Features & Specifications
Mini-ITX is a battleground where manufacturers have to make critical design decisions regarding features, layout, and product use case. With the industry putting more emphasis on smaller form factor chassis and watercooling solutions, does sacrificing motherboard features and connectivity for compactness make sense? Let's see what Biostar's Racing lineup tells us about these trade-offs.
The Biostar X370 GTN makes its way to the bench along with some deviations from our typical X370 reviews. Looking back at our Ryzen launch article, X370 is targeted towards the high-end enthusiast who doesn’t want to invest in TR4 and Threadripper. With more SATA, USB3.1 Gen2, and PCIe lanes dedicated to GPUs, X370 has a good mix of connectivity, expandability, and performance potential. In contrast, B350 still enables overclocking but lacks the wealth of I/O connectivity from the processor and chipset.
And that’s the rub with the Biostar X370 GTN. With Mini-ITX, there just isn’t enough physical planar to fit the chipset’s arsenal of I/O onto a single board. Most of what makes X370 tick is sacrificed in the name of compactness.
|PCIe Gen3 Graphics||1x16/2x8 (Ryzen) 1x8 (APU/Athlon)||1x16 (Ryzen) 1x8 (APU/Athlon)||1x16 (Ryzen) 1x8 (APU/Athlon)|
|USB 3.1 G2 + 3.1 G1 + 2.0||2+10+6||2+6+6||1+6+6|
|SATA + NVMe||4 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen) or 6 + x2 NVMe||2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen) or 4 + x2 NVMe||2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen) or 4 + x2 NVMe|
|SATA Express (SATA & GPP PCIe G3)||2||1||1|
|PCI Express GP||x8 Gen2 (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)||x6 Gen2 (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)||x4 Gen2 (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)|
The packaging of the GTN is very similar in style to its bigger brother without the addition of the folding cover page. The contents are a bit sparse for an X370 board, with only a driver CD, manual, backplate, and four SATA cables. Given the form factor, there probably aren’t many other items that could have been bundled in.
Looking at the backpanel, there's one PS/2, DVI-D, HDMI 1.4, gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.1 Gen2 (1 Type-C, 1 Type-A), four USB 3.1 Gen1, five analog, and one digital audio. That's similar to the larger X370 boards. The lone PCIe x16 connector consumes the bottom of the board where we typically find the additional headers and front panel pins. Directly above the x16 slot is the USB 2.0 header, which was slightly difficult to route our chassis header wires to. Still gazing in the GPU territory, there are four SATA ports available (with RAID 0/1/10 support).
The side of the board hosts the front panel, USB 3.0, and 24-pin ATX headers. Only two DDR4 DIMM connectors are on the board, and they use the single-sided DIMM latches. A single 4-pin 12V connector is located by the VRegs for supplying the processor with additional power. Cleverly hidden on the backside of the board is the M.2 NVMe connector, so don’t forget to install that high-speed storage device before securing the board in the chassis.
Biostar made a few good decisions on this board in the layout department. Two 5050 LED ports are located on the top side of the board, which helps eliminate some of the clutter from the front of the case while still providing builders with lighting options. Two fan headers are also located next to the LED headers, so top or front mounted radiators will be ideal. We would like to have seen a third fan header for exhaust, but two fans can get the job done.
On the downside, the aforementioned USB 2.0 header is in such a weird spot that it is almost unusable. It might be feasible to use a flexible PCIe riser or clever cabling techniques, but routing our Thermaltake Suppressor front panel wires was less than optimal (and draped across the entire board). The SATA ports could have used a little more attention given that there are no angled connectors and that they are scattered around an already chaotic segment of the board.
Space surrounding the CPU for cooling solutions is also a sore point, although this is highlighted in the documentation. Installing the Noctua NH-L9x65 SE AM4 was a smooth process, but installing the Corsair H110i required shifting the cooling head to the left in order to provide enough clearance for the DIMMs. Though the water tubing provided no interference with the DIMMs, any DIMMs with thicker heatspreaders could drive you back to Newegg or Amazon looking for slimmer modules.
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If you can catch the AB350N on sale, it's only about $10 more expensive than the GTN. You get more features with the AB350N and a cleaner product (which is why I rated it higher in my other article). Otherwise, you might want to save the $15-$35 and put it towards another component.
Other than that, the board runs stable, with no real issues. My RAM (2x8GB TridentZ 3200C16, so not B-die) some times refuses to POST at 3200 XMP (tries five times, then the UEFI resets itself automatically), but at 2933 it's rock solid. The SATA connectors don't bother me as I don't have more than two SATA devices and thus I only use the outer headers, and even if the USB 2.0 header is placed oddly, I didn't have any issues routing the cable to it (tucking it next to the RAM helps keep it tidy too). Same goes for front panel audio. All other headers are far better placed on this board than any other AM4 ITX board IMO.
As for the people here considering other boards: if you need WiFi, go for it, but consider the board layouts before making a decision. Having the 24-pin along the top edge of the board makes it impossible to route the cable properly in many cases, and some boards even have the EPS connector some place between the CPU, rear I/O and PCIe slot. That's definitely not a good placement. Not to mention that this IIRC is the only AM4 ITX board with USB-C.