The GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX Motherboard Review: All The Small Thingsby Gavin Bonshor on December 7, 2020 10:00 AM EST
Looking very closely at the GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX motherboard, it has a small but capable frame with a very neutral aesthetic. It employs a primarily black and grey design, with a silver combined chipset and front-mounted M.2 heatsink, with one section of RGB LED lighting, which lights up the board's underside along the right. For users looking to add a little more pizazz, GIGABYTE includes an addressable and regular RGB LED strip pairing compatible with a lot of different RGB ecosystems, including Corsair's iCUE and NZXT CAM. However, GIGABYTE has its own called RGB Fusion 2.0.
Despite being mini-ITX, the GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX has plenty to focus on. Looking at expansion support, there is a single full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, with the capability to install up to one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot on the front of the board, with a second slot on the rear of the PCB with support for both PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA drives. There are four SATA ports for SATA devices, which are all straight angled and sit directly below the 24-pin ATX 12 V power input. These SATA ports do include support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays, and they don't share bandwidth with any of the M.2 slots, even when SATA based M.2 drives are installed.
Users familiar with the mini-ITX form factor can appreciate that there will be limitations in connectivity, both internal and external. One of these is prevalent in its support for cooling, with just three 4-pin fan headers available on the B550I Aorus Pro AX model. One of these is dedicated to a CPU fan, while the other two are for chassis fans, although AIO pumps are supported through all three headers.
Memory compatibility looks strong with GIGABYTE's official support for up to DDR4-5100 memory, with a total capacity of up to 64 GB. Both of the memory slots and the full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot come with PCIe armor, designed to reinforce the slot to avoid physical damage to the slots when installing hardware. This also gives the slots better structure for heavier components such as NVIDIA's latest RTX 3090 graphics card, which is notoriously large and bulky.
For the power delivery, GIGABYTE is using an 8-phase design, which is being controlled by a Renesas RAA229004 PWM controller. The configuration is split into a 6+2 configuration, with six premium Intersil ISL99390 90 A power stages for the CPU and two ISL99390 90 A power stages for the SoC. On paper, this is one of the most capable mini-ITX models from the B550 models in regards to maximum power output to the CPU, with a maximum output of up to 540 A for the CPU. Delivering power to the CPU is a single 8-pin 12V ATX power connector.
The power delivery heatsink is interconnected to the M.2 and chipset heatsink, a common theme on mini-ITX models. It doesn't include finned heatsinks, so it relies primarily on mass, although the heatsink's top will catch airflow within a chassis. Unlike the X570 variant, there is no cooling fan above the chipset heatsink, which is a plus as it should be more than adequate without one.
The GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX is using a simplistic yet premium audio setup. It includes three Japanese Nichicon gold audio capacitors, with the driving being done by a Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec. This is cramped in directly next to the end of the full-length PCIe slot, with no EMI shielding and no visible audio PCB segregation. There is also a front panel audio header, which is also powered by the ALC1220HD codec, although it is in this funny little position. This might interfere with the backplates on some of the larger graphics cards.
For a small board such as this one, it has an acceptable amount of connectivity on the rear panel, which is largely down to space restrictions. Starting with USB, the B550I Aorus Pro AX makes use of two USB 3.2 G2 ports, one Type-A, and one Type-C, with four additional USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports. While this in itself isn't a lot, GIGABYTE does include a USB 3.2 G1 and USB 2.0 front panel heading pairing, which each allows a further four ports (two each) to be added to the system. The networking configuration is premium, with a Realtek RTL8125 2.5 GbE port, with two antenna ports for the Intel AX200 interface with Wi-Fi 6 and BT 5.0 support. Three 3.5 mm audio jacks are driven by a Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec, while a trifecta of video outputs consisting of two HDMI 2.1 and a DisplayPort allows users to utilize the Ryzen 4000 APU's. Finishing off the rear panel is a Q-Flash Plus button.
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Gigaplex - Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - linkI'm not sure how that would be a B550 issue, as the Bluetooth module is an add-in card.
Questor - Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - link"The end decision could come down to performance, memory compatibility, and other aspects such as power delivery, rear panel I/O connectivity, which all three models include respectable offerings..."
Not so much. There is only so much one can expect (as the article states) with mini-ITX boards. The one thing they had to do? A USB C front panel header. They failed. H
Had this board in cart and was about to hit the, "send it to me yesterday" button when something made me pause. A quick doublecheck and sure enough, no front panel USB C connection. Less bling and more substance please. Fan headers and accessory connections = good. Flashing lights = police stop. No thanks.
jeremyshaw - Wednesday, December 9, 2020 - linkYeah, every B550 ITX board has one problem or another. MSI has their custom backplate. ASRock has never heard of SPDIF and are allergic to including enough USB ports on their AMD boards. ASUS has serious hate for USB ports (4 USB-A!?) along with nixing the SPDIF port. Gigabyte still pretends USB-C headers are an exclusive Intel feature.
Most of these problems magically disappear when these vendors make Intel ITX boards.
Questor - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - linkAmazing how that just magically happens.
I was reminded by another here there are USB A to C connectors one can buy. So that is less of a deal breaker to me now. It still depends on the position of the USB A connection since it was not purposely placed as a front connection. Cable length matters.
mkarwin - Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - linkOr when they do AMD ATX ones ;)
Silver5urfer - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - linkAT even 6900XT Is out Where are your Architecture reviews ? FFS. We got that stupid M1 BGA trash review deep dive and saying x86 is fucking dead. But where are the reviews of the Nvidia and AMD graphics cards this time AMD got Nvidia in Raster technology but we need the technical details.
Gigaplex - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - linkCalling the M1 "trash" is flat out fanboy bias. It's an interesting chip and performs well. AnandTech covers all areas of tech, not just gaming on Windows.
Silver5urfer - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - linkBGA Trash son. Its called BGA trash for a reason, if you love soldered HW enjoy that irreparable garbage, and forget even upgrading RAM, SSD, everything soldered and gated by "custom blackbox security chip". M1 is first product on the translation and ARM based Mac it is garbage and will be garbage, so unless they can catch up and beat Intel and AMD at SMT it's of no use.
AT HW is majority for Linux and Windows. Macs ? Do AT review macbooks ? Nope. This is their first. Because of that obsession of showing Apple in glowing light.
10% marketshare product is Mac OS, same sales value for Apple as well, so yeah trash.
Gigaplex - Thursday, December 10, 2020 - linkPretty much every single Intel laptop is soldered on, too. The M1 architecture doesn't mandate BGA soldering. It's the portable form factor that does. You can't call the architecture garbage just because of a form factor you're not interested in.
And yes, AT does feature Apple products. There's plenty of Macbook articles and reviews. Now you're just being ignorant. There's a whole section for Apple.
Avalon - Friday, December 11, 2020 - linkI've got the non-ITX version of this board, and it's fantastic.