Published: August 28, 2020
With the recent release of AMD's new mid-range B550 motherboard chipset, choosing the right AMD motherboard for a new gaming or workstation computer has become a bit more confusing than it already was. Choosing a motherboard is normally a challenge due to the vast array of choices, but now the new B550 range is out and offering both cheap budget models and higher-end models priced well into X570 territory, choosing the best AMD motherboard for a new Ryzen build has never been more confusing. Here we'll simplify the X570 vs B550 decision by looking at the main differences between these two cutting-edge AMD chipsets, what they actually mean to you in practice, and anything else that might be good to know when hunting the right board.
Building a Budget PC? B550 vs B450
The new B550 chipset not only competes with its lower-cost predecessor (B450) but also with the high-end enthusiast X570 chipset, as many B550 boards are priced around the same or higher than cheaper X570 models. There are certain differences between the two chipsets which we'll get to below, but if you're strapped for time and just want the overall gist of B550 vs X570, in general either chipset is just fine for building a great modern AMD gaming/work PC, even if using the fastest AMD Ryzen CPUs on the market (Ryzen 9 3900, 3950X, or a future Ryzen 9 from the upcoming series).
Related: How to Update a BIOS Without CPU
For most people, since the chipsets are quite similar overall, choosing between B550 and X570 comes down to comparing specific models and what they offer for the price, but for certain users the actual chipset differences may be a factor. X570 is the slighter more advanced and flexible platform, but the benefits over the B550 chipset (which some call a watered-down X570) aren't huge, and only really benefit advanced users who use multiple next-gen devices (such as multiple PCIe Gen4 SSDs).
First let's look at the pricing overlap of B550 compared to X570 motherboards, showing the former sometimes being more expensive than the latter. In other words, certain B550 models will set you back more money than some X570 models, hence the confusion surrounding X570 vs B550.
The old simple rationale of "buy B450 if on a budget" and "buy X570 for high end builds"? B550 has crashed that party, with B550 models ranging from under $100 all the way up to $300, meaning that B550 can make sense for either budget builders or performance-perfectionist enthusiasts. To exemplify the now more-muddled landscape of AMD motherboards, here are the more expensive/premium B550 motherboards over $150 US which square off against X570 competition:
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|Premium B550 Models vs Budget X570 Models|
|B550||Launch MSRP (USD)||Similar-Priced X570||Current Price Estimate (USD)|
|ASRock B550M Steel Legend||$154.99||ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4S||~ $140|
|ASRock B550 Steel Legend||$179.99||ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4||~ $170|
|ASRock B550 Extreme 4||$184.99||ASRock X570M Pro4||~ $185|
|ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax||$199.99||ASRock X570 Steel Legend||~ $200|
|ASRock B550 PG Velocita||$219.99|
|ASRock B550 Taichi||$299.99||ASRock X570 Taichi||~ $300|
|ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus||$159.99||ASUS Prime X570-P||~ $160|
|ASUS TUF Gaming B550-PLUS||$169.99||ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Plus||~ $165|
|ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus WiFi||$179.99|
|ASUS ROG STRIX B550-F Gaming||$189.99||ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Plus (Wi-Fi)||~ $190|
|ASUS ROG STRIX B550-F Gaming WiFi||$209.99||ASUS Prime X570-Pro||~ $244|
|ASUS ROG STRIX B550-E Gaming||$279.99|
|Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro||$179.99||Gigabyte X570 Gaming X||~ $170|
|Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro AC||$189.99||Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite||~ $200|
|Gigabyte B550 Vision D||$260.99||Gigabyte X570 Aorus Pro WIFI||~ $260|
|Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master||$279.99||Gigabyte X570 Aorus Ultra||~ $300|
|MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk||$179.99||MSI X570-A Pro||~ $160|
|MPG B550 Gaming Edge WiFi||$189.99||MSI MPG X570 Gaming Plus||~ $170|
|MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge WiFi||$199.99||MSI MPG X570 Gaming Edge WIFI||~ $210|
|MSI MPG B550 Gaming Carbon WiFi||$219.99||MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk WIFI||~ $235|
Remember this isn't a complete list of X570 and B550 models out there, simply a collection of some popular models that are priced around the $150 to $300 range (where the B550 vs X570 debate applies). And please note the X570 prices are just mere estimates of what you can expect to pay on the market right now. But yeah, the overlap in pricing between B550 and X570 boards is confusing, and the now common question of whether you should buy a B550 or X570 motherboard is a legitimately good one. As already mentioned, and as is par for the course when it comes to almost any tech purchase, the answer is those same 2 immortal words: it depends.
Due to the price overlaps of B550 and X570 models, choosing between them is largely a matter of comparing specific models for their price, features, and quality, etc. Many general consumers will automatically assume that X570 is better than B550 though, based on previous chipset generations where there was a clear separation of budget and high-end chipsets (B450 and X570 for instance). But is their assumption correct?
Technically, X570 is the slightly superior chipset, and can offer more overall features, connectivity, and flexibility than a B550 can. That doesn't mean you should buy an X570 over a B550 though, as "high-end" B550 boards can be just as (if not better) than a competing X570. Besides, a good B550 can offer absolutely everything you'd ever need; X570 boards aren't going to offer tangible benefits to most users. If you're curious about the advantages of buying a X570, these are the overall technical differences between the B550 and X570 chipsets:
Since X570 motherboards have more PCIe 4.0 lanes (from both the processor and the chipset; B550 only has PCIe 4.0 via the processor), the chipset consumes more power than B550 and therefore has the potential to generate a bit more heat. That's why all X570 motherboards with the exception of a single anomaly (Gigabyte X570 Aorus Extreme) have a small built-fan, often referred to as the chipset fan.
Chipset fans haven't been used on motherboards for a while, and some enthusiasts aren't too pleased with their return on X570 as they create the potential for a little extra noise. Small fans are louder than larger fans as they have to work harder to push the same amount of air, and their sound is a higher-pitched, "whinier" quality that can be a little annoying to some.
The general consensus from X570 owners is the noise isn't noticeable over other fans in the system though, and that's if the fan even spins; in many situations the X570 chipset fan often sits idle, only firing up once PCB (the physical board) temperatures reach a certain threshold (such as when running multiple super-fast PCIe 4.0 devices, when overclocking, etc). I'd only consider the noise a factor if you're super-picky about building a silent system.
But the other potential downside to having a chipset fan present is the extra point of failure within your system that can also be a little annoying to replace. Small chipset fans can fail, and since they're a proprietary fan you can't generally replace them yourself. Overall, unless these two things are important to you, I wouldn't factor in the chipset fan when choosing between X570 and B550. But it was worth mentioning so you get the full picture.
Moving on from the chipset fan to a more important factor if overclocking a mid to high-end CPU, or if simply running a high-end Ryzen 9 3900X or 3950X at stock speeds: VRMs. Do X570 motherboards have better VRMS than B550? If you don't know what VRMs are, see our motherboard buyer's FAQ, though it's essentially the area on the board that is responsible for keeping things cool. The better the VRM on a board, the more suitable it is for overclocking and/or running high-end CPUs. You'd assume that the higher-end enthusiast chipset (X570) would have better VRMs than B550, and that's true to an extent as the absolute best VRMs of any AMD board belong to high-end X570 models.
But here's the kicker; I'm talking the super premium, very expensive boards that just aren't worth it for the far majority, and in the mid-range board battle where premium B550 boards face off against budget X570 models, the former actually has the stronger VRMs overall. See this general B550 vs X570 VRM test by benchmark beast Steve from HardwareUnboxed (I can recommend his videos as a good, reliable source), but the gist is that you can get a sub $200 (US) B550 like the B550 Tomahawk or B550 Aorus Pro that has better VRMs than similar-priced X570 boards like the X570 Pro4 or X570 Gaming Edge WiFi. Yup; slightly strange IMO, given X570 is supposed to be the high-end enthusiast chipset, but B550 is the newer chipset after all (X570 has been out for a fair while now) and so the bolstered VRMs do make sense.
These are just a couple examples, but there are plenty of affordable B550 motherboards with better VRMs than budget X570 motherboards. That means it's hard to recommend a budget X570 over a top B550, as the latter gives you better cooling for the money, with an X570 in this price category only really making sense if you need the benefits of the X570 chipset (explained earlier).
Technically you could say yes, but generally speaking - no. Let me explain. In terms of future CPU compatibility, B550 and X570 have the same lifespan, as both chipsets will likely only support up to Zen 3 (Ryzen 4000) and any CPUs beyond that will probably require a new motherboard (and new CPU socket ie AM5). But the argument for X570 being more "future proof" than B550 is the "deeper" PCIe 4.0 support, as X570 has more PCIe 4.0 slots (supports multiple PCIe Gen4 devices) and more PCIe 4.0 lanes compared to B550. However, as mentioned, in practice this isn't important for most people - at all.
Let's recap and summarize the reason why you should choose either X570 or B550. The new kid on the block is B550 which replaces B450, with X570 being AMD's high-end chipset for enthusiasts and power users wanting the most features.
Is X570 better than B550? Technically yes. But does it matter for most people? No; the quality and features present on many B550 boards is more than enough for a typical PC build, even if sporting high-end components.
B550 is more a watered-down X570 rather than a direct replacement of B450, and the extra fancy features and capabilities of the X570 platform isn't likely to be something you're going to take advantage of now or in the future.
For example, one of the main benefits of X570 over B550 is the ability to run multiple PCIe Gen4 M.2 SSDs, but unless you're building a high-end video editing PC and investing heavy into storage, doing this is unlikely to be worth the cost.
See Also: Does PCIe 4.0 Matter?
Plus, B550 VRMs (cooling and overclocking ability) are on par with X570, and sometimes even better (when comparing price). Many B550 models also look better than similar-priced X570 boards, and you've also got more choice if chasing affordable models that are mITX or have certain features like internal USB-C. But put simply, either B550 or X570 can serve you well for a powerful AMD Ryzen 7 or 9 build, so it really doesn't matter and as mentioned ad-nauseam it all comes down to your price range and comparing the specific models available.
We'll potentially go into more detail on some of the best X570 and B550 models for different prices (as we did in our roundup of the best B450 models for the money), but for now if you're curious which models we suggest check out the latest motherboard recommendations we make in our recommended gaming PC builds and recommended streaming PC builds. Anyway hope this guide helped clear up the confusing X570 vs B550 issue and you now are more confident in picking the right board for your needs. To finish off, if you want to get even more technical on the X570 vs B550 chipset differences and the different I/O configurations available to each, here were the official slides from AMD on each chipset for your reference: