If you’re looking to buy a new computer or upgrade your old one in the next three months, you may have heard about AMD’s Ryzen, a new platform that replaces Bulldozer and their APU lineup. For the moment, only the Ryzen 7, or R7, series is available to pre-order, and the expected Bristol Ridge family is nowhere to be seen yet. There’s not exactly a massive incentive to buy a motherboard at this point in time, then, but if you were thinking about nabbing an R7 1700, 1700X, or the top 1800X chip sometime in the next three months, you might want to give this a read to see what motherboard options are available.
If you want to get caught up on everything Ryzen, read these articles to find out more:
It’s quite interesting to see some price uniformity here, and I think that AMD’s retail partners and their board partners are trying to get the price similar in all retail stores to give everyone an equal chance to sell stock. You don’t usually see this with Intel board pricing, and I even looked into this for Kaby Lake processors as well. Variations were expected with Ryzen as well, but I’m pleasantly surprised.
Where things seem to be mucked up is in the conversion rate from the Euro or U.S. dollar pricing that these boards are expected to retail for. The Crosshair VI Hero, for example, has a retail price of $250 overseas, matching the price they usually charge for their Z270 equivalent, the ROG Maximus IX Hero for $230. However, that $20 price difference turns into around R800, as the Maximus IX Hero retails for around R4,600. It’s possible that the Crosshair VI will drop in price after launch due to high demand, but I think that this may be a turning point for high-end AMD motherboards no longer being cheaper than their Intel counterparts. That’s not to mention the absurd price of the X370 Titanium, at R6,300. It should be cheaper than the Z270 Titanium, which is priced similarly.
This strange balancing act sees a reversal with the MSI X370 Gaming Pro Carbon. The nearly identical Z270 variant has a lot more components on it, many more traces in the board, and so on. But somehow, it’s R700 cheaper, and comes bundled with a For Honor key. That doesn’t mean that Kaby Lake is a better deal – core for core, it really isn’t – but it is a bit bemusing.
If we’re looking for a value-orientated offering, ASRock has you covered with the X370 Gaming K4. It is nearly identical to the X370 Killer SLI, but has the added benefit of an on-board port 80 debug LED, which can help you in situations where you need to troubleshoot a boot issue. In addition, it looks like ASRock may have copied a feature from MSI by putting the DDR4 slots behind a small plastic island to reduce interference. Whether that helps or not still needs some testing, but this looks like a solid mid-range board to power some mild overclocks.
Bringing up the rear are the cheaper B350 and A320 motherboards. The B350 chipset still retains the ability to overclock the processor, however you won’t see figures as high as you would on a well-made X370 motherboard with better power management. These boards are mainly for powering the non-X Ryzen processors, and include enough high-end features to make buyers feel like they’re getting their money’s worth from their purchase. If you’re looking for a value buy, consider the ASUS Prime B350-A. It’s the only board that features a full-sized M.2 slot connected directly to the CPU for less than R2,000, and it doesn’t have legacy PCI slots taking up space and gathering dust.
The A320 chipset is fairly barebones, and these motherboards, like MSI’s A320 Pro-VD have no frills whatsoever. It’s not even graced with a M.2 slot, and somehow that makes the price of R1,499 feel a bit much for what’s on offer. MSI’s B250M Pro-VDH ships with a reinforced PCIe slot, four RAM slots and one M.2 slot, while the ASUS B150M Pro Gaming ships with two extra SATA ports, four RAM slots, an M.2 port, a better power phase set up (4+2 instead of 3+2), and higher-end integrated audio. I think that the A320 family needs a bit more oomph than it has currently to make anyone want to buy it, especially because supported memory speeds are limited to 2133MH.
There’s also one issue that AMD might have with the A320 family, in that it shares a name with the A320 chipset that launched with the FM2 platform, for the Llano and Trinity APUs. I don’t think a lot of people are going to buy the wrong board, mind, but those products are still out there. Luckily the sockets are completely different sizes.
Supported AM4 coolers
Something else that I wanted to touch on before the launch was cooler compatibility. As of today, if you have a cooler that makes use of AMD’s standard retention clip design, then you’re going to be covered when you get your new motherboard. While the mounting holes are different, the length of the bracket is the same. For other mechanisms and designs, you’ll need to purchase or order a new backplate. The exception to this rule is the ASUS Crosshair VI, which has socket AM3+/FM2+ mounting holes drilled into the board to allow you to use any older LN2 pot, air or water cooler from your previous machine. ASUS actually expects that most people won’t be using stock cooling with their board, and considering the asking price I’m inclined to agree.
At launch, the first-generation Corsair H110i, H100, and H60 all have brackets that support the AM4 mounting holes. The second generation of these products changed their bracket design, and thus they are no longer compatible. MSI’s upcoming Core Frozr L, the company’s first third-party cooler, is also AM4 compatible, and I’ve personally wanted one for a while.
For the other brands out there, a lot of their mounting systems are generic enough that the AM4 mounting holes are supported. It’s possible that AMD had the specifications for the socket available long before Zen as an architecture was signed off, so many existing coolers will work just fine. If you want to look for yourself, click the link for the brand of cooler you’re currently using to see what their AM4 compatibility situation is.
And that’s it! You’re all set to start soul-searching and figuring out how much hurt your bank balance can handle. AMD’s Ryzen 7 processors and motherboards launch on 2 March 2017, with the Ryzen 5 family following soon after, and Ryzen 3 in 2H 2017.