Introduction,The last of our Gigabyte motherboard reviews for the Z590 range comes in the form of the Aorus Pro AX. We’ve been waiting patiently whilst Gigabyte kick their BIOS engineers up the bum in the hopes of producing a BIOS which backs up their excellent hardware design, but even we eventually need to move on to the next product. We’re a review site after all, and that means telling you of our experiences, for good or ill.,So far the results have been a mixed bag, with the Aorus Ultra ITX proving the standout performer, and the Aorus Master having some issues that haven’t yet been solved.,We could tell you all that we’re hoping to get from the Pro AX, but we already know the results and we don’t want to waste any words postulating when we know the truth. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.,Technical Specifications,Any time you see a motherboard with the word Pro in the name it tends to either be something at the lower end – for professionals rather than gamers – or actually a product which is deserving of such a lofty moniker. In the case of the Gigabyte Aorus Pro AX it’s fairly clear from the specifications that it falls into the latter camp. Nearly every USB port is the high bandwidth 3.2 Gen2 type, there are 4 NVMe M.2 sockets to ensure you can enjoy blazing transfer speeds from your storage, and with a 12+1 90A Smart Power Stage there is enough juice to ensure even the most enthusiastic overclocker has plenty to work with. When you add to that the UD Armor on the DDR4 and PCIe 4.0 slots, some serious effort taken to ensure that the VRMs remain cool even under hefty loading, and extra effort put in to the ALC4080 Audio the latest addition to the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus range is most definitely living up to being called the Pro AX.
Cooling, Packaging and Overview,Having plenty of places to plug in your cooling – be it CPU AIOs or swathes of case fans – is key to getting your temperatures down and letting the automatic overclocking that is such a strong feature of both CPUs and GPUs these days work to their utmost. Low temperatures equal higher clock speeds equal better performance and make for happy users. The Aorus Pro AX definitely has plenty of fan headers, but also lots of temperature monitoring points too
Packaging and Overview,The Aorus box is rapidly becoming famous both for its consistent design approach regardless of the hardware contained within, but also for the solidity of the Gigabyte Aorus product range. It’s been a long time since any of them have been even average much less disappointing. It shows how far Gigabyte have come in a short period of time., ,
Before we get down to taking a closer look at the Aorus Pro AX it’s always nice to get an overall view of it. We like the angles on the heatsinks and are big fans of the brushed aluminium finish on the M.2 heatspreaders and chipset heatsink. It’s certainly an attractive product even before it’s been covered in hardware.,
Up Close,Time to take a tour around the Aorus Pro AX and as always we start with the top left, where apart from the 8+4 12V CPU power input and system fan header, you can see the fat heat pipe that ties the two VRM heatsinks together.
Next up there are the CPU fan headers and two LED Strip headers that form the basis of the RGB Fusion 2.0 system. All the DIMM slots are braced too, for all the longevity we demand.,
Getting around to the business portion of the Pro AX we find, from top to bottom, the USB 3.2 Type-A and Type-C front panel connectors to keep your case usable instead of crawling around the back every time you want to plug in a thumb drive or memory card. They sit above the six SATA III ports for those of you with more normal storage drives.,
Along the bottom there are two USB 2.0 headers, something which has seen new life thanks to RGB AIOs and alternative lighting systems, and next to them the other two RGB LED strip headers for your Fusion 2.0 needs.,
It’s worth mentioning how all the M.2 slots have heatspreaders on them, no bare drive worries here. That’s particularly important given the extra bandwidth afforded to them via the PCI Express 4.0 speed. If you’re pushing 7GB/s it’s nice to know the drive isn’t left exposed to the elements.,
Around the back is a whole host of USB 3.2 ports. Normally USB ports come in a variety of types, but it’s a demonstration of the bandwidth available to the 11th Gen CPU and Z590 combination that besides a quartet of USB 2.0 they’re all USB 3.2 in Type-A and Type-C styles. Lastly the 2.5G LAN port and 802.11AX WiFi have ygove your networking needs handled.,
Beneath that beefy power phase heatsink lays the 12+1 Digital Power Design with 90A SPS for a massive amount of potential power and performance. Helping keep things smooth and cool is the PCB design itself which is 6 layer on the Pro AX.
AIDA64,Since its early days as Everest, AIDA64 has provided an excellent way to benchmark your system without requiring you to take a week off work whilst the tests run. From the memory bandwidth benchmarks which test your throughput, to the CPU benchmarks which vary in scope to test everything from raw calculation – CPU Queen – through compression algorithms – zLib – and the all important encryption – AES256.
SiSoft Sandra,Sandra performs a similar function to AIDA64, but it tests it in a different manner which gives us an excellent overview of the whole setup and how well rounded it is. The tests take longer than the AIDA64 ones, but that just makes them more likely to trip up a poorly implemented overclock, or weed out any hidden depths.,
Cinebench R20,The latest version of Maxon’s rendering engine tests both single core performance as well as the multi-threaded option. We have graphs sorted by both the full multithreaded score as well as single threaded result.
Video Encoding,One only needs to glance at the amount of content available on the internet from simple cat videos through to incredibly complicated films and gaming footage to realise how important fast video encoding is and the x.265 benchmark does a good job of testing that. If you prefer your encoder to be of the H variety then the HEVC benchmark does a similar thing to the x.265 benchmark but instead of running with the x265 encoder it utilises the popular H.265 format which is rapidly becoming the standard for video encoding.,
Sony Vegas,Such is the affordability and performance capabilities of the Sony Vegas platform it has rapidly grown in the market to be a genuine contender for the content creation weapon of choice. We use a complex 4K file to test the rendering speed
,Realbench,ASUS Realbench also checks out your multi-threaded performance but in a more system-wide way when compared to our pure encoding benchmarks. We don’t know what has been changed but the Image Editing results are starting to resemble PC Mark Vantage in their desire to be inconsistent. Thankfully the Encoding and Multitasking results are consistent enough to still be of some use
PCMARK 10,The umpteen versions of PCMARK used a selection of applications to test your systems utility as an overall setup for work. Each version came with its own foibles wherein it has overly weighted certain aspects of the tests when calculating the final score, but it was still useful when comparing like for like. The latest PCMARK 10 is perfectly suited to take advantage of all the latest optimisations and is much cleaner in its score calculations.
3DMARK Time Spy Extreme,Time Spy is a part of the 3D Mark suite but here in its Extreme guise it’s as taxing as you could wish for. We’re also including the CPU Score here as it’s a better representation of the systems capabilities.
Gaming – Average FPS,Lastly our gaming benchmarks are the real world application of the results we’ve seen on the preceding page. Civilization VI is all about how long it takes to calculate a complex turn. Far Cry 5 is a good all-rounder. Shadow of the Tomb Raider stretches every facet of your setup. Total Warhammer II has a complex battle scene for stern tests of the CPU., ,
CPU and VRM Temperatures,First thing to note is that we’re running a 360mm radiator with 3000 RPM fans running flat out. The Aorus Pro AX chucks heavy voltage through an already toasty processor so it’s no surprise that it’s up with the other 100°C results in our test. If you’re willing to seriously compromise your performance then you can detune things to 1.35v and get the temperatures down to a sane level, albeit still hardly cool.,The VRM temperatures are our biggest concern though. Out of the box, with the latest BIOS, it happily pushes the VRMs way past 100°C. How on earth Gigabyte have managed to bake a 12+1 90A power stage is beyond us. Even turning the volts down it’s still the hottest motherboard in our test group.,,
Conclusion,What a Jekyll and Hyde motherboard the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Pro AX is.,We’re aware that not everyone reads all of our reviews, and if you count yourself amongst those who merely look at the highlights then we definitely recommend you go back through and pay close attention. If all you did was look at the previous page with the temperatures, or the clock speed page with its 1.5V VCore, then you’d bin the Aorus Pro AX off without a second thought. Equally though, if you just looked at the benchmark graphs you’d have barely got half way through the review before heading to your local hardware emporium with credit card in hand.,The performance is unquestionable. We said in our introduction how the Pro AX has all the hallmarks of a very high end motherboard, with loads of connectivity options and high quality components throughout. Clearly if you can get it all holding together long enough for a benchmark run then there is no doubting at all how much potential you can unleash. With ALL the volts and no regard for temperatures it was regularly the fastest motherboard in our graphs. Regular readers will know that there is almost nothing separating the wheat from the chaff in motherboard terms, such is the consistency of the Intel chipset silicon. Additionally because we always use the same components and only change the item we’re testing that eliminates any variance. Thus one Z590 is, just performance wise, much the same as any other. Not with the Pro AX. When everything works it’s a complete monster, trouncing the competition.,You’re paying a ridiculously high price for all that performance though. We tried desperately to keep the temperatures tamed, but in its current form with the current BIOS it’s a choice between very average performance and barely tolerable temperatures, or insane performance only matched by the insanity of the Pro AX turning itself into a George Foreman Grill. If ever a motherboard needed weeks spent fine tuning every last element to balance on the knife edge of performance and temperatures then this is it. Equally if ever a motherboard begged for a full cover waterblock and high end cooling on every last surface this is also that motherboard. Considering that the Pro AX has the ISL69269 controller with 12 90Amp power phases of the ISL99390 variety there certainly is enough in the voltage department to keep everything running fast if you can keep it under control.,Whether you’re willing to endure the faff and expense it would take to harness the full abilities of the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Pro AX is very much down to you. For us, we’ve given it a more than reasonable amount of time for their engineers to sort the BIOS, we’ve applied a cooling far beyond what most people would use with fans running much louder than anyone could tolerate, and it was still toasty as all hell.,High voltages, high temperatures, high performance. The Gigabyte Aorus Pro AX is not for the faint of heart, nor those who want to fit and forget. The brightest flame burns twice as fast, and we wouldn’t trust the Pro AX to last more than a week. But when it does survive long enough, oh boy is it potentially a star. It’s alternately brilliant in the performance meaning, and brilliant because it’s more luminescent than the sun.,We hesitate to give it an award because it would only encourage them to continue such a cavalier approach to their BIOS design. It’s the kind of motherboard we’d love to see doing its thing if we hadn’t brought it and our own system wasn’t reliant upon it.,Discuss the Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Pro AX in our OC3D Forums.