So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 AMD Ryzen AM4 motherboard review
Is one of the first AM4 motherboards any good?
- Well built
- Looks good
- Full feature set
- Premium price
- M.2 drive sits right beneath graphics card
This is the first AM4 mobo that we've seen and so also the best. We doubt very much that it will be the worst.
Price$ 319.00 (AUD)
Gigabyte’s AX370 motherboard came to us as part of our AMD Ryzen Test Rig. This was handy because although it’s the first AM4 socket motherboard that we’ve seen, it bares many similarities to Gigabyte’s Z170X Designare motherboard which is the main component of our Intel-based test rig. (Related: AMD Ryzen motherboards explained: The crucial differences in every AM4 chipset)
As per usual, we won’t be going into multi-page intricate reviews of every component as most people simply don’t care about such things. They just want to know if it’s any good. So here we go…
Test rig: Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5 motherboard (BIOS rev. 5b), 3.6GHz AMD Ryzen 1800X CPU, 2 x 8GB Corsair Vengeance LPX 3000MHz C15 DDR4 RAM, Samsung 960 Pro M.2 hard drive, Noctua NH-U12S SE-AM4 air cooler, Corsair Platinum Series AX1200i 1200W Digital ATX Power Supply, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, Windows 10, Dell 2715PQ monitor.
Key hardware features
3 x PCIe X16 slots running at x16, x8 and x4; 3 x PCIe x1 slots
Power, reset, clear CMOS and OC buttons
USB 3.1 Type A and type C ports
M.2 and U.2 ports
Dual Gigabit LAN
LED lighting zones
Dual UEFI BIOS
G-Connector - front-panel header handler
Reinforced PCI slots and I/O ports
Two-digit status indicator
(Full feature List here | Full connector list here)
Key UEFI/BIOS features
We were warned by AMD that we’d have to set memory timings manually as the XMP profile settings that most RAM modules use are locked down by Intel. However, because the motherboard makers also make Intel motherboards, boards like this have a simple setting for you to still set memory timings just by selecting XMP Profile 1.
What is currently missing (and will hopefully appear down the line) is Gigabyte’s excellent automatic overclocking feature which lets you set how fast your processor will run (or whether to emulate a different model altogether) in just one click. This, however, is handled by the RyzenMaster app in Windows which will let you tweak core speeds and disable cores as you wish. So it’s no great loss.
Other features will be familiar to Gigabyte users. All the tweakable options are easy to access and if you hate all that stuff you can glance at Easy Mode and see the basics.
Read more: Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2400 RAM review
As usual with Gigabyte boards, there’s dual-BIOS which means that if the main one gets corrupted it will boot from a reserve one (this has got us out of jams in the past).
As usual, the most striking elements of this Gigabyte board are the reinforced slots and I/O ports plus the large, stylised heat-spreaders and LED lights.
There are many fan headers available which is useful as the AMD Ryzen chips operate faster when cooler.
Read more: Gigabyte Z170X Designare motherboard review
Otherwise the layout is sensible but for the decision to place the M.2 drive directly beneath the primary graphics card slot which could lead to overheating. We don’t like anything that might affect reliability but everything ran stably during most of our tests.
The OC button will have different effects depending on which CPU is inserted. With the 1800X chip pressing it instantly overclocked the processor from 3.6GHz to 3.8GHz. We found this was generally a safe amount to overclock by. However, when running a Cinebench R15 test (which pushes all cores to 100%) using a Noctua air cooler it did crash the system on the first attempt. It managed it OK later. Nonetheless, we recommend using high-performance coolers like Corsair’s liquid CPU coolers as they’re not just less noisy and less likely to lacerate your hand but are easier to install and offer far more efficient cooling.
We don’t have much to go on in the world of Ryzen but we can show the performance scores relative to Intel’s Core i7 processors. We don’t go into excessive overclocking tweaks but use the automatic settings where possible.
We performed all tests at the stock 3.6GHz of the Ryzen 1800x and again at 4.0GHz which was easily obtained using the RyzenMaster tweaking app – you just slide a slider to the desired speed. With this setup we could run stably at 4GHz – it crashed at 4.1GHz almost certainly because of the modest cooling on offer.
With the rev. F5b BIOS installed it scored a stock run of 4,010 in PC Mark which is slightly behind a 4GHz Intel Core i7 Skylake’s 4,040 and a long way behind a 4.2GHz Core i7 7700K Kaby Lake’s 4,448. While the Intel chips overclock quite comfortably on the Designare (albeit with better cooling from a Corsair liquid cooler) we couldn’t easily boost this score dramatically on the AM4 board.
We also ran the Creative 3.0 PC Mark test which focuses more on photo manipulation and video editing. In this case Intel scored 5,853 while Ryzen scored 5,861. That’s a very slight win for Ryzen which, as we see below, translates to potentially-dramatic time saving if you do extensive media encoding.
In 3D Mark Time Spy it did much better, though. The four extra cores registered a stock speed score of 5,945 which substantially beats the quad-core Kaby Lake i7700K score of 5,663 (thanks to the CPU component of the 3D Mark score). Few games will work better with the extra cores but if a game you play, like Battlefield 1 or Civ, supports extra cores this could provide a noticeable performance boost. We expect multicore game performance to increase over time. For now it’s a boost that will only come into play in certain games.
Cinebench R15 is a test which renders a 3D scene using all cores and threads at 100% power. When we ran it at 4GHz the system instacrashed. It also struggled to regularly complete a run at 3.8GHz but it did register a score of 1637. At the stock speed of 3.6GHz it managed 1604. To put this into perspective a 4.2GHz Intel Core i7 7700K scores just 995 – the extra cores makes a real difference when rendering (and video encoding). Furthermore, an 8-core Intel Core i7 6900K processor (which costs a whopping $1,500) scores 1560 in this test – if you’re into regular rendering, you’re getting better performance than Intel at half the price. But that’s a niche area for many people.
We haven’t seen any other AM4 motherboards to compare with at the moment and this is quite expensive at $319. It is fully featured and reasonable value but we’d like to test it with better cooling (which we’re assured will be arriving imminently) to check on overclocking stability (which is unlikely due to the board but we can’t be certain).
For general users Intel Kaby Lake platform boards are likely better value as a 7700K costs $200 less than an 1800X chip. Value may differ for lower-end AMD CPUs but we haven’t been able to test those processors yet. However, if you’re into rendering, encoding - or you want to stream a video game on the same PC as the one you’re playing on - or your favourite game runs better on eight cores - or you’re betting that your future applications will run better on octacore processors - or you’re an enthusiastic overclocker (who shouldn’t be reading this review anyway) this is a decent platform even with our limited knowledge of the competition. Compared to a dedicated workstation with a $1,500 octacore Core i7 CPU, it's a bargain.
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