GIGABYTE AORUS AX370-Gaming 5 Motherboard Review

At long last we've finally got a full retail AM4 motherboard on hand to put through its paces. GIGABYTE's AX370-Gaming 5 is probably one of the best bets on an AM4 system right now. Unfortunately, that path will have a few bumps in the road. We fill in all the gaps and let you know what to look for.

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UEFI

Ordinarily I wouldn’t say this but the state of the UEFI on all AM4 motherboards leaves much to be desired. Time and time again I encountered various UEFI quirks and issues covering a broad range of problems. As a result, our coverage of the UEFI will encompass some of those challenges as well as cover the user experience. Keep in mind that the UEFI situation is improving steadily but the current state of things is far from ideal. Keep this in mind when considering the socket AM4 platform.

GIGABYTE’s AX370 Gaming G5 use two licensed 128Mbit American Megatrends Inc. UEFI ROMs. These support GIGABYTE’s DualBIOS feature, Q-Flash, and the following standards: PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0. Over the course of this review I used several UEFI versions. Version F5c was used for all screenshots and testing was split between version F3N and F5c. Benchmarks were done using F3N while all subsystem testing was done using F5c. Overclocking was done using version F5g. What’s interesting is that F5g uses older AGESA code with broader memory compatibility. This was provided by GIGABYTE and is not available to the public. Currently, F5d is the latest iteration available on the GIGABYTE website. According to the notes I have from GIGABYTE, this UEFI version is limited to 2400MHz speeds when using 4 DIMMs.

Ordinarily, I'd be telling you in a nice roundabout way how the UEFI is annoyingly deep and how I'm only going to bother with very specific portions of it for brevity and because a lot of it is uninteresting. Today I can't quite say that. While I'm sticking to the important parts of the UEFI, I feel it; fair to say that the UEFI on the AX370 Gaming 5 isn't very deep. In fact, it's shallow compared to what we are used to seeing. That said, I don't think this is the problem it might perceive it to be outside of the memory settings.

On an Intel based motherboard one would be presented with a myriad of tuning options. Most of which will do exactly nothing positive regarding your overclocking experience. There are probably only a dozen settings of value give or take on some motherboards. I tend to have to adjust only around 5 to reach the processor's full potential. In part, motherboard manufacturers simply open a lot of variables in the UEFI for manual adjustment because enthusiasts like this and expect it. The reality is that the automatic rules are usually sufficient for 90% of these values. Of course, the motherboard manufacturers are very adept at tuning these systems for the best results. This is of course due to the lack of changes that Intel makes over the years and the fact that these manufacturers have had plenty of time to focus their finite resources on those designs. Most motherboards in the same family have a UEFI that's 98% identical across their entire product line.

MD's underlying UEFI technology is called AMD's Generic Encapsulated Software Architecture or "AGESA." Code for this was reportedly released later than it should have been to motherboard manufacturers which in turn delayed many motherboards from hitting the market in any real quantity. There are definite quality issues with AMD's current AGESA version that limit memory clock speed, increase memory latency and could be responsible for some issues here and there. The big problem is that the final code didn't go out the door until well after the motherboard manufactures needed it for a smooth product launch.

At present the UEFI on the AX370 Gaming 5 and presumably many other motherboards lack the volume of settings we are used to seeing where it relates to memory. The memory timings menu for example gives you no access to sub-timings. Again, you rarely need to access these on any system but it's not even an option here. So, while the UEFI is laid out the same way it is on GIGABYTE's Z270 models, it's far from being as deep or as complete. There are several other problems that may or may not be UEFI related as well. This caused problems with my review experience which I'll get into a bit later.

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The user experience provided by the GIGABYTE AX370 Gaming 5’s UEFI is what we’ve come to expect from GIGABYTE as of late. This is generally a good thing. GIGABYTE has made great strides in improving its user experience and streamlining the experience. GIGABYTE added an Easy Mode that is similar to what ASUS and MSI have. I think GIGABYTE’s version is a little cleaner than ASUS’ although not as robust. Like ASUS’, GIGABYTE’s EZ Mode displays everything on one screen. Transitioning to the advanced mode is very easy and gives you far more configuration options.

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The standard categorical organization method is employed here as one would expect. At a glance, this UEFI could be mistaken for any found on the modern X99 or Z270 offerings. Generally, categories make sense and contain the settings they logically should have. The user experience is consistent, although not always so. At times, different input methods are required for some settings rather than a blanket method for everything. This is one area where GIGABYTE has shown tremendous improvement. Unfortunately, GIGABYTE still has a slight tendency to use sub-menus and bury settings more deeply than is necessary. I think this is done with the idea that it looks more organized but it has the opposite effect of hiding stuff so it isn’t as obvious.

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Compared to an Intel based solution, you will find that the GIGABYTE UEFI has less options for the CPU and almost nothing for the memory. I’ve already gone into why that is above so I won’t restate that here. Essentially, you can’t do more than configure the most basic DRAM latency values. As memory compatibility improves and AGESA code is updated we may see more settings opened up for the public to access. Again, we have fewer voltage options as well as many voltage options on a motherboard relate to memory and those are locked out and hidden from view. We also do not have the breadth of thermal protection options found on Intel motherboards. There are two types of load-line calibration and this is the opposite of what we have with the memory situation. These should practically be hard coded to "Extreme" and not allow for adjustment. Even at stock settings I found these adjustments were essential to achieve any kind of stability with this platform. Granted I’m working with a sample of two AX370 Gaming G5’s for what that’s worth.

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The PC health monitoring and fan control found on the Intel motherboards is present here which isn’t shocking. Fan controls are getting better and you can use DC or PWM control methods with all the onboard fan headers. Warning thresholds can also be defined here. The only things that are really missing are the fan dust remover and fan spin down / spin up speed controls. This is one area where GIGABYTE is deficient in my opinion. One thing I do like is that GIGABYTE has a context menu flyout that displays basic PC health information. It’s rather nice and unobtrusive when working in the UEFI.