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GIGABYTE AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Feature Testing: RGB Fusion

Feature Testing: RGB Fusion



Let's get this out of the way first, the AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 has by far the coolest LED lighting implementation of any motherboard that we have tested so far. There are RGB LEDs placed not only under the little plastic strip that covers the audio section, but under the chipset cooler, under the PCI-E x16 slots, and even near the CPU socket. There is also a really cool lighting strip on the top-right edge of the motherboard near the memory slots, and even a bunch of LEDs directly in between each memory slot. These different light zones can also be programmed to independently display different colours or effects.

There is also a header on which you can plug an aftermarket RGBW LED light strip. This is a neat addition since it replaces the need for a separate controller or power source. You can simply attach a standard 5050 LED strip to the included extension cable, and attach that cable to the header. This approach not only saves you money, and reduces clutter inside your system, but also gives you full control over that strip from inside the RGB Fusion application, which you can see below.


The RGB Fusion application allows users to control the RGB LEDs that are placed under the little plastic strip that covers the audio section, under the chipset cooler, under the PCI-E x16 slots, under the clear plastic strip near the memory slots, and even the bunch LEDs that are directly in between each memory slot. The LEDs can be adjusted to any number of different colours and customized to create cool lighting effects, like fading in and out, syncing with your music, cycling through all of the colours, flashing on and off, flashing sections randomly, or even just displaying one static colour.




Click on image to enlarge

As you can see, the overall effect is pretty stunning. That unique patterned light strip and the LEDs in-between the memory slots create a look that we have never seen before. They also aren't likely to be blocked by any components like the other LEDs usually are.

Once you do make use of the huge amount of customizability, you can create some very striking visuals that will add a ton of flair to your build. Check it out below:

<iframe width="700" height="394" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yZv0A885I78?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>​
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Feature Testing: Onboard Audio

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio


Since fewer and fewer consumers seem to be buying discrete sound cards, the quality of a motherboard's onboard audio is now more important than ever. As such, we figured that it was worthwhile to take a closer look at just how good the analog signal quality is coming out of the onboard AMP-UP audio subsystem that is implemented on the AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5. As mentioned earlier, this model features the brand new Realtek ALC1220 codec, a swappable Texas Instruments NE5532P op-amp, Nichicon Fine Gold audio capacitors, and a PCB-level isolation line.

Since isolated results don't really mean much, but we have also included some numbers from the plethora of motherboards that we have previously reviewed. While the budget GIGABYTE Z170-HD3 motherboard is based on the Realtek ALC887, a lower-end 7.1 channel HD audio codec, all of the other models feature onboard audio solutions that are built around the higher-end Realtek ALC1150 or ALC1220 codecs, but feature different op-amps, headphone amplifiers, filtering capacitors, secondary components and layouts.

We are going to do this using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, since sound quality isn't really something that can be adequately explained with only numbers. To do the quantitative portion, we have turned to RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA), which the standard application for this type of testing.

Since all modern motherboards support very high quality 24-bit, 192kHz audio playback we selected that as the sample mode option. Basically, what this test does is pipe the audio signal from the front-channel output to the line-in input via a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male mini-plug cable, and then RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) does the audio analysis. Obviously we disabled all software enhancements since they interfere with the pure technical performance that we are trying to benchmark.


All the hail to the King! This is literally the first motherboard that we have ever reviewed to receive an overall rating of "Excellent". While the ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme achieved superior results in a few key categories, what ultimately pushed the Z270X-Gaming 5 ahead was its incredibly low total harmonic distortion (THD). Looking back, not even one of the much pricier X99 LGA2011 motherboards was able to achieve this feat. Colour us impressed, especially since we were critical of GIGABYTE's decision not to add an EMI cover to the codec.

As we have mentioned in the past, at this high level there was no discernible difference in output quality between motherboards, at least not to our untrained ears. Using our usual mix of mix of Grado SR225i and Koss PortaPro headphones, Westone UM1 IEMs, and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speakers, the playback was clean and we could crank the volume up to well past enjoyable sound levels. As always, we aren't experts in this area, but we suspect that most owners will likewise be very happy with this motherboard's onboard audio capabilities.
 
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MAC

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Location
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Feature Testing: M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4

Feature Testing: M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4


One of the big advancements of the Skylake/Z170 LGA1151 platform was the fact that it brought the M.2 slot to the mainstream. Not only did it make this new storage connector available at a more reasonable price, but it was now properly implemented too. While most first-gen X99 LGA2011-v3 motherboards had an M.2 connector, many were speed limited or had a caveats list a mile long. All Z170 motherboard boasted about their "full speed" PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, and in our reviews those claims generally held up. With this new Z270 launch we expected similar performance levels from the M.2 slots, and that is what we are here to find out. While there still isn’t an M.2 SSD that can make full use of this interface's theoretical maximum bandwidth of 32Gbps (4GB/s), we settled on one that can crack the 2000MB/s barrier: the Samsung SSD 950 PRO 256GB.


Despite now being usurped by the SSD 960 PRO, this high performance NVMe PCI-E SSD combines Samsung's awesome UBX controller with its industry-leading 3D V-NAND and is capable sequential read speeds of up to 2,200MB/second and write speeds of up to 900MB/sec.

One of the ways that we will be evaluating the performance of a motherboard's M.2 interface is by verifying that is capable of matching or exceeding these listed transfer rates. The other is by checking to see whether it performs as well as when we install the SSD 950 PRO onto a ASUS Hyper M.2 x4 expansion card plugged directly into a PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot. The PCI-E lanes that the M.2 slot requires can come from either the processor or more usually the Z270 PCH, and we are interested to see how well that lane splitting was implemented and whether it is causing any performance issues.

One of the coolest aspects of the Z270X-Gaming 5 is the fact that it features two M.2 connectors, which can mean less cable management issues if you decide to ditch wired storage. Although you can RAID the two together, we aren't going to be able to test that out since we don't have another SSD 950 PRO laying around. Nevertheless, we are interested in determining whether there is a performance difference between both connectors.


M.2 top vs M.2 bottom vs PCI-E

As can see, the performance of the two M.2 slots on the Z270X-Gaming 5 was excellent. They both performed pretty consistently with each other, and they came within 1% of the performance of the PCI-E slot, which is will within benchmark variances.

While transfer rates are obviously an important metric, we figured that it was also worthwhile to take a peak at instructions per second (IOPS) to ensure that there wasn't any variance there either:

M.2 top vs M.2 bottom vs PCI-E

Once again, the differences are essentially non-existent and well within the margin of error for this benchmark. As a result, we think that it is fair to say that the M.2 interface on the Z270X-Gaming 5 has been very well implemented and should ensure that you get optimal performance from any current or future M.2 x4 solid state drives.
 

MAC

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Auto & Manual Overclocking Results

Auto & Manual Overclocking Results


It wouldn't be an HWC review if we didn't include some overclocking results, so we thoroughly tested this motherboard's capabilities, especially its auto-overclocking functionality. There won't be any ground breaking insights on how to overclock Kaby Lake - since it's just Skylake Plus - but our personal pointers are to increase the Vcore up to around 1.35V if you're cooling can handle it, while increasing the VCCIO up to 1.20V, and the System Agent voltage up to 1.25V if you plan on increasing the cache or memory frequency. If you are trying to achieve the highest possible DDR4 memory speeds, increasing the VCCIO to 1.25V and vSA to 1.35V might be worth trying out. These last two are really only needed if you plan on seriously pushing the Uncore/cache frequency or the memory frequency. On the memory front, we are sticking with (up to) 1.40V in order to alleviate any possible bottlenecks and to stay inline with all our previous DDR4 reviews. By the way, if you have an unlocked K-series processor, there's no reason to go crazy increasing the BCLK if you can achieve similar results by just tweaking the various multipliers instead.


Auto Overclocking


The Z270X-Gaming 5 features three types of automatic overclocking, two software-based and one BIOS-based. Within the EasyTune utility, there is a OC preset and the more intelligent and supposedly more capable AutoTuning feature. The OC preset is super simple; you just click on the icon, the system reboots and the overclock is applied. AutoTuning is a "smart" auto-overclocking feature in that it doesn't utilize presets. Instead, AutoTuning slowly increases the system frequencies and voltages, and does some stress testing at each level until it finds the limit. It then initiates a reboot to lock-in the overclock. The whole process takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Let's take a look at the software approaches first:


Click on image to enlarge

As indicated under the icon, the OC preset increased the core clock to 4.7GHz, which is a decent 500MHz upgrade from the Core i7-7700K's 4.2GHz default. However, it did set a needlessly high 1.38Vcore. Obviously, GIGABYTE is applying this much voltage just to ensure that even the worst Kaby Lake chips can reach this frequency, but most chips won't need anywhere near that much juice. As we have come to expect from 'dumb' presets, there was also no overclock applied to either the memory or cache.

Next, let's check out AutoTuning:


Click on image to enlarge

Much to our surprise, AutoTuning returned an overclock that was identical to the OC preset. Usually, it achieves at least a 100-200MHz higher CPU core clock. As usual, AutoTuning failed to recognize our memory kit's XMP profile and as a result kept memory frequency and timings remained at default levels. On the plus side, at least it lowered the Vcore a few notches.

Next, we have the BIOS-based automatic overclocking option called CPU Upgrade:


Click on image to enlarge

As you might expect, we went straight to the most aggressive CPU Upgrade preset that was available. In this case, it was 5.0GHz for our Core i7-7700K. Not only did it boot up and load Windows on our first attempt, but it was fully stable at a remarkably reasonable 1.38V. It is weird that both of the software-based approaches used a similar voltage and achieved lower clocks, but either way we are glad to see one of the three options achieve an excellent result. We do once again wish that it had applied some kind of memory or cache overclock.


Manual Overclocking


Click on image to enlarge

Since our chip needs a lot of voltage to reach 5.1Ghz, we decided to stick to 5.0GHz and instead focus our manual overclocking endeavours on lowering the Vcore a bit and increasing cache and memory performance. With this in mind, we were able to lower the voltage down to 1.356V without losing any stability. This lowered the heat output, and allowed us to overvolt/overclock the cache without worrying about temps getting out of control. As you can see, we settled on 4.6GHz for the cache - up from the stock 4.2GHz - and this additional headroom came in handy when it came to extracting the most possible bandwidth from our G.Skill Trident Z F4-3866C18D-16GTZ memory kit. This motherboard was indeed able to apply this memory kit's DDR4-3866 XMP profile, but that was the limit. When we tried our Corsair DDR4-4000 kit, the motherboard would try to apply the XMP profile, but instead of failing and crashing it would instead just set a lower DDR4-3600 speed. It's a more elegant solution than we have seen in the past, but we would still like to see this model reach 4000 mark easily. After all, "DDR4-4000+ XMP Ready" is written on the motherboard's packaging.

Now having said that, once we decided to use the DDR4-3866 XMP settings as a launching point, we were able to manually achieve a slightly higher memory speed:

Memory Overclocking


Click on image to enlarge

As you can see, we ultimately managed to hit a solid DDR4-3944, and almost reached an incredible 53GB/s of read bandwidth. Anything past that threw up SuperPI errors. Loosening the memory timings and increasing the memory voltage didn't change anything, nor did switching to our Corsair DDR4-4000 kit. Therefore, we suspect that GIGABYTE have a little optimizing left to do, which they have assured us that they are doing, and we have see some progress in the BETA BIOSes.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System and Gaming Benchmarks sections, we reveal the results from a number of benchmarks run with the Core i7-7700K and AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 at default clocks, with two different DDR4 memory speeds, with the two best automatic overclocks, and using own our manual overclock. This will illustrate how much performance can be achieved with this motherboard in stock and overclocked form. For a thorough comparison of the Core i7-7700K versus a number of different CPUs have a look at our "Intel Kaby Lake i7-7700K & i5-7600K Review" article.


SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP


When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. We are running one instance of SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP. This is therefore a single-thread workload.



wPRIME 2.10


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload.



Cinebench R15


Cinebench R15 64-bit
Test1: CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R15 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.



WinRAR x64


WinRAR x64 5.40
Test: Built-in benchmark, processing 1000MB of data.
Comparison: Time to Finish

One of the most popular file archival and compression utilities, WinRAR's built-in benchmark is a great way of measuring a processor's compression and decompression performance. Since it is a memory bandwidth intensive workload it is also useful in evaluating the efficiency of a system's memory subsystem.





FAHBench


FAHBench 1.2.0
Test: OpenCL on CPU
Comparison: Generated Score

FAHBench is the official [email protected] benchmark that measures the compute performance of CPUs and GPUs. It can test both OpenCL and CUDA code, using either single or double precision, and implicit or explicit modeling. The single precision implicit model most closely relates to current folding performance.




HEVC Decode Benchmark v1.61


HEVC Decode Benchmark (Cobra) v1.61
Test: Frame rates at various resolution, focusing on the top quality 25Mbps bitrate results.
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

The HEVC Decode Benchmark measures a system's HEVC video decoding performance at various bitrates and resolutions. HEVC, also known as H.265, is the successor to the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) standard and it is very computationally intensive if not hardware accelerated. This decode test is done entirely on the CPU.




LuxMark v3.1


Test: OpenCL CPU Mode benchmark of the LuxBall HDR scene.
Comparison: Generated Score

LuxMark is a OpenCL benchmarking tool that utilizes the LuxRender 3D rendering engine. Since it OpenCL based, this benchmark can be used to test OpenCL rendering performance on both CPUs and GPUs, and it can put a significant load on the system due to its highly parallelized code.




PCMark 8


PCMark 8 is the latest iteration of Futuremark’s system benchmark franchise. It generates an overall score based upon system performance with all components being stressed in one way or another. The result is posted as a generalized score. In this case, we tested with both the standard Conventional benchmark and the Accelerated benchmark, which automatically chooses the optimal device on which to perform OpenCL acceleration.



AIDA64 Memory Benchmark

AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a diagnostic and benchmarking software suite for home users that provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives.

The benchmarks used in this review are the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks. Memory bandwidth benchmarks (Memory Read, Memory Write, Memory Copy) measure the maximum achievable memory data transfer bandwidth. The code behind these benchmark methods are written in Assembly and they are extremely optimized for every popular AMD, Intel and VIA processor core variants by utilizing the appropriate x86/x64, x87, MMX, MMX+, 3DNow!, SSE, SSE2, SSE4.1, AVX, and AVX2 instruction set extension.
The Memory Latency benchmark measures the typical delay when the CPU reads data from system memory. Memory latency time means the penalty measured from the issuing of the read command until the data arrives to the integer registers of the CPU.


 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks



Futuremark 3DMark (2013)


3DMark v1.1.0
Graphic Settings: Fire Strike Preset
Rendered Resolution: 1920x1080
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark is the brand new cross-platform benchmark from the gurus over at Futuremark. Designed to test a full range of hardware from smartphones to high-end PCs, it includes three tests for DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 hardware, and allows users to compare 3DMark scores with other Windows, Android and iOS devices. Most important to us is the new Fire Strike preset, a DirectX 11 showcase that tests tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Like every new 3DMark version, this test is extremely GPU-bound, but it does contain a heavy physics test that can show off the potential of modern multi-core processors.




Futuremark 3DMark 11


3DMark 11 v1.0.5
Graphic Settings: Extreme Preset
Resolution: 1920x1080
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark 11 is Futuremark's very latest benchmark, designed to tests all of the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. At the moment, it is lot more GPU-bound than past versions are now, but it does contain a terrific physics test which really taxes modern multi-core processors.




Futuremark 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage v1.1.2
Graphic Settings: Performance Preset
Resolution: 1280x1024

Test: Specific CPU Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score

3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses DirectX 10 exclusively so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about this benchmark. Along with being a very capable graphics card testing application, it also has very heavily multi-threaded CPU tests, such Physics Simulation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which makes it a good all-around gaming benchmark.




Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark


Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
Resolution: 1920x1080
Anti-Aliasing: 4X
Anisotropic Filtering: 8X
Graphic Settings: High

Comparison: Particle Performance Metric

Originally intended to demonstrate new processing effects added to Half Life 2: Episode 2 and future projects, the particle benchmark condenses what can be found throughout HL2:EP2 and combines it all into one small but deadly package. This test does not symbolize the performance scale for just Episode Two exclusively, but also for many other games and applications that utilize multi-core processing and particle effects. This benchmark might be a little old, but is still very highly-threaded and thus will keep scaling nicely as processors gain more and more threads. As you will see the benchmark does not score in FPS but rather in its own "Particle Performance Metric", which is useful for direct CPU comparisons.




X3: Terran Conflict


X3: Terran Conflict 1.2.0.0
Resolution: 1920x1080
Texture & Shader Quality: High
Antialiasing 4X
Anisotropic Mode: 8X
Glow Enabled

Game Benchmark
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

X3: Terran Conflict (X3TC) is the culmination of the X-series of space trading and combat simulator computer games from German developer Egosoft. With its vast space worlds, intricately detailed ships, and excellent effects, it remains a great test of modern CPU performance. While the X3 Reality engine is single-threaded, it provides us with an interesting look at performance in an old school game environment.




Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Benchmark


Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward
Resolution: 1920x1080
Texture & Shader Quality: Maximum IQ
DirectX 11
Fullscreen

Game Benchmark
Comparison: Generated Score

Square Enix released this benchmarking tool to rate how your system will perform in Heavensward, the expansion to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This official benchmark software uses actual maps and playable characters to benchmark gaming performance and assign a score to your PC.





Grand Theft Auto V


DirectX Version: DirectX 11
Resolution: 1920x1080
FXAA: On
MSAA: X4
NVIDIA TXAA: Off
Anisotropic Filtering: X16
All advanced graphics settings off.

In GTA V, we utilize the handy in-game benchmarking tool. We do ten full runs of the benchmark and average the results of pass 3 since they are the least erratic. We do additional runs if some of the results are clearly anomalous. The Rockstar Advanced Game Engine (RAGE) is ostensibly multi-threaded, but it definitely places the bulk of the CPU load on only one or two threads.





Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor


Resolution: 1920x1080
Graphical Quality: Custom
Mesh/Shadow/Texture Filtering/Vegetation Range: Ultra
Lighting/Texture Quality/Ambient Occlusion: High
Depth of Field/Order Independent Transparency/Tesselation: Enabled

With its high resolution textures and several other visual tweaks, Shadow of Mordor’s open world is also one of the most detailed around. This means it puts massive load on graphics cards and should help point towards which GPUs will excel at next generation titles. We do three full runs of the benchmark and average the results.


 
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MAC

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Location
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Voltage Regulation / Power Consumption

Voltage Regulation

Since it is a gaming-oriented model, we aren't surprised that the Z270X-Gaming 5 does not have any onboard voltage measurement points, which is what we usually rely on in order to accurately measure the various system voltages. As a result, in this abbreviated overview, we utilized the AIDA64 System Stability Test to put a very substantial load on the system while also monitoring the stability of the all-important CPU vCore line. This was achieved with a 90 minute stress test, and in order to increase the strain on the motherboard's voltage regulation components we overclocked our Core i7-7700K to 4.8Ghz at 1.35V (in the BIOS). Although voltage droop is part Intel's specifications, we utilized the Load-Line Calibration (LLC) settings in order to see if this motherboard has what it takes to maintain a rock steady vCore line.


Although the above only represents an approximately 15 minute portion of the 90 minute run, we watched attentively throughout and there were never any serious dips or spikes. If you look attentively, there are about a dozen upward peaks, but that is just the vCore going to 1.360V and the dipping back to 1.356V. That might mean that the vCore line was not straight as a arrow, but that is a level of variation that we can definitely live with.


Power Consumption

For this section, every energy saving feature was enabled in the BIOS and the Windows power plan was changed from High Performance to Balanced. For our idle test, we let the system idle for 15 minutes and measured the peak wattage through our UPM EM100 power meter. For our CPU load test, we ran Prime 95 In-place large FFTs on all available threads, measuring the peak wattage via the UPM EM100 power meter. For our overall system load test, we ran Prime 95 on all available threads while simultaneously loading the GPU with 3DMark Vantage - Test 6 Perlin Noise.


When compared to the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, the AORUS did not distinguish itself with its power consumption numbers. If you look at the stock i7-7700K results, you can see that the ASRock has the AUROS beat in all three categories. When you look at the Manual OC results, the same holds true. Yes, the AORUS configuration had higher clocked memory, but that doesn't make up for the difference that we measured. Overall, plus or minus 10W is not exactly going to sway our motherboard purchasing decision, but if energy efficiency is a priority for you, do keep this in mind.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
1,141
Location
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Conclusion

Conclusion


While we don't yet have a strong opinion about the AORUS brand itself, since the name on the product doesn't matter to us as much as who is manufacturing it, so far everything looks very good. Since we are completely unoriginal, we would go so far as to say that the AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5 exudes a downright GIGABYTE-esque quality. The premium focus of the brand is going to be even more apparent on the higher-end models that feature built-in liquid cooling support, Creative-based onboard audio, additional RGB LED lighting, and more.

Having said that, the model that we have reviewed today is certainly no slouch. It has industry-leading RGB LED lighting, an excellent onboard audio implementation, strong overclocking capabilities, good storage and networking connectivity, a user-friendly layout, a rich software suite, and a ton of little add-on features that are easy to overlook, but that are ultimately extremely useful.


While we will talk about the motherboard point-by-point below, let us first start off by relisting the essential specs: 11-phase CPU power design, three steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, six SATA 6Gb/s ports or three SATA Express ports, one U.2 port, and a pair of full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slots. There are also two high-speed USB 3.1 ports, one Type-A and one Type-C, up to eight USB 3.0 ports, up six USB 2.0 ports, and two gigabit LAN ports. One of these ports is powered by an Intel controller, while the other runs off the newest Killer E2500 gaming-oriented LAN controller. The useful little add-ons that we referenced earlier are things like the two physical BIOS chips, the debug LED display, the six onboard temperature sensors and two temperature sensor headers, the two high current fan headers that support water pumps, and even the fact that they managed to shoehorn an RGB LED between a couple of power chokes, but more of that later.

As usual, it is our job after all, we do have a few points of contention. While we love Displayport and HDMI video outputs, a DVI-D would have been nice as well for those with slightly older monitors. Another slight shortcoming is that only three of the seven USB Type-A ports on the rear I/O panel are USB 3.0 or above. Whether this is an issue depends on exactly what you are trying to plug back there. Having said that, there are two internal USB 3.0 headers, so with the help of your case you could have an additional four USB 3.0 Type-A ports. Lastly, while this wasn't really on our radar before, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 opened our eyes to the fact that an M.2 Key E slot is a really nice addition that empowers those who want to add wireless connectivity to their system, without having to resort to expensive and/or flaky USB adapters.

That being said, for those who are die-hard hard-wired connection aficionados, this omission won't mean much at all. The last, but certainly not least, point of contention is the puzzling decision not to include an SLI bridge in the accessories bundle, but to instead offer one for sale sometime in the future. This seems poorly thought out, if only when comparing to the competition. The ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6 not only includes an SLI bridge, but it includes an expensive high bandwidth SLI HB bridge. If ASRock can add that accessory to a motherboard that has a lower MSRP than the AORUS Z270X-Gaming 5, then certainly GIGABYTE could have found a way to include just a basic black ribbon bridge.

The RGB Fusion LED lighting feature that GIGABYTE have added to this model is without a doubt the best that we have ever seen that any motherboard thus far. Not because of the 16.8 million colours that it can display or even the type of lighting effects that it supports, but because of the original lighting zones that they have created. Yes, there are LEDs near the onboard audio section, and under the chipset cooler, but that's not special. The unique patterned light strip next to the memory slots, as well as the RGB LEDs in-between the actual memory slots create a unique look that we have never seen before. The LEDs near the power chokes around the CPU socket, and those directly under the two primary PCI-E x16 slots are also new locations for lighting. We have reviewed a handful of motherboards with lighting features, and this is easily the best. What's even cooler is that the higher-end AORUS models have even more lightning zones.

Now that we are done nerding out over the aesthetics, let's talk about overclocking. For this new generation, GIGABYTE have pared their automatic overclocking features from four down to three. While there used be both a Performance Upgrade and CPU Upgrade option in the UEFI BIOS, now there is just the CPU Upgrade. That is fine with us, since they never really achieved very different results anyways. Also, since the CPU Upgrade feature was able to push our Core i7-7700K all the way up to 5.0GHz at a very reasonable 1.356V, what else could we possibly ask for? Well...an automatic cache and memory overclock would be nice as well, but we can keep dreaming.

The two software-based approaches pushed our chip to 4.7GHz, but in both cases the voltage was higher than necessary. It was in fact higher than the 5.0GHz overclock. For our manual overclock, we decided to stay at 5.0GHz - this chip needs a lot of volts to reach to 5.1 - and instead work on lowering the Vcore, while pushing the cache and memory speeds up. We settled on 5.0GHz at 1.35V, with a 4.6GHz cache and the memory at DDR4-3866. The motherboard handled all of this without complaint. We separately decided to see how high we could push the memory, and ended up at pretty awesome DDR4-3944. That is very good, but since the packaging claims support for DDR4-4000+, it did come up short. We then tried a Corsair DDR4-4000 kit, and it wouldn't properly apply the XMP profile. Instead of failing to boot or crashing while loading Windows at DDR4-4000, it automatically set a lower DDR4-3600 speed. At least this motherboard knows its limitations. We are still using a pre-release BIOS, so we expect things to improve in the coming weeks.

In conclusion, it should be pretty clear that we really like this $200 motherboard. It's not for everyone - nothing is - but the positives significantly outweigh the negatives. This is especially true since the 'negatives' are just design choices, not actual problems. It looks good by itself, looks great with the RGB LEDs on, it has excellent audio capabilities, overclocks to our expectations, and the little usability extras are great. Overall, the Z270X-Gaming 5 is a 'Dam Good' introduction to AORUS.

 
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