That's why the need for voice processing CPU offload.

So pro gamers will end up sounding like cattle auctioneers IRL (combining keyboard+mouse+voice for that competitive edge).
I picture that going over about as well as that voice controlled super soaker in the 90s:

<div class="youtube-embed" data-id="DMD0p8xngJs"><img src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/DMD0p8xngJs/hqdefault.jpg" /><div class="youtube-play"></div><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMD0p8xngJs" target="_blank" class="youtube-title"></a></div>

There is a reason these things are now incredibly rare and valuable... most were never purchased and ended up in dumpsters.
Posted on Reply
#10
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
<div class="youtube-embed" data-id="5oOj1EKSS6M"><img src="https://i.ytimg.com/vi/5oOj1EKSS6M/hqdefault.jpg" /><div class="youtube-play"></div><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oOj1EKSS6M" target="_blank" class="youtube-title"></a></div>
Posted on Reply
#11
Assimilator
"Hood said:
Nothing really ground-breaking here. More USB ports? SmartSound? Fast networking? No thanks, I'm fine.
Considering there are currently a grand total of zero motherboard chipsets that offer native USB 3.1 gen2 ports, so adding 6 is pretty impressive. Especially when each requires the equivalent of a PCIe 3.0 x2 link.
Posted on Reply
#12
Caring1
"Assimilator said:
Considering there are currently a grand total of zero motherboard chipsets that offer native USB 3.1 gen2 ports, so adding 6 is pretty impressive. Especially when each requires the equivalent of a PCIe 3.0 x2 link.
Asrock X470 itx announced the other day, has Gen 2 USB 3.1 ports.
Posted on Reply
#13
R-T-B
"Caring1 said:
Asrock X470 itx announced the other day, has Gen 2 USB 3.1 ports.
Are those from the chipset though? That's the big news. Everyone and their dog has the ASMedia addon chips.
Posted on Reply
#14
Caring1
"R-T-B said:
Are those from the chipset though? That's the big news. Everyone and their dog has the ASMedia addon chips.
"The AMD X470 chipset puts out the remaining two SATA 6 Gbps ports and two USB 3.1 gen 2 ports, including a type-C port."
Quoted from TPU.
Posted on Reply
#15
lynx29
This is good news I think, it means there will probably be a BIOS update for next gen CPU's, and I won't have to upgrade my motherboard after all.
Posted on Reply
#16
Assimilator
"Caring1 said:
"The AMD X470 chipset puts out the remaining two SATA 6 Gbps ports and two USB 3.1 gen 2 ports, including a type-C port."
Quoted from TPU.
There doesn't seem to be anything official about this anywhere - I haven't been able to find an X470 block diagram (seriously AMD, Intel is able to release one before their chipset is even available, yet you can't do the same after your design is shipping?). If I am wrong I will happily admit it, but I would like more official evidence than a news article with no technical specs.

Interestingly enough, seems the content of said article has been stolen by a YouTube channel called "Mukesh Tech Studios" - might want to look into that, @btarunr.
Posted on Reply
#17
Octopuss
Why do they still put USB 2 ports on motherboards? I don't get it.
Also, why mixture of different USB 3 types? Why not just the newest one?
Posted on Reply
#18
btarunr
Editor & Senior Moderator
"Assimilator said:
There doesn't seem to be anything official about this anywhere - I haven't been able to find an X470 block diagram (seriously AMD, Intel is able to release one before their chipset is even available, yet you can't do the same after your design is shipping?). If I am wrong I will happily admit it, but I would like more official evidence than a news article with no technical specs.

Interestingly enough, seems the content of said article has been stolen by a YouTube channel called "Mukesh Tech Studios" - might want to look into that, @btarunr.
Thanks. They seem to have stolen quite a lot of our stuff. I've taken it up with w1zzard.
Posted on Reply
#19
R-T-B
"Caring1 said:
"The AMD X470 chipset puts out the remaining two SATA 6 Gbps ports and two USB 3.1 gen 2 ports, including a type-C port."
Quoted from TPU.
Looks like I'm a bit behind the curve, thanks for the correction!
Posted on Reply
#20
erocker
*
This is a little funny. Intel's been sandbagging the USB ports!
Posted on Reply
#21
Assimilator
"Octopuss said:
Why do they still put USB 2 ports on motherboards? I don't get it.
Mice and keyboards don't need anything faster than USB 2.0, and early USB 3.0 ports (especially those provided by 3rd-party controllers) had various compatibility and latency issues. For example, my Z77 board doesn't recognize my keyboard at boot if it's plugged into any of the VIA USB 3.0 ports, and when plugged into the Intel ones it's a 50/50 chance - so the only way to be sure I have keyboard at boot (i.e. when I need to enter the BIOS) is by using the USB 2.0 ports.

The picture today is much different - USB 3.0 is mature, the 3rd-party controller market is dominated by ASMedia who actually makes good stuff, and drivers aren't terrible CPU-eating crap. But like the even older myth that USB is slow and can't do key rollover (it can, just not more than 6 keys, and how do you even press more than 5 keys with one hand?) and so you need PS/2, the "USB 3.0 sucks for peripherals" myth persists.

"Octopuss said:
Also, why mixture of different USB 3 types? Why not just the newest one?
USB 3.1 gen2 supplies twice the bandwidth of gen1, hence the differentiation. I don't know if there are manufacturing differences involved in the physical ports, but I'm certain the signalling traces on the motherboard have to be more robust to supply the required bandwidth, and of course the chipset and CPU have to be able to account for the higher throughput. So it's cost, and when most people don't even have devices that take advantage of USB 3 gen2, it just doesn't make sense to go full gen2.

"erocker said:
This is a little funny. Intel's been sandbagging the USB ports!
Eh?
Posted on Reply
#22
R-T-B
"Octopuss said:
Why do they still put USB 2 ports on motherboards? I don't get it.
Also, why mixture of different USB 3 types? Why not just the newest one?
Because most devices are still usb 2 and pcie lanes / bandwidth aren't free.
Posted on Reply
#23
Octopuss
I thought a port automatically works in USB 2 mode if you plug a mouse or something in it.
Posted on Reply
#24
Upgrayedd
With high volume 10nm Cannonlake not expected until 2019 does this mean K chips are coming first and seemingly soon?
Posted on Reply
#25
MihaStar
"btarunr said:
Chipset supports up to two MACs. You can either give those to two 1 GbE controllers, or one 1 GbE and the WLAN card. This is no different than previous Intel chipsets. The chipset puts out MAC_0 and MAC_1 (two MACs), and on boards with just one Intel GbE controller, motherboard designers wire it to MAC_1 (for whatever reason, maybe they misread the docs), which results in the driver adding a "#2" to the controller's name string in device manager.

As you said, you can add as many networking controllers (with their native MAC) as you want, via PCIe or USB.
Excuse me, but it seems you are a bit mistaken.
Here's a small quote from the Intel GbE .inf driver
===
E155ANC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection I218-LM"
E1559NC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection I218-V"
E15A0NC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection (2) I218-LM"
E15A1NC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection (2) I218-V"
E15A2NC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection (3) I218-LM"
E15A3NC.DeviceDesc = "Intel(R) Ethernet Connection (3) I218-V"
===
As you can see, the mark "(2)" appears in the device manager just because of the DevID=15A0h (for example) of the integrated GbE.
In fact, the reference DevID values for the EEPROM content in any image supplied from Intel is 1502h, while 155Ah and 1559h are reserved, maybe for some OEMs, etc.

But it's quite easy to modify the EEPROM values and make your motherboard controller have the DevID=155A, and the Device Manager will change the name.

Historically the chipsets have only one integrated GbE MAC for a long time, it usually resides at Bus0, Device19, Func0.
So, I don't know where is the second mysterious GbE MAC located...
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