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Thread: AMD AM4 X370 roundup review

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    I am Xtreme Ket's Avatar
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    AMD AM4 X370 roundup review

    AMD AM4 X370 mainboard roundup review




    Introduction

    Every once in a while a singular review isolated from alternative options is not enough to get an accurate gauge on the full picture, mainboards can be considered to be one of the components this problem applies most to. With every available X370 mainboard offering near identical specifications and accessories the differences come down to much smaller details such as how good are the heatsinks and thermal materials, what is the quality of the MOSFETs, does the accompanying firmware and software have any bugs, etc. These are just some of the things to look at and consider when deciding on a new mainboard purchase to get something that is truly worthy of your hard earned cash so here today we have what is perhaps what anyone who has been sitting on the fence has been waiting for, a roundup review of every AMD X370 mainboard that has found its way to me for review. So let us get started on this roundup between the Asrock X370 Fatal1ty K4, Asus ROG STRIXX X370-F, Biostar X370 GT7, MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium, and the Gigabyte AX370 Gaming 5.



    Asrock X370 Fatal1ty K4



    With 6x SATA ports, 2x M.2 slots, 6+6 phase design with Sinopower SM4337s rated for 45A, 12k Nichicon capacitors and a host of other peripheral connection options, on-board debug LED, and Nichicon FG audio capacitors the Fatal1ty K4 strikes a formidable balance between value and quality on the hardware side. The firmware and software is equally impressive. The board has since been super seeded by the Fatal1ty X model but both boards essentially remain almost identical. As such while I can't directly include the K4 in this roundup it will be the barometer by which all other boards will be measured against. The K4 and performance of it is the baseline for what you should expect from an X370 board.



    Asus ROG STRIXX X370-F



    With only 1x M.2 slot the X370-F perhaps doesn?t have the same storage expansion appeal as the K4 but it does have 8x SATA ports, two more than the K4, to make up for this. Combined with arguably the best ALC1220 audio implementation of all of the X370 boards with shielding to minimise EMI and undeniable quality in the components with Infineon PowIR 3555Ms being used as part of the 6+4 phase design, clock generator chip, a quite excellent firmware and software the board certainly looks to have been built for gamers and overclockers.



    MSI XPower Gaming Titanium



    Packing a very similar feature set to all of the other X370 boards in this roundup including 6x SATA ports, 2x M.2 slots, U2 port and Nikos PK616s rated for 50A the Titanium tries to set itself apart by offering easily the best heatsink cooling solution and a full-feature on-board feature set including power, reset, clear CMOS and debug LED display however all of this does come at the cost of the worst ALC1220 implementation and MOSFETs that can be considered to have questionable quality. Firmware of the Titanium is probably the best laid out of all of the boards tested however it does have some shortcomings. Software for the Titanium on the other hand is easily the best compared to other boards it is truly top notch offering every feature you would expect and a plethora of options you wouldn't necessarily expect particularly considering it's now midrange price. Anyone who considers features to be the most important aspect in the purchasing decision will undoubtedly be interested in the Titanium.



    Biostar X370 GT7



    Possibly the best value proposition X370 board here, the GT7 lacks storage expandability options but still comes with 6x SATA ports and an M.2 slot as well as on-board power and reset buttons and debug LED. What the GT7 lacks in features is largely made up for with overall very good quality components including PowIR 3555s rated for 60A in a 4+8 configuration. The GT7 is also the only board in this roundup with a metal shroud that also incorporates LED features. The metal shroud adds a considerable boost to the feel and look of the quality of the board. The SSD heatsink is also the best on offer out of all of the boards on test. The firmware and software of the GT7 however does leave a lot to be desired.



    Gigabyte AX370 Gaming 5



    Possibly the most feature packed board including a dual ALC1220 audio solution (lower part of the plastic shroud removed to illustrate the dual ALC1220) and arguably the best Ethernet controller of all of the boards with the Rivet Networks Killer E2500, PowIR Stage 3553M MOSFETs rated for a rather lowly 40A in a 6+4 configuration, U.2 port, 6x SATA ports, 2x SATA Express ports and more on-board LED fanfare than you would find at Mardi Gras the Gaming 5 is aimed at people who value looks most of all but tries to cater to every demographic. In doing so the board ends up not particularly excelling in any given area and harmful compromises end up being made such as the (comparatively speaking) weak PowIR 3553s. The firmware of the Gaming 5 is also by far the worst of all of the boards having the least options, and in available firmware options to bugs ratio the most bugs. Software for the Gaming 5 isn't the worst but it is far from being anything to be impressed by, Asrock, Asus and MSI all offer much superior alternatives.

    Something of particular note is that at least half of the firmware set memory options are not displayed to easily see what I mean by this just check out the below screenshot.

    https://imgur.com/GWlkMAJ

    As you can see this is a particularly bothersome problem. I am lost for words as to just how Gigabyte have missed this neon red glaringly obvious slap you in the face issue.



    Memory & CPU overclocking performance

    At time of testing each board has been used with the latest firmware the respective board had available. Frequencies are based on the maximum boot stable speed only to be used as an indicator of the fastest frequency you might be able to achieve with each board. As usual the same R7 1700 that?s used for all reviews, including the past reviews of these very boards, is used today along with the very same kit of G.Skill RipjawsV 3200MHz C15D as used in all of the mainboard reviews.

    Asrock K4: firmware 4.5
    Asus X370-F: firmware 3401
    MSI Titanium: firmware 1.9
    Biostar GT7: firmware 209
    Aorus Gaming 5: firmware F22b




    Looking at these results we can say that there are a few good performers and some exceptional performers in terms of maximum boot frequency the best being the X370-F which experienced no problems at all and offered by far the smoothest and easiest memory overclocking experience while the other boards had their own unique issues which we will get in to one by one. Starting with the second best performer, the GT7, while it managed very similar results to the X370-F it did experience random instability at 3466 and above aside from this there was nothing else to note. The Gaming 5 had the most problems when it come to attaining maximum memory frequency but for opposite reasons to that of all of the other boards, it failed to POST on both the 2400 and 2666 memory dividers with XMP enabled as did it fail to POST with 3466 and 3600 dividers with XMP enabled which is why it falls to third. Finally the MSI Titanium and Asrock K4 had no problems to speak of except for their inability to get beyond 3333MHz. I'm confident if compatibility is worked on for the other boards they could perform just as well as the X370-F did.




    This test is relatively straightforward, take the R7 1700 daily stable frequency and see what voltage each board required for stability. Each board required what you could consider to essentially be the same voltage and also showed very good voltage stability. The exception was the Aorus Gaming 5 showing very unstable vcore with extreme droop the biggest symptom of this was higher power draw under load than all other boards except for the Titanium. This issue could also be more of a problem at higher CPU frequencies for those with better silicon.



    Conclusions

    One conclusion for all of the boards tested is simply not adequate so let's draw a conclusion for each board looked at here today.

    Fatal1ty K4

    While only used today as a baseline for what people should expect from an X370 board as it has been super seeded by the Fatal1ty X plenty of people still own the K4 so it?s only fitting it gets a summation of sorts.

    Pros:

    Excellent balance of quality components
    No bugs I could find with firmware or software
    Lots of (relevant) options in the UEFI
    Very good CPU overclocking
    Very stable vcore both idle and load
    Looks fairly nice
    SSD M.2 slots well placed

    Cons:

    Firmware looks a bit untidy in places due to unnecessary options
    VRM heatsinks could be better
    Possibly limited memory overclocking potential

    Considering the excellent balance of quality components on the board with firmware that is completely bug-free from what I could find and a bargain price of around 125 pounds it is hard to not recommend the K4 or X models of the Fatal1ty Gaming boards.

    Bugs encountered: None.

    Score: 88%


    X370-F

    Being the most expensive board here I ended up being disappointed with several aspects of the X370-F including the build quality it's the only board that had board warping.

    Pros:

    Excellent memory overclocking potential
    Good firmware and software, only minor almost non-issues
    Lots of (relevant) options in the UEFI
    Very good CPU overclocking
    Very stable vcore at idle and load
    Looks great
    Superb ALC1220 implementation

    Cons:

    VRM heatsinks, could, and should, be better with poor contact between heatsink and VRMs
    Poor contact between chipset heatsink and chipset
    Potential issues using graphics cards with taller finned backplates
    No on-board power, reset, or CMOS clear buttons

    Overall the X370-F can be described as good but only showing the quality it possesses in brief flashes and lacking features you would expect from a board of 150 pounds upwards you should be getting more for your money feature wise than the X370-F gives you given the boards price of anywhere between 170 - 190 pounds.

    Bugs encountered: One minor UI related bug in the firmware.

    Score: 80%


    MSI Titanium

    Pros:

    Excellent MOSFET heatsink
    Excellent firmware layout
    Excellent software, particularly Nahimic
    Lots of (relevant) options in the UEFI
    Very good CPU overclocking
    Good vcore stability idle and load
    On-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons

    Cons:

    No CPU offset voltage option
    Unimpressive memory overclocking requiring more time and effort than the other boards
    Nikos MOSFETs
    Sub-standard physical ALC1220 audio implementation
    Looks and feels cheap

    The Titanium considering all of the features the board gives you on top of excellent software is enjoyable to use but none the less disappoints due to unimpressive memory compatibility and the lack of an offset CPU voltage option. The cheap feel and look of the board also fails to lend it any kind of recommendation. You can buy better for the same money.

    Bugs encountered: Unable to adjust some memory related options with the MSI Windows software.

    Score: 75%


    Biostar GT7

    Easily using some of the best quality components the GT7 feels like a quality piece of hardware the moment you pick it up however once you scratch just beneath the surface the inexperience of Biostar immediately becomes apparent.

    Pros:

    Excellent quality hardware
    SSD M.2 slot well placed
    SSD heatsink
    Biostar actually tried with the accessories package
    Well laid out firmware
    Very stable vcore at idle and load
    Looks fairly nice
    Good ALC1220 implementation

    Cons:

    Firmware is riddled with minor issues making the board feel like a chore to use
    Limited functionality and dated looking software
    Possibly limited memory overclocking potential
    VRM heatsinks could, and should, be better
    Limited storage expandability

    You can say that the GT7 has the potential to be one of the best X370 boards you can buy, but all of that potential is being squandered by Biostar due to their inability to address even the simplest of firmware issues such as Windows Task Manager misreporting the CPU frequency when overclocked under load and an upper temperature limit with Smart Fan that only goes up to 70c meaning under a good number of load conditions you will have to suffer fans ramping up to 100%.

    Bugs encountered: One of the LED profile settings seemed bugged, When the CPU is overclocked and under load Windows Task Manager incorrectly reports frequency, incorrectly reported memory frequency in the firmware at and above 3333MHz, profiles are not preserved after a CMOS clear.

    Score: 77%


    Aorus Gaming 5

    Unquestionably looks a primary concern for the Gaming 5 it does look great in action and it has a fistful of superb hardware as well. Very slowly the Gaming 5 has gathered steam and improved over time. You do have to question just what Gigabyte are thinking though doing such things as adding dual audio and Ethernet chips, it?s unnecessary and only serves to increase costs when that money could have been better spent on any number of aspects such as beefier power delivery for the CPU and RAM, put in to the cost of developing a competent UEFI, or even just using the savings to put much better heatsinks on the board.

    Pros:

    Great looks
    Excellent ALC1220 implementation
    Good CPU overclocking
    On-board power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons
    Rivet Networks Killer E2500 Ethernet

    Cons:

    Very poor firmware UI and layout
    Numerous firmware bugs and issues
    VRM heatsinks, could, and should, be better with poor contact between heatsink and VRMs
    Failure to POST with 2400 and 2667 memory dividers when XMP is enabled
    Very poor CPU vcore stability fluctuating as much as 0.060v

    Sadly the Gaming 5 suffers the same problems as the Biostar GT7, a lot of potential, squandered by Gigabytes inability to fix firmware bugs such as LEDs being yellow when you select the orange preset (you can correct this manually of course, but why haven?t Gigabyte fixed this after almost a whole year still?) and XMP compatibility seems to be a real problem for this board. It outright failed to POST with the 2400 and 2667 memory dividers when XMP was enabled, the only board to do this. Curiously disabling XMP works far better, the board will POST with those problem dividers and memory overclocking is even better when XMP is disabled compared to when it's enabled.

    Bugs encountered: 2400 and 2666 memory dividers do not work with G.Skill RipjawsV F4-3200C15D-16GVK (Samsung B-Die) with XMP enabled, command rate option does not work (enable or disable Gear Down instead), wrong colour when selecting the orange LED preset, when in the UEFI USB keyboard might fail to wake if allowed to enter sleep state, at least half of the firmware set memory options are not displayed.


    Score: 70%


    So that rounds up the boards I have been able to review, but there are some that I did not get to review and no doubt some of you at least, based on every X370 based board available, are wondering just what my shortlist of X370 boards are. That would depend on budget but this is my shortlist of X370 boards and the only ones I would consider for any X370 build.

    Asrock X370 Taichi

    A fine balance between looks and quality and easily one of the best, if not the best, X370 board you can buy my only gripe with it is that printed cog design makes it look dated. As the son of a watchmaker and someone who repaired clocks for almost a decade the cog design just breaks my brain ask any watch or clock specialist and they will tell you that cog design would never work in reality the movement would seize up and the teeth would be severely damaged or sheer themselves off.

    Asrock X370 Fatal1ty Gaming X

    Superb balance between quality and value with nice looks and great support I just wish it had better VRM heatsinks.

    Asus X370 Crosshair VI Hero

    It might be one of the most expensive X370 boards you can buy but the Crosshair does for the most part justify the price, even if it does look kind of gaudy with those heatsinks which I also have my doubts over how efficient they actually are.

    Asus Prime X370 Pro

    Another of my top value for money propositions the Prime is the only alternative I would turn to if you can?t get the Gaming X in your region. Like the Crosshair though its design is gaudy so certainly won?t appeal to everyone.

    MSI X370 SLI Plus

    The only choice to go with if you want to jump on X370 at a very cheap price the X370 SLI Plus you can buy for less than 100 pounds and for that money you are getting a super deal, it is very well laid out in all areas and the VRM heatsinks even look like they will do a good job. Any shortcomings this board has are more than made up for with the price.


    EDIT: Corrected grammar aspects this forum fails to preserve when I copy / paste from word.
    Last edited by Ket; 03-23-2018 at 03:55 AM.

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