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.
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|
|CPU PCI-E 3.0 Config Support||1x16 or 2x8||1x16 or 2x8||1x16||1x16||1x16|
|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 Support||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|RAID Support 0/1/10||Yes||0/1 Only||Yes||Yes||0/1 Only|
|Chipset Maximum PCI-E Lanes||8 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes||4 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes||6 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes||4 PCI-E 2.0 Lanes||4 PCI-E 3.0 Lanes|
|USB Support (2.0/3.0/3.1 Gen2)||6/6/2||0/4/0||6/2/2||6/2/1||0/4/0|
|SATA-III (6Gbps) Ports||6||2||4||4||2|
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.