The Bottom Line
Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we have our first B360 chipset motherboard review for you. MSI's B360M Mortar is designed for those who don't need the fancy features of the H370 or even Z370 chipsets, and would rather save some money.
There are a few differences between the H370 and B360 chipset, and you get fewer USB 3.0 ports and PCI-E lanes. However, you still get the USB 3.1 and the other new features. Let's take a look at the MSI B360M Mortar.
The B360M MORTAR features dual x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots (one supports SATA), Gbit LAN port, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, and SATA6Gb/s.
The B360M MORTAR isn't on the market yet and we don't have a price for it.
Packaging and B360M MORTAR Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box reveals the silver/white nature of the motherboard's aesthetics. Packaging is good enough to keep the motherboard safe.
The accessory package includes two SATA6Gb/s, IO shield, case badge, M.2 screws, manuals, and driver DVD.
We find four fan headers with PWM/DC flexibility; we circled them in red. The motherboard has a unique silver/white PCB with large heat sinks to match. We were quite shocked by some of the more premium features the motherboard has considering it uses a B360 chipset.
The aesthetics alone are worth noting since they cost a decent amount of money in this case. The back of the motherboard is bare of major components.
The rear IO panel features a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI port, Gbit LAN, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, and gold plated 7.1 audio output with S/PDIF out.
The motherboard features one x16 slot with metal reinforcement, and it's rated x16 PCI-E 3.0 all the time. The other slots are x1 slots and one x4 slot in the shape of a x16 slot, and they are connected to the B360 chipset. Two right-angled SATA6Gb/s ports are found on the motherboard.
There are two M.2 x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slots, the top one will also support SATA devices, but you will lose one SATA port when you install a SATA based drive in it. The second x4 M.2 slot only supports PCI-E based devices, and shares all of its bandwidth with the bottom x16 slot that is electrically x4.
The motherboard features a USB 3.1 (10Gbps) type-C internal header under the 24-pin connector. There are also two SATA6Gb/s ports located in the lower right corner of the motherboard.
We also get EZ Debug LEDs in the top right corner of the motherboard. A USB 3.0 internal header can be found at the bottom of the motherboard near a USB 2.0 internal header.
Near an RGB LED header, we find a ThunderBolt 3 GPIO header. All the heat sinks for the VRMs are screwed into the motherboard, while the PCH uses push pins.
MSI B360M MORTAR Circuit Analysis
B360M MORTAR Circuit Analysis
The B360M MORTAR shows some secrets when we remove the heat sinks.
The VRM is in a 4+2 phase configuration for the CPU VCore and iGPU voltage rails. The Richtek RT3607C is used in this case in 4+2 phase mode, it outputs to two drivers for the iGPU phases, and it seems that the motherboard uses two dual driver chips for the four CPU phases.
The power stages for the CPU VCore are in a two-high two-low configuration, while the iGPU phases use a one-high two-low MOSFET configuration. The low-side MOSFETs are the Sinopower SM4503NHKP, and the high-side MOSFETs are the SM4337NSKP. Hopefully, they will do fine since there are a lot and they are heatsinked, we will see in the thermal testing section.
The memory VRM is made up of a single phase PWM controller from Richtek and two low-side MOSFETs and one high-side MOSFETs consisting of Nikos PK616BSA and PK632BA MOSFETs.
MSI B360M MORTAR Circuit Analysis Continued
B360M MORTAR Circuit Analysis Continued
The audio codec is the Realtek ALC892, and there are eight Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors and a physical PCB divide to help improve audio quality.
An Intel i219v PHY provides the GBit LAN port from Intel. We fine an ASMedia ASM1543 type-C controller and ASM1563 USB 3.1 re-driver for the internal type-C USB 3.1 header.
At the rear IO port we fine two ASM1562 USB 3.1 re-drivers and one ASM1543 type-C controller for the rear USB 3.1 ports. Two ASMedia ASM1480 switch x4 PCI-E 3.0 between the last x16 slot and the second M.2 slot.
The Nuvoton NCT6797D SuperIO controller is used for fan control, voltage monitoring, and the PS/2 port on the rear IO among other things.
BIOS and Software
MSI's UEFI on their motherboard is designed to be cutting edge, and it's pretty much a replica of their Z370 BIOS, but with the limitations that come with the new platform.
That means you won't find the same overclocking settings, although many are still present in their cut down form. What you will find are the same fan control GUI, the two operational modes, and the typical system configuration menus.
Software applications include APP Manager, Live Update 6, Command Center, Gaming APP, X-Boost, DPC Latency Monitor, Mystic Light, Mystic Light Party, Smart Tool, RAMDisk, and Gaming Lan Manager.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: MSI B360M Mortar
- CPU: Intel i5-8400
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: Corsair Dominator Platinum 16GB (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: GTX 1080 Ti - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston KC1000 480GB
- Storage - USB Drive: Corsair Voyager GS 64GB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Case: Corsair Obsidian 900D - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Power Supply: Corsair RM1000i - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: MSI PA328 ProArt 32" 4K - Buy from Amazon
- Keyboard: Corsair K70 LUX - Buy from Amazon
- Mouse: Corsair M65 PRO RGB - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Headset: Corsair VOID RGB Wireless - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Network: MSI XG-U2008 10Gbit Switch
The motherboard has some RGBs under the audio divide of the PCB, by default they are white. Otherwise, the motherboard doesn't have any other built-in lighting. The motherboard's large coverage heat sinks offer a unique look as they match the PCB quite well.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
It seems that some boards have some sort of performance advantage over others. The main difference is the time when we tested the motherboards.
The two boards that generally score higher in some cases were recently tested, meaning within the last week, while the other motherboards were tested a few weeks prior. As time goes on, we will see how the motherboards do against one another as microcodes are finalized.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
MSI's storage performance is good, nothing negative to report, it seems everything storage wise looks healthy. Network performance is solid as well.
Audio RMAA 5.5:
I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.
Sound Judgment by Ear: Acceptable, I didn't think the audio was as lacking as the RMAA tests showed. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent
Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption
System power is measured at the wall with an AC power meter.
Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board.
I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.
All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB.
Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A lower temperature on the front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.
Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:
The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i) radiator are turned on to high (12v).
Up-close of the front of the VRM.
Up-close of the back of the VRM.
The B360M MORTAR's VRM gets warm, but the heat sinks seem to be doing a decent job of keeping the VRMs from overheating. MSI's PWM controller gets hotter than the power stages, which is kind of funny considering it has to be designed to perform in that manner.
While these results are a bit warmer than some other motherboards we have looked at, so far we don't see anything to worry about, so you should be fine with a non-K SKU CPU. Overall, this VRMAnything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).
What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts
More USB 3.1 than 3.0: You will find more USB 3.1 (10Gb/s) ports on this motherboard than USB 3.0. In fact, this is one of the only motherboards that not only has two rear USB 3.1 ports but also has an internal type-C header with USB 3.1 support (10Gb/s).
The rear IO panel features four USB 2.0 ports (just fine for mice and keyboards), and there is an internal USB 3.0 header and an internal USB 2.0 header.
Dual M.2 Slots: With the limitations of the B360 chipset compared to the H370 and Z370 chipsets, you might not expect eight PCI-E lanes from the PCH being directed towards two M.2 slots, but that's exactly what you get on this motherboard.
Large VRM Heatsinks: The large VRM heat sinks do a decent job of making sure that the MOSFETs don't get hotter than the PWM controller, and we are glad to see MSI heat sink all the CPU power stages. If you maintain proper airflow in your case, the VRM should stay cool.
White and Silver: The white and silver PCB and heat sinks provide a unique look not common to entry-level motherboards. The VRM heat sink even covers up a lot of the IO panel's metal, which adds to the aesthetic value of the motherboard.
Audio Scores: While the audio sounded fine to me, this implementation didn't score super well in RMAA. The Realtek ALC892 they use was popular a while ago, but these days you only find them on more affordable entry-level motherboards.
The MSI B360M Mortar should be an affordable B360 motherboard, but it has many high-end features, which is a nice touch. It has three of its four USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) ports implemented (more than many H370 motherboards I have seen), and one is even used for a type-C internal header.
They maintained an Intel NIC and made sure to include two full speed M.2 slots. While there were some concessions they made such as in the audio region and a low number of USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 gen 1) ports, some of it has to do with the capabilities of the B360 chipset.
However, overall we feel that this motherboard makes strides towards keeping high-end connectivity onboard, and we like that. If you want a stylish, affordable, and well equipped B360 motherboard, give the B360M Mortar a look.
Loaded with high-end features such as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) and dual x4 PCI-E M.2 slots, the MSI B360M Mortar offers the latest features in a stylish package.
The Bottom Line: Equipped with high-end features such as USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10Gb/s) and dual x4 PCI-E M.2 slots, the MSI B360M Mortar offers the latest features in a stylish package.
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