This time last year, Intel introduced the Z370 chipset and the matching CPUs. A year later, Intel is still filling up the rest of the 300-series line-up with the B and H variants. It’s unlikely that gamers and enthusiasts would be interested in the B chipset (outside of HTPC/Mini-ITX builds), so instead we’re taking a look at the second-most high-end SKU in the H370 offering and, more specifically, what ASRock has built around it.
You might be wondering what the key differences are between the H370 and the Z370, but while these differences do exist, they’re perhaps artificial limitations introduced to the H chipset, if only purely for market segmentation. This is primarily because the H370 doesn’t support any form of overclocking, whether it’s memory, uncore or CPU frequency. What you get as the standard spec is exactly what you’ll be using. In this case, that means the Core i3 8350K used for testing was limited to the 4GHz nominal clock and DDR4 2,400MHz. It’s definitely not what we’d call performance shattering, but it’s sufficient nonetheless. We’ll get to that later though.
It’s important to understand what the ASRock Fatal1ty H370 Performance board is offering at such a low selling price. It was never going to have voltage measuring points or similarly niche features. That said, it covers its bases by providing Gigabit ethernet, M.2 connectivity (three sockets, two of which can be used for SSDs), ALC1220 codec audio, and of course ASRock’s own RGB LED system, called ASRock Polychrome RGB.
Where the audio is concerned, it’s nothing you’ve not seen before, but the software layer on top of the ALC1220 helps boost the audio experience. Sound Blaster Cinema 5 really does add to the audio experience, and in your gaming it’ll sound just as good as anything else you may be using, including dedicated audio hardware (for the most part).
While the H370 chipset allows up to 20 PCI Express 3.0 lanes to the PCH, there isn’t much that this board could use all those lanes for. Even if you were to fill up all the M.2 slots and the M.2 Wi-Fi module, you’d still have lanes to spare. There are other changes introduced to the H370 as well, including native USB 3.1 support (no need for a separate third-party controller) and Intel CNVi, which has all the logic necessary for Intel wireless modules built into the PCH. With CNVi, vendors need only add a PHY or a socket for such on their boards to support wireless networking. The latter is what ASRock opted to go with for the H370 Performance board.
In truth, as far as boards go, the Fatal1ty H370 Performance is rather barren – but ASRock isn’t to blame for this, as all H370 motherboards seem relatively light on features when compared to their Z370 counterparts.
Where ASRock does have some form of control is in the UEFI/BIOS which, simply stated, is without equal in terms of aesthetics, surpassing even the UEFI which ROG motherboards provide, while at the same time being vastly superior to anything GIGABYTE or MSI has ever produced.
It’s in full HD, mouse movement is smooth and precise, and the online update function is always appreciated. The layout of the options is logical and finding your way around the UEFI literally takes less than a minute. ASRock has done a stellar job here, and the Fatal1ty H370 Performance deserves a perfect score for its presentation alone.
If you find yourself in the UEFI, you may as well start tweaking away at the memory timings, which is the one thing that’s still made available to you when using an H370 chipset. ASRock has laid out all the familiar primary, secondary and tertiary timings in distinct groups. There are no memory profiles, but you can save your own UEFI configurations, including the DRAM timings, as you can on any other modern board.
It’s here where you’ll do any and all of your tuning. It also turns out that it may just be worth your while to tinker with the memory timings and see what you can come up with. Granted, this motherboard was tested with memory that’s hardly going to be used with such a motherboard, but the fact remains that there are rather substantial performance gains to be made with the DRAM at 2,400MT/s using 10-10-10-26-1N timings as opposed to being left at the standard 15-15-15-28-2N when using the AUTO configuration rules.
For instance, in Far Cry 5, just switching from DDR4 2,133MT/s auto settings to the tuned DDR4 2,400MT/s setting saw the average frame rate shoot up by 16fps. That’s an approximate improvement of 13%, while F1 2017 saw a hefty 19% improvement in performance, going from 117fps to a 144KHz monitor-friendly 155fps. In all tests the gains proved worthwhile, and certainly worth tapping into when dealing with what would ideally be a budget gaming system.
The choice of CPU isn’t hugely important here, but I’d recommend the Core i5 8400 instead of the i3 8350K, as it would support an even higher DRAM frequency at 2,666MT/s, which would result in a better-performing system overall.
What you should take away from all this is that, despite the limitations of the platform, you can still tune your system and gain some much-needed performance with very little effort, thanks to the immaculate ASRock UEFI. In terms of a product as a whole, it ticks all the right boxes and for what little it’s able to do, it does exceptionally well.
I still lament the exclusion of a POST LED as I always have, but given the price, refinement and presentation, I can’t help but be partial to this board for budget gaming, and I would strongly recommend you consider it for your Coffee Lake-based system. You’re unlikely to find a better motherboard than this one at this price, regardless of where you look. The ASRock Fatal1ty H370 Performance is true to its name, and actually does provide the best performance you’re likely to get from any H370-based motherboard.
If you’re looking at H370 because of budget constraints or for whatever reason, you should start here as this is a surprisingly good (great, even) budget option.