Question Ryzen 3600: ASRock B450 Pro 4, MSI B450 Tomahawk, or something else?

Jul 15, 2019
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I'm planning to replace my faithful 9 year old computer with one based on the much-hyped Ryzen 3600. I expect to buy the components in late August or early September, but certainly before Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows 7 support in January.

My initial motherboard choice was the ASRock B450 Pro 4. Since I'm not gaming or overclocking, and I don't need the "aesthetics" or the LED light show, this seemed to be just what I was looking for. But here aren't many "professional" reviews of this board (maybe because it's not sexy enough for a readership that does care about "aesthetics" and LED light shows?).

Then I saw that the MSI B450 Tomahawk had many overwhelmingly positive reviews. It also has BIOS flashback, and a more extensive QVL for RAM and storage. So it became my choice.

Now that the new Ryzens have been released, all the motherboard manufacturers seem to be struggling to support them on older motherboards. But MSI looks to be having particular difficulty with BIOS support, and apparently also with customer support. Meanwhile, ASRock claims the B450 Pro 4 has supported the 3000 (in some fashion) since May, and they have since released two BIOS updates. I can't find anything like the numerous complaints from MSI customers in various forums.

Does the lack of reported difficulty with the ASRock B450 Pro 4 merely reflect the greater popularity of the MSI B450 Tomahawk, or is ASRock actually doing better at supporting the new Ryzens? If I went with MSI, I would certainly wait for the MAX version. I've also looked at the low-end X570 options, but I don't think that's cost-effective for me. On the other hand, it may be worth paying a little more to (possibly) have fewer headaches with the build.
 
The fact that MSI generally made the best B450 motherboards, along with the fact that most of them have flashback (whereas almost none of their competitors' boards do), makes me think there may just be a lot more MSI boards being sold with the launch of Ryzen 3K, which could explain why you see more complaints for them. For instance, all of MSI's best B450 boards (Gaming Plus, Tomahawk, Pro Carbon) are sold out on Newegg (except for marketplace sellers).

To be honest, if you've waited 9 years to upgrade maybe it isn't a bad idea to wait another month or so and wait for the dust to settle on the BIOSs. You might also have better luck finding 400 series boards that already come with Ryzen 3K-compatible BIOSs (will have a "ready for Ryzen 3000" sticker on the box, if you're able to shop for them in a brick-and mortar-store).
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
At the risk of inciting a riot, because there are so many people around here who seem to worship the MSI gods, I'm going to repeat what I've been saying for a while now, long before the new Ryzen models were released. The Tomahawk and Mortar boards seem to have some kind of quality assurance problem, and that's without factoring in any kind of VRM configuration or BIOS problems into the discussion.

Obviously, not everybody has this problem. But there IS a problem, because myself and some others have seen it enough on these specific boards to not believe it can be a coincidence. And of course not everybody agrees, and that's ok too. It's enough to be aware of the possibility.

It could even be an R2000 issue on those boards that won't be apparent with R3000, but it's too early to say although I really don't think it's a CPU specific issue but rather a quality issue in the manufacturing process or design of these boards.

What MSI DOES have going for it is BIOS flashback, which many boards lack except on the highest end offerings, so that makes it somewhat appealing, but not enough for me to recommend them. In MY opinion, MSI has had quality control issues for a very long time on it's motherboards, especially the mid tiered to low end models. It got better for a little while, during the Haswell-Skylake era, but prior to that when AM3+ (And older) was popular and since Coffee lake and Ryzen, it seems there are an awful lot of unexplained board failures on many of their Tomahawk and lower series boards.

I would personally avoid them. In my experience, aside from their higher end boards which I have not seen a common pattern of problems on, I like the ASUS and ASRock a whole lot better, and Gigabyte somewhat better, although I'd avoid Gigabytes lower end boards as well. Their mid grade boards from the Gaming 5 level and up are really decent in most cases. And I'm generalizing across the different platforms here. Not just one camp or the other, meaning those generalizations pretty much apply regardless of AMD or Intel platforms.

The biggest problem though is that unless you get a B450 or X470 board that specifically says it is already Ryzen 3000 compatible, or have a 2000 series CPU to update the BIOS with, or are willing to take it somewhere to have the BIOS updated (Microcenter and most repair shops offer this service for a small fee), then you need one that has BIOS flashback and that is mostly only on MSI boards except for the ASUS Crosshair VII hero for B450/X470 or the VI extreme or VI hero for B350/X370.
 
Jul 15, 2019
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To be honest, if you've waited 9 years to upgrade maybe it isn't a bad idea to wait another month or so and wait for the dust to settle on the BIOSs. You might also have better luck finding 400 series boards that already come with Ryzen 3K-compatible BIOSs (will have a "ready for Ryzen 3000" sticker on the box, if you're able to shop for them in a brick-and mortar-store).
As I said, I actually do plan to wait until at least the end of next month for that very reason. By then the Max version of the Tomahawk should be out, which at least in theory should be "Ryzen 3000 Ready." But at this point I'm not convinced either that the BIOS it will ship with will actually be stable, or that the flashback will work properly. A Google search finds that the flashback has always been quirky about the USB sticks it accepts, and about successfully flashing the BIOS.
 
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A Google search finds that the flashback has always been quirky about the USB sticks it accepts, and about successfully flashing the BIOS.
It's possible the function itself is flaky, but my gut feeling is that a lot of issues with flashback are probably user error. There are specific instructions on how the BIOS file must be named, where it must be located, which USB port to use etc., but it seems most people can't be bothered to read the manual.
 
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At the risk of inciting a riot, because there are so many people around here who seem to worship the MSI gods, I'm going to repeat what I've been saying for a while now, long before the new Ryzen models were released. The Tomahawk and Mortar boards seem to have some kind of quality assurance problem, and that's without factoring in any kind of VRM configuration or BIOS problems into the discussion.

Obviously, not everybody has this problem. But there IS a problem, because myself and some others have seen it enough on these specific boards to not believe it can be a coincidence. And of course not everybody agrees, and that's ok too. It's enough to be aware of the possibility.
That's the picture I'm getting from all the forum discussion. The Tomahawk seems to be a crapshoot. Some people (apparently including MSI's own testers) get the 3000 to run without problems with the current interim BIOS. But others can't even get it to POST no matter what BIOS they flash, or what incantations and entreaties they make to the MSI gods. Some of those can get their boards to work with an earlier generation Ryzen. That does sound like some kind of design quirk that didn't show up until the 3000 revealed it. Maybe it can be worked around or corrected in the BIOS. Or maybe not. Regardless, it doesn't sound encouraging.

I would personally avoid them. In my experience, aside from their higher end boards which I have not seen a common pattern of problems on, I like the ASUS and ASRock a whole lot better, and Gigabyte somewhat better, although I'd avoid Gigabytes lower end boards as well. Their mid grade boards from the Gaming 5 level and up are really decent in most cases. And I'm generalizing across the different platforms here. Not just one camp or the other, meaning those generalizations pretty much apply regardless of AMD or Intel platforms.
While it's obviously been a while since I've built a computer, I've been using Asus motherboards for the last 20 years. I have no experience with either ASRock or MSI.

The biggest problem though is that unless you get a B450 or X470 board that specifically says it is already Ryzen 3000 compatible, or have a 2000 series CPU to update the BIOS with, or are willing to take it somewhere to have the BIOS updated (Microcenter and most repair shops offer this service for a small fee), then you need one that has BIOS flashback and that is mostly only on MSI boards except for the ASUS Crosshair VII hero for B450/X470 or the VI extreme or VI hero for B350/X370.
From what I've read, the flashback fussy about USB sticks and not entirely dependable. Is that an accurate assessment?
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I agree with TJ Hooker. I think most problems with Flashback that people see are due to either poor quality flash drives that have existing issues or are old, or have not been properly prepared and by that I mean take everything else off the flash drive and format it using the correct file table structure. And also, not renaming the BIOS image correctly. Most people just completely ignore that. I've seen quite a few cases where simply renaming the image correctly and then flashing it over again solved the issue.

As I said, the problems "I" have seen, have not been a result of Ryzen 3000, although that might certainly compound the problem given the issues with the BIOS and reduction in BIOS complexity they've had with some models including the issues with BIOS size due to the use of cheap small ROMs being a factor. Problems I've seen have been on first and second gen Ryzen with those boards. I am reserving judgment overall with the newer processors until I see something that tells me it is specifically a problem, but then again, the problems I've seen don't seem to be related to the use of any specific CPU model, they are general issues.
 
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I'm planning to replace my faithful 9 year old computer with one based on the much-hyped Ryzen 3600. I expect to buy the components in late August or early September, but certainly before Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows 7 support in January.
....
One of the observations made on Reddit is that so many of the Tomahawk's issues are being raised by first-time DIY builders who're in way over their head in an early adopter scenario.

By the time you're going to pull the cord on buying parts all the teething pains should be well passed. Tomahawk, in particular, is a terrific board for Zen2 parts and it would be really unfortunate to rule one out based on early problems that should pass.

Do yourself a favor, wait till then to make a decision
 
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Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I agree, provisionally.

In all the cases I am referring to with problems on the Tomahawk and Mortar boards, these have been verified issues that could only be resolved by replacement of the board by MSI. The fact that MSI has tested and replaced these boards, in THESE specific instances, seem to reinforce the fact that they too agree there were problems with the boards.

Whether these specific cases were due to something in early production models that they have since cleared up, or not, I have no knowledge of, but as of this current week there have still been threads where people using 2nd gen Ryzen platforms, not specifically related to Ryzen 3000 builds, have been occuring. Take that for what it's worth. I'd LIKE to be able to recommend ALL products by the four big board manufacturers. It would make life easier especially since MSI tends to whip some ass in those price ranges, but for me, I can't do it.
 
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As I research this more, I'm beginning to like the ASRock B450 Pro4 more than the MSI Tomahawk. It has two M.2 slots. The first M.2 shares a lane with the second full-size PCIE, which I never expect to use, rather than the Tomahawk's two SATA ports. The second M.2 slot only takes over one SATA port. It also has two SATA ports on a separate controller. I have two optical drives, and I like to have them on different controllers to better verify a burn. I burn on one drive and verify on the other. Being on different controllers increases the likelihood that a disk I burn will be readable on a completely different machine.

Another possibility is the ASRock B450 Steel Legend, which looks to be the "gaming" version of the Pro4 and is apparently the direct competition for the the MSI Tomahawk. It looks to have beefier heat sinks on the chipset and VRM, although that might not matter with the 3600 and the 75 watt video card I'm planning to get.

Both boards currently cost less than the Tomahawk, and the few reports I can find about building Ryzen 3000 with them suggest ASRock is having less teething trouble than MSI. But ASRock boards don't have the flashback feature. I'll just have to see if they're shipping "Ryzen 3000 ready" boards a month or so from now. The official word from MSI is that the Max version of the Tomahawk won't be available "in the near future," whatever that actually means.

Such fun!
 
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The Tomahawk has 4 ports from the chipset, 2 from the CPU. Seems like it'd be functionally the same as have as the ASRock board having some from the chipset and other from an ASMedia chip.
Actually not. On the Tomahawk, the M.2 drive takes over both ports from the CPU. The remaining four SATA ports are all from the chipset. ASRock's designers decided to share the primary M.2 drive with the second PCIE slot rather than the SATA ports. And the second M.2 slot only uses one SATA port, as its bandwidth is restricted. Different design priorities, I suppose.

Another option that's similar to the Tomahawk but a bit cheaper is the B450-A Pro.
That was the first MSI board I looked at. It seems identical to the Tomahawk except for the LEDs and (apparently) smaller heatsinks. I decided on the Tomahawk instead because it had many more overwhelmingly-positive reviews, and also the heftier heatsinks. Given its greater popularity, I suspect MSI will put a higher priority on fixing the Tomahawk BIOS than the B450-A Pro.
 
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Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
You might want to take a read of this. I pretty much take @InvalidError at his word when it comes to just about anything related to architectures on motherboards or memory so his observations about VRM heatsinks are probably well worth consideration.

There are not many people out there who are more knowledgeable. Some, but you and I will probably not know or meet them unless we happen to be at an engineering conference.

https://forums.tomshardware.com/threads/ryzen-ram-compatibility-with-hyperx.3498075/post-21158818
 
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You might want to take a read of this. I pretty much take @InvalidError at his word when it comes to just about anything related to architectures on motherboards or memory so his observations about VRM heatsinks are probably well worth consideration.

There are not many people out there who are more knowledgeable. Some, but you and I will probably not know or meet them unless we happen to be at an engineering conference.

https://forums.tomshardware.com/threads/ryzen-ram-compatibility-with-hyperx.3498075/post-21158818
Thanks for pointing out that thread. Since I'm not overclocking, and I'm planning to use the 65-watt 3600 along with a low-wattage video card (I don't game or edit video; but I do use software that requires CPU and RAM but doesn't demand much of the GPU), I could save a few bucks by going with the B450-A Pro rather than the Tomahawk.

What it ultimately may come down to is local availability. Best Buy carries the Tomahawk, but not the B450-A Pro. Fry's carries the Asus Prime B-450 Plus, but not the comparable ASRock or MSI boards. I think it would make sense to buy any motherboard from a local brick and mortar store, as I can make sure it has a "Ryzen 3000 Ready" sticker before I pay for it. That might avoid some of the headaches.

Does anyone know about the Asus Prime B-450 Plus? Like the other non-gaming boards, there aren't many reviews out there.
 

DMAN999

Commendable
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Here is a review of the Asus Prime B-450 Plus:
https://www.overclock3d.net/reviews/cpu_mainboard/asus_b450_prime_plus_review/16
According to that review it did not perform very well.
I know you are not looking for a gaming oriented board but I have an Asus ROG Strix B450-F Gaming MB which I got on sale for $90 last November and I can recommend it if you want a good quality board with good features that performs very well.
I run a Ryzen 5 2600 OC'd to 4 GHz and run my 3200 Mhz G.Skill RAM running at 3400 MHz.
IMO it is a very good mid level board.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I would second the B450-F.

It's a little more money, but every person I know of (And there are many) who has that board has had no complaints with it. Sure, some teething pains early on after release, but since BIOS revisions have ironed things out it has not been a problematic model at all to my knowledge and most I know with it say it is well worth the modest price difference between it and these others.

Reviews on TH and other sites like this one, all seem to give it a thumbs up as well. If budget allows for it, it's probably the best sub-150 dollar option.

https://www.overclock3d.net/reviews/cpu_mainboard/asus_rog_strix_b450-f_gaming_review/16


Available at Fry's.

https://www.frys.com/product/9629903?site=sr:SEARCH:MAIN_RSLT_PG
 
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I would second the B450-F.

It's a little more money, but every person I know of (And there are many) who has that board has had no complaints with it. Sure, some teething pains early on after release, but since BIOS revisions have ironed things out it has not been a problematic model at all to my knowledge and most I know with it say it is well worth the modest price difference between it and these others.

Reviews on TH and other sites like this one, all seem to give it a thumbs up as well. If budget allows for it, it's probably the best sub-150 dollar option.
Yes, that seems to have gotten many positive reviews, and it's available at the local Best Buy (the Fry's nearest me seems to be perpetually out of AMD motherboards). And to be honest, I have a bit of preference for Asus because all the motherboards I've used for at least 20 years have been Asus, and I haven't had any problems with them. As DMAN999 noted, Asus' non-gaming B450 board seems to be of lesser quality than its competitors from ASRock and MSI. So the B450-F may well be a good choice for me. I'll see what the situation is a month from now.
 
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I would second the B450-F.
...
The Asus B450-F looks very good, and it's locally available from Best Buy for $127, the same price as Amazon and Newegg and not significantly more than the Tomahawk.

But the memory QVL on the Asus Web site was last updated a year ago, and the RAM I've commonly seen used for recent Ryzen builds is not on it. It's missing the 3200 versions of Corsair Vengeance LPX, Patriot Viper 4, and Crucial Ballistix; and many of the part numbers on the list are apparently obsolete.

The QVL for "devices" (power supplies, hard/SSD drives, CPU cooling, keyboards and mice) is also a year old, and missing current models. The Wraith Stealth stock cooler included with the Ryzen 2600 and 3600 is not on the list. This QVL seems to be generic for all B450 motherboards.

One advantage of the Tomahawk (and possibly other MSI boards) is that their QVL is more extensive and recent than either ASRock or Asus, even though it doesn't include power supplies, keyboards, and other "devices." But how it is possible to determine what current RAM to choose if the QVL is out of date?
 

DMAN999

Commendable
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To find RAM that is compatible with the Asus ROG Strix B450-F Gaming you can check the various RAM Manufacturer's websites for their compatibility tool like the G.Skill Memory Configurator and Corsair Memory Finder.
I'm pretty sure Crucial has a similar tool on their website as well.
I personally can vouch for the G.Skill TridentZ 3200 C16 kit listed in my signature.
 
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