Board Features

The MSI B450 Tomahawk is a gaming-themed ATX motherboard and offers a good feature set for a model costing $100. The Tomahawk hails from the Arsenal series which are primarily targeted towards gamers on a budget. Not only budget-gamers, but the B450 Tomahawk also offers users 2-way AMD CrossFire support albeit running at x16/x4. MSI has also included a value pairing of Realtek controllers to handle the audio and networking capabilities. A few notable improvements over the first generation B350 Tomahawk model include better power delivery heatsinks, better memory compatibility, and official support for up to DDR4-3466 RAM.

MSI B450 Tomahawk ATX Motherboard
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link
Price $100
Size ATX
CPU Interface AM4
Chipset AMD B450
Memory Slots (DDR4) Four DDR4
Supporting 64 GB
Dual Channel
Up to DDR4-3466+
Video Outputs 1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x DVI-D
Network Connectivity Realtek RTL8118H Gigabit
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC892
PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU) 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16
PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH) 1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Onboard SATA Six, RAID 0/1/10
Onboard M.2 1 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA
USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) 1 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 x Type-C Rear Panel
USB 3.0 (5 Gbps) 2 x Type-A Rear Panel
1 x Header (two ports)
USB 2.0 2 x Type-A Rear Panel
2 x Header (four ports)
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8pin CPU
Fan Headers 1 x CPU (4-pin)
1 x Pump/AIO (4-pin)
4 x System (4-pin)
IO Panel 1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C
2 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A
2 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x Network RJ45 (Realtek)
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x DVI-D
1 x Combo PS/2
6 x 3.5mm Audio Jacks (Realtek)
1 x BIOS Flashback + Button

The major benefits of opting for a more expensive ATX sized X470 motherboard over one like this includes more native USB 3.1 Gen1 connectivity and a second full size PCIe 3.0 slot, which may support NVIDIA SLI  (depending on the licensing from the vendor). Outside of this the B450 Tomahawk ticks a considerable amount of boxes and for users looking to utilize a single graphics card in their system (or need more USB 3.1 Gen1 connectivity), then the price difference in comparison to an X470 board allows budget to be spent in other areas such as graphics, storage capacity, or memory.

Test Bed

As per our testing policy, we take a high-end CPU suitable for the motherboard that was released during the socket’s initial launch, and equip the system with a suitable amount of memory running at the processor maximum supported frequency. This is also typically run at JEDEC subtimings where possible. It is noted that some users are not keen on this policy, stating that sometimes the maximum supported frequency is quite low, or faster memory is available at a similar price, or that the JEDEC speeds can be prohibitive for performance. While these comments make sense, ultimately very few users apply memory profiles (either XMP or other) as they require interaction with the BIOS, and most users will fall back on JEDEC supported speeds - this includes home users as well as industry who might want to shave off a cent or two from the cost or stay within the margins set by the manufacturer. Where possible, we will extend out testing to include faster memory modules either at the same time as the review or a later date.

Test Setup
Processor AMD Ryzen 7 1700, 65W, $300,
8 Cores, 16 Threads, 3GHz (3.7GHz Turbo)
Motherboard MSI B450 Tomahawk (Bios v11)
Cooling Thermaltake Floe Riing RGB 360
Power Supply Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 1200W Gold PSU
Memory 2x16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4-2400
Video Card ASUS GTX 980 STRIX (1178/1279 Boost)
Hard Drive Crucial MX300 1TB
Case Open Test Bed
Operating System Windows 10 Pro

Readers of our motherboard review section will have noted the trend in modern motherboards to implement a form of MultiCore Enhancement / Acceleration / Turbo (read our report here) on their motherboards. This does several things, including better benchmark results at stock settings (not entirely needed if overclocking is an end-user goal) at the expense of heat and temperature. It also gives, in essence, an automatic overclock which may be against what the user wants. Our testing methodology is ‘out-of-the-box’, with the latest public BIOS installed and XMP enabled, and thus subject to the whims of this feature. It is ultimately up to the motherboard manufacturer to take this risk – and manufacturers taking risks in the setup is something they do on every product (think C-state settings, USB priority, DPC Latency / monitoring priority, overriding memory sub-timings at JEDEC). Processor speed change is part of that risk, and ultimately if no overclocking is planned, some motherboards will affect how fast that shiny new processor goes and can be an important factor in the system build.

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BIOS And Software System Performance
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36 Comments

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  • DrHansGruber - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Gaming performance looks like it's taken a not insignificant hit compared to the B350 Tomahawk. Reply
  • gavbon - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    That does seem to be the current trend from X370/B350 to X470/B450 from the testing. It's still within a 1-3% margin of error although more like 7% in Total War. This could be the developer changing the benchmark slightly with a game update which would make more sense, given the other gamers tested are more in line with other boards. Reply
  • ianrumford - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    A cautionary tale.

    I just bought this board during Black Friday sales (~£90). Nice spec and good price. But.

    It came with the 120 bios installed but didn't recognise both 16GB sticks of my
    G.Skill 3200 Trident Z for AMD ("TZRX"). I got the board to boot with just one stick though at 2133.

    The latest bios (130) includes support for AGESA 1.0.0.6 which has better memory compatibility.

    I used the bios m-flash utility to upgrade to 130 and all seemed well till
    around 70% when I was briefly called away and returned to find a blank screen. The board did not boot.

    The Tomahawk has a well-advertised feature call BIOS Flashback where you can recover the bios
    using the special hardware port that takes a FAT32 usb with the bios on it.

    The marketing collateral on Newegg says of BIOS Flashback:

    "Run into trouble when updating your BIOS? Simply flash the old BIOS version
    back and continue gaming within minutes with BIOS Flashback+. BIOS Flashback+
    even works without a CPU, memory or graphics card installed!"

    But the board refused to even load the 130 bios. Googling around this seems to suggest
    there is something wrong with the bios file.

    I tried to (re)load the 120 bios using flashback. This bios loaded in the way the
    manual says it should, but the board still did not boot.

    I've tried the other two bioses available on the MSI website and while they seem
    also to load ok, still no joy.

    I opened a call with MSI tech support and they have confirmed pretty much that
    BIOS Flashback does not always work.

    I've contacted the reseller to negotiate a replacement. In UK law a product that
    does not do what it claims to be able to do is not of "merchantable quality".
    Reply
  • gavbon - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Sorry to hear you've had that experience! It sounds more like a straight RMA and swap to me, but obviously, I cannot speak on behalf of the manufacturer. If I had the same issue which these things can happen, I would RMA too. Where did you buy it from? Are they willing to replace the board? Reply
  • ianrumford - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link


    Hi,

    I'd rather not say at this point who the reseller until they have had a chance
    to step up to the plate. I think they are UK-only. I've bought from them before
    and they gave good prices and good service although I've never had to return
    anything.

    There are a few observations I'd make though, two MSI-specific and one more
    general.

    First is the MSI marketing folk are over-egging the product in a way the tech
    folk can't deliver on.

    Second is their testing of new bioses: the latest (130) bios failed for me both to
    flash and even be recognised as valid for flashback.

    Third is the more general point of how fraught bios update still seems to be.
    Its been a while since I built a new system but have been surprised how many
    reports there are of updates failing, even though technologies like dual bios
    and flashback have become more common. That's qualitative of course and I've
    never seen any stats on update failures. Also I've never written any code for
    hardware so have no idea of the challenges faced writing an utterly paranoid
    update process. Perhaps the development and/or testing time is just too
    expensive and maybe its cheaper for manufacturers just to take the hit on RMAs.
    Reply
  • Wingartz - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    i had an issue like that also with MSI but the X58 mobo (damn those mobos) flashed via usb to the newest version and it bricked right away, searched in Google and found that specific model always got bricked when flashing via usb, it seems after all this years they have't got the issue solved Reply
  • plonk420 - Friday, December 14, 2018 - link

    wowch, that was an expensive board to brick Reply
  • rocky12345 - Monday, December 17, 2018 - link

    That is why I like boards like Gigabyte and their dual bios because if something goes wrong you just flip the switch and are up and running again. On my own Gigabyte board my second bios is something like version 1 since I have never flashed the second bios on it ever just the main bios which has always worked like a charm so far. Reply
  • OolonCaluphid - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I have the MSI B450m Mortar - the mATX little brother for this board.

    I also have absolutely no joy getting it to play with my DDR4 3200mhz ram - Kingston Hyper X. It works perfectly with my 32gb 3000Mhz Kingston Hyper X kit, however. So I refuse to believe claims that these boards support 3466Mhz ram, unless it's on the QVL list and also you get a bit lucky.

    Sound quality is also poor, but that's not a problem for my uses.

    Sorry to hear of your BIOS problems. real PITA. Here's hoping the retailer see you right.
    Reply
  • 3DoubleD - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I'd second that. I really think Anandtech should run an article on this because it took me a bit by surprise, although I had heard of compatibility issues.

    I recently put together a Ryzen 2600x + Gigabyte Gaming 7 + 2x16GB DDR3200 system and what a pain it is to get memory running at the correct speeds. I even carefully grabbed a RAM kit that was listed on Gigabyte's qvl list for the board at the rated speed, but even after bios update the XMP did not boot.

    Eventually I used one of the Ryzen ram timing calculators and got it to boot at 3200 MHz, but I had some stability issues so I dropped to 3133 MHz with slightly faster timings (probably not much of a performance tradeoff).

    Apparently you need to buy Samsung B-die dimms, but I had a really hard to finding any during black friday sales and got a good deal for the kit I ended up buying (that was supposedly tested by Gigabyte at the rated speed and timings).

    Anyway, a RAM buyers guide for AMD systems would be worthwhile IMO because it is NOT as straightforward or plug & play as you'd think it would be in 2018 (almost 2019).
    Reply

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