Gigabyte Aorus Gaming 5 Review
** This review has been updated from the original so has minor amendments to reflect a more current state of the board**
Welcome dear readers to another no-nonsense review, this time we will be taking an in depth look at the Gigabyte Aorus Gaming 5 for the newly released Zen line of processors from AMD. The Aorus branding is a relatively new line from Gigabyte designed with the intention of going toe-to-toe with the best gaming and enthusiast products the industry has to offer. Gigabyte in more recent years have become more better known for their graphics cards rather than their mainboards but once upon a time Gigabyte made some of the best mainboards you could buy backed up with superb BIOS support, are Gigabyte returning to those lofty haydays? Let's find out.
Gigabytes Aorus Gaming 5 packs AMDs (designed by Asmedia) X370 chipset, it's the top of the line currently offered for a Zen based system. Let's have a little look at what the X370 gives us;
This is what AMD calls high end. I don't know about you but the X370 looks mid-range to me while the B350 looks low end. It's disappointing to see the X370 chipset only providing 8x Gen2 PCI-E, why not Gen3, and why not more than just 8x? AMD could have used this opportunity to get one over intel here, but alas they have not. PCI-E handled by the CPU is a much more familiar arrangement however so nothing surprising there. Personally I think the X370 chipset looks a bit on the lacklustre side as is the inclusion of only 2x USB 3.1 Gen2 ports. At least the X370 has been given what's known as "Overclocking+" over the B350. Still, let's not judge a chipset by the cover.
Let's move on then.
The X370 Aorus Gaming 5
Now let's get this show truly on the way. Fortunately it was nice outside earlier even if it was a little cool and windy. A cool breeze, an ominous sign perhaps? We'll find out.
Oh, hello there chimp! What's that? Do I want a cup of tea? I certainly do! Very kind of you to offer, could you just sit on that box for a moment first? Thanks.
So this is what you can expect the X370 Aorus Gaming 5 to come in, looks pretty nice doesn't it? It feels nice too. I can't say I'm a fan of just how little protection the board is offered, anti-static bag along with a thin, elevated cardboard shell which when lifted out reveals the included accessories and user manual with driver DVD, but top marks for presentation at least. As long as you're chosen supplier packages everything well there shouldn't be any problems.
Here we have the board itself, Phases look to be 6+4 which should be able to provide a good deal of power when Overclocking, the board is a very nice and clean design, and the board also has LED lights along with PCI-E and DIMM slot strengtheners. Has anyone ever physically broken a DIMM bank or PCI-E slot? No? I thought not. I wonder if there's anything that has been sacrificed in order to accommodate these features. We will find out.
There are issues that need mentioning however, I don't like the placement of the M.2 slot, no sir, not one bit. Why would you put one component that can possibly get quite toasty next to a GPU that will get very toasty? I also don't like that THREE fan headers are stuffed on the bottom right-hand corner of the board, that will make working with it on systems that use a good number of fans far more awkward than it needs to be, thanks to this poor fan header layout there's going to be a lot of folks needlessly having to use extra splitters.
The Mosfet heatsinks are not using a heatpipe either, but the heatsinks are quite sturdy so maybe we will be ok here, we'll find out later. I can't say the design of the heatsinks from a functional perspective fills me with a particularly warm fuzzy feeling, despite them looking quite robust. The soldered EEPROM chips while looking neater than the socket variety I don't like, you can't replace either of those should one of them physically fail like you can the socket variety, but at least there's a backup.
That shroud you see over the I/O ports obscuring one of the Mosfet heatsinks is plastic. I don't like it, not least because it is obstructing airflow over the VRM heatsink. Plastic in such abundance on something that is supposed to be a premium product just looks tacky, and yes it is a premium product, it uses the top tier X370 chipset for AM4. That makes the board top tier too.
The included accessories with the Aorus Gaming 5 are certainly nothing to get excited about the most notable thing is the inclusion of 2x sensors. The included SATA cables are also reduced to less than adequate, the board has 8x SATA ports and only includes 4x SATA cables. I'll be scoring on that. When you are getting sticker sheets and accessories like Velcro ties even the manufacturer must know it's a weak accessories bundle. For 170 pounds, and that's the lowest price I've seen with the average price being 200-230 pounds at etailers right now, the accessories are lacking. This light bundle is what I would expect to get with a much cheaper board, by which I mean one of the B350s you can pick up for 100 pounds or so. We now know what took a hit in order to add the LEDs and rather useless (albeit nice looking) DIMM and PCI-E slot strengtheners to the board.
First impressions are a mixed bag then, quality of the board appears good but with some missteps, and the accessories bundle leaves a lot to be desired with not even enough included SATA cables for all of the SATA ports the board has.
Laid to Bare
This section is where I pull everything off of the board to scrutinise it in detail, so let's take a look at what keeps this board cool, and if there are any major issues.
Let's start with an overview, shall we? On a positive note the 6+4 phase design looks good, there's proper audio caps for the dual ALC1220 CODEC, the stock AMD mounting mechanism works for both clip springs and screw downs, albeit I wonder why AMD didn't design one mounting mechanism for all of their Wraith coolers. It would be easy enough to do and save them money in the long run. The board looks a lot better for removing those nasty cheap pieces of plastic too, and while I'm not a proponent of LED lights on mainboards I'm sure they will look nice. My concerns for the Mosfet heatsinks are also partially alleviated, the heatsinks themselves look adequate but they could be far, far, better for little to no extra cost on Gigabytes part.
The first thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is that the piece of plastic covering the dual ALC1220 CODECs isn't going to provide any EMI shielding to help guard against crosstalk from other components. Just what exactly is that bare piece of plastic supposed to shield against Gigabyte? If you are going to put something over the audio components make it worth the effort, use some EMI shielding. It's cheap.
The next thing to stand out is the apparent contact the Mosfet heatsinks make, or lack thereof. Those Mosfets will cook themselves good under load without much better contact. I'll be scoring on that, poor thermodynamics.
Finally let's talk about the thermal solution itself for a moment. While I can't tell you the exact grade of the thermal pads I can tell you it will be "middling grade", because that's what all manufacturers use for stock components. This means that the pads probably have 3.2W/m-K properties, not particularly stellar, especially as far as those poor, starved of good contact, Mosfets go. The chipset likely won't fair too well either, not where the thermal pad is inadequate in that case, but because the heatsink itself is just inefficient. It is literally just a lump of metal with a hole though it's centre, no fins, nothing. It's just a bad heatsink from a thermodynamics perspective.
It's quite ironic that Gigabyte put that huge Aorus heatsink on when something smaller (thus cheaper for Gigabyte) following standard thermodynamic design, would perform better.
Now for some closer up images, because I know you all want it.
The VRMs are not the best quality on the AX370 Gaming 5 (or 7), they are PowIRstage, I could not find out any details about amperage but assuming they are on-par with NextFET IR3553s they will handle up to 240A. This makes high grade thermal pads and proper contact from the heatsinks essential in my opinion given the uncertainty in the exact quality of these VRMs particularly as I noted quite unstable CPU voltage. Every little helps.
With a new platform comes a new test setup.
CPU: AMD Zen 1700
Mainboard: Gigabyte X370 Aorus Gaming 5
RAM: 2x8GB G.Skill RipjawsV 3200MHz 15-15-15-35
GPU: 4GB GTX 980 @ 1.5GHz, 7.6GHz memory
Storage: 250GB Hynix SL301 SATA SSD, WD 120GB M.2 SATA SSD (OS drive), 2TB Seagate Barracuda
Opticals: 24x Lite-On iHAS324 DVD-RW, 16x HP BH40N Blu-Ray
Sound: Xonar DX 7.1, Dual Realtek ALC1220
PSU: EVGA 1000w Supernova G2
OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 (latest ISO) and all updates
Case: NZXT Phantom 530
Intel LAN: v22.0.1
Killer LAN: v1.0.1028
GPU: GeForce ForceWare 378.72
Realtek Audio Driver: R2.81
Xonar DX Audio Driver: unixonar 1823
Asmedia USB3.1: v220.127.116.11
**IMPORTANT NOTE!!** Gigabyte only list the ancient 18.104.22.168 driver on their website, installing it caused a near instant BSOD. Go download the ASM1143 22.214.171.124 driver instead.
There we have it, a new beast for a new age. Let the tests begin.
Storage Performance: SATA HDD, SATA SSD, M.2
A quick on-point test now to check there's nothing out of the ordinary going on.
So starting with the most boring device then we see the Seagate Barracuda 2TB 7200RPM mechanical drive performing within normal boundaries, nothing to really see here.
Having a peek now at a SK Hynix SL301 250GB SATA SSD we see some rather good numbers, once again nothing out of the ordinary to report.
Lastly the overview for the 120GB Western Digital Green M.2 drive, which is a rebadged SanDisk. I don't see anything out of the ordinary here either, performance for a 120GB SSD seems right around the mark it should be.
Overall performance of storage devices seem to be slightly down but nothing I would consider worth being worried about. AM4 is a new platform that is bound to have some minor kinks to be ironed out still.
Benchmarks - SMT ON
This portion of the review has taken far longer than it should have, namely due to how fickle the Gaming 5s UEFI currently is. In an attempt to keep results as consistent as possible the CPU multiplier has been set to 37.25 so the Zen 1700 constantly runs at a maximum stock boost frequency of 3.7GHz, actual speed is a touch over that at 3717MHz.
First up then, AIDA64 shows reasonable results for Read, Write and Copy tests although I did think these results would be a little higher. On the whole I don't think there's anything to particularly worry about here though.
Latency seems right on the money for this point in time, no worries here.
It's good to report that single and multi-thread performance puts in a strong showing from the CPU-Z benchmark. Zen is looking rather promising.
I was unsure if I wanted to include these results as I don't like comparing a Quad CPU with an Octa-core CPU, they are in totally different leagues. In the end I decided they merited inclusion but as I don't have at least a Hex intel equivalent CPU to hand the i5 3570k will have to do.
Geekbench once again shows Zen being an absolute monster of a CPU, that single thread score is almost as high as a 3570k clocked to 4.5GHz, and the Zen 1700 is doing that at only 3.7GHz, impressive.
Without question, the Zen 1700 simply wrecks the overclocked i5 3570k here, there's really nothing else to comment about.
Using the Xeon X5650, a 12 core, 24 thread part, from Cinebench for comparison, it's yet another strong showing for the Zen 1700 on the Aorus Gaming 5.
Ignore the latency bug results in the stalker graph the issue has since been resolved
Here we have our final overall system benchmark test, Stalker - Call of Pripyat is based on X-Ray engine 1.6. The engine is notorious for the heavy load it puts not only on the GPU but CPU and memory as well making it an exceptional choice in identifying a weakness in any of these areas.
As we see in these results there is another strong showing. The sooner AMD and manufacturers fix memory latency shortcomings by adding more timing options the better as I can see some nice gains here if / when that is done.
Another more system orientated test now, these are once again some solid numbers but I had expected to see a little higher, there is still work to be done with the platform yet.
Moving on then let's have a look at how performance is with a few physics tests, we see that Zen completely wipes the floor with the 3570k. Anyone with a similar system can be safe in the knowledge that there is a significant performance improvement to be had here.
The tricky bit here really is trying to find a few pages with anything interesting as the Gaming 5 UEFI is positively barren. There are not even basic options to disable on-board devices such as the audio or LAN. All screenshots have been captured from UEFI F5c. As of UEFI F10 very, very little has changed or been added
Overclocking options up first;
Gigabyte can't be faulted for the lack of memory options at this stage it's the same for every AM4 board. What must be of some embarrassment for Gigabyte though is the UEFI being barren of other OC features such as spread spectrum control which would add a bit of wiggle room to help make up a bit for the lack of a clock generator chip. Since AGESA 126.96.36.199b AMD have added many more memory options.
Now let's have a look at the general BIOS and peripheral options;
More or less your standard fare here, although the question does have to be asked; just where are the options to turn off on-board devices such as audio and LAN? The answer to that is that there aren't any. Not yet anyway. F9d has the option to enable or disable audio
Let's take a look at the chipset and fan options;
Oh good lord, there aren't even any Southbridge options for power saving features. What's going on over there Gigabyte? ..and as of F10 there still isn't any access to the chipset options.
Our final screen brings us to the options for fan profiles, well, at least we have more than a handful of options unlike everywhere else we have looked, it's practically an all you can eat buffet in this menu.
It has to be said the current state of the AX370 Gaming 5 UEFI is nothing short of a monumental disappointment, and it looks untidy with all those duplicate entries that I'm told are "by design". Ok Gigabyte, I get it, you think people have the worlds shortest memory span. Personally I think people just want some actual useful options not to be told the same thing two or three times over in different menus, agreed? The UEFI distinctly has that look and feeling of being very rushed and poorly thought out. It's also ugly and clunky to use.
What would be wrong with having options like USB support, PS2 device support, chipset power saving features, spread spectrum, spread spectrum options, HPET and USB power down options available for the user to adjust as needed? All of those options appear to be in the UEFI and functioning, their just hidden, I've checked with my own AMI tools Gigabyte. So why aren't they available to the user? Don't treat us like idiots.
As we approach the final part of this review we will take a look at the Overclocking abilities of the Gigabyte AX370 Gaming 5. Below is the result I was able to get with SMT ON, if Gigabyte are willing to put in the necessary time to mature the AX370 Gaming 5s UEFI I can see it being a capable overclocker, but time will tell on that front. I would try other DDR4 kits but the other kits sitting around are definitely not compatible with AM4, at least at this time.
No matter what voltage or combination of settings we tried with the stock F5c UEFI and the extremely limited options within it we could not pass 3.95GHz and be stable. The results themselves are also fairly unexpected, they are inconsistent. Current compatibility issues are more than likely the culprit here. Hopefully as the AGESA code matures it will help with overclocking to some extent in all areas. It was also noted that CPU voltage never remained all that stable, constantly bouncing between 1.32v and 1.39v with a set voltage of 1.35v.
With the modded F5c UEFI I made, 4.1GHz so far would appear to be stable. We got these speeds with nothing more than 1.4v, the stock AMD Wraith Spire running full speed and some Coollaboratory Liquid Ultra.
There are hints that 4.2GHz could be stable too but we need a better cooler for that, unfortunately none of the AIO liquid coolers sitting on the shelf have AM4 brackets available for them at this time.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that I used the BIOS/UEFI tools at my disposal to fix up Gigabytes UEFI given the state it's in right now but I won't be releasing any modded UEFI for now, I'm going to give Gigabyte the chance to sort the UEFI out, we'll see how that goes. As of UEFI F10, its still in just as bad of a shape as back in March, with the exception of one or two extra options and a lot more memory timing options. All work done by AMD in the AGESA code. Gigabyte have contributed next to nothing.
As always I will be objective about my conclusion, basing it on available data. As such this makes it a tricky one, so this conclusion is going to be a little long. I'll start with the AX370 Gaming 5 itself from a hardware perspective. From this angle I do genuinely really like the board, it does have a lot going for it even the LED lights, something I generally do not favour as I always worry more time has been spent on looks rather than raw functionality, I enjoyed. Minor missteps aside such as that nasty plastic shroud over the VRMs, no EMI shielding over the dual ALC1220 audio CODECs that Gigabyte seem so proud of, and what I would consider questionable VRM quality and not really quite enough of them (it should be 6+6 in my opinion) the physical side of the board is really quite good. The board also did not brick itself like the Asus C6H (test board I had died after around 5 POSTs), so that's something.
Where the AX370 Gaming 5 is phenomenally let down though is with the UEFI, the most feature rich part of the UEFI, and I would hope is a sign of things to come, are all the options available for tailoring fan speeds. Aside from that the UEFI is stripped down and devoid of almost everything, the layout is pretty clunky, there are duplicate entries in menus "by design" that I simply cannot explain (I'm still not buying that excuse Gigabyte), and apparently redundant options for various settings, or at the very least options that need renaming to put their function in to some sort of perspective. I don't feel it's fair to comment on the overclocking capability of the board due to the limited UEFI options at this time, along with early teething problems encountered either. While all manufacturers are having issues with their AM4 boards right now they all at least have a far more feature rich UEFI along with a considerably less clunky appearance.
So that brings us to price, at time of review some googling reveals in the UK this board, as I mentioned earlier, retails for anywhere between 170 to 230 pounds, the cheapest place being AWD-IT, props to them for the board for testing. So if you wanted to take your chances and hope the UEFI significantly improves that would be the place to buy from. I was genuinely enthusiastic about testing the AX370 Gaming 5 but the nigh-empty UEFI sours the whole experience considerably. At 170 pounds the board is placed right in the middle price-wise in terms of the X370 boards you can buy and should you choose to buy from whoever your tried and trusted etailer may be instead of AWD-IT you are likely going to be looking at 200 pounds or more, this board is meant to be high end and has a price to match that. However at this time I can't in good conscience recommend you all rush out and buy this board. The many small shortcomings, and the big one of the severely under developed UEFI that looks like it hasn't even made it out of alpha testing stages yet make it a board to keep a eye on and monitor it's UEFI development at best.
In closing, I will address this to every manufacturer out there producing, or going to produce, AM4 mainboards; You knew when Zen was going to arrive, you surely knew a lot of people were going to be interested in Zen, you should of dedicated more resources to the development of the new AM4 boards and taken initiative to ensure the boards would be in a far more retail ready state than they are. You did none of that, instead putting (probably) almost all of your resources in to the Z270 boards. Do not leave the AMD consumers high and dry. Now do your jobs, step up, and sort your respective messes out with your AM4 boards.
Hardware Functionality & Quality: 16 / 20
Accessories: 5/ 10
Board Aesthetics: 10 / 10
UEFI Functionality & Quality: 14 / 30
Performance: 26 / 30
Final Score: 71%