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Zen 3 is Here! Is Your Motherboard Up to Speed?

Last week we saw AMD come out guns blazing with the launch of their new Zen 3 Ryzen 5000 series. In case you missed it, check it out and be blown away by their offering. If the figures shown in the reveal are to be believed, the new Ryzen 5000 series stands heads and shoulders above anything Intel has to offer up to and including the 10th generation series.


The new Zen 3 logo

AMD has been slowly chipping away at Intel and has dominated the multi-core market for awhile now, although they tended to lag behind slightly when it came to gaming. That seems to be a thing of the past officially. The 5000 series was aimed almost exclusively at gamers, as AMD CEO Dr Lisa Su said:


"...gaming is at the heart of so much of what we do at AMD... AMD loves gaming, and we like to say gaming begins with AMD"

PC users love AMD. Over the past few years AMD has released the most remarkable processors, and now they have taken the overall crown with the best single-threaded and gaming performance on the market.


Dr Lisa Su (AMD CEO) delivering the launch keynote

What a time to be a gamer! We've just been gifted with the RTX 3000 series graphics cards, and now we will be seeing the most beastly processors ever too.


We will certainly delve into the juicy details of these monster CPUs in an article soon, but for now we have another thing to discuss.


AMD kept to their strengths of delivering amazing value for money, with the new CPUs set to be priced at very competitive levels (perhaps even too competitively for Intel to handle!). It is reasonably safe to assume that many gamers are licking their lips at picking up one of these CPUs on launch. Let's hope AMD is better at launching than Nvidia...


AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X smashing Intel's best offering

So with these processors on the horizon, one needs to take a moment and pause. The biggest question you need to ask yourself is if you are ready to make the transition. Specifically, is your motherboard ready?


Taking Stock of Where You Are Now


Ah, our good friend the motherboard. Not the most highly sought after component by any stretch of the imagination, but an important one nevertheless.


If you're a gamer, you will likely find yourself in one of three situations:

  1. You're running an Intel-based system and have an Intel-compatible motherboard.

  2. You're running an AMD-based system but your motherboard is incompatible with the new Zen 3 architecture.

  3. You're running an AMD-based system and your motherboard can handle the new Zen 3 CPUs.

Let's see what actions you can take to get yourself geared up for a smooth transition.

  • Intel-based system: In the event that you are running an Intel-based system, you will have no choice but to switch your motherboard to AMD alongside your processor (duh!). The most important consideration for you is around which particular motherboard to pick.

  • AMD-based system: Zen 3 will be supported on a number of existing platforms that use the AM4 socket. If you have any of these chipsets, you will be compatible with 5000 series Ryzen: X570, B550, A520. If you have an older chipset like the X470 or the B450, these will also be able to support Zen 3, although a BIOS update will be required.

So if you're all good to go, congrats! Make sure to watch out for the launch locally and pick up your Ryzen! (Psst... we're guessing the 8-core 5800X will be the go-to for most gamers...)


If you aren't so lucky and it's time to shell out for a new motherboard, no worries! We've got your covered too.


So You Need a New Motherboard


Should you need some general guidance on how to pick up a motherboard that will suit you, check out this buyer's guide. In this section, we're going to look over a few great options that can work for you and your budget.


1. The Budget Option


You want to make the switch to AMD, but you don't want to spend an arm and a leg making the transition. 2020 has been a difficult year, and not all of us have money to throw around at a component that doesn't really deliver all that much in the context of gaming performance.


Let's see what our best budget option is...


MSI B450 Tomahawk Max ATX

MSI might be in the news for some of the wrong reasons right now, but it doesn't change the fact that they continue to crank out quality components at the most value for money prices. When it comes to a budget board, MSI is the way to go.


The B450 Tomahawk Max may be a slightly older chipset generation, but as we mentioned, these boards fully support 5000 series CPUs with a simple BIOS update. If you're looking to save money, one of the best things you can do is pick up a B450 series board, as you'll find them at a decent discount compared to their B550 and X570 counterparts.


Coming in with a clean military style design, it works really well with the metals used in the components and will work easily with most cases or PC builds. Generally the budget options do not look all that great, but this board is an exception, and uses subtle design to get a great look.


As a full ATX board, there are 4 DIMM slots for your DDR4 RAM, overclockable all the way to 4133Mhz. The board has all the usual features you'd expect, like a Realtek® 8111H Gigabit LAN controller, support for Crossfire (does anyone still use this?), a couple of USB 3.2 ports, and a solitary M.2 slot for those super fast SSDs.


You can't really go wrong with a board like this at this price. The only thing you'll be missing out on is WiFi and more M.2 slots, that would've upped the price considerably, and that is not our aim with this pick.


Interesting fact - this board won the best ATX board award at the European Hardware Awards in 2020!


CPU Support:

The board offers full support for all Ryzen processors, including the 5000-series (obviously).


Key Features:

Form Factor: ATX

Chipset: B450

RAM Supported: Up to DDR4 4133 (OC)


Extra Features:

  • Extended Heatsink Design: MSI extended PWM heatsink and enhanced circuit design ensures even high-end processors to run in full speed.

  • MULTI-GPU: With STEEL ARMOR PCI-E slots. Supports 2-Way AMD Crossfire™

  • Lightning Fast Game experience: 1x TURBO M.2, AMD Turbo USB 3.2 GEN2, Store MI technology


2. The Mid-Range Option


You want a decent motherboard, but you also don't want to go all out on it, instead keeping some cash spare for, you know, the CPU! At the same time, you don't want the bare minimum - there are some things you just can't live without and you want some leeway for future upgrades too. Let's see what we can find.


Our favourite mid-range motherboard is...


Asus TUF GAMING X570-Plus (WiFi)


Now when you normally think of TUF Gaming products from ASUS, you know that these are generally aimed at the budget market, so often the designs and features are lacking. Here, we have a clear exception! This board looks absolutely gorgeous and the design elements are clean and crisp, with subtle RGB settings and a gold / black scheme that works so well.


The first and most important thing to note is that you are picking up a X570 chipset, the best offering for AMD CPUs currently. This means you are adding in all the functions and features that come with the best chipset. You'll get all the usuals, like quality on-board audio, LAN controller, 4 x DIMM slots, 4 x USB 3.2 slots, and a M.2 slot too. You also get a bluetooth adapter.


The X570-Plus WiFi edition also has, you guessed it, WiFi! A WiFi 5 802.11ac controller is a massive plus on a board like this, and sets it apart from some similar priced options from the competition.


Another big plus is the full RGB functionality, which is a great addition that isn't present on cheaper boards.


Overall, the board has everything you could ever need, plus a few extras. We believe the value for money on this board makes it the clear favourite for a mid-range pick in this price range.


CPU Support:

The board offers full support for all Ryzen processors, including the 5000-series (obviously).


Key Features:

Form Factor: ATX

Chipset: X570

RAM Supported: Up to DDR4 4400 (OC)


Extra Features:

  • TUF Gaming X570-Plus (Wi-Fi) features Intel Wireless AC-9260 Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) with 2x2 MU-MIMO and wide 160MHz channels, for wireless speeds of up to 1.73Gbps.* In fact, its integrated Wireless-AC 9260 Wi-Fi adapter pushes wireless data up to 2X faster — so you'll get fast, smooth transfers, even when your rig is further away from the router. Intel Wireless-AC 9260 also offers Bluetooth 5.0 for connections that are up to 2X faster than ever before, and with up to 4X the range.

  • Experience ultra-fast gaming with the ASUS-exclusive Realtek® L8200A Gigabit Ethernet. With performance and stability enhancements, the LAN is optimized for CPU-efficient, low-latency data transfers.