UK price (as reviewed): £89.99 (inc. VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $107.53 (exc. tax)
There aren't too many options when it comes to smaller form factors and AMD boards at the moment, and they've been especially slow to trickle out for the newer X470 and B450 chipsets. Thankfully, MSI has added to its micro-ATX Mortar range with the board we're looking at today, and this particular board, the MSI B450M Mortar, costs under £90 too.
So, if you're in the market for a board for your Ryzen or 2nd Gen Ryzen CPU and you have your heart set on a fancy micro-ATX case, then you should definitely keep reading. The Gigabyte B450 Aorus Pro has landed at around £110, making it a sizeable £20 more than the board here. That's the price of a half-decent air-cooler or a couple of extra case fans, and at this end of the budget spectrum, £20 is a big deal. That said, you do get £20 more bang with the Gigabyte board. It has M.2 heatsinks for both its M2 slots, heatsinks spanning both ranks on the CPU power circuitry, an integrated I/O shield, Intel rather than Realtek LAN connectivity, and Realtek ALC1220 audio.
The MSI board has to make do with zero M.2 heatsinks, Realtek ALC892 audio, and Realtek LAN, and, of course, you'll be needing to fit your own I/O shield. However, there's more to boards at this end of the scale than these core features, most notably overclocking and, as we found out recently with the Gigabyte board, whether they can hold up under high load with an overclocked eight-core CPU.
Getting back to the features, the pair of M.2 ports are configured so the top primary slot offers both full speed PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA 6Gbps support - this is the one you'll want to use unless you have a PCIe 2.0 or x2 M.2 SSD, in which case the second slot, which is limited to PCIe 2.0 x4 speeds, is for you if your SSD is somewhere between the PCIe turbo-nutters and SATA slow coaches.
There's a total of seven power phases, and one rank of these is cooled by a large heatsink. At first glance it doesn't appear to be any better than Gigabyte's efforts with its B450 board, but you can see the results of our testing and overclocking on the last page. There's a reasonable amount of onboard ports and connectivity, such as two four-pin 12V RGB LED headers, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, and a single USB 3.0 header, but there are only four fan headers, meaning that you may need to invest in some fan splitter cables if you're combining CPU coolers and cases with numerous fans. It's also worth noting that the only PCIe 3.0 slot is the primary 16x slot - the other 16x slot and pair of 1x slots only offer PCIe 2.0 bandwidth, but this is unlikely to be an issue for the kind of system this board is aimed at.
The rear I/O panel reveals a generous amount of USB ports for this price tag - two more than the Gigabyte board with both USB 3.1 Type-A and Type-C ports here too as a bonus. You also get a pair of video outputs including a DisplayPort - also absent in the Gigabyte board, so it's perhaps a decent option if you'll be planning to use one of AMD's Ryzen CPUs with Radeon Vega Graphics. You get a full stack of audio outputs including optical, and amazingly there's even a CMOS clear switch - the first we've seen on a sub-£100 board of any type for quite a while. With AMD boards often failing to POST when you're pushing those overclocking limits, this is a very handy feature.
March 25 2020 | 14:00