Motherboard Choosing an ITX AM4 motherboard - help pls)

chromov113

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 14, 2020
33
12
So, recently I decided to rebuild my PC in a different case, for which a mini-ITX motherboard is required. Currently, I have ASRock B450M Pro4 with a 3500X onboard and 16 GB of RAM, with no overclocking other than XMP at 3200MHz. I'm building on a budget, but even then, there are too many options. I put all the important characteristics into a spreadsheet, ranked them aaaand... Still cannot make a decision. Take a look, please:




The spreadsheet is mostly based on this one plus some infos from manufacturer websites. Prices are in US dollars, but valid for Moscow, Russia for August 2021. If you find the spreadsheet useful, feel free to download it and use for your benefit.

I'd like to make comments on my considerations, I'll try to make it short, but skip it right to the conclusion, if you don't want to read or already have an answer.

Ryzen 5000 series: all motherboards can handle this.

VRM configuration: not very deep into this topic; I mean, I know how DC-DC conversion works and that more phases equals less voltage ripple and potentially smaller voltage level, but I don't feel encouraged to dive deep into datasheets and prefer to trust hardware reviewers. So I believe 4 and (3+3) phases are okay, while (3*2) on older ASRock MB's are better to avoid. I didn't find any reviews, benchmarks or brake-downs of Biostar, I only know their VRMs have a generally bad reputation. Buildzoid is of a very good opinion of Gigabyte's A520 VRMs and bad opinion of all ASRock's. Gigabyte B450 seems to have the same VRM design as it's A520 counterpart, but the parts are different.
All MBs have at least subtle heatsinks on VRM MOSFETs, plus I have a top-down CPU cooler, so temps should not be a concern.

VRM current capacity: not sure if I calculated it correctly, I simply sum up current capacities of all high-side MOSFETs. Anyway, the PC barely gets a CPU with TDP higher than 65W - I'm happy with the 3500X performance so far, and there are plenty of 6- and 8-core processors available.

OC and PBO: cool to have, buuuut - I have the current MB for 2 years, 3500X for one year, and I didn't do any overclocking ever, I just always had other things to do, and I expect this life pattern to continue, so - overclocking capabilities of the motherboard should not be a decision-making factor. Probably I will go ahead and enable the Precision Boost Overdrive, which - I believe - is available on all motherboards except for ASRock A520, and that's it.

RAM size and frequency: barely will need more than 32 GB, so every motherboard fits. But I want to clock the RAM to 3600MHz, which is optimal for Ryzen considering the Infinity Fabric clock, and B450/X470 do not officially support it. I know they can overclock, but it may be more complicated than on A520/B550, I believe.

PCIe version: not a concern. SSD speed on PCIe 3.0 suits me well. As for GPU, I'm not going to have a one that significantly benefits of PCIe 4.0 speed (damn, have you seen those prices?!).

M.2 hard drive: I have a single 512 GB PCIe 3.0 SSD, which I want to install on the front - don't believe it will be cooled properly on the back. It is equipped with an aftermarket heatsink, which also transfers some heat from the chips on the back of SSD, and I'd like to keep it - Gigabyte A520 is the best here. This SSD heatsink will also fit that motherboard aesthetically :)
I only need one M.2 SSD, a 2.5" SATA HDD handles the rest.

LAN: not a concern, I only have 350 MBit/s going into my home, and it is sufficient right now. Even 1 Gbit/s would be almost a triple of my current Internet speed.

Wireless: not a concern, there is an Intel AX200 in the PC right now, which goes into a new motherboard, if it's Wi-Fi card is of lower tier.

USB: got just a few USB devices, so any motherboard will fit. Type-C is not necessary, I have nothing to plug into it, especially on the back side.

Sound chip: not a concern, I will use wireless headphones or USB sound card. It just should be there.

Chassis fan header: not really a concern, I can always use a fan hub, if they are insufficient.

RGB lighting on the board: never gonna turn it on.

RGB headers: every motherboard has it.

Aesthetics: I may have preferences, right? :)

To round it up, I will definitely refuse buying Biostar for lack of information about VRM and price and both ASRock Fatal1ty for M.2 slot placement, RAM speeds and aesthetics. Gigabyte B550 is definitely good, but unnecessary expensive, in my opinion.
For now, Gigabyte A520I is my favorite, especially if I will be able to buy this used one. It also actually overclocks via BCLK (Buildzoid highlighted this), comes with a nice Wi-Fi antenna and has a native COM port, I may need this. Gigabyte B450 also looks good, but I'm concerned about RAM overclocking. On the other hand, it has CPU overclocking enabled, which is nice to have as an option.

What do you say?
 
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Skripka

Cat-Dog Perch Manager
Bronze Supporter
May 18, 2020
249
297
A few things:

  • RAM speed support is basically moot. You need a 'golden' Ryzen CPU to even get slightly above XMP 3600mHz without downshifting the IMC clock--at which point you're not gaining anything. Getting 4000mHz IRL never happens without downratio-ing the infinity fabric. Promises of 'support' of anything higher than that are pure marketing.
  • VRM is basically moot these days--even a cheap VRM on an AM4 socket board can handle OCing on air. You'd have to be running an R9 5900X under LN2 to have problems.
  • Wifi speed and support can be a QoL issue quickly these days if you have a NAS with RAID.
  • Speaking of wifi...usually the stock sharkfin antennas aren't very good in dBi. Aftermarket stubbies or even 802.11 router antennas will give you better SNR and power.
  • The one thing I dislike about Gigabyte ITX boards generally...they force 3x graphics-outputs on your motherboard I/O most people never use. I'd rather have more USB.
 

Arboreal

Master of Cramming
Silver Supporter
Oct 11, 2015
568
591
We all have different requirements and considerations.
An easy decider for me is that having owned an ITX board with 2 M.2 slots, I will only buy boards that support 2 M.2 drives when i need a new system.
 

chromov113

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 14, 2020
33
12
So many answers so soon! Thank you guys.

A few things:

  • RAM speed support is basically moot. You need a 'golden' Ryzen CPU to even get slightly above XMP 3600mHz without downshifting the IMC clock--at which point you're not gaining anything. Getting 4000mHz IRL never happens without downratio-ing the infinity fabric. Promises of 'support' of anything higher than that are pure marketing.
  • VRM is basically moot these days--even a cheap VRM on an AM4 socket board can handle OCing on air. You'd have to be running an R9 5900X under LN2 to have problems.
  • Wifi speed and support can be a QoL issue quickly these days if you have a NAS with RAID.
  • Speaking of wifi...usually the stock sharkfin antennas aren't very good in dBi. Aftermarket stubbies or even 802.11 router antennas will give you better SNR and power.
  • The one thing I dislike about Gigabyte ITX boards generally...they force 3x graphics-outputs on your motherboard I/O most people never use. I'd rather have more USB.
Okay, there is something to discuss.
  • Biggest XMP clock of my current RAM is 3200MHz, so 3600MHz would be a significant overclock for it. I'm eager to try it! In the worst case, I just replace the memory.
  • I keep that in mind, thanks.
  • But I don't have one :)
  • I also keep this in mind, thanks. What exactly is a stubby - an antenna of design similar to the ones on the home routers?
  • I just read an opinion on Gigabyte B450 ITX: a guy opted for this one exactly due to 3 video outputs.

but msi b550i has comport too.
And I guess at this point you can look into if your air cooler will be compatible with the motherboard.
...starting at $240 here. No, thanks.
 
Last edited:

makoto14

Efficiency Noob
Jul 19, 2021
5
1
i have been the using the gigabyte b550i since launch day. Its a meh board. it gets the job done for everything I do but the price is high as you already know. The most annoying part of owning the board is the BIOS is quite sparse compared to the ASUS x570i I had before. I mean i have a 4L case and a blackridge and a 5600x so i spend all my time trying to undervolt the chip. The board is fine, but overkill for me since i dont have high end cooling that could push the ryzens past 150w anymore. Oh yeah I personally would avoid the 400 series motherboards now. The upgrade path for those boards to newer chips are sketchy. I would get a 520 board over a 450 board at this point.
 
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dotch

Caliper Novice
Mar 25, 2017
24
8
If you can live with the single m.2 slot and the lack of ax-WiFi, the asrock b550-itx/ac is definitely the best price/performance board you can get.

It’ll also be reasonably future proof (in case you get a new cpu) and as you mentioned, you can replace the WiFi with an Intel 200 or 210.
 
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chromov113

Caliper Novice
Original poster
Jan 14, 2020
33
12
Thanks everybody, I decided to buy Gigabyte A520I AC, should suit my needs well.

Regarding clearance - I wonder if the CPU cooler doesn't interfere with the memory (on current mATX, it is installed into slots 2 and 4, and the one in slot 2 is very close to the cooler). I only will start assembly on Sunday best case.