👤by David Mitchelson Comments 📅10-01-23
Closer Look

GIGABYTE’s X670E AORUS MASTER sits within the somewhat ill-defined EATX form factor, measuring an extended 29.5cm wide and 30.5cm tall. That’ll make it a squeeze within common mid-tower chassis that boast ‘EATX Motherboard Support,’ potentially including misaligned cable routing holes, and so will require some research into which case is fully compatible. It should however pose few problems for larger Full Tower enclosures.

The ‘board arrives bundled with the following accessories:

- WiFi 6E Antenna
- Four SATA III cables
- One RGB LED strip extension cable
- Two Thermistor cables
- Two Velcro Cable Ties
- A G Connector
- and one M.2 screw/standoff

The biggest surprise here is the pair of thermistor cables, probes for monitoring surface temperatures of locations where a sensor isn’t typically placed. The G Connector - used to more easily corral the front panel PWR/RST switch and LED leeds - is always a welcome addition in GIGABYTE’s bundles and it’s disappointing when other manufacturers don’t offer similar concessions at these price points. One minor disappointment is that the SATA cables are not braided, but that’s not massively important.

Where the AORUS XTREME went for a all-black aesthetic, the MASTER model has far more significant silver highlights throughout the chipset/M.2 storage heatspreaders and I/O cover. That makes for a bolder look and slightly more industrial look - particularly with clearly visible silvered screw heads - but isn’t one that’s clearly ugly or garish. Those who want to put their own stamp on the design can choose to remove the larger storage heatspreaders and instead rely on standard cooling offered by storage retail kits. LED lighting is supported through headers (3x RGB and 2x ARGB) and the illuminated AORUS logo.

The motherboard’s AM5 socket supports the whole range of Ryzen 7000-series CPUs, although the recently announced X3D models will likely require an UEFI BIOS update. Older AM4 coolers which utilise the clip retainer system should be compatible with the new AM5 socket, but other styles may not be supported. Check with the cooler manufacturer prior to installation; some manufacturers also offer upgrade kits to those who need it.

Twin 8-pin 12v connectors feed power direct to the CPU for both conventional and overclocked performance modes, an aspect of the design that will limit your selection of compatible PSUs. Directly below and to the right are two large heatsink fin arrays, cooling the 16+2+2 power stage design. These fins utilise the same ‘NANOCARBON’ coating as the XTREME cooling solutions, which GIGABYTE claims helps with heat dissipation. Air is channelled through these heatsinks, but the orientation of fins on the left-most heatsink may cause heat to be trapped behind the I/O shield, potentially increasing temperatures.

Further along the top edge are three PWM fan headers followed by three RGB LED headers - two standard 4-pin RGB and one 3-pin ARGB. Just below these headers is a power-on switch and two-digit troubleshooting code display for test-bench operation and boot problem diagnosis.

The line-up along the right-hand edge is crammed with more headers including the 24-pin ATX connector, two 4-pin fan headers, USB-C front panel header, thunderbolt/USB4 header, right-angled SATA ports and a pair of right-angled fan headers. Just below the USB-C header is a 4-LED POST sequence indicator LED - another troubleshooting tool - and a reset switch is positioned below the latter of the two fan headers.

Two additions with more than a nod towards overclocking are a modification to the reset switch and the series of voltage measurement points located between the 24-pin ATX and SATA connectors. The reset switch can serve as a multi-function key which can be programmed to boot directly to BIOS, boot with safe config. settings, or simply turn RGB lighting on/off.

This selection of features really shows how the AORUS MASTER is caught between two worlds: the high-end overclocking arena complete with discrete temperature and voltage sensors, multiple troubleshooting aids and aspects that suit test bench operation; and the standard desktop model, with (some) right-angled ports for easy cable management.

Directly below the CPU socket is an M.2 slot compatible with the new wider 25110 form factor as well as the older long 22110 standard, the former of which will be more common among PCIe 5.0 drives. This slow benefits from the augmented Thermal Guard III cooling (a heatsink on top of the slot’s heatspreader), and so is most suited for the highest performance SSDs. Next is the PCIe x16 slot, supporting PCI-Express 5.0 and GIGABYTE’s quick-release EZ-Latch Plus feature that makes removing a GPU more straightforward. Below this is one more PCIe 5.0 M.2 22110/2280 slot followed by two PCIe 4 M.2 22110/2280 slots, bringing the total number of supported PCIe 5.0 drives to two and the total amount of M.2 storage spaces to four (which is typical for X670E).

Each drive slot is located under a heatspreader; thermal pads are affixed both under the heatspreader and between drive and motherboard PCB for optimum cooling for even dual-sided M.2 SSDs. AORUS MASTER supports GIGABYTE’s M.2 EZ Latch Plus design that utilises a spring-loaded clip rather than screw to install drives. Installation isn’t totally toolless however as a screwdriver is still required to remove the ‘board’s heatspreaders.

The two PCIe x16 slots at the bottom of the board are wired for PCIe 4.0 x4 and PCIe 3.0 x2 lane operation respectively, but remain well away from the top-most slot to improve compatibility with today’s super-thick graphics cards. The PCIEx2 slot shares bandwidth with SATA3/4 ports; installing a card in this slot will disable these ports. Dual-GPU configurations are not supported by this motherboard.

Aligned along the bottom edge are more PWM fan, front panel, USB 2.0 and USB 3 headers as well as the PWR/RST/LED connectors for front panel switches. The only other notable inclusions are a couple more LED headers for RGB lighting extensions (one 4-pin, one ARGB 3-pin). Tucked away on the near side are the on-board audio components, isolated from other components as much as possible for cleaner audio reproduction.

As with all X670E motherboards, the AORUS MASTER features a wide selection of I/O from both chipset and the CPU SOC:

- Q-Flash PLUS button,
WiFi 6E (802.11ax) antenna sockets,
Displayport and HDMI for on-board VGA
2x USB 2.0 (Black Ports)
2x USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A (Red Ports), the lower of which supports GIGABYTE’s Q-Flash Plus functionality
USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C (10Gbps) port also supporting Displayport signalling
USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C (20Gbps) port
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (AKA USB 3.1 / 5Gbps, Blue Ports)
2.5GbE Port and two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (Red Ports)
SPDIF Out, Mic In and Line Out

There are only a few subtle differences between the I/O capabilities of the AORUS Master and XTREME, but the most significant is the inclusion of 2.5GbE LAN port rather than the higher bandwidth 10GbE. The MASTER model also doesn’t feature a Clear CMOS button on the rear, but that’s always been one of the more marginal inclusions on any high end rear panel. All in all, the motherboard has comprehensive I/O well aligned to mainstream/enthusiast consumer requirements, without encroaching on the premium market served by the AORUS XTREME design.

The motherboard also serves as an excellent example of the awful state of USB 3.x naming standards. That’s no fault of GIGABYTE, but bears mentioning here.

Our overall impressions of the AORUS MASTER are very positive. It has a logical layout that will help both consumers assembling their system and overclockers looking for features that help squeeze more out of their system, while not forgetting that in the vast majority of instances this motherboard will be installed inside an actual case. There’s no glaring weakness here, although some might prefer a more none-descript aesthetic as seen on the AORUS XTREME.

Purely on features, there’s absolutely a step up from the MASTER to XTREME models, but not quite as much as you might expect. The XTREME version certainly takes better advantage of X670E’s dual-chipset design (particularly greater PCIe 5.0 M.2 storage provision), but these and model-specific additions (such as 10GbE LAN) only serve to differentiate the two rather than undermine one or the other. That’s good product segmentation from GIGABYTE, even if it occurs at a higher price than many consumers will be able to stomach.

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