MSI’s MAM Tomahawk, at $ 179.99, has been popular with users in the past thanks to its competitive pricing and well-balanced price set. But while the Tomahawk was used as a budget entry, the MAG B550 Tomahawk ramps up its game to include more premium features such as phased power delivery and 2.5 gigabit Ethernet. Let’s dive into the board and find out if it’s on our list of the best motherboards.
MSI’s B550 product lineup is similar to the enthusiast X570 lineup, with panels broken: from top to bottom, the B550 uses MPG and MAG for gamers and Pro panels for creatives. The MSI does not offer the best MEG-class boards on the B550 chipset, leaving that part with the X570 on the AM5 side. Along with the competition, boards come in all major sizes from Mini-ITX to ATX with Carbon Gaming Wi-Fi ($ 219.99) as the current flagship and the B550M Pro-VDH on budget is $ 125.99. The product package is very diverse, but also a higher end price that is much lower than either the Asus or Gigabyte B550 boards.
MAG B550 Tomahawk features include 13-phase power distribution (10 + 2 + 1), two Ethernet ports (1GB and 2.5GB Ethernet), two M.2 slots each, with its own heatsink, a larger heatsink and more Huh. The only thing missing is the underlying Wi-Fi.
In our tests, the B550 Tomahawk performed well, and the results are very close to all the other B550 boards we’ve tested around the platform launch. There were no odd values in the results, but overall they appear to be skewed towards the sharp side of the recent B550 test kit.
With improved default settings in the BIOS and RAM on the DDR4 3600, the Ryzen 9 3900X boosted the 4.6GHz boost (2 cores) without problems. During overclocking, the board ran a 4.3GHz CPU (all cores and threads) with 4 x 8 GB DDR4 366 RAM. The Tomahawk performed well in all tests, easily cutting the benchmark.
This pile of stuff is a bit much, but it will start. Below is a list of what ships in the box with ATX MSI B550 Tomahawk.
Quick Installation Guide
Two SATA cables
After getting the B550 Tomahawk out of the box at first glance, we see notable differences from the B450 and a lot of similarities to the X570 Tomahawk. A black PCB board with gray stripes running diagonally through the motherboard, as well as a board using gray and black heat sinks. Outside of that, and the B550 chipset fan is lost, those panels look remarkably similar. The RGB is located below the light slices, with brightly saturated colors to illuminate the lower half of the board.
When zooming into the top half of the panel, the major feature is the large VRM heat sink on the left. These heat sinks are usually covered in a hood, but here, the shroud is actually part of the heatsink. VRM Bank also has a gray heatsink with the name MAG on top. The black and gray look of the panel will come in handy with most designs.
Across the top edge to the left of the VRM heatsink is a single 8-pin EPS connector, suitable for surrounding overclocking. Above and to the right of the DIMM slot are four 4-pin PWM / DC fan headers (out of a total of eight). The top two headers, CPU_FAN1 and PUMP_FAN1, are both high power, listed as 2A / 24W and 3A / 36W respectively. The latter is one of the highest values I have seen on any motherboard.
The right end has a maximum 24-pin ATX connector, as well as a USB 3.2 Gen1 connector on the front panel. Located above the 24-pin power cord, the Easy Debug LED is a set of four LED boots, VGA, DRAM, and CPU. If there is a problem in these areas, the light related to the specific POST issue will remain on, indicating where the system is currently. Although not as useful as a regular LED for debugging, it is still very useful.
Power comes from a single 8-pin board, which feeds a 13-phase (10 + 2 + 1) digital VRM. The power is controlled by the Renesa RAA 229004 PWM controller, which feeds into a 10-phase CPU / Vorak. The power is then routed to the 60A rated in Intersil ISL99360 MOSFETs. This setup is capable of handling the Ryzen 93900X in stock and during overclocking.
Moving on to the lower half of the board, we’ll start with the volume section on the left. The more expensive boards use the latest Realtek ALC1220 codec (or some variation thereof), while the Tomahawk uses the Realtek ALC1200, which is a slightly smaller version of the ALC1220. Unless you are a true audiophile with expensive headphones or speakers, you probably won’t hear the difference, although it is worth noting the lack of protection we usually see on pricier panels.
The center of the board has two full-length PCIe slots and two X1 slots. The primary / top GPU slot is PCIe 4.0 x16 and boost, while the bottom slot is PCIe 3.0 x4, with its own lanes from the chipset. Lane x1 is also derived from the chipset.
The top M.2 (M.2_1) jack supports both SATA and PCIe-based units up to 110 mm in length. The socket receives its CPU bandwidth and is PCIe 4.0 x4. The following M.2 socket, M.2_2, only supports PCIe drives, up to four PCIe 3.0 lanes dedicated to the device. Note that if there are devices in M.2_2 (socket below) other than PCIe_2 and PCIe_4, then PCIe_3 will not be available and M.2_2 will decrease to PCIe 3.0 x2.
There are six SATA3 / 6Gbps ports on the far right side of the board. These ports are always available, as the lanes are shared using the M.2 and PCIe slots. SATA supports RAID 0, 1, and 10, and NVMe