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AMD AM4 Ryzen Motherboard Buyer's Guide

By Steven Bassiri from Jul 3, 2017 @ 7:50 CDT

RGB, BIOS, and Socket Considerations


The AMD Ryzen SoC provides the SPI bus from the CPU socket, so we almost always find the physical BIOS ROM(s) located right near the CPU socket. A few vendors have also taken great effort to try and optimize the placement of RGB and USB headers to better facilitate AMD coolers.




While most motherboards only offer a single BIOS ROM, it can be beneficial to have a way to recover from a bad BIOS flash or a corrupt BIOS. When you flash your BIOS/UEFI to a new version, you are at the same time erasing the ROM to write in the new ROM version, and if anything goes wrong, you could brick the system. There are two main recovery methods; two physical BIOS ROMs (redundancy) or USB based non-system BIOS flash recovery.



The second method relies on a separate, dedicated microcontroller designed to flash the ROM with an image from your USB stick, which means you don't even need to have a CPU installed. On the left, we have the redundant BIOS method where you switch between the BIOS ROMs manually, and on the right, we have a single BIOS ROM with a special chip labeled "BIOS" that offers recovery flashing. The chip for this feature isn't always labeled BIOS, but it is for this one brand of motherboard.




You can usually locate the BIOS ROM near a crystal oscillator, as you can see on the image on the left there are two near the BIOS ROMs. There is also an RGB LED header near this area, and that is because it's near the CPU socket. AMD's latest Wraith and Spire coolers offer a built-in RGB LED ring, and a USB or RGB led connection is required to change the color of the ring.




The motherboard in the image on the left offers a single USB 2.0 internal header and an RGB LED header midway through the motherboard so that the cable from the cooler doesn't have to reach far. The vendor on the right has a single RGB LED header at the top center of the motherboard for the same reason. Not all motherboards have RGB LED or single USB 2.0 headers near the CPU socket area, so if you are going to use a Wraith Max or Spire cooler with RGBs, it might be a good thing to look for.




There are some unique features throughout the AM4 motherboard lineup, such as this one that allows mounting of either AM3 or AM4 coolers. It's a handy thing to look for if you just love your old AM3 cooler. Some AIO water cooling units do support AM4 since their launch, and for those that don't, cooler vendors are offering conversion kits and new coolers.

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