Last Updated June 24, 2020
B450 motherboards are still the best value for budget AMD builds; even if you're eyeing off future 4th gen Ryzen processors. Last month AMD made a surprising announcement that their upcoming 4th generation Ryzen 4000 CPU series (launching late 2020) will not be supported by B450 motherboards, but then fairly quickly did a 180 based on the disgruntled feedback from the community.
In this short and sweet article we'll explain what it means if you're a current B450 owner or if you're planning a fresh new value gaming PC build with a Ryzen 3000 processor and B450 motherboard with a plan to upgrade to a Ryzen 4000 processor in the next year or two.
AMD's initial announcement last month that there will be no Ryzen 4000 BIOS updates available for B450 board owners caused a bit of a stir in the community - nothing too crazy, but enough that AMD listened and gave the people what they wanted. Had AMD not done an about-face, and stayed firm on their initial (controversial) decision, current B450 owners would be in a slight (first-world) pickle if they had hopes on dropping in a brand spankin' new Ryzen 4th gen (4000 series) CPU at the end of the year (or in 2021 and beyond).
In order to do said upgrade, B450 owners would need to also upgrade their motherboard, which is a royal PITA component to upgrade in a PC (Pain in the You Know What). I mean, everyone understands that every once in a while a new CPU series requires a new type of motherboard, but the sizeable amount of upset B450 owners following AMD's initial announcement was objectively warranted and understandable, as the (implicit but widely accepted) expectation was the B450 platform would indeed support the next generation.
In an article breaking the tough-luck news, AMD Does An Intel, Axes Zen 3 on 400-Series Motherboards, Techspot articulated what many enthusiasts in-the-know were thinking. In terms of motherboard manufacturers, MSI stood to lose the most following the surprising announcement as they had implied that their refreshed B450 "Max" boards (like the super popular B450 Tomahawk Max) would be good for a future upgrade to the Ryzen 4000 series. To be more specific, MSI claimed that all "Max" boards would "support all future AM4 product releases" or something along those lines, which would be classified as false advertising if B450 ended up not supporting Zen 3 (which is still on the AM4 socket).
Tech Jesus weighed in on the issue and the backlash in his typical balanced, informative perspective:
Backlash might be a strong word in this situation, but there definitely were some unhappy customers after AMD's announcement. For good reason though because as I said, builders were implicitly promised (meaning, not directly but it was assumed) that buying a B450 motherboard over the past year or 2 meant that you'd be "future proofed" for upcoming next-gen Ryzen CPUs (specifically Ryzen 4000 series).
Thankfully, after seeing the reactions to their announcement to drop support for B450 owners, AMD reversed its decision and announced that they would be opening up Ryzen 4000 compatibility for 400 series (B450/X470) motherboards (in the form of a BIOS update provided by board manufacturers, ie MSI or Asus etc). Excellent news, and big props must go to AMD for listening to the fanbase, despite first causing a bit of a mess.
To confirm, thanks to AMD's reversal following considerable backlash, they eventually decided that yes, B450 motherboards will support the upcoming Ryzen 4000 CPU series ("Zen 3" architecture) by means of applying a BIOS update to B450 boards. This BIOS update, which will technically be a beta BIOS (explained below), will be engineered and provided by the actual motherboard manufacturers (such as MSI or Gigabyte) should they choose to release one for their particular boards.
AMD's surprising backflip on Ryzen 4000 support covers all 400 series motherboards, meaning enthusiast X470 motherboards will support Ryzen 4000 too. This is great news and gives the very popular 400 series a longer lifespan, and credit must go to AMD for doing this to the 400 series owners out there who are excitedly eyeing off the much-anticipated 4th generation Ryzen chips that will further build on AMD's now-sizable momentum in the desktop market.
AMD announcing Ryzen 4000 support for B450 motherboards is great, but just be aware of one small caveat - the BIOS provided by board manufacturers won't be the exact same fully-featured Ryzen 4000 BIOS that 500 series (B550/X570) boards will have, but a slightly stripped-down "beta" BIOS instead.
Historically, a beta BIOS is one that is as it sounds; temperamental and with the risk of issues. There may also be missing features such as losing certain graphical options in the BIOS navigation, as well as lost support for previous CPUs (in the case that your system becomes unstable and you need to revert back to a previous BIOS using an older CPU).
Here are AMD's exact words (paraphrased) on the matter from their statement announcing their backflip on B450 support for Ryzen 4000:
This is why some people (and AMD themselves as seen just above) recommend a 500 series board to get the optimal experience using Ryzen 4000. How smooth or problematic the beta BIOS that manufacturers provide will end up being remains to be seen until the time comes, so it's really up to you to make a decision based on the information you have.
To give my personal input here based on your upgrade plans, I'd say that if you're a current B450 owner and looking to upgrade to Ryzen 4000, you might as well just go for it (especially with the MSI "Max" models as they have larger BIOS ROM chips than older B450 models).
If you're building a new PC now using a Ryzen 3000 processor, and you have no plans to upgrade to Ryzen 4000 (as you really shouldn't; very few people build a PC and then upgrade the CPU so soon) - the B450 vs B550 debate is on like Donkey Kong and either is going to be just fine. I'd even lean towards B450 if you want the best value for a budget/mid-range build, as the benefits of B550 over B450 aren't huge. Finally, if you're building a PC at the end of 2020 when Ryzen 4000 (likely) arrives, stay on the safe side and get a B550 to guarantee that you avoid any issues with the new CPUs (and get all the BIOS features). Besides, B550 should come down in price a bit by then (you'd hope so).
Not necessarily, but most should. AMD said they'll allow B450 motherboards to be compatible with Ryzen 4000, but it's up to motherboard manufacturers to actually create and release the BIOS updates for their boards. But yeah, most 400 series boards (B450 or X470) should get support once Zen 3 comes out, and you can be absolutely sure that the more popular models will be getting access to a Ryzen 4000 BIOS (ie most of MSI's boards, which are some of the best B450 motherboards going around for various reasons).
If you're buying a B450 these days and want to 100% guarantee future 4th gen support, your absolute safest bet is to get one of MSI's more recent "Max" B450 boards like the B450 Pro-VDH Max, B450-A Pro Max, B450 Tomahawk Max or B450 Gaming Pro Carbon Max. All "Max" models come with a bolstered BIOS ROM chip (32MB compared to 16GB of older models) which means better support for future BIOS revisions.
To run AMD CPUs beyond Ryzen 4000 (ie Ryzen 5000 or whatever AMD will name it), you will need a new motherboard. Ryzen 4000 will be the last processor series supported by the B450 chipset. As for B550 and support for Ryzen 5000, that's still up in the air and time will tell, as many predict a CPU socket change (AM5 etc) is coming along with the 5th generation Ryzen (and potentially DDR5 memory too).
When the time comes (Zen 3 is expected to launch either late 2020 or early 2021), if the manufacturer of your particular B450 models decides to create and release a BIOS update for Ryzen 4000 compatibility, you'll need to update your BIOS if you want to drop in a brand spankin' new Zen 3 chip. The exact steps to update your B450 motherboard's BIOS will depend on which manufacturer you have (Gigabyte, MSI, Asus, or ASRock), but there are essentially 2 different ways to update a BIOS.
Method A: Flash BIOS Button
Some motherboards, including many MSI motherboards (such as the B450 Tomahawk Max as just one example), have what's called a BIOS flash button on the actual board which makes updating the BIOS a bit easier. What you do is download the latest BIOS to a USB flash drive, plug the drive into a dedicated USB port, and press the button. The board will automatically update ("flash") the BIOS within a few minutes. This beauty of this method is that it doesn't require you to have an older CPU already installed on the board.
Method B: Manual Update
If your board doesn't have a flash button, you'll have to go into the BIOS to do the update (once you've downloaded the BIOS version to a flash drive once again and plugged it in) and navigate to the BIOS update screen (called "M-Flash" for MSI boards but may be named something else for different manufacturers) to then proceed with the update.
As mentioned, to update the BIOS this way you'll require an older Ryzen CPU already installed in the motherboard - unfortunately you can't just install the new processor to do the update. For all exact steps on doing this, head on over to good-old Tech Jesus's article updating a MSI BIOS With M-Flash (slightly older but still relevant, and applies to Gigabyte, Asus and ASRock boards too).
Hope this guide helped in your research, and good luck with your new setup. Need further help?
For Simple Questions
If you need further help choosing the optimal bang-for-buck parts-list for your specific requirements, feel free to post a question in our main comments section (on our Latest Gaming PC Builds page). We'll respond to you ASAP and do our best to help steer you in the right direction.
For Detailed Help (Premium Email Support)
To have ongoing access to our exclusive support email (reserved for customers only), check out the "Master" or "VIP" editions of our book (The Gaming Build Blueprint Manual). These editions come with included long-term support which may just come in real handy if you're building your first PC but are still a bit worried or intimidated.
You'll have the peace of mind to be able to ask us directly for help at any stage of your build. Our book is also the best way to directly support our work here at BGC, with profits often re-invested back into creating more and better content, including being able to buy more hardware and equipment for testing and so on.