Motherboards are an interesting component in a PC. While the CPU is the brain and the GPU drives the visuals, the motherboard is the body while enables all of these components to work in concert with each other. However, for many people, myself included until recently, the motherboard was always an area to save a little extra money in order to afford the 8700K CPU or a new RTX 2070 graphics card. However, having a quality gaming motherboard can go such a long way to maximizing the investments you’ve made elsewhere in your gaming rig.
Enter the Z390 Aorus Pro from Gigabyte. The Aorus brand is synonymous with PC gaming, as many great GPUs, motherboards and more are emblazoned with its Horus-inspired falcon logo, and overall they are fantastic options for discerning gamers out there. However, compared to a budget board, they can be a bit pricey. The Aorus Pro is thankfully more middle of the road in terms of the overall cost, but does it skimp on its performance?
But first, here are the specs:
- Supports 9th and 8th Intel Core Processors
- Dual Channel Non-ECC Unbuffered DDR4, 4 DIMMs
- Intel Optane Memory Ready
- 12+1 Phases Digital VRM Solution with DrMOS
- Advanced Thermal Design with Multi-cuts Heatsinks and Heatpipe
- ALC1220-VB Enhance 114dB(Rear) / 110dB(Front) SNR in Microphone with WIMA Audio Capacitors
- Intel Gigabit LAN with cFosSpeed
- RGB FUSION with Multi-Zone LED Light Show Design, Supports Addressable LED & RGB LED Strips
- Smart Fan 5 features Multiple Temperature Sensors and Hybrid Fan Headers with FAN STOP
- Front USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C Header
For the full spec list, please click here.
The Aorus Pro motherboard is one of the flashiest boards I’ve owned. Decked out with RGB goodness, it’s aggressive angles and the eye catching Aorus logo surrounds the main parts of the board, such as the three m.2 drive slots and multiple PCIe slots. Additionally, the RAM slots are trimmed with RGBs, which when enabled create an eye-catching look, especially if paired with RAM also supporting RGB.
I’m thankful for the full ATX form factor as well. With modern GPUs being so big, I always feel as though mini-atx and ITX boards might suffer from the weight. While this could simply be paranoia, I do feel like the board is more secure thanks to the additional spots for mounting screws. I also really appreciate the built in I/O shield in the backend I/O. I’m constantly having issues remembering to install these, and so just having it there makes a huge difference in keeping the PC as dirt free as possible.
The Z390 Auros Pro doesn’t have a Z370 counterpart, though compared to the latter chipset, the Z390 supports USB 3.1 Gen 2, which includes speeds up to 10 Gb/s, and while this model of the Aorus Pro doesn’t take advantage of it, Z390 also brings with it integrated WiFi 802.11ac support. With the Z390 we also see support for DDR4 speeds up to 4266MHz. Otherwise the Z390 chipset is simply a slightly upgraded Z370, but the extra features are nice.
Thankfully the Z390 chipset supports both 8th and 9th gen Intel CPUs, so I’m able to use my 8700K with this motherboard instead of having to upgrade CPU to take advantage of those features, though it should be noted that the 9th gen CPUs also work on Z370.
The RGB Fusion app is also pretty intuitive. It’s not hard to figure out, and while it’s cool to be able to separately set up different RGB in the various board regions, I would like some more RGB cycles to choose from. It did automatically detect my Corsair RGB RAM, though, so that made syncing those up a breeze.
For me, the audio I/O is one of the more significant upgrades over my previous boards. While it is somewhat disappointing to only have 5.1 support built into the board, that is more than I could take advantage of previously. Additionally, the fact the back end features nine total USB ports is a god-send for someone like me. Counting it up, I have a RGB mousepad, mouse, keyboard, microphone, webcam, and a game controller plugged in constantly. Before I was requiring the use of my front panel USBs, but now everything comfortably sits in the back, cleaning up the wires in my workspace. And while it doesn’t have built in bluetooth, the Gigabit LAN is a nice touch for those who can take advantage of those speeds.
Overclocking using the Gigabyte/Aorus BIOS is actually pretty easy. The board does come with Multi-core enhancement turned off by default, but simply by checking that you can get a pretty stable basic overclock, which for me engaged all cores at a constant 4.7GHz. However, if you want to tweak things using the latest f9b BIOS you certainly can. The board gives you a ton of control over every individual setting and information, making it easy for someone like me who rarely overclocks (I’m absolutely neurotic about overheating living in a desert) to understand and figure out. I was able to engage that same 4.7GHz overclock at 1.3v easily.
However, I wanted to ensure testing was done at the CPUs stock values for parity overall. I initially ran into some issues there while benchmarking against my ASRock Phantom Gaming Mini-ITX/ac board. Both boards use the Z390 chipset and both were running at stock clocks on the i7-8700K, with turbo boost automatically engaging when applicable. However, the results I was initially seeing were astoundingly different, with the Aorus Pro lagging even behind my old $79 budget Z370 board.
After discussing further with our hardware’s editor, Chris Coke, we reached out to Gigabyte to explore the issue further. We came to the conclusion that the competitor board might be auto-enabling MCE out of the box, boosting all of the cores beyond the stock clock speeds. So I started fresh with a new hard drive and windows install, and re-tested both motherboards. This seemed to clear up the initial issues we were seeing. After confirming that both the ASRock Phantom Gaming and the Aorus Pro ran at the same clock speeds out of the box, the results started making more sense. Additionally, originally it didn’t seem as though the turbo boost on the Aorus Pro was enabling all the way (Intel rates the 8700K as TB to 4.7GHz on a single core, and in every test initially I couldn’t replicate that). The fresh driver and BIOS install cleared that issue as well.
Here are the specs of our test bench:
- CPU: Intel i7-8700K @ 3.7GHz base clock (4.7GHz boost 1C/4.3GHz boost 6C)
- Cooler: H60 Corsair CPU Cooler
- RAM: 16GB Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro DDR4 RAM @ 3000MHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon VII with AMD Adrenaline 19.2.1 drivers
- Storage: 2 TB Intel 760p m.2 NVMe SSD; 2TB Seagate Firecuda SSHD, 2TB Toshiba 7200RPM HDD, 2TB Hitachi 7200RPM HDD
- OS: Windows 10 64Bit version 1809
Gaming Synthetic Benchmarks
Gaming FPS Tests
Please note that the gaming benchmark tests are conducted using the maximum settings available in a game, and we will utilize the in-game benchmark when available. I tried to test games I felt that would be a mixture of both CPU-bound and GPU bound applications. Additionally, all games were benchmarked at 1080p to introduce a CPU bottleneck and give a much better indicator of CPU performance with the board.
As you can see, both boards performed almost on par with each other throughout. While in the synthetics the ASRock had a slight lead in many CPU benchmarks, when it came to gaming, even when introducing a CPU bottleneck, the Aorus Pro pulled ahead almost across the board. The Civilization VI and Total War tests are only a single point apart between the two boards, essentially negligible. The two titles that are more GPU bound, (though Total War: Warhammer 2 is a lot more GPU bound than you might initially think, even with all that AI), the Aorus Pro was ahead by a wider margin, but still close enough to be pretty negligible overall as well. This is also reflected in the Firestrike synthetic, with the Aorus Pro GPU score beating the ASRock, though the margin is flipped with the Time Spy CPU score with the ASRock taking a slight lead.
In the end, the Aorus Pro feels well worth the overall cost. At $179.99 it is a fantastic board, and it’s cheaper than the Z390 ASRock Phantom Gaming board I tested it up against. And the Aorus Pro simply has more functionality thanks to the form factor.
And while I had many issues getting these boards to benchmark properly, that likely won’t be your experience since it seems it was cleared up with simply a fresh Windows install. Saying that a $180 motherboard is worth the money is foreign to me as well. For years I would simply get by with cheap Gigabyte boards, leaving performance and tweaking ability on the table for the sake of a few dollars. Not anymore. The Aorus Pro has convinced me that spending money on a decent motherboard goes a long way.
From the added features, the overall gaming performance and the sheer level of control in the BIOS to tweak every aspect of your system, the Aorus Pro is a wise investment for anyone upgrading to either an 8th or 9th Gen CPU.
- RGB is pretty sweet
- Built in I/O shield is such a nice touch
- Performance overall feels worth the investment
- Level of control in BIOS is impressive
- RGB program features are somewhat limited
- Some of the on-board fan connectors are tucked behind the large board accents, making them hard to reach when installing
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of this review