(Image credit: AMD)
The Best B550 motherboard for you might not be a B550 board at all. AMD’s B550 chipset brought high hopes of PCIe 4.0 support at low prices, given the high cost of most X570 boards and the appealing low price of many previous-generation B450 motherboards. Now that we’re months out from the B550 launch, we know that AMD’s more mainstream AM4 platform delivers on at least one of those two promises–PCIe 4.0.
While there’s less bandwidth for multiple next-generation high-speed storage and graphics card setups, B550 motherboards do deliver PCIe 4.0 support for the typical setup of a single speedy drive and graphics card. And overall, B550 prices are lower than their X570 counterparts. But many B550 motherboards — particularly the high-end models — approach and even surpass the price of many X570 options.
So B550 motherboards may not have as broad appeal as cheaper B450 options — especially as most of those last-gen boards are still on the market. Also consider that upcoming A520 motherboards look to be far more affordable, though you’ll likely be foregoing PCIe 4.0 with these lower-priced boards, which is a key selling point of AMD’s latest platforms.
There are other considerations (and complications) if you’re choosing the best B550 motherboard, as well. Those who like their PCs to run silently will appreciate that the B550 chipset doesn’t require support for active cooling. But the key thing to note with B550 is that, while AMD has confirmed the chipset will support future Zen 3 processors, the boards didn’t support Ryzen 2000 and earlier processors, or Ryzen 3000 APUs like the Ryzen 5 3400G–at least at launch. While the AM4 socket remains the same, ROM size limitations make it impossible for board makers to include support for all current, future, and past Ryzen processors with a single firmware package.
So if you have an older Ryzen 2000 CPU or Ryzen 3000 APU, be sure to double check the board’s product page to see if it’s compatible with your processor. At the very least, you may need to update the board’s BIOS to support a given chip. And depending on features on given board models, that may not be possible to do without also having a different CPU that works with the board out of the box. You don’t want to do lots of research to choose the best B550 motherboard, only to find out after you buy it that it won’t boot with your existing CPU.
AMD B550 Chipset: PCIe 4.0 for the Rest of Us
With all that out of the way, what exactly does B550 offer? Here’s how AMD sees it:
(Image credit: AMD)
In short, you get PCIe 4.0 support through the CPU, delivering enough lanes for a fast NVMe storage drive and the GPU. Also included is dual-GPU support (though that’s a feature with far less appeal in recent years), along with a doubling of the bandwidth of the motherboard’s general-purpose PCIe lanes from the chipset, from 2.0 to 3.0. That increased per-lane throughput allowed AMD to reduce the number of lanes between the chipset and CPU from six PCIe 2.0 lanes to four PCIe 3.0.
|CPU Graphics Support||X16 PCIe Gen 3||X16 PCIe Gen 4||X16 PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Storage Support||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU USB Ports||USB 3.1 Gen 1||USB 3.1 Gen 2||USB 3.1 Gen 2|
|Dual Graphics Support||No||Yes||Yes|
|General Purpose Lanes||PCIe Gen 2||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
|CPU Chipset Uplink||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 3||PCIe Gen 4|
Below are our tested picks for the best B550 motherboards, at various price points and form factors. We expect this list to grow once we test more of these mainstream AMD motherboards
(Image credit: Asus)
Asus’ ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi delivers premium features including SupremeFX Audio, Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200, solid power delivery and more. It’s a good option around the $200 mark, though if you don’t need Wi-Fi capability, the non-Wi-Fi version of the same board costs $30 less with the same specifications, making it easy to recommend if you plan on using Ethernet or have your own wireless card.