Even though it's spring cleaning time, and my office has been relegated to a corner of the kids' playroom, the March 2 AMD Ryzen CPU release has kept a steady flow of UPS and Fedex boxes at my doorstep. The fun is just beginning as we continue our X370 motherboard review series.
ASRock was first to get AM4 motherboards in our hands for review, but it’s time to start looking at offerings from some of the other manufacturers. Gigabyte’s AX-370-Gaming 5 has received some pretty good remarks from fellow enthusiasts around the web, and it just so happens that the company has sent us a sample to run through the paces. The Aorus line is known for its top shelf lighting customization, but Gigabyte packs a ton of other features into this package that will surely also turn a few heads.
The GA-X370-Gaming 5 from Gigabyte sports a matte black textured box that always pleases my fancy. The Aorus Falcon prominently displays itself on the front of the box, dwarfing the various marketing icons typically seen on the sides of our older Gigabyte boards. Flipping to the back, the branding focuses on this board’s lighting, audio, cooling, and network connectivity solutions. Gigabyte packs in four SATA cables (two straight, two angled), tie straps, G-Connector, installation guide and CD, manual, and stickers. Bonus items include RGB lighting header extension, metal-shielded high bandwidth SLI connector, and two external thermistors for probing additional locations in the system for temperatures.
PCIe connectivity is what you'd expect at this end of the motherboard spectrum, with two x16 PCIe Gen 3 ports for graphical and higher bandwidth solutions and a third x16 PCIe port wired for x4 Gen 2 cards. There are also three x1 PCIe Gen 2 slots, but using these will reduce the bottom x16 slot to x1 or x2 modes. This is a feature we wish the ASRock X370 Gaming K4 would have employed for its bottom M.2 slot.
Speaking of high speed IO, the GA-X370-Gaming 5 has one traditional M.2 port and deploys a U.2 connector on board. Upon closer inspection, this connector looks to be an SFF-8639, which happens to be used regularly in the enterprise realm. Regardless, kits are available to convert from this U.2 interface to standard M.2, but be warned: only the M.2 or U.2 interface can be enabled at any time. RAID 0/1/10 is enabled by the Promontory chipset and supports eight SATA 6Gbps connections. Included in these eight ports are two SATA Express ports.
This board is rather plain with only slight style elements coming from the shapes of the heat spreaders and back panel cover. But once power is applied, this board is gorgeous. LEDs line the two Gen3 PCIe x16 ports, regulator section, Amp-Up audio, and all four memory DIMM slots. Top it all off with a swappable overlay next to the power connectors and the system just oozes swagger. These locations are strategic and truly engulf any component with system wide color schemes. Tie that in with RGB Fusion and RGBW compatible headers and this system could rival the former Osborne Family Spectacle at Disney World.
I am no audiophile and don’t pretend to understand the difference between versions of codecs or amplifiers, but the Gigabyte AX-370-Gaming 5 provides a unique solution. Rather than route the audio signal through an amplifier to the front panel, dual ALC1220 codecs provide both the front and back audio ports their own dedicated audio source. Bundled with the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 software, this audio suite can support high impedance headphones plugged into the front audio ports while you plug a 7.1 audio system into the back for a more cinematic experience.
Eight 4-pin fan headers are rated up to 2A current draw to let you plug in radiators or pumps directly without killing the board or decreasing performance. Coupled with SmartFan 5 and various internal and external temperature sensor data, you can create custom fan curves and zones so that proper cooling is provided to the right component. We were pleasantly surprised when AIDA64 reported that all sensors appeared to be credible and tracked with various load conditions on the board, a feature that was still lacking on ASRock samples.
Other notable mentions: the back panel has access to one PS/2, HDMI 1.4, USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, three USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, six USB 3.1 Gen 1, Killer E2500 and Intel gigabit Ethernet, S/PDIF, and five audio ports. For open-air case builders, several buttons are available above the 24-pin ATX connector including power, reset, clear CMOS, and OC.
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