Back in May, AMD announced its newest mid-tier series of motherboards along with the Ryzen 3300X and 3100 CPUs. Manufacturers have started shipping B550 mobos since June 16. Are they worthy upgrades, or should you go for other options? Maybe even hold onto your money? Let’s find out.
In the past, AMD has laid out the Bx50 series motherboards as the budget alternatives to the Xx70s, skimping out on some features and overclocking ability. For the B550 to stand its ground, it needs to advance upon the well-regarded B450 boards while rivaling the earlier-released X570 boards in the price-to-performance department. AMD has definitely put in some genuine improvements; however, budget-oriented users may not care much about them.
Compatibility, Now and Beyond
Before considering any motherboard at all, you obviously need to look at the rest of your setup. Primarily, what CPU you are using or planning to use. The final months of 2020 will bring not only new GPU releases and console battles but likely also the Ryzen 4000 series. They will be based on the Zen 3 architecture, with a hopefully sizable boost from the current chips.
The B550 motherboards come out of the box supporting the current Ryzen 3000 series chips, and will obviously work well with the Ryzen 4000s when they launch. Compatibility with even later chips might be expected with manufacturer BIOS updates. Note that the Ryzen Zen + 3400G and 3200G APUs are not supported, as they are based on 2000 series CPUs.
Here’s where it gets interesting. AMD announced to fans on Reddit, a month back, that the 400 series boards – the X470 and the B450 would also support new Zen 3 chips. Apparently, manufacturers will provide beta BIOSes to allow for an upgrade path if you currently own a 400 series board. While it seems nice that AMD is listening to some users, the BIOS upgrade is one-way, i.e., you can’t revert back if you want your B450 to work with your previous CPU. And upgrading your BIOS is inherently risky business. You don’t want to brick your hardware, do you?
Where It Fits
As we mentioned, the competition for the B550 is mainly its predecessor, the B450, and its older sibling, the X570. Take a glance at the table below for the comparison of major features.
The big improvement, at least favored by AMD, is the availability of PCIe Gen 4 for storage. This means you can connect your ultra-fast NVMe 4.0 SSDs and won’t be bottlenecked by your mobo. The Sabrent Rocket, for example, lists in its product page that it goes up to 5000/4000 MB/s R/W speeds with a Gen4 mobo, while with a Gen3 the speeds come down to 3400/3000 MB/s.
But that’s about it for the Gen 4 upgrade. Your graphics card is probably fine with even PCIe 2.0, let alone obstructed by 3.0. Since the B550 is budget-oriented, a majority of purchasers will not want to throw money to buy the high-end SSDs it makes room for.
The other upgrades are similarly incidental. Yes, better overclocking and power delivery are present over the B450, but do you really the setup to overclock? Yes, you get SLI if you want to dual-GPU, but this is a similarly enthusiast-level set up to carry out.
And if you love tinkering, then the X570 might better suit you. It has feature upgrades over the B550 on almost every front. It has better backward compatibility, all the way to 2000 series CPUs. And there are a lot more options in the market right now, even budget ones nearing $150 range that the B550s lurk around. The one thing the B550 has going for over the X570 is the lack of a chipset fan. Is a bit of noise really a deal-breaker, though?
As you can see on AMD’s own site or on whatever retailer you prefer, manufacturers have already put out some offerings. ASRock, ASUS, BIOSTAR, GIGABYTE, and MSI have a range of products from sub-100 dollar prices to a whopping $300 for the ASRock Taichi.
While it may be a bit early for a full buyer’s guide, it is worth keeping an eye on the true budget options among the B550s. In particular, take a look at the ASRock B550M-HDV for an mATX size and the Gigabyte B550 Vision D (which has such a clean design, a welcome break from the RGB hype-gamer mobos).
Bottom Line: Worth a Shot?
With all this information, let’s go back to the main question again: Is a B550 motherboard worth a buy? Eh, it depends.
If you already own a B450 or an X470, there is little pressing reason to upgrade. Even if you wanted to get your hands on Zen 3 CPUs immediately, you could update your BIOS and be good to go. Unless you simply cannot excuse not having PCIe 4.0, in which case okay, go ahead.
If you are a hardcore tinkerer, swapping out parts often, then the X570 might be a better choice. There are worthwhile budget X570s around the $150 price point, which offers more features and flexibility.
If you are new to the market and building your first custom rig, then only it might make proper sense to go for a B550. Start from the lower end of the segment, though, because B is for the budget.