B450s are out, B550s are in... or are they?
The arrival of the B550 motherboards has caused somewhat of a broad discussion in the online tech community as to whether these motherboards will in fact be the direct replacement for our beloved B450 boards. From a generational standpoint, they are the direct equivalent of the B450 but the biggest problem with the new B550 boards comes from their strange situation in the current motherboard market...
An unexpected jump
The first thing of note with the new B550s is that their feature-set is at least on par with the B450, if not better (which it is in most cases), alongside numerous other improvements we expect to see with a new chipset. However, with more features, improved power delivery and added VRM heatsinks, PCIe 4.0 support and even multiple M.2 slots for some boards, there naturally comes a direct increase to cost as result. This is primarily where the debate for B550s has been centred since their launch last week.
Budget conscious builders are a bit bugged
The reason B450s were so adored by the enthusiast community was always down to the solid feature-set coupled with a pretty unbeatable pricing, making it a great option for those on tighter budgets but who were still looking for the quality and versatility usually offered more exclusively by high-end boards. It would seem fitting then, with X570 being the upper-end of the motherboard market, that B550 would have been this generation's option for those same budget builders; however, we've yet to see a B550 board anywhere near the price point of those previous B450s. This, considered alongside the fact that many of the B550 boards aren't a great deal cheaper than X570s, and they become a pretty hard sell for most.
So where's the sense in a B550?
Well, it's a bit of an odd one to be sure. The B550 isn't completely redundant. Undoubtedly there will be those who are willing to spend an extra £30 or so on the 'low-end' X570s, which is fair enough - if those few extra features are what you want, or perhaps you feel it more appropriately matched to a higher-end processor, then it makes sense to do that. But if you don't, then why spend the extra? That £30 could instead go towards a nicer case with better airflow, or perhaps some extra case fans? What does seem a tad confusing in the market though, is why someone would purchase a 'high-end' B550, when you could instead opt for a 'mid-range' X570, which in the majority of cases will match and exceed what the B550 can offer. We're yet to see any evidence in favour of this decision, but it's still early days and ultimately, it could come down to something as simple as more USB ports in the rear I/O panel, which is a perfectly legitimate reason to go the B550 route over the X570 equivalent. In fact, the slide below from AMD almost suggests that those in need of more I/O options were the exact target of the B550 boards.
To put things simply, there is still a place in the market to be had for a fair few B550s, and it can make sense to save a little extra on the motherboard if it can go towards something of more benefit to a specific user. But, with that said, we also find it hard to class the B550 as this gen's B450 - we're yet to see the rumoured A520s though, which will be set to be AMDs 'extra-budget' option. Perhaps, seeing the leap in feature-set we've had with the B550s, we'll see something similar with the potential A520s. Maybe the A520s will become the new B450? Difficult to say. I guess we'll just have to wait and see...
What are your thoughts on the new B550 motherboards? Let us know in the comments.