System Performance

Not all motherboards are created equal. On the face of it, they should all perform the same and differ only in the functionality they provide - however, this is not the case. The obvious pointers are power consumption, but also the ability for the manufacturer to optimize USB speed, audio quality (based on audio codec), POST time and latency. This can come down to manufacturing process and prowess, so these are tested.

Power Consumption

Power consumption was tested on the system while in a single ASUS GTX 980 GPU configuration with a wall meter connected to the Thermaltake 1200W power supply. This power supply has ~75% efficiency > 50W, and 90%+ efficiency at 250W, suitable for both idle and multi-GPU loading. This method of power reading allows us to compare the power management of the UEFI and the board to supply components with power under load, and includes typical PSU losses due to efficiency. These are the real world values that consumers may expect from a typical system (minus the monitor) using this motherboard.

While this method for power measurement may not be ideal, and you feel these numbers are not representative due to the high wattage power supply being used (we use the same PSU to remain consistent over a series of reviews, and the fact that some boards on our test bed get tested with three or four high powered GPUs), the important point to take away is the relationship between the numbers. These boards are all under the same conditions, and thus the differences between them should be easy to spot.

Power Long Idle (w/GTX 980)Power OS Idle (w/GTX 980)Power OCCT (w/GTX 980)

While it wasn't as apparent in our ASRock B450 Gaming ITX/ac and B450 Gaming K4 motherboard reviews, the newer B450 chipset has an idle power draw of only 2 W which really shows in the testing of the B450 Tomahawk. Even at full load the B450 Tomahawk performs well in regards to power consumption and like the X470 Gaming Plus, currently reigns supreme albeit marginally over the ASRock B350 Gaming K4.

Non-UEFI POST Time

Different motherboards have different POST sequences before an operating system is initialized. A lot of this is dependent on the board itself, and POST boot time is determined by the controllers on board (and the sequence of how those extras are organized). As part of our testing, we look at the POST Boot Time using a stopwatch. This is the time from pressing the ON button on the computer to when Windows starts loading. (We discount Windows loading as it is highly variable given Windows specific features.)

Non UEFI POST Time

Having tested five MSI AM4 models so far and even an X399 (MEG X399 Creation) model, the consensus so far is that MSI boards have very erratic booting times. Some perform decently, such as the MSI B350 Gaming Pro, and others like the MSI X470 Gaming Plus have much longer POSTing times. The B450 Tomahawk as it stands performs averagely and offers the same sort of performance as the board it replaces.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5

Rightmark:AA indicates how well the sound system is built and isolated from electrical interference (either internally or externally). For this test we connect the Line Out to the Line In using a short six inch 3.5mm to 3.5mm high-quality jack, turn the OS speaker volume to 100%, and run the Rightmark default test suite at 192 kHz, 24-bit. The OS is tuned to 192 kHz/24-bit input and output, and the Line-In volume is adjusted until we have the best RMAA value in the mini-pretest. We look specifically at the Dynamic Range of the audio codec used on the rear panel of the board.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer 6.2.5: Dynamic Range

As it was previously stated in the visual inspection, one of the negative differentials between the first and second generation AM4 B350/B450 Tomahawk models is the audio area of the PCB. MSI has clearly done away with over half of the Nippon Chemicon gold audio capacitors and whether that's had a detrimental effect or not on the B450 Tomahawk, our testing shows that the B450 Tomahawk performs the worst out of all the Realtek ALC892 equipped boards thus far. 

DPC Latency

Deferred Procedure Call latency is a way in which Windows handles interrupt servicing. In order to wait for a processor to acknowledge the request, the system will queue all interrupt requests by priority. Critical interrupts will be handled as soon as possible, whereas lesser priority requests such as audio will be further down the line. If the audio device requires data, it will have to wait until the request is processed before the buffer is filled.

If the device drivers of higher priority components in a system are poorly implemented, this can cause delays in request scheduling and process time. This can lead to an empty audio buffer and characteristic audible pauses, pops and clicks. The DPC latency checker measures how much time is taken processing DPCs from driver invocation. The lower the value will result in better audio transfer at smaller buffer sizes. Results are measured in microseconds.

Deferred Procedure Call Latency

As with all of the AM4 motherboards tested so far, none of them has been super optimized for DPC latency and the B450 Tomahawk is no different in this regard. It still puts in a respectful showing, scoring a smidge under 100 microseconds.

Board Features, Test Bed and Setup CPU Performance, Short Form
POST A COMMENT

36 Comments

View All Comments

  • 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now