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Best Mini ITX Motherboards (AMD, Intel) 2020

We’re taking a look at the latest best mini-ITX motherboards, that use Intel’s Z490 and AMD’s B550 chipset. We’ve worked with their layouts, probed their EFIs and bombarded them with our usual performance benchmarks, as well as tests for audio quality, storage performance and cooling, to see which ones are worth your cash.

We use an Intel Core i9-10900l< for our Intel motherboards and a Ryzen 9 3900XT for AMD motherboards. We use the latest BIOS versions, as well as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card and 16GB of 3466MHz Corsair Vengeance RGB Pro RAM.

Our new motherboard and CPU cooling test rigs also sport a Barrow Rhopilema test bench and full custom water-cooling systems. These setups include two 240mm radiators and a Laing DDC pump, to eliminate any cooling bottlenecks.

We have a Windows 10 installation on a 2TB Samsung 970 Pro SSD, along with a Samsung 960 Evo (for Intel motherboards) and a Corsair MP600 PCI-E 4 SSD (for AMD motherboards), to test the speed of M.2 ports. We also tap into the SSDs’ internal temperature sensors to see how well any M.2 heatsinks perform under load, using back-to-back runs of CrystalDiskMark’s entire battery of tests.

In addition, we use RightMark’s Audio Analyzer software to measure the dynamic range, noise level and total harmonic distortion of the on-board audio. Other tests include our RealBench suite of benchmarks,Far Cry New Dawn and Cinebench R20’s single and multi-threaded tests. Finally, we measure the total system power consumption at the mains at both stock and overclocked speeds. Our scores are based on a weighted calculation, including performance, features and value, and the overall score is the sum of those three values.

List of Best Mini ITX motherboards

Below is our round up on the best mini itx motherboards by amd b550 and intel z490 mini itx motherboards.

  1. ASRockZ490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3
  2. Asus ROG Strix Z490-i Gaming
  3. Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra
  4. MSI MEG Z490I UNIFY Mini-ITX Gaming Motherboard
  5. ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax 
  6. Asus ROG Strix B550-i Gaming
  7. GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX AM4 AMD B550 Mini-ITX Motherboard
  8. MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge WiFi

Best Z490 Mini ITX Motherboard

1. ASRockZ490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3

ASRock’s Z490 Phantom Gaming- ITX/TB3 is a beast that looks like it means business. While it will just about leave you with change from $300, the company has certainly gone to town to justify the comparatively high asking price. It offers full Thunderbolt 3 support for starters, and it has two VRM fans.

One of these fans is exposed and cools the tall heatsink at the top of the board. Another fan sits on a second heatsink under the I/O shroud, cooling the total of nine power phases beneath. The fans only spin up under certain conditions according to ASRock, but the top fan was spinning as soon as we turned on the system. We couldn’t control its speed either, but thankfully it was inaudible from a few feet away.

The cooling system extends down to the PCH heatsink by way of a heatpipe to spread the load, and this heatsink then attaches loosely (without thermal pads) to a heatsink on a vertically mounted daughterboard. The latter heatsink cools one of the two M.2 ports, but it’s quite fiddly to remove, requiring you to take the entire daughterboard off the PCB. However, this raised heatsink cooled down our M.2 SSD to a super-low temperature of just 55°C – the lowest result on the test.

The daughterboard also offers two SATA 6Gbps ports and a USB 2 header, but sadly, the main reason for including it seems to be to make way for the cooling system rather than adding more features. You still only get three fan headers and four SATA 6Gbps ports in total, as well as the two M.2 ports. Sadly, ASRock didn’t find a way to include a Type-C header either – it’s the only Z490 board on test to lack one, and strangely, even its far cheaper B550 sibling has one too.

Meanwhile, the rear I/O panel offers a reasonable array of options, with the full complement of audio ports, a total of five Type-A USB ports, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port and even a clear-CMOS button. There’s an antenna for the integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi too and the integrated I/O shield has been shrunk a little to allow for easier installation.

Firing up the board saw the VRMs kept below 52°C under load, although that’s not surprising with the massive heatsinks and two fans. Overclocking was trying, though, and the board required a hefty 1.36V to get our Core i9-10900K stable at 5.1GHz. It was nippy at stock speed, with a Cinebench single-threaded score of 524, but the power draw of 360W proved that, despite using default BIOS settings, ASRock is enabling some aggressive turbo boosting by default. Audio performance was excellent compared with the rest of the field, with the lowest TH D we’ve ever seen of just 0.0017 per cent, and a dynamic range of 105dBA.

Specifications:

  • Chipset Intel Z490
  • CPU socket Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GB DDR4 (up to 4666MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 3
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink, 2 x VRM fans
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3,3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C Thunderbolt 3,2 x USB 3 Type-A, 3 x surround audio out, line in, mic, optical S/PDIF output, 1 x HDMI2,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: The ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming ITX/ TB3 has an attractive design but, apart from the extra cooling power, Thunderbolt 3 support and great audio performance, there’s very little else to set it apart from the competition. Both Asus and Gigabyte’s Z490 options offer more for similar or less cash, but it’s still a decent option if you want Thunderbolt 3 support.


2. Asus ROG Strix Z490-i Gaming

While there’s currently no Asus Impact board available for Intel’s LGA12OO socket, the Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming is close to being worthy of the Impact name. It has a deliciously complicated PCB, with a triple stack of heatsinks and PCBs hiding both M.2 ports, and unlike every other board, both these ports are equipped with heatsinks. Our Samsung 960 Evo SSD peaked at 60°C under load, which was the second coolest result.

That ROG logo has full RGB backlighting too, with the only downside of this contraption being that it makes installing your SSDs very fiddly indeed. The PCB is otherwise suitably equipped. You get a Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 2 header, four SATA 6Gbps ports and Asus has even shoehorned a thermal probe header into the design, so you can hook it up to your water cooling system to have your fans respond to coolant temperature. It’s a shame, then, that Asus hasn’t found a way to include more than the usual three fan headers, which is a feat the Gigabyte board in this test has managed.

However, the Asus does include a Delta- made VRM fan to cool the 8+2 phase power delivery, – which can be controlled in the EFI should you wish to turn it off. The heatsinks are large and connected by a heatpipe to spread the load, so the fan can help cool a large portion of the PCB. The VRMs hit 56°C under load, which isn’t quite as cool as the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3, but it’s still an excellent result.

With seven Type-A USB ports on the rear I/O panel, it has the joint highest number of USB ports, although there’s no Thunderbolt 3 support like the ASRock board. You get USB BIOS FlashBack too, enabling you to drop in an 11th-gen CPU at some point without needing to own a 10th-gen CPU to update the BIOS, although it would have been good to see some additional on-board overclocking and testing tools. Audiophiles should note there are just three audio jacks too, so as well as lacking an optical port, you’ll need to hook up some multi channel speaker systems to your case’s front panel audio port too.

We didn’t enable Asus’ 10th-gen enhanced power limits for our stock speed tests, but doing so will see boosted performance compared with our results here, as well as significantly higher power consumption. Even so, the Asus’ performance was on par with the other boards and had the best audio results on test too.

Overclocking proved a little tricky, though, with the vcore seeming to drop significantly under load, eventually requiring 1.4V to maintain 1.32V under load, with load line calibration not able to deal with this on its own. This resulted in higher than average power consumption when overclocked.

Specifications:

  • Chipset Intel Z490
  • CPU socket Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GB DDR4 (up to 5000MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 3
  • Sound 8-channel SupremeFX S1220A
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks, VRM fan, M.2 heatsink
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3,3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3 Type-A, 2 x USB 2, line in, mic, line out, 1 x HDMI2,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: Asus has mostly hit the nail on the head with the Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming. It’s dripping with high-end features and, compared with the competition, it’s by far the best board for a 10th-gen Intel system, especially one that’s water-cooled. 

For this price we’d like to see a few extra features, but it’s a stunning and drool worthy piece of PCB real estate nonetheless. The best Z490 mini-ITX board with Type-C USB header available, although it’s not perfect.


3. Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra

With some excellent mini-ITX boards to its name over the years,Gigabyte’s Z490I Aorus Ultra has a reputation to manage, and from looks alone it appears to mean business. Its trio of heatpipe- linked heatsinks are chunky and help cool the 8-phase power delivery feeding the CPU, with no fans in sight. Thankfully, with a VRM temperature measured with our IR probe of 58°C, it’s more than able to cope with Intel’s mighty Core i9-10900K.

The M.2 and PCH heatsink, on the other hand, sports the same confused design as Gigabyte’s AMD-based counterparts, with a large slab of metal enclosing the actual M.2 heatsink underneath. While our M.2 SSD was still cooler with this than with no heatsink, it was cooler still if that top heatsink was removed, allowing the one below to breathe. Still, it’s a minor issue given that this won’t affect the performance of your SSD.

Meanwhile, the Gigabyte includes a Type-C USB port as well as the usual four SATA 6Gbps ports and two PCI-E M.2 slots, with the top port, Gigabyte claims, being able to support PCI-E 4 SSDs with future CPUs, with the 16x PCI-E slot also reportedly getting future PCI-E 4 support. However, Gigabyte has switched to tiny ports for most of the fan headers, with adaptor cables included in the box to convert them to 4-pin fan headers. Amazingly, this setup enables the board to offer four fan headers on the PCB, which is one more than every mini-ITX board, so well done Gigabyte.

There’s no Thunderbolt 3 support, though, and more disappointingly, no thermal probe headers either. That’s a real shame, because Gigabyte’s EFI and software offer excellent fan control, and the thermal probe input is great for controlling your water-cooling system. This omission surprised us given Gigabyte’s inclusion of them on other premium boards.

The rear I/O panel does have an impressive tally of seven Type-A USB ports, though, which is more than many ATX boards we’ve seen, although there are only three audio jacks. There are precious few overclocking and testing tools too, with the most noteworthy being the inclusion of Q-Flash Plus, which will enable you to update the BIOS without a compatible CPU, although this will only be useful with future Intel CPUs.

The Gigabyte board put in a solid if not inspiring performance in our benchmarks, with average scores in RealBench, Far Cry New Dawn and Cinebench’s multi-threaded test, but the single-threaded test was a little low at 503 points. The audio performance was average too, with the Asus board outperforming it comfortably.

However, it managed lower power draw at stock speed and when overclocked, and it matched the other boards’ performance when overclocked too.

Specification:

  • Chipset Intel Z490
  • CPU socket Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GB DDR4 (up to 5000MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 3
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Four 4-pin fan headers,VRM heatsinks, M.2 heatsink
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x M.2 PCI-E 3,4 x USB 3 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 2 x USB 2 Type-A, line in, mic, line out, 1 x HDMI2,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: We’d have liked to see a little more from the Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra, but in the end it costs much less than the other Z490 boards, while offering more fan headers and USB ports than any of them. If you can’t quite stretch your budget to the Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming, it’s our next favorite option for a mini-ITX system.


4. MSI MEG Z490I UNIFY Mini-ITX Gaming Motherboard

Rather than drop its Z490 offering into one of its middling product ranges, MSI has launched the Z490I Unify into its prestigious MEG range of motherboards. This means you get beefed- up power circuitry and active cooling, although the price sits close to $300 as a result.

The 8-phase power delivery with 90 A stages is cooled by two massive heatsinks linked with a heatpipe, and cooled by a small fan embedded within the I/O shroud. The VRMs did top 60°C under load, but this was accurately measured using software, which most other boards on test lacked, plus it’s tens of degrees lower than the danger zone, so nothing serious to worry about. Meanwhile, the large M.2 heatsink saw our SSD sit at 62°C under load, which was over 10°C cooler than without it, while a second M.2 slot resides on the underside of the PCB as usual.

The jet-black design is certainly menacing, but that’s all you get in terms of visual frills. There’s no active RGB lighting, and MSI has ditched 4-pin RGB headers in favor of 3-pindigital headers, so you’ll need to plan your lighting setup accordingly.

We were pleased to see a USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C header, though, and the rear I/O panel offers five Type-A USB ports plus a Type-C port too, but the features are otherwise a tad unremarkable. There’s just the usual count of three fan headers and four SATA 6Gbps ports, but no thermal probe headers. The rear I/O panel does offer the full complement of audio outputs, though, as well as a clear- CMOS button and antenna connectors for the 802.11ax Wi-Fi.

The MEG Z490I Unify got our CPU up to its usual 5.1GHz maximum with a minimum of fuss, needing 1.32V to get a stable overclock,which is better than the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 managed. MSI’s EFI is excellent too, so it’s just a shame it doesn’t include thermal probes for controlling fans in water-cooling systems.

Stock speed performance was reasonable, with good results in Cinebench, and the RealBench results were either on par or slightly ahead of the competition. However, we were disappointed with the audio performance, which sat below 100dBA and -100dBA for the dynamic range and noise levels respectively, which are low for the Realtek ALC1220 codec. On the plus side, the power consumption is low.

Specifications:

  • Chipset Intel Z490
  • CPU socket Intel LGA1200
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GB DDR4 (up to 5000MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 3
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink, VRM fan
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x M.2 PCI-E 3,1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 2 x USB 3 Type-A, 2 x USB 2 Type-A, 3 x surround audio out, line in, mic, optical S/ PDIF output, 1 x HDMI2,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: The MSI MEG Z490I Unify has a great looking, moody design, as well as decent cooling and an excellent EFI. However, other boards on test offer more in some areas for a similar or lower price, and the MSI’s lack of standout features let it down here.

The fan-assisted cooling is great, but it’s matched elsewhere, as is the M.2 cooling, overclocking and features, with some of the latter bettered by other boards too, albeit not by much. With the Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra costing $30 less, and the fantastic Asus ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming only retailing for $18 more, the MSI’s price is its biggest enemy.


Best AMD B550 Mini ITX Motherboard

5. ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax

The ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming- ITX/ax isn’t quite as lavish as itsZ490 counterpart, and at $215, it’s also the most expensive B550 board on test. Its silver cladding does look very smart, though, even if the PCB is a little bare compared with other boards on test.

You get an easily accessible M.2 port on the top side, which offers PCI-E 4 compatibility and is equipped with a large, flat heatsink that kept our SSD at a peak of 62°C in our back-to-back CrystalDiskMark runs. The second port is located on the rear of the PCB as usual, but is limited to PCI-E 3 SSDs as well as SATA M.2 SSDs.

You get the typical four SATA 6Gbps ports, and they’re handily angled too for easier cable routing. There’s a Type-C header on the PCB as well, so you can hook up compatible cases. However, despite the ample free PCB real estate provided by having the power circuitry on one side of the PCB, ASRock hasn’t added any more fan headers than the usual three, nor extra RGB headers, with the typical 3-pin and 4-pin headers included there too.

The 8-phase power delivery has a relatively small passive heatsink compared with the rest of the field, backed-up by a second heatsink underneath -but despite that, we measured a VRM temperature of just over 50°C, so there’s plenty of headroom. Meanwhile, the integrated I/O shield offers five Type-A USB ports, which is reasonable and you get a full-fat USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C port too.

There’s integrated 802.11ax Wi-Fi like the other B550 boards, as well as Realtek ALC1220 audio, but yet again, despite having the room for it, ASRock has only included three audio outputs in the form of 3.5mm mini­-jacks instead of the full complement on MSI’s option, which includes an optical out too. We wouldn’t mind if there had been a price saving, but that’s not the case with the B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax.

There wasn’t really much difference in terms of performance among the B550 boards, and the B550 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ax didn’t leap out anywhere as a result. Despite a rather basic EFI, it managed to hit our usual 4.3GHz all-core overclock with our Ryzen 9 3900XT easily with 1.4V, and this saw the video encoding score rise from 782,047 to 836,917.

At stock speed, the single-thread performance was a little low at 511 points, but that was the only test where it was noticeably slower than other boards. It also exhibited the lowest idle power draw at stock speed and when overclocked, and the lowest overclocked power draw at load too.

Specifications:

  • Chipset AMD B550
  • CPU socket AMD Socket AM4 (Zen+, Zen 2)
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GBDDR4 (up to 5400MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 4
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek S1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink
  • Ports Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink,M.2 heatsink, Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x M.2 PCI-E4,1    x M.2 PCI-E 3,1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 4 x USB 3 Type-A, line in, mic, line out, 1 x HDMI 2.1,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: Had the ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming- ITX/ax cost $40 less, it would have provided some stiff competition. It performs well and it handled our Ryzen 9 3900X with ease, so it has got the basics right. However, while it’s not hideously more expensive than the other boards on test, unless you’re completely sold on its looks,it doesn’t warrant any extra outlay. It’s also missing a few features that would otherwise help to Justify its slightly higher price.


6. Asus ROG Strix B550-i Gaming

Asus has a trio of small motherboards for AMD’s X570 and B550 chipsets, with both the X570 version of the ROG Strix B550-I Gaming we’re looking at here, as well as the mighty Crosshair VIII Impact. At under $200, it’s significantly cheaper than the X570 version, which costs closer to $300.

At first glance, the two boards seem very similar. Both have fan-assisted VRM heatsinks, which in this case kept the VRMs below 60°C according to our IR probe (the VRM phase design is 8+2). They both also share the same aesthetics, with an all-black theme and stacked components rising off the 170 x 170mm PCB.

However, there are some subtle differences. The ROG Strix B550-I Gaming lacks the snazzy RGB lighting on the M.2 heatsink. It also has just one small fan cooling the chipset and VRMs, while theX570 board has two. The latter has three more Type-A USB ports than the B550 board’s sub-par four, and both its M.2 ports support PCI-E 4 SSDs as well.

However, the ROG Strix B550-I Gaming also sports a Type-C USB header, which is strangely missing from its more expensive sibling. In addition, it has USB BIOS FlashBack,and has the same trio of fan headers and RGB headers. So, in many ways the ROG Strix B550-I Gaming is a match for the more expensive board, and actually has one or two extra features. The main difference, then, is VRM cooling and the added bandwidth on offer from the X570 chipset.

Compared with the rest of the boards, Asus has a very strong offering here, except for the lack of USB ports. It had the lowest M.2 SSD temperature on test at just 56°C, thanks to the raised M.2 port, as well as audio that pipped the rest of the field to the post.

Its real trump card, though, is its set of thermal probe headers. If you’re using it for a water-cooled system, it’s the best board here, as you can control your radiator fans and pump based on the coolant temperature. It has the best EFI too, bettering both Gigabyte and ASRock’s efforts, although MSI’s B550 board is on par in this regard. The MSI board also sports a greater number of audio outputs, while the Asus board has only three.

Overclocking was simple, with our usual 1.4V seeing a maximum CPU frequency of 4.3GHz with our Ryzen 9 3900X, although you’ll likely want to use 1.3 V or less for a long term overclock. This saw the system score rise from 332,819 to 351,258, with 500 points added to the Cinebench score and the highest single-threaded result as well.

Specifications:

  • Chipset AMD B550
  • CPU socket AMD Socket AM4 (Zen+, Zen 2)
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GBDDR4 (up to 5400MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 4
  • Sound 8-channel SupremeFX S1220A
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink, one heatsink fan
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x M.2 PCI-E 4,1 x M.2 PCI-E 3,3 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 2 Type-A, line in, mic, line out, 1 x HDMI 2.1,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: As the basis for a high-end mini-ITX system, perhaps with some custom water-cooling gear, the Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming is without doubt the best B550 board on test, and arguably a better choice than its pricier X570 sibling too. It’s great in all areas, except if you need more than four USB ports or the full six audio outputs. Best of all, it doesn’t come equipped with the usual Asus price premium.

An excellent B550 board that ticks nearly every box, and the price is reasonable too.


7. GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX AM4 AMD B550 Mini-ITX Motherboard

As the only B550 mini-ITX motherboard we’d reviewed, we didn’t have much with which to compare the Gigabyte B5501 Aorus Pro AX. However, now we have a pretty good idea about where it sits among the other baby boards sporting AMD’s new chipset.

It’s good-looking, if chunky, and it sports a large heatpipe-linked pair of heatsinks that cool an 8-phase power delivery and the top M.2 slot. There are essentially two heatsinks – a small one that sits on the SSD and then a massive, thick one that only makes slight contact with it. The big one blocks airflow to the SSD heatsink, though, so if you remove the big one, the SSD temperature drops by a few degrees, which isn’t a great piece of design. That said, either setup is still cooler than using no SSD heatsink at all.

At $190, this board is significantly cheaper than its Z490 sibling, but the latter does sport several extra features. It has a USB Type-C header, which is becoming popular with many mini-ITX cases these days, so the lack of one is annoying at this price; this feature is found on every other B550 board on test too.

It also lacks the quartet of fan headers on the Z490 model, which really helped to set that board apart, making do with a more typical three. Meanwhile, the five Type-A USB ports on the back are usual for a mini-ITX board.However, we’d rather Gigabyte ditched one of the three display outputs, which will only be useful for APU support, and two is arguably enough here.

It’s good to see Q-Flash Plus is included, though, which allows you to update the BIOS without a compatible CPU. Plus, if you want to add RGB lighting components, there are both 3-pin and 4-pin headers on the PCB.

As with all the boards, overclocking and testing tools are otherwise non-existent, but you do get Realtek ALC1220 audio, 802.11ax Wi-Fi and a PCI-E 4 M.2 port, with a PCI-E 3 M.2 port on the underside of the PCB for good measure. However, one glaring omission is a thermal probe header, which is a shame given that Gigabyte’s EFIs and software are geared towards detailed fan control.

We didn’t quite hit the usual4.3GHz with our Ryzen 9 3900X, but came close at 4.25GHz. However, even pushing the vcore up to 1.4V didn’t see us get a stable benchmark run above this figure. The overclock saw the system score rise from 325,498 to 339,577, and the Cinebench score go from 6,983 to 7,463, but its general performance was  slightly behind the other boards in most tests. Meanwhile, the VRMs ran at a cool 5TC under load, which was the lowest temperature on test, and there’s no fan noise either. Audio performance was also on par with the other boards on test, with a dynamic range of 102dBA.

Specifications:

  • Chipset AMD B550
  • CPU socket AMD Socket AM4 (Zen+, Zen 2)
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GBDDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 4
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps 1 x M.2 PCI-E 4,1 x M.3 PCI-E 3,1 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 1 x USB3.1   Type-C, 4 x USB 3 Type-A, line in, mic, line out, 2 x HDMI 2.1,1 x DisplayPort 1.4
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: The Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX isn’t perfect, but it does only cost $190. The VRM cooling is superb, despite the lack of fans, and the audio performance is solid too. 

However, you only need to spend an extra $10 to get the Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming, which has a better balance of design and features. Decent VRM cooling and a fair price, but the Gigabyte has too many niggles for us to recommend it.


8. MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge WiFi

MSI decided to leave X570 to other manufacturers when it came to mini-ITX, but with the arrival ofB550, the company has finally dished out some PCI-E 4, small form factor love to 3rd-gen Ryzen owners. The MSI MPG B550I Gaming Edge WiFi is one of the cheapest boards on test, leaving you with change from $200, but it doesn’t skimp on features.

There’s a USB Type-C header, which is absent on the Gigabyte B550I Aorus Pro AX, and you even get a fan-assisted M.2 SSD and chipset cooler too. You can control the fan in the EFI or software, but it only powers up under high chipset temperatures. If you want to boost M.2 cooling, it’s best to set it to a fixed speed, so it’s on all the time.

It’s easy to remove the cooler to access the PCI-E 4 M.2 port beneath it, and there’s a second slot on the underside of the PCB, which is limited to PCI-E 3 SSDs. If you have a SATA M.2 SSD, though, you’ll need to use it in the top slot, which means you’ll lose the only slot compatible with PCI-E 4 SSDs.

The power delivery comes from eight CPU power phases, rated at 60A, and it’s all cooled by a large topside heatsink and smaller metal plate on the underside. It would have been good to see the cooling setups linked, so the fan could assist the VRMs, as we’ve seen on other MSI boards recently, but with a peak load temperature of just 54°C, it’s not really necessary.

Meanwhile, the color scheme is jet black, and if you want to add some RGB lighting, be aware there’s only a single 3-pin header for digital lighting and no 4-pin headers. The MSI is also the only B550 board on test to offer six audio outputs, including an optical port.

However, while the overall layout is generally excellent, there’s one mind- boggling oversight. The clear-CMOS Jumper’s location evaded us until we turned to the manual, only to find it embedded under the I/O shield and VRM heatsink. This required removing the I/O shield and dealing with four screws, which wouldn’t be possible if you’d already built your PC.

Proving just how inconvenient this setup is, we actually needed to use the jumper, as overclocking saw the board refuse to boot when we pushed it too far. Thankfully, it managed to hit the usual 4.3GHz with a 1.4V vcore, as with the other boards on test. What’s more, it was quite speedy at stock speed, managing the highest RealBench system score and Cinebench scores without drawing significantly more power.

Specifications: 

  • Chipset AMD B550
  • CPU socket AMD Socket AM4 (Zen+, Zen 2)
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 64GBDDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
  • Expansion slots One 16x PCI-E 4
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek S1220
  • Networking 1 x 2.5 Gigabit LAN, Intel 802.11ax Wi-Fi
  • Cooling Three 4-pin fan headers,VRM heatsink, M.2 heatsink
  • Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 1 x M.2 PCI-E 4,1 x M.2 PCI-E 3,1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB  3.1  Gen  2  Type-A,  2  x  USB  3  Type-A, 2  x  USB  2,  line  in,  mic, 3x  surround  audio out, 1 x optical S/PDIF, 1 x HDMI 2.1
  • Dimensions (mm) 170 x 170

Summary: MSI’s MPG B550I Gaming Edge Wi-Fi offers good performance, an excellent EFI and plenty of other features – it would have picked up an award were it not for its hidden CMOS jumper. This should always be easily accessible and not require disassembling your PC to access it. If you’ll be running at stock speed, though, and have never needed to reset the BIOS, then it’s a better buy than Gigabyte’s offering at the same price, plus it offers fan-assisted cooling and a USB Type-C header.


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