Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing
Today we are taking a look at our first MSI B450 motherboard. The Tomahawk series is a more affordable series of motherboards designed to facilitate high-end platform features at a very reasonable price. In this case the motherboard also looks pretty good too. Without further hesitation let's take a look at the MSI B450 Tomahawk.
The B450 Tomahawk features a x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slot, DVI-D, HDMI, USB 3.1, and SATA6Gb/s.
The B450 Tomahawk costs $99.99
Packaging and B450 Tomahawk Overview
Packaging and Overview
The box and packaging are basic but get the job done.
The accessory package includes two SATA6Gb/s, IO shield, M.2 screws, case badge, build guide, driver DVD, and manual.
MSI put in a whopping six fan headers. All of the headers are hybrid PWM/DC mode headers. However, the two headers circled in red run in PWM by default while the ones circled in blue are in PWM mode by default. The motherboard's aesthetics are easy to handle, and the oversized VRM heat sink looks pretty good. The back of the motherboard is bare of a lot of hardware and there are indicators where to remove standoffs if your motherboard already has them installed.
The rear IO panel features BIOS Flashback button, two USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, DVI, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, Gbit LAN, and 7.1 channel gold plated audio jacks.
The PCI-E slots operate as follows. The top slot is directly wired to the CPU at x16 PCI-E 3.0. The other x16 slot is electrically PCI-E 2.0 x4, and it shares two of its lanes with two of the x1 slots. The M.2 slot is directly routed to the CPU at x4 PCI-E 3.0, but if it's used the top two SATA6Gb/s ports will be disabled.
Four of the SATA6Gb/s ports are angled at 90 degrees, while two others are angled straight up. A USB 3.0 internal header is located near two USB 2.0 internal headers.
One RGB LED header is located at the bottom left corner of the motherboard near the COM header. The other is located at the top right corner, both offer eFuse based polarity protection.
We find boot LEDs above the 24-pin power connector. The CPU VRM gets power from an 8-pin power header.
The VRM heat sinks are screwed into the motherboard and seem to make good contact with the MOSFETs.
MSI B450 Tomahawk Circuit Analysis
The B450 Tomahawk shows us the goods with the heat sinks removed!
The VRM is in a 4+2 phase configuration, and while that might seem low, in this case the number of MOSFETs has been doubled per phase to decrease overall temperatures when the VRM is under high load. We find a Richtek 4+2 phase PWM designed for new AMD CPUs, and it has three integrated drivers for the VCore output (4 phases). The SoC phases and one VCore phase use Richtek RT9624F drivers (labeled 4P=). The MOSFETs are the ON Semiconductor NTMFS4C024N and NTMFS4C029, with two of each per phase.
The memory VRM is one phase with the same MOSFET configuration as the CPU phases, and it's controlled by a Richtek RT8125E PWM controller with integrated driver labeled "8Y=".
MSI B450 Tomahawk Circuit Analysis Continued
B450 Tomahawk Circuit Analysis Continued
Audio hardware includes a Realtek ALC892, some gold series audio capacitors, and the PCB is physically isolated to reduce noise.
The Gbit LAN comes from a Realtek RTL8111H controller. A Pericom PI3EQX re-drives both USB 3.1 signals for both ports on the rear IO panel and a Texas Instruments HD3220 is used as the type-C switch.
The main SuperIO is the nuvoton NCT6797D. The chip labeled "504N" is responsible for the BIOS USB recovery technology, it's some custom microcontroller that's typically only found on MSI motherboards with the feature.
We find a 128Mbit/16MB BIOS ROM on the motherboard. Smaller nuvoton IC's like this NCT5605Y GPIO controller are used to expand fan control.
Here a Texas Instruments GD75232 multiple drivers and receivers chip is used to provide COM port functionality. ASMedia ASM1480 quick switches are used to switch around bandwidth between two SATA ports and the M.2 slot and between the x4 PCI-E 2.0 slot and two x1 slots.
BIOS and Software
The UEFI on this motherboard is pretty well designed. It has two operating modes, one is basic and one is more advanced. You are going to want to use the more advanced mode. Fan control is present in GUI form and works really well. Overclocking options are fully present and easy to understand.
MSI's software package includes X-Boost, Command Center, APP Manager, Gaming APP, Super Charger, Live Update 6, Smart Tool, Mystic Light 3, and CPU-Z MSI Gaming.
Test System Setup
Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications
- MotHeroboard: MSI B450 TOMAHAWK
- CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- Cooler: Coolermaster MasterLiquid ML240R RGB - Buy from Amazon
- Memory: G.Skill Sniper 8GB x2 3466MHz
- Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti - Buy from Amazon / Read our review
- Storage - Boot Drive: Kingston KC1000 480GB
- Storage - SATA6G Drive: Corsair Force 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 RM1000 - 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
The motherboard has a few RGB LEDs on the top right side under the PCB. Otherwise it's pretty dark.
I enabled XMP in the BIOS, set x42 for the multiplier, and then set a VCore of 1.35v with the second highest level of LLC. Memory overclocking was super easy, and we were able to get the kit up to 3400 pretty quickly.
CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks
3DMark: Fire Strike
3DMark: Cloud Gate
The B450 Tomahawk's performance is right where it should be. We had no real performance deviations that would be a cause for concern.
System IO Benchmarks
ixChariot Network Throughput:
The B450 TOMAHAWK's SATA, M.2, and networking performance are at appropriate levels.
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. The controller used on this motherboard is not the best compared to others on the market, but at least in this case the benchmark ran, on another B450 motherboard with the same audio controller, the test would fail to run. 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 back side 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 larger difference in temperature between the back and 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 B450 Tomahawk has surprisingly decent VRM performance. The heat sinks are working well and keep heat away from the PCB. 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
Fan Headers: Considering the price of the motherboard we didn't expect to find six fan headers onboard. MSI made an effort to add in the headers and they are all hybrid!
Aesthetics: The Tomahawk has awesome aesthetics, and the gray heat sinks on the motherboard look really high-end, and the matte black PCB with the silkscreen make the motherboard look durable.
Decent VRM: For $100 you can't expect too much in regards to VRMs, but in this case MSI did well, especially compared to some of the other motherboards we have tested in this price range.
USB BIOS Recovery: The motherboard is capable of flashing the BIOS without a CPU installed, allowing you to recover from a bad BIOS flash or corruption.
No Secondary M.2: More of a pet peeve, but I wish the motherboard had a secondary M.2 slot.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk is actually a very impressive motherboard for a motherboard that comes in just under $100. It has a very color neutral aesthetic, which adds a lot of value in this price segment. The large VRM heat sink seems to be quite effective of trying to lower the VRM temperature while covering up part of the rear IO panel.
The USB BIOS recovery feature isn't common on motherboards in this price range, and it will not only keep things safe, but it will also allow you to upgrade to future CPUs without having to flash the BIOS with an older one to maintain compatibility. If you are looking for a future-proof motherboard with a solid set of features and great looks, give the B450 Tomahawk a look.
The Bottom Line: MSI's B450 Tomahawk motherboard is an excellent value at just under $100.
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