Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi Review

Lately, we’ve seen custom builds sporting huge AIO coolers, lots of fans, and enough RGB to keep significant others up at night. But what happens when you trim off all that glitz and glam and get to the base requirements for a great system? And that's where the B350 comes in. AMD has placed this chipset right in the middle of its AM4 lineup where it supports both enthusiast-grade performance while shaving off enough features to satisfy our mainstream computing needs.

Specifications

Specifically, B350 grants access to a lone x16 PCIe Gen3 connector for GPUs, and reduced USB 3.1 Gen2, storage, and general purpose PCIe connections that are almost the bare minimum for enthusiast-grade systems.

MarketEnthusiastPerformanceMainstream
ChipsetX370B350A320
PCIe Gen3 Graphics1x16/2x8 (Ryzen)
1x8 (APU/Athlon)
1x16 (Ryzen)
1x8 (APU/Athlon)
1x16 (Ryzen)
1x8 (APU/Athlon)
USB 3.1 G2 + 3.1 G1 + 2.02+10+62+6+61+6+6
SATA + NVMe4 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
or
6 + x2 NVMe
2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
or
4 + x2 NVMe
2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
or
4 + x2 NVMe
SATA Express
(SATA & GPP PCIe G3)
211
PCI Express GPx8 Gen2
(plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
x6 Gen2
(plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
x4 Gen2
(plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
OverclockingYesYesNo

 
With all of those reduced features, why not refine it down even more to create a compact solution? Gigabyte does just that with the AB350N-Gaming WiFi. This mini-ITX board, the first B350 motherboard we've tested, makes compact builds feel like full-fledged power systems. As with any mini-ITX board, there are several compromises and design choices you'll need to make to accommodate such a lofty goal.

Contents of the box are sparse, with only two SATA cables, driver CDs, a Wi-Fi antenna fixture, the manual, and Gigabyte Gaming sticker. The back panel comes equipped with two USB 3.1 Gen2, four USB 3.1 Gen1, two USB 2.0, PS/2, gigabit Ethernet, and six analog audio ports. If you install an APU, you can use either DiplayPort 1.2 or HDMI v1.4 to connect displays. If the board’s name wasn't a hint, you get two SMA Wi-Fi antenna ports for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. The included antenna is also a unique fixture that you can mount on a desk or monitor.

The Wi-Fi module is the same Intel 3165NGW card that ASRock used in the X370 Killer SLI/ac. We prefer this implementation, however, because it is securely mounted vertically on the board below the back-panel shield, optimizing board space without vertical clearance issues.

As for expansion slots, there isn’t a lot of surface area to stick our PCBs. One PCIe Gen3 x16 port is available for the graphics card, and two single-latched DIMM slots are available for dual-channel DDR4. Four SATA3 ports max out the B350’s available SATA storage, but there's additional real estate for an M.2 NVMe drive on the backside of the board. There are headers for USB3 and USB2, front panel, SPDIF, TPM, two auto-sensing 4-pin fans (which support 2A each), and RGB and AMD fan LEDs. Overall, it is a decent assortment of connections and options.

In the power department, the Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi sports a modest 4+2 phase design using IR’s 35201 regulators. Having tested several boards with larger phase counts, it will be interesting to see how these IC’s hold up against Prime95. Gigabyte throws in a full 8-pin ECS 12V header for overclockers who need additional CPU current on their voltage rails. The board’s six LEDs are positioned on the backside of the planar close to the DIMM solder joints to provide ambiance rather than direct lighting, which is a nice change from previous products we've reviewed. 

This all sounds great, right? But pump the breaks. This is mini-ITX after all. Although this list of features is sweet, the layout is very cramped. Gigabyte moved the PCH from the standard lower right quadrant of the board to the upper left, which at first seems bizarre, but doing so accommodates CPU cooling zone restrictions and reduces the footprint for additional PCH Redriver ICs. 

Along with the PCH are the aforementioned headers for USB and the front panel. Given that we're still testing this board in a Thermaltake Suppressor F51, the cables were almost a hair too short for proper installation. Similarly, our 8-pin power supply cable was not long enough to be gracefully routed out the back, so we violated cable management rule #5 and draped it across our GPU. We imagine routing to the RGB-5050 header will be a similarly tricky task, although there is just enough clearance between the PCIe and DIMM latches. Our case might not have been ideal for this motherboard, but a cube or inverted mini-ITX case would probably be perfect.

Board placement quirks aside, the Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi makes lemonade out of the size constraints of the mini-ITX form factor, cramming in enough features to make it comparable to bigger solutions.

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  • ubercake
    This is a great mini-ITX configuration. Also, it's complete with analog sound connections for 7.1. You don't see that often in smaller boards without paying a lot higher price. This one really has me thinking...
  • ktolo
    Still waiting for a 'premium' m-itx board to come out. (Casts glance in MSI's direction..)
  • SamSerious
    Anonymous said:
    This is a great mini-ITX configuration. Also, it's complete with analog sound connections for 7.1. You don't see that often in smaller boards without paying a lot higher price. This one really has me thinking...


    Actually the I/O Panel is way better equipped than on the (presumably) much more expensive ROG Strix X370-I Gaming. -Although i'd prefer 3 audio jacks an a toslink port.
  • EntropyZ
    This has to be the best "budget" ITX motherboard. But like most other ITX motherboards it has a really bad heatsink, which greatly benefits from a fan blowing directly into it, don't even think to overclock if longevity is what you want from this board or stable overclocks, since semiconductor quality differs board from board.

    The only good thing about is mindful placement of most connectors, except the ATX 8-pin. How are you supposed to hide that cable, pretty much impossible.

    Those are the only criticisms I have about it.
  • ubercake
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    This is a great mini-ITX configuration. Also, it's complete with analog sound connections for 7.1. You don't see that often in smaller boards without paying a lot higher price. This one really has me thinking...


    Actually the I/O Panel is way better equipped than on the (presumably) much more expensive ROG Strix X370-I Gaming. -Although i'd prefer 3 audio jacks an a toslink port.


    Yeah, that TOSLINK port is the only thing I could think would be missing for some people ,but my Tiamat headset would use all of the analog ports. That being said, I wish they made a headset like the Tiamat that would accept a single COAX or TOSLINK audio surround connection.
  • g-unit1111
    Awesome to see that AMD is finally offering some boards for small form factor PCs, especially with Ryzen. More of this please!
  • ubercake
    Anonymous said:
    Awesome to see that AMD is finally offering some boards for small form factor PCs, especially with Ryzen. More of this please!

    I agree. And it's also good to see quality AMD-related min-ITX boards on the lower end of the price spectrum. Intel mini-itx boards with similar features and functionality compared with their larger form-factor brethren often are priced higher than the larger boards. I hope the Ryzen mini-ITX board prices also put Intel motherboard producers into a position where they'll have to price their mini-ITX boards competitively.
  • g-unit1111
    Anonymous said:
    I agree. And it's also good to see quality AMD-related min-ITX boards on the lower end of the price spectrum. Intel mini-itx boards with similar features and functionality compared with their larger form-factor brethren often are priced higher than the larger boards. I hope the Ryzen mini-ITX board prices also put Intel motherboard producers into a position where they'll have to price their mini-ITX boards competitively.


    Yeah I'm really now thinking at some point I want to do a full HTPC build around this board and a Ryzen 5 1600X and a GTX 1070, that would be pretty awesome. Or even just upgrade my current HTPC to this.
  • SamSerious
    Anonymous said:
    Yeah, that TOSLINK port is the only thing I could think would be missing for some people ,but my Tiamat headset would use all of the analog ports. That being said, I wish they made a headset like the Tiamat that would accept a single COAX or TOSLINK audio surround connection.


    I hope this isnt too OT. A toslink or coax connection would require a dac built into your headset. If it had a built-in dac it could just use usb instead of (relatively) rare digital audio ports.
  • theterk
    Anonymous said:
    Awesome to see that AMD is finally offering some boards for small form factor PCs, especially with Ryzen. More of this please!
    Apparently, I've developed telepathy and there are a few more Mini-ITX Ryzen boards on the way! If y'all have questions about Ryzen or build specific questions for my reviews, don't hesitate to mention them! You can check me out on the THG Discord too, it's linked somewhere in the forums.
  • Dyseman
    Bought my board and new case (Coolermaster Cube) at Fry's with R5-1600X. (Still using my RX480) Oculus Rift has yet to stutter on anything I throw at it.
  • ktolo
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Awesome to see that AMD is finally offering some boards for small form factor PCs, especially with Ryzen. More of this please!
    Apparently, I've developed telepathy and there are a few more Mini-ITX Ryzen boards on the way! If y'all have questions about Ryzen or build specific questions for my reviews, don't hesitate to mention them! You can check me out on the THG Discord too, it's linked somewhere in the forums.


    Actually, I've been wanting to build a Ryzen based m-ITX system for some time now..but waiting for MSI to bring out a decent m-ITX board. Can you spill the beans and let us know if there is one from them in the upcoming reviews? Or even if you know of anything from them in that specific direction at all..
    (even a hint!)