Recently, the main chipmakers offer three types of system logic for their platforms, which include top-end solutions for production systems designed also for extreme overclocking, average ones for most gaming systems and budget options for office PCs or undemanding users. At AMD, the chipsets X370, B350 and A320 now meet these criteria.
Soldering mid-level hub does not affect the capabilities of the board overclocking. Much greater restrictions are imposed by the schemes of power regulators and the chosen way of their implementation, and only then one may complain about the possibilities available in the UEFI environment. So, let’s get acquainted with the senior board represented by the ASRock company, in the structure of which B350 is included (there are five of them at the time of this review witing). Nominally, it belongs to the gaming series, which means that the user has the right to expect special bonuses.
AMD Series: Athlon X4, A6, A8, A10, A12, Ryzen 5, Ryzen 7
4 DIMM DDR4 SDRAM 2133/2400/2667/2933 * / 3200 + * (OC), a maximum of 64 GB
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x16) — CPU
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (x8) — APU/Athlon
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 (x4) — CPU
1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 (x2) — APU/Athlon
4 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 — B350
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x4 (Key M, 2242/2260/2280) — CPU
1 x PCI Express 3.0 x2 (Key M, 2242/2260/2280) — APU / Athlon
1 x SATA 6 Gb / s (Key M, 2242/2260/2280/22110) — B350
Built-in video core (in APU):
Radeon Series: R7, R5
HDMI, DVI-D, D-Sub
1 (keyboard / mouse)
8 x 3.1 Gen1 (6 sockets (one type C) on the rear panel)
6 x 2.0 (2 sockets on the rear panel)
4 x SATA 6 Gb/s (B350)
2 x SATA 6 Gb/s (ASM1061)
0, 1, 10 (SATA, B350)
Codec — Realtek ALC892 (7.1, HDA)
Realtek 8111GR (Gigabit Ethernet)
305 x 224
pair of pads for connecting RGB LED strips, support for AMD 2-Way CrossFireX
Packing and Equipment
The device is supplied in a medium-size box. The design is not very much different from the solutions made using the Intel chips.
All the technical characteristics are applied on the box rear part. Its main area is occupied with the series features description, special software for sound and periphery is declared, and the highlighting is emphasized as well.
The equipment kit is quite basic:
- • multilingual quick installation instructions;
- • additional brochure on RGB LED;
- • memo for the correct installation of memory modules;
- • guide to UEFI and F-Stream in English;
- • postcard with the series emblem (there is a place for the brand);
- • disk with drivers and firmware;
- • sticker with the company logo;
- • 2 mounting screws for M.2 format devices;
- • case stub of usual design — with embossed symbols and nest designation icons;
- • 2 SATA 6Gb/s cables, one with an L-shaped socket at one end.
There are just seven points for fixing the device in the case. The chip with the firmware is soldered, it is necessary to reset the settings by means of a jumper located at the bottom edge. There are no tools to simplify overclocking or just operation: there are no additional buttons, switches, status indicators at all.
There is an insignificant number of the electronic components at the rear side. There is no backlighting in the audio codec insulating gap zone.
The main accent in the board illumination is the cooler on the hub; it is a massive ribbed radiator with the bright red LEDs under it.
There is an ASM1061 placed here as well, so two longitudinal SATA sockets are placed on the board.
Four more ports are connected to the B350. The marking on the board will help sort them out.
The upper compact M.2 socket allows using the highest-speed drives, but the limitation on their length will work.
To the lower landing seat, where there are no restrictions on the devices size, only the lines from SATA (interconnected with one of the six previously specified ports) are provided.
Case USB cables can count on four second-generation outputs, and for the third, only two ports are provided.
The reinforced socket is intended for a video accelerator, the total number of lines will be determined by the CPU type. The bottom full-length PCI-E x16 actually has only four lines, also powered from the socket. The fourth compact PCI-E x1 works with the hub.
Despite the status of the product, the network and audio controller are presented by low-cost Realtek models. There are neither shielding structures nor OpAmp. The number of special capacitors is insufficient.
The socket elements placement if difficult to call the dense one, so it is unlikely that anything will interfere with the cooling system installation procedure.
Intersil Corporation ISL95712 is the main PWM controller. In general, it is the seven-channel one, but only six lines are used here. Three drivers are built-in, three more can be found on the board in the form of discrete models. It turns out that both the CPU and the NB Voltage stabilizers are three-channel. In the first case, the doubling of the elements number in each channel is used, the models PK618BA and PZ0903BK from Niko Semiconductor are selected (totally four assemblies per channel). For the second group only the first of the units just mentioned are doubled (three assemblies for each channel).
Two identical radiators are pressed by means of spring-loaded nails; the thermo-laying is quite sufficient.
A lot of space at the rear side is occupied by video outputs, including even D-Sub (requiring an additional controller). Eight USB ports is a very commendable number. The lack of space influences sound outputs, so there are only three of them and there is no optical one as well. If there were no symmetric type C output present, it would be safe to say that the board under review is the budget solution.
Apparently, all the forces of engineers are not aimed at simplifying the UEFI work, there is no basic start menu in any of the versions, and it is possible that such a regime will appear in the future. Only the advanced mode is available.
The second section, named OC Tweaker, should not inspire with its name, fine-tuning mechanisms, where overclocking is to be considered, are distributed in different modes. However, it is possible to change the frequency of the CPU and specify a new voltage value for it here (the offset method is not provided).
Changing the RAM frequency can be made immediately after the activation of one of the XMP profiles. It is at this point that the NB Voltage automatically increases.
The total number of variables available to change is small. There is no mechanism to influence Uncore voltage, but there is an indirect way to increase it. LLC profiles are not available.
The first lines in the Advanced menu are mainly occupied by the periphery.
The AMD CBS menu item allows to get control over the SOC which Ryzen 7 1800X actually is. The Custom Pstates mode is the one of special interest here. However, this interest can be, perhaps, just the research one when speaking about this particular motherboard.
The branded tools page looks unusually modest. There is no customary equipment viewer. Only RGB LED can be emphasized. The first channel manages the settings of the connected external strips, and the second one – the one-color illumination on the board (red type).
The board can track just two temperatures. There are several ready profiles to control the fans rotation speed, as well as the opportunity to create the user’s own scripts.
And let’s consider the equipment initialization stage. Currently, it is the first ASRock board in the new platform context, and against the background of competing solutions, its POST procedure looks the most protracted one and the Fast Boot application does not help at all. Separately, it is necessary to focus on the existing five profiles designed to store the system settings.
APP Shop (AppCharger, ASRock RGB LED, Fatal1ty Mouse Port, F-Stream Tuning Utility, Key Master, Restart to UEFI)
Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3
To start the work the manufacturer developed the APP Shop which keeps track of its own updates and allows downloading all the necessary or simply interesting programs from the company's servers (there is a choice in the settings).
The APP Shop works perfectly well, but as for the rest of the proprietary software set, there is just one thing – all the utilities versions do not work at all! Apparently, there are problems with the product model identification, because all the programs in one way or another are connected with the products from ASRock and will not work with other equipment.
Fortunately, third-party authorship tools function without any problems. The Realtek configurator allows making basic settings of the sound system.
The sound completely corresponds to the status of an inexpensive codec used here. Clearly there is a lack of detalization in both ranges. To save the situation, one can use Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 3. Renamed to XFast LAN cFosSpeed is installed and works without any questions.
ASRock Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 has a responsible, senior role in the middle motherboard segment, that is, where the top X370 is not soldered. The developers have not created artificial competition for more expensive boards and limited the model in possibilities quite sufficiently. The M.2 port, capable of accepting 22110-size adapters, has solely SATA lines connected, while the other, having the ability to use the PCI-E drive, has its maximum size already limited. At the same time, one of the PCI-E x1 slots is removed from the list. The first M.2 also shares its resource with one of the SATA slots.
The most current version of USB – 3.1 Gen2 – is not implemented at all despite the available system capabilities. The gaming focus of the product resulted exclusively in the availability of bonus software, and the hardware capabilities correspond to the basic office boards. The operation of the fan control does not match the declared circuits, but even if everything is fixed, the ASRock product will not survive competition, since all other manufacturers can use both speed control methods (voltage drop and PWM duty cycle change on each of the fan jacks) ). In addition, the proprietary software is absolutely inoperative.
It’s high time to assess the market position and it turns out, the model is on a par with other solutions, and therefore, it still does not match the rest of them absolutely. Even in the case of a huge amount of work on the mistakes made, the company representatives need to seriously think about reducing the price significantly, only then the product considered can become interesting for buyers.