MSI B350i Pro AC

Bud­get buster beats the bosses.

APC Australia - - Contents - Zak Storey

An ITX Ryzen mobo, with a fan­tas­tic over­clock­ing so­lu­tion, and a kick-ass fea­ture set, all on the B350 chipset. Wait, what? The un­der­stated brown PCB, the sub-high­end chipset, the sim­ple, un­so­phis­ti­cated black heatsinks — it all mars an oth­er­wise fan­tas­tic assem­bly of prime com­po­nents de­signed to push the Ryzen ITX form fac­tor to new heights.

What’s so good about the B350i Pro AC? It all comes down to the power-phase de­sign. There are nine phases in to­tal here (with the clos­est com­pet­ing ITX board hous­ing a mea­ger six in con­trast), which helps pro­vide the ad­di­tional grunt needed to bal­ance the power from a Ryzen core. At stock, the MSI B350i Pro topped our X265, Cinebench R15 Multi, Fry Ren­der and AIDA64 mem­ory la­tency scores across ev­ery first-gen Ryzen board we’ve tested by quite a mar­gin. So much so, in fact, that we had to dou­ble-check our test­ing method­olo­gies to make sure noth­ing was awry.

We’ve never seen any­thing like it. Gen­er­ally, when you get these kind of scores in moth­er­board test­ing, the dead give­away about what’s go­ing on is shown in the power draw fig­ures. And, sure enough, peak draw test­ing puts the B350i Pro sec­ond high­est, be­hind the Gi­ga­byte AX370Gam­ing 5, draw­ing a hefty 172W from the wall, com­pared to the AX370’s 197W. There’s not a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween this and the other ‘ boards be­low it (about 4W at most), but it’s enough to iden­tify what’s caus­ing these higher fig­ures at stock. And that’s the stock Turbo per­for­mance.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Turbo clocks only kick in when a pro­ces­sor is un­der load. It’s a smart way of sav­ing power when the core’s work­load is non-ex­is­tent. Un­der load, the pro­ces­sor ramps up the core fre­quency across all of its cores to the max safe op­er­at­ing pa­ram­e­ters.

With Ryzen, AMD in­tro­duced a new form of Turbo tech known as XFR. De­pend­ing on the task at hand, and if tem­per­a­tures are within the bound­aries, it auto-over­clocks and pushes as many cores as is needed to a higher fre­quency for bet­ter per­for­mance. So, you can get one core at 4.05GHz in de­mand­ing sin­glethreaded ap­pli­ca­tions, or eight cores at 3.9GHz in more chal­leng­ing mul­ti­threaded pro­grams.

So if a mobo pro­vides scores mean­ing­fully higher than its com­peti­tors in our test­ing suite, it al­most cer­tainly means power draw is up (and it is, in this case), im­ply­ing the ‘ board is lever­ag­ing tem­per­a­tures and over­clocks bet­ter than most. More of­ten than not, be­cause of that in­creased volt­age, temps in­crease as well. But MSI has bal­anced this just right, to get more per­for­mance out of the pro­ces­sor with­out in­creas­ing temps much, with our tests read­ing around 65°C un­der load.

Un­for­tu­nately, all this VRM wiz­ardry still doesn’t trans­late to a higher max­i­mum over­clock (as the ar­chi­tec­ture is still fairly maxed out as it is), but it does mean that the B350i Pro is a fan­tas­tic, al­most bud­get, ITX of­fer­ing for those look­ing to get the most out of any Ryzen CPU with­out tin­ker­ing. Power draw is higher than we’d like to see, but not enough to worry us, as those temps are still within rea­son­able pa­ram­e­ters. Con­nec­tiv­ity is solid, too. There’s noth­ing not to like about the B350i Pro, ex­cept per­haps the brown PCB.


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