Along the bottom edge, we have the front-panel HD Audio header, two RGB LED strip headers for a standard 5050 RGB LED strip, two addressable LED strip headers for a standard 5050 addressable LED strip, the “THB_C” header which is the connector for the GIGABYTE Gen4 Add-in Card, a TPM header for a Trusted Platform Module (not included), and voltage measurement points for things like the VCore, VCore SOC, DIMMs (AB and CD channels), PCH, etc.
Also at the bottom is a pair of BIOS switches. The BIOS_SW flips between the main and backup BIOSes (shown here set to the main BIOS). The SB switch toggles the board between Dual and Single BIOS mode, in the event you don’t want to run the Dual BIOS feature. Which BIOS is in operation is indicated by one of two (very) bright orange lights just to the bottom right of the CPU socket. I dislike how overly bright the LED is, but also it’s right next to the LED incating the backup BIOS, so would be very hard to judge which LED is on. If the LEDs were on opposide sides of the CPU socket or something, it would be a lot easier to readily see which BIOS you’re on.
M.2 SSD Slots
3rd Gen Threadripper offers up to two NVMe M.2 connections directly from the CPU. M2M and M2Q sockets provide that direct link and support 2280 and 22110 form factor SATA and PCIe 3/4 NVMe, and the M2M socket supports an even smaller 2260 form factor as well.
The TRX40 chipset provides two more NVMe M.2 sockets on this board, with the M2P socket allowing for 2280 and 22110 SATA and PCIe 3/4 SSD support. The M2C socket supports 2280 form factor M.2 SATA and PCIe 3/4 SSDs. It shares connectivity with the SATA ports, so be sure to look at the SATA port section from the previous page on what gets disabled under what circumstance if you plan on using the M2C socket.
Rear Panel I/O
From left to right, we have the Clear CMOS and Q-Flash buttons. Q-Flash allows you to update the motherboard BIOS from a Fat32-formatted USB drive plugged in to the USB port labeled “BIOS” (to the right of the Network ports) without the need for the CPU nor RAM to be installed.
Next are the four USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports provided directly from the CPU. Then we have the two WiFi antennas for the Intel WiFi 6 AX200 which provides up to 802.11ax 160MHz 2.4Gbps wireless connectivity and Bluetooth 5.0. The antennas follow the AORUS Robot design language and also feature a very strong magnetic base so they can be easily positioned and remain in place.
In something I’ve only seen on the GIGABYTE AORUS board of all the TRX40 motherboards is the dual 10GbE NIC, powered by an Intel X550 server-class networking chip. VMware ESXi had no trouble recognizing this NIC straight out of the box.
Next are the remaining three USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, one of which is labeled “BIOS” for the Q-Flash feature, but obviously still works as a normal USB port. There’s a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connection as well, finishing out our USB connectivity on the rear.
The last set of connections are the audio connections we described in the HD Audio section already.
AORUS Gen4 AIC Adapter
GIGABYTE included an Add-in Card for additional NVMe storage. It isn’t some light, plastic offering however, it’s got a hefty, full-metal heatsink shroud and the card as a whole weighs about as much as a video card. This adapter can host up to four M.2 NVMe SSDs and can be configured in a RAID 0 on the board. Since it hosts full x16 PCIe 4.0 connectivity, each drive gets the full x4 PCIe lanes for maximum performance. Naturally, this means to get the best performance, you’ll need to use PCIe slot 3 for the full x16 lanes, so you’ll lose the ability to do Quad-CrossFire or Quad-SLI of course. If you’re in the need for the extra NVMe capacity, this may be a worthwhile trade-off.
I’ve included a quick exploded-view of the cooling design of the AORUS XTREME for an overview. I was surprised to see the hidden active fan under the rear I/O shroud, as it’s not visable and complete silent. The NanoCarbon Baseplate has a micro-textured, plastic feel, but is made of aluminum with a thin layer of “NanoCarbon.” When the system has been working for long periods (I’ve done some overnight Handbrake stress tests, of which it handles very well by the way), the outside edges of backplate is warm to the touch, so it’s certainly doing its job of conducting and spreading heat to be dissipated. It’s nice to see a full backplate that is more than just decorative.
The AORUS BIOS has a quick-settings Easy Mode so you can shortcut your way to setting XMP profiles, update the BIOS, change smart fan profiles, and connected SATA/PCIe/M.2 devices.
Changing into Advanced Mode lets you dig in to all the fine-grained settings to tune your system as needed. There’s a host of overclocking features as well.
In all, the BIOS was fairly standard fare, but I did find one unique feature of the “Favorites” tab. You can pick settings to collect in this tab for quick-reference and changing so you don’t have to dig through various menu levels to get to some setting you may change frequently. It’s a nice touch, and even came pre-populated with some of the more-commonly touched settings.
One thing to note is I had to specifically enable Virtualization Extensions (which is off by default it seems) in order to install VMware ESXi, so be sure to check that setting if you plan on doing any virtualization on your rig.