AMD B550 motherboards
AMD’s feature packed but not-sobudget B550 chipset
The launch of 3rd generation Ryzen alongside X570 motherboards brought AMD many well deserved plaudits, but that success has mostly been restricted to the enthusiast segment. Until now there’s been no way to buy into 3rd generation Ryzen without spending several hundred dollars for a Ryzen 5 3600. We’ve been waiting for more affordable 3rd generation options and that time is now here. With the launch of B550 motherboards and quad core Ryzen 3000 series processors, mainstream buyers can now build systems that offer levels of performance, connectivity and I/O that promise to shake up the ‘budget’ end of the PC market.
Note the inverted commas around the word budget. B550 is something of a curious beast. Motherboard pricing across all Intel and AMD product lines has taken a large step upwards. COVID-19 and the typical new product premium can’t be the only reasons for this. Some B550 boards are priced well into premium territory with only a handful of options available below $200. A board such as the B550 Aorus Master we’re reviewing here’s costs $439. We’re hoping that in time there will be many more decent options priced well below $200.
B550 boards are certainly better than B450 boards. Many have improved VRM capabilities and cooling, which was a definite weakness of some B450 boards. The headline is support for PCI Express 4.0, opening up support for faster NVMe storage options along with current and future PCIe 4.0 GPUs. Whereas B450 supported PCIe 2.0 general purpose chipset lanes, B550 supports PCIe 3.0. X570 boards feature PCIe 4.0 chipset lanes. This is the major difference between X570 and B550. B550 motherboards do have an advantage over X570 boards in that they don’t require active chipset cooling.
B550 is a very important product line for AMD and the motherboard vendors. Apart from the forthcoming low-end A520 chipset, it’s likely B550 will end up being the final mainstream chipset before the launch of the AM5 socket. It’s set to be the optimal chipset to be paired with AMD’s forthcoming ‘Renoir’ Zen 2 APUs, and B550 will likely have a place in the market for some time to come. A quality B550 board will accept everything from a low end 3100 to a next generation hypothetical 16-core 4950X. Note that B550 is not compatible with 2000 series Ryzen processors or 3000 series APUs primarily due to firmware size limitations.
Upcoming Zen 2-based APUs are also supported, hence the presence of HDMI 2.0 or 2.1 and/or DisplayPorts on many boards. A Zen 2-based Renoir APU and a B550 motherboard should be a compelling combination and one we look forward to testing.
We’ve selected a variety of B550 boards that cover many mainstream use cases. You could go for an all-out overclocked gaming rig with a Ryzen 9 CPU, a small form factor living room PC or a simple but powerful work machine. Whatever the use case, there’s a B550 motherboard to suit. Read on as we take a look at some tasty motherboards that will be right at home in your current and future PC, with Ryzen 4000 series support adding extra peace of mind.
“B550 is a very important product line for AMD and the motherboard vendors. Apart from the forthcoming low-end A520 chipset, it’s likely B550 will end up being the final mainstream chipset before the launch of the AM5 socket.”