Benchmark Results & Final Analysis
Synthetic benchmarks do a great job of showing how well individual components perform. Unfortunately, that means the more boring the charts are, the better the represented companies have done complying with things like Intel’s CPU specifications.
There was a slight bulge in the 3DMark Firestrike scores for the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming, but both were consistent in other GPU-oriented tests such as Compubench. Moreover, those competing boards were also first and second in Sandra Bandwidth, where advanced memory timings are the only place companies can make noticeable optimizations without us turning up evidence of “cheating”.
We’ve maintained a clean image of our original benchmark suite to prevent software-related performance changes, yet Ashes and F1 2015 performance has been on a gradual climb since its creation. Maybe updated chipset drivers are helping. Maybe it's firmware related? The Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 still finishes second overall behind the ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming, and that board was tested two months ago.
The Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC’s shortfall in Talos is due to the overhead of its Nahimic software, which is Talos compatible. Disabling the software disables a few handy (and paid-for) features, but proves that the FPS is still available to those willing to sacrifice this feature.
Less time means more performance, but nothing significant stands out in our timed application tests. It looks like we’ll need to rank the boards in other ways, such as overclocking, features, and price.
Power, Heat, & Efficiency
MSI’s low full-load power use should be legendary by now, and one of the payoffs was reduced heat. It appears to do this by reducing core voltage to the lowest stable setting, which means the power savings percentage wouldn’t be applicable to overclocked systems. At least the Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 came in second-place here.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 overclocks so eagerly that it left this reviewer with a conundrum: To limit the amount of time it takes to finish an evaluation, I first find the highest stable multiplier and then increase the BCLK using only 1 MHz steps. Using this method, the Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 reached the same 48x 101 MHz as the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. The CPU would crash on either board at the next test step, 48x 102 MHz, when validating with Prime95 small-FFTs.
Yet the same time limits also caused me to choose a 20x minimum CPU ratio when evaluating BCLK overclocking, and the Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 reached a new high of 243 MHz. Multiplying that by 20, we get 4060 MHz. Less than the 4888 that would have been found at 48x 102 MHz, I picked the 48x 101 MHz result for the sake of chart consistency.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 isn’t the first board to reach DDR4-4040, but it’s the only one in today’s comparison to do so. The result is an astronomically-high dual-channel data rate of 44GB/s.
The Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 performed slightly better than the same-priced Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC in today’s evaluation, giving it a slight lead in performance-per-dollar. Gigabyte’s board comes with an extra M.2 slot, but that slot steals two lanes from the four-lane PCIe slot present on both models. It also adds a front-panel Gen2 USB connector, but feeds it only a Gen1 connection. And MSI offers a higher-bandwidth version of Intel’s recent-generation Key-E Wi-Fi controller, so there are advantages to both.
For a few dollars more, the ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming provides a front-panel Gen2 USB connector that’s fed by a second 10Gb/s controller, but enabling that controller disables two of its PCIe x1 slots. It also has one fewer M.2 storage interface, but it does include Realtek’s 866Mb/s Wi-Fi.
Another $15-or-so gets buyers the ASRock Z370 Taichi. We again scale back to Intel’s 433Mb/s Wi-Fi controller, but the Taichi adds a second Gigabit Ethernet port. Like the Asus board, it also has a second USB 3.1 Gen2 controller to feed a front-panel Gen2 cable.
Decisive value leadership is tough to find in this hyper-competitive market, but the Z370 Aorus Gaming 5 at least has one compelling feature to shift show-offs in its direction: More onboard RGB lighting. And for those who love the board but hate the lighting, it can be switched off by zone, or in its entirety.
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