MSI’s $179.99 MAG Tomahawk has been popular with users in the past thanks to its combo of competitive pricing and a well-balanced feature set. But while the Tomahawk used to be more of a budget entry, the MAG B550 Tomahawk steps up its game to include more premium features like 13-phase power delivery and 2.5Gb Ethernet. Let’s dig into the board and find out if it’s deserving of a spon on our best motherboards list.
MSI’s B550 product stack is similar to the X570 enthusiast lineup in that boards are divided into segments: In order from highest to lowest, B550 uses MPG and MAG for gamers and Pro boards for creators. MSI doesn’t offer its highest-end MEG class boards on the B550 chipset, leaving that segment with X570 on the AMD side. As with the competition, boards come in all sizes from Mini-ITX to ATX with the Gaming Carbon Wi-Fi ($219.99) as the current flagship and the B550M Pro-VDH on the budget side priced at $125.99. The product stack has has lots of variety, but also a top-end price that’s much lower than Asus or Gigabyte B550 boards.
The MAG B550 Tomahawk’s highlights include13-Phase (10+2+1) power delivery, two Ethernet ports (1 GbE and 2.5 GbE), two M.2 slots each, with their own heatsink, oversized VRM heatsinks and more. About the only thing missing is integrated Wi-Fi.
In our testing, the B550 Tomahawk performed well, with results very close to all other B550 boards tested around the platform’s launch. There were no significant outliers in the result, but in general it seems to lean toward the faster side of our recent B550 test group.
With optimized defaults in the BIOS and RAM set to DDR4 3600, the board pushed our Ryzen 9 3900X to its 4.6 GHz boost (two cores) without issue. While overclocked, the board ran the CPU at 4.3 GHz (all cores and threads) along with 4x8GB DDR4 3600 RAM. The Tomahawk behaved well throughout all tests, chopping through the benchmarks with ease.
|Voltage Regulator||13 Phase (10+2+1) (60A MOSFETs)|
|Video Ports||HDMI, DisplayPort|
|USB Ports||(2) USB 3.2 Gen 2, Type-A and Type-C (10 Gbps), (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1, Type-A (5 Gbps), (2) USB 2.0, Type-A|
|Network Jacks||(1) 2.5 GbE, (1) 1 GbE|
|Audio Jacks||(5) Analog + SPDIF|
|PCIe x16||(1) v4.0 (x16), (1) v3.0 (x4)|
|PCIe x1||(2) v3.0 (x4)|
|DIMM slots||(4) DDR4 5100+(OC), 128GB Capacity|
|M.2 slots||(1) PCIe 4.0 x4 / SATA + PCIe, (1) PCIe 3.0 x4 / PCIe Only|
|SATA Ports||(6) SATA3 6 Gbps|
|USB Headers||(1) USB v3.2 Gen 1, (2) USB v2.0|
|Fan/Pump Headers||(8) 4-Pin|
|RGB Headers||(2) aRGB (3-pin), (2) RGB (4-pin)|
|Other Interfaces||FP-Audio, TPM|
|Diagnostics Panel||Yes (4 LEDs)|
|Internal Button/Switch||LED On/Off|
|Ethernet Controller(s)||Realtek 8125B (2.5 GbE), Realtek 8111H (1 GbE)|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||✗|
|HD Audio Codec||Realtek ALC1200|
|DDL/DTS Connect||✗ / ✗|
This accessory stack is sparse, but will get you started. Here’s a list of what ships in the box with the ATX MSI B550 Tomahawk.
- User's manual
- Support DVD
- Quick Install Guide
- Two SATA cables
- Case badge
At first glance after taking the B550 Tomahawk out of the box, we see notable differences from B450 and a lot of similarities with the X570 Tomahawk. The PCB is black with the board using grey and black heatsinks, along with grey stenciled lines sweeping diagonally through the motherboard. Outside of that, and the B550 model losing the chipset fan, those boards look remarkably similar. The RGB lighting is housed under the chipset heatsink, illuminating the bottom half of the board with bright saturated colors.
Zooming in to the top half of the board, the dominant feature is the large VRM heatsink on the left side. Typically, these heatsinks are covered by a shroud, but here, the shroud is actually part of the heatsink. The top VRM bank also has a grey heatsink on it along with the MAG name on top. The board’s black and-and-grey theme will easily blend in to most builds.
Across the top edge to the left of the VRM heatsink is a single 8-pin EPS connector, which is fine for ambient overclocking. Above and to the right of the DIMM slots are four 4-pin PWM/DC fan headers (of eight total). The top two headers, CPU_FAN1 and PUMP_FAN1, are both high powered, listed as 2A/24W and 3A/36W respectively. The latter is one of the highest values I’ve seen on any motherboard.
On the far right edge is a 24-pin ATX connector, along with a front-panel USB 3.2 Gen1 header. Just above the 24-pin power lead is the EZ debug LED, a set of four LEDs labeled Boot, VGA, DRAM and CPU. If there are any issues in these areas, the light that corresponds to the specific POST issue will stay lit, pinpointing where the system is currently stuck. While not as informative as a regular debug LED, this is still very helpful.
Power to the board comes from the single 8-pin, which feeds the 13-phase (10+2+1) digital VRMs. Power is controlled by a Renesas RAA 229004 PWM controller, feeding the mirrored 10-phase CPU/Vcore. Power is then sent to the Intersil ISL99360 MOSFETs that are rated at 60A. This setup is plenty capable of handling our Ryzen 9 3900X at stock and while overclocked.
Moving to the bottom half of the board, we’ll start off on the left side with the audio section. The more expensive boards use the latest Realtek ALC1220 codec (or some variation of) while the Tomahawk uses a Realtek ALC1200, a slightly cut down version of the ALC1220. Unless you are a true audiophile with expensive headsets or speakers, chances are you won’t be able to hear a difference, although it is worth noting the lack of shielding that we usually see on higher-priced boards.
In the middle of the board are two full-length PCIe slots and two x1 sized slots. The primary/top GPU slot is PCIe 4.0 x16 and reinforced, while the bottom slot is PCIe 3.0 x4, with its lanes fed from the chipset. The two x1 slots’ lanes are also sourced from the chipset. The B550 Tomahawk supports 2-Way Crossfire; SLI users need not apply.
The top M.2 socket (M.2_1) supports both SATA- and PCIe-based modules up to 110mm in length. The socket itself receives its bandwidth from the CPU and is PCIe 4.0 x4. The bottom M.2 socket, M.2_2, supports PCIe drives only, with up to four PCIe 3.0 lanes assigned to the device. Note if there are devices in M.2_2 (bottom socket), as well as PCIe_2 and PCIe_4, then PCIe_3 will be unavailable and M.2_2 drops to PCIe 3.0 x2.
On the far right of the board is a stable of six SATA3/6 Gbps ports. These ports are always available, as the lane sharing is done with the M.2 and PCIe slots instead. The SATA ports support RAID 0, 1 and 10 and the NVMe supports RAID 0 and 1.
The bottom edge of the B550 Tomahawk is loaded with headers covering audio, fan control, lighting, USB and more. Below is a list of these headers and jumpers, from left to right.
- Front panel audio
- RGB header
- System fan header
- LED on/off switch
- System fan header
- (2) USB 2.0 headers
- Front-panel USB 3.2 header
- System panel headers
- RGB header
- ARGB header
- System fan header
Like most boards, the rear IO uses an integrated IO shield. We wouldn’t say this board is loaded with connectivity, everything most users are likely to need need is here. You get six USB ports (2x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.2 Gen1 and 2x USB 3.2 Gen2 ports), HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs for those who are using an APU, dual Ethernet ports and a standard five analog plug plus SPDIF audio stack. The B550 Tomahawk also has a Flash BIOS button for BIOS flash without a CPU, as well as a legacy PS/2 port.