GIGABYTE AX370-Gaming 5 AM4 Motherboard Review
When AMD shipped out their Ryzen launch review kits to a few hundred fortunate people, they randomly included one of three motherboards: the ASRock X370 Taichi, the ASUS ROG Crosshair VI Hero, and the GIGABYTE AORUS AX370-Gaming 5. Having already reviewed the ASRock model, we thought it was time to take a look at one of the other models that AMD had hand-picked for their processor launch and we settled on the GIGABYTE.
The AX370-Gaming 5 model that we are reviewing today is behind only the AX370-Gaming K7 in GIGABYTE's current AM4 motherboard lineup. Having said that, the difference between the two models comes down to only the presence of a external BCLK chip on the K7 and a different colour scheme. Everything else is identical, except the price. While the Gaming 5 retails for about $195 USD / $265 CAD, then Gaming K7 will set you back $210 USD / $280 CAD. That $15 price is largely inconsequential, but we suspect that some people will choose to spend the extra money, if only due to a preference for the K7's black-on-black colour scheme.
When it comes to hard specs, the AX370-Gaming 5 doesn't disappoint. It has a 10-phase CPU power design, eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, one full-speed M.2 slot, one U.2 port, two physical PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or CrossFireX, three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and one mechanical PCI-E x16 slot that actually operates at PCI-E 2.0 x4. One of the highlights of this new platform is the exemplary USB capabilities, and on this motherboard that is manifested in the form of four high-speed USB 3.1 ports (three Type-A and one Type-C), six USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 headers, and two USB 2.0 headers, for a grand total of eighteen possible USB ports.
On the networking front, this model has two gigabit LAN ports, one is Intel-powered and the other runs off the newest Killer E2500 LAN controller, and thus supports the powerful Killer Network Manager utility. Needless to say, the aforementioned utility is the tip of iceberg in GIGABYTE's large software suite that is comprised of a over a dozen interesting applications. They have also added the little elements that we always appreciate like two physical BIOS chips with two selector switches, a debug LED display, six onboard temperature sensors, two temperature sensor headers, two high current fan headers that support water pumps, and four physical hardware buttons that can be used to power on, reset, clear CMOS, or even enable the automatic overclocking feature.
One of the truly unique aspects of this model is the AMP-UP onboard audio implementation, which features two of the brand new Realtek ALC1220 codecs. We have only seen this design once before, and the idea is that you can use headphones and speakers at the same time. If the onboard audio doesn't meet your needs, you might find the USB DAC-UP 2 feature noteworthy. Two of the USB ports and two of the USB headers that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to minimize the signal noise that gets transferred to an external USB DAC, and you can also increase the voltage to this ports in order to better power any type of power hungry accessories.
RGB lighting has apparently become a 'must-have' feature on all gaming-oriented motherboards, so it might as well be good. Thankfully, GIGABYTE's RGB Fusion implementation is the best that we have ever seen. There are RGB LEDs placed not only under the little plastic strip that covers the audio section, but under the chipset cooler, under the PCI-E x16 slots, and even around the CPU socket. There is also a cool lighting strip on the top-right edge of the motherboard near the memory slots, and even a bunch of LEDs directly in between each memory slot. There is also an RGBW LED light strip header on which you can plug an aftermarket LED light strip. All of these LEDs as well as the header are controlled using the new RGB Fusion application. These lights can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects.
At first glance, this GIGABYTE AORUS AX370-Gaming 5 looks to be a winner. It has almost everything that we could hope for in an upper-end AM4 motherboard. The big question is obviously going to be whether all the features have been well implemented, if it overclocks well and easily, and whether overall stability is rock solid. That's what we are going to find out today.
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