NZXT Z370 N7 Motherboard Review
Published: 5th July 2018 | Source: NZXT | Price: |
With the market for motherboards absolutely saturated by options from all the main manufacturers with years of experience and a vast array from which to choose from the most affordable all the way up to some seriously heavy hitting ones, it speaks a lot about the bravery of NZXT as a company that they have entered the battleground with the N7.
This is particularly so given the pricing of the N7 which instantly placed it up against some of the most famous names around, the ASUS Strix, Gigabyte Aorus and MSI Carbon. In fact NZXT could have been forgiven for choosing a more subtle approach, entering somewhat lower down the price range and building up a fan base from that point. Something akin to the early Japanese cars reaching European shores. However, when you have a fan base as large as NZXT from their other products it is easy to see why they have decided to go down the premium route and trusted that their choice of OEM and extra NZXT accoutrements would be enough to see them through.
The downside to this decision is that a motherboard, for all its trimmings, is only as good as the underlying PCB and BIOS. Thus you are putting the reputation of your company in the hands of another company, and hoping they will pull through. In the case of the N7 sadly it seems that this isn't the case. Tying the multiplier to the VCore brings all sorts of stability issues wherein either the processor gets far too hot because it is getting more volts than necessary for a stable overclock, or at stock it is also pulling too much because you can't finesse the voltage but retain the clock speed. What you end up with is a motherboard which is pretty much only good running at stock.
Then there is the M.2 hdd covers. We have become so used to these being heat sinks and adding to the cooling of the drive but sadly on the N7 they are plastic and it even says in the manual if you fit M.2 drives you should entirely remove the covers. This gives you two choices, have an ugly great hole on that motherboard shield that was probably the whole reason you wanted this motherboard in the first place or essentially insulate your NVME drive and make it run loads hotter than it would have done if it was in the open air. Its honestly like the people that designed this board had no idea about actually using high end hardware and combining that usage with aesthetics.
This might, just about, be enough to make it a worthy purchase for those who care more about their branding than the actual performance, but as you saw from our testing the results didn't make for exciting reading. There was the odd test in which the N7 was somewhere approaching the middle of our graphs, but for the vast majority it was rooted firmly near the bottom. More Panama than Brazil.
All of which means that you are paying a very premium price tag for what exactly? The cachet of owning an NZXT motherboard? Hardly. An motherboard that does overclock, but in a manner so random we would be loathe to trust our expensive i7-8700 to its foibles. If we don't want to trust it, and it is much easier for us to source a replacement than it is for those of you who've saved up for a long period of time, then you definitely shouldn't. Okay the lighting options and CAM system that allows you to control a huge amount of fans and RGB elements is very good, but in these modern times when fan controls and RGB lighting are a major part of every high end motherboard then it is not unique enough to justify the other difficulties inherent on this particular motherboard.
If we didn't know how much this cost, or if we were asked to price it ourselves, then we'd be more likely to price it around the midfield, somewhere in the £150 park. A cursory glance at other motherboards around the N7s price tag of between £250 and £280 shows that you can get almost anything - ASUS Maximus X Hero, MSI Carbon Pro, Gigabyte AORUS Gaming 7 - for less than this. It is significantly too expensive, and with enough foibles that even the most ardent NZXT fan should seriously consider how strong their loyalty is. Your motherboard is the foundation upon which all your other components builds, and in the case of the NZXT N7 unfortunately that foundation is more suited to a tower in Pisa.