NZXT N7 Z370 Motherboard Review
Yes, you read the title correctly. In a move that nobody would have predicted, NZXT has launched their very first motherboard. While the company is best known as a manufacturer of budget-friendly computer cases and accessories they obviously want to expand their reach into new markets.
Known as the N7, this new Intel Z370-based LGA1151 motherboard has been designed by NZXT in California, but manufactured by industry veteran Elitegroup Computer Systems (ECS) in China. While ECS doesn't really come to mind when we think of eye-catching and cutting edge motherboards, perhaps what they've been missing all these years is a different design team.
Speaking of design, that is where the NZXT N7 really shines. This is an extremely clean looking motherboard thanks to the large metal shield that covers nearly every part of the motherboard. The design is extremely minimalistic, everything is straight lines and sharp angles, no curves or soft edges whatsoever. This model is available in both matte black and matte white versions, so that it seamlessly matches or even disappears in the background of your case. For those who prefer a little colour, the MOSFET and chipset heatsink covers are removable and there will be blue, red, and purple covers available at a later date. While the all-metal motherboard shield has a strong aesthetic impact, it is also designed to cover and protect electrical traces and components from damage, while also making the motherboard look less intimating to novice system builders.
While the N7 was originally introduced for $300 USD, NZXT listened to community feedback and not only reduced the price to $250, but also extended the warranty from 3 to 4 years. Regrettably, some RGB LED lighting accessories were lost in this price reduction, which we will get into later on.
When it comes to specs, the NZXT N7 starts off very well, with a 15-phase CPU power design made entirely with Infineon components, two physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 2-way CrossFireX, two PCI-E 3.0 x4 slots, one PCI-E 3.0 x1 slot, four SATA 6Gb/s ports, and two full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots.
When it comes to USB connectivity there are a grand total of up to nineteen USB ports, but alas both USB 3.1 Gen2 and USB Type-C are missing, which is hard to accept on a high-end motherboard. When it comes to networking there is one Intel-powered gigabit LAN Port, but no onboard Wi-Fi. Those who plan on utilizing their processor's integrated GPU will have the option of connecting their display to an HDMI 1.4 or DisplayPort 1.2 video output, only the latter of which supports 4K at 60Hz. Onboard audio is handled by a familiar combo of Realtek ALC1220 codec and a handful of audio-grade Nichicon capacitors.
While all the above is fairly common for a Z370 motherboard, the N7 has two strong selling points, aesthetics notwithstanding. The first is the integrated GRID+ fan management feature that allows for automatic or manual control of an impressive nine independent fan channels. The second is the HUE+ digital RGB lighting control, which provides high level tweaking of attached lightning with numerous presets and custom modes. Both of these features are managed from within NZXT's CAM utility, which is a feature-rich piece of software that is going to make or break this motherboard.
Let's see if (and that's a big IF) NZXT has managed to impress us with their first entry into the motherboard market.
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