In the search for a new motherboard, to pair with my new Ryzen 7 1700 chip, I aimed to strike a good balance between price and performance, ASUS’ X370-F STRIX Gaming motherboard seemed to tick the boxes, with the X370 chipset I wanted, at a price point that is actually affordable. The question it raises: what do you lose out on my opting for a lower end X370 motherboard?
Aesthetics & Layout:
The motherboard has a generic layout, one that is functional, but certainly nothing out of the ordinary. It features the new AM4 socket, with support for all of the consumer-end Ryzen CPUs, with 4 RAM dimms do the right, these supporting dual channel memory and upto 64GB of it, in a 4 x 16GB dimm configuration. The PCI-E lanes sit, as usual, below the socket, with the top 2 x16 lanes being the only ones of the PCI-E type 3 variety, and the only ones to feature metal shrouding, preventing GPU-strain inflicted damage to the motherboard. The rest of the slots are of the 2.0 variety in a range variety and come in varying physical lengths. The bandwidth provided to each slot is going to vary based on the combination of PCI-E devices and the CPU installed, although the X370 chipset will give you more lanes than the other, cheaper, motherboard chipsets. Th lanes come in following order: X1 (PCI-E 2.0), X16 (PCI-E 3.0), X1 (PCI-E 2.0), X16 (PCI-E 3.0), X1 (PCI-E 2.0), X16 (PCI-E 2.0)
Aesthetically it is another case of an ASUS STRIX branded motherboard that looks nothing short of support. The dark gray, soft touch plastic and gloss black colors are neutral enough to fit well, with any build, and the accent AURA RGB lighting allows a ‘pop’ of color. One criticism of the design would be the lack of RGB integration on the chipset heatsink, I understand features have to be held back for higher end models, but it really would have made this board look even better!
As has been the case with many motherboards I’ve looked at recently, including ones from ASUS and MSI, the option to ‘Make it your own’ through 3D printing is once again present, but let’s be real here: who really has a 3D printer of their own?! (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again)
In terms of storage, connectivity, the board is once again pretty good, although nothing too special. There are 8 SATA 3 ports and a 110mm M.2 connector. As I mentioned in the video version of this review (above), I would have loved to have seen a second M.2 slot, but due to PCI-E lane restrictions its an understandable loss. The SATA ports do of course support RAID in RAID 0, 1, 5 & 10 varieties.
Front & Rear Panel IO:
IO connectivity is another area that is good, but, once again nothing ground breaking. With 2 USB 2.0 ports, Displayport and HDMI connections, for future Ryzen CPUs featuring onboard graphics, 6 USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit RJ45 ethernet port, 2 USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (of the Type A and Type C variety), 7.1 3.5mm audio jacks and an optical audio out. One criticism that can be made here is in regards to the lack of a BIOS flashback or Clear CMOS button, these are features that are certainly nice to have, but ones that have to be sacrificed at this lower price point.
Font panel and on board connections are another good show on this board. With USB 2, USB 3.0 and USB 3.0 10Gbit front panel connectors the board seems to cover all of the necessary bases. You also get 7 fan headers, which is a nice amount, especially when you consider intake, exhaust, radiator and a pump being plugged into these headers.
You also get a pair of 4pin RGB headers for direct integration with ASUS’ Aura Sync software. These headers can be used for plugging generic RGB strips into, for some nice ambient case lighting. They can also be used for other compatible RGB gear, such as Cooler Master’s new RGB fans!
One thing the board does miss out on, once again caused by its more affordable price point, is a Q-Code display. These can be incomprehensibly useful when debugging and discovering what problem is causing crashes or a failed boot. For me, it’s the biggest downside of this cheaper X370 board, but one that isn’t exactly a deal breaker.
Overclocking Ryzen is particularly interesting given that both the X370 and B350 chipsets support overclocking, placing this budget oriented X370 board higher up in the Ryzen overclocking stack than you may initially think. Using ASUS’ included 5 Way Optimisation software the CPU received a decent overclock of 3.6GHz, from its stock speed of 3.0GHz and Turbo boost of 3.4GHz. You can, of course, overclock manually, and see results nearer the 3.7GHz region, but in general, the software does a pretty good job!
To conclude, I love the design here, as with previous STRIX releases, it’s clean, edgy and neutral in its color scheme which is a huge upside in my opinion. It also seems to strike the ideal price to performance balance, providing you with the features of the highest end X370 chipset, at a price that isn’t nonsensical: your money is much better spent on a higher end CPU, GPU or some more RAM than it is on a higher end motherboard, that’ll give you a 2% overclock.
For the video version of this review please click here.