About AMD Ryzen
Ryzen is the name of AMD’s CPUs for desktop PCs based on the Zen architecture. The Zen server CPUs are called Epyc.
The first generation started in 2017 with several notable successes that made the previous years with the bulldozer blasphemy forget. Above all, the more cores compared to the competition provided a new boost in the desktop PC market. AMD Ryzen rely on the AM4 socket, which supports DDR4. All previous CPUs are pin-compatible.
In the spring of 2018, AMD followed up with the second generation. The Ryzen 2000 brought more clock speed thanks to 12nm manufacturing and internal improvements that further closed the gap to Intel.
In July 2019 the third generation was launched. The Ryzen 3000 were for the first time faster than Intel at the same clock speed. Coupled with a plus of cores with advanced 7 nm production, there was now no way around some models. In addition to 12 cores for the AM4 socket, 16 cores were also added, so that the mid-range platform offers performance previously only found in the high-end segment.
The year 2020 marks the beginning of the Ryzen 4000, the first model to be introduced in notebook computers, the code name for the APU is Renoir.
AMD’s Ryzen CPUs are in many cases a cheap alternative to Intel CPUs and are especially popular with gamers. The price/performance ratio is good and teething troubles with the platform have been largely ironed out. When putting together an AMD PC, it is important to find the right motherboard. Its main component is the chipset, and AMD currently offers mainboard manufacturers six different chipsets.
The chipsets are divided into three classes. According to AMD the “A” chipsets form the beginner class and the “B” chipsets the middle class. The X series is aimed at particularly demanding users. Three generations of the chips are currently available. The first generation from 2017 includes the “300s”, i.e. A320, B350 and X370.
The second generation with the models B450 and X470 was launched by AMD in 2018. Then in 2019 the third generation appeared, represented by the current top model, the X570. It is AMD’s first self-developed chipset for the Ryzen CPUs, the previous ones came from ASMedia.
B450 is the new gold standard
Boards with B450 chipset should be the right choice for the majority of Ryzen buyers. As the better of the two mid-range models, it offers all the features that are important for a good office PC or a not too expensive gaming PC. The product selection is large, there are also many boards for space-saving PCs (Mini-ITX, µATX) and the price is also reasonable. If you can do without AMD StoreMI, then the somewhat cheaper B350 might be enough. But watch out: The older 300 chipsets need more power. The price advantage at the time of purchase can thus become a disadvantage in the long run.
In the X chipsets, the X570 with PCIe 4.0 stands out. This allows the construction of extremely high-performance PCs. NVMe SSDs, which transfer almost 5 Gigabyte/s in practice, are already available, the limit is 8 Gigabyte/s. With the Radeon RX 5700 there is also an associated graphics card (GPU), so that you can build a system that is completely based on PCIe 4.0. But suitable boards only start at 165 Dollar (as of April 2020) and the other components are also expensive. For comparison: Boards with X470 are already available for 115$ and those with X370 from 65$.
Ranking First: MSI B450 Gaming PRO Carbon AC
- Very good performance with a good CPU power supply
- BIOS Flashback+
- Numerous headers for fan and water cooling
- WLAN-AC and Bluetooth 5.0
- Increased power consumption
MSI’s motherboard range alone includes twelve boards with AMD’s B450 midrange chipset. A gaming pro-carbon model, which belongs to the performance gaming series, is of course also included. We looked at the B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC in detail and let it compete against the previous AM4 mainboards.
Four DDR4 DIMM memory banks, one PCIe 3.0 x16, one PCIe 2.0 x16 (mechanical) and three PCIe 2.0 x1 are represented on the B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC. In addition there are six SATA 6GBit/s sockets and two M.2. Four times USB 3.1 Gen1, six times USB 2.0 and two times USB 3.1 Gen2 allow a high flexibility. Of course a good onboard sound chip and one Gigabit-LAN are also on board.
The optical similarity to the Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon (AC), which we also tested, is immediately striking. Only the missing I/O panel cover makes a difference. The chipset cooler and also the VRM coolers have a carbon look. The circuit board itself is kept dark like the connectors themselves. The Steel Armor features of two expansion interfaces and the DIMM slots are noticeable.
MSI has also jumped on the B450 mainboard bandwagon and provides twelve different models. The now tested B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC represents the flagship model and accordingly has a decent equipment to offer. The effectively used 4+2 phase design is enough to even give a first or second generation Ryzen 7 processor a higher clock rate.
MSI has dimensioned the VRM cooler of the VCore MOSFETs larger to avoid temperature problems. Furthermore, an additional 4-pin connector has been added to the 8-pin EPS12V power connector. Although the user has to do without onboard convenience such as a power and reset button, the EZ debug feature for quick troubleshooting has not been forgotten. In addition, the BIOS Flashback Plus button on the I/O panel allows BIOS updates without CPU and RAM.
A PCIe 3.0 x16 slot is available for a dedicated graphics card, which is also equipped with the Steel Armor feature. The three PCIe-2.0-x1 slots and the mechanical PCIe-2.0-x16 connector, on the other hand, operate via the B450 chipset including sharing. And, of course, four DDR4 DIMM memory banks were considered, which together allow a memory capacity of up to 64 GB. The effective RAM clock rate guaranteed by MSI is 3,466 MHz.
In addition to six SATA 6GBit/s, the storage capacity includes two M.2-M key interfaces. One works with a maximum of PCIe 3.0 x4 via the CPU and was equipped with a cooler, the other works with PCIe 2.0 x4 via the B450 chipset. The USB equipment is manageable with two USB 3.1 Gen2 (native, 2x external), four USB 3.1 Gen1 (2x external, 2x internal) and six USB 2.0 (2x external, 4x internal). For APU users, MSI has also thought of a DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4 graphics output.
For the network connection, the user can choose between the wired version via a Gigabit LAN port and the wireless version via the Intel Wireless AC-9260 adapter (WLAN data throughput up to 1.73 GBit gross), which also includes Bluetooth support in version 5.0. For the sound, MSI has chosen the Realtek ALC1220, which together with some audio capacitors forms the Audio Boost 4 feature. But RGB fans are also catered for, because in addition to a few onboard LEDs, the board comes with some headers for expansion.
For a price starting at 127 Dollar, the MSI B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is very gritty and lies within an acceptable range. WLAN and BLuetooth is right on board and the equipment will easily suffice for most users. With the B450 Gaming Pro Carbon AC, MSI has a very interesting mainstream board for the Ryzen processors in its range, which offers a well-balanced configuration and of course also allows overclocking.
Second: Gigabyte B450 AORUS M
- Good overall performance and good stability
- Pre-assembled I/O panel
- Two M.2 coolers included
- Upscale equipment
- High power consumption
Of course, Gigabyte also jumps on the B450 train and provides a total of four different boards, which should appeal to the mainstream user. In addition to the B450M DS3H and the B450 AORUS M, there are the B450 AORUS Pro and B450 AORUS Pro WIFI models. We received the B450 AORUS Pro from Gigabyte for a test and are sending it to the test track.
The Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro is a full-grown ATX mainboard in terms of dimensions and does without the usual additional designation “Gaming”. The equipment can be considered upscale. From Gigabyte, four DDR4 DIMM slots, enough expansion slots and storage connectors and also a sufficient number of USB interfaces were considered.the PCB is deep black and this also applies to most of the connectors. The AORUS logo can be seen at the height of the expansion slots.
The Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro is one of four new motherboards from the manufacturer that has been equipped with AMD’s new B450 chipset and offers upscale features for the mainstream user. The design of the power supply generally allows CPU overclocking. In our overclocking test, it was in any case no great challenge for the mainboard to run the Ryzen 7 1700X stable at 4 GHz. Four DDR4 DIMM banks are available for memory expansion up to 64 GB, which can also accommodate UDIMM ECC modules.
For the expansion slots, the owner can use PCIe 3.0 x16, two mechanical PCIe 2.0 x16 slots and one PCIe 2.0 x1 connector all at once. Gigabyte had to share the last three slots because of the few FCH lanes. Two M.2-M key interfaces including cooler were accommodated in the gaps, one of which operates at 32 GBit/s via the CPU/APU and the other at 16 GBit/s via the chipset. In addition, six SATA 6 GBit/s are added in the storage area.
The I/O panel with pre-mounted panel offers four USB 3.1 Gen1s, two USB 3.1 Gen2s and of course one Gigabit LAN (Intel I211-AT) as well as the usual audio connections. If an APU is inserted in the socket, the DVI-D and HDMI 2.0 graphics output can be used. Two additional USB 3.1 Gen1 and four USB 2.0 interfaces can be implemented via internal headers. With the Realtek ALC1220, together with some audio capacitors, a good onboard sound solution was integrated.
However, the high power consumption, both at idle and under load, can be described as negative. If no overclocking is applied, however, a reduced VCore can counteract this. Some RGB LEDs have been placed on and under the board, with two RGB headers the entire lighting can be optionally extended.
Finally, the price decides whether the Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro is worth a recommendation. By the way, should WLAN be an issue, Gigabyte offers an identical model with a WLAN-ac module. Apart from the high power consumption, the Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro has proven to be a convincing board.
The Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro is a well equipped B450 mainboard and is prepared for the Ryzen processors. It only has to struggle with the power consumption.
From a technical point of view, we are very impressed with the Gigabyte B450 AORUS Pro. The workmanship is impeccable and the equipment will be absolutely sufficient for most users. The high power consumption is a bit daunting, but a good energy efficiency is also very important for us. For its price you get a great motherboard for a Ryzen processor.
Third: MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max
- Relatively good power supply
- Flash BIOS Button
- Good price-performance ratio
- Stable operation
- No USB-C port available
- No 2nd M.2 slot
- PCIe-x1 slots are badly placed
The MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max comes in a simple packaging. Contents of this is of course the mainboard. In addition, a driver CD, an I/O panel, a comprehensive user manual, a quick installation guide, two SATA cables, a screw for installing an M.2 SSD and a sticker with the MSI logo on it are also included. At first sight, the MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max motherboard, which was kept in a simple black/red design, looks very well manufactured. Thus, all connections, capacitors and voltage converters are neatly processed and don’t allow any criticism.
However, the large heat sinks for the voltage converters and the upper PCI Express slot, which was reinforced with metal, are to be emphasized. In our opinion this is very well thought out by MSI, because the current graphics cards, like Nvidia’s latest RTX Super graphics card generation, have become heavier and therefore put more stress on the PCI Express slot. All in all, MSI offers with the present motherboard a high-quality manufactured product, which contains the standard equipment and accessories to be expected for its price.
What distinguishes the MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max motherboard from its older brother the MSI B450 Gaming Plus? The difference between both is the BIOS memory. So in the non Max version there is only a 16 MB memory for the BIOS-Rom available, in the Max version the double memory size, 32 MB. Therefore according to MSI one had to cut down the BIOS on older motherboards, which needed a BIOS update, so that a Ryzen of the 3000 series works on these, and thus use a slimmed down Lite BIOS.
By the new edition with the Max designation one did not have to accept compromises by the larger memory any longer. The motherboard offers one HDMI and one DVI connector each. In summary, the equipment of the MSI Gaming Plus Max turns out very good considering its price. Especially praiseworthy are the two USB 3.2 (Gen2) ports, which are not a matter of course in this price range.
Installation and test
The assembly of the individual components did not take much time and was done without any problems. The installation can be done even by beginners, especially since MSI has also included a very detailed user manual with the most important steps. All components were recognized by the mainboard after switching on and the PC ran smoothly without problems. The BIOS of the MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max is very clear and well structured and leaves nothing to be desired.
As the word gaming already suggests, the B450 Gaming Plus Max also offers a large OC menu. In our opinion, the menu has been designed quite extensive and clearly arranged. You can overclock many components, such as the CPU and RAM, user-specifically through a normal and expert mode. The cooling of the mainboard is quite potent and was on average 36°C (without OC) at idle. This is in the normal range and is completely ok. Due to the two large heat sinks for the voltage converters the Gaming Plus Max also offers a good overclocking potential.
In summary, the MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max is a great midrange motherboard and leaves nothing to be desired. It has MSI-typical high-quality workmanship, where the upper PCI Express slot for the graphics card must be especially emphasized. In the optics one has renounced big gadgets like RGB and keeps the motherboard in a simple black/red look. This is of course a matter of taste, but doesn’t make the board look inferior in any case. What we also noticed positively are the potent heat sinks for the voltage conversion. Therefore, the B450 Gaming Plus Max offers a decent overclocking potential depending on the processor.
The number of connections is okay, but there could be one or two more. However, the number is completely sufficient for most users. In our opinion, the new edition of the MSI Gaming Plus is very successful. For a casual gamer the board is sufficient and offers a good equipment for this price range. The price for the mainboard of about 95$ (as of April 2020) is okay for a midrange board. If you have a Ryzen 3000 processor or don’t feel like flashing the old mainboard with a new BIOS, you can hardly go wrong with the B450 Gaming Plus Max in the price range of around 100$. All in all, this motherboard offers a good price/performance ratio and is highly recommended.
Fourth: MSI Arsenal B450 Tomahawk
- Solid performance
- Comprehensive features
- Good value for money
- Clearly arranged BIOS
- Using M.2-SSD disables two SATA slots
The MSI B450 Tomahawk is the successor of the B350 Tomahawk and should have some improvements compared to its predecessor. In contrast to the more expensive X470 mainboards, mainboards based on the B450 chipset should be an alternative for the small purse.
Design & Features
The motherboard was kept in a dark design with few color elements and therefore fits in almost every case. Despite the nevertheless quite low price MSI does not do without RGB lighting on this motherboard.
This can be adjusted in 16.8 million colours and a total of ten lighting effects via software on the PC or via app with a tablet or smartphone.
One effect, for example, displays the current CPU temperature using different colors. Thanks to the Mystic Light Sync function, the RGB lighting can also be synchronized with other compatible products to create a uniform look. The lighting can also be switched off at any time for a discreet design.
The PCIe slot is reinforced with metal, making the motherboard able to withstand the heavy weight of high-end graphics cards. MSI uses 4+2 phase voltage regulation for the B450 Tomahawk, with four MOSFETs for each phase.
CPU & Memory
The processor is again embedded in the AM4 socket, just like the B350 chipset, making first and second generation Ryzen processors compatible with the motherboard. MSI has already announced a BIOS update for the new Zen 2 based Ryzen 3000 CPUs.
AMD even wants to stick with the AM4 socket until next year, so that eventually the fourth generation Ryzen processors will also be compatible. Of course, this decision also depends on whether MSI provides the B450 mainboards with a corresponding BIOS update. A single 8-pin connector is available on the B450 Tomahawk to supply power to the CPU.
The altogether four DIMM slots are designed for a maximum assembly of 64 Gigabyte DDR4 memory and officially support bars with a maximum speed of 3,466 MHz. Unfortunately, the Ryzen 1000 and Ryzen 2000 CPUs do not support Quad Channel memory, so Dual Channel is required.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk is a very good B450 mainboard at a fair price. The user gets a generous configuration with a solid performance for almost 100$. In terms of performance, the mainboard is about on par with the more expensive X470 mainboards.
As a small extra, an adjustable RGB lighting is also offered. The user still has to do without certain features like integrated Bluetooth and WLAN, as well as a second M.2 slot. Those who value these features or want to use a multi-GPU setup will have to dig a lot deeper into their pockets for a corresponding B450 or X470 mainboard.
Fifth: ASRock B450M PRO4
- Very good price
- Well-conceived layout
- Warm converters
- Simple sound
Polished metal optics with illumination
ASRock advertises the new product line with the slogan “hard as steel, truly legendary” and thus focuses on a design adapted to the existing portfolio, without leaving out the functional range completely. Thus, the mainboards of the Steel Legend family should shine with an extraordinary stability and durability, as the manufacturer promises. In addition, ASRock B450 Steel Legend and ASRock B450M Steel Legend can be divided into two zones via addressable lighting via RGB LEDs and into two zones. The lighting effects were generated under the facings of the rear connectors and the B450 chipset.
Technical attention to stability
On the technical side, ASRock emphasizes in the Steel-Legend series the specially designed power supply of the AM4 socket for processors from AMD’s Ryzen generation, which is supposed to provide more stability by means of better voltage converters and capacitors. Furthermore, ASRock names the passive cooling solution of the M.2 slot for fast PCIe SSDs, which is meanwhile almost obligatory in the motherboard middle class, as a special feature of both new additions to the portfolio. The two USB 3.1 ports (Gen2) for fast transfer rates of up to 10 Gbit/s are to be regarded as a real special feature in this class.
ASRock has published all technical details of the B450 Steel Legend and the B450M Steel Legend on the respective product pages. This also shows, for example, that the Steel Legend family with B450 chipset supports memory up to DDR4-3,533 and the second M.2 slot of the ATX offshoot is only connected via two PCIe 3.0 lanes. You get a solid motherboard with good, but not special, performance scores. For the price the performance you get is quite good.