- About the AORUS Z370 Gaming 7...
- Motherboard Design
- Motherboard Design Continued...
- Installation Experience, BIOS and Utility Overview
- How its tested??
- PCMark 8 and Memory Profile benchmark
- SATA Performance Testing
- Boot Load Timings
- Transfer Test
- Online Purchase Links
About the AORUS Z370 Gaming 7…
Disclosure: The Z370 Gaming 7 is loaned from AORUS.
With the Intel 8 generation desktop CPUs out in the open, its natural to see its 300 series motherboards out with it. This is the AORUS Z370 Gaming 7, its offering seems conservative until you look at certain details like ample LED illumination options, M.2, Type C for the rear and front panel and still manages to get a good layout and spacing between the slots.
Packaging and Contents
AORUS really toned down their excess packaging with a standard box design- logos and naming on the front and the rest of the information on the rear. AORUS uses the sides of the packaging effectively by having some of the information there.
The motherboard is adequately protected with an additional cardboard (wing). Inside you will find a bunch of stickers you can use along with it a case badge, readers manual and the accessories hidden underneath.
Some of the accessories bundled with the Z370 Gaming 7 is very unique. AORUS bundles a standard RGB extension cable, a couple of velcro straps, rear I/O, a total of four SATA III cables, an SLI bracket. The other two items are two sets of temperature sensors that connect to the motherboard and smart header clip. The temperature sensor is self-explanatory though I wish the sensor was flat based so that it can be placed within key areas such as MOSFETs, VRM under the heatsink or even in the graphics card’s sub-components.
Rather than having a male-to-female header module, AORUS provides a clamp where you can firmly attach your PC case’s front panel control headers. These work better as it clips on the shell and attaches firmly on the
(Please refer “CPU Support List” for more information.)
|Chipset||Intel® Z370 Express Chipset|
(Please refer “Memory Support List” for more information.)
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version, HDCP 2.2, and HDR.
* Support for HDMI 1.4 version and HDCP 2.2. Maximum shared memory of 1 GB
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot operates at up to x8 mode.
* The PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the M2P_32G connector. The PCIEX4 slot operates at up to x2 mode when a PCIe SSD is installed in the M2P_32G connector.
* The PCIEX1_3 slot shares bandwidth with the SATA3 1 connector. The SATA3 1 connector becomes unavailable when the PCIEX1_3 is populated. (All of the PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
|Storage|| Interface Chipset:|
* Refer to “1-9 Internal Connectors,” for the installation notices for the PCIEX4, M.2, and SATA connectors.
|USB||Chipset+2 ASMedia® USB 3.1 Gen 2 Controllers:|
Chipset+Realtek® USB 3.1 Gen 1 Hub:
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
|I/O Controller||iTE®I/O Controller Chip|
* Whether the fan (pump) speed control function is supported will depend on the fan (pump) you install.
* Available applications in APP Center may vary by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also vary depending on motherboard specifications.
|Operating System||Support for Windows 10 64-bit|
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm|
As explained in the Core i7 8700K review, the Z370 and the 8th generation CPU are not compatible with the previous generation 7th Gen Kaby lake and 200 series chipset motherboard. Though it uses the same LGA 1151 socket, the pin layout is significantly different.
The AORUS Z370 Gaming 7’s support goes up to 4133 MHz memory speed support provided it is overclocked manually. The XMP support is up to 2666 MHz. It supports both non-ECC and ECC DDR4 memory modules. Since the 8th gen has Intel 630 series on-chip graphics, the motherboard has one DisplayPort supporting 4K @ 60Hz and an HDMI with 4K @ 30Hz. No DVI-D. DVI-D as onboard is no more! Long live DVI-D.
It is also interesting to see that most Intel Z370 series motherboard is bundled ESS chip for its audio section. The onboard sound uses a Realtek ALC1220 codec, while there is a single Intel LAN and another Killer E2500 LAN chip. Compared to the Z270, we will see more M.2 slots on the Z370 variants.
There is a set of USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2 rear and front panel ports. There is a USB Type C Gen 2 header for the front panel and two Gen 1 USB headers which provide support up to four front panel USB 3.0 Gen 1 ports. It still does retain two USB 2.0 ports in case if it is needed for any accessories from other manufacturers. But it would be nice to see a fleet of mid-size mid-priced PC cases with four USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 1 Gen 2 front panel header. The temperature sensor headers are placed next to the DIMM slots and above the second USB 3.1 Gen 1 header, next to CMOS_Clear header. Yes, despite provides a CMOS switch, there is an additional CMOS clear header!
You’ll notice a subtle logo placement on the PCB (PCIe area) and then the illuminated AORUS logo on the chipset sink. I am not a fan of over branding, but MSI and ASROCK Tai Chi have better imprints on the motherboard.
Voltage sensors are thankfully not there as its rare to see a proper setup for it. There is an onboard Power button, reset and CMOS clear button with an OC button. I would have liked to see switches switching between the BIOS chips, just like the Z97X-Gaming GT.
There are two sets of LED headers with two headers each. The first set (LED_C1/LED_C2) are for RGBW 5050 strips with standard connectors. These have a maximum rating of 2A providing 12v power, about 2 meters worth. The other set is digital LED strip headers (D_LED1/D_LED2) which provides support for 5050 digital LED strips up to 2Amps power (jumper provided for 5v and 12v) maximum length up to 5 meters or 300 LEDs. Time to pimp that room of yours with these! Yes, you have TWO RGBW headers and two more digital LED headers. As if the RGB illumination all over the motherboard isn’t enough.
The RGBW headers are next to the DIMM slots. The Additionally you’ll see jumpers labeled DLED where it lets you switch between 5V and 12v power supply, depending on your RGBW power requirement. One of them is placed in this area.
You’ll notice three-pinned contacts below the CMOS Reset and system reset switch. I am not sure about its function and interestingly nothing about it is mentioned in the manual.
What I do like is that despite three M.2 ports and a series of PCIe slots in an ATX form factor, it seems to have a good amount of space between the LGA 1151 socket and the 1st PCIe slot. I’ve said in many motherboard reviews in the past that many motherboards did not make an impression of being made for someone who puts the motherboard inside the case. As a result, large CPU air coolers with graphic cards are way too close or have a contact. This is not a good idea especially with manufacturers have a backplate on the graphic card.
Now we see plastic stuff all over the MOSFET Sinks, rear I/O and even the audio section on the PCB. You’ll also notice that underneath the metal top on the MOSFET/VRM sink, there are very few sinks in them. We did talk about this with some of the MSI motherboards.
Power Delivery and Fan Headers
It has the usual set of hardware monitoring- voltage/Temperature/Fan Speed/Liquid cooling flow rate detection, overheating warning, fan fail warning (for all the fans including CPU and CPU_OPT) and fan speed control. There is a total of eight fan headers- two CPU fan headers out of which one of them CPU_OPT/Water cooling CPU fan, 4x 4-pin system fan header, one 3 amp/Liquid cooling pump header and a system fan/liquid cooling pump header. 3 AMP fan headers are appreciated since its perfect to daisy chain and connect those radiator cooling fans.
There is a total of seven USB Type A ports out of which 5 of them are USB 3.1 Gen 1- yellow marked for DAC 2 which can provide up to + 0.3V from them when selected manually from its utility and the standard blue marked ports. The Red and the USB Type C are Gen 2 spec. Other ports are for PS/2, one HDMI and one DisplayPort, two gigabit LAN and the audio ports with SPDIF out. Personally, I would have liked to see a total of Eight USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A towards the rear I/O. Contrary to the marketable naming scheme, people don’t just use computers mainly for gaming, but for other versatile uses. You connect keyboard and mouse which takes two USB ports (three if a keyboard has a pass-through), microphone, headset, printers, card readers, smartphones or tablets (or both). My Z97 Gaming GT has eight. Yes, it does have a Type A and C USB 3.1 Gen 2, but other accessories are yet to use USB 3.1 Gen 2 specification- such as microphones, headsets and many printers.
There are two gigabit LAN but they use two different LAN chips- Intel and Killer. It would be nice both used the same chip and also enabled network teaming. Notice there’s that tiny little fan behind HDMI/DVI ports.
M.2 and PCIe slot Area
PCIe X16 slots still have those metal rim jobs! But it does have that additional pin support which is placed through these slots and soldered on the other side. I am uncertain of the significance of the metal frame around the x16 slots, but the soldered peg support does give a good assurance. Gigabyte (Now AORUS) have been doing this for a while.
There are three PCIe x16 slots and three PCIe x1 slots. The first two are meant for graphic cards- x16 in single GPU setup and x8/x8 in dual GPU setup. The last has x4 PCIe bandwidth which allows you to use any card between PCIe x1 to PCIe x16 which only need x4 lanes (if such a PCIe x16 to take x4 bandwidth exists).
The Gaming 7 has three with the first having a ‘heatsink’ for one side of the M.2 PCB. We’ve seen a similar setup with MSI, but that was a flat metal strip. We’ll talk more about that later. Two of its M2 supports up to 22110 SSDs while the other supports up to 2280 size M.2. As a result, the motherboard provides six SATA 6 ports connected from its native Intel Z30 chipset. The age of additional and non-native SATA ports are over? Natively, it supports Optane memory.
AUDIO PCB Area
There’s this piece of plastic on the lower left side of the motherboard. I am not too fond of it as it creates a depth for installing screws. Sucks to be the person with small flat head screws with a non-magnetic screwdriver or the one with a thick gripped thumb screw! The motherboard screws of my old and sane Lian Li A70F have a thinner gripped thumbscrew, with some having a longer head.
You’ll notice the capacitors made by WIMA and Nichion.
Headers, SATA and Front Panel Options
AORUS has enough internal headers to use- from fans to USB front panel headers and others. Front panel audio headers, the second DLED jumper and digital LED connector, a TPM module connector, two USB 2.0 ports to power up four USB 2.0 ports, a debug display, three sets of 4-pin system fan headers and the front panel connectors. Above it, you’ll find the CMOS clear header, second temperature sensor connector, and the thunderbolt add-in card header.
Above the debug LEDs, you’ll find LED indicator for CPU, VGA, DRAM and Bootable drive. If any of the lights are one, it means there’s a problem with it. The BOOT LED comes on if there is not an operating system.
Next to the six native SATA III ports, you’ll find the first USB 3.1 Gen 1 header and Gen 2 header. So you get Four USB 2.0, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 and 1 Gen 2 for the front panel. I still believe having one of them for rear I/O makes more sense. Or else just add two more on the rear, whichever is convenient and feasible.
You need to take a little care if you plan to dismantle this section of the motherboard as there are three wires routed underneath- two for the LED illumination for the heatsink and I/O shell. Another for the fan.
The fan under the Rear I/O plastic shell is a 35 x 35 x 10mm Everflow R123510BH two ball bearing fan with a three-pin header that uses the sys_fan 2 which is placed between the rear I/O and the eight-pin EPS ATX connector. it blows through the rear I/O shield which also has some punched holes to let the air out. Many have tried such similar cooling which I doubt does anything significant to justify occupying one of the four pin system headers, but you can unplug and use them, unlike the other ones from other brands that use some other type of connection.
As said earlier, the 22110 M.2 sink is the one side of the M.2’s PCB, same as what MSI did. Yes, this has a low profile sink which has a metal foil over it. I am not convinced this would be effective as this covers only one side of the M.2’s PCB. Only one is provided. If M.2 SSDs of the near future still will have the heat issue, its best to look towards PCIe x1/x4 add-in cards with two-sided effective heatsink solution and some fan to drive the heat away and through the vented rear PCIe bracket.
Sub Component Overview
AORUS Z370 Gaming 7 uses 10+2 choke design with 60a rated Smart Power Stage ICs controlled by a digital controller and a digital PWM.
The main chips behind the rear I/O area. The motherboard has an ASMEDIA ASM1442K IC for HDMI and DVI to provide level shifting operation up to 3.4 Gbps per lane better colour depths and minimizing EMI. The ASMEDIA ASM3142 USB 3.1 Gen 2 are placed for the rear and for the front. The Realtek RTS 5411 USB 3.1 Gen 1 controller is used for the front USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type A. The Gen 2 powers up the Type C for the rear and the second chip powers a single Type C for the front.
The rest of the audio sub-components such as the ESS SABRE DAC, LME49720 Analog Power and TXC Oscillator were under the plastic hood. AORUS still dual UEFI BIOS chip support.
With the Noctua NH-U14S and the AORUS RX 580 XTR, there’s ample of space to access the PCIe x16’s clamp to remove the graphic card from the Z370 Gaming 7. I’ve tested the ease of access after installing it in my case and I was able to remove the card easily. The CPU cooler does not overlap the top end of the motherboard’s PCB The rear I/O would probably allow you to install the NH-D15s provided the fans are not placed above where the I/O plastic bracket is installed.
AORUS has two interface types- Easy Mode and this classic version.
The auto overclock presets here include Core i3-8350K, Core i5 8600K and Core i7 8700K overclock presets. AORUS also includes the 5 GHz which is impressive to run from the Core i7 8700K on air….which I did. There are two new interesting settings under Advanced CPU Core settings: Turbo per core limit control which lets you set turbo speed per core of the processor. Another (which is not in the manual) is the enhanced multi-core performance.
In BIOS, there were two options that caught my eye- Fast Boot option which has a new subsetting and mouse speed. Fast boot is self-explanatory. Mouse Speed allows you change the mouse cursor movement speed.
Smart Fan 5:
Smart Fan 5 allows you to monitor and set speeds and alarms for its functions or any break down, including fans and pumps.
Like utilities for over the top lighting setups on peripherals, you can do this via the BIOS. It also controls the lighting via the RGBW/Digital LED headers to do all such LED nonsense such as the following:
AORUS has a lot of utilities but needs APP Center to run them. It would make sense if it either had a single utility or have multiple utilities that can run independently. Anyways…
We’ll take a look at two of its utilities- Easy Tune and DAC UP 2!
DAC UP 2:
I did not bother to check out the LED effects, except the white coloured accents. The illumination is more than enough to brighten up the entire internal area of the PC case. I can only imagine the RGBW/Digital LED headers will be more used outside the system, such as pimping up your system setups. Why else anyone would need 2 meters to 5 meters support per header- and a 5/12v jumper for the digital LED headers. You can sync with the lights inside the PC. Of course, nothing more than LED bling.
Test System and Testing Methodology
The following setup is what’s used to test the MSI Z270 Krait Gaming motherboard:
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit Pro|
|Processor+ Cooler||Intel Core i7 8700K + Noctua NH-U14S|
|Motherboard||AORUS Z370 Gaming 7|
|RAM||16GB HyperX Savage DDR4|
|GPU||AORUS RX 580 XTR 8G|
|OS Drive||240GB SanDisk Extreme II SSD|
|Secondary||WD Red 3TB|
|PSU||Thermaltake DPS-G Gold 750w|
|PC Case||Lian Li A70F|
This motherboard is tested with the Core i7 8700k. If you are interested to read its review which includes 32 GB, 2667 MHz configuration and even with graphic card performance, here you go!
The Benchmarks are as follows:
- PCMark 8 Benchmarks: Home, Creativity and Office test score comparison
- Memory Profile Benchmark: AIDA64 Benchmark memory test
- SATA Testing: AS SSD Benchmark
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Transfer Test
- Boot Load Test: Tested with fresh OS Install and all drivers installed and Malwarebytes Anti-Malware.
PCMark 8 Benchmark
SATA Performance Testing
No matter how much I hate, I understand there are a good number of system builders who use a lot of LED lighting. That would explain way channels like ‘Pimp My Setup, ‘Tech Source’ and numerous Facebook groups are flooded with system and desktop setup. I wouldn’t care as long as it does not axe out the necessities.
The layout is very easy to use. Even in closed case setup, removing the graphics cards with medium to long cards should have enough space for you to eject it. The Intel platform supports native 2666 MHz and as per my Core i7 8700K, it is very good at it. I wish both the NICs used the same Intel network controller and enable teaming.
A user like me would like to have at least eight USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports from the rear because of convenience. Two more would be nice.
Thanks to the new Intel’s implementation, you can set specific turbo speed per core on the CPU via UEFI. You can also overclock per core manually as well. The manual needs to be updated as “Enhanced multi-core performance” isn’t included.
I am not very happy to see the MOSFET/VRM heatsink with not many sunk cut-outs. This is what MSI did. More sinks, the better. No metal which is good at heat transfer will help to dissipate heat if it is basically a block of metal. I saw an ECS Z370 motherboard which seems to have more sinks in its MOSFET/VRM sink. At this point, marketable decoration shouldn’t come in the way at all. It may not be a big deal since modern CPUs are more energy efficient, especially Coffee Lake. But it still needs care as overclocking generates heat- on the CPU and its related parts such as the CHOKES and its VRMs. This motherboard has a 5.0 GHz profile which I used. It pushes out a lot of heat. That tiny fan under the rear I/O bracket will barely do a good job. This is important especially when enhanced multicore performance is enabled by default (set to auto is enabled). Many users even overclockers may not observe it. Because the system does not notify the user. Luckily it does not change the settings when you change anything else- such as Intel XMP.
Mostly, I am happy with the motherboard. If and when you go ahead with shortlisting Intel Z370 motherboards, this would be one of them. The rest depends on the competition.
For some reason, the initial boot up in normal mode takes time initially because of the system check it goes through. But I’ve observed that it takes some time to accept two kits Kingston HyperX 16 kits (HX426C13SB2K2/16). After 3-4 auto restarts before POST, it figures out and accepts the 32 GB kit. No issues with 16 GB whatsoever. At the time of publishing this review, AORUS already released a new UEFI concerning better support for XMP profiles. Maybe that fixed it?
But seriously, AORUS! You really need to ease up on that RGB obsession. Some variants of these boards should be plain, catering to a more sober crowd. Hopefully, that won’t be limited to Designaire series- or RGBfy Designaire series as well. Asrock Tai Chi is a very good example. Simplicity is loved by all. The much older Ultra Durable series was loved for good reasons.
In a time like this Ryzen series has some tempting advantage over the Coffee Lake, it becomes important for the motherboard maker to provide more value. After all, if a Coffee Lake is chosen, the cost of the motherboard with its features (both native and non-native) will influence that decision as well. If you are appealing to a system builder- fair enough. Boutique system integrators or performance system builders? Best not to do both on a motherboard. Regardless, it is a versatile motherboard which would be greater with additional two USB 3.0 ports for the rear.
A flat temperature probe will be excellent to sandwich between VRM/chokes on motherboards or graphics card.
- Familiar BIOS Design
- M.2 and PCIe slot distribution
- Two USB 3.1 Gen 1 front panel ports
- USB 3.1 Gen 2 front panel port
- More than enough lighting options.
- MOSFET /VRM Design
- Startup/restart times irrespective of boot settings in the UEFI
- Recognition of 32 GB during first installation/post CMOS clear takes some time (F6 UEFI)
- Four SATA cables for a motherboard with six native SATA ports?
— Hardware BBQ (@HardwareBBQ) October 5, 2017