The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Most people would agree that Z370 motherboards impose a premium, especially on those who are buying CPUs which cannot overclock because H and B 300-series motherboard are not available. However, vendors have taken things into their own hands and have recently started launching much more affordable models. Today we take a look at one of GIGABYTE's much more affordable Gaming series motherboards, the Z370 Aorus Gaming 3. The new motherboard looks to offer support for Intel's latest processors and also offers up all native platform features but cuts out some extras to keep prices in the affordable range. Let's take a look.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 offers two M.2 slots, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, SATA6Gb/s, and it supports CrossFireX.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 costs
Packaging and Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box for the Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 uses similar box-art as higher-end Z370 Aorus motherboard. Packaging is basic enough but gets the job done.
The accessory package includes four SATA6Gb/s cables, IO shield, G-Connector, case badge, manual, and driver DVD.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 has five fan headers, all of them are PWM/DC mode headers. The one header circled in blue is a pump header that runs full speed by default, while the rest of the headers run off a standard cooling curve you can change in the UEFI or through Windows.
The fan headers circled in green and blue offer up to 1A of current each. The color theme of the motherboard is red and black, which is one of the most popular color themes. There are some built-in RGB LEDs, and you can change their color in the UEFI or Windows. The back of the motherboard is clear of any ICs.
The rear IO panel features PS/2 keyboard and mouse, OC button, HDMI, USB 3.1 type-C, USB 3.1 type-A, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 1Gbit LAN, and 7.1 audio outputs.
The PCI-E layout is super-duper simple. The top slot is x16 wired directly to the CPU. The second x16 slot is an x4 PCI-E 3.0 slot routed to the PCH, and it shares all of its bandwidth with the x1 slots. The top M.2 slot is routed to the PCH directly and only supports PCI based M.2 drives (no SATA).
The second M.2 slot is routed to the PCH as well and supports both PCI and SATA based M.2 drives. SATA3_0 will be disabled if a SATA drive is used. There are four right-angled SATA6Gb/s ports on the motherboard, and above them is a ThunderBolt 3 GPIO header.
Two more SATA6Gb/s ports are angled straight and found near the front panel headers. There are also boot LEDs in the bottom right corner of the motherboard. There are two USB 3.0 internal headers, one is for a type-C port, and the other is for type-A ports.
We find a new addition on this motherboard, OC button and OC headers. The headers offer you the ability to use your reset or power button (or dedicated case OC button) to engage overclockers, and there is even a light header to let you know when the OC is in effect.
The button on the rear IO panel and the headers are synchronized. There are also two RGB LED headers at the top of the motherboard; one is 5v/12v digital/addressable, and one is an RGBW header. At the bottom of the motherboard we find a TPM header near two USB 2.0 internal headers.
We find two more RGB headers at the bottom of the motherboard, one is RGBW, and the other is a digital/addressable 12v/5v header. Heatsinks make good contact with the VRM components, but they use a plastic push-pin method to put pressure on the components.
GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 Circuit Analysis
The motherboard shows us everything once we remove the heat sinks.
The motherboard is in a 4+3 phase VRM, and it uses zero doubling. It uses the Intersil ISL95866 PWM controller in 4+3 mode. It adds multiple ISL6625A on the CPU and iGPU rails to enhance phase count. The CPU VCore VRMs use double the number of MOSFETs per phase, while the iGPU phases use the standard number. On Semiconductor NTMFS4C06N is the low-side MOSFET, and the NTMFS4C10N is the high-side MOSFET for each of the power stages.
The memory VRM uses a Realtek RT8120D for a single phase PWM with driver and then three On Semiconductor NTMFS4C06N in a two-low one-high MOSFET configuration.
GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 Circuit Analysis Continued
Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 Circuit Analysis Continued
A Realtek ALC1220 is used, and it's under a metal shield. There is PCB division as well as WIMA and Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors to improve audio performance.
GIGABYTE decided to use the Killer e2500 NIC on this motherboard. An ASMedia ASM3152 USB 3.1 controller and Texas Instruments HD3220 type-C switch chip are used to provide the two rear USB 3.1 ports.
The main SuperIO controller is the IT8686E; it provides fan control, system monitoring, and the PS/2 on the rear IO panel. An ITE IT8295FN is used as the controller for the digital/addressable RGB LED headers.
Two 128Mbit BIOS ROMs are used to provide Dual BIOS functionality. An NXP level shifter provides the HDMI port as it translates the iGPUs signals to the level required for HDMI.
NXP quick switches are used to switch bandwidth around from the x1 slots to the x4 slot.
BIOS and Software
The UEFI BIOS offers two operating modes, an Easy Mode, and a Classic Mode. Fan control is present in the form of a GUI, and you have all the same overclocking options as you would find on a Z370 Aorus Gaming 7. The UEFI is easy to navigate, and you even get RGB control. While the onboard LEDs can only be turned on and off, you can control the color the RGB LED header outputs.
GIGABYTE includes APP Center, 3D OSC, @BIOS, BIOS Setup, USB Blocker, Cloud Station, EasyTune, Fast Boot, PlatformPowerManagment, RGB Fusion, SIV, Smart Backup, Smart TimeLock, Smart Keyboard, and VTuner among some other programs.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Gaming 3
- CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K
- Cooler: Corsair H110 - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti FE - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston KC1000 480GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Corsair Force LS 240GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- 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 RM1000 - 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: F4
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 has LEDs built into the bottom half of the motherboard under the PCH heat sink and under the audio section. Those LEDs are RGB LEDs so you can change the color of the bottom half of the motherboard with the LEDs.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 overclocked our CPU to 4.9GHz quite easily, even with its small VRM. We set VCore to 1.3v, LLCs to Turbo, XMP to enable, and nothing else. While the motherboard was tested using our Dominator Platinum kit, the motherboard wasn't able to overclock it with XMP to 3200MHz, but it was able to overclock two more kits to 3600MHz, so use the QVL.
Compatible Memory Overclocking Kits
In this section, I overclock four memory kits only using XMP, if the kit works then the results are below. I welcome memory vendors to send in their kits to be tested on each motherboard.
Patriot Viper LED 3600MHz C16 8GBx2
The motherboard handled this Patriot kit with ease.
G.Skill TridentZ RGB 3600MHz C16 8GBx2
The board easily overclocked two of the G.Skill sticks to XMP with ease.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
AIDA64 FLOPS and IOPS
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
These tests are done out of the box, so I have decided to include whether or not the vendor has implemented some type of default overclocking, such as multi-core enhancement. Multi-core enhancement is when the motherboard vendor pushes all cores to maximum turbo speeds instead of just one or two. MCE as I will call it, can cause instability if your CPU isn't great, and we would hope vendors would have it off by default, but it does offer a free performance boost out of the box.
Some motherboards also might increase the BCLK a bit over stock to score higher, and some might even mess with the turbo boost table. If we standardize settings, then most motherboards should perform the same, but in this case, we haven't. Overall, the Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 is not using multi-core enhancement by default, but it's performing quite well in our tests. We just tested more of the motherboards in these charts, and it seems that Multi-core enhancement has been toned down a lot recently.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3's M.2 scores are excellent, the lowest score on the charts is from the 950 Pro that was replaced with the KC1000. SATA scores are also quite solid, and networking is pretty good.
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. I was very surprised by how well the motherboard handled the audio tests. 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 to the right of the motherboard from the (Corsair H110i) radiator are left on automatic mode (ramps with internal block temperature). Additionally, a 120mm fan is situated right above the VRM, and it blows down at a medium rate (very quiet). Thermal Images are taken at loop 15 of Intel Burn Test
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
Thermal Testing at 4.9GHz/1.3v Overclocked Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans to the right of the motherboard from the (Corsair H110i) radiator are left on automatic mode (ramps with internal block temperature). Additionally, a 120mm fan is situated right above the VRM, and it blows down at a medium rate (very quiet). We standardize this test with a 4.9GHz on all cores with 1.3V real under load and take pictures at the 80% mark of HandBrake rendering a 4K video.
Up-close of the front and back of the VRM.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3's thermal performance is acceptable. The VRM at stock is decent, but when we overclock, we see front side temperatures go over 70C. We see the same performance on GIGABYTE's other motherboards with this same exact VRM setup. I highly recommend solid VRM airflow if you are going to overclock this high. Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
Here are key points about the GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Gaming 3.
Simple: The Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 is a very simple motherboards targeting gamers. It features the Killer Gaming NIC, five fully configurable fan headers, RGB support, and support for all platform features. On top of the platform features, the only feature that might be considered an expensive extra is USB 3.1 and you get both type-A and type-C on the rear IO panel.
RGB LEDs: GIGABYTE integrated RGB LEDs into the motherboard, but they didn't go overboard, which is nice. On top of that, they added two RGBW headers, and two 12v/5v digital RGB LED headers. I was very surprised to see that type of RGB LED support on a motherboard at this price point.
Fan Control: We find five hybrid fan headers on the motherboard, and they can all be easily controlled through the UEFI or System Information Viewer in Windows.
OC Button and Header: Some of you might remember those old systems from the 90s that had "Turbo" buttons on the motherboard, and GIGABYTE is trying to bring that back. The motherboard has a button on the rear IO panel just for overclocking, and they added a synchronized header. The header offer you the ability to repurpose buttons and LEDs on your cases front panel, so you can change your reset or power button to an OC button, and the power or HDD light to indicate the overclock is in place.
Dual BIOS: We do find two BIOS ROMs on the motherboard for extra protection.
No SLI: Since the main PCI-E x16 slot is routed directly to the CPU it's not possible for SLI to work on this motherboard.
The GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 is a solid motherboard with a lot of platform features and a nice amount of gaming features. While some people might not care for RGB LEDs, a lot of others do. The RGB LED support on this motherboard is more than I expected, with a total of four headers, two standard RGBW and two digital/addressable.
I also liked the OC button and the new type-C header, and the absence of large video outputs on the rear IO was also a nice touch. If you are looking for a solid Z370 motherboard that won't break the bank, give the Z370 Aorus Gaming 3 a look.
The Bottom Line: If you need a basic Z370 gaming motherboard at a reasonable price and solid features, you should consider the Z370 Aorus Gaming 3.
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