ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming Motherboard Review

ASUS’ budget entry into the AM4 Ryzen mini-ITX world certainly has a lot going for it. With so many great mini-ITX motherboards coming from this company, expectations for the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming are high. This small form factor motherboard lets us overclock as well. We put it to the test and find out just how well it does for $150?

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Subsystem Testing

NOTE: For all Subsystem Testing, an AMD Ryzen 2700X (3.7GHz / 4.3GHz Boost) and 2x 8GB (16GB total) TeamGroup T-Force TUF Gaming Alliance (3200MHz DDR4 16-18-18-38, 1T@1.35v) memory modules running at DDR4 3200MHz speeds were used. For power, I used the an XFX XTR 850watt unit. Our discreet graphics card needs were handled by a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780Ti reference card. The CPU was cooled with a Koolance Exos 2.5 system and an Bykski Ice Dragon A-Ryzen-Th-X waterblock.

Sound Hardware

Despite being budget oriented, the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming uses the SupremeFX S1220A 8-channel HD audio CODEC. This implementation supports impedance sensing and has dual OP Amps. This implementation is very close to that of a higher end motherboard. While some corners are cut to hit a lower price point, such as the chipset its nice to see that a feature you are ultimately stuck with wasn’t given the bargain bin treatment.

The audio solution still features PCB isolation, dedicated audio capacitors and all of that. However, ASUS did cut corners by not gold plating the jacks. That said, the color coding is done with RGB LEDs imbedded in the ports which is a very nice touch.

The following specifications were taken from the manufacturer’s website:

ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A

- Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs

- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking

- High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input

- SupremeFX Shielding Technology

- ESSط¢آ® ES9023P

- Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *4

Audio Feature :

- Gold-plated jacks

- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel

- Sonic Radar III

- Sonic Studio III

The audio solution worked very well and provided excellent sound quality similar to what you would find on a vastly more expensive motherboard.

Audio - Subjective Listening

For subjective listening you want to listen to something that covers a range of sound types. For this portion of the review I went with Five Finger Death Punch’s American Capitalist CD.

CD audio was flawless.

Audio - Microphone Port Testing

The onboard audio MIC-IN port was tested using a Logitech Internet Chat Headset. Spoken words were recorded from the Windows Sound Recorder found under the Accessories folder in the start menu within Windows. The recording was using the highest quality settings available in the control panel for the audio device being used to record.

With the microphone boost option disabled, the recording sample’s audio levels during playback were a little on the low side with some minimal but noticeable distortion. With the microphone boost option enabled, the audio levels were excellent and there was no discernable distortion present in the playback of our sample.

Gaming Audio Quality

I have done some light gaming testing on our motherboards to get a sense of how the audio performs in games and not just how they sound listening to music as these are far more different activities than one might imagine. Due to the ease in which I can simply copy the game over the network without properly installing it, I have selected EA/BioWare’s Knights of the Old Republic MMO. No matter how you feel about this game, or games of this type, one area it does well is with its audio. There aren’t a lot of options to configure in the game for this, so these settings remain "apples to apples" for all the systems that we test. Additionally, the iconic Star Wars music is part of the game’s soundtrack and its various themes can be heard in the game world. This is music that many people grew up with. Having watched the movies more times than could easily be counted, you end up with a sense for how these songs and sound effects should sound. I think this allows for ease of comparison on different platforms and from different sources.

While playing games, the sound was excellent and in line with what I had expected given the specifications of the implementation.

DPC Latency

For those who may not know what DPC is, I’ll explain. Deferred procedure calls are a function within Windows that allows higher priority tasks such as device drivers to defer lower priority tasks for execution at later times. It’s an interrupt and reassignment of sorts performed by the operating system.

DPC latency varies from board model to model and brand to brand. DPC issues show up in the form of audio dropouts and streaming video issues. Naturally this is something that the enthusiast would want to avoid. Fortunately, there is a nice tool for checking this which doesn’t even require and installer. I used the DPC Latency Checker and let it run for 10 minutes to graph the results.

I thought it necessary to look at some systems which I wouldn’t have suspected of having any DPC latency issues around my house to get some baseline numbers for comparison. The utility graphs out the data nicely and tells you what your latency results mean in terms of the real-world problems you might encounter with the current system configuration. I went with my own personal machine which uses the ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition motherboard, integrated audio and Windows 10 with all the latest updates and patches applied.

ASUS Rampage IV Black Edition

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Our baseline system shows a reported interrupt to process latency of 225 and the highest reported DPC routine execution time was 262. This means that you shouldn’t experience any drop out issues with audio or video on this system.

ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming

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In this test the highest reported interrupt to process latency was 99 while the highest reported DPC routine execution time was 261. While the highest reported DPC routine execution time wasn’t the best I’d ever seen, the result was good and the interrupt to process latency is among the better results I’ve encountered.

Drive Performance

SSD Testing

For our testing, the operating system is always installed to a Samsung 840 Pro SATA based SSD using the controller in AHCI or RAID modes as required. In certain specific circumstances an Intel SSD 750 400GBdrive is used in a U.2 configuration for our operating system installation. Often this is used to verify NVMe boot capability or to circumvent issues installing to a standard SATA drive with AMD X470 chipset-based motherboards. M.2 functionality is tested using a Samsung 970 EVO 250GB drive for standalone M.2 testing. A second, identical drive is employed for testing RAID0 performance on motherboards that support this functionality natively, without PCIe adapter kits. This is a PCIe based SSD drive supporting the NVMe protocol.

Standard SATA III 6Gb/s drive tests were performed using Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX hard drives on all SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 16k block size configurations on all applicable controllers when possible. Frequently, third party or AMD based RAID controllers cannot always be configured the same as Intel controllers can. Testing was also conducted using the same model SATA drives in a stand-alone SATA configuration on all applicable controllers. All drive benchmarks were done using the freely available CrystalDiskMark program, run with both 50MB and 100MB sized test sets.

USB 2.0 Testing

To test the capabilities of the onboard USB 2.0 connections, we used a Sans Digital external eSATA / USB 2.0 drive enclosure, connected via the USB 2.0 port. Installed in the enclosure are dual Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX drives in a RAID0 configuration. In theory, this should always saturate the USB 2.0 connection an isolate the motherboard as the biggest variable in our USB 2.0 performance tests.

USB 3.x Testing

Given that motherboards are now supporting UASP and various USB 3.0 boost methods on many models, we’ve updated our testing methodology to include a UASP test whenever possible. The USB 3.0 implementation that some manufacturers are using does allow for a performance boost with non-UASP compliant hardware as you’ll see using what these companies call "turbo" mode. Granted the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is when enabling UASP on a device that supports it. The USB 3.0 Flash drive tests are essentially the same as these have always been since we started doing these tests, but with the added turbo mode test to showcase the feature in action. The USB 3.0 SSD UASP Enabled / Disabled tests are utilizing a Corsair Force GT 60GB SATA 3 SSD plugged into a Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking port which uses a USB 3.0 connection. This device was selected due to having UASP compatible firmware. At present, we are not conducting USB 3.1 testing due to the poor availability of such devices at the time of this writing.

Motherboard Storage Configuration

The storage configuration of the ROG STRIX B450-I is more basic than we are used to seeing. There is support for 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 2x M.2 ports, both supporting PCIe type devices. One of the ports supports SATA type devices as well. RAID 0, 1, and 10 are supported for SATA devices, but not NMVe drives. There are 6x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, and 2x USB 2.0 ports.

50MB Test Set

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In the 50MB sequential read test, the AHCI test configuration achieved a result of 654MB/s. The USB 3.1 and 2.0 tests came in at 305MB/s and 39MB/s respectively. In the 50MB sequential read test, the AHCI test resulted in a score of 151MB/s. USB 3.1 showed a result of 86MB/s, which is consistent our expectations for this drive. The USB 2.0 controller gave us a result of 39MB/s.

100MB Test Set

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In the 100MB sequential read test, the ACHI configuration test gave us a result of 259MB/s. Our USB 3.1 test achieved a result of 306MB/s. USB 2.0 came in at 38MB/s. Both results are what we’d expect from this chipset. In the 100MB sequential write test we see a result of 147MB/s from the AHCI configuration. In our USB tests, the 3.1 configuration gave a result of 87MB/s and 38MB/s from the USB 2.0 controller.

M.2 / U.2 NVMe Test Set

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Read test performance metrics were as follows: 3568MB/s (50MB), 3567MB/s (100MB), and 3569MB/s (1000MB). In the write tests, we saw the following performance results: 1542MB/s (50MB), 1542MB/s (100MB), and 1541MB/s (1000MB).

Network Utilization Tests

LAN Speed Test software was used with Windows Task Manager to determine the performance levels of the onboard network interface. LAN Speed Test was used to measure bandwidth and transfer speeds, while Windows Task Manager monitored CPU utilization on the test system. For the testing, an 800MB file test was used with the default packet configuration for the application. The test was run three times with the middle result chosen. Results were captured for the low, medium and high transfer rates. The test was performed using a plenum rated category 5e crossover cable to bypass any traffic, routing or other transfer issues and possible packet loss or corruption that can be caused by a router/switch or hub. The cables were connected between two test machines, one using the onboard NIC(s) of the board being reviewed and the other is an Intel EXPI9400PT 10/100/1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

Wireless network testing, if applicable was performed using a connection to an 802.11/AC enabled wireless router. ASUS model RTAC56U and then sent to a test machine connected to the same router via a RJ-45 LAN connection. The target system network adapter is a Intel EXPI9400PT 10/100/1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet card. The network settings for both network controllers and the router are all at their defaults and the 802.11/AC router has no other devices connected to it.

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Wired Networking Hardware

For networking, ASUS integrates Intel’s i211-AT controller into the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming. This is a PCIe 3.0 controller that’s capable of 10/100/1000Mbit speeds.

The following specifications were taken from the manufacturer’s website:

Intelط¢آ® I211-AT, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)

LAN1 - i211-AT

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In the write or upload test, we saw an average transfer rate of 46.86MB/s. In the read or download test we saw a result of 69.65MB/s. Our maximum transfer rate in our testing was 58.22MB/s write test and 73.36MB/s in the read test. In contrast, our minimum transfer rates were 38.24MB/s and 67.65MB/s respectively. CPU usage was 3% in our write test and primarily confined to a single core. In the download or read test the CPU usage climbed to 2%.

Wireless Networking Hardware

For wireless connectivity, ASUS opted for yet another Intel controller. It is Intel’s Wireless-AC 9560 controller.

The following specifications were taken from the manufacturer’s website:

Wireless Data Network

Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac

Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz

Supports MU-MIMO

Bluetooth

Bluetooth v4.2, 4.0LE, 3.0+HS

WLAN

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The following performance statistics were seen in the write tests: 5.91MB/s (average), 6.9MB/s (maximum) and 6.71MB/s (minimum). In the write tests we saw CPU utilization of 1%. Usage was again confined to one core. In the write tests, we saw the following performance results: 5.91MB/s (average), 5.98MB/s (maximum) and 5.79MB/s (minimum). In the write tests we again saw CPU utilization of 1%. As with the previous test, core loading was confined to core 0.

Benchmark Test Systems

The following system configurations were used for the Sandra memory benchmark graph, as well as all graphs listed under the Application and Gaming Benchmarks sections:

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Note: Our benchmark results format has been changed a bit. We are building up newer data sets and data doesn’t exist for all tests on all platforms as a result.

SiSoft Sandra

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Note that all results above were obtained running the installed memory in dual-channel or quad-channel memory modes where applicable.

The ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming gave us a result of 38.61MB/s.

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In this test the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming achieved a result of 325.78GIPS.

Hyper Pi

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Here the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming gives us a result of 10.505, which is in line with our other test systems, although its not a fantastic result. Given the nature of Precision Boost 2 and Precision Boost Overdrive, I think this is fine and benchmarks are more meaningless than they’ve ever been.

wPrime

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In this test, the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming achieves a result that’s similar to those of our other test systems.