With the announcement of AMD’s Ryzen 5000 desktop CPU series, we noticed a lot of talk about the B450 and B550 motherboards. It seems many prospective buyers are not clear on the differences between these chipsets and as a result we see many current B450 owners worried about what they should do regarding if needed they upgrade.
In this article we will explain how these chipsets are different and will discuss why you may or may not need to upgrade for supporting a Zen 3 processor.
You may remember the original AMD announced that they would be support for Zen 3 on all 300 and 400 series motherboards. However, due to pressure from the community and publications like ours where we strongly suggested AMD reconsider, they quickly reversed the decision and announced that the 400 series boards (B450 and X470) would receive support for on the Zen 3 processors, now known as the Ryzen 5000 series.
That means processor support on B450 motherboards includes Ryzen 1000, 2000, 3000 and now the upcoming 5000 series, though a single BIOS revision is unlikely to support them all. Compare that to the B550 chipset that officially only supports the Ryzen 3000 and the upcoming 5000 series, although note that the Ryzen 3000 series APUs like the 3200G and 3400G are not supported on the B550 boards, APU support is limited. in Renoir APUs, that is the Ryzen 4000 series … which we should add, is not supported on the B450 boards as far as we know.
The main advantages of the AMD B550 chipset are PCI Express 4.0, but it is a bit confusing because this feature is not actually chipset enabled. Technically speaking, there is no reason why B450 boards cannot offer the same level of PCIe 4.0 support as B550 boards, since that support comes directly from Ryzen 3000 processors, they only use the 20 lines of PCIe 4.0 from the CPU. In fact, we saw BIOS revisions from Gigabyte preferences that enabled the operation of PCIe 4.0 on B450 boards, but were later removed due to pressure from AMD. We won’t go into this, but the point is that PCIe 4.0 support on the B550 boards comes from the CPU, not the chipset itself.
All AMD B550 motherboards only support PCIe 4.0 for the main PCIe x16 slot for graphics cards, as well as PCIe 4.0 for the main M.2 slot for high speed storage. As it stands, the feature either is not a terrible advantage to most consumers because PCIe 4.0 does not yet offer any kind of performance advantage for graphic cards. Even the RTX 3090 only gets about 3% more performance on average at low resolutions.
When it comes to PCIe 4.0 storage, the gains are good on paper and certainly good for raw file transfers, but when it comes to general PC usage and gaming, the difference between a good NVMe SSDs running in PCIe 4.0 and 3.0 modes are virtually nonexistent. That is not to say that PCIe 4.0 will not be important in the future, but it is a technology that is more suitable for high-end systems that use an X570 motherboard or HEDT system that uses expensive Threadripper CPUs.
Now, the next most important upgrade to the B550 chipset has to do with the lines of PCI Express made available through the chipset itself. As mentioned earlier, PCIe 4.0 support is provided by the CPU, but the chipset still has its own PCIe lines, 8 in the case of the B450 and 10 in the B550. Both use a PCIe 3.0 x4 CPU link, but the lines offered by the chipset are different. While the B450 chipset offers 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes, the B550 chipset offers 10 PCIe 3.0 lanes.
This increased bandwidth means faster devices can connect to the chipset, though it’s hard to say how useful it is for most of you. More premium AMD B550 motherboards offer features like Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5 Gbit LAN, but unless you invest in the latest wireless routers and network switches, any of these features are will not be particularly useful because you are limited by your hardware hardware. In addition to enhanced networking, increased bandwidth also means the USB 3.2 gen2 port comes standard, though this is a feature you can find on selected B450 motherboards as well.
Finally, the B550 chipset also brings support for dual GPUs, but honestly that’s probably the most pointless feature it offers over the B450 because it no longer uses SLI or Crossfire, not much less than a budget motherboard. Some B450 boards can support dual GPUs, even if the second card is severely disabled with PCIe 2.0 x4 bandwidth.
The main takeaway here is that the AMD B550 motherboards offer better PCI Express support from both the CPU and chipset, but how appropriate that is for you would be questionable. If you have a Gigabit switch and don’t want to spend big bucks on 2.5 Gbit networking or better, then paying extra for a board with a 2.5 Gbit LAN can be a waste of money, and of course, the same is true for Wi -Fi 6 support.
So far PCIe 4.0 does not seem to be a big deal, there is no hardware configuration for a desktop PC that can really take advantage of it, and once it starts to show a useful advantage we will find this hardware worth a serious premium, so you don’t even have to stick to a B550 board anyway. So what all this means is that, just because the B550 motherboards are newer and offer some great sound features like PCI Express 4.0, it does not automatically mean that those have B450 owners need to upgrade or even someone looking to buy an affordable AM4 motherboard is required to buy. a board B550.
Right now you can buy the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max for $ 110, while an equivalent B550 board like the MSI B550-A Pro costs $ 140. While $ 30 is not a big premium and we usually recommend the model of the B550, for those looking to save as much money as possible, the B450 option is likely to be a better value. In this example, on the B550 board you get a better VRM, 2.5 Gbit LAN and PCIe 4.0, although it depends on what you are doing with the system, there is a good chance you will take advantage of none of these features.
Briefly, those looking to upgrade their current Ryzen 2000 or 3000 CPU with a sleek new model of Ryzen 5000, which owns a decent B450 motherboard, we found no reason why you need or want to upgrade to a B550 board.
Again, if you have something like the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max, very little is available by upgrading to a B550 board. Really, you’ll need to spend upwards of $ 160 for a worthwhile upgrade, and at that point you’re halfway through buying a Ryzen 5 5600X.
Our advice is this: if you have a B450 motherboard and plan to upgrade to Ryzen 5000, keep the board and wait until January 2021 for Zen 3 BIOS and upgrade afterwards.
Speaking of Zen 3 support, we confirmed to AMD that there is no performance difference between the B450 and B550 motherboards when running a Ryzen 5000 CPU. They are already doing this in their labs, so AMD B450 support is one thing, the delay after release will only allow time for board partners to get their B550 and X570 boards to speed up and iron out any bugs that may appear once the mass upgrade starts the new processor.
AMD also confirmed to us that the VRM load is almost identical between the same spec process Ryzen 3000 and Ryzen 5000. In other words, expect the Ryzen 9 3900X and 5900X to put almost the same load on the motherboard VRM .
Thermal VRM performance, while useful information that will help you buy a better quality motherboard, is not the be-all and end-all of motherboard performance. How you configure the computer and what you plan to do with it will determine how much attention you have to pay to VRM performance. For example, if you plan to run a 12 or 16-core Ryzen processor with the intention of implementing major heavy workloads for an extended period of time, then thermal VRM performance is something you want to pay attention to, especially if you live you have a warmer climate.
However, if you only plan to run a 6 or even an 8-core Ryzen processor with no desire to upgrade soon, then VRM quality is less of an issue. Also, if you play a lot, VRM quality is less of an issue because you will not tax all cores at 100% for extended periods of time.
We hope this article has helped clarify any questions current AMD B450 owners have about upgrading to a new Ryzen 5000 series processor, as well as for those currently throwing in between B450 or B550 motherboard.
- AMD B550 Motherboards on Amazon
- AMD B450 Motherboards on Amazon
- MSI B550M Pro-VDH Wi-Fi on Amazon
- MSI B550M Bazooka on Amazon
- Gigabyte B550M DS3H on Amazon
- Gigabyte B550M Aorus Elite on Amazon
- Asus Prime B550M-A WiFi on Amazon
- Asrock B550M Pro4 on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600 on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X on Amazon