The Best B550 motherboard for you might not be a B550 board at all. AMD’s B550 chipset brought high hopes of PCIe 4.0 support at low prices, given the high cost of most X570 boards and the appealing low price of many previous-generation B450 motherboards. Now that we’re more than six months out from the B550 launch, we know that AMD’s more mainstream AM4 platform delivers on at least one of those two promises--PCIe 4.0.
While there’s less bandwidth for multiple next-generation high-speed storage and graphics card setups, B550 motherboards do deliver PCIe 4.0 support for the typical setup of a single speedy drive and graphics card. And overall, B550 prices are generally lower than their X570 counterparts. But many B550 motherboards -- particularly the high-end models -- often surpass the price of many lower-end X570 motherboards.
So B550 motherboards may not have as broad appeal as cheaper B450 options -- especially as most of those last-gen boards are still on the market. Also consider that A520 motherboards start at around $60, though you’ll forego PCIe 4.0 with these lower-priced boards, which is a key selling point of AMD’s latest platforms.
There are other considerations (and complications) if you’re choosing the best B550 motherboard, as well. Those who like their PCs to run silently will appreciate that the B550 chipset doesn’t require support for active cooling. But the key thing to note with B550 is that, while the chipset supports current and future Zen 3 processors, the boards didn’t support Ryzen 2000 and earlier processors, or Ryzen 3000 APUs like the Ryzen 5 3400G--at least at launch. While the AM4 socket remains the same, ROM size limitations make it impossible for board makers to include support for all current, future, and past Ryzen processors with a single firmware package.
So if you have an older Ryzen 2000 CPU or Ryzen 3000 APU, be sure to double-check the board’s product page to see if it’s compatible with your processor. At the very least, you may need to update the board’s BIOS to support a given chip. And depending on features on given board models, that may not be possible to do without also having a different CPU that works with the board out of the box. You don’t want to do lots of research to choose the best B550 motherboard, only to find out after you buy it that it won’t boot with your existing CPU.
AMD B550 Chipset: PCIe 4.0 for the Rest of Us
With all that out of the way, what exactly does B550 offer? Here’s how AMD sees it:
In short, you get PCIe 4.0 support through the CPU, delivering enough lanes for a fast NVMe storage drive and the GPU. Also included is dual-GPU support (though that’s a feature with far less appeal in recent years for gamers), along with a doubling of the bandwidth of the motherboard’s general-purpose PCIe lanes from the chipset, from 2.0 to 3.0. That increased per-lane throughput allowed AMD to reduce the number of lanes between the chipset and CPU from six PCIe 2.0 lanes to four PCIe 3.0.
|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 3.1 Gen 2||USB 3.1 Gen 2|
|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|
Below are our tested picks for the best B550 motherboards, at various price points and form factors. We expect this list to grow once we test more of these mainstream AMD motherboards.
Asus’ ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi delivers premium features including SupremeFX Audio, Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200, solid power delivery and more. It’s a good option around the $200 mark, though if you don’t need Wi-Fi capability, the non-Wi-Fi version of the same board costs $30 less with the same specifications, making it easy to recommend if you plan on using Ethernet or have your own wireless card.
There are plenty of cheaper B550 based options than the Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master, but if you’re looking at flagship mainstream parts, you likely already know that you are set with a single GPU and PCIe 4.0 M.2 module. While you can add more modules, you’ll be limited to PCIe 3.0 (still plenty fast enough for many) with those extra drives. If you’re still a heavy SATA-based storage user and six of those ports isn’t enough, look to the the ASRock B550 Taichi. But if you need three M.2 slots and loads of USB, the Aorus Master delivers.
The B550 Aorus Master is a very capable board, loaded up with premium features like Wi-Fi 6 and high-quality VRMs. It’s one of the more well-appointed B550 motherboards, though that also means it’s expensive. If a $250+ B550-based motherboard is what you’re looking for, the B550 Aorus Master should be on your short list.
Read: Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master review
MSI’s MAG B550 Tomahawk delivers a well-balanced feature set at a competitive price. Performance is up there with the more expensive boards, and the VRMs held their own even when overclocked. At $180, you’ll have to live without Wi-Fi, and some potential drawbacks are the six total USB count on the rear IO as well as the lesser audio codec compared to many other boards. Assuming these are not deal breakers for your build, the MSI B550 MAG Tomahawk deserves consideration if your budget is around the $180 mark.
If you’re after a B550 board in the compact Mini ITX form factor, you only have a handful of choices, but Asus’ ROG Strix B550-I Gaming stands out. At $230, it’s on the pricier end, but $100 less than Gigabyte’s B550I Aorus Pro AX, while still delivering two M.2 slots (one around back), Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5Gb Ethernet. And active VRM cooling means you shouldn’t have to deal with the heat issues we saw with the Asus Prime B550M-A Wi-Fi and our 3900X.
You’ll have to live with just six USB ports on the rear IO, but that’s par for the course with these small B550 boards. Just note that one of the six ports is a USB 2.0 Type-C port designed for audio. If you’re planning on building with an APU, you get a trio of video ports, and the analog audio jacks light up. That’s the extent of on-board RGB, though. If you want more lighting, you’ll have to provide that with other components and accessories.
You’ll also have to deal with some inconveniently placed headers, like the front-panel audio pins which are wedged between the primary M.2 heatsink and the two RAM slots. But again, this is to be expected when lots of high-end features get jammed onto such a small board. For about $30 less, you can pick up MSI’s MPG B550I Gaming Edge Wi-Fi. That board is similar in many ways, but trades a couple video ports for a PS/2 port and more audio jacks. It also has fewer USB 3.2 Gen2 ports, although it does have more Type-A ports than Asus’ ITX board.