MSI B350 TOMAHAWK Motherboard
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Let’s take a look at the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK, a mid-range motherboard with the AM4 socket, based on the AMD B350 chipset, supporting Ryzen and AM4 A-series CPUs. Check it out!
The AMD B350 chipset is the mid-range model for the AM4 socket, used by the Ryzen CPUs and the seventh-gen APUs. The B350 differs from the high-end chipset for this platform, the X370, by the number of PCI Express 2.0 lanes (six, against eight on the X370),
USB 3.0 ports (two on the B350 and six on the X370), and SATA-600 ports (eight on the X370 and six on the B350).
Another difference is that the B350 doesn’t support splitting the 16 PCI Express 3.0 lanes into two slots (x8/x8 configuration) like the X370. So, the B350 is aimed at single-VGA systems.
Both the chipsets support two USB 3.1 ports, and RAID 0, 1, and 10.
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You can see the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (304 x 243 mm)..
MSI B350 TOMAHAWK motherboard
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 maximum speed), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots.
The PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot that works at x4 speed shares its lanes with the PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots. So, if any of them is in use, this slot will work at x2 speed.
The motherboard supports CrossFire with up to two video cards, but it does not support SLI.
There is also one M.2 slot, supporting both PCI Express 3.0 x4 and SATA-600 SSDs.
The PCI Express x16 slot is covered by a stainless steel shield, that works as a shield against interference, and also improves the mechanical strength of the slot.
AMD CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
AM4 CPUs are compatible with DDR4 (up to 2,667 MHz, depending on the modules configuration) memory. According to MSI, the B350 TOMAHAWK supports DDR4 memories up to 3,200 MHz.
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK has four memory sockets. You can install up to 64 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 16 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. When installing two memory modules, use the first and third memory slots to enable dual-channel mode.
Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
The AMD B350 chipset is a single-chip solution. This chip offers six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, and 10). The motherboard comes with only four of those ports.
The four SATA-600 ports
The AMD B350 chipset supports six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 (also called USB 3.1 Gen1) ports, and two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports. There are also four USB 3.0 ports controlled by the CPU.
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK offers six USB 2.0 ports, two located at the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the rear panel (controlled by the CPU, three type A and one type C) and four available through two headers (controlled by the chipset).
While the chipset supports two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports, the motherboard does not offer these ports.
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.
This motherboard comes with a mainstream audio circuit. It uses a Realtek ALC892 codec, which offers 7.1 audio with a 97 dBA signal-to-noise ratio at the analog outputs, 90 dBA signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, 192 kHz sampling rate and 24-bit resolution. These specs are fine for most users, but not enough if you work professionally with audio editing. The analog audio outputs are independent.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111H chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, HDMI output, four USB 3.0 ports (three type A and one type C,) a Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.
Note that the integrated video outputs will be used only if you use an APU; Ryzen processors do not support integrated video.
Motherboard rear panel
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK has RGB (programmable) LEDs around the motherboard. It also supports RGB LED ribbons.
In Figure 6, you can see the accessories that come with the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK has six phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses a Richtek RT8894A controller ch
ip (digital design). Each phase uses three or four MOSFETs, model PK616BA and PK632BA.
Voltage regulator circuit
The MSI B350 TOMAHAWK uses solid capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The main specifications for the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK include:
- Socket: AM4
- Chipset: AMD B350
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6795D
- Parallel ATA: none
- Serial ATA: four SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, and 10)
- External SATA: none
- USB 2.0: six USB 2.0 ports, two at the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 Gen1): eight USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel (three type A and one type C) controlled by the CPU and four available through two headers, controlled by the chipset
- USB 3.1 (USB 3.1 Gen2): none
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
- Thunderbolt: none
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
Firstly, the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK offers the features most users need, but it is a little limited by bringing only four SATA-600 ports, and not supporting USB 3.1 Gen2 ports (natively supported by the chipset.) . Secondly, the audio codec is fine for most users but does not offer enough quality for professional work with analog audio. Thirdly,these points make it inferior to the Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3, which uses the same chipset. However, the advantage of the B350 TOMAHAWK is the smaller price tag.
Other limitations on this motherboard are imposed by the chipset, like the presence of only one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (which is good only if you use no more than one video card), and then the fact it does not offer another PCI Express 3.0 slot (which may limit performance if you install an SSD that uses this interface). However, you will find these limitations on all motherboards based on this chipset.
So, if you are building a computer based on an AM4 CPU, and will not use more than one video card, the MSI B350 TOMAHAWK can be a good choice if you have a limited budget.