Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX ITX Review
We've used the word compromise a lot when discussing the B550 chipset. Partly because any time a company produces a more affordable take on a big chipset they've had to cut some stuff out to make the pricing work, and partly because the results have been so good across the board that we often wonder where exactly those compromises come. With any ITX motherboard we always have tempered expectations just because a smaller PCB means less room for fan headers or power stages, and heat and power are always the limiting factors in any overclocking efforts. With the insane turbo boosting of which the 3rd Generation Ryzen CPUs are capable then even stock will be limited somewhat. The Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX takes your preconceptions and knocks them out the park. It's a monster.
With any choice between the B550 motherboards you'll always deciding what is right for you, and what you like. So to some degree our feelings are subjective as well as objective. That's why we have benchmarks. Benchmarks give us cold, hard, indisputable facts to sit alongside our own take upon the aesthetics or connectivity. As I've had to write explanations for the PCI Express divisions on the five previews and now eight reviews, it's fair to say that the simplicity of the Aorus Pro AX speaks loudly to me. I want to hug it. No faffing about with slots that run at x16 one minute and x8 the next, or anything like that. The stuff on the top of the PCB is PCI Express 4.0 in all its 64Gb/s glory, whilst the M.2 slot on the underside is PCI Express 3.0. Simple, clear, straight to the point. In fact it means that, on average, the Aorus Pro AX is more PCIe 4.0 than it is PCIe 3.0. 2 vs 1. No there aren't as many USB ports, or SATA ports, or DIMM slots, but none of that matters too much. This is a smaller form factor for people who need that, and that always comes with some understanding about what that entails.
Don't for a moment think that just because it's small it wants for power though. The 8 phase, 90A power stage... let me repeat that - NINETY AMP on an ITX - power stage pushes our Ryzen 9 3900X along nicely. It matches it's physically larger Pro stablemate, and price tag larger Master mate, as well as being just as good as any of the X570 motherboards we have reviewed. In raw performance it is a vulgar display of power. No mucking about. It's Gigabyte saying "Here's 720A, enjoy". The results back up these gaudy numbers too. A glance at our graphs show that there isn't a lot to pick between any of the 3rd Gen Ryzen platforms, and the B550I is swapping places like it's the first lap of the Indy 500. But, and this is the key thing, never trailed off.
We're not going to pretend that the Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX is for everyone. Many of you will want more fan headers on the PCB, or more USB options, or another PCI Express slot for that add-in card you have, or you swap drives often enough that the rear placement of the second one will be a bind. We get that, and so do Gigabyte which is why the regular Pro exists. If, however, you want a smaller form factor without compromising the ability to run 12 core Ryzen CPUs without overheating the VRMs or limiting your overclock, then the Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX solves your problems like nothing else, and wins our OC3D Gamers Choice Award. It's the low price, high performance, small form factor option your build deserves.