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AMD's AM4 Ryzen Chipsets

Ryzen is here, and with it comes a new generation of motherboard chipsets from AMD. We covered the X370 in some detail in our Ryzen review and touched lightly on the others before, but we'll compare their features more closely in this article.

Common Features

Before we discuss what makes each chipset different from each other, we should outline what they have in common. All of AMD’s AM4 chipsets support SATA-III and SATA Express ports. As SATA Express never really got off the ground, however, each SATA Express connection can be used to support two SATA-III ports instead.

All AM4 chipsets also have two PCI-E 3.0 lanes dedicated to NVMe storage devices. The connection can be extended to an x4 NVMe connection at the cost of two SATA-III ports, or the vendor can remove NVMe support and reuse the PCI-E 3.0 lanes for something else.

AMD's AM4 chipsets also do not support RAID 5. This feature is crucial for users who need to store lots of data securely, and its absence could hamper AMD’s AM4 sales to small businesses.

All AM4 chipsets connect to the CPU with a PCI-E 3.0 x4 connection, which is essentially equivalent to Intel's DMI 3.0 connection.

The X370 Flagship

AMD currently has five AM4 chipsets in the works. The X370 chipset is at the top of the stack, and it features more connectivity support than its counterparts. We can roughly compare it to Intel’s Z270 chipset because it supports overclocking, and it can also split the CPU’s PCI-E lanes between two GPU slots.

Although the alignment is technically inferior to Intel’s Z270 chipset, which can split the CPU’s PCI-E lanes into an x4/x4/x4/x4 configuration, it will likely not have an impact on most users. Multi-GPU configurations containing more than two graphics cards are uncommon. This point is driven home by the fact that Nvidia ended support for SLI beyond a two-GPU configuration with its 1000-Series graphics cards.

AMD Desktop AM4 Chipsets
CategoryEnthusiastMainstreamEssential
ChipsetX370X300B350A320A300
Form FactorAnySFFAnyAnySFF
CPU PCI-E 3.0 Config Support1x16 or 2x81x16 or 2x81x161x161x16
Memory support (Channels/DIMMs Per Channel)DDR4 2667MHz (2/2)DDR4 2667MHz (2/2)DDR4 2667MHz (2/2)DDR4 2667MHz (2/2)DDR4 2667MHz (2/2)
CPU Overclocking SupportYesYesYesNoNo
RAID Support 0/1/10Yes0/1 OnlyYesYes0/1 Only
Chipset Maximum PCI-E Lanes8 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes4 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes6 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes4 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes4 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes
NVMe Supportx2x2x2x2x2
USB Support (2.0/3.0/3.1 Gen2)6/6/20/4/06/2/26/2/10/4/0
SATA-III (6Gbps) Ports62442
Sata Express21221

The Mainstream And Essential Products

Although there are five AM4 chipsets, AMD primarily relies on X370, B350, and A320 to address the consumer desktop market.

The B350 solution has a unique position; like its main competitor, Intel’s H270 PCH, B350 does not officially support SLI nor Crossfire. Unlike H270, however, B350 allows you to overclock unlocked CPUs. Depending on how AMD’s board partners price B350 motherboards, this could lead to a strong advantage in the budget overclocking market.

AMD’s A320 SKU, however, lacks overclocking support and it’s probably best to compare it to Intel’s B250 and H110 PCHs.

In addition to its reduced feature set, B350 also loses two SATA-III and two PCI-E 2.0 Gen 2 lanes compared to the X370 chipset. It also provides four fewer USB 3.0 ports. A320 drops an additional two PCI-E lanes and one USB 3.1 Gen 2 port.

The SFF Solutions

AMD designed the X300 and A300 AM4 chipsets for compact, minimalist systems. Both feature limited connectivity options, but this is somewhat mitigated by the Ryzen CPU’s built-in SATA and NVMe controllers. Although Ryzen CPUs have evolved to the point of essentially being SoCs, they have not quite reached the point that you can use them without an accompanying chipset. As the SFF chipsets have a relatively small footprint, however, OEMs can use them to build fairly compact systems.

The X300 chipset, which AMD designed as as an enthusiast SFF solution, can overclock unlocked CPUs and split the CPU’s PCI-E lanes between multiple CPUs. The A300, however, lacks these abilities.

  • bit_user
    Compared to when my 890FX board was new (back in the Phenom II days), it's hard not to be disappointed with this.

    the chipset provides a total of 38 PCIe 2.0 lanes and 4 PCIe 2.0 for A-Link Express III solely in the Northbridge

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AMD_800_chipset_series#890FX
    Reply
  • joz
    wow, even their chipset naming is designed to compare to Intel's. Wow.
    Reply
  • Ryzen chipset plain sucks. AMD had a good thing with Phenom and all these years they should have been working on improving that Architecture.
    Reply
  • burtman88
    what's with the pci x 2.0 slots ? taking a step backwards...
    Reply
  • Yandex63
    I have to laugh whenever something new comes out on the market and everybody thinks it has to be perfect yesterday. (typical snowflake attitudes) This launch is no different then any other that's occurred. Intel had all sorts of issues when the new CPUs and chipsets were released.... as with anything "computer", it takes a bit of time for the ecosystem to develop and everything to get "tweaked". 1/2 the cost for roughly the same performance as Intel? Nuff said.
    Reply
  • Giroro
    I wonder what the real cost to AMD is to manufacture a low end vs high end chipset? Having a low end X series and the A series just seems unnecessary at this point.

    Why not simplify things down to the X370 and B350 with the built-in ryzen interfaces handing the "essential"category?
    Reply
  • IInuyasha74
    19375784 said:
    I wonder what the real cost to AMD is to manufacture a low end vs high end chipset? Having a low end X series and the A series just seems unnecessary at this point.

    Why not simplify things down to the X370 and B350 with the built-in ryzen interfaces handing the "essential"category?

    Typically anymore a company makes one real chipset and then disables features to extend it across the line. This way they can take advantage of slightly defective dies. For example all of Intel's 100-series chipsets use the same physical die but with features disabled.

    I haven't checked with AMD yet to see if they are doing this as well, but it is likely they are. It would be more expensive to create an entirely separate die for the A320 chipset than to just use defective X370 chipsets. As for why not to just cut A320 out completely, if they have dies that are too defective to work as B350 chipsets, it is more economical for AMD to simply sell them as a lower cost SKU than to toss them in the trash.

    We haven't actually seen any A320 boards really make an appearance on the market, so I have doubts that A320 is really intended for the current Ryzen CPU. Although it is compatible with Ryzen, it will probably mostly be used by system builders on a tight budget using low-end Ryzen-based CPUs or APUs.
    Reply
  • Tithulta
    I was waiting and waiting only to be left in a quandary. To Ryzen or to lower cost Intel. So I just decided to wait some more. It's not like my system is on its last legs to begin with.
    Reply
  • James Mason
    oh boy more sata express ports that you can't use because sata express devices do not exist.
    Reply
  • ravewulf
    It can be slightly confusing, but don't forget that the PCIe lanes, SATA ports, and USB ports are split between the CPU and chipset. So to get the totals of those you need to add what the CPU or APU provides to what the chipset provides. Different CPU/APU ranges paired with different chipsets will give you different totals.
    Reply