A Closer Look at the X370GTN
A Closer Look at the X370GTN
Since the Biostar X370GTN is a cost-conscious model its design is fairly unremarkable, but that's not a bad thing. It has the customary black PCB, a small MOSFET heatsink with integrated RGB LEDs, and a tiny little chipset heatsink. Aside from a few minor differences, all Mini ITX motherboards have essentially the exact same layout. The only thing that stands out on this model - and regrettably it's a negative - is the fact that they shoehorned the 4-pin CPU power connector in between the MOSFET heatsink and one of the rear I/O modules. Its location isn't terrible, it is still relatively easy to access, but it almost looks like they decided to use a 4-pin instead of 8-pin connector solely because it would fit in that small space. Whether that is an issue is something we will address below.
As mentioned in the introduction, the X370GTN has a seven-phase CPU power design that utilizes an Intersil ISL95712 PWM controller and Nikos PK612DZ MOSFETs. Those seven phases are divided into a 4+ 3 configuration, with four phases dedicated to the CPU cores and three phases for the SOC. While four phases might seem insufficient to handle an eight-core processor, the simple fact of the matter is that it's the most common VRM configuration on AM4 motherboards at the moment and it is what Biostar uses on all of their AM4 motherboards, except the flagship X370GT7. Likewise, this model uses capacitors that are rated at 5K, which aren't as good as the 10K rated ones used by some of the competition, but are the same capacitors that Biostar uses on their aforementioned flagship model.
While the use of Nikos MOSFETs doesn't worry us - despite the fact that they aren't the best when it comes to power efficiency - the tiny little MOSFET heatsink that has been enlisted to cool them is a cause for concern. With our Ryzen 7 1800X at default core clocks and the memory set to DDR4-3200, we ran the AIDA64 System Stability Test for about 90 minutes and the heatsink got extremely hot, peaking at around 75°C / 167°F. That will burn you in about one second. The four power chokes reached about 60°C / 140°F. The three exposed MOSFETs and chokes that handle the SOC portion were all running in the 48-55°C / 119-122°F range, which is hot but not terrible. Our open test bench has no active or passive airflow, so it is a worst case scenario, but then again tiny Mini ITX cases don't have great airflow and they could theoretically trap even more heat. Overall, we recommend some type of additional airflow if you're using a Ryzen 7, while four-core or six-core processors shouldn't cause similar issues.
Our other area of concern is the 4-pin CPU power connector. A 4-pin ATX12V connector can handle between 192W (12V x 16A) to 288W (12V x 24A) depending if using standard or Plus HCS terminals. It's impossible for us to know what kind of Mini-Fit Jr terminals Biostar are using without ripping them out, but we'll assume they went with quality ones. If not, then things might get a little iffy when you throw overclocking into equation. An eight-core Ryzen processor running at 4.0GHz at 1.40V consumes about 160 watts, and that's without overclocking the SOC, which can easily add another 25-30 watts. That is getting a little close to the lower-end 192W limit. Having said that, given what we mentioned about the MOSFET heatsink temperature, you should not be overclocking that high (or at all) on this motherboard. Our overclocking section is going to be interesting...
While we are on the topic of cooling, there is a fan single CPU fan header to the left of the memory slots. If that is not enough, there is a system fan header on the right side of the memory slots. The two 5050_RGB headers are where you can plug in any 5050 RGB LED light strips and have them fully powered by the motherboard and controlled by the Racing GT utility.
As is the case with most Mini-ITX motherboards, this model only has two DDR4 memory slots, as well as a single-phase memory VRM. That limits the amount of system memory that you can install to 32GB, and given the particularities of Ryzen's memory controller those two 16GB modules will be officially limited to DDR4-2400. While Biostar have certified this model for memory speeds up to DDR4-3200, you will need single-rank 8GB Samsung B-die modules in order to hit that high.
The memory slots are clipless on the side nearest to the graphics card, which will come in handy when removing memory modules from this unavoidably cramped motherboard. Between the 24-pin ATX power connector and the two SATA port is where you will find the two front-panel headers, one for the usual buttons and activity LEDs and the other for the case speaker.
As on most Mini ITX motherboards, the SATA ports have been split into two locations, half of which are easy to access and the other half a little less so. There are four SATA 6Gb/s port on the X370GTN since that is technically how many the X370 chipset supports without repurposing the built-in SATA Express connectivity. All four of the SATA ports support RAID 0/1/10.
As we have previously seen before, an M.2 slot has been cleverly added one to the back of the motherboard. It is a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 slot, with a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 4GB/s, and support for SATA, PCI-E, and PCI-E NVMe M.2 solid state drives. It can only handle 2260 and 2280 form factor M.2 drives, which are thankfully 99% of the models on the market at this point.
To the left of the two edge-mounted SATA ports is a USB 3.0 header, and behind that header is a clear CMOS jumper labelled as "JCMOS1".
The X370 chipset itself is cooled by a tiny little heatsink, which unsurprisingly doesn't do a great job of cooling the chipset and leads to surface temperatures of upwards of 70°C / 158°F. While anything under 75°C / 167°F is not a cause for concern, it's pretty close to our comfort limit. Once again, a little general airflow would help a fair bit.
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