Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
As our second AMD X370 motherboard review, I will be putting the GIGABYTE/Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 under the microscope, and dissect its secrets. The AMD X370 chipset provides a decent amount of IO expansion over the basics provided by the CPU. Most notably, the X370 chipset offers two USB 3.1 ports, which is a first for a platform chipset. The CPU will provide extra USB and storage, and the chipset compliments it. The X370 chipset is also one of only two that provides multi-GPU capabilities such as SLI or CrossFireX for your Ryzen CPU.
GIGABYTE's subsidiary, Aorus, is positioned to readily target the high-end gaming segment with premium features and aesthetics. Aorus's first motherboards appeared for the Intel Z270 chipset launch, and they addressed many of GIGABYTE's shortcomings in areas such as the UEFI, fan control, and overall aesthetics. I will add that if you love RGB LEDs, then this motherboard is for you, it is loaded to the brim with RGB LEDs and headers. Don't worry you can disable them if you don't want them. Without further delay, let's take a look at the AX370-Gaming 5.
The AX370-Gaming 5 features dual NICs, M.2 and U.2, eight SATA6Gb/s ports, support for SLI/CrossFireX, and offers an interesting high-end audio setup I will cover later in the review.
The AX370-Gaming 5 costs around $194.99.
Packaging and AX370-Gaming 5 Overview
Packaging and Overview
GIGABYTE's box design is identical to their Intel mainstream motherboards. The box and packaging are done well enough so that the motherboard is protected in transit.
The accessory package includes four SATA6Gb/s cables, RGBW extension cables, two external temperature sensors, SLI_HB bridge, IO shield, Aorus Velcro cable ties, G-Connector, SATA cable labels, Aorus case badge, driver DVD, and manual.
GIGABYTE offers eight fan headers circled in red; they are all auto sensing DC/PWM mode headers and all support 2A of current. I like the fan wars going on right now; it seems that the consumer ends up winning in the end. The motherboard also offers two external temperature sensor inputs, and you select between those two and multiple built-in temperature sensors as the reference for the fans. Full GUI control over the fans is available in the UEFI and Windows.
The Aorus color theme is easy to match, since white matches most colors, and RGB LEDs can be used to overpower the default color theme of the motherboard. GIGABYTE used a lot of RGB LEDs built into the motherboard, so if you like RGBs, you will like this motherboard. The backside of the motherboard is bare of many components.
The rear IO panel features PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse, two USB 3.0 DAC-UP2 ports (yellow), four USB 3.0 ports, three USB 3.1 type-A ports, one USB 3.1 type-C port, HDMI, Intel Gbit LAN, Killer Gbit LAN, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF optical.
The PCI-E layout is very similar to that of most other Ryzen motherboards. The first and second x16 PCI-E 3.0 slots are wired so that they can operate at x16/x0 or x8/x8. The last x16 slot is wired to the chipset and offers PCI-E 2.0, and shares its x4 of bandwidth with the three x1 PCI-E 2.0 slots.
The PCI-E x16 slots are reinforced with a metal shroud so that heavy GPUs do not damage the slot. There are eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, four of which double as two SATA Express ports. There is also a U.2 port.
The U.2 port and M.2 port share x4 PCI-E 3.0 from the CPU, and operate at 32Gb/s. Two internal USB 3.0 headers site below the 24-pin connector and utilize USB 3.0 DAC-UP 2, which allows you to control power to the USB ports to either turn them on or increase power over defaults for longer cables.
GIGABYTE/Aorus's accent strip is an example of well executed RGB LED use, it's not offensive to the eyes, and it diffuses the light evenly illuminating the pattern in the acrylic strip. OC features are also present; there is an OC button, a power button, a clear CMOS button, and a reset button. The reset button is the white one.
A POST code display can be found at the bottom of the motherboard next to two USB 2.0 internal headers. The motherboard also has boot LEDs, located to the right of the POST code display. Aorus is currently offering RGBW headers, which are backward compatible with RGB strips. RGBW adds an extra pin for a dedicated white LED on the strip.
A switch for manually choosing which of the two BIOS ROMs is present, as is a switch to disable the Dual BIOS recovery feature. If you are wondering what LED DEMO does, it's for an external power input to illuminate the LED capabilities of the motherboard without actually having to power it; it's more for internal use.
GIGABYTE also provides a normal RGB header, most likely to be used with AMD's Wraith coolers that have built in RGB LEDs. The heat sinks are all screwed into the motherboard.
The heat sinks and shields are all screwed into the motherboard.
GIGABYTE AX370-Gaming 5 Circuit Analysis
I present the AX370-Gaming 5 without heat sinks.
Check out the VRM. I expected some PowerPAKs, but instead, I get IR PowIRstages and an IR PWM controller. Infineon recently acquired International Rectifier (IR), and their portfolio of high-end digital PWM controllers, power stages, and power stage accessories. GIGABYTE has used a full steam International Rectifier solution for the power stages; the output filter design is different than Intel. The main PWM is the famous digital PWM from IR, the IR35201, which can operate in 8+0, 7+1, or 6+2 phase modes. In the case of the AX370-Gaming 5, it's operating as a 6+2 phase PWM controller.
Each PWM channel for the CPU's main voltage rail goes directly to the IR3553 40A fully integrated power stage. That would make the CPU core voltage VRM is a true 6-phase VRM. The SOC voltage rail gets two PWM channels, which are then routed to two IR3599 PWM channel expanders, that output four PWM channels for four IR3553. In the end, you get a 6+4 phase VRM that uses top-shelf power stage components.
The memory VRM is similar to that of mainstream Aorus Z270 motherboards, a single phase VRM consists of three ON Semiconductor NTMFS4C10N in a doubled low-side configuration controlled by a Richtek RT8120D. It shouldn't hold back memory overclocks, I have seen this configuration take memory close to 4GHz on Z270 motherboards.
USB DACP-UP 2 impliments a voltage regulator for each set of two USB 3.0 ports/headers. The voltage regulators are the RT8288A 4A step-down converters.
GIGABYTE AX370-Gaming 5 Circuit Analysis Continued
AX370-Gaming 5 Circuit Analysis Continued
Audio on the motherboard uses two ALC1220, which is an interesting move. The ALC1220 provides 120dB SNR and has an integrated headphone amplifier, but those specifications are for only one output, so you cannot have the 120dB SNR or headphone amplifier for the rear headphone jack and the internal header for the front jack of a case.
To get around this, vendors can either add a second headphone amplifier to that would result in less than 120dB, or use two ALC1220, which is what GIGABYTE has done on this Aorus motherboard. The audio section of the motherboard also features six Nichicon audio capacitors and physical PCB isolation of the audio section of the motherboard. The AMD chipset has an integrated heat spreader.
An ASMedia ASM1142 is being used to output USB 3.1 to the type-C port and the type-A port above it. A Texas Instruments HD3SS3220 is used to control the type-C port. Two Pericom USB 3.1 re-drivers, PI3EQX, are used to enhance the USB 3.1 signal from the X370 chipset for two type-A ports. The motherboard also carries dual 1Gbit NICs, the i211AT and the Killer e2500.
The main SuperIO is the ITE IT8686E. The motherboard does get Dual BIOS technology; two 128Mbit ROMs reside near the CPU.
An ITE IT8792E embedded controller is used to provide expanded fan control and temperature monitoring. The IT7236AFN is a microcontroller programmed to control the RGB LEDs.
Quick switches are abundant and switch around much of the PCI-E IO.
BIOS and Software
GIGABYTE's UEFI, which was revamped for their Z270 motherboards, is used for their Ryzen motherboards. The UEFI carries new fan control, which brings GIGABYTE's offerings in line with its competitors and offers a great GUI with a ton of options.
GIGABYTE's UEFI is also one of the only UEFIs with built-in RGB LED color control. The UEFI didn't have as many settings as some of the other motherboards I have seen, but it has everything you need to configure your system and overclock it.
GIGABYTE's software suite includes 3D OSD, @BIOS, AutoGreen, BIOS Setup, ColorTemperature, USB Blocker, Cloud Station (Client and Server), EasyTune, System Information Viewer, Platform Power Management, RGB Fusion, Smart Backup, Smart TimeLock, Smart Keyboard, and VTuner. You also get Sound Blaster X-Fi 5.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: Aorus AX370-Gaming 5
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Vengeance (2x8GB) 3000MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston Predator 240GB
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Micron Generic 240GB
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair HX1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASUS PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- BIOS: F5c
The AX370-Gaming 5's white and black color theme match almost everything because white and black go together with pretty much any color.
There are RGB LEDs all over the place, and I really like their LED bar. I am not a fan of the RGBs around the VRM area or the PCI-E area, but those are meant to be diffused by larger coolers and GPUs.
On the Intel side of things I do this section, I test maximum CPU frequency, maximum stable frequency, and I go through many different memory kits and see if their XMP works. Well, AMD's Ryzen platform is quite new; AMD and its partners are working very hard on fixing issues and getting things to work across the board. The CPU also doesn't validate that much higher than its maximum stable frequency.
Memory overclocking is topped at 3200MHz on most motherboards, and bus adjustment is also very tricky. Don't get me wrong, the CPU can overclock, mine does 4.0GHz, and the best I can get a kit is to 3000MHz. I will go through and tell you exactly what I did to achieve my maximum stable overclock, and as AMD's ecosystem of compatible memory kits becomes larger, I will add in a memory compatibility section.
On this motherboard, I set the CPU frequency to 4GHz, and I didn't need to set the core voltage. Auto rules took care of the voltage, but you can tune it if you need (stay under 1.45v).
The XMP didn't work, so instead I manually set the memory frequency using the 29.33x multiplier, I set the latencies, and I finally set the DRAM voltage to 1.35v. The system booted and was stable.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The AX370-Gaming 5 has solid performance all around. Ryzen benchmark numbers are not that consistent brand to brand, even if the CPU clocks are.
When we see more microcode updates, these numbers will go up across the board, but right now, they are solid.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The AX370-Gaming 5's SATA performance was in line with other results, M.2 reads were good, but for some reason, 4K writes are a bit low. Network performance is what we would expect from the Intel NIC.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Excellent. GIGABYTE's ALC1220 implementation is done right. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The AX370-Gaming 5's thermal performance is great; the VRM get warm, but not too hot. The heat sink cooling the VRM does a decent job.
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the ASUS AX370-Gaming 5.
Quality Design: The AX370-Gaming 5 uses decent quality components, especially on the control and power stage side of the VRM, where you get a full International Rectifier solution. GIGABYTE also implemented the correct re-drivers for the USB 3.1 from the X370 chipset. GIGABYTE also added in extra power circuitry for the internal USB 3.0 headers and some of the rear to implement their voltage control scheme for the USB ports.
USB Variety: GIGABYTE decided to leave the USB 3.1 on the rear IO instead of implementing an internal header, resulting in four USB 3.1 ports on the rear IO. They also have a plethora of USB 3.0 internal headers and rear IO ports, and two internal USB 2.0 headers. If that wasn't enough, GIGABYTE went and added voltage control for the two internal USB 3.0 headers and two rear IO ports so that you can increase or even turn off the power side of the USB ports.
Two Audio Codecs: The ALC1220 has an integrated amplifier and 120dB SNR, but only for one output, so GIGABYTE gets around this by doubling the number of audio codecs so the front and rear IO both get the headphone jack that is amplified and can do 120dB SNR.
Dual NICs: GIGABYTE made sure to integrate two NICs into the Gaming 5, something that isn't so common among Ryzen motherboards. You get one killer e2500 and an Intel i211AT, and while they can't team, you can use them at the same time.
Fan Control: When GIGABYTE launched their Aorus motherboard line, they also heavily revamped and improved fan control. With eight headers that all auto sense PWM/DC mode and support up to 2A of current, you don't really need a fan controller. UEFI control is decent, and GIGABYTE adds in two external temperature probes you can use as a reference, or you can use the list of built-in temperature sensors to control your fans.
No External Clock Gen: GIGABYTE has other X370 based motherboards with a dedicated clock generator to go over the 3200MHz memory mark (based on maximum memory multiplier of 32x), but the AX370-Gaming 5 doesn't have one. However, this might not be a big issue for most people because it's hard enough to go over 3000MHz.
GIGABYTE's AX370-Gaming 5 is a high-end Ryzen motherboard equipped with a very healthy serving of features. The motherboard has the fast M.2 slot, a U.2 port, tons of fan headers, extra USB 3.1, USB power control, and an interesting take on getting 120dB SNR amplified audio to the front and rear of the motherboard.
The RGB's are also present if that's your cup of tea, and in some areas like the LED strip, they are done tastefully and add aesthetic value to the motherboard.
The motherboard's VRM uses an IR digital solution, and the resulting temperatures are comparable to that of other vendors' high-end products. GIGABYTE's new Aorus brand is all about the high-end, and the AX370-Gaming 5 holds up that appeal and prestige on the AMD side of things.
If you are in the market for a well-equipped X370 motherboard with a plethora of useful features, the Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 might be the right fit for you.
The Bottom Line: GIGABYTE's Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 is loaded with the latest features, RGB charisma, and solid quality hardware.
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