Last week AMD provided additional details on the chipsets and AM4 platform (JoshTekk article link) that will support the company's upcoming Ryzen processors. On tap are the X370, B350, A320 for enthusiast, mid range, and budget markets respectively and the odd-man-out and somewhat mysterious pinky sized X300 chipset specifically geared for Mini ITX and other small form factor motherboards. Gigabyte answered some of Josh and I's questions on what actual motherboards will look like and what features manufacturers would take advantage of when it unveiled (nearly) its full lineup of AM4 motherboards at CES 2017.
Except for an X300-based motherboard which was absent from their booth, Gigabyte teased four new motherboards using each of AMD's new chipsets. Specifically, there will be two Aorus-branded high end X370-based motherboards known as GA-AX370-Gaming 5, GA-AX370-Gaming K5, a midrange B350-based Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 motherboard, and a budget micro ATX A320M-HD3 using the lower end A320 chipset.
All four of the motherboards surround the 1331-pin AM4 processor socket with four dual channel DDR4 DIMM slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, at least one M.2 slot, at least two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and modern USB 3.1 external IO connections.
Tech Report takes a look at Gigabyte's planned AM4 motherboard lineup.
The Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming 5 is the company's highest end motherboard and is clad in silver and black with white heatspreaders and "armor" plating. Being part of the Aorus brand, the motherboard has RGB LEDs and is reportedly at feature parity with Gigabyte's RGB-lit Z270 offerings. Powered by a 24-pin ATX and 8-pin EPS, the Gaming 5 uses a 10-phase VRM along with large heat spreaders to facilitate overclocking. The board features three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots that are electrically wired as x16/x8/x4 with support for CrossFireX and SLI (though only AMD will let you go to three cards on the third x4 slot) and three PCI-E x1 slots. The storage subsystem includes a single U.2 port and two SATA Express connectors (part of the total six SATA 6Gbps, not in addition to).
External I/O includes:
- 1x PS/2
- 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2 (1 x Type-C)
- 2x Gigabit Ethernet
- 1x Intel
- 1x Killer Ethernet 2500
- 6x Audio
- 5x Analog out
- 1x SPDIF
Other little features like a BIOS code readout display and hybrid fan headers are part of the higher end boards but absent on the lower end ones.
Moving from the Gaming-5 to the GA-AX370-Gaming K5, the heat spreaders are scaled back and the color scheme is black and silver instead of white, silver, and black. Further, the power phases are less robust at seven phases, there is no LED display for error codes, no U.2 port, and no Killer Networks Ethernet. The slightly lower end board does keep the M.2 slot, SATA Express connectors, and PCI-E slots of the Gaming 5, however.
The Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 is where things start to noticeably change in the feature set. The VRM area is scaled back further with seven phases and a smaller heatsink. There is no U.2 or SATA Express, and one fewer PCI-E x1 slot than the X370 offerings. The motherboard does have three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (I am guessing still wired as x16/x8/x4 but AMD's slide from Josh's story is a bit unclear in this regard) but officially CrossFire and SLI are not supported according to AMD's slide. Around back, the board differs from the higher end models by including display outputs and lacking S/PDIF audio outputs. Specifically, the Gaming 3 board features:
- 2x USB 2.0
- 1x PS/2
- 4x Video outputs
- 1x VGA
- 1x DVI
- 1x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1x HDMI 2.0 [updated 10:32]
- 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1
- 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2
- 1x Intel Gigabit Ethernet
- 3x Analog audio outputs (AmpUp! audio)
Finally, the lowest end A320M-HD3 is a micro ATX motherboard with four DDR4 slots, six SATA port, two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (likely wired as x8/x4), a single M.2 slot, and a PCI slot of all things. The all black board uses a 7 phase VRM and thanks to most of the connectivity being housed in the processor and A320 chipset, the PCB looks rather barren. This does have the positive effect of allowing AMD to still put four DIMM slots on the board and two PCI-E slots with room to spare. External I/O on this board is identical to the AB350-Gaming 3 above.
In all, it is refreshing to see an updated AMD motherboard platform with the latest storage and graphics connectivity options, and while SATA Express and even U.2 aren't as useful as they could be (not many products actually use those connectors, M.2 has really stolen the show here) the inclusion of native USB 3.1 Gen 2 is great as is the ability to use all six SATA 6Gbps ports along with dual graphics cards (things get dicer when adding PCI-E storage and/or using the 4th x16 slot which may reduce the number of available SATA ports but that is a bit beyond this article.) It is nice to see these features coming from AMD directly and not having to rely on third party chips for modern features as AMD's AM3 platform had to. Seeing the initial launch boards take advantage of the new features fully is promising as well though I expect to see different configurations in the audio, M.2, and external I/O departments from future Gigabyte boards and their competitors.
I am curious to see how well the chipsets perform versus Intel's in the USB 3.1 and PCI-E storage departments as well as how overclocking will work with Ryzen and how far the AM4 platform boards will be able to push the new chips. It appears that AM4 has Zen off to a good start, and here's hoping that the AM4 platform will carry Zen into the future and help Ryzen, ahem, rise up to the task of delivering on all those performance promises from AMD!
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