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Asrock B550 Taichi - Review 2020


Asrock’s Taichi motherboards are well-known as some of the most feature-balanced boards on the market. Typically, Asrock gives the Taichi name to its flagship for a given chipset—a motherboard that competes with the best from the likes of Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. Asrock’s new B550 Taichi ($289.99) is no exception. A full-ATX board built around AMD’s second-best Ryzen chipset (one step down from the top-shelf X570), this Taichi’s build quality ranks with higher-end motherboards that we’ve reviewed, and its price initially feels like good deal given the feature set. However, some significant issues with this board’s RAM support and a few other things keep it from the high marks usually earned by Taichi-branded motherboards.


Board Design: This Part’s in Balance

Following its usual Taichi design scheme, Asrock festoons the B550 Taichi with gears along with a black, steel-gray, and gold color scheme. Aesthetics are a matter of opinion, but personally I feel this board looks spectacular. Black is the dominant color, but there’s enough gray that the board doesn’t feel overly dark, nor does the amount of steel feel overwhelming. 

Asrock B550 Taichi overhead

The gold is only lightly applied, but the way it’s used really helps to draw your eye to it, set on a series of gears that reside over the chipset heatsink. The level of detail of these parts is excellent, with all of the gears being fully three-dimensional and looking as if they could actually turn. (They can’t, but they make great eye candy.) A little more gold coloring adorns the rear I/O ports, also made to look like gears.

RGB LEDs that illuminate when the board is supplied with power further boost the overall look. The LEDs are set over the rear I/O shroud, the chipset heatsink, and along the right edge of the board. The lights on the rear I/O shroud shine most prominently, and here again, it feels Asrock struck a nice balance, with the lights looking pleasant but not overwhelming.

Asrock B550 Taichi CPU slot

For a midrange-chipset board, the B550 Taichi comes equipped with a top-notch power delivery system that consists of 16 60A Dr. MOS power phases passively cooled by two large metal heatsinks and a metal heatpipe. This is on par with what you see from some midrange Z490 and X570 motherboards. Realistically, it may be overkill for a B550 motherboard, but I’m not about to complain about having too good of a power delivery system.

The lower half of the motherboard is almost entirely covered by heatsinks and spreaders. Underneath these sit two M.2 Key-M slots, as well as an M.2 Key-E slot that’s populated by a Wi-Fi module. The first M.2 Key-M slot sits directly above the primary PCI Express x16 slot, and it is easy to access by removing just two screws from the top heatspreader. It’s worth mentioning here that Asrock uses Torx 8 screws to hold the heatspreaders in place, supplying a Torx 8 screwdriver in the box in case you don’t have one. That’s fine, but you will want to stash or tape it inside your case, if you have the space, because I bet most users won’t be able to find it again when it’s needed months or years down the line.

Asrock B550 Taichi M.2 heatspreaders

The top M.2 Key-M slot isn’t particularly easy to access, but this is unavoidable. It’s not difficult to get to right out of the box, but as it’s sandwiched between the CPU socket and where your graphics card should go, you won’t have easy access to this slot after building your system unless you’re using one of the Ryzen chips with integrated graphics (an unlikely match for a near-$300 board). To avoid difficulties down the road, if you plan to use an M.2 solid-state drive, you should install it first, before even mounting the board in a case.

The second M.2 Key-M slot is easier to access, as it sits close to the bottom of the board.  The heatspreader here is also held on by two screws, but unless you install multiple PCI Express devices inside the case, this should be fairly easy to access even with the system fully built.

Set between the two M.2 Key M slots is the lone Key-E slot. To access it you must remove the chipset heatsink, and it’s a fairly large piece of metal so it won’t be as easy to wrangle out of an already-built system. As the board comes with an M.2 Key-E Wi-Fi chip preinstalled, though, most builders won’t need to access this slot.


A Look at the Networking, Audio, and Connectivity

Networking support includes an Intel i225v wired NIC along with an 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) Wi-Fi controller. Both of these can transfer data at relatively high speeds, with the wireless NIC topping out at 2.4Gbps and the wired NIC reaching 2.5Gbps. This matches up with what we’re seeing on lower-end and midrange Z490 motherboards, and it places the Asrock B550 Taichi notably ahead of the average midrange motherboard. (That said, that may be changing as both AMD and Intel work to push out their new midrange chipsets.)

Asrock opted to use the Realtek ALC1220 audio codec—a very common chip on boards nowadays, but one that’s proven to work well over the years. It has a 120dB signal-to-noise rating, and Asrock paired it with an NE5532 amp to help boost audio going to the front I/O panel for headphones.

The rear I/O port is loaded up with a total of seven USB Type-A ports, one of which is a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port with support for 10Gbps of bandwidth. Nearby is a USB Type-C port that is also USB 3.2 Gen 2. Also back here are the usual RJ-45 jack and antenna hookups, along with five 3.5mm audio jacks, an S/PDIF port, an HDMI output (in the off chance you are relying on Ryzen integrated graphics), and a DisplayPort connection. Asrock also put a clear CMOS button on the rear I/O panel, plus a button to flash the BIOS to a new version.

Asrock B550 Taichi back side

Many of these are premium creature comforts that we’d expect to see in an AMD X570 or Intel Z490 board. Also, on the flip side of the board is a nice metal backplate for PCB rigidity.


The Building Experience

Building the ATX-size B550 Taichi into a case is a fairly typical experience; there’s not much to say out of the ordinary here. The heatsinks don’t obstruct access to the CPU power connector up top, and the CPU fan headers are set far enough away from the heatsinks to make plugging in the fans easy.

Running down the right side of the motherboard are two USB 3.0 headers, along with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C header and eight SATA 3.0 ports. Most of these are set at a right angle, which can make plugging these in easier (or harder) depending on what case you have and how big it is, but one of the USB 3.0 headers (as well as the not-always-present USB-C 3.2 header) are set pointing straight up. So you have options depending on the case design.

Asrock B550 Taichi built in case

At the bottom of the board is the usual row of headers including the front audio header, USB 2.0 headers, and the cluster of pins for the power button and reset switch. Here you can also find an “88”-style debug LED that comes in handy for troubleshooting issues when booting the system. Directly beside this are power and reset buttons, which are exceedingly useful when troubleshooting or using the board in an open-air build. Again, these are features I’d expect to find in a higher-end X570 board.


A Brief Look at the BIOS

The B550 Taichi does not support an easy-mode BIOS menu, booting instead straight into what’s called the advanced-mode BIOS by most other boards. I have no complaints here, as an easy mode isn’t strictly necessary in a board targeted more at tech enthusiasts than beginners. Alas, however, this is where some problems with the B550 Taichi start to show up.

Asrock B550 Taichi main BIOS

The main page of the BIOS is quite simple, with just basic system information being displayed. The next tab is the OC Tweaker tab, which is also rather bare. Given the relatively high-end build of this board, I expected it would have fairly capable controls for overclocking, but there are none to be found. I looked multiple times to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but no, the overclocking controls are quite limited, perhaps in keeping with the positioning of the B550 as a step-down chipset and the X570 as the tweaker’s choice.

Asrock B550 Taichi OC Tweaker

The only option you have for adjusting the CPU’s clock speed in the BIOS is by adjusting the base clock. You can’t adjust the CPU multiplier at all. Officially, AMD’s B550 chipset supports overclocking, as does the AMD Ryzen 5 3400G CPU that I used while testing the board. I used this same processor to test Asus’ TUF Gaming B550M-Plus (Wi-Fi) not that long ago and had much broader options for overclocking. I did find some more extensive overclock controls, however, in a bundled Windows utility later on. (More on that in a bit.)

Asrock B550 Taichi advanced settings

I spotted little else of note; other than the lack of in-BIOS overclocking controls, the rest of the BIOS is quite standard. I did encounter another problem with the board at this point, though, which I am at a loss to explain.

For some reason, adjusting the RAM settings in the BIOS caused the board to fail to POST. Initially, I just tried to enable the RAM’s built-in memory profile, which dictates a clock speed of 3,200MHz with timings of 14-14-14-14-34 and a voltage of 1.35. When this didn’t work, I tried raising the timings to 16-16-16-16-39, which also failed to boot. I next tried reducing the clock speed to 2,400MHz, and when that failed, I tried at 2,133MHz.

When this too failed to stably boot the system, I turned to other troubleshooting steps to try and diagnose the problem. I tested with a single stick of RAM at the 2,133MHz clock speed, which I tried in all four RAM slots. I have two other DDR4 RAM kits on hand, so I next tried testing with a single stick of RAM from each of those kits in turn, which had the same result.

After failing to boot three times in a row, the BIOS reverted to its default settings, which appear to work just fine, but changing the settings manually borked the boot. I even tried manually matching the default settings used by the BIOS, but this too failed, so I’m forced to conclude that the BIOS firmware has an issue with custom RAM settings. This happened when using the latest stable firmware (version 1.5 at the time of writing).

Though the RAM issue is disappointing, the board was able to boot with its default settings so I continued from here to install Windows 10.


Drivers and Software

All of the drivers included with this board installed without issue, but problems cropped up when I tried to install some of the bundled software utilities.

Among the latter are a free trial of Norton Security, a simple app for restarting to the BIOS, Asrock’s Polychrome RGB software (for controlling Polychrome-compliant LEDs and chassis-lighting accessories), an overclocking tool, and an App Shop program. All of these save the last installed without a hitch, and most may be worthwhile to install on your own system if you buy this board.

Asrock B550 Taichi Polychrome RGB

The Polychrome RGB app doesn’t really need much discussion. It controls the lights on the board and any supported ones connected to it, and it has support for several light patterns. Asrock’s A-Tuning overclocking tool is more useful on this board than it might otherwise be, as you can’t do much granular overclocking from the BIOS. The program has a fairly clean layout, and it’s easy to navigate and use.

Asrock B550 Taichi A-Tuning OC

As its name suggests, the App Shop software helps you find other programs that may be useful to you, and it can also check for system driver updates. On the B550 Taichi, however, I’d avoid it. I tried repeatedly to install this program, and most of the time the PC would freeze, requiring a hard reset. After several attempts, the software appeared to install, but it would freeze the system again whenever I tried to launch it. An eventual update may well fix this, but as the software doesn’t do anything essential I’d steer clear.


When Taichi Isn’t a Stress Reducer

Have you ever wanted something to be really great and then felt a bit flat after your time with it? To some extent, that’s our verdict on the Asrock B550 Taichi. Given the excellent build quality, the cool design, and the board’s specs, this Taichi looked like it could be an overachieving B550 chipset motherboard—a bit pricey, perhaps, but surely attractive.

Asrock B550 Taichi diagonal

Alas, on digging in, it proved lacking or less than 100 percent functional in a couple of places. The RAM issue I encountered may not matter if you’re not a memory tweaker, but I’d expect the buyer of a motherboard in this price range to do some tinkering with settings. You’ll want to buy from a source with easy returns if that proves a replicable issue. Also, considering the admirable power delivery system, the scanty overclocking support from the BIOS seems a bit of a mismatch.

This board may look nice and be well built, but if overclocking or memory tweaking is on your dance card, we’d suggest looking at another B550 option. 

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