Choosing The Right B550 Motherboard

Looking at the current discussion online around the launch of AMD's B550 chipset, a lot of fanfare and focus has been put on the price. There is a stark contrast in the current pricing of some B550 models when compared to models released two years ago for B450. Commonly referred to as AMD's mid-level budget chipset, it was thought B550 would bridge the gap somewhere between X470 and X570 while offering strong feature sets and the benefits of PCIe 4.0, but for a reduced price. It feels as if some vendors decided to unleash a few models with price tags of upwards of $200, with better controller sets, and more premium qualities which are more expected from the premium X570 chipset. Users might ask, if they're going to spend that much, why not go for X570 instead?

When it comes to picking a motherboard for a system, it will usually come down to one of three things, sometimes two or three, and sometimes all three are a necessity for the user; I'm talking about price, features, and aesthetic. The first of the three is the budget, which is varied across B550 dependent on the kind of feature. A large selection of the B550 product stack includes a 2.5 G Ethernet controller (Intel or Realtek), which is a huge step up considering B550 is supposed to be an entry-level alternative to X570. Not only 2.5 G, but Wi-Fi 6 is available on more than 12+ models, some models generally feature both which adds to the cost, but also gives superior networking capabilities to anything seen from the previous B450 chipset.

Although on paper, there isn't much difference between B450 and B550 with slightly more SATA available due to the removable of eSATA support, both remain PCIe 3.0 bound. The onus on expansion support comes down to vendors different implementations with some impressive designs, the most notable model coming via the GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master. This is the only model to include support for more than one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot, in fact, it has three, not to mention the dual BIOS and three full-length PCIe slots which operate at PCIe 4.0 x16, and PCIe 3.0 x4/x4. This, of course, comes at a high price with an MSRP of $280, and it is one of the small handful of examples of B550 models pushing above and beyond X570 pricing.

Another model set apart from the rest is the GIGABYTE B550 Vision D, which includes an Intel Titan Ridge Thunderbolt 3 controller and adds two Type-C ports onto the rear panel, but opts for dual Gigabit Ethernet as opposed to 2.5 G and comes with an MSRP of $260.

The cheapest B550 motherboard at present is the GIGABYTE B550M DS3H which is a micro-ATX model, with a very basic feature set, and costs just $95; that's the price range MOST B450 models launched at. This is the point that needs to be brought across, PCIe 4.0 support doesn't seem to come cheap.

Regardless of the feature a user is looking for, below is a list of which models include specific features worth highlighting.

Choosing the Right B550 Motherboard
       Options Size Price
5 or 10 Gigabit Ethernet
None - add your own
Wi-Fi 6 / 802.11ax
ASRock B550 Taichi ATX $300
ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax mITX $200
ASUS ROG Strix B550-E Gaming ATX $280
ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wifi ATX $210
ASUS ROG Strix B550-I Gaming mITX $230
ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus Wifi mATX $180
ASUS Prime B550M-A Wifi mATX $150
GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master ATX $280
GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX mITX $180
GIGABYTE B550 Vision D ATX $260
MSI MPG B550 Gaming Carbon Wifi ATX $220
MSI MPG B550 Gaming Edge Wifi ATX $190
MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge Wifi mITX $200
MSI MAG B550M Mortar Wifi mATX $170
2 or more PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2
GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master ATX $280
8 or more SATA ports
ASRock B550 Taichi ATX $300
3 or more USB 3.2 G2 (Rear Panel)
ASUS ROG Strix B550-E Gaming ATX $280
ASUS ROG Strix B550-I Gaming mITX $230
GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master ATX $280
GIGABYTE B550 Vision D ATX $260
Thunderbolt 3
GIGABYTE B550 Vision D ATX $260
Dual BIOS
GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master ATX $280
PCIe x8/x8 Bifurcation
ASRock B550 Taichi ATX $300
GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master ATX $280
GIGABYTE B550 Vision D ATX $260
Mini-ITX
ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming ITX/ax mITX $200
ASRock B550M-ITX/ac mITX -
ASUS ROG Strix B550-I Gaming mITX $230
GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX mITX $180
MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge Wifi mITX $200
Type-C Audio
ASUS ROG Strix B550-E Gaming ATX $280
ASUS ROG Strix B550-I Gaming mITX $230

In our previous round-ups, we have included which boards come with most commonly used audio codec, which for B550 looks to be the Realtek ALC1200, or in the case of ASUS models, the Realtek S1200A. It's easier and quicker to list which models don't include it.

B550 Motherboard Audio
Codec Boards
Realtek ALC1200 Everything except the following
ASUS S1200A ALL ASUS ROG Strix
  All ASUS TUF
Realtek ALC1220 ASRock B550 Taichi
  ASRock B550 Steel Legend
  ASRock B550 PG Velocita
  ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming ITX/ax
  ASRock B550 Extreme4
  GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Master
  GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Pro AC
  GIGABYTE B550 Aorus Pro
  GIGABYTE B550I Aorus Pro AX
  GIGABYTE B550 Vision D
Realtek ALC892 MSI MPG B550 Gaming Plus
  MSI B550-A Pro
Realtek ALC887 ASRock B550-HDV
  ASRock B550-ITX/ac
  ASUS Prime B550M-A
  ASUS Prime B550M-K
  GIGABYTE B550M Aorus Elite
  GIGABYTE B550M Gaming
  GIGABYTE B550 DS3H
Realtek ALC1150 Biostar Racing B550GTA
  Biostar Racing B550GTQ

Reviews for B550 motherboards should start to be available from today. We have started getting samples of a few boards in for testing, and we expect to get underway with them very shortly.

Intro, ASRock, and ASUS covered by Ian Cutress,
GIGABYTE, MSI, Biostar, and Conclusion by Gavin Bonshor 

MSI B550-A Pro
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  • kpb321 - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    I'm kinda disappointed they ended up missing the opportunity to go PCI-E 4 for the CPU to GPU link. With 2 10gbs USB ports, 2 5gbs USB ports, 10 flexible PCI-E lanes that can be NVME/ Sata ports or add on controllers on the chipset there's plenty of bandwidth there to be bottlenecked by a 4x PCI-E 3 link to the CPU. Going PCI-E 4 would make this somewhat less of a bottleneck and could support for example 2 NVME PCI-E 3.0 4X drives at full speed. The B350 more balanced in this way but sadly it was because the PCI-E off the chipset was only PCI-E 2. Hanging 16x lanes worth of things off a 4x link isn't great when they could have doubled that link bandwidth pretty easily. Reply
  • kpb321 - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    Edit 'm kinda disappointed they ended up missing the opportunity to go PCI-E 4 for the CPU to chipset link Reply
  • Irata - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    That‘s X570. If you need the additional storage bandwidth, this is what you should go for.

    Alternatively there is the Aorus board that offers the 8x CPU plus 2x 4x PCIe 4 lanes for nVMe drives plus the PCIe 3 lanes from the chipset. That could be an alternative and eight PCIe 4 lanes for the GPU should be fine with the next gen GPU, except perhaps for the top of the line models.

    On the plus side, with Ryzen you have four dedicated PCIe lanes from the CPU for nVMe (16+4+4 vs. 16+4 on Intel).
    Reply
  • kpb321 - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    The X570 goes whole hog on PCI-E 4 with PCI-4 hanging off the chipset too and it supports more PCI-E and SATA and USB devices hanging off the chipset so while the CPU to Chipset bandwidth is higher it's actually even more imbalanced between the combine possible bandwidth of devices possible off the chipset and the CPU to Chipset bandwidth.

    Going PCI-E 4 for just the CPU to Chipset on the B550 would have given the option to decrease that imbalance and one PCI-E 4x link shouldn't have driven the power up too high.
    Reply
  • romrunning - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    Then most people wouldn't buy X570 and get B550 instead as there wouldn't be much of a difference. That, and having less PCIe 4.0 stuff lowers the power requirements a bit.

    I personally held off on X570 because I knew I basically only needed the GPU and NVMe drive to be PCIe 4.0 for the most future-proof setup. I figure I'll buy new again when the new AM5 socket is released with Zen 4. Plus, some of the B550 boards have a Type-C front connector, which will go with the new ITX case I'm getting that has one on the front.
    Reply
  • PixyMisa - Wednesday, June 17, 2020 - link

    Yes, but then you need to add a separate PCIe controller on the chipset to handle just those 4 lanes. The market probably isn't big enough to make it worthwhile. Reply
  • Irata - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    The CPU to GPU link is 16x PCIe 4.0 - that has nothing to do with the chipset.

    Or did you mean something else?
    Reply
  • a5cent - Friday, June 19, 2020 - link

    True, but would that not have brought back the requirement for an actively cooled chipset? That definitely contributes to cost, so it makes sense to cut that from the package.

    Personally, I'm happy that we've finally left PCIe 2.0 behind. Such chipsets still being sold in 2020 is horrific.
    Reply
  • Lucky Stripes 99 - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    I was hoping to build several B550 APU mITX systems this week, but the lack of a compatible APU has stopped those plans. AMD's decision regarding to use a prior generation micro-architecture for its APUs in addition to their decision regarding AM4 firmware size limits are really colliding to create a missed opportunity here. If the iGPU in the Comet Lake processors was better, I'd be picking up H460 or Q470 boards right now instead. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Tuesday, June 16, 2020 - link

    My understanding is that the firmware size limit wasn't created by AMD. The motherboard makers could always use firmware chips with a larger capacity. Intel doesn't have this problem since they only support one or two CPU generations per motherboard :-) Reply

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