If you want a mini PC or a small workstation, the mATC motherboard is made for you. Today we will explore one such option in our review. The ASUS PRIME B350M-A is both affordable and powerful. It is designed for AMD Ryzen 5 1600 processors, which are now experiencing incredible success in their battle with Intel's competing CPUs.
The first figure displays a summary of the features of the ASUS PRIME B350M-A motherboard. This is the AM4 mid-range board for AMD Ryzen processors and APU A6-A12 processors. As the name suggests, the board is equipped with an AMD B350 chipset. The B350M-A PRIME officially supports up to 64GB of DDR4 memory with clocking up to 3200MHz (effectively) for AMD Ryzen processors. Unlike the Intel platform, ECC memory can be used here.
The ASUS PRIME B350M-A motherboard is equipped with the DIGI+ VRM digital power management, and although it is not fitted with a passive heatsink, ASUS provides support for the strongest 8-core AMD Ryzen 1800X model. In that case, heat dissipation is provided by the PCB. For connectivity options, there is an M.2 slot for fast NVMe SSDs with PCIe x4 bandwidth. There is also classic support in the form of six SATA 6Gb/sec connectors. Three USB 3.0 pairs should be sufficient for connecting peripherals, but a pair of USB 3.1 ports is also available if you need more connectors.
The available video outputs are 1x VGA, 1x DVI-D and 1x HDMI. The audio component of the uATX B350M-A motherboard is shielded from the rest of the components, ensuring precise analogue/digital separation and reduced multi-lateral interference.
This AM4 platform chipset comparison chart shows us the possibilities and limitations of the B350 chipset on which the ASUS B350M-A PRIME is based.
The contents of the ASUS B350M-A PRIME package are not large. The motherboard includes DVDs with drivers, 1x SATA cable (there may be more), M.2 SSD mounting screws, and a user manual.
The motherboard uses a 4+2 power phase design and MOSFETs from OnSemi, 4 for core and 2 for SoC (System on Chip). The total possible power for the CPU is 150A. The power supply is not cooled by a passive heatsink. Although this is not required by the manufacturer, I personally would prefer the additional cooling on the board. The board supports the most powerful AMD Ryzen 1800X processor with clocking capabilities.
The I/O panel on the back of the board offers older PS2 mouse and keyboard connectors as well as VGA, DVI-D and HDMI ports for output. It also features 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 3.1, 2X USB 3.0, a Gigabit Ethernet port and three audio jacks.
Now let's look at the most interesting feature of the board, namely the clocking possibilities. In this section, we test the capabilities, possibilities and limitations of the ASUS B350M-A PRIME with the AMD Ryzen 5 1600, which, for example, does not have an issue with ASUS CROSSHAIR VI HERO at 3.9GHz on processor cores and 2933MHz on DDR4 operating memory.
We are in the so-called EZ UEFI mode. This is a simplified presentation of the most basic settings you may need. The AM4 platform for the AM4 Ryz processor, however, has one issue in general, that it does not have much performance at the default setting, so it is necessary to overclock the operating memory. The DOCP profile on the left midsection provides an alternative to the known XMP profile, but we prefer to look at manual clocking because it's not that complicated.
Once you press F7 to switch to Advanced Mode, the UEFI will expand. The first entry in UEFI on ASUS B350M-A PRIME is Main, the main menu with a summary of system information. Here you can set the language and password to the UEFI that we are in.
Ai Tweaker is a part of UEFI where all the "magic" is done, in other words, everything is set here for clocking. The combinations of frequencies and voltages that you see should work with any Ryzen 5. In this test case, we ran the Ryzen 5 1600. From the top you can set the frequency to 2933MHz and the bottom CPU Core Ratio at x39. The ASUS B350M-A PRIME is not equipped with an external BCLK generator, so it is fixed at 100MHz, so in conjunction with the x39 multiplier we get the resulting frequency of 3900MHz on all six processor cores.
The last visible item in the picture is VDDCR CPU Voltage, which is the processor voltage setting. We have an auto and an offset mode. The offset also adds the specified voltage in millivolts to the value the board "agrees" with the processor. So, we set the offset and carry on.
You can set the VDDCR CPU Offset Voltage to the maximum, which is 0.2V, then you can offset the value to reduce it for lower temperatures and power consumption. VDDCR SOC is a voltage setting for System on Chip, which is a voltage set for IMC (memory controller) + USB + M.2 + PCI-e. As with core voltages, you can perform undervolting at the stability limit for running your assembly. I set the voltage for the RAM to 1.5V, mainly due to the modified timing we are now looking at.
In the DRAM Timing Control setting, you can customise the primary timing for DDR4 memory. I have a proven all-in-one combination of 14-14-14-14-22 that works effectively with AMD Ryzen 7 even at higher frequencies like 3466MHz. If you have single-ranked memory, you can try to set everything up to my recommendation, it will probably work for you and your AMD Ryzen will have a completely different performance.
This is how we set the UEFI timing, and before we move to real stability tests and verify the set values, we will finish the UEFI tour of the ASUS B350M-A PRIME.
Another item in the ASUS B350M-A PRIME UEFI motherboard is Advanced, which features advanced processor settings, SATA controllers, appropriate board devices such as Ethernet, audio and, last but not least, USB settings.
In the next part of the UEFI menu of the ASUS B350M-A PRIME motherboard, we have a summary of all temperature sensors and voltages that are monitored. Monitoring is also done of the Q-Fan setup, but we will look at it in the software version in the penultimate section of this review.
In the penultimate part of the UEFI, we get to the settings that have to do with booting. You will first want to set the boot devices and their priorities. If you are installing the operating system from USB, you can select it here as Boot Option #1 or, when booting your PC, you can run the boot menu using F8.
The last UEFI item on the ASUS PRIME B350M-A is TOOL. Here, we mainly find the BIOS flash utility and overclocking profiles for storing the current set parameters and, if necessary, re-uploading without having to manually select all the settings again.
There are two tests on the screenshot. The first on the left is the SuperPI 32M. This is a popular benchmark that tests the stability, performance and efficiency of memory like no other test. At the same time, it is well aware of its performance, especially in terms of single-threading. The second benchmark is Geekbench, which checks the stability and performance of the memory in several stages, but also tests the performance of both single-threads and multi-threads.
The Cinebench R15 is a well-known benchmark for the initial stability testing that overclockers use to find the smallest possible voltage on a given frequency. The benchmark is moderate, and if there are several rounds of stably rendered scenes, the BIOS setup is on the right track.
HWBOT H265 works with H.265 encoding video that is very demanding on the processor. H.265 is becoming increasingly used as it is a very handy video capture method that fits with today's large files for movies or serials, especially in 4K high bitrate resolution. These are the initial tests that we have done. You can also check for example, if you wish, the extensive ASUS's ROG RealBench test.
The ASUS B350M-A PRIME motherboard has proven to be user-friendly based on our tests. The UEFI setting is simple and clear. The BIOS is stable, without any bugs, and most importantly, RAM clocking works as it should. AMD Ryzen plays a major role in memory utilisation, because the CCX modules from which the processor is composed communicate with Infinity Fabric, operating at the same frequency as DDR4.
Although the ASUS B350M-A PRIME does not have a rich set of features, it is a very nice motherboard at an affordable price - as you can see in this review and tests - and has no problems with the overclocked AMD Ryzen 5 1600 at its maximum. If you do not need more power, it will serve you as well as the hi-end ASUS CROSSHAIR VI HERO, which I wrote about in a more comprehensive and detailed review.
For a decent motherboard that is rich enough as tested with the AMD Ryzen 5 1600 even after clocking the processor and the memory to its maximum, and for its favourable price, we award the ASUS B350M-A PRIME a silver award.