Motherboards PC Hardware

REVIEW | MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC

This is the first of Ryzen compatible B450 motherboards that we will be checking out as the B450 chipset was just recently announced by AMD a couple of weeks ago. One of the great things that AMD has to offer is that their current line up of Ryzen processors, both 1st and 2nd generation, are going to be compatible with future chipsets up until year 2020 so that means you can keep upgrading and still keep your current AM4 motherboard that you are still using.

So here we have on of MSI’s motherboard in the mini-ITX form factor: The MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC, which a motherboard from their Performance line-up.

What’s the difference between the B350 and B450 chipset?

The previous generation AMD B350 chipsets eventually supported a broader range of Ryzen CPUs with a simple BIOS update since all AM4 socket CPUs will be supported until year 2020. However, the B450 chipset has been designed to work with 2nd gen. Ryzen out of the box and has better overclocking capabilities as well as a more streamlined utilization of new chipset features such as AMD Precision Boost Overdrive and AMD StoreMI.

The implementation of Precision Boost 2 (PBO 2) with the Extended Frequency Range 2 (XFR 2) is more refined with the 2nd Generation Ryzen Processors with PBO 2 ensures better scaling of boosting the clock speed depending on how many cores are needed to be boosted, and XFR 2 pushes the CPU as much as the temperature headroom allows it.

On the other hand, the AMD StoreMI technology is an exclusive on 400-series chipsets. It basically fuses a relatively smaller capacity Solid State Drive to a higher capacity Hard disk drive to create a single super drive for faster read/write performance. It ensures smoother user experience and faster load times. This is totally different from SSD caching and is much more efficient as it can be turned on or off without having to re-install your operating system.

What’s in the box?

The front of the box has the typical MSI Gaming Plus branding but notably, it already indicates that the motherboard itself is “AMD RYZEN DESKTOP 2000 READY” so that means that the 2nd Generation of Ryzen processors will work out of the box without having to flash a new BIOS.

At the back of the box, you can see the specifications of the motherboard as well as some of the highlighted features.

The contents of the box are as follows:

  • MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC motherboard
  • 2x sata cables
  • I/O Shield
  • the usual paperwork and manual
  • label stickers
  • driver CD
  • MSI case badge
  • Screws for the M.2 slots
  • WiFi Antennaes

Aesthetics

The  MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC is a black and red themed mini-ITX form-factor motherboard following the design of other Gaming Plus motherboards. It features a black PCB, red print aesthetics on the PCB itself as well as  on the VRM and chipset heatsinks. It has two RGB headers which can be controlled via the MSI Mystic Light software.

This motherboard looks pretty basic unlike the other slightly more expensive models. But it is good to note that the PCIe x16 slot has an armor reinforcement and the VRM heatsinks are beefy almost similar to some of the heatsinks from the MSI X470 Gaming Plus that we previously checked out.

Main motherboard specifications and features

Official Product Page

Connectivity

I/O connectivity

For the back panel connections, we have the following:

  • PS/2 Combo Port
  • four USB 3.1 Gen1 ports
  • two USB 2.1 ports
  • HD Audio Connectors
  • DVI-D Port
  • HDMI Port
  • Gigabit LAN Port
  • Wi-fi AC/Bluetooth
Internal connectivity
  • To deliver power to the CPU, the motherboard has one 8-pin ATX 12v power deliver to the CPU. With our 2nd Generation Ryzen 2600X processor, we achieved ta maximum overclock at around 4.1GHz-4.2GHz with our 650w power supply which pulls around 200-250w.
  • Standard 24-pin ATX power connector.
  • M.2 slot at the bottom
  • four SATA 6GB/s connectors.
  • one USB 2.0 connectors that supports up to 4 additional USB 2.0 ports.
  • one USB 3.1 Gen1 connectors that also supports up to 4 additional USB 3.1 ports.
  • one 4-pin CPU fan connector
  • one 4-pin system fan connector that supports up to 2A
  • It also has two 5050 RGB LED strip 12v connectors for people who are going to look for RGB connectivity. The RGB lights can be controlled with MSI’s Mystic light software.
  • one Audio headers
  • then finally, we have the Clear CMOS jumper and Clear CMOS button.

Those are some of the relevant internal connections that are commonly used nowadays but there are others as well that we didn’t list down.

VRM cooling and overclocking

MSI  didn’t cut any corners on this one as we can see that this motherboard packs a true 6+2 phase VRM configuration controlled by the International Rectifier IR35201 Multi-phase controller. The mosfets used on the power phases are also high quality which are the IR3555 Integrated 60A PowIRstages which can also be found on higher-end motherboards. We honestly feel that this VRM configuration is actually much better compared to some other motherboards out there which has dual phase mosfets.

For our overclocking test we used two different setups configurations with different CPU cooling. To simulate a realistic workload, we used Blender, an open source 3D creation program with the Ryzen demo file. Then we used the AMD Ryzen Master software for overclocking and CPU temperature monitoring. We also used HWinfo to monitor the motherboard temperature.

For the first setup is we installed the MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC with the Ryzen 6 2600X inside the Silverstone SG13 mini-ITX case with the Noctua NH-L9a for CPU cooling and the Noctua NF-A12x25 for the fan intake.

Due to thermal limitations, we were only able to achieve 4.0Ghz on the CPU clock with 1.387v on the vcore. The motherboard peaked at a temperature of 76°C and the CPU peaked at 108°C surprisingly without crashing for a while. We ran the Ryzen demo Blender test three times at approximately 10 minutes each test. Anything beyond that pretty much crashes the system.

Overclocking with the Noctua NH-L9a cooler is not really advisable since it isn’t made for that. Another factor is the airflow restriction of the mini-ITX case which contributed to the heat of the CPU.

On next test, we decided to do an open-air setup with the much beefier Noctua NH-D15S CPU cooler. We opted for this because this is comparable to most liquid cooling solutions and in some cases, it even performs better. The NF-A15 fan also blows air over the VRM heatsink so it will help a lot with cooling.

This time around, we were able to max out our Ryzen 2600X up to 4.2GHz stable with the same voltage and the peak CPU temperature we got is 75°C and for the motherboard we had a peak of 60°C. We ran the render test three times for 30 minutes each run and we didn’t experience any instability or crashing. The CPU and motherboard temperatures remained at acceptable levels and we are very surprised on how well the MSI B450I held up on the open-air setup and we believe that inside a case with proper airflow, we can achieve similar results.

Memory support and expansion slots
  • The motherboard has 2-DIMM slots that supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory, with frequencies  up to 3466Mhz on A-XMP OC MODE.
  • There is also one PCIe 3.0 x16,
  • This motherboard also has one M.2  SSD slot for additional storage.
    You can refer to the diagram below for more information on the distribution of PCIe lanes and expansions.

MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC chipset

 

UEFI BIOS features

EZMode

1 bios

The BIOS is very intuitive and easy to understand and is pretty much the same with other MSI Gaming Plus motherboards. The EZMode has all the basic information and functionalities such as the Bood device priority, A-XMP and GAME BOOST, M-Flash, and Hardware monitor.

The A-XMP switch lets you select two different XMP profiles that your memory modules can support. The GAME BOOST switch gives an additional 450Mhz to the base clock to the processor.

Turning on the GAME BOOST is not recommended when you are going to do manual overclocking because it could lead to system instability.

Advanced mode

2 bios

The Advanced Mode features all the things you need to tweak your CPU, Memory, and motherboard settings.

OC settings menu

3 bios

The OC settings is pretty much easy to understand and people who have no prior experience in overclocking will easily get a hold of the settings.

The OC Explore Mode has two different settings, Normal and Advanced. Normal mode is pretty much everything that you will need to overclock and is recommended for overclock rookies.

One notable setting here is the Core Performance Boost which is utilized by AMD’s SenseMI technology for auto-overclocking by increasing the CPU frequency and voltage as long as the thermal headroom allows it.

Hardware monitor

You can program different fan curves for your CPU and case fans in the Hardware Monitor page. It also displays useful information such as the voltage fed in different components in the motherboard.

4 bios

On-board audio

The MSI B450 Gaming Plus uses the Realtek ALC887 audio with Japanese audio capacitors made by Nippon Chemi-Con, which are specifically designed for audio applications. As with most MSI motherboards nowadays, the PCB layers for both the left and right audio channels are separated for a much cleaner stereo separation creating a better sound stage.
The Realtek ALC887 is a multi-channel high-definition audio codec that has an high performance all analog I/O and integrated headphone amplifier.

We Listened to the Realtek ALC887 without any software enhancement with our Kurzweil KS40 active studio monitor speakers with our usual 320kbps music playlist. It’s pretty basic sounding but can be further improved with software enhancements.

MSI Software Suite

MSI has several software provided with their motherboards and in all honesty, most of them are gimmicky, but the software suites are pretty much the same with the rest of their motherboards though honestly some of them are gimmicky. Here are our usual picks that are actually pretty funcitonal.

MSI Command Center

The MSI Command center is an app let’s you tweak your CPU and DRAM frequency and voltages, customize your system fan speed/fan curves, and monitor your system temperature.

Though we don’t see ourselves using this often for overclocking, it definitely has some uses like the real-time on-board temperature sensors which allows you to see the temperatures in your motherboard and how fast are your fans spinning.

MSI Mystic Light

The MSI Mystic Light lets you control the RGB lighting on your motherboard as well as any MSI Mystic Light compatible peripherals you might have.

Conclusion

In it’s mini-ITX form factor, we are surprised how capable the MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC is in terms of overclocking. VRM temperatures remained acceptable even at a 4.2GHz overclock on our Ryzen 5 2600X. The VRM heatsink does it’s job very well in cooling with proper airflow inside the case.

The VRM configuration is not something that we have expected as we have seen in the previous MSI X470 Gaming Plus that though the VRMs are pretty much capable, it wasn’t a true 8-phase VRM. So we’re really impressed on how they implemented it this time. We can definitely say that this is a reliable overclocker.

In such a small form factor, with the connectivity options like the WiFi AC, Bluetooth, RGB headers, and M.2 slot, this will meet the needs of those who are looking to build a small form factor Ryzen powered PC which can be used for both gaming and productivity.

On the other hand, we wouldn’t recommend doing extreme overclocking on a mini-ITX case with restricted airflow but with a wide-range of selection in terms of mini-ITX chassis and compact AIO Liquid coolers, it can be done. But then again, with the streamlined implementation of Precision Boost 2 and XFR 2 in 2nd generation Ryzen processors, we think that user’s of such small form factor PC wouldn’t need to overclock at all.

We therefore conclude that MSI has brought another good product that will definitely impress. The MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC, in it’s simplicity, packs some pretty good internals especially with it’s quality VRM configuration. This motherboard will definitely suit those who wants to use a 6-core or 8-core Ryzen processor for a small form factor PC that can be a gaming powerhouse or productivity machine.

This one definitely gets an excellent performance award.

Pros:
  • Impressive VRM configuration and VRM cooling.
  • Simplicity
  • Built-in WiFi AC and Bluetooth
  • Full-blown B450 chipset features
Cons:
  • Could use an additional fan-header.
  • No POST code LCD. only LED debug. We feel like there could be a better way to implement this.

Local SRP is Php7,850

Ira James
Editor-in-chief | Tech Journalist | AMD Ryzen and AOC Gaming influencer | PC Hardware Enthusiast |

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