Intel’s Coffee Lake processors have recently launched. While their supply is still quite limited and you won’t find them in your local computer store, the processors are already there and it might be a good idea to start looking for gear that would be compatible with those.
Today I’d like to talk about the MSI Z370 SLI PLUS, one of the latest MoBo that is meant to be used with Intel 8th gen processors.
I’ve recently assembled four GPU rigs using that motherboard and damn, was it a pain to make them work! Since the motherboard is quite new, I had to learn through trial and error. I believe you will find this guide and review of interest, especially if you are thinking on using one of those new motherboards for a mining rig.
RECOMMENDED CPU: Intel Core I3-8100
MSI Z370 SLI PLUS Overview
The MSI Z370 SLI PLUS is one of the mid-end models of the Z370 series. It is a good choice for those who want to switch to new gen CPU’s at half of the cost of an Asus Maximus X Hero.
The MoBo features the second revision of the LGA 1151 CPU socket that only works with Intel 8th generation CPUs, also called the Coffee Lake line. It won’t work with 7th gen Kaby Lake CPUs, even though the socket architecture is very similar. This leads us to a question:
Why Intel Coffee Lake?
Why would someone switch to a rig with an 8th gen Intel processor? There are motherboards that work with Ryzen too and those might be a bit less of a pain to set up.
Pricing is probably the first reason why 8th gen Intel processors can be more interesting than their AMD counterparts.
In my rigs, I am obviously using the cheapest CPU solution I could find, which is the quad core i3 8100. Compared to the Kaby Lake i3, the 8th gen CPU has way better price per core value. Priced at only $120 USD, the new-gen i3 performs almost as well as a $200 USD Kaby Lake i5 and is priced roughly the same as a dual core Kaby Lake i3.
Talking about more expensive models, the Ryzen 7 1800X is priced $500 USD on newegg, while the Intel Coffee Lake i7 8700K only costs $ 380 USD. Again, we are talking about savings that equal to the price of a MSI Z370 SLI Plus.
There is no difference in price between the Coffee Lake Core i5 7600K, the Ryzen 5 1600X or the Kaby Lake Core i5 7600K, though.
As we already know, the cheapest Coffee Lake i3 comes with four cores, which allows it to outperform its predecessor – the Kaby Lake i3 – that features only two cores with hyperthreading.
Talking about the top model, the i7 8700K slightly outperforms the Ryzen 7 1800X. That was expected because Intel 8th gen i7 processors are basically the same 7th gen ones with notably more overclock potential and higher TDP.
According to benchmarks, the Intel Coffee Lake i7 reaches the 70C mark when on full load, which is 13C lower than the Ryzen 7.
On the chart, we can see that Intel’s 8th gen Core i5 is the coolest of the last gen CPU’s by staying on the 27C mark when idle and 47C when on full load. AMD gotta learn how to keep it cool.
In Brief, by getting a 8th gen CPU you get more computing power for your money as well as a CPU that demands less cooling, plus you’re getting new-gen gear with way more resale value. Now, back to the motherboard that allows you to use those new CPUs:
MSI Z370 SLI PLUS Specs
List of mining-related specs:
- Supports up to 64GB DDR4 Memory, up to 4000+(OC) MHz
- Works with NVIDIA 2-Way SLI and AMD 3-Way Crossfire
- Two M.2 PCIe 3.0 Slots: Delivering Speeds Up to 32Gb/s, Intel Optane Memory Ready. One of the ports can fit up to 110mm drives while the other one supports up to 80mm
- 3 PCIe 1x and 3 PCIe 16x ports, which make the MoBo support up to 7 GPUs
- Six 4-pin hybrid controlled (PWM/voltage) fan headers
- Lightning USB; Supports USB 3.1 Gen2 Type A + Type C; Also includes 8 x USB 3.0 (4 via headers)
- Click BIOS 5
Security and durability:
- PCI-E Steel Armor – Protecting VGA cards against bending and EMI
- Double layer grounding motherboard mounting holes
- Military Class 5, Guard-Pro components
Besides those, the motherboard also features DDR4 Boost by MSI OC lab, Audio boost with good sound signal protection and isolation from interferences on the board, Mystic Light Sync and even enhanced VR compatibility. Those feats might add to the resale value of the card.
MSI Z370 SLI PLUS vs. Other Versions
To not be confused with other Z370 models, the SLI PLUS is way more basic the MSI Z370 Godlike Gaming by being somewhere close to the MSI Z370 Gaming Pro.
Compared to some other ‘pro’ models (including the more expensive Gaming Pro), the SLI Plus supports SLI, two of its PCIe ports are reinforced, it has two M.2 slots, as well as it features higher phase count power delivery. Combine that with the low price of the SLI Plus and you will see why I’ve decided to get this specific MoBo.
Building a Rig with This Motherboard
So far, I’ve build four rigs using MSI Z370 MoBos. Considering modern market prices, I’ve decided to equip those rigs with GTX 1060 GPUs (Click here for the GTX 1060 6G mining performance and here for the GTX 1060 3G one)
There is a lot I have to say about the rig components and configuration, which I will be reviewing in-depth in a different article. For now, let’s get to the MSI Z370 SLI PLUS configuration – you want to avoid the pitfalls I’ve discovered through trial and error…
MSI Z370 SLI PLUS Mining Setup and Configuration
NOTE: I was able to run only one rig with 8 GPUs, the other 3 rigs can read up to 7 cards, i still have to play with the settings a bit more.
1 Flash Windows 10 on USB driver UEFI
2 Windows 10 UEFI installation
- Download Rufus https://rufus.akeo.ie/ and run it
- Follow their instruction to flash Windows 10 with GPT partition for UEFI
3 Windows 10 Mining tweaks and Driver installation
- Shut down the rig
- Unplug all GPUs from motherboard
- Unplug Ethernet cable (internet cable)
- Plug in display cable to motherboard
- Power up the rig and go to BIOS settings
- Press F7 to enable advanced settings, go to Settings\Advanced\Integrated Graphics Configuration and set “Initiate Graphic Adapter” to IGD
4 Bios modifications to run 6x+ GPUs
- DO NOT plug in the internet cable
- From your personal computer download Windows 10 mining rig tweaks reg file and disable automatic updates, sharing, antivirus, firewall, cortana etc and what ever you feel like :), note that you wont need to disable every feature.
- Install the drivers. If you don’t have an external DVD rom, you will have to manually download the drivers and install the following drivers: Chipset, LAN, On-Board VGA Drivers
- Once drivers are installed shut down the rig, plugin one GPU and power up
- Install Nvidia/AMD drivers, restart the rig then go to device manager and check display adapters, there you should have on-board video card and one gpu
5 Connecting the GPUs
- Go to BIOS Settings\Advanced\PCI Subsystem Settings and enable Above 4G memory/Crypto Currency mining
- Set PCI Bus Clocks from 32 to 96
- Settings\Advanced\Power Management Setup and select “Last State” on Restore after AC Power Loss
- Save settings and reboot
- Shut down the rig, connect the second GPU and power it up
- Check in device manager if the new video card is discovered
- Shut down the rig again and connect the 3rd GPU
- Repeat until you have all the GPUs connected and discovered by the system, i recommend to connect the gpus one by one to avoid any conflicts
While it took me a while to figure out how to make my Z370 SLI Plus work, the end result was quite satisfying. Considering the motherboard low price tag, I am open to the thought of getting more of those MoBos for future mining rigs.
Another good thing is that the resale value of those motherboards will remain high for one year or so, until Intel releases the Ice Lake 8 core processor family. I still have time to change my mind and get most of my money back in case something happens.
Thank you for reading. As always, your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.
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