AMD's second-generation Ryzen CPUs are only a couple months away from enthusiasts' desktops, and the company will be introducing new high-end motherboards using the X470 chipset to go with them. Although AMD's own press event revealed precious little about what to expect from X470, our meeting with Gigabyte at CES 2018 afforded us practically unrestricted access to one of those motherboards well ahead of its launch closer to this spring.
A strategically-placed piece of electrical tape prevented us from seeing the board's full name, but we can confidently say that this is the Gigabyte Aorus X470 Gaming 7 WiFi. The most immediately evident (and welcome) change on this board relative to recent Gigabyte designs is the return of stamped aluminum fins on its VRM heatsink.
Gigabyte said it's been listening to customer feedback regarding VRM cooling, especially regarding Z370 motherboards, and the decision to return to a finned heatsink on the X470 Gaming 7 is in part because of this feedback. The X470 Gaming 7 further runs a six-millimeter-diameter copper heat pipe over its VRM phases for even more effective heat transfer to the aluminum fins above.
Another interesting fact that Gigabyte revealed about its future motherboard design direction regards RGB LED lighting. The company says it's actually exploring the installation of fewer RGB LEDs on its motherboards overall in favor of more dynamic effects from the RGB LEDs that remain. In the case of the Gaming 7 WiFi, that means a pair of fully-addressable RGB LED arrays in the chipset shroud and audio shroud. Another RGB LED strip along the upper right corner of the board and RGB LEDs ringing the first two PCIe slots remain a carry-over from current Aorus boards, but Gigabyte says that corner-mounted strip will likely be the next to go in its paring-back of blinkenlights.
In a cue taken from other high-end motherboard manufacturers, the Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi will have a built-in I/O shield shrouding its back panel. Gigabyte will include built-in power and Clear CMOS buttons (the latter of which can also be configured as a reset button in firmware) on the I/O panel, as well. This board will offer a wide range of peripheral connections, including six USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one Type-A, the other Type-C), Intel Gigabit Ethernet, and an Intel Wireless-AC 9260 adapter with 2x2 MIMO support.
For cutting-edge storage connectivity, the Gaming 7 will offer one M.2 slot powered by four PCIe 3.0 lanes from the CPU and another powered by PCIe 2.0 lanes from the X470 chipset. Recent rumors pointing to PCIe 3.0 support from AMD's next-gen chipsets would appear to be incorrect, as Gigabyte confidently asserted that no such connectivity upgrade is forthcoming with the new chipset. Like the VRM heatsink, the metal M.2 shields on these slots are aggressively finned for heat transfer.
Other niceties for the Gaming 7 include a socketed BIOS chip that can be field-swapped (a move that Gigabyte says is much preferable to RMAing an entire motherboard in the case of BIOS corruption), a 10+2-phase VRM comprising International Rectifier's IR3553 integrated PowIRstages and an IR 35201 PWM controller, a primarily cosmetic backplate, a Realtek ALC1220 audio codec with an ESS Sabre 9018Q2C DAC, and more. This board will doubtless provide a high-end home for AMD's second-generation Ryzen CPUs when they arrive, and we're eager to take it for a test drive when they do.
In general, we're pleased to see that Gigabyte is responding to customer feedback and incorporating real heatsinks on this board's VRM, and that change appears to be part of a broader push to address the concerning VRM temperatures we've seen with some recent CPUs under some workloads. We'll be waiting to see whether this design philosophy extends to more Gigabyte motherboards as the year progresses, but we imagine a wide swath of enthusiasts will be pleased if it does.