After months of offering just the flagship Z690 chipset motherboards for its 12th Gen Alder Lake CPUs, Intel has officially taken the wraps of three lesser options for its latest CPUs: H670, B660, and H610. All three chipsets hail from the mainstream and budget side of the tracks, making buying into the platform notably less expensive than Z690.
But there are a few differences between these new chipsets and varying reasons why they are less expensive. Where Z690 allows for overclocking the CPU, these chipsets/boards do not. However, memory overclocking is possible across Z690, H670, and the B660 chipsets (H610 is locked down entirely). In the end, Intel designed the chipsets to bring many (but not all of) of the bells and whistles you’ll find on the more expensive Z690-based options to you at a lower price point.
Even though these are the budget motherboards, you still get PCIe 5.0 support from the Alder Lake processor across all 600-series chipsets. However, not all board partners integrate that support on their boards. Z690 and H670 include one or two PCIe 5.0 expansion slots, while B660 and H610 are limited to one PCIe 5.0 slot. Again though, that depends on whether a board partner chooses to implement it–MSI does not for this board. Other differences include the DMI interface connection: On B660 it’s limited to x4 DMI 4.0, where Z690 and H670 have the full x8 DMI 4.0. This reduction in bandwidth limits connectivity options on H610 and B660 motherboards (for things like M.2/SATA/USB). The table below should clarify any confusion between the 600 series chipsets, along with this article we posted a few weeks back.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Z690||H670||B660||H610|
|Memory||DDR5 / DDR4||DDR5 / DDR4||DDR5 / DDR4||DDR5 / DDR4|
|CPU PCIe 5.0||1x16 / 2x8||1x16 / 2x8||1x16||1x16|
|CPU PCIe 4.0||1x4||1x4||1x4||-|
|DMI 4.0 Lanes||8||8||4||4|
|USB 3 (20G)||4||2||2||0|
|USB 3 (10G)||10||4||4||2|
|USB 3 (5G)||10||8||6||4|
In short, you’re losing a bit of everything compared to Z690, from USB ports to M.2 and SATA, but for many users who don’t need four M.2 sockets and won’t overclock the processor, the cheaper entry price into the Alder Lake platform will be a breath of fresh air.
MSI lists seven different B660 boards for the US market across the Tomahawk, Mortar and Pro lines that include DDR4- and DDR5-based options. The prices range from $199.99 for the Tomahawk WIFI (DDR5) down to the PRO B660M-A WIFI (DDR4) at $149, both are a lot more reasonable than most Z690 options. Today we’re looking at the MAG B660M Mortar WIFI DDR4. Priced at $179.99, it sits just below the ATX-size Tomahawk WIFI DDR4 ($189.99).
The MicroATX-size B660M Mortar WIFI DDR4 includes everything most users need, just in a smaller package at a cheaper price. Features include two M.2 sockets, six SATA ports, a 20 Gbps USB Type-C port, capable power delivery, high-quality audio and more. All B660 motherboards use a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot for the graphics card. If you want PCIe 5.0 support on these MSI boards, you’ll have to move to the H670 Tomahawk WIFI DDR4. Although I would like to see PCIe 5.0 on the graphics side, the reality is that it simply isn’t needed and won’t be for at least another couple of generations.
As far as performance goes, the B660M Mortar DDR4 did well overall, mixing it up with the other DDR4 boards we’ve tested lately. It was slower in the Procyon Office suite, but otherwise just as performant as the rest. Gaming results were also spot on. In short, there’s nothing out of the ordinary, nothing noticeably slower or faster than the rest. It ran our DDR4 3600 and DDR4 4000 sticks by enabling XMP, no additional tweaking required. The Mortar was able to extract everything out of the processor during at stock settings in our testing.
Read on as we share more features and details that make the B660M Mortar a viable motherboard for Alder Lake-based processors like our Core i9-12900K. Before that and the performance details, here’s a complete list of specifications from MSI.
Specifications - MSI MAG B660M Mortar WIFI DDR4
|Voltage Regulator||14 Phase (12+1+1, 12 60A MOSFETs for Vcore)|
|Video Ports||(1) HDMI (v2.1)|
|(1) DisplayPort (v1.4)|
|USB Ports||(1) USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C port (20 Gbps)|
|(3) USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)|
|(4) USB 2.0 (480 Mbps)|
|Network Jacks||(1) 2.5 GbE|
|Audio Jacks||(5) Analog + SPDIF|
|PCIe x16||(1) v. 4.0 (x16)|
|(1) v. 3.0 (x4)|
|PCIe x1||(1) v. 3.0 (x1)|
|CrossFire/SLI||Supports AMD Crossfire Technology|
|DIMM slots||(4) DDR4 4800+(OC), 128GB Capacity|
|M.2 slots||(1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe (up to 80mm)|
|(1) PCIe 4.0 x4 (64 Gbps) / PCIe + SATA (up to 80mm)|
|SATA Ports||(6) SATA3 6 Gbps (Supports RAID 0/1/5/10)|
|USB Headers||(1) USB v3.2 Gen 2x2, Type-C (10 Gbps)|
|(1) USB v3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)|
|(2) USB v2.0 (480 Mbps)|
|Fan/Pump Headers||(4) 4-Pin (CPU, Pump, System fans)|
|RGB Headers||(2) aRGB Gen2 (3-pin)|
|(1) RGB (4-pin)|
|Ethernet Controller(s)||(1) Realek RTL8125 (2.5 Gbps)|
|Wi-Fi / Bluetooth||Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 (2x2 ax, MU-MIMO, 2.4/5/6 GHz, 160 MHz, BT 5.2)|
|USB Controllers||Genesys Logic GL3590|
|HD Audio Codec||Realtek ALC1200|
|DDL/DTS Connect||✗ / ✗|
After taking the board out of the box, you’ll find a slew of accessories hidden below a cardboard partition. The accessory stack includes all of the basics to get you going and consists of a driver disk, user manual, M.2 quick latch and more. Oddly enough, we found that the Wi-Fi antennas were missing from our sample, but they should be in the box when on store shelves. Below is a list of everything MSI includes with the board.
- (2) SATA 6Gb/s cables
- Wi-Fi antenna
- (2) M.2 Quick latch
- User Manual
- Quick Install Guide
- Driver DVD
The Micro ATX B660M Mortar WIFI DDR4 follows the military theme of many MSI budget models. The DDR4 version uses a black 6-layer PCB without any patterns or designs. The large silver heatsinks provide a contrast against the board, along with MSI, MAG and Mortar branding in black. It’s a simple look, one that doesn’t garner attention on its own. It won’t win any beauty contests, but doesn’t look cheap either. If you plan to use RGB lighting, you’ll have to buy some separately and connect via the onboard headers.
Starting with the top half of the board, on the left side, we get a close look at the large VRM heatsinks that surround the socket. There’s enough surface area and mass here that these should keep the power delivery bits cool (they did in our testing). Sitting between the heatsinks are two 8-pin EPS connectors (one required) to power the processor.
Off to the right of the socket are four unreinforced, single-side locking DRAM slots. The DDR4 version we’re working with supports up to 128GB with speeds listed up to 4800+(OC) MHz. This isn’t the highest value we’ve seen listed for DDR4, but if you’re trying to push memory overclocks, you should look into Z690 (especially ITX boards designed for overclocking). The first RGB header is on the left, between the top VRM heatsink. In this area, it’s a 3-pin header supporting ARGB strips. You’ll find a second 3-pin ARGB and one 4-pin RGB on the bottom edge of the board. The motherboard controls any attached RGBs via Mystic Light software in MSI’s Dragon Center.
In the upper-right corner are the first two (of four) 4-pin fan headers (CPU and PUMP). We don’t have details as far as output goes, so until that information is available in the manual, assume each supports 1A/12W, and you won’t damage anything from drawing too much power. All headers support PWM and DC-type fans with control handled through the BIOS or Dragon software.
Sliding down the right edge, we run into the four MSI Q-LEDs that light up through the POST process. If yur boot hangs in one of the four areas (CPU, RAM, Boot, VGA), the corresponding light remains lit, informing you, generally, where the problem is. Just below is the 24-pin ATX connector that feeds power to the board. Next is a front panel USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, and below that is a front-panel USB 3.2 Gen1 header.
The Mortar WIFI DDR4 (and DDR5) uses a 14-phase VRM with 12 phases dedicated to Vcore. Power is sent from the EPS connector(s) to a Renesas RAA229132 controller then on to the 60A Renesas ISL99360 SPS MOSFETs. The 720A available isn’t a lot (nor does it need to be since this board doesn’t overclock), but it still let our i9-12900K reach its maximum potential at stock.
Next up is the audio section. Here we see the Realtek ALC1200 codec in all its glory (not hidden under a Faraday cage). Surrounding the chip are several unbranded yellow audio capacitors and the line separating the audio bits from the rest of the board. I like that MSI used a premium audio codec, even if it isn’t the latest generation. An overwhelming majority of users will find this audio implementation sufficient for their needs.
There are three PCIe slots in the middle of the board (the top one reinforced) and two M.2 sockets that use MSI’s M.2 Shields Frozr heatsinks. Starting with PCIe, the top slot runs PCIe 4.0 x16 speeds (from the CPU) and is intended as the primary graphics card slot. The second full-length slot is PCIe 3.0 x4 (from the chipset), with a closed-end PCIe 3.0 x1 slot just above it. MSI lists AMD Crossfire support if you’re still into a multi-GPU configuration.
One of the drawbacks of a smaller board is the general lack of real estate. Most full-size boards of this generation have up to five M.2 sockets, but the MicroATX Mortar has two sockets sprinkled between the PCIe slots. Both support up to 80mm PCIe 4.0 x4 drives. Full specifications were unavailable as we wrote this, but we expect one slot to run SATA-based M.2 modules as well as PCIe.
You’ll find four SATA ports along the right edge of the board and two more (vertically oriented) along the bottom edge. The SATA ports support RAID0/1/5/10 modes if you want additional speed and/or redundancy. As far as lane sharing goes, none should get disabled, so you can run the full complement of six SATA drives and two M.2 drives of your choice.
Across the bottom edge of the motherboard are several headers, including USB, SATA ports, and RGB. Here’s the complete list, from left to right:
- Front panel audio
- 4-pin RGB header
- System Fan header
- Thunderbolt header
- 3-pin ARGB header
- (2) USB 2.0 headers
- (2) SATA ports
- TPM header
- Front panel header
The rear IO area comes with a pre-installed IO plate whose silver color and black writing match the Mortar’s theme. Each port is labeled and easy to read, though the writing is small for these forty-something eyes. There’s a total of eight USB ports here, including seven Type-A (three 10 Gbps ports and four 480 Mbps) and a 20 Gbps Type-C port. Display options include HDMI (v2.1) and DisplayPort (v1.4) ports. Next, you’ll find the Realtek 2.5 GbE port as well as the Intel Wi-Fi 6 antenna connections. Last is the five-plug plus SPDIF audio stack. I’d like to see at least one more type-A port and perhaps a reset button here, but that’s not a deal breaker. In all, almost everything you need is back here.
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