ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming Motherboard Review

ASUS dominates the mini-ITX market with its various "I" series motherboards. It proved that going to a smaller form factor didn’t mean compromising on performance, only expandability. Even then, ASUS has mitigated a lot of those limitations as well. Does the ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming motherboard live up to its predecessors.

continued...

Motherboard Overclocking Software

ASUS includes it’s AI Suite III software with the ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming motherboard. AI Suite III isn’t a single piece of software, but rather a suite of utilities with a common launcher. For the sake of brevity, I will stick to the applications which govern performance oriented aspects of the motherboard. This includes fan control, system monitoring, overclocking, and general tuning from within the Windows operating system environment.

AI Suite III has been around for many years now. It hasn’t had any significant changes since the Z97 chipset days. A rather, it’s changes have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Effectively, it overclocks the same way and uses the same interface it has from that time onward. In my opinion, ASUS has the most sophisticated, and complete, software application bundles package with any motherboards on the market today. ASUS sets the bar very high in a few key areas. ASUS leads the industry in these areas, often by offering features that no other manufacturer does.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

This is not to say that ASUS doesn’t occasionally get things wrong with it’s AI Suite III software. ASUS certainly does. My biggest complaint about the software, is its learning curve. The main application window isn’t the most intuitive thing. The main navigation bar is somewhat hidden. Once you start clicking around the interface is not too difficult to find but it should be easier that it is. Anytime you go into settings or menus such as EPU or Turbo App, you will find there is no back button to take you to the previous menu. Instead you have to use the navigation bar which isn’t as obvious as it might sound. Opening the navigation pane from the navigation bar isn’t as helpful as one would imagine. Effectively you get a list of all the menus and applications within AI Suite III without any context as it shone for me simple list rather than the screen you started from.

That said, I think ASUS gets more right than wrong with AI Suite III. it offers a great deal of utility. PC health information is always displayed in the lower quarter of the application window. From here you can expand any of the monitored functions. You can view usage on individual CPU cores, or set the voltage warning thresholds. There are couple of settings here, which are accessed using the gear icon on the right. I don’t like this gear icon because it’s incongruent with the rest of the interface.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The main thing that sets ASUS’ AI Suite III apart from other Windows based tuning applications commonly bundled with motherboards is it’s automated overclocking feature. This feature is simply unparalleled. With most applications of this type, you can choose from overclocking presets or let the software automatically tune the system. Believe the latter usually chooses overclocking presets in the automated process is simply a validation process more than anything. I have never seen the auto tuning function achieve and overclock that could not be duplicated with one of the preset profiles. This tells me the auto tuning mode is simply fluff in those cases. With ASUS, you get more. You have the ability to tell the software your desired results and set guidelines for achieving them. This includes the number of cores, how the speed will be increased, target thermal thresholds, and choosing consideration for power savings. You can even determine what criteria the system will use to determine whether an overclock was stable or not. There is simply no other utility that does this.

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

Another key area where ASUS excels, is the fan control. As expected, you can choose from performance profiles which are preset, or use automated tuning. You can control the fans via PWM or DC modes. Fans can be configured to operate in relation to temperature ranges as well. One thing you can do with AI Suite III’s Fan Xpert4 feature that I’ve never seen before, is rename fan headers with custom values. Fan spin up and spin down times can also be configured. This allows you to choose how noticeable changes and fan speed will be. I find almost any constant noise tolerable, but I can’t stand constant and rapid fan speed changes. I find this impossible to tune out. Having control over these variables, makes fan speed changes far less noticeable if configured properly. The newest addition to Fan Xpert4 is the ability to define the temperature source the system is to use for fan speed changes. All fan headers on the motherboard offer the same granular control is any of the others.

You never lack for settings, options or possibilities with AI Suite III. While I feel the interface isn’t as intuitive as it could be, I still think it’s the best game in town. Once you get it down, it’s easy enough to use and very capable. I’d also like to point out that ASUS also offers Intel’s XTU with this motherboard, at least via their download section on the website. This is also a great utility.

ASUS Aura

Article Image Article Image Article Image

ASUS Aura utility went through a lot of changes initially. As is the case with most new features, RGB LED lighting took a while to develop from a software perspective. Now that motherboard manufacturers been pushing this for a couple of product cycles, software changes are happening much more slowly than they used to. As a result, Aura hasn’t changed all that much in the last several months. When you get down to basics, all RGB LED control utilities work about the same. There simple enough that there isn’t much reason to quibble over interface design. It isn’t as if there are many submenus and features that one motherboard manufacturer has that others don’t. The two key things that really matter when talking about RGB LED management, his color control and adjusting settings by zone. ASUS nails color control by offering a color wheel and numeric input values for the red green and blue channels. This allows you to match precise colors in different zones or with other hardware. Additionally, if you find the color you really like you can record the information so that it isn’t lost if you need to set up the system again. Configuration by zones is a feature the Aura software allows for, however the ROG STRIX Z370-I Gaming only has a single zone. I’m not sure I would call Aura my favorite RGB LED management utility, but I think it’s fair to say it’s as good as anything else out there.