Until now, if you wanted to buy a new AM4 motherboard with an AMD socket, it was choose or share. An older 400 series motherboard was the most affordable option, settling for PCI-Express 3.0 and the potential hassle around the required bios update for Ryzen 3000 compatibility. The X570 board offered a solution to both problems, but it was again quite expensive. The new AMD B550 chipset should offer the best of both worlds for the budget-conscious buyer.
AMD B550 Motherboard
We have to go back more than three years for the promise that AMD socket AM4 platform would last until at least 2020. The processor designer made that promise with the release of the very first Ryzens, with Intel cadence of two generations per socket, of course, in stark contrast. When the B550 chipset was first announced in May, AMD revealed that the future Zen 3 processor (Ryzen 4000) would no longer be supported on older 300 and 400 series motherboards for the first time. That decision made a B550 or X570 model a lot more attractive immediately, were it not for the fact that AMD changed tack a few weeks later and will allow beta bios for Zen 3 support on B450 and X470 motherboards.
PCI-e 4.0 for the mainstream and without fan
The hassle around Zen 3 compatibility may have been a bit overlooked that the B550 is an interesting alternative for many other reasons as well. Of course there is PCI-Express 4.0, but the I / O of the chipset has been updated in more areas. In addition, unlike almost any X570 board, B550 models do not require active cooling in the form of a chipset fan. On the next page you will find all the details.
Nine times affordable B550 on the test bench
For this test we have collected nine AMD B550 motherboards that you can purchase for (well) less than 200 euros, from ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI. The most important part of our test track is the VRM test. In addition, we look at the performance, its consistency, the power consumption and of course what specifications you get for your money.
B550 vs. B450 and X570 chipset
The AMD introduced the cheaper B550 chipset for socket AM4 this summer simultaneously with its Ryzen 3 processors: the 3100 and 3300X. While the latter model in particular still has to deal with severe liver problems, the new motherboards are fortunately readily available.
More, faster and quieter
Compared to the B450 chipset, so far the standard if you chose an affordable AM4 motherboard, we can describe B550 as a huge upgrade. The most important innovation is of course the addition of pci-express 4.0 support for all lanes that are controlled by the CPU itself. There are twenty in total: sixteen for the video card (s) and four for an m.2 slot. However, the connection to the chipset and the lanes that the chipset itself provides, operate at 3.0 speed. The latter is, however, an upgrade, because with B450 ssd’s that were connected to the chipset, for example, still worked with pci-e 2.0.
While pci-express 4.0 undoubtedly appeals the most to the imagination, that’s not all. Compared to B450, its successor, for example, offers multi-GPU support, which until now was reserved for the X-series chipsets. The B550 also offers more fast USB 3.1 ports and more SATA ports. Because the chipset itself does not have to process pci-e 4.0 signals, the tdp with five watts is less than half of what we saw at X570. This means that in principle no active cooling is required. This was the case with X570, to the annoyance of many fans of a silent PC. After all, small fans, however you turn or turn it, guarantee a lot of noise in relation to the air displacement.
|AMD B450||AMD B550||AMD X570|
|PCI express from CPU||20 pci-e 3.0||20 pci-e 4.0||20 pci-e 4.0|
|PCI express from chipset||6 pci-e 2.0||10 pci-e 3.0||16 pci-e 4.0|
|USB 10Gbit / s||2||2||8|
|USB 5Gbit / s||2||2||0|
|Crossfire / sli||No||Yes||Yes|
|Ryzen 3000 support (Zen 2)||After bios update||Yes||Yes|
|Ryzen 4000 support (Zen 3)||Only as a beta||After bios update||After bios update|
Another new check is the ability to run AMD crossfire or Nvidia-sli on a B550 board. The former by definition, the latter only if the motherboard manufacturer buys a license from Nvidia. Previously you needed an X-series motherboard for this, but it doesn’t make us very enthusiastic; traditional multi-gpu technology seems to be dying and game developers are not yet eager to adopt newer methods.
Guaranteed upgrade option to Ryzen 4000
On the previous page we briefly mentioned the soap around Zen 3 (Ryzen 4000) support. Originally you would need a B550 or X570 board for that, but now there is a green light to make this possible on older boards. However, due to the limited ROM capacity of many 400 series boards, this comes with the necessary ifs and buts. For example, support for older CPUs lapses and upgrading the bios to the Zen 3 beta is therefore an irreversible process. In addition, the question is how motherboard manufacturers will deal with this option; they potentially shoot themselves in the foot of sales.
If you are now faced with the choice to buy a new motherboard, we would soon be tempted to guarantee a problem-free upgrade with a 500-series board. As may be clear by now, official Zen 3 support is also by no means the only advantage of the B550 over a 400 series model. In addition, the various manufacturers have undeniably done their best on their B550 models. From the next page we dive deeper into that.
ASRock B550 Pro4 and Extreme4
From ASRock we received two models that fall within our scope for this article: the B550 Pro4 and the B550 Extreme4. With an average of less than 120 euros, the Pro4 is the cheapest of the two, which you also forego the lack of a pre-mounted I / O shield, although ASRock has found a place for an RGB LED, at the height of the sata ports. The B550 Extreme4 costs about 200 euros and is therefore clearly in a higher segment.
ASRock B550 Pro4
The Pro4 is the cheapest atx board with the B550 chipset from this manufacturer. It shares its circuit board with the B550 Phantom Gaming 4, which is largely identical outside of the color scheme. On some points, the Pro4 is slightly more equipped. You get a duo of 10Gbit / s USB ports and there is an SSD cooler in the box.
As far as the feature set is concerned, ASRock has kept it basic, including a not very exciting gigabit network controller from Realtek and the well-known alc1200 audio codec from the same factory. Both the first PCI Express X16 slot and the top ‘Hyper’ M.2 slot support PCI-E 4.0. The second m.2 slot offers only two pci-e 3.0 lanes. In the middle of the board we find a compact m.2-2230 slot, in which a Wi-Fi card fits.
If we look at the VRM, we see six Vcore stages and two Vsoc stages. The controller used, a uP9505S, works in 3 + 2 configuration, with doublers to control the Vcore. Each stage features a high-side SM4337 mosfet and a low-side SM4336 mosfet.
ASRock B550 Extreme4
As mentioned, the Extreme4 is a clearly more luxurious board, which you can immediately see from the integrated I / O shield, the hex display for error codes, the handy on-board power reset buttons and the SSD heatsinks, which are partly integrated in the chipset cooling. This model also has an internal USB-C header, albeit at a speed of only 5Gbit/s.
The Extreme4 also has more USB connections on the back, but just like the Pro4, the secondary m.2 slot is limited to two lanes. Now, of course, the platform has its limitations in terms of bandwidth, but certainly in this segment we would have liked to exchange a few sata ports for a full-fledged m.2 slot. For the audio, ASRock places the more luxurious alc1220 codec and even a Ti NE5532 headphone amplifier, allowing you to drive headphones up to 600Ω.
For the cpu power supply, ASRock shopped at Renesas for a RAA229004 controller. It can natively control 6 + 2 phases, but a total of 12 + 2 50A power stages from Vishay are connected via doublers. This makes the VRM of the B550 Extreme4 in any case on paper among the best in the test.
Asus TUF Gaming B550M-Plus and ROG Strix B550-F Gaming
Asus supplied two models: the Asus TUF Gaming B550M-Plus (Wi-Fi), which costs around 150 euros, and the Asus ROG Strix B550-F Gaming (Wi-Fi), for which you have to tick off 190 euros. There is also a version of both without a wireless network, which saves you about 10 to 15 euros.
Asus TUF Gaming B550M-Plus (Wi-Fi)
The TUF Gaming sub-brand may need some introduction, as a few years ago, TUF was still a high-end series with a focus on longevity. Today, TUF Gaming is the entry-level series for gamers, positioned as a cheaper alternative to the ROG models.
As a matx board, the B550M-Plus has to make do with pci-e slot less than some atx boards around this price point, but unless you’re avid collecting pci-e x1 cards you won’t be bothered by that. Interestingly enough, the B550M-Plus and the B550-F discussed below are almost identical in terms of USB connectivity, which in this case means that you will be given quite generously. The presence of displayport (in addition to HDMI) is also striking.
Unlike ASRock, Asus provides both m.2 slots with four lanes. We do not care that you only have four sata ports at your disposal. By the way, you only get one SSD cooler with this board. Network connectivity is provided by a 2.5Gbit Ethernet controller from Realtek and a modern Intel AX200 chip with Wi-Fi 6 support.
Asus traditionally places its own labels on the VRM controllers. In this case we are dealing with a ‘Digi + ASP1106G’. The power stages used are Vishay SiC639’s with a rating of 50A each. Although the controller can officially only control 4 + 2, Asus has placed 8 + 2.
Asus ROG Strix B550-F Gaming (Wi-Fi)
ROG Strix is Asus’ mainstream gaming series; ‘real’ ROG Crosshair models only come with the most high-end chipset. We are dealing with a full-size atx motherboard, which allows for a total of five pci-e slots. As mentioned, Asus makes similar choices regarding I / O as with the TUF model, resulting in one glaring omission: almost all other boards around this price point have an internal USB-C header, this B550-F does not.
The m.2 configuration is also identical, but this time you get two SSD coolers and the full six SATA ports. As we saw ASRock do with its more luxurious model, Asus has put a slightly more advanced alc1220 codec on the ROG Strix. It is striking that Asus is the only one to go ‘full Intel’, with an I-225V 2.5Gbit Ethernet chip and an AX200 WiFi controller.
As far as VRM is concerned, we come across a Digi + ASP1106J controller, which, like the variant ending in G, can only control 4 + 2 phases natively. Nevertheless, Asus has linked a total of 12 + 2 powerstages to it, which are the same 50A ones as with the TUF board.
Gigabyte B550 Gaming X, Aorus Elite and Aorus Pro
Gigabyte is best represented in this test with three models. We received the Gigabyte B550 Gaming X, which at around 130 euros is one of the cheapest models in the test, the Gigabyte B550 Aorus Elite, which is more than ten euros above that, and finally the 170 euros costing Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro.
Gigabyte B550 Gaming X
The B550 Gaming X is one of the cheapest models in the test and is the only one of the three Gigabyte boards that does not fall within the Aorus series. Despite this, Gigabyte uses the full atx format, resulting in a board full of PCI Express slots with just one or two lanes. Fortunately, the two m.2 slots have four lanes at their disposal, although you don’t get any SSD heatsinks with this budget model. The I / O shield is neatly integrated, which we did not see on the cheapest models from Asus and ASRock.
In other areas, the Gaming X has been slightly tweaked here and there. You can see that for example with the USB ports. There is only one connection that works at a speed of 10Gbit/s and the number of USB 3.0 connections is also limited with three. We also come across an audio codec for the first time that is not from Realtek’s high-end alc1200 series, the alc887, and Gigabyte has omitted the optical audio output.
Just like ASRock on the Pro4, Gigabyte still uses separate mosfets on its Gaming X instead of power stages. A Renesas RAA229004 controller drives 10 + 3 phases using doublers, each consisting of one ON Semiconductor 4C10N and one 4C06 from the same manufacturer.
Gigabyte B550 Aorus Elite
Despite the small additional cost, the B550 Aorus Elite is a full member of the Aorus gaming line, including an inescapable RGB LED here and there. As far as specifications are concerned, the differences are small at first glance: some extra USB ports, for example, and display port instead of DVI.
In terms of audio and network, however, the Elite has undergone a major upgrade. This time Gigabyte has opted for a Realtek alc1200, including a full range of analog connections and s / pdif. The gigabit ethernet controller has been replaced by one that works at 2.5Gbit/s.
The vrm controller is unchanged a Renesas RAA229004, but this time it is paired with a doubled 12 + 2 configuration of Vishay SiC651C powerstages. Each has a rating of 50 amps, which makes them well comparable to the power stages that ASRock and Asus use.
Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro
The price gap to the B550 Aorus Pro is somewhat larger, which makes this model a lot more fun. If you look at the board, you immediately notice that Gigabyte has incorporated cooling fins in the VRM cooling, which are usually a lot more effective than the perhaps aesthetically pleasing solid cooling blocks. Since the VRM is completely identical to that of the Elite in terms of component choice, it will be interesting to see later whether the Pro becomes less warm as a result.
You have many connections on the B550 Aorus Pro, such as no less than eleven USB on the back. Unfortunately, more than half of the cases are USB 2.0 and an internal USB-C header is missing. As far as storage is concerned, six times sata and two SSD coolers serve you at your beck and call, while we also have nothing to complain about choosing a Realtek alc1220 audio codec.
MSI MAG B550M Mortar and B550 Tomahawk
MSI should of course also not be missing in a comparison test of motherboards. The manufacturer submitted two models: the MSI MAG B550M Mortar, which costs around 160 euros, and the slightly more expensive MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk. The primary difference between the two signs is already indicated in the name; the B550M Mortar has a micro-atx format, the Tomahawk is full-size atx.
MSI MAG B550M Mortar
Asus is not the only manufacturer whose serial names require clarification. The MAG series is the entry-level series for gamers, with the A standing for ‘Arsenal’. Higher up in the line-up we find MPG with the P for Performance and MEG with the E for Enthusiast. Within the MAG series the following applies: the greater the range of the weapon, the higher the product is positioned; a cruise missile goes further than a mortar.
Let’s quickly focus on the more useful things. We count four pci-e slots, of which the first with 16 4.0 lanes, the second with four 3.0 lanes and the last duo with one 3.0 lane. The two m.2 slots all have the full four lanes and MSI has not changed the six SATA ports either. In terms of connectivity, we find two USB ports of each type (2.0, 3.0 and 3.1) somewhat limited, but the internal USB-C header is certainly a nice extra in this segment.
As is often the case, we come across a Realtek alc1200 codec for the audio, with five analog jacks and an optical s / pdif output. In our opinion, MSI also makes the right choice in monitor outputs: HDMI and display port. The LAN port is powered by a Realtek RTL8125BG, which provides speeds of up to 2.5Gbit/s.
Like ASRock and Gigabyte, MSI also opts for the Renesas RAA229004 controller to control the power supply. The similarity with Asus is precisely that twice as many Vcore phases are connected without applying doublers, resulting in an 8 + 2 configuration. The power stage used is an ISL99360 with a rating of 60A.
MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk
As mentioned, the MAG B550 Tomahawk definitely has more similarities than differences with the Mortar, so we’ll stick to the latter. Often an atx model usually has more pcie slots due to the larger surface, but that is not the case in this case. The most important external difference, in addition to the format of course, is perhaps the RGB LED that is placed under the slightly more robust chipset heat sink.
As far as specifications are concerned, the differences are brief. The m.2 format is identical, but the Tomahawk comes with a second SSD heatsink. In addition, the Tomahawk has a second network port (unfortunately only gigabit this time), two extra power stages of the same type (10 + 2 instead of 8 + 2) and three extra fan headers.