GIGABYTE Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi AMD Ryzen Mobo Review

GIGABYTE’s flagship X470 motherboard is a gorgeous piece of hardware, packed with features and bristling with options. It fully supports AMD's Precision Boost 2 technology for new Ryzen processors. This motherboard has overclocking in mind with its design and of course has plenty of Frag Harder Disco Lights, should that be your thing.

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Overclocking

For starters automatic overclocking worked perfectly through EasyTune. This yielded a very modest 3.9GHz across all cores and this is hardly worth writing home about. I should have recorded the voltage, but frankly the voltage maximums set by the software or in UEFI won’t necessarily reflect what we see under actual load conditions.

As I’ve stated many times, the overclocking on any new platform carries a certain learning curve with it. Part of that learning curve is learning how each motherboard brand behaves within a given generation for each specific platform. In other words, anything I learn about gigabyte motherboards in general doesn’t generally carry over from one generation to the next as it pertains to overclocking. One might be able to make certain generalizations about all GIGABYTE boards based on AMD’s or Intel’s platforms, but I would be hesitant to say that with any degree of certainty. I found that we can apply generalizations to motherboards but for the most part this should be confined to a specific generation. Much of what I know about GIGABYTE or ASUS X370 chipset-based motherboards will not carry over to the newer X470 motherboards. Similarly, what I know of ASUS motherboards in a given generation wouldn’t apply to GIGABYTE motherboards in the same generation.

Whenever we encounter a new chipset, we not only have to learn the quirks of that chipset and the processors designed to work with it but each brand of motherboard as well. It so happens, I now have more experience with GIGABYTE motherboards than any other AM4 motherboards at present. However, I have now worked with examples from ASUS, MSI and GIGABYTE. In fact, I’ve seen multiple examples of each. I know I meant to keep this brief, but a little background was necessary as I get into how this motherboard behaves when overclocked.

In short, all one really has to do is set the CPU vCore on some brands of motherboard and set the RAM speed to something your specific CPU can handle in your pretty much golden. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case here. The CPU and SOC load-line calibration needs to be set for the highest, or near the highest value in order to get a stable system. So far, the test Ryzen 2700X I have needs about 1.41v or so to run at 4.2GHz. So far, 4.3GHz has eluded me on every motherboard I’ve tried to date.

4.20GHz (100MHz x42) DDR4 3400MHz

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Achieving the result above, took no more than the steps I outlined above as it relates to the CPU. Getting the most out of system RAM took no more than enabling XMP and making sure my clock speeds were in line with what the IMC could handle. This is a new CPU to me, so I’m still working out what the limitations are as far as that goes. My previous Ryzen 1700 had a hard time with anything beyond 3200MHz, but so far 3400MHz and even 3600MHz isn’t a problem for this CPU. 3600MHz didn’t always work on the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi. I would run into POST issues or cold boot problems. However, at 3400MHz I had zero trouble with this board. The DDR4 4000MHz modules I tried using with this system initially didn’t work as only one module was detected and thus ran on a single channel. This seems to be an issue with the memory module itself and not the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi.

Using some AM4 RAM provided by Corsair, I had no difficulty in getting all 16GB to recognize and operate at 3400MHz. These were Corsair Vengeance LPX modules with relatively tight timings of 16,18,18,36,1T @ 1.35v. Everything including the voltage set itself correctly once XMP was enabled. When it comes to memory compatibility, X470 is light years ahead of its predecessor.

Conclusions

Dan's Thoughts:

My out of the box experience with X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi was generally solid aside from some minor annoyances getting the storage drivers to work with the Windows installer. This is something I’ve experienced and even come to expect on AMD processor-based systems. If you’re using a single AHCI volume, you can just click next of much of times and not really worry about it. When you want to start using RAID arrays things become a lot more complex. With Intel systems you can generally set the system up as a RAID and installed to a single volume that’s not part of any array. AMD processor-based systems do not seem to like that. This is not a brand issue or anything I can blame GIGABYTE for, but this experience dovetails in with another hurdle that had nothing to do with GIGABYTE.

Somehow, I managed to kill not one but both of my Corsair MP500 NVMe drives and diagnosing these and dealing with all of that happened while working on this review. This was in no way related to the board that I can tell. I went ahead and picked up some Samsung 970 EVO NVMe 250GB drives which is why we changed hardware in this review. One point of confusion is in regards to NVMe RAID on this motherboard. The chipset can support this as AMD released AGESA code that would support this around the third quarter of last year. It is up to specific motherboard manufacturers to allow for this feature to be used on specific models. Of course, this requires that any given motherboard have two M.2 slots, or at least provisions within the firmware to allow this through an adapter of some kind. At no point does the packaging or manual mention this feature for this motherboard. I only saw it while reviewing the manufacturer’s product page which does mention the feature. So I am not sure if it is officially supported or not.

The UEFI BIOS does have a setting for running an NVMe RAID array but NVMe devices do not enumerate in the RAID BIOS. This makes creating a bootable NVMe RAID array impossible as there is no single logical volume for a driver to find during the Windows installation process. According to the product page, you have to enable RAID for the SATA ports as well as the NVMe devices before this can work at all. I was never able to get this to work and I’ve reached out to GIGABYTE for clarification on this issue. Kyle will update that here when we get an affinitive answer on this.

Aside from that, this was easily the best experience I’ve had with AMD’s AM4 platform so far. It was very easy to get the system up and running and all the integrated features worked as advertised. The system was the model of stability, and overclocking was a snap. I very much like the board's aesthetic qualities including its RGB LED lighting. The UEFI BIOS was easy to work with and free of most of the quirks I found with some of GIGABYTE’s earlier offerings. The devil is in the details and many of the details are exactly what GIGABYTE gets right with the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi. I applaud their choice of networking, as well as the integrated audio codec which worked magnificently during my testing. The M.2 heat sinks are nice touch and the semi-captive screws can only be improved by making them fully captive as they were on the X399 Designare. The motherboard layout is fantastic and the overall feeling of quality you get while handling the board makes it feel more expensive than it is.

About the only issue I have is with the MOSFET heat sinks. GIGABYTE claims 40% lower temperatures. In my experience, this was flat out untrue. I used infrared thermal probe to measure temperatures at multiple spots across both banks of MOSFETs. I found temperatures anywhere from 110F to 118F. that’s not a bad thing, and certainly reasonable for an eight-core processor being pushed to 4.2GHz at full utilization. However, I don’t think that’s 40% cooler than more "traditional designs. This design is also not something brand-new and untried. While the direct contact between the heat pipe and the surface that’s being cooled is an improvement on earlier designs, we’ve seen finned heat sink designs like this going back to the Pentium IV era. In fact, the EVGA 680i SLI motherboards I love to trash or even shoot as the case may be, had a similar heat sink design for the chipset. It’s a good design but anyone who’s read my earlier reviews knows I’m not a fan of marketing speak. Tend to find it almost inherently deceptive.

Breaking it down to brass tacks, the Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi is an excellent motherboard and one that should be on anyone’s short list if they’re planning on building a Ryzen based system. That said, I think the slightly lower end X470 Aorus Gaming 5 WiFi is a better value. It’s 85% or even 90% as good but costs less. What you get for the money, or additional RGB LED lights, a second M.2 heat sink, an integrated I/O shield, dual BIOS ROMs, a better audio subsystem, and some onboard buttons. Maybe one or two other things I’m forgetting but essentially these boards are very similar. I like what the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi ($230) has to offer over the X470 Aorus Gaming 5 WiFi ($175), but some people may not see the extra cost as being worthwhile.

Kyle's Thoughts:

I did not spend near as much time with the GIGABYTE Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi as Dan did, but that is because I was in a bit of a rush and had zero issues with this motherboard. From the moment it came out of the box, till the time I boxed it up to ship it out to Dan for further testing everything worked exactly as it should.

I started my testing with Precision Boost 2 clocks. Even after hours of heat-load, this motherboard sustained a 3.933GHz core clock across all 8 cores on my AMD Ryzen 2700X. I have seen this drop as low as 3.85Ghz on some lesser B350 chipset motherboards. Under 1T loads we saw our core clock at 4.35GHz and under quick 8C/16T loads, we saw clocks come in at 4.024GHz. This was all while running our memory at 3400MHz. Precision Boost 2 did come enabled by default on the Aorus Gaming 7, so achieving all this was as simple as setting the system up and turning it on. The PB2 settings in the UEFI are very simple. PB2 is either on, or it is off. PB2 has no dials or knobs to mess with, and while we have seen these on other motherboards, those advanced PB2 settings have never actually benefited us in an kind of stress testing.

Hand overclocking the Aorus Gaming 7 was simple as it could get on my end. Keep in mind that I am using a different CPU than Dan so we expect a bit of variance and one of the reasons we have two people tests all our motherboards as well. My results came a bit easier than his requiring a 1.375v vCore, which showed and actual 1.392v under load at 4.2GHz / 3400MHz. The motherboard ran for two days under Prime95 Small FFTs loading.

The Bottom Line

The GIGABYTE Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi is a simply a great performing motherboard when paired with a new Ryzen 7 2700X. Precision Boost 2 makes the CPU, and the motherboards that properly use PB2 by default make "overclocking" so easy. Depending on your clock needs, we once again have to question hand overclocking the 2700X when used with Precision Boost 2, but certainly, if you are going to be running a Ryzen 7 2700 you will certainly want the overclocking prowess and stability that come with the Aorus Gaming 7, as PB2 works very differently on the non-X CPUs. That said, this motherboard has you covered whichever way you want to go, and its features are excellent for its $230 price tag.

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GIGABYTE Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi

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