We Look At A High-End AMD B550 Option
The B550 Taichi is not only ASRock’s highest-end B550 option, but it also has the distinction of being the most expensive B550 motherboard available today, with a $299.99 price tag that crosses completely into X570 territory.
In this review we will take a look at this board’s design and features, talk about the pricing overlap issue between X570 and B550, and, on a related note, try to understand why ASRock has positioned this model to compete directly with their own X570 Taichi at the same price point.
Features of the B550 Taichi from ASRock:
- Supports 3rd Gen AMD AM4 Ryzen / Future AMD Ryzen Processors
- 16 Power Phase Design, Digi Power, Dr. MOS
- Supports DDR4 5200+ (OC)
- 3 PCIe 4.0/3.0×16, 2 PCIe 3.0 x1
- Graphics Output Options: HDMI, DisplayPort
- AMD 3-Way CrossFireX
- 7.1 CH HD Audio (Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec), Nahimic Audio
- 8 SATA3, 1 Hyper M.2 (PCIe Gen4 x4), 1 Ultra M.2 (PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA3)
- 3 USB 3.2 Gen2 (Rear Type A+C, Front Type-C), 8 USB 3.2 Gen1 (4 Front, 4 Rear)
- Intel 2.5G LAN, Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax (2.4Gbps) + BT 5.1
- Supports 3rd Gen AMD AM4 Ryzen / future AMD Ryzen Processors
- Digi Power design
- 16 Power Phase design
- Not compatible with AMD Ryzen 5 3400G and Ryzen 3 3200G
- Chipset: AMD B550
- Dual Channel DDR4 Memory Technology
- 4 x DDR4 DIMM Slots, max capacity 128GB
- AMD Ryzen series CPUs (Matisse) support DDR4 5000+(OC) / 4933(OC) / 4866(OC) / 4800(OC) / 4733(OC) / 4666(OC) / 4600(OC) / 4533(OC) / 4466(OC) / 4400(OC) / 4333(OC) / 4266(OC) / 4200(OC) / 4133(OC) / 4000(OC) / 3866(OC) / 3800(OC) / 3733(OC) / 3600(OC) / 3466(OC) / 3200 / 2933 / 2667 / 2400 / 2133 ECC & non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- AMD Next Generation Ryzen series APUs support DDR4 5200+(OC) / 5100(OC) / 5000(OC) / 4933(OC) / 4866(OC) / 4800(OC) / 4733(OC) / 4666(OC) / 4600(OC) / 4533(OC) / 4466(OC) / 4400(OC) / 4333(OC) / 4266(OC) / 4200(OC) / 4133(OC) / 4000(OC) / 3866(OC) / 3800(OC) / 3733(OC) / 3600(OC) / 3466(OC) / 3200 / 2933 / 2667 / 2400 / 2133 ECC & non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Supports Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
- 15μ Gold Contact in DIMM Slots
- 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray Audio support
- Supports Surge Protection
- 120dB SNR DAC with Differential Amplifier
- NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier for Front Panel Audio Connector (Supports up to 600 Ohm headsets)
- Pure Power-In
- Direct Drive Technology
- PCB Isolate Shielding
- Impedance Sensing on Rear Out port
- Individual PCB Layers for R/L Audio Channel
- Gold Audio Jacks
- 15μ Gold Audio Connector
- Nahimic Audio
- 2.5 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000/2500 Mb/s
- GigaLAN Intel I225V
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Lightning/ESD Protection
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE
- Wireless LAN
- Intel 802.11ax WiFi Module
- Supports IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ax
- Supports Dual-Band (2.4/5 GHz)
- Supports WiFi6 802.11ax (2.4Gbps)
- 2 antennas to support 2 (Transmit) x 2 (Receive) diversity technology
- Supports Bluetooth 5.1 + High speed class II
- Supports MU-MIMO
“Taichi represents the philosophical state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potential. A motherboard that fulfills every task – with style! Become like water. Shapeless, formless, versatile for any situation.”
The B550 Pricing Overlap
At first glance AMD’s B550 chipset (first announced back in May) might appear to be the logical successor to B450, destined to become the basis of many budget Ryzen builds. But things are a little more complicated than that. AMD’s B550 chipset is positioned as a lower-cost alternative to X570 for Ryzen 3000 CPUs. And to be sure, there are significantly more X570 motherboards over the $200 mark than below it. But B550 has not exactly been a universally low-cost option, either.
B550 also loses backwards compatibility with pre-Zen 2 cores found on X570 chipset boards. In other words, B550 boards only support the current Ryzen 3000 series processors and future APUs – with the current products like the Ryzen 5 3400G disqualified due to its older Zen+ CPU cores. But if you are shopping for a motherboard to support one of the current Ryzen 3000 CPUs and don’t need the additional expansion capabilities provided by X570 chipset, then B550 is often a good way to make your budget go farther.
However, just to complicate things even further, there is a considerable amount of pricing overlap between the B550 and X570 boards, with a number of options from multiple vendors currently competing with one another at the same price point. And there is no better example of this overlap than the motherboard we’re taking a look at today: the ASRock B550 Taichi!
Taichi vs. Taichi (compare these two Taichi motherboards using ASRock’s website comparison tool, linked here)
If you’re familiar with the Taichi branding, you know that means a high-end option in the ASRock product stack. And for both the B550 and X570 option – with the same premium Taichi branding – to be available at the same price (right now, anyway), it seems like the X570 would be the obvious pick. But it actually isn’t that simple! Things have changed in the year since the original X570 launch, and the B550 version does boast some advantages.
There are meaningful differences that actually favor the B550 over the X570, beginning with power delivery. The B550 Taichi offers 16 phase power with dual 8-pin connectors, while the X570 Taichi is a 14 phase design with standard 8 + 4-pin power. Networking has also improved with the B550 Taichi, moving up from Intel I211AT 1GbE with the X570 to 2.5GbE capable Intel I225V. Wireless is unchanged, with both boards sporting an Intel 802.11ax solution.
And the last notable difference is in rear I/O, with dual display outputs – HDMI and DisplayPort – on the B550, and only a single HDMI output on the X570. This is a clear indication that the B550 Taichi is meant as the high-end option for AMD processors with integrated graphics. (Those have to be coming soon to the DIY market, right?)
B550 Taichi Board Design
ASRock offers a different look for the B550 compared to the X570 Taichi, with the same gear-infused brushed metal brown/gold design elements as the recently-reviewed Intel Z490 Taichi. I really like this look, with its coppertone kind of feel (if anyone remembers that era of appliances).
VRM heatsinks are substantial, which makes sense given the impressive 16 phase power design with dual 8-pin 12V connectors. The B550 Taichi also features fast Intel networking with 2.5 Gigabit LAN and Wi-Fi 6 onboard, plenty of rear IO connectivity, and even a Type-C USB 3.2 Gen2 front panel header.
The full list of features from ASRock includes:
- ASRock USB 3.2 Gen2
- ASRock Front Panel Type C USB 3.2 Gen2 Header (10 Gb/s)
- ASRock USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A Port (10 Gb/s)
- ASRock USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C Port (10 Gb/s)
- ASRock Super Alloy
- XXL Aluminum Alloy Heatsink
- Premium 60A Power Choke
- 50A Dr.MOS
- Premium Memory Alloy Choke (Reduces 70% core loss compared to iron powder choke)
- Nichicon 12K Black Caps (100% Japan made high quality conductive polymer capacitors)
- I/O Armor
- Matte Black PCB
- High Density Glass Fabric PCB
- 2oz Copper PCB
- Intel 2.5G LAN
- Intel 802.11ax WiFi
- ASRock Steel Slot Gen4
- ASRock Full Coverage M.2 Heatsink
- ASRock Hyper M.2 (PCIe Gen4x4)
- ASRock Ultra USB Power
- ASRock Full Spike Protection (for all USB, Audio, LAN Ports)
- ASRock Live Update & APP Shop
We aren’t going to go in-depth on the components found on the PCB, with resources in that department available from places like this already, but here are some highlights:
The B550 Taichi finishes off its premium appearance with a brushed aluminum backplate that covers about half of the PCB, with a cutout around the socket area to avoid impeding CPU cooler bracket swaps.
B550 Taichi Performance
Motherboard performance testing can be a daunting task. It starts to feel like an extension of quality assurance when test after test is run to attempt to isolate often minute performance deltas between motherboards featuring identical chipsets. It’s not like the old days, when a given platform had competing chipsets and board designs were considerably less standardized.
Nonetheless, we did run the ASRock B550 Taichi though its paces, to some degree. Some consumer benchmarks were performed, with the usual representation of Cinebench, Geekbench, 3DMark, and a couple of others. In comparing these results to our most recent benchmarks with the same Ryzen 9 3900X processor on an X570 test platform, the results were, as expected, very close to one another in most instances.
To begin testing, I decided to try out the board’s XMP compatibility using a G.Skill Flare-X kit certified at 3200 MHz with aggressive 14-14-14-34 timings at 1.35V. Using the auto XMP-equivalent setting in the UEFI setup, subtimings were incorrect, with the automatic tRC setting of 73 quite a bit higher than the XMP profile’s value of 48.
Automatic XMP settings on the left, manual settings on the right
After manually configuring the memory to 3200 MHz and 1.35V, and setting the timings to 14-14-14-34-48, the system was completely stable through all testing. Manual intervention is sometimes necessary on AMD boards with high-performance memory, anyhow, and I didn’t run into any GDM (Gear Down Mode) latency weirdness with this motherboard/RAM combo – though memory speeds with the kit are rather modest by today’s standards at 3200 MT/s.
|PC Perspective Test Platforms|
|Motherboards||ASRock B550 Taichi (BIOS 1.10A, AGESA Combo-AM4 v2 22.214.171.124)
MSI MEG X570 ACE (BIOS 7C35v192, AGESA 126.96.36.199)
|Memory||G.Skill Flare X 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 14-14-14-34 @ 1.35V
Crucial Ballistix LT 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4-3200 16-18-18-36 @ 1.35V
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 FE|
|Storage||CORSAIR Force MP600 1TB
CORSAIR Neutron Series XTi 480GB
|Power Supply||CORSAIR RM1000x 1000W|
|Operating System||Windows 10 64-bit Version 1909, November 2019 Update (Build 18363.592)|
|GPU Drivers||NVIDIA GeForce Game Ready 445.87|
I had mentioned above that CPU performance with our Ryzen 9 3900X was very close to our most recent reference benchmarks using an X570 platform (obtained using an MSI X570-ACE with AGESA 188.8.131.52), and if we were to go though every result you would see some slightly mixed results, depending on the benchmark. There are potential performance differences between AGESA versions, of course, and in this case we are comparing X570 AGESA 184.108.40.206 to the B550’s AGESA v2 220.127.116.11.
In single-threaded testing the Ryzen 9 3900X scored an average score of 519 over three runs, with multi-threaded scores averaging 7039. Performance was higher with the X570 ACE in this test, with an average single-thread score of 529 and multi-thread average score of 7106. In 3DMark the overall/GPU/CPU scoring breakdown was 11191/11066/11963, and with the same CPU/GPU combo on the X570 platform we saw scores of 10974/10866/11634.
Geekbench 5.1 average overall scores with the B550 Taichi were 1335 single, 11215 multi. This B550 test system should have an advantage with low-latency CL14 memory vs. the 16-18-18-36 kit used in the X570 ACE results in an overall test like Geekbench, with the latter providing average scores of 1341 single, 11191 multi. Higher single-core, and lower multi-core results, but not by much in either direction (again, tests run using different AGESA versions).
We could go through more tests, and more back and forth results, but in the end these platforms offered CPU performance within about 1% of each other. Features and price will naturally be more important considerations when comparing X570 vs. B550. However, I was interested in the internal/external storage performance with this B500 Taichi board, and to this end we ran speed tests using the fastest options we had on hand.
A 1TB CORSAIR Force Series MP600 Gen4 PCIe NVMe SSD averaged 4101.4 MB/s across a long (40 minute) linear read test, with our fastest external NVMe solution (the recently-reviewed combo of a Samsung SM961 NVMe SSD in an Orico enclosure) resulting in maximum transfer speed of 905.6 MB/s using the motherboard’s rear USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port.
The ASRock B550 Taichi is a high-end option for AMD’s B550 chipset, and is impressively specified and nicely built – as we have come to expect from ASRock’s Taichi boards. At $299.99 any B550 board is a tough sell considering its position relative to X570 options – including ASRock’s own X570 Taichi at the same price. But if you are content with onboard audio and networking, and thus have limited expansion needs beyond a single GPU, X570 is probably overkill, anyhow.
Checking prices on Newegg as of this writing (8/17/20), there were 26 AMD X570 boards priced above $200, and 17 X570 boards below $200. Moving to AMD B550 boards, there were just 8 above $200 (with the ASRock Taichi the highest at $299.99), and 33 priced below $200. In other words, B550 is clearly the less costly platform overall, though a significant overlap exists. Having now used the word “overlap” for about the 60th time, I’ll move on.
If you are considering an ASRock board for your Ryzen build, and the premium Taichi option is $299 for both B550 and X570, the X570 might seem like an obvious pick, though enhanced power delivery and networking (no to mention passive chipset cooling) from the B550 Taichi might be enough reason to downgrade chipsets. It’s a tough call.
On its own merit, however, the ASRock B550 Taichi is a solid option with premium features that give most X570 motherboards a run for their money.
This disclosure statement covers the way the product being reviewed was obtained and the relationship between the product's manufacturer and PC Perspective.
How Product Was Obtained
The motherboard is on loan from ASRock for the purpose of this review.
What Happens To Product After Review
The motherboard remains the property of ASRock but will be on extended loan to PC Perspective for the purpose of future testing and product comparisons.
ASRock provided the product sample and technical brief to PC Perspective but had no control over the content of the review and was not consulted prior to publication.
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Neither PC Perspective nor any of its staff were paid or compensated in any way by ASRock for this review.
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