The best B550 motherboard means picking from the latest pool of AMD motherboards rocking a second-tier chipset, and will become ever more relevant as the next generation AMD Ryzen 4000 CPUs become available towards the end of the year. But what are you missing by opting for a B550 motherboard compared to the top-end X570 AMD gaming motherboards?
Honestly, not a great deal. It's been a long time coming, however; almost a year after the original 500-series AMD Ryzen motherboard was launched this mainstream chipset has hit the market, bringing PCIe 4.0 support into the more affordable end of the board market. Well, we say 'more affordable' but there have been many cases where B550 versions of a manufacturer's board cost more than the X570 ones.
That's a symptom of the B550 motherboards lagging behind, with existing X570 boards in the market almost inevitably getting cheaper 12 months post launch, but also because a B550 board can deliver performance pretty much on par.
The main difference between B550 and X570 chipsets is that AMD has replaced the PCIe Gen 4 interface used on the high-end boards, which connects the CPU socket to the platform controller hub (PCH) chip at the heart of the chipset, with a PCIe Gen 3 version for these second-string boards. The Ryzen 3000 CPUs can still offer PCIe 4.0 support itself, delivering 16 high-speed lanes for a GPU and a further four for lightning-fast SSDs, but means the B550 can't support secondary PCIe 4.0 SSDs or graphics cards.
The tighter bandwidth on offer does hit other sensitive areas, such as USB connectivity, but on the whole doesn't actually affect gaming performance one jot. And it all means we will have a pair of 500-series chipsets once AMD's next-gen processors arrive this year to lay siege to our best CPU for gaming list.
1. Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming
The best B550 motherboard
Form factor: ATX | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, up to DDR4-4600 | Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 | Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Networking: Intel WiFi 6, Intel 2.5Gb ethernet, Bluetooth 5.1 | Rear USB: 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4 x USB 2.0
Sure, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E is the same price as other X570 motherboards, in fact it pretty much matches our favourite of AMD's top-end boards, the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon. But it's a premium motherboard, with all the trappings you'd expect from Asus' Republic of Gamers stable, such as 14+2 power stage, M.2 heatsinks, and pre-installed backplates. You also get Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking as well as Intel 2.5Gb ethernet too. And RGB LEDs, of course.
Performance too is typically good for a high-end Asus board, matching X570 motherboards for gaming performance without issue. That said, of the B550 boards we've tested, it's the far more affordable MSI board that actually comes out top in our straight performance testing. But the Asus can overclock far better, even if it does chew up more raw power from the plug on the whole.
The Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is the whole package then, and right now is our all-round pick for the best B550 motherboard. Though that still feels like a tough recommendation when X570 boards are the same price…
Read our full Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming review.
2. MSI MAG B550M Mortar
The best B550 motherboard for pure gaming performance
Form factor: Micro-ATX | Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, up to DDR4-4400 | Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 | Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps | Networking: Realtek 2.5Gb ethernet | Rear USB: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2x USB 2.0
When it comes to gaming performance above all else then MSI's micro-ATX MAG B550M Mortar is your best bet for an affordable next-gen Ryzen machine. It comes in around the $160 mark, making it cheaper than a great many X570 and other B500 motherboards on the market right now.
The gaming frame rates of the MSI B550 Mortar put it above the rest of the B550 crew we've tested so far, and indeed its straight CPU performance puts it up there with some of the best X570s. That bodes well if you're looking for an affordable home for your AMD Zen 3 CPU of the future, this B550 has a great chance to ensure it performs to its fullest stock-clocked potential without breaking the bank.
But you will be missing out on extra PCIe 4.0 M.2 and x16 graphics slots if those extras mean a lot to you. You can also opt to ditch wireless networking too, depending on whether you pick the straight Mortar or the more expensive Mortar Wi-Fi version. The 8+2+1 power phase design is arguably a more unwelcome miss, however, as that results in a board that isn't going to spark any overclocking joy in your heart. But, as an affordable gaming board without OC pretensions, it's a great shout.
Read our full MSI MAG B550M Mortar review.
3. ASRock B550 Taichi
The best-looking B550 motherboard
Form factor: ATX | Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4 | Storage: 2x M.2, 8x SATA 6Gbps | Networking: Intel WiFi 6, Intel 2.5Gb ethernet, Bluetooth 5.1 | Rear USB: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 2x USB 2.0
The geared aesthetic of ASRock's premium Taichi motherboards makes this the best-looking of all the B550 boards we've checked out, though that premium nature does make it also the most expensive. Indeed it's priced higher than the ASRock X570 Taichi, which makes this a difficult recommendation until the almost inevitable price correction which will surely happen over time.
But it's got the same sort of specs list as the excellent Asus ROG Strix B550-E, and means you get all the networking niceties, and the gaming performance to put it around the top of the list. It's also got some overclocking chops too, allowing us to hit 4.2GHz on the Ryzen 3 3100 budget gaming chip.
It's also incredibly well-built, with a metal structure that makes it one of the most robust B550 motherboards around. But yeah, it's tough to look at that price, and feel this second-tier chipset is where you want to put your Ryzen money.
Read our full ASRock B550 Taichi review.
Should I buy a B550 or X570 motherboard?
When it comes to straight performance there really isn't any tangible difference between the top two AMD 500-series motherboard chipsets. The CPU itself is still offering a PCIe 4.0 connection to the main graphics slot and the primary M.2 SSD connection, ensuring all the bandwidth you could need for a standard AMD gaming PC.
And there are B550 motherboards, such as the Asus ROG and ASRock Taichi boards above, which offer the sort of power componentry to deliver overclocking performance too. AMD has also confirmed that both B550 and X570 will support the next generation of Ryzen CPUs.
Where they really differ, however, is in the extended feature set. While those two premium B550 boards do have an impressive feature list, the B550 chipset means that bandwidth-sensitive connections on the motherboard will be behind the top range of boards, thanks to the connection between the PCH on the chipset and the CPU using PCIe Gen3 as opposed to the complete Gen 4 solution across the X570s.
|B450 Chipset||B550 Chipset||X570 Chipset|
|CPU Graphics Support||x16 PCIe Gen 3||x16 PCIe Gen 4||x16 PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Storage Support||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU USB Ports||USB 3.1 Gen 1||USB 3.2 Gen2||USB 3.2 Gen2|
|Dual Graphics Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|General Purpose Lanes||PCIe Gen 2||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Chipset Uplink||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
In general the B550 motherboards are also rather expensive at the moment, with the ASRock B550 Taichi being the most obvious example. It's actually around the same price as the ASRock X570 Taichi, which is arguably the better board, or at least the more fully featured.
There are cheaper B550 boards out there, such as the ASRock B550 HDV, but then you really are losing out on luxuries like decent power phase design, and potentially then overall performance. That might just be a cut too far if you're aiming for an affordable home for your next AMD Ryzen CPU purchase.
Your best bet is to keep in mind what features really mean the most to you. Do you need wireless networking, will you be overclocking, and how many Gen 4 SSDs are you likely to drop into your new AMD PC? If the answers are no, no, and one, then a B550 will be a good shout. Just make sure the one you pick doesn't have a similarly specced, similarly priced X570 twin lurking around.