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

GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming Motherboard Review

Intel’s launched yet another chipset, so for better or worse that means new motherboards for Intel’s mainstream market. We look at GIGABYTE’s Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming to see if it’s worthy of a Coffee Lake CPU. And now that you can actually find the 8700K in stock, it is worth talking about.

Introduction

GIGABYTE is one of the world’s leading motherboard and computer hardware vendors. The company is known primarily for its motherboard products, but offers many others as well. These range from graphics cards and laptops, to keyboards, mice, computer cases, power supplies and more. GIGABYTE was founded back in the 1980s and has grown into a powerhouse as one of the most prolific motherboard vendors today.

I’ll just get right to it. Ordinarily, when we look at the first example of a motherboard with a particular chipset I’d talk to you about the chipset and what kind of changes there are compared to its predecessor. That isn’t going to happen this time. According to Intel’s specifications, the Z370 Express chipset is identical to the Z270 Express chipset. If there are differences, these are inconsequential to the end users. Even the CPU socket format is unchanged on Z370. However, something was changed electrically, or BIOS-wise as Kaby Lake CPUs do NOT work on motherboards intended for Coffee Lake CPUs. I haven’t delved into exactly what the deal is on that, nor have any motherboard manufacturers answered this question with any technical details. Regardless, the Z370 Express chipset from a functional and feature standpoint is identical to the Z270 Express chipset and therefore, there isn’t much else to say about it.

However, motherboard manufacturers have introduced new models which were required to support Coffee Lake CPUs, and that’s what we are doing. Intel’s knee jerk reaction to AMD making an effort at being competitive has created a weird situation in which there are more overlapping options and a great deal more products from the company on the market at the same time. I think Intel’s simply throwing all kinds of crap at a dartboard to see what sticks. Intel was obviously uninterested in raising the core count on the mainstream segment, reserving hex and octo-core CPUs for the HEDT market. Now that Ryzen 7 is out, Intel was forced to respond in kind. However, with its clock speed and IPC advantages Intel doesn’t feel a need to go all the way to eight core options. Intel’s current top offerings in this segment are its Core i5 8600K and Core i7 8700K processors. At the time of this writing, availability of these is close to non-existent, but we are seeing these trickle in and out of stock at Newegg and Amazon.

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GIGABYTE Aorus Ultra Gaming is based on Intel’s Z370 Express chipset. The chipset allows for up to 14 USB ports, 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, PCI-Express Gen 3.0, and 64GB of DDR4 RAM in dual-channel mode. Various technologies are supported as well. These include but are not necessarily limited to Intel IRST, Intel Optane, NVIDIA SLI, and AMD Crossfire.

The motherboard is not what I’d consider low end, but it isn’t a halo product either. It’s a solid mid-range offering with the feature set one would expect for around $170 at the time of this writing. However, as of today, this motherboard is available for $120 after $20 MIR along with a free WiFi card. There are plenty of standard features here, as well as GIGABYTE’s own take on others. Of course, fans of RGB LED lighting will have a lot to like on this motherboard as it looks like the Las Vegas strip at night when lit up. However, as is the case with most motherboards, you can disable these lights if you wish to.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for this motherboard is rather basic. The artwork has the same basic style as any other Aorus motherboard box I’ve seen to date. A cardboard insert keeps the motherboard in place and protects it during transport. Inside the box you’ll find the following accessories: User manual, driver disc, multilingual installation guide, SATA cables, G-connector, and an I/O shield. The bundle is basic, but it gives you the stuff you need to get the system working.

Board Layout

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The motherboard layout is reasonably good. My only real issue with it is the location of the CMOS battery. The motherboard has six fan headers which support DC and PWM control modes. There are also six temperature sensors for health monitoring. All the fan headers are of the 4-pin variety. The motherboard is aesthetically pleasing. The black PCB and silver accents provided by the steel armor makes for an elegant and attractive motherboard. However, the aesthetics could have been better if all the PCIe x16 slots had the armor. When backlit, the GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming looks good. I particularly like the way GIGABYTE lights the expansion slots.

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The CPU socket area is as clear as one can expect on a motherboard like this. Memory slots being close to the CPU is par for the course with any motherboard supporting a CPU that uses an integrated memory controller. However, these clearance issues are easily remedied with the proper cooling and memory choices. There are 7 power phases flanking the CPU socket. Black metallic capacitors can be found here as well. The MOSFET coolers are secured via screws which is nice to see on a motherboard in this price range. With some of these CPUs, the power phases can get quite hot and good cooling is the key to their longevity.

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There are four 288-pin DDR4 DIMM slots supporting a total of 64GB of RAM at speeds up to DDR4 4000MHz through overclocking. These slots have GIGABYTE’s Ultra-Durable Memory Armor. While it’s primarily to prevent the motherboard PCB from warping during memory installation, it’s also aesthetically attractive.

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The chipset is in the bottom left hand corner of the motherboard. It’s cooled with a low-profile passive heat sink. The machine work isn’t bad, and it’s of course got LEDs and even speed holes showing the PCB underneath.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out. The Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming supports both SLI and Crossfire. SLI is supported in 2-Way and Quad-SLI configurations. AMD’s Crossfire on the other hand is supported in 2-Way, Quad and 3-Way configurations. The Z370 Ultra Gaming allows for the following PCIe lane configurations: 16x0, 8x8 and 8x8x4. There are also three PCIe x1 slots which are PCIe Gen 3.0 compliant.

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The I/O shield is a bit more barren than we are used to seeing. This is especially true of USB ports. You will still find quite a few ports on the back panel of the GIGABYTE Z370 Ultra Gaming. These include 4x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, one of which is Type-A, the other is Type-C. You also have DVI-D, HDMI, PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 1x optical output and 5x mini-stereo jacks for analog audio output. Not being a premium solution, I can understand why GIGABYTE opted for non-gold plated, plastic color-coded audio jacks, though this isn’t what I like to see.