The Platform: AM4
With a new processor comes a completely new platform as well. AM4 is the basic package that connects you to the world of Ryzen. It’s a rather robust package, too. It modernizes the entire AMD ecosystem and allows their processors to be future-proof, for the time being. They plan on using the AM4 socket for future CPUs including the forthcoming Raven Ridge APUs. In fact, they plan on utilizing the same socket through 2020.
The X370 chipset is on the highest end and includes a fair bit of functionality above and beyond what’s available through Zen itself. It gives eight additional lanes of PCIe generation 2 for additional peripherals, access to two SATAe ports, four additional SATA ports, two USB 3.1G2 ports, six USB 3.1G1 ports and an additional six USB 2.0 ports. Even for the enthusiast segment, they’re keeping PCIe slots on the generation 3 bus at two, because that’s likely the maximum that are actually useful.
The B350 chipset is meant for the mainstream, and six additional lanes of generation 2 PCIe, two additional SATA ports, 2 SATAe ports and 2+2+6 USB 3.1G2, USB 3.1G1 and USB 2.0 ports respectively. The A320 rounds out the low-end, or the “essential” market. It has only four generation 2 PCIe lanes with two SATA ports, two SATAe ports and a spread of 1+2+6 USB 3.1G2, USB 3.1G1 and USB 2.0 ports respectively.
Memory is dual channel with a total of four ports available. Currently RAM speeds of above 3200 are supported, though not always guaranteed. Because this is not an Intel product, XMP is obviously not supported, though setting the RAM settings manually in the BIOS will yield the same, stable results.
Our sample is a GIGABYTE AX370 Gaming 5, a very nicely equipped board indeed.
Gigabyte AX370 Gaming 5
|Memory||Dual Channel, 4 x DDR4 up to DDR4 3200|
|Audio||2 x Realtek ALC1220
Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5
|LAN||1 x Intel I219
1 x Killer E2500
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCIe X16
1 x PCIe X16 operating at X8
1 x PCIe X16 operating at x4
3 x PCIe x1
|Storage||1 x M.2 PCIe x4
1 x U.2
2 x SATA Express
8 x SATA
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A
6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
4 x USB 2.0
4 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A
|Internal I/O||1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x U.2 connector
1 x M.2 Socket 3 connector
2 x SATA Express connectors
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling CPU fan header
4 x system fan headers
2 x system fan/water cooling pump headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
1 x CPU cooler LED strip/RGB LED strip extension cable header
1 x RGB (RGBW) LED strip extension cable header
2 x temperature sensor headers
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x OC button
2 x BIOS switches
|Back Panel||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
1 x HDMI port
1 x USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 Gen 2 support
3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A ports (red)
6 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports
2 x RJ-45 ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
We’ve heard rumination that SLI is only available on the X370, and that may well be true, but not for the reasons you might think. There is no conspiracy, just a monetary decision made in reference to their competitor.
Regardless, there are plenty of PCIe lanes to go around for everything. The processor itself has 16 lanes dedicated for GPU use, 4 lanes for an NVMe SSD and an additional 4 lanes that are dedicated for chipset communication. This may not seem like a lot, though this is decidedly more PCIe lanes than that of Kaby Lake, and approaching as many as Broadwell-E.
One area that allows AM4 motherboards to be a bit less expensive, depending on additional features added, of course, is how AMD has chosen a sort of SoC-type design. They’ve offloaded a good portion of I/O onto the CPU itself, letting the CPU provide connectivity beyond just PCIe lanes. This also allows future motherboards the ability to grow with future AM4 processors without having to need a full, new chipset. That is, X370, as long as the BIOS is compatible with future Ze cores, could potentially be used again to provide future connectivity as opposed to needing to integrate a fully new chipset beyond that. Of course that isn’t necessarily practical, but possible. Some or all of the connectivity within the AMD Ryzen processor SoC may be combined with, or fully replace, connectivity provided by the chipset.
The cooler that we’ve been provided is the very superb Noctua NH U12S. This particular version comes with the AM4 mounting accessories that are needed and for some reason it also came with the PPC version of the F12 instead of the normal F12 fan. They are generally very similar, so it isn’t a detriment.
The U12S is more than suitable and can support upwards of a TDP 140W. And beyond, really. That means that the paltry 95W of heat output is nothing for this minuscule cooler.
Ready to check out performance?
AMD Ryzen Benchmark Setup
|AMD Ryzen 7 1800X||Intel i7 6900K||Intel i7-7700K|
|GIGABYTE AX370 Gaming 5||GIGABYTE X99 Gaming Ultra||GIGABYTE Z270X Gaming Ultra|
|Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 3000MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 3000MHz||Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB DDR4 3000MHz|
|Sandisk Extreme II 240GB||Sandisk Extreme II 240GB||Sandisk Extreme II 240GB|
|Seagate 4TB SSHD||Seagate 4TB SSHD||Seagate 4TB SSHD|
|NVIDIA GTX Titan X (Pascal)||NVIDIA GTX Titan X (Pascal)||NVIDIA GTX Titan X (Pascal)|
|Corsair AX 1200i||Corsair AX 1200i||Corsair AX 1200i|
|Noctua NH-U12S||Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 120||Cooler Master MasterLiquid Pro 120|