ASUS TUF B550M-Plus WiFi Review
During our time with the B550 motherboards it has become clear that they are surprisingly good considering that they are a more affordable version of the X570. It wasn't that long ago that if you got a chipset that was anything but the flagship take on that particular socket then you were having to give up a lot of performance and connectivity to obtain that lower price. However, in raw performance terms the B550 is just as good as the X570 thanks to some careful design choices and places to give up a little manufacturing cost to save some money. Most people utilise a single GPU and a single M.2, so having the PCI Express 4.0 lanes dedicated to those two things makes perfect sense to us. Equally whilst many of the motherboards will probably find themselves with a Ryzen 5 or Ryzen 7 installed, all of them have run our Ryzen 9 3900X as well as it can go. Or at least very nearly as well as it can. We're aware that we're pushing the boat out by using this particular CPU but is has allowed us to directly compare the B550 with the X570, and we think you'll agree that most of the scores are within a percentage point or two of each other. That's very impressive.
The ASUS TUF B550M-Plus WiFi is probably the motherboard that most obviously looks like a more affordable platform. If the Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master could easily pass as an X570 setup, then the TUF.. couldn't. There are two ways you can look at it, you can either think that it looks a bit cheap and a bit haphazard, or you can take it as an old school design that hearkens back to the motherboards we grew up with. We think the decision to use dual colour DIMM slots mean that the aesthetics are a deliberate choice. Motherboards have had uniform plastic for ages, so the ASUS team must have asked for two tone slots. Similarly the sprung mounted heatsink for the chipset reminds us of the heatsinks we used to see, and there can't be much cost difference between sticking the IO shield on the board or in the box. Particularly when you're building things on the scale that ASUS do. So instead of thinking it's cheap and careless, we think it's a deliberately retro look. Your mileage may vary.
One thing that is undeniable is the price point, and that has had some effect on the amount of toys you get to play with, particularly when it comes to fan headers and USB ports. Both those items are firmly in the 'just enough' category. The VRM heatsink design doesn't inspire massive confidence either, and ASUS reluctance to provide any firm details about how many Amps are available is almost as curious as their hiding of the VRM temperatures. At this price point people want their system to last for as long as possible because budgets are small, and hiding such a valuable temperature monitoring value from both the BIOS and any software monitoring we ran is pretty unforgivable. In use they didn't feel overly hot even with our overclock in place, but it's something we don't like to guess at.
The area you don't have to guess at is performance though. The mATX TUF B550M-Plus got our Ryzen 9 3900X up to 4.35 GHz across all twelve cores and kept it there throughout our testing. It speaks volumes about the reliability of the components and temperatures they must have been running at that there is enough cooling headers to keep a high end Ryzen happy and that the VRM heatsinks are doing their job, even if they are doing it behind a cloud of secrecy.
Whether you like the looks or not is a matter of personal taste, and there are certainly other B550 motherboards that give you more connectivity options, but if an affordable gaming rig capable of high performance is your sole desire in life then the TUF B550M-Plus WiFi will leave you happy. For us it looks a little too old school, gives up a little too much connectivity, and we'll never reward hiding of VRM temperatures, something only ASUS do but even then not consistently which is a pity because it didn't seem to get hot at all. Monitoring things like VRM's though make a much bigger difference on a lower board - if you consider £180 lower end - where you might actually be able to get somewhere close to stressing them out. If VRM temps are important to you and you need an mATX motherboard, go check out the MSI Mortar for now.