With AMD Ryzen 7000 Series CPU launch right around the corner, I figured that I would look at the motherboard offerings. After flipping through different fancy product brochures, I failed to find a board that makes any sense. Yes, you heard that right - None of these new AMD motherboards make sense. In this article, I will try my best to analyze the current X670(E) offerings.
AMD’s New Chipsets
By the looks of it, AMD is debuting four chipsets, mainly X670 and B650, with both Extreme and non-Extreme versions. In fact, AMD is using one chipset to make four, by daisy-chaining two B650 to make X670, and enabling PCIe 5.0 to make B650E and X670E. In short, you are getting two daisy-chained B650 chipsets if you are buying a X670 board.
According to TechPowerUp, The CPU connects to the B650 chipset with a PCIe 4.0 x4 link. This may seem adequate, since it provides 64 GT/s, or 8 GB/s of bandwidth. However, when motherboard manufacturers starting to add in their own flavors of IO devices, like extra PCIe NVME, Multi-Gig NICs, SATA ports, USB ports, this PCIe 4.0 x4 bus will starting to be the bottleneck. Not to mention, we have the X670 variants, which the extra chipset gets its PCIe uplink from the main chipset, further limiting the bandwidth.
In my opinion, the No.1 Most Useless Feature from modern day motherboard is the so-called “Premium Audio”. There’s nothing “Premium” about them, really. How do they define “Premium”? Can they drive studio monitors? I don’t think so, since most of the studio reference monitors uses XLR balanced cables, and 3.5mm jack is just not gonna cut it. Or, do they support professional mic preamp for excellent voice recording? No, since you don’t see any streamers uses a mic connected to the Audio-IN jack, either. So what’s the point of this “Premium Audio”? In fact, there’s none.
The No.2 Most Useless Feature award goes to Killer Gaming NIC. I know it is probably controversial, but my point is if any motherboard uses Killer NIC and advertises as such, avoid it like plague. Over the years, with numerous reports that Killer NICs are just not reliable, and is frequently causing issues.
High Level X670 Motherboard Preview
For the upcoming AM5 socket, it seems that all X670 motherboards will at least feature one 2.5Gbe NIC, with a handful of selections that will house 10Gbe NIC.
The biggest selling point for the AM5 platform, or X670, is PCIe 5.0 storage and graphics. Now, NONE of the GPUs that are available right now, and probably till the Zen 5 era, will be able to take advantage of PCIe 5.0 x16 bandwidth. So, for normal consumers, support for PCIe 5.0 x16 is not required, and borderline useless, unless AMD or NVIDIA makes PCIe 5.0 x8 GPUs as their mid to high end offerings. For example, a Radeon 7700X with PCIe 5.0 x8, or RTX 4070 with PCIe 5.0 x8.
Since the CPU only provides two sets PCIe 5.0 x4 connections, a “normal” board will use those lanes for two PCIe 5.0 x4 NVMe slots, with the exception of a few providing up to three PCIe 5.0 x4 NVMe.
Asus X670 Line Up
Asus brings 8 different X670 offerings, including the “E” series for full PCIe 5.0 support. Based on the current information made publicly available by Asus, the ROG Crosshair X670E Hero seems interesting, since it supports up to 3 PCIe 5.0 M.2. However, the CPU only has two sets of PCIe 5.0 x4, in total of 8 lanes, available for storage. I suspect the third PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot will be disabled if the user chooses to use PCIe 5.0 x16 instead of x8. In other words, this third slot is only usable when the x16 slot is set to x8 speed.
On the lower end boards like the TUF Gaming X670E-PLUS WIFI and the Prime X670E-PRO WIFI, Asus added PCIe 3.0 NVMe support that’s likely from the chipset. However, they have 1x PCIe 5.0 NVMe that's likely from the CPU, and 2x PCIe 4.0 NVMe support that’s likely switched from the second PCIe 5.0 x4 lanes that the CPU provides. In this case, I don’t know whether the PCIe 3.0 M.2 slot is necessary, since the board itself already provides 3 M.2 NVMe storage slots.
For more models, check out this Asus official page.
Gigabyte X670 Line Up
Gigabyte has released three models. The main difference between the X670E Aorus Master and the X670 Aorus Elite AX, is that while the Master is 2x PCIe 5.0 NVMe and 2x PCIe 4.0 NVMe, the Elite is 1x PCIe 5.0 and 3x PCIe 4.0. In terms of practicality, I would much rather getting 1x3 (1x PCIe 5.0 and 3x PCIe 4.0) over the 2x2 configuration. IF, and this is a big IF, you are limited by storage bandwidth, then a PCIe 4.0 RAID will beat any PCIe 5.0 SSD out of the water, in both performance and up-time. However, the question remains: if these NVMe storage slots aren’t directly attached to the CPU, you will be limited by the PCIe 4.0 x4 link between the CPU and the chipset, if you choose to use the PCIe slot provided by the chipset as well. I suspect the third PCIe 4.0 NVMe slot will indeed be linked to the chipset, so RAID might not be a viable option.
For detailed info, please go to this Gigabyte official page.
AsRock X670 Line Up
AsRock has gone with full X670E releases, providing five models for us to look at. Very interestingly, none of them provides more than two full length PCIe x16 slot, with the X670E Pro RS only providing one, and two PCIe x1 open back slots. Maybe these boards have something exceptional that I don’t know about, but the limited PCIe slots kills the whole AsRock line up for me.
See here for more details, but I am greatly disappointed.
MSI X670 Line Up
MSI brings four X670 boards to the table. Out of these four, the MPG X670E Carbon WIFI shows the most usability. The most important feature, is that it has two PCIe 5.0 x16 slots that are directly connected to the CPU, with the support of bifurcation. Furthermore, it has a PCIe 4.0 x4 slot from the chipset, making a x8/x8/x4 configuration possible. In addition to the PCIe 5.0 bifurcation, it also has two PCIe 5.0 NVMe directly connected to the CPU, and two more PCIe 4.0 NVMe that are connected to the chipset, which will be bandwidth limited by the CPU downlink to the chipset.
Personally, I do not think the Ryzen 7000 series and the X670 will be worth upgrading, mainly because of the limitation chipset capabilities.
If you are already on Ryzen 5000 series and X570, and you are a gamer, the Ryzen 7 5800X3D paired with a X570 board will bring you PCIe 4.0 x16 graphics and PCIe 4.0 storage, which is more than enough for any triple-A titles. If you are a media creator, while I can see PCIe 5.0 storage may sound like a huge upgrade from PCIe 4.0, you are still limited by other means of IO, like PCIe slots, and the NIC.
Honestly, I just don’t see how a 5950X, which can be had for $549 at the moment, or 5800X3D for $439, with X570 platform, paired with a decent GPU, whether the 30 series now or the 40 series in the future, and PCIe 4.0 storage, would be noticeably less performant in both media creation and gaming.
If you are on X570 platform already, but with 3000 series CPU, consider swapping the CPU to 5000 series for a huge performance boost.