MSI B450 Tom­a­hawk

A pol­ished bud­get weapon.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents -

... we would have liked to see the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and fea­ture list look­ing a bit bet­ter for its price point.

MSI­con­tinue to re­lent­lessly at­tack the gam­ing mar­ket, of­fer­ing fea­ture sets and spec­i­fi­ca­tions de­signed to ap­peal to gamers above all. The B450 Tom­a­hawk is one of MSI’s most im­por­tant mid-range AMD boards and it prom­ises to be a solid and re­li­able gam­ing board with­out the big price tag. The com­pe­ti­tion is tough though, so how does it stack up?

If you take a glance at the B450 Tom­a­hawk, you wouldn’t be­lieve this is a sub-$200 board. It looks re­ally classy with its in­dus­trial de­sign, and there’s also a splash of RGB light­ing at the edge near the mem­ory slots. There’s only a sin­gle M.2 slot, though we like the po­si­tion­ing of it above the pri­mary PCIe slot, where it is less prone to get­ting blasted with hot GPU air. The VRM isn’t ex­actly ex­treme, but there’s still some head­room for a bit of overclocking. We wouldn’t want to push an eight-core pro­ces­sor hard on air cool­ing though.

While it def­i­nitely looks the goods, we would have liked to see the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and fea­ture list look­ing a bit bet­ter for its price point. The lit­tle ASRock is a tough act to fol­low in this re­gard. It does have a unique BIOS flash­back ca­pa­bil­ity, which will come into its own with fu­ture AM4 pro­ces­sors. Its pur­pose is to al­low BIOS flash­ing with­out any CPU, mem­ory or GPU plugged in.

The I/O area is ad­e­quate, but not re­mark­able. We have two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (Type-A and Type-C), two 3.1 Gen 1 ports and a pair of 2.0 ports. We’ve also got a CMOS clear but­ton, a DVI-D port and a HDMI port. We’re a bit dis­ap­pointed that this sup­ports just HDMI 1.4 though, HDMI is re­ally needed to get the best out of Ryzen 2000 se­ries APUs. Fi­nally there’s a Real­tek Gi­ga­bit LAN port and a wel­come set of six ana­logue ports, which are con­trolled by a Real­tek ALC892 codec.

It seems clear that MSI has tried to keep the costs down by skip­ping the more ex­pen­sive ALC1220 au­dio and In­tel LAN, along with the miss­ing HDMI 2.0. MSI does of­fer these kinds of op­tions on its more ex­pen­sive boards. At $189, the B450 Tom­a­hawk is still good value, but it’s hard to ig­nore the over­all spec in the face of stiff com­pe­ti­tion.

The bench­mark re­sults are right in line with the other boards, as ex­pected. We also con­tinue to be im­pressed with MSI’s BIOS, which re­mains ar­guably the best in the busi­ness.

MSI have pro­duced a lovely look­ing motherboard that does ex­actly what it is ex­pected of it. It’s par­tic­u­larly re­fined and will serve well at the core of a pow­er­ful Ryzen-based gam­ing sys­tem. Our con­cern re­mains that there’s just a lit­tle too much com­pro­mise with the com­po­nent choices at this price to give it an un­equiv­o­cal rec­om­men­da­tion. Like all the boards in this re­ally tough roundup though, it has its own strengths and if you end up go­ing with the B450 Tom­a­hawk, it will not dis­ap­point. CHRIS SZEWCZYK

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