Best B550 motherboard for gaming
The best B550 motherboards can prepare your AMD Ryzen machine for anything.
The best B550 motherboards offer great performance and value for your AMD build without skimping on features. Compared to the top X570 motherboards, some might think B550s are a big step down, but they're pretty capable AMD mobos.
The best part about B550 boards is that they can handle the most powerful AMD processors like the AMD Ryzen 9 5900X and Ryzen 9 5950X with no problems. There's even support for PCIe 4.0, which has made its way from the top X570 chipset to B550.
The biggest difference between the two boards is how the chipset connects to the CPU—the X570 chipset connects over PCIe 4.0, while the B550 uses PCIe 3.0. If you need more PCIe 4.0 slots and NVMe SSDs, then an X570 motherboard is, on paper, a better choice, but for the vast majority of gamers, a B550 motherboard is more than enough.
I've been trying to get my hands on as many AM4 compatible motherboards as we can for testing. I got boards from all the big guys like ASRock, Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. I've narrowed the list to those I think have earned a spot in your precious gaming rig. You don't have to thank me; I'm just doing my job.
Best B550 motherboards
Allow me to present the Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming, the most expensive of Asus’ new lineup of AMD B550 boards. Nearly $300 for a motherboard based on a budget chipset? Really? If that sounds like something you never knew you needed, hold on. It’s not actually altogether crazy.
Yes, the B550 is strictly the second tier variant of AMD’s latest 500-series chipsets. But it doesn’t miss out on all that much compared to its bigger X570 brother. Essentially, there’s one really significant downgrade, from which a host of detailed changes flow.
For the B550, AMD has hooked up the PCH chip at the heart of the chipset to the CPU socket via a quad-lane PCI Express Gen 3 interface. The X570 gets quad-lane PCI Express, too, but a Gen 4 interface. In simple terms, that means double the bandwidth. In detail terms, consequences for the B550 include support for just a single M.2 PCIe Gen 4 SSD running at full speed, while the X570 chipset supports two.
What you’ll also be wondering about is performance. Is it actually all that much better than a more prosaic - and cheaper - B550 alternative? At stock clocks and default board settings, the inevitable answer is... no. In fact, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is a solid 50 per cent pricier than the likes of the MSI MAG B550M Mortar(opens in new tab) and tangibly slower in most of our benchmarks, including games.
Where the Strix looks stronger, inevitably, involves overclocking. AMD’s laissez-faire approach to clocking the twangers off pretty much any CPU that comes its way, by enabling access to super-simple core ratio tweaks, means you’d almost be mad not to give it a go. The Strix B550-E gets Asus’ slick and familiar BIOS interface that allows access to not only the core ratio but pretty much every setting a keen overclocker could wish for. So you have the choice of bumping the core ratios up and letting the board work out the details, or getting down and dirty with voltages and timings.
While we’re discussing the more extreme end of the performance envelope, it’s also worth noting that Asus’ DOCP (Direct Over Clock Profile) isn’t entirely successful in this implementation. It correctly detects the 3,000MHz XMP profile of our HyperX Predator DDR4 DIMMs, but hangs upon rebooting. Stable operation is possible at 2,866MHz, which isn’t a million miles away. But Asus’s DOCP doesn’t quite deliver on the advertised aim, which is a roughly equivalent experience to Intel’s XMP profiles.
All of which means that we’re back where we started. If maximum bandwidth for peripherals attached to the chipset is critical for you, then no B550 will serve you well. On the other hand, if you're expecting to run a pretty lean system with a single M.2 drive and not all that much by way of added peripherals, you might well decide there’s no point on paying the premium for an X570 board. You can spend the money saved on a slightly faster CPU or graphics card and still have a pretty high-end, and full-featured motherboard.
Read our full Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming review.
Since the debut of ASRock’s Taichi brand, I've been a fan of its quality blend of price, performance, and features. It’s also one of few sub-brands that doesn’t go all in on a ‘gaming’ theme, which is something many people appreciate. I know I do. With the Razer influence, however, that’s changed somewhat here. The traditional yin/yang and cog machinery aesthetic has been left off with the release of the B550 Taichi Razer Edition.
This reinvented ASRock Taichi board features a minimalist, yet unmistakably premium appearance that integrates Razer Chroma RGB support. It sure is a lovely-looking board, and if you’re invested in the Razer ecosystem, it’s a board you’ll definitely want to consider for a Ryzen 5000 series build.
As the name suggests, the biggest marketing talking point of the board is its support for the Razer Chroma RGB ecosystem. On the surface, it’s just another flavor of RGB, but Razer does go beyond a typical implementation to include a greater range of effects while offering extensive customization with the Chroma Studio app. There’s also game integration, support for many external apps, and Amazon Alexa integration. So, if you want to RGB your RGB, the chances are Chroma can do it.
The ASRock B550 Taichi Razer Edition is arguably right at the top of the B550 tree. Whether a B550 board costing as much as the Taichi Razer Edition is right for you may come down to how important RGB is to you and how many M.2 drives you plan to run. Many X570 boards are available at this price with three M.2 slots and feature more PCIe 4.0 general-purpose lanes. There is an ASRock X570 Taichi Razer Edition, and that is some $100 more. Is it worth the extra? We’d say probably not unless your needs are specific.
The ASRock B550 Taichi Razer Edition can overclock as far as your cooling will allow, it can run fast memory, and it’s got Killer 2.5G LAN and WiFi 6 along with decent audio. It really does look great and will strongly appeal to RGB lovers. Ask yourself if you need extra M.2 slots or things like 10G LAN. If not, then this is a board that’s definitely worth considering. Even if for the aesthetic alone.
Read our full ASRock B550 Taichi Razer Edition review.
Entry-level gaming is the aim for MSI’s MAG B550M Mortar board, tested here in base format without integrated wireless networking. It’s a compact board and the only Micro-ATX option among MSI’s initial B550 offerings. The idea? Affordability combined with all the features you actually need and less by way snazzy extras that don’t actually help you go gaming.
First up in the left-it-out ledger are the omissions are inherent to the AMD B550 chipset. That means half the bandwidth to the PCH chip compared to AMD full-fat 500 Series chipset, the X570. That’s significant primarily for peripherals such as secondary SSDs and USB connectivity. You still get 16 PCI Express Gen 4 lanes for graphics and four Gen 4 lanes for a primary SSD, all of which hook straight into the CPU socket.
Inevitably, given the relatively modest pricing, those 16 PCIe 4.0 graphics lanes are restricted to the primary PEG-16 slot. There’s another full length slot below, but it feeds off the PCH chip and is thus restricted to just four PCI Express Gen 3 lanes. In other words, forget about dual-GPU gaming. In reality, that’s pretty much what the market has done in general - forget about multi-GPU... at least for now. So that omission is fine by us and allows this board to be cheaper without having any impact on your gaming or general computing experience.
At this price point something has to give, of course, and the MAG B550M Mortar is conspicuously short on luxuries. There’s no debug display, no physical power or reset buttons, no RGB lighting. Of course, none of those things make any difference in-game and it’s easy to argue the £100 / $100 saving over a premium B550 board like the Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming(opens in new tab) can therefore be invested where it really counts - in a better graphics card.
Other economics include details like just one heat spreader supplied for the two M.2 slots and arguably the general air of old fashionedness. That includes memory DIMM slots with clips at both ends and a user manual that feels a little dated and clunky compared to the relative polish of Asus. You can’t say that, however, of the MAG B550M Mortar BIOS menu, which is slick, friendly and full-featured.
If that’s all good, predictably there’s a catch. The MSI MAG B550M Mortar’s Achilles' heel is overclocking. Where the two Asus boards easily achieved 4.2GHz on all cores with our AMD Ryzen 3100 quad-core test chip, the B550M Mortar only manages 4GHz, a paltry 100MHz above the 3.9GHz all-core Turbo rating of the 3100.
No doubt with some fine tuning, more speed could be released, but it’s not encouraging. And if overclocking is a primary concern the simple conclusion when it comes to the MSI MAG B550M Mortar is to jog on; there are better options. But not everyone wants to overclock and, for those who don’t, the performance and efficiency on offer are certainly appealing. Finally, it’s worth noting that the Wi-Fi version of the B550M Mortar is typically available for around $10-15 more and is probably a no brainer if you’re leaning MSI and run your gaming rig wirelessly.
Read our full MSI MAG B550M Mortar review.
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, making this a difficult recommendation until the almost inevitable price correction will certainly happen over time.
As we’ve explained before, the B550 chipset doesn’t actually lose out all that much in terms of the raw specs compared with AMD's top-end X570 chipset. The main difference involves the interface between the CPU and PCH chip at the heart of the silicon. For the B550, that’s delivered courtesy of a quartet of Gen 3 PCI Express lanes.
But it's got the same sort of specs list as the excellent Asus ROG Strix B550-E, and it 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.
As for actual performance at stock clocks, the ASRock B550 Taichi puts out very nice numbers. Despite claims of support for up to DDR4-5200 it mirrored the other B550 we’ve tested of late in not fancying more than 2,866MHz from our DDR4 3200 HyperX Predator DIMMs. No matter, the Taichi was still quicker at stock clocks than two of the other three B550 boards we’ve benchmarked of late, the MSI Mortar remaining at the top of the pile in that regard.
When it comes to overclocking, the picture is a bit more complicated. In extremis, this is likely the most overclockable B550 we’ve seen. However, ASRock’s BIOS ties the manual CPU core frequency settings to those of the core voltage. Consequently, if you want to manually overclock the CPU, you must also hand tune the voltages.
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.
Our first look at AMD’s second-tier member of its new 500 Series of chipsets, the B550, involved some fairly premium priced boards. Then came the Asrock B550 Taichi, a $300 beast of a B550 motherboard. Arguably, it was all getting a bit silly. Now Asrock is back but this time with B550 option that’s much more what we were initially expecting.
Give it up, therefore, for the Asrock B550M-HDV. Clocking in around $80, it sits rather more comfortably with the value-orientated B550's market positioning. Not that the B550 is a bum chipset. In fact, it isn’t miles away from its bigger X570 brother by most metrics. The key differentiator between the two involves the link between the CPU and PCH chip, the latter essentially being the motherboard chipset thanks to much of what used to be chipset functionality now residing on the CPU package. For the B550, that link is composed of a quartet of Gen 3 PCI Express lanes. The X570? It’s also quad-lane, but Gen 4 spec and so double the bandwidth.
The most immediate and obvious consequence involves storage. You still get Gen 4 links directly into the CPU with the B550 chipset. There are 16 lanes available for graphics and another four for storage, enabling support for a quad-lane PCIe Gen 4 M.2 SSD. But, where the X570 adds support for a second Gen 4 M.2 drive attached to the PCH chip, the B550’s secondary M.2 socket is capped at PCIe Gen 3 speeds.
The immediate conclusion might therefore be why pay more? The answer is that the Ryzen 3100 is not a terribly demanding chip. Odds are, you’d knock up against the limitation of that cheap four-phase power design and minimal cooling when overclocking CPUs with eight-plus cores.
Of course, few existing Ryzen CPUs actually overclock well. So, that potential limitation doesn’t count for much. It’s possible that future AMD CPUs based on the Zen 3 architecture could provide more headroom. But that speculative and, in any case, at this price point you’re never going to get the last word in overclocking prowess.
Overall, then, our main reservation involves features. It would be quite nice to have at least one USB-C socket, here in 2020, plus a second M.2 slot. Either, but not both, of those are things you could add with a PCIe x1 board, though the M.2 slot would be limited to lowly x1 PCIe 3.0 speeds. And it's extra money. If those omissions matter to you, it probably makes sense to shop around and find a board that offers them as standard.
Read our full Asrock B550M-HDV review.
Best B550 motherboard FAQ
What's the difference between a B550 and X570 motherboard?
There isn't a lot of difference between the top two AMD 500-series motherboard chipsets when it comes to straight performance. The main difference is AMD has replaced the PCIe Gen 4 interface used on the X570—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 the B550.
The Ryzen 3000 and 5000 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 it means the B550 can't support secondary PCIe 4.0 SSDs or graphics cards.
The tighter bandwidth does affect other sensitive areas, such as USB connectivity, but on the whole, it doesn't affect gaming performance. 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. AMD has also confirmed that both B550 and X570 will support the next generation of Ryzen CPUs.
Where they differ, however, is in the extended feature set. While those two premium B550 boards have an impressive feature list, the B550 chipset means that bandwidth-sensitive connections on the motherboard will be behind the top range of boards. That's thanks to the relationship between the PCH on the chipset and the CPU using PCIe Gen3, instead of 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 a tad more expensive than we'd like, with the ASRock B550 Taichi being the most obvious example. It's around the same price as the ASRock X570 Taichi, arguably the better board or the more fully featured.
There are cheaper B550 boards out there, such as the ASRock B550 HDV, but then you are losing out on luxuries like decent power phase design and potentially then overall performance. That might 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 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.