The Asus ROG Strix B350-F Gaming motherboard was a good board for its time, but it could have been better. With the ROG Strix B450-F Gaming board, Asus has attempted to refurbish that space, adding support for AMD’s Store MI software storage acceleration technology, which automatically transports data from a hard drive to an SSD, as well as an improved layout. It’s a competent, if not flawless, challenger in the AMD AM4 midrange market at $129.99.
Design and Storage
The ROG Strix B450-F Gaming motherboard, in addition to the benefits of the B450 chipset, features a much-enhanced layout over its predecessor. One of the PCI Express x1 slots was located just below the primary PCIe x16 slot on the earlier board, rendering it virtually unusable for anyone using a graphics card. Because the B350-F’s graphics card slot was occupied by a lengthy M.2 Key-M 22110 slot, the business was unable to insert the PCIe x1 slot above it. On the ROG Strix B350-F Gaming, Asus also split the SATA 3.0 ports, resulting in a slightly less organized-looking end setup.
By moving the M.2 Key-M 22110 slot below the B450 chipsets heatsink, the ROG Strix B450-F Gaming excels on all of these fronts. Above the primary PCIe x16 slot is a second M.2 Key-M slot, but because it’s the more common 2280 size, it doesn’t take up the entire space, so Asus was able to place one of the PCIe x1 slots above the primary x16 slot as well, where it won’t be blocked by most graphics’ cards. The SATA 3.0 ports have also been reorganised by Asus, with all six being positioned together as they should be.
Although the addition of a second M.2 slot on this board is beneficial, you should pay attention to how Asus structured these slots. Because of these advantages, the longer M.2 Key-M 22110 slot should be the primary M.2 slot; however, if you have a graphics card, you should avoid utilising this slot as your first choice. When an M.2 storage device is inserted into the M.2 Key-M 22110 slot, Asus set it to utilise PCI Express 3.0 lanes from the CPU, essentially locking the primary PCIe x16 slot to an electrical PCI Express 3.0 x8 connection.
Most users won’t notice or care, but high-end graphics cards may suffer because of this configuration of the M.2 slot. (And many users are likely to overlook this information, which is buried in the board’s specifications page as a footnote.) I’d love to see the Type-22110 slot configured differently, like the M.2 Key-M 2280 slot, to utilise the SATA interface or PCI Express 2.0 lanes from the B450 chipset.
Asus updated the ROG Strix B450-F Gaming motherboard’s aesthetics by adding a shroud and an RGB LED Republic of Gamers emblem around the rear I/O ports, as well as giving the rest of the board a new look. Aside from that, there were no major modifications to the board’s appearance or storage layout.
Three PCIe x16 slots and three PCIe x1 slots are available on the B450-F Gaming. The topmost location receives data from the CPU’s PCI Express controller, which is normally configured for PCI Express 3.0 x16. Again, never use the M.2 Key-M 22110 slot if necessary; otherwise, as previously stated, your GPU would lose half of its bandwidth.
The CPU also feeds the second PCIe x16 slot, which supports a maximum PCI Express 3.0 x8 connection. If the M.2 Key-M 22110 slot is in use, the connection will be downgraded to a PCI Express 3.0 x4 connection, which will most likely slow performance.
The B450 chipset provides data to the last PCIe x16 slot as well as all three PCIe x1 slots. When the PCIe x16 slot is used, it shares its data link with two PCIe x1 slots and disables them. If you plan to fill most of these slots, make sure to check the requirements page or your handbook to ensure that your hardware is configured properly.
The audio subsystem on the ROG Strix B450-F Gaming is nearly identical to that on the B350-F board. A Realtek ALC1220 DAC with an SNR of 120dB and a few Nichicon high-end audio capacitors make up the audio circuitry. To reduce EMI, the DAC is protected by an EMI shield, and the audio components are separated from the rest of the board. On headphones and small speakers, a pair of OP-AMPs can help increase the outgoing signal and improve audio performance.
The motherboard also includes ASUS Sonic Studio III software, which adds various audio reverberation effects to Windows’ default sound controller.
Connectivity and Rear I/O
The ROG Strix B450-F Gaming’s back I/O panel has lots of USB connections, including seven Type-A connectors and a single Type-C port. On the lone Type-C port, Asus chose to use outdated USB 3.1 Gen 1 characteristics, which is strange. There are three Type-A ports, two USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, and two USB 2.0 ports, all of which use USB 3.1 Gen 1.
There are also a few 3.5mm audio connectors, an SPDIF optical port, and an RJ-45 Ethernet port on the back I/O panel. For processors with integrated graphics, there are also HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort ports.
There’s not much to say about this motherboard’s networking capabilities. The RJ-45 jack is attached to an Intel i211-AT Gigabit Ethernet network interface device. Because there are no M.2 Key-E connectors, you’ll need to use a PCIe x1 or USB adapter to install a Wi-Fi adaptor.
BIOS and Software
After accessing the BIOS, you’ll see the EZ Mode menu, which shows you the system’s basic specs and working circumstances. This menu is sufficient for altering your boot sequence and getting the system up and running, and you can use the EZ Tuning Wizard to conduct some automated overclocking. If you’re more familiar with overclocking or want to learn, the Advanced Mode menu has a more advanced AI Tweaker menu with all the tools you’ll need to push your processor to its maximum. You can also tweak your RAM settings here to get the best performance.
Aura Sync RGB software, which can modify the colour of the board’s built-in RGB lights as well as any additional lights connected to its two Aura RGB strip connections, is included in addition to the Sonic Studio III software.
Asus’s GameFirst IV is the most beneficial application supplied with the board, as it allows you to pull data from several network connections at the same time. The efficacy of this programme will be restricted by other networking considerations, however in the appropriate scenario it can aid boost performance while gaming or downloading large files.
It’s tough to assess the worth of the ROG Strix B450-F Gaming motherboard because the AMD B350 chipset, and the various boards that use it, can also support current-generation AMD CPUs. Ultimately, it’s designed to serve as a replacement to the exiting Strix B350-F, yet the older model remains strong. The board is undoubtedly competitive, but it isn’t much more appealing than its predecessor. It has a new feature set, a better layout, and an extra M.2 Key-M slot, however not everyone will use these extra features, and the M.2 Key-M 22110 slot should be avoided.
Despite this, the B450-F Gaming performs admirably and provides a good foundation for developing a low-cost tower setup. It’s a good citizen for the money on a cheap AMD Ryzen AM4 build if you navigate its few idiosyncrasies correctly.