Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2018
GIGABYTE is one of the world’s largest and most well-known manufacturers of computer components and motherboards. GIGABYTE was founded in 1986 and has grown into one of the most influential, successful, and well-known motherboard manufacturers in the world. GIGABYTE isn’t unique in this regard, as several of its competitors were founded around the same time. We have seen many motherboard makers come and go over the years, but three of the most successful motherboard manufacturers are the ones founded around this time.
GIGABYTE is a bit of an odd duck. In my experience, GIGABYTE has often made some unusual choices regarding integrated features and motherboards, and even stranger choices regarding its aesthetic design for many of its products. GIGABYTE’s marketing regarding its name brands and model numbers share a similar dichotomy. Its name brands being somewhat hard to understand at times while its model numbers are generally clear and easy to figure out. For instance, I have no idea what the hell a "Designare" is but so far it seems to be on the high end of the spectrum. Products in the Designare family are sometimes quite similar to those in the Aorus family but may have more professionally oriented features and offer additional features at a higher cost. This can only be discerned by comparing similar products in both families. GIGABYTE’s X399 offerings are a good example of this with the Designare version offering slightly more than its Aorus counterpart. It’s hard to understand the pecking order of brands based on made-up words without definitions to go with them.
GIGABYTE still has Gaming G1 and other brands on its website, but these are obviously in transition as the G1 line is all made up of older parts. For some reason, GIGABYTE took nearly a decade to figure out what ASUS and MSI knew years ago, while those two companies have very different approaches to marketing. GIGABYTE fortunately, follows ASUS more closely than MSI, which is a good thing.
Motherboard model numbers on the other hand make a great deal of sense. While all the suffixes may not make much sense, it’s easy to understand that a UD3 motherboard is lower end than a UD5 or UD7. Newer, Aorus branded offerings tend to have a chipset > Aorus > Gaming > Level > + Options type of convention. This works out to looking like this: X470 Gaming 7 WiFi. This would be a higher end offering than the X470 Gaming 5, which would use the same chipset, but lack some features and wouldn’t include wireless networking.
The X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi is based AMD’s X470 chipset for socket AM4 processors. This includes the Ryzen 1000 and 2000 series processors. The X470 chipset isn’t all that different from the previous X370 chipset. It features lower power consumption and supports AMD’s Precision Boost 2 and XFR2 technologies. Additionally, the chipset comes with a free license for its StoreMI feature. While this technology can be used on older X370 and X399 motherboards, there is a fee for the license. Aside from these aforementioned changes, the X470 chipset is identical to the X370 chipset. Motherboard vendors on the other hand have improved VRM designs and it looks as though power delivery has been improved from the previous generation on motherboards I’ve looked at thus far.
As the model number indicates, this is a higher end offering and currently the flagship of the X470 lineup from GIGABYTE at the time of this writing. The motherboard supports all the features provided by the chipset. This includes PCI-Express 3.0, USB 3.1, NVMe, SATA 6Gb/s, StoreMI, and more. GIGABYTE’s DualBIOS, USB DAC-UP 2, Thermal Armor, PCIe Armor, M.2 Thermal Guard, RGB Fusion, Smart Fan 5, and so on. A lot of that is marketing fluff, but we’ll cover what those terms and features mean throughout the course of the review.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The packaging for the X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi is like that of most motherboards sold today. The artwork is simple and relatively tasteful. The box art and packaging look basically the same for all the X470 motherboards in GIGABYTE’s lineup. The back of the box shows a glimpse of the motherboards appearance and feature set. Our sample was well protected and arrived with the following items and accessories: User guide, multilingual installation guide, sticker sheet, Aorus case badge, Velcro cable ties, RGB extension cable, SATA cables, G-connector, wireless antenna, zip ties, and M.2 mounting hardware.
The layout of the X470 Gaming 7 WiFi is outstanding. Ordinarily, I look at these motherboards and use these on an open-air test bench. My thoughts on the layout are based on two decades of system building experience, across more builds than I could possibly ever count. Still, thoughts on a given motherboard and how it works in a chassis are largely theoretical as I rarely install a given board into a chassis. However, during the time of this writing I installed a GIGABYTE X470 Gaming 5 WiFi into a Corsair Crystal 570X case for a friend’s build. While I haven’t officially reviewed the Gaming 5, I can say that its very similar to the Gaming 7. Specifically, the layout is almost identical minus a couple of features.
In other words, I’ve actually put a system together using a motherboard with a virtually identical layout and found that it worked very well in a real-world chassis. Of course, the experience of installing any motherboard will vary from chassis to chassis with some working better than others for cable management and connecting front panel ports to various headers. Still, I don’t foresee any issues with installing this motherboard in anything other than extremely large full tower type systems where some manufacturers may fail to provide adequate length cables.
The motherboard is relatively heavy given the metal backplate, integrated I/O shield, PCIe armor, M.2 heat sinks, memory armor, and very high quality MOSFET cooling hardware. While there isn’t always a direct correlation between quality and weight when it comes to electronics, it's generally a good rule of thumb that any piece of hardware that would seriously injure or kill smaller household pets is a quality piece of hardware. If the PCB looks like it might break just by looking at it, chances are it’s not very good.
When you get a closer look at the PCB, you’ll find 8x 4-pin fan headers and 2x temperature input headers. Being built for gaming, two of the headers are water pump headers and 7 temperature sensors are provided for monitoring along with headers for two external temperature sensors. The PCB also has an OC button, 2x RGB LED headers, and an OC button. The motherboard features 10+2 phase power, with 10 phases allocated to the CPU. There are ten IR3553 power phases dedicated to CPU power which are all capable of 40A each, while the 2x IR3556 phases used for SoC are capable of 50A. This is a phase doubled solution via IR3599’s in a 5+2 configuration for 10+2 total phases. This is normal and isn’t a cause for concern so long as it's done right.
The CPU area is free of any major obstructions. The heat sinks are a bit unusual. Most modern heat sinks are solid aluminum and sometimes include an integral heat pipe. In this case, the heat sinks feature separate aluminum fins with a connecting copper base that’s part of the heat pipe. GIGABYTE claims that this cooling solution is up to 40% cooler than traditional heat sink designs. You can see the 10+2 phase power solution around the CPU socket, as well as the four AM4 style mounting holes. Some motherboards accommodate AM3 and AM4 thermal solutions, but the GIGABYTE X470 Gaming 7 WiFi, only supports the newer AM4 style heat sinks and cooling solutions.
An integrated base plate can be found on the back side of the PCB which adds to the structural stability and durability of the motherboard. The CPU is powered by an 8-pin and a 4-pin power connector. GIGABYTE now uses a solid pin design which is supposed to provide better conductivity. These plugs all use these.
There are four 288-pin DIMM slots, supporting a total of 64GB of DDR4 RAM. These use two-sided locking tabs and feature steel reinforcement to prevent plate bending during memory installation. The memory slots are clearly marked via silk-screening. Unfortunately, these slots lack any kind of color coding to denote proper dual channel memory mode operation. If you use an AIO type of cooling system, the memory slots won’t be a problem. However, if you wish to use a traditional heat sink and fan you may encounter clearance issues with taller memory modules. In front of the DIMM slots GIGABYTE, has an LED overlay which can be switched out for different designs. These can even be 3D printed and GIGABYTE provides a link to the dimensions and files for doing so on the product page for the X470 Gaming 7 WiFi.
The chipset is cooled by a flat, passive heat sink. GIGABYTE’s product page states that the styling is supposed to resemble the wings of an eagle. It’s not exactly what I think of when I look at an Aorus board. Sure, the logo is reminiscent of an eagle but the rest of it hardly does. In any case, the heat sink is properly mounted via screws rather than push pins and spring tensioners. Unfortunately, the heat sink is somewhat prone to scratching. I found this out while setting up the motherboard.
Next to the chipset and cooling solution, you will find the front panel header and SATA ports. Most of the time you’ll see the debug LEDs close to the chipset rather than the memory slots. The heat sink is rather large, and therefore doesn’t allow room for much else in this section of the motherboard.
The expansion slot area is thoughtfully configured. There are two PCI-Express x16 Gen 3.0 slots supporting a x16/x0 or x8/x8 lane configuration. As is typical of current production motherboards in this class, steel reinforcement or "Ultra-Durable PCIe Armor" as GIGABYTE calls it is utilized to prevent shearing forces from damaging the motherboard. This also prevents motherboard flex allowing for better GPU retention. A double locking bracket is employed to help further GPU or expansion card retention. Unfortunately, GIGABYTE opted to use a different bracket for the third PCI-Express x16 slot, which doesn’t look good because it doesn’t match the others. The third slot also looks different as it lacks the RGB LED lighting of the other two slots. The third PCI-Express x16 slot is an x4 slot electrically speaking. This slot is Gen 2.0 compliant, rather than Gen 3.0 compliant like the other two PCIe x16 slots. Additionally, there are two Gen 2.0 PCIe x1 slots available for use as well.
Naturally, there are also two M.2 slots. The primary slot, M2_1 supports devices upwards of 110mm in length. This slot supports both SATA and PCIe / NVMe based devices while M2_2 only supports 80mm long PCIe devices. GIGABYTE adds heat sink covers for these slots with thermal pads on the underside. The screws for the covers aren’t captive like the ones on the X399 Designare. While it’s shrouded in plastic, the audio solution’s WIMA and Nichicon capacitors can be seen behind the expansion slots.
The GIGABYTE X470 Gaming 7 WiFi has an integrated I/O shield. Once you experience this amazing innovation you won’t ever want to go back to the cheesy tin punch outs found on most motherboards. As one might expect, the I/O panel is packed with connectivity options. You will find 2x wireless antenna ports, 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB DAC-UP 2 ports, 1x USB type-A port, 1x USB type-C port, 1x RJ-45 port, 1x optical out, 5x, mini-stereo jacks. The audio jacks are color coded. You will also find a power button and a clear CMOS button. The power button is unusual, as I haven’t ever seen that before.