Asus ROG Strix B350-F Gam­ing

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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

Per­for­mance

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.

Con­clu­sion

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

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