Ryzen Overclocking

Experience With the MSI B450 Tomahawk

Aside from the very basic and barebones A320 chipset, all of AMD's other AM4 chipsets which includes B350, X370, B450 and X470 all allow for overclocking. This is great for users with the right components to push their processors and memory above and beyond the default settings. From glancing over a lot of different boards specifications from the main vendors, a lot of focus has been on power deliveries and packing them full of unnessesary doubled inductors without a true increase in quality. MSI has been one manufacturer to bolster and upgrade their power deliveries and the differences between the B350 Tomahawk and this newer B450 Tomahawk are more than enough to paint a picture from MSI that overclocking and stability is a key area they've improved upon.

When it came to overclocking our Ryzen 7 1700 processor within the MSI Click BIOS 5 firmware, all of the key options required to overclock the processor was found within the OC section. Users looking to apply the Game Boost pre-defined overclocking profile can do so from the initial EZ mode splash screen by clicking the button to the ON position. This will apply different settings depending on which model of processor you have installed, but for our Ryzen 7 1700 this meant it would overclock our chip to 3.2 GHz with a CPU core voltage of 1.2 V. Manually overclocking was painless as pushing our chip to its maximum stable core frequency of 4.0 GHz required two settings to be altered; the CPU ratio to x40 and the CPU Core Voltage to 1.375 V. One thing to note was when the CPU Core Voltage setting was altered from auto, it would disable AMD's Cool'n'Quiet power saving feature. The maximum CPU core voltage the B450 Tomahawk supports is 1.55 V which is considered overkill and could dramatically reduce the lifespan of the processor when left under 24/7 conditions and a maximum recommended CPU VCore of 1.45 V with adequate CPU cooling; I would recommend staying below 1.4 V for a good balance of core frequency, power draw and core temperature when using a decent CPU cooler.

Our Ryzen 7 1700 CPU has a limit of around 4.0 GHz with a voltage range of 1.36-1.40 volts which is ultimately down to the quality of the silicon within.

Methodology

Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows. We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with POV-Ray and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads. These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.

For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed. The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+). Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.

Overclocking Results

Enabling MSI's Game Boost on our Ryzen 7 1700 didn't really improve performance within POV-Ray when compared to default settings, with the only variables different came through a 1.2 V CPU VCore at maximum load and an 8 W higher power draw. Manually overclocking in 100 MHz increments gave POV-Ray performance a steady increase throughout the different straps and as expected, maximum power draw and temperatures at full load did so as well. Up until settings of 4.0 GHz and a CPU core voltage of 1.375 V was applied, VDroop control was exceptionally well and above 3.8 GHz seemed to make the B450's discipline of voltage look a little lax. Overall this board formidable option for good overclocks and with better power delivery heatsinks than previous first generation AM4 motherboards, the B450 Tomahawk is well equipped.

Gaming Performance MSI B450 Tomahawk Conclusion
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  • DrHansGruber - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Gaming performance looks like it's taken a not insignificant hit compared to the B350 Tomahawk. Reply
  • gavbon - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    That does seem to be the current trend from X370/B350 to X470/B450 from the testing. It's still within a 1-3% margin of error although more like 7% in Total War. This could be the developer changing the benchmark slightly with a game update which would make more sense, given the other gamers tested are more in line with other boards. Reply
  • ianrumford - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    A cautionary tale.

    I just bought this board during Black Friday sales (~£90). Nice spec and good price. But.

    It came with the 120 bios installed but didn't recognise both 16GB sticks of my
    G.Skill 3200 Trident Z for AMD ("TZRX"). I got the board to boot with just one stick though at 2133.

    The latest bios (130) includes support for AGESA 1.0.0.6 which has better memory compatibility.

    I used the bios m-flash utility to upgrade to 130 and all seemed well till
    around 70% when I was briefly called away and returned to find a blank screen. The board did not boot.

    The Tomahawk has a well-advertised feature call BIOS Flashback where you can recover the bios
    using the special hardware port that takes a FAT32 usb with the bios on it.

    The marketing collateral on Newegg says of BIOS Flashback:

    "Run into trouble when updating your BIOS? Simply flash the old BIOS version
    back and continue gaming within minutes with BIOS Flashback+. BIOS Flashback+
    even works without a CPU, memory or graphics card installed!"

    But the board refused to even load the 130 bios. Googling around this seems to suggest
    there is something wrong with the bios file.

    I tried to (re)load the 120 bios using flashback. This bios loaded in the way the
    manual says it should, but the board still did not boot.

    I've tried the other two bioses available on the MSI website and while they seem
    also to load ok, still no joy.

    I opened a call with MSI tech support and they have confirmed pretty much that
    BIOS Flashback does not always work.

    I've contacted the reseller to negotiate a replacement. In UK law a product that
    does not do what it claims to be able to do is not of "merchantable quality".
    Reply
  • gavbon - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Sorry to hear you've had that experience! It sounds more like a straight RMA and swap to me, but obviously, I cannot speak on behalf of the manufacturer. If I had the same issue which these things can happen, I would RMA too. Where did you buy it from? Are they willing to replace the board? Reply
  • ianrumford - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link


    Hi,

    I'd rather not say at this point who the reseller until they have had a chance
    to step up to the plate. I think they are UK-only. I've bought from them before
    and they gave good prices and good service although I've never had to return
    anything.

    There are a few observations I'd make though, two MSI-specific and one more
    general.

    First is the MSI marketing folk are over-egging the product in a way the tech
    folk can't deliver on.

    Second is their testing of new bioses: the latest (130) bios failed for me both to
    flash and even be recognised as valid for flashback.

    Third is the more general point of how fraught bios update still seems to be.
    Its been a while since I built a new system but have been surprised how many
    reports there are of updates failing, even though technologies like dual bios
    and flashback have become more common. That's qualitative of course and I've
    never seen any stats on update failures. Also I've never written any code for
    hardware so have no idea of the challenges faced writing an utterly paranoid
    update process. Perhaps the development and/or testing time is just too
    expensive and maybe its cheaper for manufacturers just to take the hit on RMAs.
    Reply
  • Wingartz - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    i had an issue like that also with MSI but the X58 mobo (damn those mobos) flashed via usb to the newest version and it bricked right away, searched in Google and found that specific model always got bricked when flashing via usb, it seems after all this years they have't got the issue solved Reply
  • plonk420 - Friday, December 14, 2018 - link

    wowch, that was an expensive board to brick Reply
  • rocky12345 - Monday, December 17, 2018 - link

    That is why I like boards like Gigabyte and their dual bios because if something goes wrong you just flip the switch and are up and running again. On my own Gigabyte board my second bios is something like version 1 since I have never flashed the second bios on it ever just the main bios which has always worked like a charm so far. Reply
  • OolonCaluphid - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I have the MSI B450m Mortar - the mATX little brother for this board.

    I also have absolutely no joy getting it to play with my DDR4 3200mhz ram - Kingston Hyper X. It works perfectly with my 32gb 3000Mhz Kingston Hyper X kit, however. So I refuse to believe claims that these boards support 3466Mhz ram, unless it's on the QVL list and also you get a bit lucky.

    Sound quality is also poor, but that's not a problem for my uses.

    Sorry to hear of your BIOS problems. real PITA. Here's hoping the retailer see you right.
    Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I'd second that. I really think Anandtech should run an article on this because it took me a bit by surprise, although I had heard of compatibility issues.

    I recently put together a Ryzen 2600x + Gigabyte Gaming 7 + 2x16GB DDR3200 system and what a pain it is to get memory running at the correct speeds. I even carefully grabbed a RAM kit that was listed on Gigabyte's qvl list for the board at the rated speed, but even after bios update the XMP did not boot.

    Eventually I used one of the Ryzen ram timing calculators and got it to boot at 3200 MHz, but I had some stability issues so I dropped to 3133 MHz with slightly faster timings (probably not much of a performance tradeoff).

    Apparently you need to buy Samsung B-die dimms, but I had a really hard to finding any during black friday sales and got a good deal for the kit I ended up buying (that was supposedly tested by Gigabyte at the rated speed and timings).

    Anyway, a RAM buyers guide for AMD systems would be worthwhile IMO because it is NOT as straightforward or plug & play as you'd think it would be in 2018 (almost 2019).
    Reply

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