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AMD's B550 motherboards will bring PCIe 4.0 to the masses, but leave older Ryzen CPUs behind


When AMD’s excellent Ryzen 3000-series processors released last summer, snatching the desktop computing crown from Intel, one of their key features was support for the blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 interface—but only if you purchased a pricey X570 motherboard, too. No more. After months of constant leaks (and constant pining by enthusiasts) AMD confirmed Tuesday that it’s bringing PCIe 4.0 to the masses with the announcement of B550 motherboards, revealed alongside two extremely affordable new Ryzen 3-series processors.

The twist? Motherboards with the B550 chipset aren’t launching until June 16. But if you’ve already waited this long without splurging on an X570 upgrade, what’s another couple of months?

Update: The other twist, revealed on the day that Ryzen 3 3000-series processor reviews lifted? B550 boards won’t support older 1st- and 2nd-gen Ryzen processors. They’re only support 3rd-gen Ryzen 3000 chips, along with later chips built using AMD’s forthcoming “Zen 3” architecture. Older chips don’t support PCIe 4.0 and will be well-served by existing B450 boards. On the bright side, the mainstream B550 boards support a full 20 usable PCIe 4.0 lanes, so you’ll be able to run both a PCIe 4.0 SSD and a PCIe 4.0 graphics card if you desire.

AMD will continue to support the AM4 socket going forward, but chipset support is getting…complicated. Read about it here. Our original story continues below.

B550 motherboards are exactly what you expect: They’re like the existing B450 mainstream Ryzen motherboards, built around the backward-compatible AM4 socket, but with support for PCIe 4.0 included. The cutting-edge interface promises faster speeds for any device that taps into it, but it’s especially beneficial for storage. PCIe 4.0 SSDs hit ludicrous speeds—and this first wave doesn’t even come close to maxing out the technology’s potential. Check out our PCI 4.0 primer if you want to know more.

ryzen lineup AMD

The new Ryzen 3 processors join existing Ryzen 5, 7, and 9 CPUs in AMD’s 3rd-gen lineup.

It remains to be seen just how expensive the new boards are, however. PCIe 4.0 achieves a lot of its speed increases through faster clock speeds, which means more heat. Existing X570 motherboards pretty much universally include enhanced heatsinks and even dedicated chipset fans to tame temperatures. If B550 boards need similar hardware, they’re sure to be more costly than prior generation x50-class Ryzen boards.

Ryzen 3 gets company

You need to pair PCIe 4.0 motherboards with a Ryzen 3000-series processor to unlock their fantastic speeds, and to that end, AMD also announced a pair of inexpensive 7nm 3rd-gen Ryzen 3 processors today. The $99 Ryzen 3 3100 and $120 Ryzen 3 3300X are both four-core, eight-thread chips, rated for 65 watts and with full PCIe 4.0 support in tow. The cheaper Ryzen 3 3100 sports a 3.6GHz base clock and 3.9GHz boost clock, while the Ryzen 3 3300X ups speeds to 3.8GHz base and 4.3GHz boost for $20 more. Look for both to land in May, well ahead of B550, oddly enough.

Unlike Intel’s Core i3 processors, Ryzen 3 chips lack integrated graphics, so you’ll need to pair the new chips with a discrete graphics card.

The burning question: How will AMD’s quad-core, 3rd-gen Ryzen 3 chips stack up against the $85 Ryzen 3 1600AF, a still-available budget barnstormer that packs six cores and twelve threads, but at lower frequencies (and without PCIe 4.0)? The wait for benchmarks shouldn’t last long. 

Update: The new CPUs look pretty damned good, according to reviews from Hardware Unboxed, Tom’s Hardware, Anandtech, and others—particularly the $120 Ryzen 3 3300X, which holds its own against Intel’s older Core i7-7700K flagship. The 7700K was Intel’s last four core, eight thread champion and cost $350 when it launched in 2017. We haven’t reviewed the new processors yet but have them in hand. 

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