Asus ROG Strix B350-F Gaming
Asus’ new ROG Strix B350-F Gaming uses AMD’s B350 chipset, supporting the company’s new Ryzen processors, complete with overclocking, but at a cheaper price than X370 boards. In fact, the Strix B350-F Gaming retails for a similar price to Gigabyte’s excellent AB350-Gaming 3, which picked up an award in our recent Socket AM4 motherboard Labs test (see Issue165, p51).
We were immediately impressed by the cooling on the Asus board’s PCB – it’s much more substantial than the Gigabyte board’s cooling, which only has a heatsink over one of the banks of CPU power circuitry. There’s an extra fan header too, with four headers located around the CPU socket, so powering dual-fan CPU coolers and case fans will be easy. There’s also a dedicated header for all-in-one liquid cooler pumps and, unlike the Gigabyte board, which has it located at the bottom of the PCB, the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming locates it next to the CPU socket where you need it.
Both boards have single M.2 slots, but the one on the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming is located above the primary PCI-E slot, so it’s accessible even with a graphics card installed. The Asus board has a classier appearance than the AB350-Gaming 3 too, with a black PCB and the familiar-coloured heatsinks.
Otherwise, though, both boards are fairly similar. They each have six SATA 6Gbps ports, and steel-plated PCI-E slots for extra resistance against sheering if your PC is moved. Both boards’ rear panels also sport two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, but lack the reversible Type-C port. Asus has managed to squeeze in an extra pair of USB 2 ports here, though, which can be used for peripherals, freeing up high-speed ports for external storage or USB hubs.
Asus hasn’t skimped in any other areas either. You get the full Realtek ALC1220 on-board audio, in the form of an Asustweaked ROG SupremeFX S1220A version that comes with dual headphone amplifiers and extra shielding. Asus claims it can boost performance over standard implementations. RGB lighting is usually a feature of Asus’ ROG Strix products, although the B350-F Gaming is more limited here – only the chipset heatsink is illuminated; however, there’s also a 4-pin RGB LED header for powering third-party LED strips.
You get four individually controllable LEDs, though, which can produce rainbow effects, or just alternating colour effects, and the lights can synchronise with other Asus Aura-compatible products. You also get plenty of software gadgetry, with the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming offering the usual Asus AI Suite, which provides Windowsbased overclocking, fan control, plus audio extras Sonic Radar and Sonic Studio.
The EFI hasn’t changed much in a few generations from Asus, and while its ROG EFI’ are showing their age a little, they’re still top-notch. Asus’ AMD implementation isn’t quite as slick as you’d see from an Intel EFI, but it’s still easy to overclock your Ryzen CPU. However, one snag is the lack of absolute voltage control – you can only offset the voltage by up to 0.5V. That said, with a nearby reading of your CPU’s standard voltage, you just need some basic maths to input an offset voltage of whatever maximum you’re trying to reach - 1.425V in our case.
Memory compatibility is still a fly in the ointment for AMD, but there are kits available with Samsung B-die chips that work above 3000MHz. Compatibility also depends on motherboard manufacturers, but we’re pleased to report that our standard Corsair Vengeance LPX Hynix-based 3000MHz kit ran happily on our first try at the usual 2933MHz frequency, while our Samsung B-die equipped GeiL Evo X kit ran at 3200MHz with no problems at all.
We were immediately impressed by the cooling
At stock speed, the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming’s scores were on the money, and despite a slightly slow score in the multi-tasking test, it managed a system score of 157,836, which was faster than the Asus Prime X370-Pro and Gigabyte AX370-Gaming 5. It also managed to pip all the other AM4 boards we’ve tested to the post in Ashes of the Singularity, albeit by just 1fps. Power consumption was low too, with some of the lowest numbers we’ve seen.
We managed to overclock our Ryzen 7 1700 to 4GHz using a 1.425V vcore, which matches most X370 boards we’ve used. The VRM heatsinks were definitely doing their
job too, getting noticeably warm under sustained loads. This overclock saw the system score rise to 183,324, which is the second highest score we’ve seen from an AM4 board. The load power consumption rose from 124W to 247W, but again that result is similar to other AM4 boards we’ve tested. It also managed a slightly higher result again in Ashes of the Singularity, with a 1fps average advantage.
Audio performance was excellent too, with a fairly low total harmonic distortion of 0.028, a noise level of -110dBA and dynamic range of 113dBA – both the latter are significantly better than the Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3. It also had no problem pushing our Samsung 960 Evo M.2 SSD to its limits, with read and write speeds of 3,337MB/sec and 1,799MB/sec respectively.
The ROG Strix B350-F Gaming is the best B350 chipsetbased AM4 motherboard we’ve seen so far. Current pricing makes it slightly better value for money than the Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3, as it offers better audio performance, a superior EFI and more USB ports, a slightly more convenient layout and more substantial cooling. In fact, it also gives many X370 motherboards a run for their money, including Asus’ own Prime X370-Pro, which only has a few more bells and whistles, but costs another £30. If you need an ATX motherboard for a budget Ryzen build, and want to overclock your CPU, the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming is your best bet in this price league.
The M.2 slot is sensibly located above the primary 16x PCI-E slot The SupremeFX audio system is based on a Realtek ALC1220 codec The chipset heatsink is illuminated with four RGB LEDs 1 2 3