A lot of builders have been waiting for the Tomahawk Max to release and I'll explain why
Published: Oct 5, 2019
The new MSI B450 Tomahawk Max motherboard has been available in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere around the world for a couple months or so now, but gamers and builders in the USA have had to wait much longer for reasons unknown. In this guide we'll go over the official release date, why people have been waiting for this specific model, the spec differences of the new Tomahawk Max vs the standard non-Max Tomahawk, and tips on building a PC with the Tomahawk Max.
After having been checking and checking and checking again pretty much daily over the past month or so, I've finally found an official product listing that details a Tomahawk Max US release date over at BHPhotoVideo where you can pre-order it:
It states an expected availability of October 16, 2019.
I've also just found the motherboard show up on Amazon too, which says it was first listed in mid September however it's only just come up for me in Amazon search results over the past couple days, and was nowhere in sight before that.
Bad news is it's currently showing a 1-2 month wait for shipping (on Amazon); not too surprising judging by the demand for this particular board (for reasons I'll get to). The fact is there are a ton of people who have been itching to get the new Tomahawk Max to finally go ahead with building a new Ryzen 3rd gen PC. As of right now, it looks like pre-ordering from BHP could get it in your hands the fastest, though consider giving your local Microcenter or other retailer a call and see if they do better.
It's a good question, so let me explain. You don't need to understand the following backstory, so if you're looking to build a gaming PC with a brand new Ryzen 3600 (or 3700X, or even the APUs in the 3200G or 3400G) and you want the best bang for buck motherboard that's also high-quality, feature-rich, and overclocking-friendly, the Tomahawk Max is a great option as it's pretty much the same as the previous standard Tomahawk (which has easily been one of the best value B450 motherboards over recent years).
But here's some context on why you should get the B450 Tomahawk Max instead of the standard B450 Tomahawk (the non-Max model) - if you're building with the latest Ryzen 3rd generation CPUs like the 3600.
These latest AMD processors, released mid 2019, also saw the new high-end X570 motherboard chipset release alongside it. However, X570 motherboards aren't exactly what you'd call budget-friendly, and are overkill for most building a value for money gaming PC. Therefore, if you're not doing extreme overclocking, and don't have any particular need for the new PCIe 4.0 feature the new X570 chipset brings with it (most builders won't and it's only enthusiasts who would benefit), to get much better bang for your buck you'll want to stick to the B450 platform.
B450 motherboards are much cheaper than X570, but there are plenty of good-quality models that come with all the features you'd need for a typical gaming computer (or mid-level workstation for that matters). But here's the deal; to use a B450 motherboard with the new Ryzen 3000 series CPUs, the chances are high you'd first need to perform a BIOS update on your B450 motherboard yourself for your new Ryzen 3rd gen CPU to be compatible. But here lies the problem; to be able to perform the BIOS update, you need to either:
Have an old AMD CPU on-hand to install in your B450 motherboard to be able to actually do the update.
Get a MSI B450 motherboard as they come with a feature called BIOS flashback which allows you to update the BIOS without needing to have an older generation AMD CPU on you (such as the standard "non-Max" version of the MSI B450 Tomahawk).
Sounds good, right? Especially plan B, no? Here's the problem with either of these solutions:
If you're building a new PC, you might not have an older AMD CPU just conveniently lying around for you to be able to do the update, and if you're a beginner building your first PC, I'd say there's 95% chance you won't. Getting a local store to do it for you, or having AMD ship out and loan you an old CPU for you to do the update are both options but cost time and money.
If you get a MSI B450 with the BIOS flash feature such as the very popular B450 Tomahawk, the problem is there have been widespread problems for quite a lot of people who have tried or have done this, due to the standard B450 Tomahawk having an insufficiently-sized BIOS chip which can't handle the larger BIOS required for the new Ryzen 3000 CPUs.
Therefore, getting a standard B450 Tomahawk isn't recommended for new Ryzen 3rd gen CPUs whatsoever - even if you do the BIOS update yourself, you could encounter issues either now like many others have, or down the road (due to the small BIOS chip). To solve the problem MSI quickly (well, it hasn't turned out too quick for the US) released a "Max" version of the popular Tomahawk with a new and bigger BIOS ROM/chip to be able to accommodate the new BIOS (and future BIOS updates). Plus, the new Tomahawk comes already equipped with the new BIOS too, so there's no need to update the BIOS yourself - very handy for those building a new PC.
Here are all the differences between the new B450 Tomahawk Max and the older B450 Tomahawk:
For the reasons above (mainly the BIOS chip upgrade and Ryzen 3000 compatibility) I highly recommend avoiding the standard Tomahawk and getting the Max version if you're in the market for a good quality, yet good value B450. In other words, if you're looking for a cost-effective board for a new Ryzen 3 3200G, Ryzen 5 3400G, Ryzen 5 3600, or Ryzen 7 3700X build, look no further. It's more than enough for any of these CPUs, even the high-end 3700X.
Only reason to spend more on the new X570 motherboard platform (besides having money to burn and you're building an extreme $2000+ gaming PC) is if you're planning on some heavy overclocking (though a Tomahawk Max will hold up well, too), or you have a practical need for the brand new PCI 4.0 feature that comes exclusively on the new X570 chipset (hint: most builders won't).
That being said, the Tomahawk is actually a great board for overclocking in its own right, with quality VRMs that maintain a stable, cool system under load. To be honest, a higher-end X570 (or older X470 if you don't mind updating the BIOS yourself) is really not worth getting if you want to be cost-effective.
Anyway, for a full PC build example using the new Tomahawk Max, check out our latest build guide for 1000 dollars that uses a Ryzen 5 3600:
There's not many reviews of the Tomahawk Max so far, but here's what I could find so far: (will update this section as more reviews of the Tomahawk Max release)