Today's Hard|Forum Post
Today's Hard|Forum Post

GIGABYTE AX370 Gaming K7 AM4 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s AX370 Gaming K7 is in many ways the motherboard the AX370 Gaming 5 should have been. GIGABYTE has a habit of creating multiple SKUs with differences that are so minor that one can’t help but wonder why two separate models exist when they are almost indistinguishable from one another.

Introduction

GIGABYTE is one of the world’s largest motherboard manufacturers. GIGABYTE is best known for its motherboards but the company offers a diverse product line that spans other components such as graphics cards, peripherals, laptops, servers and more. GIGABYTE has even diversified its motherboard brand along with the rest of its products. It’s AORUS brand is specifically targeted at gamers and computing enthusiasts.

Given the almost identical PCB and feature set, the AX370 Gaming K7 review is going to come off more like a comparison piece between the two motherboards. Frankly, there is a lot of rehashing going on here because these two motherboards are almost identical save for three changes. These changes are important as I’m sure most of you will agree. Like it’s slightly cheaper brother, the AX370 Gaming K7 is based on AMD’s X370 chipset and supports all Ryzen series CPUs available at the time of this writing. This is what I would consider a premium offering, although it’s not the most expensive X370 motherboard you could get, nor the most feature rich out there.

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AX370 Gaming K7 is packed with features and is available at a reasonable cost. It’s comparable with similarly featured Z270 Express based motherboards from Intel. X370 features 8x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 1x U.2 port, 2x SATA Express ports, 1x M.2 slot, USB 3.1, PCI-Express 2.0 and 3.0. Like it’s slightly cheaper brother, the AX370 Gaming K7 supports multi-GPU solutions from AMD and NVIDIA. Also like the AX370 Gaming 5, the AX370 Gaming K7 supports GIGABYTE’s RGB Fusion, multi-zone light show, surround lighting, swappable overlay, RGBW & -UV Light Strips, EK’s monoblock, and GIGABYTE’s Smart Fan 5. As you look closer at the PCB, you will find the same power phase configuration, chokes, capacitors, and build quality shared between the two motherboards. About the only physical difference you will find is the difference in the plastic shroud.

The AX370 Gaming 5 has a white shroud and the AX370 Gaming K7’s is black. The AX370 Gaming K7 has the same 8 fan and water pump headers, 7 temperature sensors, PWM and DC mode support for fans, and the same specifications for overcurrent protection. You will find the same 6+4 phase power delivery system as the AX370 Gaming 5 uses. Both motherboards use International Rectifier’s IR PowerIRstage IC’s and IR digital PWM controller. One very important difference however, is the inclusion of the turbo B-clock external clock generator that’s not found on the AX370 Gaming 5. This is the only significant, if not only difference between the two motherboards from a hardware standpoint. The AX370 Gaming K7 has the turbo-B clock generator and the AX370 Gaming 5 does not. This may not sound like a big deal with multiplier overclocking being the most common overclocking method. That said, these GIGABYTE boards run a base clock which is slightly below 100MHz. Therefore, a 40x multiplier won’t quite net you a 4.0GHz CPU clock speed. With the AX370 Gaming K7, it’s possible to make the incremental adjustment to get to 4.0GHz or higher using a 40x multiplier

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

The packaging for the AX370 Gaming K7 is almost indistinguishable from the AX370 Gaming 5 as well aside from the model names and picture of the motherboard having a black shroud on it. It comes in what is essentially a standard issue motherboard box. Inside you’ll find the following accessories: User manual, driver disc, SATA cable labels, case badge, RGB header extension, Velcro straps, thermal probes, SATA cables, G-connector, and an HB-SLI bridge.

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Board Layout

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The general layout of the AX370 Gaming K7 is good. My only real complaint comes down to the location of the M.2 slot. I’d would have preferred to it above the primary PCI-Express x16 slot or in some other location where it would be unaffected by the heat of the installed graphics card. There are 8, 4 pin PWM or DC controlled fan headers, 7 temperature sensors, and 2 external temperature sensors. All port headers and plug locations are generally well thought out and placed in convenient areas. The only other complaint I can really leverage is the location of the clear CMOS and reset buttons on the PCB. These are right next to each other and not clearly marked as to which is which. This isn’t specific to the AX370 Gaming K7 or even the AX370 Gaming 5 which is nearly the same board. It’s a GIGABYTE thing that transcends the model / product stack and is found on virtually all its motherboards.

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The CPU socket area of the AX370 Gaming K7 has plenty of clearance, or at least as much as one can expect for the CPU and attached cooling hardware. The MOSFETs are cooled with an aluminum heat sink which is screwed into place on the motherboard. The finish work on it is solid, although not spectacular. In fact, it’s the same heat sink that’s on the AX370 Gaming 5, except that the AX370 Gaming K7’s heat sink is black instead of white and black. The CPU fan headers are placed in a nice position, and there wasn’t any unusual waviness to the PCB which would cause issues mounting the back plate for a water block.

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There are four 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots. The AX370 Gaming K7 support up to 64GB of DDR4 DRAM at speeds up to 3600MHz speeds through overclocking. Although, the use of all four DIMMs tends to reduce your RAM clocks to only 2400MHz with the most current AGESA code version. The 288-pin DIMM slots use single sided locking tabs for module retention and feature GIGABYTE’s "Ultra Durable Memory Armor" system to prevent PCB warping during module installation. These aren’t color coded like slots usually are for aesthetic reasons.

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The chipset is cooled only with a flat, passive heat sink. The low-profile design ensures that it doesn’t cause clearance issues with expansion cards. The heat sink is properly screwed onto the motherboard and therefore makes good contact with the chipset and doesn’t shift when touched or handled in anyway. In front of the chipset, you’ll find the 8x SATA 6GBb/s ports and the single U.2 port.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out as it leaves optimal spacing between the primary and secondary video card slots. All three PCIe x16 slots use GIGABYTE’s one-piece Steel Armor to protect the PCB from sheering and warping during card installation or system transport. The system supports the following PCIe lane configurations: x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4. The first two PCIe x16 slots conform to the PCI-Express 3.0 standard while the third is a PCIe 2.0 slot. All the PCIe x1 slots are PCI-Express 2.0 and conform to those specifications. Even worse is the fact that the PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIe x1 2.0 slots. Having PCIe 2.0 only slots is one of several ways AMD is still lagging slightly on the platform side. Intel abandoned PCIe 2.0 on its chipsets with the introduction of Z170.

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The I/O panel offers a substantial amount of connectivity options. The I/O panel has the following ports on it: 1x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 1x HDMI port, 1x USB Type-C port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support, 3x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red), 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x RJ-45 ports, 1x optical S/PDIF Out connector, and 5x audio jacks.