Motherboards based on AMD’s B550 chipset have exploded onto the scene. Despite B550 being a cost-down version of X570 for the budget market, motherboard manufacturers have gone a little overboard in offering over 50 different models to consumers, ranging in price between $120 and $300+. The usual battleground for a good solid motherboard is in the $200 range, which should enable something with the standard features but a bit of quality thrown in as well. For $210 with Wi-Fi 6 or $190 without, the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming straddles that popular price point. Today we’re reviewing what the B550-F Gaming has to offer.
B550 brings to the table a staple of what future motherboards need: PCIe 4.0. In most models we get it with a single x16 PCIe slot as well as an M.2 NVMe storage slot, with B550 having the angle to upgrade to newer Zen 3 processors when they are released later this year. As with any motherboard design, it can be done as cheap as possible, ensuring bare minimum compliance with specifications, or it can be overengineered to the hilt, just in case you want to go for 9000 MHz in sub-zero conditions. The B550-F Gaming aims to strike a finer balance, combining classical ROG aesthetics with some enhanced cooling and more premium controller support.
Some of the main features of the B550-F Gaming include 2.5 gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi 6 (on the Wi-Fi model), a menagerie of USB 3.2 Gen 2 support, and upgraded audio though ASUS’ custom SupremeFX S1200A HD audio codec with additional audio tweaks. In classical ASUS style, there is also some buffed power delivery, which is set to support overclocking on even the most demanding processors.
For our multi-page review, we scruitinize the looks, the bundle, the performance and the thermals.
In our benchmarking suite, the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming performs superbly in our system tests, with big wins in our non-UEFI POST time test and DPC latency out of the box. Its performance in our power tests also puts the B550-F in a positive light, with competitive performance in our CPU and game testing too. More detail inside the review.
Our experience when overclocking was also competitive – it’s just as good as the more expensive X570 models we have tested. Despite the lack of an integrated VRM temperature sensor, the B550-F Gaming performed very well in our VRM thermal testing with a recorded temperature of between 50 and 52 degrees Celsius on our two calibrated K-type probes. Using our FLIR thermal imaging camera, we measured 54.9 degrees celsius on the hottest part of the CPU socket area and power delivery, which is cooler than most.
Perhaps due to motherboard vendor ‘eagerness’, the number of B550 motherboards in the sub-$200 price range is perhaps lower than anticipated, especially as we look back at previous B-series motherboard prices. The added expense is due to a couple of things, mainly through what it takes to create official support for PCIe 4.0, and for this generation most vendors have added considerably better networking support, even more so than some X570 models at similar price points. This makes B550 attractive to the mid-range in that $200 segment, with more budget B550 models starting from $150 range starting to come to market.
The ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming WiFi has an MSRP of $210, with the non-Wi-Fi 6 version available for $190. On paper this makes both models solid contenders for anyone looking to build a solid B550 based gaming system. The competition at the price point includes the B550 Gaming Carbon Wifi ($220) which includes a very similar feature set with a Realtek based 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller instead of an Intel one, and there are also a number of GIGABYTE offerings in the mix.
Read on for our extended analysis and comparison tests.
The ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi follows a very flamboyant design with pink highlights on both the rear panel cover and chipset heatsink. The rest of the board follows a black conventional ROG design with diagonal printing on the PCB with Republic of Gamers branding throughout. It blends in from the top of the rear panel cover, all across the PCB and opts for a graffiti-inspired uniformed look. In addition to the illuminated and RGB enabled ROG logo is a pair of Aura RGB headers, with a single addressable RGB header which allows users to add a bit of pizazz to the already unconventional styling.
Focusing on the PCIe, the Strix B550-F Gaming Wifi includes a full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot located at the top with metal PCIe slot fortification, with three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots and a full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot also present. Flanking both of the full-length PCIe slots is a pair of M.2 slots, both with M.2 heatsinks, with the top slot offering support for up to PCIe 4.0 x4, and the bottom with support for up to PCIe 3.0 x4. Both the top full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 and top PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot require an AMD Ryzen 3000 series processor to fully utilise this, with anything else installed will force the slots to operate at PCIe 3.0. There are also six SATA ports which provide support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays.
In the top right-hand corner is four memory slots with support for DDR4-5100, and a total capacity of up to 128 GB. Located around the edge of the board are six 4-pin headers with two for a CPU fan, one for an AIO pump, and three for regular chassis fans.
ASUS has opted to used teamed power stages for its power delivery, which ASUS claims improve transient response and efficiency, as well as overall power response when under full-load. The B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi is using a 14-phase design, with twelve teamed Vishay SIC639 50 A power stages for the CPU, and two SiC639 50 A power stages for the SoC. The controller of choice is the ASP1106JGQW which is a 6-phase controller, which looks to be operating at 4+2. This means the signal is being split with three power stages active per channel, as mentioned previously, in teamed mode. Providing power to the CPU is an 8-pin and 4-pin 12 V ATX CPU power input pairing.
Cooling the 14-phase power delivery is a large pair of black aluminium heatsinks. On each part of the power delivery heatsink is a thermal pad strip, with good contact made between the top of the chokes and power stages and the heatsink itself.
The audio section of the PCB includes a SupremeFX S1200A HD audio codec, with two OP-Amplifiers designed to boost the audio performance. To the right-hand side of the Amps is nine gold Japanese audio capacitors, with a smaller audio capacitor next to the audio codec. It also features a line of PCB separation which should aid in reducing interference from other components on the board.
Looking at the rear panel, ASUS includes a competitive array of input and output, which includes one USB 3.2 G2 Type-C, one USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports. Representing the mid-range with a solid feature set, the networking on the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi includes a single RJ45 port powered by an Intel I225-V 2 GbE Ethernet controller, with an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 CNVi module. ASUS has included a pair of video inputs with a DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.1, with five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output powered by a SupremeFX S1200A HD audio codec, and a handily located BIOS flashback button.
What’s in The Box
The most notable accessories included in the bundle are four black SATA cables, a ROG sticker sheet, a set of cable ties, an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 antenna, and an M.2 SSD installation screw kit.
- 4 x SATA cables
- 1 x M.2 installation screw set
- 1 x Cable tie set
- 1 x Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 antenna
- 1 x Supporting DVD
- 1 x ARGB extension cable
- 1 x ROG Strix sticker set
- ROG Thank you card
The ASUS Republic of Gamers firmware has two different modes for users to select between in the BIOS: EZ and Advanced. The basic ‘EZ’ mode is for novice users looking to make basic alterations. This includes basic XMP support (which ASUS calls DOCP on its AMD based models). On the basic screen is a list of core information including fan profile speeds, DRAM status, model and firmware version, current CPU Core voltage and motherboard temperature. The design of the firmware includes a dark grey background with white text and red highlights across the top and bottom of the GUI.
Pressing the F7 key allows users to switch between the EZ and the advanced mode, with the advanced more opening up the more familiar features and functions of its ROG based models. There’s plenty of overclocking customizations on offer which is typical of an ASUS ROG board, with all of the available overclocking options within the Ai Tweaker section. Here users can customize the CPU settings including CPU frequency in 100 MHz increments, CPU VCore voltages, as well as a host of memory settings including memory voltage, and a section dedicated to memory latencies. One of the main features of AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series is Precision Boost Overdrive, and ASUS has included it sown section within the AI Tweaker for users to customize, which allows users to create more aggressive boost profiles.
ASUS has one of the most consistent firmware within the industry, and the Republic of Gamers BIOS on the Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi is a good example of this. The firmware itself is solid and reliable, is responsive to USB keyboard and mice, and is very well laid out and easy to navigate.
One of the unique ASUS implementations to its Republic of Gamers branded motherboards is the Armory Crate, which is pooled into memory on the motherboard and contains basic networking drivers and all the software and utilities. Armory Crate pops up when Windows is first installed, so it looks like somehow ASUS has got into your install image! Thankfully this is just some extra software that helps most users get hold of chipset and controller drivrs as need. If can be disabled in the BIOS if needed. Note this means that the Driver CD traditionally bundled with a motherboard isn’t really needed, as long as you have an internet connection.
Some of the most notable utilities in the ASUS package include the ASUS AI Suite 3 software, the ROG Gamefirst VI software, a custom skinned version of the CPU-Z monitoring utility, and its RAMCache III software.
The ASUS AI Suite 3 utility is an amalgamation of various version of its software with functions for overclocking the processor, creating custom fan curve profiles, and changing power delivery power settings. Users can overclock the processor including core voltages including SoC voltage and memory voltages, but users cannot adjust the memory frequency outside of the BIOS. The ASUS AI Suite 3 also allows users to change the fan curve profiles, or even create new ones with more aggressive settings for cooler temperatures, or more subtle settings for less noise.
Also included in the software bundle is a custom ROG skinned version of the CPU-Z monitoring application. There is also ROG GameFirst VI which offers network traffic shaping options, while the Ramcache III software gives users the ability to create pools of high-speed storage using unused DRAM. There’s more than enough for users to get to grips within the firmware and software bundle, and as usual, the ASUS package is highly competitive.
The ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming is an ATX motherboard which slots into the mid-range of the AM4 market. It combines a solid feature set with dual PCIe M.2 slots, including one capable of supporting PCIe 4.0 x4 drives, while the other is wired to PCIe 3.0 x4. In addition to this is six SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays. Offering a marked improvement over B450 models in regards to memory performance, the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi supports DDR4-5100 with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB across four memory slots. For networking, there’s a good quality Intel pairing which includes an I225-V 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller, with an AX200 Wi-Fi 6 module which also allows the use of BT 5.0 devices. The boards PCIe configuration includes a top full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, a full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot, and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots.
|ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi ATX Motherboard|
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
|Memory Slots (DDR4)||Four DDR4
Supporting 128 GB
Up to DDR4-5100
|Video Outputs||1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
|Network Connectivity||Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE
Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6
|Onboard Audio||SupremeFX S1200A|
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)||1 x PCIe 4.0 x16|
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)||1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
3 x PCIe 3.0 x1
|Onboard SATA||Six, RAID 0/1/10 (B550)|
|Onboard M.2||1 x PCIe 4.0 x4
1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
|USB 3.1 (10 Gbps)||1 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 x Type-C Rear Panel
|USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)||4 x Type-A Rear Panel
2 x Type-A Header (2 x ports)
|USB 2.0||2 x Type-A Rear Panel
2 x Type-A Header (4 x ports)
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8pin CPU
1 x 4pin CPU
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU (4-pin)
1 x CPU Opt (4-pin)
1 x AIO Pump (4-pin)
3 x System (4-pin)
|IO Panel||4 x USB 3.1 G1 Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 G2 Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 G2 Type-C
2 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x Network RJ45 2.5 G (Intel)
5 x 3.5mm Audio Jacks (SupremeFX)
2 x Intel AX200 Antenna Ports
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button
1 x DisplayPort 1.2 Output
1 x HDMI 2.1 Output
Touching on rear panel connectivity, ASUS has included two USB 3.2 G2 ports including a Type-C and Type-A port, as well as four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A and two USB 2.0 ports. For users looking to use compatible Ryzen APUs, there’s an HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.2 output pairing, while there’s also a USB BIOS Flashback button which allows users to easily update the board’s firmware. The onboard audio is taken care of by a SupremeFX S1200A HD audio codec with five 3.5 mm audio jacks and a single S/PDIF optical output. Users can add to the boards USB with an additional four USB 2.0 ports made available via two front panel headers, as well as a single USB 3.2 G1 Type-A header which adds two more Type-A ports.
As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds – this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.
While we have been able to measure audio performance from previous Z370 motherboards, the task has been made even harder with the roll-out of the Z390 chipset and none of the boards tested so far has played ball. It seems all USB support for Windows 7 is now extinct so until we can find a reliable way of measuring audio performance on Windows 10 or until a workaround can be found, audio testing will have to be done at a later date.
|Processor||AMD Ryzen 3700X, 65W, $329
8 Cores, 16 Threads, 3.6 GHz (4.4 GHz Turbo)
|Motherboard||ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi (BIOS 0608)|
|Cooling||ID-Cooling Auraflow 240 mm AIO|
|Power Supply||Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W Gold PSU|
|Memory||2x8GB G.Skill TridentZ DDR4-3200 16-16-16-36 2T|
|Video Card||ASUS GTX 980 STRIX (1178/1279 Boost)|
|Hard Drive||Crucial MX300 1TB|
|Case||Open Benchtable BC1.1 (Silver)|
|Operating System||Windows 10 1909|
Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives, in essence, an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.
|Hardware Providers for CPU and Motherboard Reviews|
|Sapphire RX 460 Nitro||MSI GTX 1080 Gaming X OC||Crucial MX200 +
|Corsair AX860i +
Not all motherboards are created equal. On the face of it, they should all perform the same and differ only in the functionality they provide – however, this is not the case. The obvious pointers are power consumption, but also the ability for the manufacturer to optimize USB speed, audio quality (based on audio codec), POST time and latency. This can come down to the manufacturing process and prowess, so these are tested.
For B550, we are running using Windows 10 64-bit with the 1909 update.
Power consumption was tested on the system while in a single ASUS GTX 980 GPU configuration with a wall meter connected to the Thermaltake 1200W power supply. This power supply has ~75% efficiency > 50W, and 90%+ efficiency at 250W, suitable for both idle and multi-GPU loading. This method of power reading allows us to compare the power management of the UEFI and the board to supply components with power under load, and includes typical PSU losses due to efficiency. These are the real-world values that consumers may expect from a typical system (minus the monitor) using this motherboard.
While this method for power measurement may not be ideal, and you feel these numbers are not representative due to the high wattage power supply being used (we use the same PSU to remain consistent over a series of reviews, and the fact that some boards on our testbed get tested with three or four high powered GPUs), the important point to take away is the relationship between the numbers. These boards are all under the same conditions, and thus the differences between them should be easy to spot.
The ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi performs very well in our power testing, with the best load performance of any AM4 board currently tested, as well as competitive findings in our long idle and idle testing.
Non-UEFI POST Time
Different motherboards have different POST sequences before an operating system is initialized. A lot of this is dependent on the board itself, and POST boot time is determined by the controllers on board (and the sequence of how those extras are organized). As part of our testing, we look at the POST Boot Time using a stopwatch. This is the time from pressing the ON button on the computer to when Windows starts loading. (We discount Windows loading as it is highly variable given Windows specific features.)
The ASUS model out performs the competition by over 7 seconds at default settings in our non-UEFI POST time test. With non-essential controllers disabled such as networking and audio, we managed to shave an additional 0.7-seconds off the POST time.
Deferred Procedure Call latency is a way in which Windows handles interrupt servicing. In order to wait for a processor to acknowledge the request, the system will queue all interrupt requests by priority. Critical interrupts will be handled as soon as possible, whereas lesser priority requests such as audio will be further down the line. If the audio device requires data, it will have to wait until the request is processed before the buffer is filled.
If the device drivers of higher priority components in a system are poorly implemented, this can cause delays in request scheduling and process time. This can lead to an empty audio buffer and characteristic audible pauses, pops and clicks. The DPC latency checker measures how much time is taken processing DPCs from driver invocation. The lower the value will result in better audio transfer at smaller buffer sizes. Results are measured in microseconds.
We test DPC out of the box with default settings. The ASUS managed to score another major with some of the lowest DPC latency we’ve managed to record on an AM4 motherboard.
For our motherboard reviews, we use our short form testing method. These tests usually focus on if a motherboard is using MultiCore Turbo (the feature used to have maximum turbo on at all times, giving a frequency advantage), or if there are slight gains to be had from tweaking the firmware. We put the memory settings at the CPU manufacturers suggested frequency, making it very easy to see which motherboards have MCT enabled by default.
For B550 we are running using Windows 10 64-bit with the 1909 update.
Rendering – Blender 2.7b: 3D Creation Suite – link
A high profile rendering tool, Blender is open-source allowing for massive amounts of configurability, and is used by a number of high-profile animation studios worldwide. The organization recently released a Blender benchmark package, a couple of weeks after we had narrowed our Blender test for our new suite, however their test can take over an hour. For our results, we run one of the sub-tests in that suite through the command line – a standard ‘bmw27’ scene in CPU only mode, and measure the time to complete the render.
Streaming and Archival Video Transcoding – Handbrake 1.1.0
A popular open source tool, Handbrake is the anything-to-anything video conversion software that a number of people use as a reference point. The danger is always on version numbers and optimization, for example the latest versions of the software can take advantage of AVX-512 and OpenCL to accelerate certain types of transcoding and algorithms. The version we use here is a pure CPU play, with common transcoding variations.
We have split Handbrake up into several tests, using a Logitech C920 1080p60 native webcam recording (essentially a streamer recording), and convert them into two types of streaming formats and one for archival. The output settings used are:
- 720p60 at 6000 kbps constant bit rate, fast setting, high profile
- 1080p60 at 3500 kbps constant bit rate, faster setting, main profile
- 1080p60 HEVC at 3500 kbps variable bit rate, fast setting, main profile
Rendering – POV-Ray 3.7.1: Ray Tracing – link
The Persistence of Vision Ray Tracer, or POV-Ray, is a freeware package for as the name suggests, ray tracing. It is a pure renderer, rather than modeling software, but the latest beta version contains a handy benchmark for stressing all processing threads on a platform. We have been using this test in motherboard reviews to test memory stability at various CPU speeds to good effect – if it passes the test, the IMC in the CPU is stable for a given CPU speed. As a CPU test, it runs for approximately 1-2 minutes on high-end platforms.
Compression – WinRAR 5.60b3: link
Our WinRAR test from 2013 is updated to the latest version of WinRAR at the start of 2014. We compress a set of 2867 files across 320 folders totaling 1.52 GB in size – 95% of these files are small typical website files, and the rest (90% of the size) are small 30-second 720p videos.
Synthetic – 7-Zip v1805: link
Out of our compression/decompression tool tests, 7-zip is the most requested and comes with a built-in benchmark. For our test suite, we’ve pulled the latest version of the software and we run the benchmark from the command line, reporting the compression, decompression, and a combined score.
It is noted in this benchmark that the latest multi-die processors have very bi-modal performance between compression and decompression, performing well in one and badly in the other. There are also discussions around how the Windows Scheduler is implementing every thread. As we get more results, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Point Calculations – 3D Movement Algorithm Test: link
3DPM is a self-penned benchmark, taking basic 3D movement algorithms used in Brownian Motion simulations and testing them for speed. High floating point performance, MHz, and IPC win in the single thread version, whereas the multithread version has to handle the threads and loves more cores. For a brief explanation of the platform agnostic coding behind this benchmark, see my forum post here.
Neuron Simulation – DigiCortex v1.20: link
The newest benchmark in our suite is DigiCortex, a simulation of biologically plausible neural network circuits, and simulates activity of neurons and synapses. DigiCortex relies heavily on a mix of DRAM speed and computational throughput, indicating that systems which apply memory profiles properly should benefit and those that play fast and loose with overclocking settings might get some extra speed up. Results are taken during the steady-state period in a 32k neuron simulation and represented as a function of the ability to simulate in real time (1.000x equals real-time).
For B550 we are running using Windows 10 64-bit with the 1909 update.
World of Tanks enCore
Albeit different to most of the other commonly played MMO or massively multiplayer online games, World of Tanks is set in the mid-20th century and allows players to take control of a range of military based armored vehicles. World of Tanks (WoT) is developed and published by Wargaming who are based in Belarus, with the game’s soundtrack being primarily composed by Belarusian composer Sergey Khmelevsky. The game offers multiple entry points including a free-to-play element as well as allowing players to pay a fee to open up more features. One of the most interesting things about this tank based MMO is that it achieved eSports status when it debuted at the World Cyber Games back in 2012.
World of Tanks enCore is a demo application for a new and unreleased graphics engine penned by the Wargaming development team. Over time the new core engine will implemented into the full game upgrading the games visuals with key elements such as improved water, flora, shadows, lighting as well as other objects such as buildings. The World of Tanks enCore demo app not only offers up insight into the impending game engine changes, but allows users to check system performance to see if the new engine run optimally on their system.
Grand Theft Auto V
The highly anticipated iteration of the Grand Theft Auto franchise hit the shelves on April 14th 2015, with both AMD and NVIDIA in tow to help optimize the title. GTA doesn’t provide graphical presets, but opens up the options to users and extends the boundaries by pushing even the hardest systems to the limit using Rockstar’s Advanced Game Engine under DirectX 11. Whether the user is flying high in the mountains with long draw distances or dealing with assorted trash in the city, when cranked up to maximum it creates stunning visuals but hard work for both the CPU and the GPU.
For our test we have scripted a version of the in-game benchmark. The in-game benchmark consists of five scenarios: four short panning shots with varying lighting and weather effects, and a fifth action sequence that lasts around 90 seconds. We use only the final part of the benchmark, which combines a flight scene in a jet followed by an inner city drive-by through several intersections followed by ramming a tanker that explodes, causing other cars to explode as well. This is a mix of distance rendering followed by a detailed near-rendering action sequence, and the title thankfully spits out frame time data.
Aside from keeping up-to-date on the Formula One world, F1 2017 added HDR support, which F1 2018 has maintained; otherwise, we should see any newer versions of Codemasters’ EGO engine find its way into F1. Graphically demanding in its own right, F1 2018 keeps a useful racing-type graphics workload in our benchmarks.
Aside from keeping up-to-date on the Formula One world, F1 2017 added HDR support, which F1 2018 has maintained. We use the in-game benchmark, set to run on the Montreal track in the wet, driving as Lewis Hamilton from last place on the grid. Data is taken over a one-lap race.
Experience with the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi
AMD’s B550 series models allow users to overclock both the memory and processor in the same way as its X570 series motherboards. While the B series models are generally cheaper and feature lower-cost componentry, AMD’s B550 is a clear exception to this rule and it has created a lot of fanfare across the internet forums. Ryzen 3000 does run warmer than the previous 2000 series of processors, even more so when they are pushed beyond default settings. Users looking to overclock Ryzen 3000 regardless of the motherboard, good quality and adequate cooling is a must-have.
The ASUS Republic of Gamers firmware is very easy to navigate and includes all of the necessary settings and options to overclock both the processor and memory. All of the relevant settings for overclocking can be found under the AI Tweaker menu, which includes a wide variety of CPU options including CPU frequency, voltages and power delivery settings. The CPU ratio can be adjusted in 100 MHz increments, with options for AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive function. Overclocking the processor can be done simply by changing the CPU Ratio and CPU VCore voltage, although more experienced overclockers will find plenty of options including Loadline Calibration settings and VRM power options which can enhance overclocks, especially when going above and beyond the recommended settings. This includes plenty of tweakable options for sub-zero overclockers.
For memory, users can simply enable XMP 2.0 profiles which ASUS calls DOCP on its AM4 based models. There’s also a wide variety of settings that can be customized including DRAM voltage, and a large swathe of memory latency settings. For squeezing out extra MHz on both the memory and CPU, users can adjust the BCLK frequency, but doing it wrong or slapdash can result in instability, so it’s easier to stick to the core/memory frequency and primary voltage settings. AMD recommends users use DDR4-3600 with the FCLK set to 1800 MHz for optimal performance.
Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows. We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with POV-Ray and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads. These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.
For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from the previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed. The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (105ºC+). Our testbed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.
We overclock with the Ryzen 7 3700X, for consistency with our previous overclocking tests.
Our experience with overclocking the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi was a pleasant one and it performed very well in our overclock testing. Despite lacking any form of overclocking presets, there is the option to enable or disable AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive. With it enabled, we managed to squeeze a little bit of extra performance from our Ryzen 7 3700X at default settings, although it did come at the cost of extra heat and power. ASUS also includes and Auto OC function, but this didn’t prove as efficient, with little in the way of performance gains over the stock settings.
Overclocking our Ryzen 7 3700X from 3.8 to 4.3 GHz was done without issue, and 4.3 GHz is the maximum stable overclock we’ve able to achieve on any board, including some of the most premium X570 models. Throughout the different frequency, the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi had good levels of VDroop and performance in our POV-Ray benchmark consistently went up as we increased the frequency by 100 MHz each time.
One of the most requested elements of our motherboard reviews revolves around the power delivery and its componentry. Aside from the quality of the components and its capability for overclocking to push out higher clock speeds which in turn improves performance, is the thermal capability of the cooling solutions implemented by manufacturers. While almost always fine for users running processors at default settings, the cooling capability of the VRMs isn’t something that users should worry too much about, but for those looking to squeeze out extra performance from the CPU via overclocking, this puts extra pressure on the power delivery and in turn, generates extra heat. This is why more premium models often include heatsinks on its models with better cooling designs, heftier chunks of metal, and in some cases, even with water blocks.
The ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi is equipped with a fourteen phase power delivery with fourteen SiC639 50 A power stages which is split into twelve for the CPU, and two for the SoC. It is using a an ASP1106JGQW 6-phase PWM controller which is operating in a 4+2 configuration. ASUS has opted for teamed power stages with three power stages per channel for the CPU, which should, in turn, reduce the overall VRM temperatures without sacrificing on power.
Out method of testing out if the power delivery and its heatsink are effective at dissipating heat, is by running an intensely heavy CPU workload for a prolonged method of time. We apply an overclock which is deemed safe and at the maximum that the silicon on our AMD Ryzen 7 3700X processor allows. We then run the Prime95 with AVX2 enabled under a torture test for an hour at the maximum stable overclock we can which puts insane pressure on the processor. We collect our data via three different methods which include the following:
- Taking a thermal image from a birds-eye view after an hour with a Flir Pro thermal imaging camera
- Securing two probes on to the rear of the PCB, right underneath CPU VCore section of the power delivery for better parity in case the first probe reports a faulty reading
- Taking a reading of the VRM temperature from the sensor reading within the HWInfo monitoring application
The reason for using three different methods is that some sensors can read inaccurate temperatures, which can give very erratic results for users looking to gauge whether an overclock is too much pressure for the power delivery handle. With using a probe on the rear, it can also show the efficiency of the power stages and heatsinks as a wide margin between the probe and sensor temperature can show that the heatsink is dissipating heat and that the design is working, or that the internal sensor is massively wrong. To ensure our probe was accurate before testing, I binned 10 and selected the most accurate (within 1c of the actual temperature) for better parity in our testing.
For thermal image, we use a Flir One camera as it gives a good indication of where the heat is generated around the socket area, as some designs use different configurations and an evenly spread power delivery with good components will usually generate less heat. Manufacturers who use inefficient heatsinks and cheap out on power delivery components should run hotter than those who have invested. Of course, a $700 flagship motherboard is likely to outperform a cheaper $100 model under the same testing conditions, but it is still worth testing to see which vendors are doing things correctly.
Thermal Analysis Results
To cool the power delivery on the Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi motherboard, ASUS is using a pair of heatsinks which aren’t connected with a heat pipe. This means each heatsink is cooling different parts of the heatsink without distributing the heat between each other. Running our VRM thermal test yields a very favorable result for the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi, with a maximum temperature of 52°C on our K-type thermal probe. This is backed up with our FLIR thermal imaging camera which measured 54.9°C on the hottest part of the area around the power delivery and the CPU. This represents fantastic performance, especially for a B550 series motherboard, and shows that the ASUS power delivery very efficient and well designed.
When AMD and motherboard vendors finally unveiled the B550 chipset, any potential conversational points were almost completely masked by discussions on the price. When a new B series chipset, that used to play in that $70-$200 region comes out *starting* at $165 and going beyond $300+, what else is there to talk about?? When delving deeper into the B550 product stack, as we did in our extensive B550 motherboard overview, it was clear that the majority of the models in the $200-300 price point are aimed at users that want or need premium audio and networking controllers. This is what ASUS has done with ROG Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi, and it comes across as a polished example of a cost effective B550 motherboard,
Aimed at the mid-range, ASUS has equipped the Strix B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi with two M.2 slots, one with support for PCIe 4.0 x4 and one locked down to PCIe 3.0 x4. All of the boards PCIe 4.0 comes directly from the CPU, including the top full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot. The rest of the PCIe is driven by the B550 chipset which uses PCIe 3.0 lanes, including an additional full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. One of the improvements over B450 is integrated support for USB 3.2 G2, in which ASUS has included two ports on the rear panel including a Type-C and Type-A.
Other interesting features include an Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller and an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 CNVi module which is generally found on more expensive X570 models; this is something which is becoming more mainstream in this price segment. It also includes a SupremeFX S1200A HD audio codec with a pair of amps which powers the onboard audio, and the codec itself does include EMI isolation which is a nice touch. The overall design is also interesting as it includes an all-black design with pink highlights on the rear panel cover and the chipset heatsink, which is very unconventional, but it blends in nicely and looks unique. Users looking to add more style can do so via three RGB headers, two regular and one addressable.
In our testing, the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming performed brilliantly in our system tests with the quickest POST time from any AM4 board we’ve tested with our Ryzen 3700X so far. The B550-F Gaming also had an impressive DPC latency result, with a massive advantage over other boards we’ve tested at default settings. In our CPU and game testing, the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi was competitive. Our overclocking testing showed good results and tight VDroop control, with solid VRM thermals too. To put it mildly, the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi has better VRM thermals than some X570 models costing double the price, which is a big win for ASUS here.
For $190 with Wi-Fi, or $190 without, ASUS provides a lot of quality and performance for the money. It puts to bed the expectation that B550 motherboards can’t be as good quality as the X570 series models. Despite users expecting cheaper prices of B550, vendors look to have made improvements to the quality of the PCB to make sure the PCIe 4.0 implementation is optimal. There are lower cost B550 options available, but ASUS has a firecracker in the B550-F Gaming Wi-Fi and provides a solid alternative to X570.