Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we are taking a look at a dynamic B350 mini-ITX motherboard, one that was provided to us for our Raven Ridge review. The motherboard itself is much like other AMD mini-ITX motherboards, but overall layout differs from other products we have seen. It's also aimed at gamers, and as such as the word Gaming in its model name.
Many users have opted to go with a B350 motherboard instead of an X370 motherboard for their Ryzen builds. The B350 chipset doesn't support SLI, has a few less PCI-E lanes from the FCH (chipset), fewer USB 3.0 ports, and fewer SATA6Gb/s ports. However, since this is a mini-ITX motherboard, you wouldn't be able to take full advantage of the benefits the X370 offers, so you really aren't losing too much. Let's take a look at this affordable B350 motherboard.
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI features one M.2 slot, USB 3.1, USB 3.0, SATA6Gb/s, and RGB LED support.
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI costs $110.96
Packaging and AB350N-Gaming WIFI Overview
Packaging and Overview
The motherboard's box and packaging are simple and to the point. The motherboard is well protected with foam encasing the anti-static bag that the motherboard sits inside.
The accessory package includes WIFI antenna, IO shield, two SATA6Gb/s cables, driver DVD, and manual.
The motherboard has only two fan headers, both of them are circled in blue. Both headers support PWM and DC operation modes, and you can change the mode through the UEFI or through GIGABYTE's Windows application (SIV). The motherboard actually has heat sinks over the VRM and FCH (chipset). It offers a fun red and black color theme.
The positioning of headers is a bit different than what we are accustomed to. The 24-pin power connector is at the top of the motherboard along with the USB headers, front panel headers, and SATA ports. The 8-pin CPU power header is near the rear IO ports. The back of the motherboard does have parts, so be gentle when installing the motherboard.
The rear IO panel features two USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, WIFI antenna, HDMI, DisplayPort, two USB 3.1 type-A ports, four USB 3.0 ports, 1Gbit LAN, and 7.1 audio outputs with S/PDIF.
The motherboard features an x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slot on the rear of the PCB; it also supports SATA based M.2 drives. The motherboard offers four SATA6Gb/s ports, one USB 3.0 internal header, and one USB 2.0 internal header. Some front panel headers are located at the top of the motherboard.
We find a single 8-pin CPU power connector behind the VRM heat sink near the CMOS battery. Nested in the lower left-hand corner of the motherboard are the HD audio header, front panel speaker header, clear CMOS header, S/PDIF out header, 4-pin RGB LED header, and your CPU fan header.
The motherboard features another RGB LED header, this time an RGBW header that supports normal RGB, RGBW, and UV RGB LED strips. The motherboard's heat sinks use pushpins to attach to the motherboard, but they seem to make solid contact with the PCB.
GIGABYTE AB350N-Gaming WIFI Circuit Analysis
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI reveals some interesting things when we remove the heat sinks.
The VRM is in a 4+2 phase configuration controlled by an International Rectifier digital PWM controller, the IR35201. In this case, the controller is in 4+2 phase mode. Each of the phases uses a single International Rectifier IR3556 fully integrated PowIRstage rated for up to 50A and a CooperBussmann inductor with a saturation current of 76A. These are very high quality for a motherboard at this price point, and great for high-density VRMs such as this.
The memory VRM is controlled by a Richtek RT8120 found on the rear of the motherboard. It seems to be in a single phase single high-side dual low-side MOSFET configuration.
GIGABYTE AB350N-Gaming WIFI Circuit Analysis Continued
AB350N-Gaming WIFI Circuit Analysis Continued
The Realtek ALC1220 is utilized on this motherboard, and GIGABYTE added some Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors.
The Gbit NIC uses the Realtek 8111G controller. An Intel Wireless-AC 3165 provides up to 433Mbps Wireless AC.
An ITE IT8686E is used as the main SuperIO, and a 128Mbit BIOS ROM is used for the single BIOS on the motherboard. An IT8792E embedded controller provides extra control over fans, which is kind of odd since there are only two fan headers on the motherboard, so perhaps it enhances fan control features.
We find an NXP quick switch; we aren't exactly sure why it's on the motherboard, perhaps it's used to expand the number of CPUs supported on the motherboard. We also find an IT7236AFN microcontroller which is used to provide RGB LED capabilities.
BIOS and Software
GIGABYTE's UEFI for the AB350N-Gaming WIFI is very similar to that of GIGABYTE's other current motherboards. GIGABYTE's UEFI has had the same menu structure with many levels for a while, and if you are used to a GIGABYTE UEFI even back from the times of their AWARD BIOS, then you will have no problems here. The UEFI has all the settings you will need to change to overclock, set up fans, and even control some basic RGB LED functionality.
GIGABYTE's software suite includes 3D OSD, @BIOS, BIOS Setup, USB Blocker, Cloud Station, EasyTuen, Fast Boot, Game Boost, RGB Fusion, SIV, Smart Backup, Smart TimeLock, Smart Keyboard, VTuner, and APP Center for starters.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: GIGABYTE AB350N-Gaming WIFI
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X
- Cooler: Corsair H110i - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill Flare (2x8GB) 3200MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston Predator 240GB
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Micron Generic 240GB / Read our review
- 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 HX1000 - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 - Buy from Amazon
- Monitor: ASUS 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: ASUS XG-U2008 10Gbit Switch
- BIOS: 2.2
The motherboard has some RGB LEDs on the back of the motherboard that create a neat glowing effect that we have come quite enjoy. The motherboard can easily hide itself, but you can use the RGB headers and light up your build.
Our CPU can overclock to 4.0GHz and do 3200Mhz on memory. I will go through and tell you exactly what I did to achieve my maximum stable overclock, and as AMD's ecosystem of compatible memory kits becomes larger, I will add in a memory compatibility section.
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI might not use the X370 chipset, but it overclocks like one. While the VRM requires active cooling to maintain the overclock on this CPU, but that is because we are using their most power hungry AM4 CPU and an AIO water cooler. We set the VCore to 1.35v, LLC to Turbo, multiplier to x40, and DRAM to XMP enable. We also overclocked with the 2400G with an air cooler and we didn't need a fan dedicated to the VRM for that.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI's overall performance is a bit higher in some instances than other motherboards in our charts, but that is due to the fact it uses the latest AGESA 184.108.40.206 while all the other boards use older microcode updates. Overall, performance is where it should be, and we didn't find any issues.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI's storage performance is excellent, and we are using new drives, so that is why our scores are much better. Networking performance is where it should be for a 1Gbit NIC and a 1x1 WIFI card.
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: Excellent. Audio was impressive for a mini-ITX motherboard. 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 AB350N-Gaming WIFI's VRM is acceptable for overclocking the more power hungry 1800X, but if you use an AIO cooler as we did you need to use active cooling on the VRM. We saw lower temperatures on our 2400G overclocked using the stock cooler since it uses slightly less power and the local CPU fan cools the VRMs too. I highly recommend VRM cooling if you are going to OC a Ryzen 7 with an AIO water-cooler. Anything 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
Solid VRM Quality: While this is an affordable B350 motherboard, VRM quality is still top notch. The VRM is in a 4+2 phase configuration for the main VCore and SoC voltages, and this is important when we consider that if you use the new Raven Ridge APUs, you will be using the SoC rail more than when using a CPU without an iGPU. When you overclock the iGPU and set a voltage, that voltage is tied to the SoC voltage, so it's important that the SoC VRM is strong. Here we have 50A power stages for each phase, and while this can easily handle an overclocked Raven Ridge system, it can also handle an R7 1800X with constant airflow over the tiny VRM heat sink.
Rear IO Features: We get WIFI, as well as two USB 3.1 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear IO. That is a solid amount of features for the rear IO panel of a mini-ITX motherboard with WIFI and GPU outputs.
Dual RGB Headers: The motherboard has an RGBW header on the motherboard, but it also has a C_LED header, which is designed for the RGB LEDs on AMD's Wraith coolers that have them built in. You can repurpose it as an RGB LED header, so you get two.
Odd Layout: The motherboard has an odd connector position layout, with the 24-pin at the top of the motherboard along with the SATA, USB headers, and front panel headers. You will need to really plan carefully about where to position cables if you want to hide your cables.
The GIGABYTE AB350N-Gaming WIFI is a very value-friendly B350 motherboard at only $100 and loaded with features. There are some areas where you will get a slight downgrade, such as a Realtek NIC, 1x1 Wireless-AC, and a tiny VRM heat sink. I highly recommend dedicated VRM airflow if you are going to use a water-cooler, especially if you use one of AMD's Ryzen 7 CPUs and want to overclock.
The motherboard does come with a lot of features, including GPU outputs that support the new Raven Ridge CPUs. If you do go with this motherboard for a Raven Ridge CPU, you should know that the motherboard needs a newer BIOS version to support the new CPU. At the sub-$100 price point, I don't expect to see fancy colors or aesthetics, but the AB350N-Gaming WIFI delivers red slots and stylized heat sinks. Overall, at this price point, the motherboard offers a solid feature-set and strong performance.
The Bottom Line: GIGABYTE's AB350N-Gaming WIFI is loaded with features, quality, and performance all at a very reasonable price point.
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