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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Overclocking

When it comes to overclocking, the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming is as good as any board I’ve seen from the standpoint of making the adjustments in the UEFI BIOS and achieving stability. To make a short story even shorter, I set the manual CPU vCore and that’s it. SOC voltage defaults to 1.1v on this board so I didn’t have to touch that. The TeamGroup T-Force TUF Gaming Series DDR4 3200MHz RAM was built for ASUS’ TUF series motherboards so it worked flawlessly. The timings and voltages were set correctly when XMP was enabled and things worked flawlessly after that. Only 1.40v was required on my test Ryzen 7 2700X CPU to achieve 4.2GHz across all its cores.

4.2GHz - DDR4 3200MHz

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That would be it were it not for one issue. The MOSFET cooler is fairly impressive giving its diminutive size. Its slim profile leaves plenty of room for CPU coolers and it seems to be well made. However, there is no replacement for displacement and this cooler goes a long way toward proving that. Under full load, the cooler hits temperatures of 174F on my bench. With some active cooling you can drop that a good bit and I saw temps around 162F. That’s not too bad but it is hotter than some systems I’ve seen. Inside a computer case airflow will be crucial if you want to maintain higher overclocks with this thing.

Conclusions

Dan's Thoughts:

My experiences with the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming can be summarized in a single word: Perfect. My experiences were outstanding from the moment I unboxed it to the moment I finished testing. I never experienced any quirks or oddities with the UEFI BIOS, included software or any of the integrated features. Now, the ROG STRIX X470-I Gaming ($193) is a higher end motherboard, but this one gives you 85% or more of what the more expensive version does for a much lower cost. Its hard not to like that. At the time of this writing the difference is about $45.

I’m not one for budget motherboards. In many cases they sacrifice features or quality in order to reach the lower price point. In this case AMD’s B450 chipset is cheaper than X470, but in this form factor very little if anything is given up. The rest of the feature set is very similar to that of the higher end motherboard. ASUS audio and M.2 drive layout is innovative and saves tons of space on the motherboard. The only things I would change if I could would be the lack of an integrated I/O shield and I’d have used a more substantial MOSFET cooling solution. Even so, I don’t think those are deal breakers. The I/O shield isn’t something you have to deal with a lot and the MOSFET cooling simply requires some active airflow to keep things in a comfortable temperature range.

If your looking for a mini-ITX motherboard on the cheap, the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming is hard to beat and certainly worth a look. I’m using an X470-I Gaming in my SFF rig and I’d probably have just as easily grabbed the ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming after having worked with both of these. That’s not to say the X470-I Gaming wouldn’t be worth a bit more money, and if it were going in my primary machine I’d probably have gone that route. As a secondary machine, I don’t feel like I’d lose out on anything with the cheaper version. Its an excellent board and an excellent price. It's hard not to like that.

Kyle's Thoughts:

One issue I had with the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming was one we had seen previously on ASUS motherboards with immature UEFI/BIOS. When we have a USB flash drive plugged in along with our specific USB mouse, we found that the mouse was losing signal in small pulses. We alerted ASUS of this previously on another motherboard and the engineers fixed it immediately with an EFI/BIOS update. We had the same issue with this motherboard and the 0901 EFI. As of typing this, 0901 is the latest BIOS on ASUS' site. I am going to kick over ASUS a mail about this now and see if the 0901 version was updated or if there is a fix coming. I would also suggest that this comes down to a compatibility issue with my particular mouse and flash drive, but it is repeatable for me. Obviously Dan never saw this issue or he certainly would have said something above. I have reached out to ASUS for clarification on this and will update here when I get a solid answer, which will likely be in a few days since it is almost the weekend in Taiwan/China. That all said, I have no doubts that this will be addressed...again.

I also had one issue with an RTX 2080 on this board putting my system into what I thought was a no-POST situation after using OC Scanner to overclock the GPU. I do not think that this had anything to do with the motherboard at all, as my display was put into a state where it would not see any signal on that DP input. I fought with this for a few days until I stumbled on the fact that I needed to hard power down my display, then all was fine again. (Yeah, the new RTX cards do some funky stuff.) I only mention this in case it is some crazy compatibility issue with the motherboard that you might come across, but I am 99.9% sure it was an RTX issue.

Overclocking on the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming was incredibly satisfying because it was so damn easy. Getting our Ryzen 7 2700X to 4.2GHz was fairly easily, and I was expecting a bit of a fight as this was the first B450 chipset I have worked with. It does have some quirks if overclocking by hand though. Setting the vCore to 1.30v in the UEFI would net an actual vCore spike of 1.406v under Prime95 load, so you need to be aware of this so you are not over-volting the CPU to dangerous levels. Along with that, I had no problem running 3600MHz spec Corsair RAM, that is not "AM4 approved", at 3600MHz with 18-19-19-36-1T timings. I ran this board for 12 hours with abusive settings without a single problem. However during that, I did see the surface heatsink temperature and MOSFET surface temperature level out at 57C/135F with airflow over the board from a single 1500RPM fan. You need to be mindful of airflow for this board in a SFF system (or any system), if you are encoding video on it, because it can certainly load up some heat. That said, the diminutive heatsink does and incredible job for what it actually is.

It is very likely that if you are considering this motherboard for a gaming or HTPC system, you are likely going to be running Precision Boost 2 anyway, and that system of rules will certainly reign in your CPU from doing crazy power things with your motherboard. To be frank, if I used the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming in a system, I would use PB2. Set it and forget it.

The Bottom Line

For $150 we think the ASUS ROG STRIX B450-I Gaming Motherboard is an excellent value. It is really all you need for a low cost gaming system. It overclocks well, it runs Precision Boost 2 perfectly, has a good amount of bells and whistles, and comes in a tiny package. You likely either know if you need more PCIe slots or M.2 expandability, and if you don't, we are pretty much in the "why not" camp. ASUS did not start the Small Form Factor craze, but ASUS is the company that is leading when it comes to perfecting it.

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