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Gigabyte AORUS- Repositioning or Reinvigorating for Gamers?

Disclosure: Gigabyte India paid for return tickets and one-day hotel stay.

What is AORUS??

At the time when Gigabyte VGA’s presence was new in India, they had the G1 Gaming series and the Xtreme Gaming series lineup. While both had its own design philosophy, at times both series felt a little redundant. While ASUS ROG was pitching towards overclockers, redundantly high-mid end and extremely users, “Strix’ is the poor man’s ROG. Why wouldn’t it? If ROG brand was appearing for B  and H series, it looks bizarre. Would Porsche now make cheap cars? There’s a standard to maintain since it always portrayed itself for better or for worse! But both worked, marketing wise.

While it is too early to say, I feel AORUS is a sub-brand that replaces G1 Gaming and maybe XTREME Gaming? Every brand has “gaming this” and “gaming that”. Kingston has HyperX and pushes it as if its an independent branding. Maybe it does work and maybe it does attract a large userbase. For Gigabyte, it needs to work irrespective of the number of models or if it appeals to a mass or a select group of users.

Is it just in a name?

My opinion- yes. That might be a good aspect with Gigabyte as it wasn’t able to get its “Gaming” marketing quite right. Furthermore, the design between its GPUs and motherboards aren’t relatable. Even if the primary purpose of a PC would be gaming, its still a versatile system. Unfortunately “gaming” branded products have either one of the two meanings- too cheap but too bling or too bling and too expensive. Yes, they do have certain features but the premium doesn’t exactly make sense. Since Nvidia drivers restrict with two-way SLI, you have to ask the question “how would you justify the premium??”

AORUS covers all the way from B to Z series, perhaps maybe X series Intel chipsets too. Unlike ROG, Gigabyte can work with a clean slate. However, building a brand recognition from scratch has its ups and downs. ROG has been around for a long time and while it took its time to get aboard the hype train, eventually it has that symbol of overspending panache for some people, while others easily justify by taking advantage of it in some sense. Of Course, non-ROG are just as good. It just that it misses some non-native features that everyday users might not utilize it from day 1.

Honestly, I am not sure if a series that places itself from low-end to mid or even high-end chipset would work. But honestly, not many people care as long as the long line of AORUS motherboards lives up to its standards of being good, if not best. Yeah, this is all marketing talk. But like many things in life, at times we like to own something recognizable.

AORUS Lineup applies for motherboards, graphic cards, gaming notebooks and maybe even a lot more peripherals. Separate sub-branding is either a hit-or-miss. Many Cooler Master hardware was so good for the premium. But, unfortunately, the marketing was just on gamers and didn’t appeals to other type of users. Now as you can see, CM Storm is no more, replaced with ‘Maker Series’ to appeal with a wide range of audience.

What would you want?

Before we go ahead, there was a basic closed room discussion among some comrades-in-arms. The main issue was that people couldn’t differentiate between chipsets. The common consensus was that when it comes to features, B series should do the job. Again- even if you buy a gaming PC, obviously you will be using it for a lot more than just gaming. You’ll do media streaming, editing, transcoding, general workloads and maybe even photoshopping a meme.  Maybe not now, but at some point during the system’s usefulness. I might say H270 is enough for most prople. But people should draw that judgement for themselves rather than me.

When you keep all this in mind, understand what each chipset provides. Intel announced five desktop motherboard chipsets- Q270, Q250, B250, H270 and the Z270. Since companies are likely to use Intel B, H and Z chipsets for “Gaming” motherboard branding, we’ll take a look at basic features that gamers would typically take a look at.

Basic Feature Breakdown- Intel 200 Series

B270 H270 Z270
PCIe x16 3.0 Support 1 1 2 (x8)
Max Memory Bandwidth (Native) DDR4 2400MHz DDR4 2400MHz DDR4 2400MHz
OC Support No No Yes
RAID Support No Yes Yes
PCIe 3.0 Lanes 12 30 30
HSIO Lanes  25  30  30
USB 3.0 Ports 6 8 10
SATA Ports 6 6 6

If you make your purchase decision based on this table, it’s likely gamers will choose an H270. Modern age processors do not become obsolete for gaming even after three-to-four years. Such users rarely step beyond one graphic card setup because if they go ahead for two cards they’ll need to invest in a good enough power supply. What they do get is more HSIO and PCIe lanes which enable the manufacturer to put in more expansion features. This enables a PC user to be more future ready compared to B series. Naturally, the B series might be picked up by someone who is buying a PC strictly for gaming, which is naturally the case with cafe owners. At best, it’s going to be used for DOTA2, CSGO and games like overwatch.

Eight might be too many USB but with HSIO lanes, manufacturers can add in two USB 3.0 headers which will power up to four USB 3.0 front panel ports and even have a non-native USB 3.0 gen 2 Type A+C ports. There’s also the cost factor that works against the Z series. Most people I’ve seen rather spend more money on a processor than a motherboard. If an H series has same featured compared to its Z series, why would they pick the latter? Unfortunately, Intel’s policy of not enabling overclocking feature is just strange and maybe at some point, manufacturers would force enable it with a BIOS update. You’ll never know!

There’s also the question of AMD Ryzen. Unfortunately AMD India has a ‘one-way’ communication method so there’s really nothing to say.

AORUS Model Display

Three of the motherboards above that were showcased Gigabyte GA-Gaming B8, Gigabyte GA-H270-Gaming 3 and the GA-Z270X-Ultra Gaming. For many long time Gigabyte motherboard users, the PCIe slot layout looks very familiar. For me, it reminds me of the Gigabyte 890GPA-UD3H. By the looks of it, GA-H270-Gaming B8 already looks feature packed with two M.2 slots with the first allowing up to 110mm cards, clean design that should allow easy installation of 2.5” thick slot cards such as the Zotac GTX 1070 Extreme AMP! and a clean layout overall.

LED Overkill??!?

Gigabyte emphasizes a lot on LED bling in the name of ‘Multi-Zone Light Show Design’ which consists of 16.8 million lights, 6 lighting modes, 8 programmable sections, 2 RGBW (Red, Green, Blue, White) headers on the motherboards (seen also in previously reviewed MSI X99 Gaming Pro and Z270 Gaming M5) and an interchangeable overlay (as seen in the picture above which is placed next to the DIMM slots. RGBW LED lights are now a thing. It must be working out for brands or else LED phase would have died silently just like SATAexpress.

Audio and USB

Gigabyte is using Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 + ALC 1220 audio controller with a smart headphone amp which automatically detects the impedance of your headphone when connected. Gigabyte is using Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 + ALC 1220 audio controller with a smart headphone amp which automatically detects the impedance of your headphone when connected. There’s also USB DAC-UP 2 which is advertised to provide clean power while avoiding voltage drop. This could be useful for a variety of devices such as VR headsets, mouse/keyboard/Gamepads (?), external USB storage devices and USB audio devices such as USB mics, headsets and probably even USB preamps for XLR microphones. The DAC-UP 2 is provided for the front and rear I/O, according to the catalog. For the rear, DAC-UP 2 is marked yellow, most likely below the mouse/keyboard PS/2 port.

Watercooling for VRMs!

Power, Lanes and Overclocking!

There are exclusive features on flagship models as Gigabyte hooked up with EKWB and Bitspower VRM hybrid waterblock for a particular model. The company also seems to be interesting in pushing liquid cooling with its motherboard. They went to the point of getting six people to put together few hard pipes and fittings together, then fill it up with coolant to show leak test. Of course, the hard pipes were kept ready for easy installation or else encouraging newbies for DIY liquid cooling is going to take its time.

Some of the Gigabyte AORUS models a set of 22 power phase for its Z270 flagship models and PowerStage ICs. It also added a PLX chip (on the models such as Z270X Gaming 8) to provide 32 lanes including the ones on the Kaby lake, thus allowing x16 bandwidth on both PCIe x16 slots. Its another argument to see if currently available graphic do take advantage of dual x16 mode slots with dual-CPU setups.

PCIe Slot Space!

2.5x Slot Space

When the design clearly shows it, you wouldn’t need a presentation. As said above, while the PCIe slot layout reminds you of the older motherboards, this can easily accommodate 2.5x slot width GPUs even on the multi setup, while not interfering with the bottom placed headers. Furthermore, Gigabyte will provide High-Bandwidth SLI bridge by default which is a plus as even the Z270X Gaming M5 came with an older ribbon bridge.

Other Features!

Gigabyte implemented four digit-debug LED to help hardware diagnostic easier, while providing four indicators for CPU, DRAM, VGA and boot process. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with a two-digit variants and usually it’s adequate. Its Gaming G9 model has two U.2 ports to take advantage off. It also provides two PCIe NVMe RAID 0 setups with three SSDs which the company says it would provide up to 3.56Gb/s read and 2.86Gb/s write. The Gaming 9, Gigabyte AORUS’ flagship model, has Thunderbolt 3 via USB type-C that allows daisy-chaining up to six thunderbolt devices. While this is native with the Intel chipset, the HDMI 2.0 not only provides support for 4K 60P but also for a famous 21:9 ultra-wide display panels.

What’s not mentioned!

What’s not talked about is a common feature where you can flash a motherboard’s BIOS directly by plugging in a USB with a BIOS on a particular port and pressing a button for easy flash. Practically all mainstream motherboard now have it. Gigabyte calls it Q-Flash Plus. As graphic cards are getting heavier, Gigabyte has a double locking brack which has pins pushed through both sides the PCIe x16 slot and soldered on the other end. While I am skeptical of metal shielding’s actual usage, you can find these on the PCIe slots and the DIMM slots. As a choice of USB 3.1, the featured AORUS lineups would use the ASMedia 2142 controller that uses two PCIe lanes and providing 16Gb/s bandwidth. Some USB 3.1 enabled models will be using Intel’s solution which provides up to 32Gb/s bandwidth. Both controllers support Type A and C.

Personal Take- AORUS branding will bring a change?

Would Gigabyte AORUS branding help? It’s a difficult question to answer that. But the VGA division’s country head said that I’ll get to see motherboard and graphic sharing similar aesthetics so that is a step in the right direction. Alas, I was expecting to see AORUS notebook lineups as well. Would we see them? Time will tell. Maybe we would see similar features on AMD Zen motherboards since some of the prototypes shown by other brands have similar features found in Z270 as well. I am really not a fan of RGBW lighting, but I am sure it appeals to a lot of users.

Gigabyte AORUS- Repositioning or Reinvigorating for Gamers? from hardware

 

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