Outside of its Aqua series of motherboards, which come with exquisitely crafted monoblocks, ASRock’s Taichi brand has been a critical part of the company’s offerings in the land of premium motherboards. The ASRock B550 Taichi sits at the top of its product stack and features an impressive quality feature set. Some of the most notable features include a large 16-phase power delivery, eight SATA ports, dual M.2 slots, an Intel 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller, and an Intel Wi-Fi 6 interface. At $300 it comes equal in price with the X570 version, which leaves questions on the table as to which one is actually worth the money.
When AMD first released the B550 chipset, a lot of fanfare was made about the high launch price of some models. For what has been usually considered a ‘budget’ chipset, some of the more premium B550 models cost more than some of the X570 models, which featured full support for PCIe 4.0 to add-in cards and the chipset. The B550 chipset has less PCIe 4.0 support than X570, with only the top full-length PCIe slot and one PCIe M.2 slot operating at PCIe 4.0, while the rest of the slots and chipset operate at PCIe 3.0. The trade-off is downstream bandwidth from the chipset as well as power, because the X570 requires a fan to keep that PCIe 4.0 chipset cool. Ultimately X570 requires ‘more’ to be fully enabled than B550, so it comes as a bit of surprise when the B550 and X570 models sit on equal pricing.
Even with what has been said above, the ASRock B550 Taichi has all the hallmarks of a premium AM4 model with a solid array of controllers, ports, and power delivery.
Armed with its unique Taichi inspired design, the ASRock B550 Taichi follows a bronze and black color scheme with three customizable RGB LED zones. ASRock has installed the B550 Taichi with a large sixteen phase power delivery, which performs very well in our thermal testing. Unique to the ASRock range, the B550 Taichi is the only board where the top two PCIe slots support a PCIe 4.0 x8/x8 configuration – out of all other B550 boards, only two others have this feature.
Another solid benefit of the Taichi is that it includes a BIOS Flashback controller which allows users to update the firmware without a CPU installed. This is useful for when AMD launches Ryzen 4000 and a firmware update will be required to use the new Zen 3 processors. Some of the board’s other core features include 2.5 GbE networking, Wi-Fi 6, and a premium audio codec with an assisting amplifier designed to bolster the quality of the front panel audio header.
After running our benchmarking suite, the ASRock B550 proved a consistent and solid performer in our testing. It displayed competitive performance in our system tests with strong power consumption figures in all three of our power tests, with a decent non-UEFI POST time of 20.6 seconds at default settings. In our CPU and gaming tests, the B550 Taichi performed competitively against other AM4 boards tested with our testbed Ryzen 7 3700X processor.
Our overclocking testing proved resourceful with a maximum stable overclock of 4.3 GHz with our Ryzen 7 3700X processor. Overall VDroop control was consistent throughout our testing, as was the performance in our POV-Ray benchmark testing. We saw equally impressive performance in our VRM thermal testing with the Taichi beating some of the more advanced and much more expensive X570 models. This is due to a more efficient power delivery design, as well as a solid pair of heatsinks which are interconnected via a single heat pipe for better heat dissipation. This is ultimately the reason why, despite being B550, this Taichi costs the same as the X570: better thermals and better power delivery.
The ASRock B550 Taichi as it stands is one of the most expensive B550 models with an MSRP of $300. This puts it up against ASRock’s own X570 Taichi which currently costs $300 at Newegg. This puts the B550 Taichi in an awkward position in terms of value, with the X570 offering more raw features. However the B550 Taichi offers an alternative is the slightly larger power delivery (16-phase versus 14-phase), and an Intel 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller whereas the X570 Taichi is equipped with a standard Gigabit port.
Read on for our extended analysis and comparison tests.
The ASRock B550 Taichi is as ornate as any model from its Taichi series, with an elegant bronze and black color theme throughout. The rear panel cover includes separate RGB areas for the Taichi logo and where the model and is primarily gold in color, as well as the power delivery heatsink. While not a conventional color, the lower portion of the board has black and bronze PCIe armor with a lightly embossed Taichi cogwheel inspired patterning. This cogwheel patterning stretches to the chipset heatsink, with a very classy finish and also includes some RGB LEDs. On the underside of the right-hand section of the board is a long RGB LED strip that provides a nice under glow.
Looking to the boards PCIe, and the top two full-length slots operates at PCIe 4.0 driven directly from a Ryzen 3000 series processor. When the top slot is the sole one active, it runs in x16 mode, however if both are populated, it splits into x8/x8. The other full-length slot operates at PCIe 3.0 x4, and sandwiched in between the full-length slots are two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. There are a pair of M.2 heatsinks which fit nicely into the board’s bronze and black aesthetic – the first one is a top-mounted PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot, while the bottom M.2 slot operates at PCIe 3.0 x4.
Along the bottom of the B550 Taichi is a basic overclockers toolkit which includes a two-digit LED Debugger, a power button, a reset button, and a small clear CMOS button. Located around the board are seven 4-pin headers which are split into three different cooling segments, one for a CPU fan, one for an optional CPU fan and a water pump, and five for regular chassis fans.
The B550 Taichi also has eight SATA ports, which is the only current B550 model to include this, with four of the eight controlled by the chipset and the other four made available from the use of an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA controller. The four SATA ports controlled by the chipset support RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays.
Located at the top right-hand corner are four memory slots which include support for up to DDR4-5000 memory, while a total of 128 GB can be installed with official support for 32 GB UDIMM memory. The B550 Taichi does include support for ECC and non-ECC memory, although users opting for ECC memory should note that it will operate un-buffered modules.
The power delivery on the ASRock B550 Taichi is made up of a 16-phase design with fourteen phases for the CPU, and two for the SoC. ASRock has opted to use sixteen Vishay SiC654 50 A DrMos power stages which makes up both the CPU and SoC sections. The PWM controller of choice is an Intersil ISL229004 which is an 8-channel controller which means the power delivery is operating in a 7+1 configuration. The B550 Taichi’s doubler of choice is the Intersil ISL6617A with seven doubling up the fourteen CPU power stages and one doubling up the two SoC phases. Providing power to the power delivery is a pair of 12 V ATX CPU power inputs.
Cooling the large 16-phase power delivery is a pair of bronze-colored aluminum heatsinks which are interconnected by a single heat pipe. On both of the heatsinks is a relatively thick thermal pad with fairly deep impressions which shows a good mounting between the power delivery and the heatsinks.
For audio, the ASRock B550 Taichi is using a Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec with five Japanese Nichicon gold audio capacitors which are specifically designed for audio solutions such as this. To improve the quality of the front panel audio header, ASRock has included a Texas Instruments NE5532 headset amplifier which can drive headphones and headsets up to 600 Ohm. The audio PCB itself includes a faint yellow separation line from the rest of the board to help protect the audio componentry from electronic magnetic interference, although the ALC1220 HD codec does not include a separate dedicated EMI shield.
On the rear panel I/O is a variety of input and output with a single 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 port, with all of the rear panel USB coming with ESD protection. The board’s networking consists of a single Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller which powers the single RJ45 port, while the two antenna ports are for the Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 interface which includes support for BT 5.1 devices. Onboard audio is provided by the way of five 3.5 mm audio jacks and a single S/PDIF optical output powered by a Realtek ALC1220HD audio codec. Finishing off the rear panel is a clear CMOS button, and a BIOS flashback button which can be used to update the board’s firmware without a CPU/memory/display installed.
Also present on the rear panel is a pair of video outputs that consist of an HDMI and DisplayPort 1.4 output. This allows users to use integrated graphics when AMD puts the next-generation APUs on retail shelves.
What’s in the Box
Included within the ASRock B550 Taichi accessories bundle are four SATA cables, an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 antenna kit, an ASRock branded Torx screwdriver, and two M.2 installation screw kits. Other accessories include a quick installation guide and a driver/software installation disc.
- Quick installation guide
- Driver and software installation disc
- ASRock Torx screwdriver
- 4 x SATA cables
- 2 x M.2 screws
- 2 x M.2 standoffs
- ASRock Taichi postcard
- 2 x ASRock velcro cable ties
- ASRock Taichi sticker set
The ASRock UEFI firmware is consistent throughout its AM4 series, with the primary differences all coming in the way of simple aesthetics which is dependant on the series of motherboards. For example, the ASRock Phantom Gaming models have a black and red background, the X570 Aqua has the unique Aqua branding, while the ASRock Taichi series uses cogwheel Taichi inspired graphics. For the most part, the rest of ASRock’s AM4 UEFI firmware remains the same, with minor differences coming in the settings such as controllers on Thunderbolt 3 inclusive models, and level of overclocking features which is dependent on the caliber and capability of the board.
ASRock’s UEFI firmware for the B550 Taichi features an attractive GUI which is based on a black ground with Taichi inspired graphics along the bottom and right-hand side, with the different menus available to select across the top of the screen. This includes the main section which is the initial screen upon entering the firmware. The text is white, with grey boxes and a light blue highlighter to signify which option is currently selected.
The primary options for overclocking are housed within the OC Tweaker section and include all the core options for overclocking the CPU and memory. This includes options for altering the CPU ratio and BCLK frequencies, as well as adjusting the CPU core, cache voltages, and SoC voltages. For users installing X.M.P 2.0 supported memory, users can enable these by selecting the relevant profile, although ASRock includes a rather extensive selection of memory latencies for users looking to fine-tune memory for maximum performance.
Other primary menus include the Advanced section which contains all of the CPU and chipset common options which includes AMD’s Precision Boost settings. The tool section includes ASRock’s Polychrome RGB settings, with other useful tools coming via the firmware updater and the SSD secure-erase tool. ASRock’s H/W monitor displays a list of current temperatures, voltages, and status from the onboard sensors, while users can also configure ASRock’s FAN-Tastic tuning utility for optimizing fan curves. The ASRock UEFI firmware for its AM4 models is easy to navigate and offers a wide variety of options for users to tweak their system.
At the core of ASRock’s B550 Taichi is a software package is a flurry of useful applications and tools. At the heart of ASRock’s software package is the A-Tuning software which allows users to apply overclocks to the CPU and change power settings within Windows. Other useful utilities include its Live Update and App Shop application where users can update to the latest drivers, as well as download applications, although it is riddled with Casino based games. ASRock also includes its Polychrome RGB software which allows users to customize the onboard RGB LEDs, as well as sync the lighting effects with compatible RGB memory, graphics cards, and the included RGB headers. To make use of the board’s audio capabilities, ASRock also includes the Nahamic 3 software.
The ASRock A-Tuning software allows users to perform a multitude of customizations including CPU overclocking, adjusting fan curve profiles via the FAN-Tastic Tuning utility, as well as view a detailed list of system information. The main feature of the A-Tuning software comes via the OC Tweaker section which is similar to the functionality of the BIOS, but with fewer options. Users looking to overclock their CPU can use the A-Tuning to perform simple overclocks with options for CPU ratio and BCLK, with core voltage options for the CPU.
It’s nice to see ASRock includes audio software in the bundle via the Nahimic 3 utility which allows users to equalize different audio aspects, and select between different preset profiles for different tasks such as gaming and movies. The ASRock Polychrome RGB software remains unchanged over previous iterations and offers plenty of visual customizations with many different lighting effects, and the ability to sync compatible components and peripherals within its RGB ecosystem.
The ASRock B550 Taichi is an ATX motherboard that is based on AMD’s AM4 socket and positions itself as one of the most premium B550 models on the market. It uses a Ryzen 3000 processor to provide its PCIe 4.0 capabilities via the top full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, a PCIe 4.0 x8 slot, and the top PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot. The Taichi’s other slots include a full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 and two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. Located at the bottom of the board is a single PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot, with plenty of SATA ports with a combined total of eight. Four of the SATA ports are driven by the chipset and support RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays, while the other four SATA ports are controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA controller. The Taichi also has solid memory capability with support for up to DDR4-5000 memory, with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB across four memory slots.
|ASRock B550 Taichi ATX Motherboard|
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
|Memory Slots (DDR4)||Four DDR4
Supporting 128 GB
Up to DDR4-5000
|Video Outputs||1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x DisplayPort 1.4
|Network Connectivity||Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE
Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC1220
TI NE5532 Amplifier (Front panel)
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)||1 x PCIe 4.0 x16
1 x PCIe 4.0 x8
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)||1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
2 x PCIe 3.0 x1
|Onboard SATA||Four, 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
1 x Type-C Front Panel (ASMedia)
|USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)||4 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 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
2 x 8pin CPU
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU (4-pin)
1 x CPU/Water Pump (4-pin)
5 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 (Realtek)
1 x S/PDIF Output (Realtek)
2 x Intel AX201 Antenna Ports
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button
1 x Clear CMOS Button
1 x DisplayPort 1.4 Output
1 x HDMI 2.1 Output
The ASRock B550 Taichi has a premium networking selection that consists of an Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller and an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 interface which also supports BT 5.1 devices. Also located on the rear panel is 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. Users looking for more USB connectivity can make use of the front panel headers with a single USB 3.2 G2 Type-C, two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports which allow for four ports, and two USB 2.0 headers which adds a further four USB 2.0 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||ASRock B550 Taichi (BIOS 1.10)|
|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 ASRock B550 Taichi performs very well in our power consumption testing, with some of the lowest results of all the AM4 boards tested at full load. The Taichi also outputs some competitive long idle and idle power state performance.
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 ASRock sits middle of the road in our POST time test with a respectable booting time of 20.6 seconds at default settings. We managed to shave off an additional 1.7 seconds by disabling nonessential components such as onboard audio and networking controllers.
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 latency out of the box with default settings, and the ASRock outputs another strong showing here with a low latency of 106.7 microseconds. This puts it as one of the better AM4 models for out of the box DPC latency we have tested so far.
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 ASRock B550 Taichi
It’s no secret that AMD’s Ryzen 3000 processors run hot on basic air cooling thanks to the highly-dense cores packaged onto its 7 nm chiplets. For our testbed Ryzen 7 3700X processor with 8-cores and 16-threads, the key to unlocking the extra performance available with Ryzen 3000 is down to the cooling, with custom water cooling and good quality AIO coolers handling AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive a little better. Another way to squeeze out extra system performance is via the memory, although Ryzen 3000 works optimally with DDR4-3600, with an Infinity Fabric or FCLK clock speed of 1800 MHz. This is what most Ryzen 3000 silicon can manage without instability issues.
Using the ASRock B550 Taichi’s firmware to overclock our Ryzen 7 3700X processor was straight forward. All of the boards overclocking settings are within the OC Tweaker setting and includes everything needed to overclock both the CPU and memory. Under the CPU frequency and Voltage (VID) change option, users can dial in a ratio in 100 MHz increments, eg 4.3 for 4.30 GHz. Underneath this is the option to change the CPU core frequency, although we find it best to remain under 1.45 V for the longevity of the silicon. The range of CPU core voltage also relies on the cooling method used, with better cooling allowing for sustained performance without the risk of thermally throttling the CPU cores.
Other important options include a dedicated section for customizing memory latencies, with extensive options available. For users looking to overclock memory to its rated specifications via X.M.P 2.0 profiles, they can simply select the relevant profile, although some memory kits sometimes come with more than one profile. Setting the Infinity Fabric Frequency is equally important, which we recommend stays below 1800 MHz and it works best at half the memory speed, eg, 1800 MHz on the FCLK for DDR4-3600, and 1600 MHz for DDR4-3200.
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.
Performing our usual method of overclocking shows the ASRock B550 Taichi is a very capable motherboard for users looking to capitalize on AMD’s unlocked AM4 series models such as B550 and X570. The default settings include AMD’s Precision Boost Overdrive active so users are getting the best-case scenario without factoring in memory. The maximum stable overclock we managed to achieve with our Ryzen 7 3700X processor was 4.3 GHz at 1.350 V on the CPU VCore. This is equal to the best overclock we have managed on any AM4 model tested so far.
Overclocking manually from 3.8 to 4.3 GHz, we saw a gradual and expected increase in POV-Ray performance, with an equally expected increase in temperature as we increased the CPU VCore voltage. In regards to CPU Vcore voltage set manually in the firmware in comparison to CPU VCore under load, we found the B550 Taichi to have solid VDroop control with the Load-Line Calibration or LLC settings left at default. One benefit to the ASRock firmware is that it would under volt slightly which should slightly reduce temperature and power consumption, although the difference is marginal at best. We did try and achieve a maximum overclock of 4.4 GHz with 1.50 VCore to see if it would run, but this was unstable and is down to a limit of our silicon as opposed to the board itself.
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.
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
The ASRock B550 Taichi is using a 16-phase design which is operating in a 7+1 configuration with an Intersil ISL229004 8-phase PWM controller. It is using fourteen Vishay SiC654 50 A power stages for the CPU and two SiC654 50 A power stages for the SoC. The CPU section is using seven ISL6617A doublers, while the SoC section is using a single ISL6617A doubler which makes the B550 Taichi’s power delivery a 7+1 design. The power delivery is cooled by a pair of heatsinks connected by a single heat pipe which relies on passive airflow within a chassis.
In our power delivery thermal testing, the ASRock B550 Taichi performs quite well against other AM4 boards on test. Our testing shows that the Taichi’s 16-phase design is rather efficient, which puts it ahead of some high-end X570 models which is impressive. The Taichi includes a dedicated temperature sensor for the power delivery which in our testing displayed a reading of 55°C, while our K-type probe mounted to the rear of the power delivery measured a reading of 57°C. Using our FLIR thermal imaging camera, we measured a 51.9°C on the hottest part of the CPU socket area, which shows that the cooling properties of the heatsink is efficient at dissipating heat. For a B550 motherboard, the results are competitive, and that the ASRock B550 Taichi is a very competent board for overclocking.
When it comes to quantifying the price to performance ratio of AMD’s B550 chipset, one must appreciate what vendors have tried to do with the opportunity B550 has presented. One thing a lot of vendors have accomplished is upgrading from standard Gigabit Ethernet to more future proof 2.5 GbE Ethernet, which is something a lot of manufacturers only implemented on its more mid-range to premium X570 models. This in itself has posed furor among users that expected B550 to slot in below X570 in regards to performance, and despite offering limited PCIe 4.0 support from the Ryzen 3000 processors, vendors have instead chosen to implement premium controller sets which have kept its B550 models higher in price than one would initially expect.
The ASRock B550 Taichi has plenty of PCIe options available, with two full-length PCIe 4.0 slots operating in x16 or x8/x8 mode – the B550 Taichi is one of only three B550 boards to do this. The board’s storage includes a top-mounted PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot, which is perfect for users looking to benefit from the performance of a super-fast PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe drive, while the second slot operates at PCIe 3.0 x4. Both of the M.2 slots have individual heatsinks which blend into the board’s bronze and black aesthetics. The B550 Taichi is also the only B550 model to include eight SATA ports, with four driven by the chipset and offering support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays, while the other four ports are delivered via an ASMedia ASM1061 SATA controller.
Other prominent features of the B550 Taichi include a solid networking array including an Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller and an equally premium Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 interface with added compatibility for BT 5.1 devices. Memory support is also impressive with speeds of up to DDR4-5000 supported, with a maximum capacity of up to 128 GB across four memory slots.
In our performance testing, the ASRock B550 Taichi displayed solid results in our power consumption testing, with the lack of PCIe 4.0 lanes within the chipset likely to make a difference when compared to X570 models. The Taichi also performed competitively in our out of the box DPC latency testing, as well as in our non-UEFI system POST time test. In regards to CPU and gaming performance, the Taichi was again competitive with other AM4 models on test.
With our Ryzen 7 3700X processor, the Taichi managed a maximum stable overclock of 4.3 GHz, which is equal to any AM4 board we have tested so far, with tight VDroop control and a consistent performance increase in POV-Ray. Our VRM thermal testing performance also puts the Taichi in a good light, with a reading of 55°C from the integrated thermal sensor, which is very impressive when compared to some of the higher-end X570 models we have tested so far.
The ASRock B550 Taichi Versus X570 Taichi
Both the ASRock B550 Taichi ($300) and the X570 Taichi ($300) share the same price point within the market, which poses some pros and cons when compared directly against each other. The B550 Taichi includes better networking support with a 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller and an Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 interface, whereas the X570 Taichi uses Intel’s I211-AT Gigabit and the slightly older Intel AX200, although it still conforms to Wi-Fi 6 spec. The obvious pitfall for the B550 version is the lack of PCIe 4.0 support from the chipset, which puts the X570 Taichi on a better footing overall with three PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slots versus just the B550 variant.
One argument for the X570 Taichi is that users could use one of the PCIe slots and add a better quality NIC to the board such as an Aquantia AQC107 10 GbE controller and reap the future-proofing benefits of the X570 chipset. Both models have the capability to support the next generation of AMD Ryzen 4000 processors including the highly anticipated Ryzen 4000 APUs, which would make more sense for users to opt for one of the newer and more wallet-friendly A520 models.
The B550 Taichi is a solid representation of a good all-rounder from ASRock, but we can’t help think adopting the same price point as its higher-end X570 model to be somewhat bewildering. Sure, it has a solid premium feature set and has much of the capabilities of the X570 Taichi, but if we had to spend $300 on a new AM4 based ASRock motherboard, we would lean more towards the X570 Taichi for all the above reasons; better PCIe 4.0 support for the future, as well as an extra PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slot which makes it a sweeter deal overall.