AMD revealed more information on the budget B550 chipset today. In the process, the chipmaker confirmed that when its CPUs based on the Zen 3 microarchitecture arrive, they'll work flawlessly on X570 and B550 motherboards with just a simple firmware update.
The B550 chipset will be consumers' cheapest ticket to PCIe 4.0. The motherboards will bring PCIe 4.0 functionality where it matters most, on the primary PCIe slot and M.2 slot. The current AMD Ryzen 3000-series desktop CPUs deliver up to 20 usable PCIe 4.0 lanes (16 for the GPU and four for NVMe), so they can directly feed the PCIe and M.2 slot on B550 motherboards.
However, partial PCIe 4.0 support isn't the only novelty with the new B550 chipset. While the prior AMD 400-series chipsets provided sluggish PCIe 2.0 general purpose lanes, the B550 chipset ushers in PCIe 3.0. That's not as fast as PCIe 4.0 on the X570 chipset, but it's still a step up from the prior generation of chipsets.
The B550 chipset also supports dual-GPU configurations, a feature that was previously limited to AMD's X470 and X570 motherboards. Basically, the chipmaker now allows motherboard vendors to split the single PCIe x16 link into two x16 (electrically wired x8) slots.
|CPU Graphics Support||x16 PCIe 3.0||x16 PCIe 4.0||x16 PCIe 4.0|
|CPU Storage Support||PCIe 3.0||PCIe 4.0||PCIe 4.0|
|CPU USB Ports||USB 3.1 Gen 1||USB 3.2 Gen 2||USB 3.2 Gen 2|
|Dual Graphics Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|General Purpose Lanes||PCIe 2.0||PCIe 3.0||PCIe 4.0|
|CPU Chipset Uplink||PCIe 3.0||PCIe 3.0||PCIe 4.0|
In terms of processor support, the both the X570 and B550 chipset will support AMD's next-generation Zen 3 processors that could be landing around August or September. Contrastingly, B550 motherboards lack support for AMD chips outside of the Ryzen 3000-series desktop family. Earlier AMD processors, including the Ryzen 3000-series APUs (codenamed Picasso) won't work on B550 motherboards. AMD blames the limited backwards compatibility on the size of the BIOS chips.
For B550 motherboards, vendors could address the backwards compatibility by employing a bigger BIOS chip; although, it'd also increase the overall price of the motherboard. Otherwise, manufacturers could borrow a page from MSI's playbook, which released a separate wave of revised 400-series motherboards with bigger BIOS chips to restore support for older Ryzen parts and previous features.
For pre-500 motherboards, vendors could easily weed out support for the older Ryzen 1000 or 2000-series lineups to make space for Zen 3 via an optional firmware update. Existing owners may not complain if the compromise offered them a cheap path to upgrade to Zen 3.
Motherboard vendors have a certain level of flexibility when it comes to the B550's I/O distribution. The B550 chipset hands out six PCIe 3.0 general purpose lanes, so we'll probably see motherboard makers mix things up a bit. B550 delivers up to six SATA III ports with RAID support. Native USB connectivity includes up to two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, six USB 3.1 ports and six USB 2.0 ports. Finally, overclocking is enabled on the B550 chipset, just like with its predecessor.
AMD boasts that over 60 different B550 motherboards are in development. Barring any setbacks, B550 motherboards will hit shelves on June 16 with prices starting at $100.