MSI B350 Tomahawk Review

Manufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed): £99.95 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $109.99 (ex tax)

MSI B350 Tomahawk ReviewThe last few weeks have admittedly seen us grapple with a few issues on some cheaper Ryzen motherboards in getting to 3,000MHz with popular memory kits, but we're now seeing a major improvement in regards to memory compatibility.

Today, we've put MSI's B350 Tomahawk through its paces with the latest 1.63 BIOS version that sports the latest AGESA 1006 tweaks, which were released by AMD to address this problem specifically. It's important to cut to the chase here given our opening statement, and we're happy to report that while we struggled to get above 2,666MHz a week ago, not only can the board run happily at 3,200MHz using our Geil Evo X Samsung b-die kit but also at the usual 2,933MHz using our 3,000MHz Corsair LPX kit, which is Hynix-based and can have issues with AM4 boards compatibility-wise.

The only small snag is that while it was usually a case of just applying the A-XMP profile, we also needed to bump the DDR voltage up to 1.38V from the default 1.35V. However, after this, we were sitting happy at the desktop ready to get on with some benchmarking. As a result, we can hopefully draw a line under this issue now, at least for MSI, and for anyone else we suggest you take a look at the latest available BIOS versions to check they include the latest AGESA microcode released by AMD at the end of May.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review

In addition to the improved memory support, we're also seeing greater granularity in the memory dividers, with the option to select frequencies in 133MHz jumps. For example, this means that rather than jumping from 2,933MHz to 3,200MHz, you can now stop at 3,066MHz first. This is particularly useful with boards that lack base clock overclocking, as you may be able to step up a notch, and with AMD's Infinity Fabric being tied to memory speed, every little bit helps.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review MSI B350 Tomahawk Review
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Back to our usual discussion then, and the B350 Tomahawk is the cheapest motherboard we've looked at in quite a while. retailing for just under £100. This is noticeably cheaper than the Asus ROG Strix B350-F Gaming and Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3, but both of those boards had no issues with memory compatibility whatsoever, so it's clear that with a need for a slight bump in memory voltage, the B350 Tomahawk is still maybe not quite as optimised. Given it takes all of two seconds to do this, though, if you're after a budget board for your Ryzen system, it's still a fair contender.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review MSI B350 Tomahawk Review
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With roughly £20 saved compared to the previously mentioned B350 boards, there were always going to be cutbacks somewhere, and MSI has made these mainly on the ports and audio. There are four SATA 6Gbps compared to six for the Asus and Gigabyte offerings and far fewer USB ports too. You get a pair of USB 2.0 ports along with three Type-A USB 3.0 ports and a Type-C port too. It's tied to the USB 3.0 controller and not USB 3.1, but neither the Asus or Gigabyte boards have one. However, both those boards have double the USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review MSI B350 Tomahawk Review
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Another cost-cutting measure was dropping the Realtek ALC1220 audio in favour of the older ALC892 codec, which will see a fall in noise and dynamic range performance, but for your average gamer or anyone with a discrete sound card this isn't likely to be an issue. On the plus side, you get much better cooling than the Gigabyte board with a pair of large CPU power circuitry heatsinks and several more fan headers that are all DC/PWM capable. There's also a dedicated AIO cooler pump header.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review MSI B350 Tomahawk Review
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You also avoid having a brown PCB, which is what Gigabyte used - the MSI board is much better looking, although the Asus ROG Strix B350-F Gaming gets more points here. There's no onboard RGB lighting, with the only illumination being the audio circuitry, but you do get a four-pin RGB LED header should you want to add your own. Finally, should you want something perhaps a little more snazzy, the Tomahawk is also available in MSI's Arctic colour scheme for around £8 more.

MSI B350 Tomahawk Review

Specifications

  • Chipset AMD B350
  • Form factor ATX
  • CPU support AMD Socket AM4 (Ryzen)
  • Memory support Dual-channel, 4 slots, max 64GB
  • Sound Eight-channel Realtek ALC892 Codec
  • Networking Realtek Gigabit LAN
  • Ports 1 x M.2 PCI-E 3.0 x4 32Gbps/SATA 6Gbps (up to 22110), 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 8 x USB 3.0 (4 via headers), 6 x USB 2.0 ports (4 via headers) 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, HDMI DVI, VGA, PS2
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 244
  • ExtrasIsolated audio circuitry, steel-plated PCI-E slot

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