ASUS ROG STRIX X470-I Gaming Motherboard Review

ASUS has another mini-ITX powerhouse on its hands, and this time its for AMD’s 2nd Generation Ryzen processors. The ASUS ROG STRIX X470-I Gaming promises a lot, and frankly we expect a lot from these motherboards. ASUS practically set the standard for enthusiast class mini-ITX motherboards and it has set the bar very high in the past.

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Motherboard Overclocking Software

ASUS continues to package the AI Suite III software with its motherboards. The software allows for tuning and PC health monitoring from within the Windows operating system environment. The ROG STRIX X470-I Gaming is no different. I’m generally a supporter of this software, although it isn’t perfect. The software is quite robust and offers a large amount of utility. AI Suite III offers more utility than any other similar software package does. ASUS’ fan tuning is the most feature-rich, and comprehensive of any software package bundled with a motherboard. Software features and functions that allow for automated performance tuning, manual performance tuning, power savings, fan control, and even the creation of overclocking profiles which are usable on a per application basis.

The biggest downside to the application is certain aspects of the design as it relates to navigation. Basic navigation from the main application window would seem relatively straightforward and it is so long as you’re only going forward into a specific category. If you want to return to the previous menu one must click the navigation bar which is poorly marked on the far left-hand side of the application window. The other element I find somewhat annoying is the way you reach the monitoring threshold settings. You click on the gear icon in the PC health readouts at the bottom in the top right-hand side of that quadrant. From there the thresholds for voltage temperature for fan speeds are provided. Simple sliders between the range of viable settings can be used to set both ends of the warning thresholds.

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PC health monitoring can always be seen in the bottom quarter of the application window. Each monitored category is divided into its own tile. These can be expanded by clicking the bottom right-hand corner which is highlighted in red. More comprehensive information is available when expanded. Many of these readouts are very intuitive and informative. I especially like the CPU usage monitor as it shows usage on a per core basis in a simple to read and aesthetically pleasing way.

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Despite the interfaces convoluted appearance it doesn’t take very long to get a grasp on how to navigate and utilize the software. To be honest most of utilities are offered on competing software packages from other vendors but as they say the devil's in the details. ASUS’ attention to detail in the way they implement certain features is a cut above the rest. The best examples of this are the automated overclocking function of AI Suite III and the fan control offered by Fan Xpert4.

The automated overclocking function is unique in that it doesn’t just set variables based on manufacturer’s preconfigured profiles. Instead, the software allows you to set your overclocking goal and parameters for how the system is to achieve it. You can even control the validation process for whether or not a setting is stable or not. Although not as comprehensive or as thorough as something like ASUS RealBench or Prime95, it’s generally a good indicator of whether or not the overclock is ultimately going to be successful. The automated overclocking feature is what ASUS calls 5-Way Optimization. Essentially, you can tell the software what your target clock frequency is while specifying voltage and temperature parameters which can be tuned alongside the fan speeds. Fan capabilities such as RPM range are automatically detected, and this can be tuned alongside the CPU clocks.

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It’s interesting because it’s an automated overclocking function but it allows for a great deal of guidance from the user. This is something we don’t see with any other software packages. Basically, you give the software some rules to work with and it figures out how to achieve your goal. Keep in mind you won’t break any overclocking records doing this. The software is only capable of so much. Regarding air and water cooling, I find that the software can usually get within one or 200 MHz of what is achievable via traditional overclocking methods implemented in the UEFI BIOS. However, on AMD processor-based systems this isn’t particularly useful as I’m always in the system achieve the most modest increase on AMD Ryzen based processors.

With manual tuning you can achieve 90% or more of what can be done via the BIOS using AI Suite III alone. You can create or load profiles from the TPU menu which is where manual tuning takes place. Simple sliders can be adjusted for various system voltages as well as the base clock ratio. The range on the low and high side is displayed on the left for each setting and arrows or a slider can be used to make the actual adjustment. Software also shows how many cores the settings are applied to. Software is capable of a lot of different things such as tuning for a single core or all cores. However, this functionality is restricted in some cases based on the capability of the platform the software is running on. It doesn’t allow for quite as much control over AMD processor-based systems as it does for Intel systems.

Fan control is another area where the software shines. Not only allows for auto tuning of fan performance but enables the user to physically define fan locations within the chassis and even create custom names for these. Function for altering the speed of fan changes is now referred to in the software’s fan smoothing. This is a recent change as it was previously called spin up and spin down speeds. This feature allows you to gradually change how fast fan speed changes occur based on system temperature. People who are not sensitive to fan noise can opt to change fan speeds instantly while others who find it annoying can have fan changes occur gradually, so they are less noticeable.

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Personally, I don’t care that much about how loud my system is as I can generally tune out the noise. However, I do not care for rapid fan speed changes as they are abrupt and very jarring. There annoying because they are so easily noticed and difficult to tune out. All fan headers on all modern ASUS motherboards that I’ve encountered allow for control via DC or PWM methods. This equates to smart and RPM fixed mode in the software. An auto fan stop function is also provided so that fans can be shut off completely when temperatures are good enough that the fans are not required. More recent versions of the software also display critical temperature warning thresholds. This information can be essential when plotting fan speeds on the graph. One can choose the duty cycle of the fan based on specific temperature ranges. These ranges are represented in blue green and red. Blue being lower temperature and bread being highest.

Another nice element of the software’s design is the amount of information provided for specific settings which could damage the system if used improperly. The DIGI+VRM menu is an example of this. Settings and their affect power components on the motherboard and information is provided in a dedicated pain on the right-hand side of the main application window. This tells you what the settings are used for and how to leverage them.

Honestly, if ASUS improve the navigation just slightly the software would be just about perfect. While the information displayed seems a bit much in the initial application window it’s easy to figure out. There isn’t as much of a learning curve is one might suspect from initial glance at the application. What ASUS needs to do is allow back and forward functions from either the mouse or the keyboard or simply by providing a back button in more sections of the application. Back buttons do exist for things like the Fan Xpert4 menu, but this is an inconsistent design element. The navigation bar is simply not well marked and first-time users of the application may find it hard to go back to another menu or to the main application window.

That said, while the AI Suite III software is very good at overclocking, I have a general preference for Intel’s XTU and AMD’s Ryzen Master software packages. Find those to be a bit more responsive, with a cleaner slightly more intuitive interface. There are also additional feature sets and those that are specific to overclocking which I find quite useful. I also like the fact that AMD and Intel’s tuning software is brand agnostic as it relates to motherboards.

ASUS Aura

ASUS’ Aura software is a separate utility from the AI Suite III software package. Its sole function is to control RGB LED lighting. Various visual effects and colors are available for onboard LEDs. Different visual effects styles have their own settings which may include brightness, color saturation, and effects speed. A basic color wheel has been provided to select colors quickly alongside an option to input RGB number values from 0 to 255 manually. ASUS also allows for control of LED color and behavior while the system is shut down and a separate configuration for when the system is powered on. This isn’t necessarily available on all motherboard models, but it is part of the software. ASUS is very good at hiding functions in a given piece of software when a specific motherboard model doesn’t support it.

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