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.

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Overclocking

Overclocking is something that usually has a learning curve with a new chipset. However, there isn’t anything new to learn here. Essentially the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming is like any Z270 Express chipset based motherboard. It should be because the chipset is functionally identical to its predecessor. Coffee Lake itself isn’t much different from an overclocking perspective, so there isn’t much to learn there either. As usual, I began with automatic overclocking which proved to be unstable. Too much voltage was used by the system which caused far too much heat to dissipate. Overclocking the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming is like overclocking any other GIGABYTE motherboard. The automatic rules in the UEFI are generally all you need. As usual, vCore and memory settings are roughly all you need to get the most out of a Coffee Lake CPU. I never experienced issues with the system not wanting to POST and I never had to clear the CMOS. Attempts to get a stable overclock at 5.1GHz or better resulted in a system that was stable most of the time, but after 45 minutes or so it would hard lock or BSOD on me. I’m certain some tweaking elsewhere in the UEFI BIOS might stabilize it, but I wasn’t able to do so in the time I had it.

5.0GHz (100x50) DDR4 3200MHz

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Memory tuning works as well as I could have hoped. XMP worked and memory timings were set properly. Even voltage settings autodetected and set correctly. In the last couple of generations, XMP hasn’t worked as well as it should have. As a result, seeing work properly is icing on the cake rather than something that should be required. I had no trouble achieving clock speeds of DDR4 3200MHz using 3200MHz memory. Despite the budget oriented nature of this motherboard, I feel that it’s a solid overclocker.

Conclusions

Dan's Thoughts:

The Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming provided a quality experience despite being closer to the budget side of Z370 motherboards. The setup experience was flawless. Out of the box I had zero issues configuring and setting up the system. The UEFI made setting up a RAID array easy. You do have to have Intel F6 drivers to setup a bootable RAID array and the older Z270 drivers don’t work as I found out using an slipstreamed install of Windows 10 I created a short time ago. This was somewhat puzzling given that the chipset should functionally be the same as the last one. In any case, all the integrated features worked as intended and the use of the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming was drama free. At $120 after $20 MIR, as of this writing, I believe the motherboard is an incredible value, even at its $170 MSRP. It’s stable, the layout is solid and it’s aesthetically pleasing. It feels like a mature piece of hardware. It’s SLI and Crossfire capable and provides dual M.2 slots. It’s a lot of motherboard for the money.

However, it’s important to note that you get what you pay for and there is some cost cutting on the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming. The PCB is flimsy feeling. It’s not as warped as say ASRock’s cheaper boards are, but it is thin. The heat sink behind the CPU socket ends up getting covered up by the I/O panel shroud which creates an oven. In my testing, this heat-sink measured temperatures in excess of 150F when the CPU was overclocked. The heatsink design isn’t really all that bad as the other MOSFET cooler sat in the 130F range most of the time. These are also secured via mounting screws instead of plastic pins with spring tensioners in these. Despite the low price of this motherboard, GIGABYTE chose the superior method. I would also like to have seen all three PCIe x16 slots bracketed with the steel armor. Lastly, I am not a fan of the two vertical SATA ports. It’s not a good design and never has been. More to the point, I hate it when you have SATA port plugs going in different directions. It makes for a less than ideal cabling job.

Ordinarily I’d have a novel length conclusion at the end of an article based around a new chipset. Unfortunately, there isn’t that much to say about the chipset because there isn’t anything new here aside from the fact that this motherboard supports Coffee Lake and older motherboards do not. Processor-wise, I’m not a massive fan of Coffee Lake. I think it’s a knee jerk reaction to Ryzen 7. I think it’s very probable that Z270 wasn’t designed with a robust enough VRM design to handle the demands of a hex core processor. I don’t think Intel really designed Z270 to be flexible in this area believing it could hold out for another full generation without bringing anything greater than a quad core to market for the mainstream market. This is speculative on my part as no motherboard manufacturer I’ve asked has been willing or able to comment to confirm this or tell me precisely why Coffee Lake requires a updated electrical design on Z370 motherboards.

Coffee Lake is a good thing in light of that. However, I would prefer going to X299 if you really want to get into the six core and up world. That said, Coffee Lake has one advantage of coming in cheaper thanks to motherboards like the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming. While I haven’t tested that many Z370 motherboards, so far these all seem like rehashes of Z270 motherboards. This is a good thing as I am confident in buying one due to platform maturity. At least the platform feels mature despite the reportedly short development cycle. To put it simply, the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming is a good offering and an excellent choice if you wish to build a Coffee Lake based system. More to the point, it’s an inexpensive way to get to a hex core system with performance that’s often on par with AMD’s Ryzen 7. If you opt to go with an i7 8700K, it’s probably faster almost all the time. However, CPU availability is still hit and miss at the time of this writing. If you are looking to build a system based on Coffee Lake today, you might be out of luck.

Kyle's Thoughts:

Out of the box, I could not get our GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming motherboard to POST with the GTX 1080 installed. This is a known issue and there was already a UEFI update to address this. I would expect Gigabyte has made sure that all motherboards going to retail have had this addresses, but it is worth mentioning should you find yourself in a no-POST situation with your new motherboard. Outside of this one hurdle, my experience with the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming was perfect in terms of usage. All of Dan's criticisms previously stated are on point so I will not rehash those again.

I do have an issue with the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming and that is cooling, and Dan did touch on this as well, but this one issue I want to address again. The heatsinks are well affixed to the somewhat thin PCB, and will work well, as long as you get airflow to these. The problem is that the decorative IO trim extends out over half of the power component cooling. This causes some issues in that this heatsink can get very hot if you do not get nearly direct airflow over it. Consider also that we use water cooling for our testing so if you are using air cooling, which is very likely with this motherboard, you are going to have some "natural" airflow over this heatsink. This is not a deal breaker, but something you need to be aware of and likely need to address. During my overclocking, I saw the surface of this heatsink get to 160F/71C on an open test bench.

Speaking of overclocking, we did a bunch with the GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming and had great results. We used this motherboard exclusively in our Overclocking the Intel 8600K - Delidded on Air and Water review. The Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming easily supported overclocking our 8600K to 5.1GHz on air, and 5.2GHz on water. Once we delidded and relidded the 8600K, the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming supported stable full-load CPU clock speeds of 5.2GHz on air, and 5.3GHz on water!

The Bottom Line

The GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming is simply an incredible value as it is currently priced at $120 after $20 MIR. The MSRP on this motherboard is $170, and quite frankly it seems to be a good value at that price point. But at $120 (Newegg says sale ends in 4 days) the Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming motherboard is an incredible Coffee Lake value, if you can find a Coffee Lake CPU in stock at Amazon or Newegg. With a bit of attention paid to cooling the motherboard's power component heatsinks, it offers a great overclocking experience. While it is not tremendously feature-packed in terms of extras, it does have support for two M.2 drives. Between overclocking, CrossFire and SLI support, and M.2 support, it has what you need to build a very cost effective gaming powerhouse.

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GIGABYTE Z370 Aorus Ultra Gaming Motherboard

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