AMD is set to announce its new line of CPUs next month and for you to get ready before it releases, you need to have a compatible motherboard.
While most people would flock to X570 motherboards, some people might prefer a cheaper option and that is why I am going to go over the best AMD B550 motherboards that you can find in the market in 2020.
Why a B550 Motherboard?
You might be asking yourself why you’d go for a B550 motherboard over the X570 given that the latter is sometimes even cheaper than the former.
You see, X570 motherboards were released a year ago which means that you would expect a price drop since these things have already aged.
I think that AMD is partly to be blamed for this as the move to sell the supposed ‘cheaper’ motherboards made it irrelevant at this point.
Anyway, there are still some advantages to getting a B550 motherboard. For one, it doesn’t have a chipset fan, so for people who are wary about X570 motherboards’ longevity, getting the ‘B’ variant makes sense.
Furthermore, you can get a lot of amazing B series boards within the $130-$180 price range. At the time of writing, the most competitive X570 motherboards still cost above $180, so if you want to save a couple of bucks, go for the newer version.
Do not worry as you are still getting the highly-coveted PCIe 4.0 lanes, except that you are only able to utilize one for a high-speed SSD and a graphics card as those lanes are taken directly from the CPU and not the motherboard chipset itself.
If you are okay with the limitations and the pricing of B550 motherboards, I will now talk about what I think are the best ones that you can find on the market.
Best B550 Motherboards
1.Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master
If you intend to run a Ryzen 9 3950x and you want a motherboard that can tame that power-hungry beast, then look no further than the Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master.
This is definitely one of the most expensive B series boards out there but it certainly outperforms all the others on this list in terms of VRM performance, thermals, and overall build quality.
The reason why you’d want to choose this one over the others when running a 3950X is that its VRMs and its accompanying cooling solution is the best in the B550 motherboard lineup. Even when you overclock the said chip, you are not going beyond 60C in a room with 21C ambient temperature. That is seriously impressive.
It’s got a lot of USB ports at the back and it even has a 2.5G LAN solution for high-speed internet connections.
This thing has six SATA ports and three M.2 slots so you definitely have more room when it comes to storage. I do have to caution you that if you are going to use six SATA ports, you are only limited to using only two of the three M.2 drives as there would be no available PCIe lanes to support the two (extra) SATA drives.
Because this is a premium product, you can also expect goodies such as Bluetooth 5.0 support, as well as the new WiFi 6 standard.
I understand that this motherboard costs pretty much like an X570 board, but the fact that this doesn’t have a chipset fan, it gives you peace of mind that it will last longer than its X570 equivalent.
2.Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming
Slightly cheaper than the Aorus Master board above, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E is the premium B550 motherboard from Asus.
This is a standard ATX board that has support for two M.2 drives and six SATA drives of your choosing (the same limitation above applies here).
The board is predominantly black color with some RGB accents located in the VRM section, as well as the chipset part of the product.
It also has a wealth of ports on its back IO. It supports WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and you also have the Realtek 2.5GB LAN for high-speed connections.
This board also has a pretty competitive VRM solution and its 14+2 power stage allows for clean and consistent power at all times.
One of the reasons why I consider this motherboard as one of the best in the B550 lineup is that it is a pretty good overclocking machine. Although you cannot go beyond AMD spec when it comes to processors, you can do some serious memory overclocking with this thing without any issues.
3.AsRock B550 Taichi
One of the better-looking boards out there that also packs a serious punch is the AsRock B550 Taichi. It has that familiar design that you can expect from the company’s Taichi lineup and it is also the most expensive B550 motherboard that you can find on the market.
Anyway, It has a competitive VRM and power delivery solution, so if you intend to push your chips a bit further, you can do it confidently with this board.
This thing is aesthetically pleasing with RGB lighting on the VRM, the right side of the board, and some subtle RGB lighting on the chipset area as well. The only thing that I do not like is AsRock’s RGB lighting software, but if you’re okay with using it, then this shouldn’t be an issue.
Unlike the previous boards mentioned above, this motherboard supports a whopping 8 different SATA drives. However, because of PCIe limitations, you can only utilize one of the two M.2 slots if you intend to populate all SATA ports on this thing. Still, this is one that you should consider if you intend to plug as many storage drives as you want.
It should go without saying that this board also supports 2.5GB and WiFi connections and the best part is that it uses Intel’s solutions for both. If you do not like Realtek LAN, for example, this might persuade you to get this board over the ones I’ve mentioned thus far.
It is a bit lacking in the USB department on its back IO, but there are enough USB headers if you have a case with multiple USB ports.
The only downside to this board is the price as it encroaches the premium X570 motherboard territory.
This is the point where you ask yourself if you are going for the more modest B Series chipset or the flagship variant.
4.MSI MAG B550M Mortar
There are very few compromises when it comes to standard ATX and micro-ATX motherboards and if you are looking for the latter, then I suggest that you look at the MSI MAG B550M Mortar.
This is priced competitively and its form factor allows you to put it into more PC cases than a standard ATX board.
You still get four DIMM slots for your RAM and you can even overclock them up to a maximum of 4,400MHz which is pretty insane (your mileage may vary depending on the quality of your RAM’s memory chips).
This thing doesn’t have a WiFi solution but you are instead given 2.5GB ethernet LAN from Realtek. This is still better than cheaper X570 motherboards, though, so I think there’s really nothing to complain about here.
You still get six SATA ports and two M.2 drives that you can populate without any problems, but do keep in mind that you can only use one PCIe 4.0 storage drive in the M.2 slot and the other one will just be using the previous PCIe 3.0 standard. It’s still plenty fast though and you will be hard-pressed to know the difference.
My only gripe with this board is that it doesn’t have a lot of USB ports, but if you are okay with this, the MSI MAG B550M Mortar is a board that is priced competitively and is indeed a solid choice.
5.Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming
There are some DIY builders that prefer the ITX form factor because it can be placed inside a small chassis and they are relatively easy to work with.
There are only a handful of B550 ITX motherboards out there and one that I can recommend is the Asus ROG Strix B550-I Gaming.
One of the most interesting aspects of this thing is its active VRM cooling solution. I’ve never seen this in any other B550 boards on the market and this certainly helps cool the hot VRMs nicely. Theoretically, you could put a 3950x on this thing, though you shouldn’t overclock the chip as it can get really hot.
As expected with mini-ITX boards, there are only a couple of USB ports at the back. The USB-C connection on its back IO is meant for the audio solution which is quite odd. Fortunately, this information is included in the motherboard’s instruction manual and guide.
There is a saying that ‘less is more’ but apparently, Asus didn’t get the memo. It would have been nice if the company went for fewer features but solid build quality, but because they’re cramming a lot of stuff on a small board, putting some of your PC’s components might be a tricky one.
For example, the slot for the front panel audio headers of your case is jammed between the two DIMM slots and one of the M.2 slots. It would have been nice if the company made it easier, but I guess some people would welcome more features than ease of installation.
You do get WiFi 6 support so if you have an AX router, then this thing can definitely get better signals from it.
6.MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk
As mentioned earlier, there are some pretty good mid-range B550 motherboards that you can find out there and the MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk is certainly one of them.
This is a standard ATX motherboard with amazing VRMs and its 13-phase power delivery ensures that you can use any Ryzen processor of your choosing without having to worry about incompatibilities and thermal issues.
It has USB-A and USB-C ports on the back IO panel, but do keep in mind that you are only getting a total of six USB ports which may not be adequate for some people.
Its aesthetics are pretty minimal with a predominantly black aesthetic and some RGB lighting near the chipset area. But I think that most DIY PC builders would appreciate the subtle design.
You can use any cooling solution that you want since this has a lot of fan and pump headers you can use.
For the price, you are sacrificing Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities, but I think that you can do away without them.
Amazon Luna- Everything You Need to Know About Amazon’s Cloud Gaming Service
It seems that cloud gaming is the future as a lot of companies are pooling their resources just to make things happen.
Amazon Luna is Amazon’s foray into cloud gaming and it is going to be available soon. Read further to find out more information about this new experience.
Google has paved the way for cloud gaming to come to the fore with the release of the Stadia not too long ago. Although it was mired with a lot of different issues, it seems that the company has found a way to make things work.
Amazon also wants in on the action and although there are some similarities with Luna and Stadia, there are also some stark differences as well.
Before I begin, I just want to explain the concept of cloud gaming. Basically, instead of downloading games to your gaming PC or whatever platform you choose to install them, you will just stream those games using data centers that are scattered all over the world.
It should go without saying that you need to have a fast internet connection to make this happen and so that you will not experience high latency (which was a huge problem when Stadia launched).
That being said, the premise of Google Stadia is that you need to either purchase an individual game so that you can play it at any time (forever) or you could subscribe to the monthly plan and play the games that are on offer every month (and continue to play them so long as you’re subscribed).
With Amazon Luna, you will be presented with different channels that you can subscribe to. Each of these channels has different games on offer which makes this quite appealing for game developers to show their mettle.
Right now, the platform is still in beta and there are only two channels available at the moment- Amazon’s own Luna Plus and the Ubisoft Channel. The latter will have 50 games that you can play right away and more Ubisoft games will be added in the future.
Keep in mind that this channel-based system makes it so that developers can price their services accordingly. It remains to be seen how much Ubisoft will charge individual users, so stay tuned for that.
1080p and 4K Gaming
Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna will support both 1080p and 4K resolutions. Of course, the latter would be more taxing and you will need a fast internet connection to be able to enjoy high-fidelity gaming. I suggest that you get a WiFi 6 router and a compatible device to make the most out of your experience.
Unlike Stadia, Amazon Luna is more flexible in that it supports a lot of different devices. Not only can you play on your PC, but you can also choose to play it using your iOS devices, Android phones, and you can even utilize the company’s own FireTV devices as well.
Now, there has been this entire debacle about Apple’s 30% cut on every app in its App store but the good news is that Amazon can circumvent that.
You see, when you are going to play on your iOS devices, the application will actually be a PWA or a Progressive Web App. Basically, the game that you want to play will run in a contained web browser instead of it being an actual application that you install in your device. This bypasses the whole 30% cut issue which is a good thing.
NVIDIA Hardware Use
According to a recent Steam survey, the vast majority of PC users are all using NVIDIA graphics cards. This is a good thing for Amazon Luna because it means that it can support a lot more people.
That is because the company’s cloud gaming service will use NVIDIA GPUs instead of AMD cards (which Stadia uses for graphics processing).
Supposing that Amazon Luna will be more popular than any other cloud gaming service out there, NVIDIA will enjoy huge profits as a result.
Can Be Streamed to Popular Sites
Twitch is arguably the most popular streaming platform today and Amazon is looking to forge a partnership with the said service to allow you to stream your games to the popular website.
The said platform is widely used as a means of generating revenue- something that is quite popular today due to the recent pandemic.
This move also makes it appealing as well as more and more content creators can use Amazon Luna to reach a broader audience.
New Controller with Alexa Support
Just like Google Stadia, Amazon Luna also requires you to get a special controller. The good thing is that the control will have a microphone so that you can use Alexa for specific voice commands.
What’s interesting about the Luna’s controller is that it is completely connected to the Cloud, which means that you do not have to pair it with the specific device you are going to use to play games online.
According to Amazon’s website, it should have a grippy texture and will feature low-friction thumbsticks that provide maximum performance across the board. By using the controller’s microphone, you can actually tell Alexa to fire up the specific game that you want to play, so long as it is inside the channel that you’ve subscribed to.
Amazon Luna is quite enticing, at least, on paper. It is shaping up to be a better cloud gaming service compared to its competitors but the service is still in beta, so there are more things that need ironing out before its official release.
Right now, there are only two channels that are available and Ubisoft hasn’t imposed its pricing yet. The Amazon Luna channel is priced at $6.99
If you are interested in getting in on the action, you can be an early beta tester by subscribing to the service.
Amazon Luna will be out sometime in October.
Acer Nitro XV340CK Review- A Greatly Competitive Ultrawide Gaming Monitor Under $500
Ultrawide monitors used to be a niche display in that the only people who work on productivity tasks and creative workloads usually buy them.
Fortunately, the display technology has evolved and gamers, too, can enjoy a much wider screen.
Today, I am going to review the Acer Nitro XV340CK which is a 34-inch ultrawide gaming monitor that is priced competitively.
Even though this is marketed as a gaming monitor, the Acer Nitro XV340CK actually doesn’t look like it. It looks simple and I love the aesthetics, especially if you want to place this in your office.
The only thing that might make you think that this is a gaming display is that red accent that you can find on the base of the monitor but that’s about it.
Anyway, let’s start with the stand. Aside from the aforementioned red accent, the stand provides good ergonomics.
It gives you the ability to swivel the monitor a complete 360 degrees, you can tilt it to 35 degrees back and you can adjust the height up to 5.9 inches. Because this is an ultrawide monitor, you cannot put this thing in portrait mode.
I love the fact that this monitor has slim bezels. At only 0.4 inches, you can place another monitor right beside it and it wouldn’t really take a lot of screen real estate at all.
The overall build quality is good. Despite the fact that it doesn’t feel premium, at least when compared to the best gaming monitors out there, it still feels sturdy nevertheless.
For the ports, you get two Displayport 1.4 ports, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. Due to the wealth of ports on offer, you can use this for your PC or your game console.
The only thing that might be cumbersome for some users is that the OSD controls are situated at the back of the monitor- particularly on the bottom right side. The buttons are also a bit smaller than usual, so you may have a hard time pressing the right ones.
The Acer Nitro XV340CK has a 34-inch IPS display with a resolution of 3440 x 1440 and an aspect ratio of 21:9. It is the same as other ultrawide gaming monitors that you can find on the market so there is no problem with that.
You do have the option to enable the picture-in-picture mode so that you can divide the display in two if you wish to fire up two different programs at the same time. This is why it is not only a handy gaming monitor, but it can also be used for office work as well.
Its contrast and brightness leave much to be desired. With a native contrast ratio of 1048:1 and peak SDR brightness of only 247 nits, it is not the best display when it comes to these things.
However, its redeeming quality is that its colors are accurate. After calibration, I got 95% sRGB, 82% AdobeRGB, and 81% DCI-P3. It is relatively color accurate and it would have been nice for creative workloads, but its peak brightness just falls short of making it an ideal display for such use-cases.
It is also worth noting that if you are in a well-lit room that the brightness could be a huge issue. The good thing is that the display’s matte finish can help reduce glare significantly, though you will still find that it is not bright enough in some situations.
I am surprised by the fact that there is literally no color bleed on the Acer Nitro XV340CK. This is unheard of, especially since ultrawide monitors are notorious for this.
Sure, its peak brightness and contrast could have improved, but gamers are not especially focused on those things. If anything, it is the performance of the display that usually takes the cake and I am happy to report that you won’t be disappointed with the Nitro XV340CK.
Normally, with IPS panels, they tend to not have a good response time, but that is actually not the case here. At just 5.3ms, it is definitely one of the best out there even when compared to other, more premium models.
How about input lag? This is a speed monitor and as expected, input lag is minimal. At just 4.2ms, I am really blown away by the performance of this thing. Every keypress on your gaming keyboard will register almost immediately and that is really great from a competitive standpoint.
It is also worth noting that its 144Hz refresh rate is ideal, especially since most gamers are clamoring for high refresh rate displays anyway.
This is a FreeSync gaming monitor and you can enable this variable refresh rate feature in both AMD and Nvidia graphics cards.
To get a hold of the said features, it is important for you to know that you should use the DisplayPort cable that is included in the box. There is also an included HDMI cable if you want to use this display for your Xbox or Playstation consoles.
With all of those things being said, if I were to ask you how much this thing costs, what will be your guess? If you’ve guessed around $700, you’re wrong.
The Acer Nitro XV340CK is priced at just $450! At that price, you are getting a relatively color-accurate monitor, a really fast display with minimal input lag, and a vast number of ports that you can use for your PC or game consoles.
Sure, its contrast and peak brightness could have been improved, but if you are talking about raw gaming performance, the Acer Nitro XV340CK blows other ultrawide gaming monitors out of the way.
Just make sure that you have a nice gaming PC for this thing to work nicely. Other than that, I highly recommend the Acer Nitro XV340CK for its price and performance.
HyperX Cloud Stinger S- A Comfortable 7.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset
As an audiophile, I’ve always loved HyperX’s gaming audio solution. They are inexpensive and for the price, you are actually getting sound quality that you normally would only hear from expensive products.
In today’s article, I am going to review the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. This is a budget offering that aims to improve upon the original Cloud Stinger with the inclusion of a 7.1 surround sound option.
Do I recommend this headset? Find out later on in the article.
The HyperX Cloud Stinger S is actually quite similar to the original version. It has the same pleather ear cups that envelope your ears quite nicely and the clamping force of the headset itself is actually quite okay.
I’ve been receiving reports that there are some people that have problems with the tightness or, shall I say, how loose this thing can be. But that will probably be a result of the size of your head and not the actual product itself. For me, the fit was okay, but your mileage may vary.
Although this thing is predominantly made in plastic, the overall build quality is good, though I would advise you not to throw this headset when you lose a round in a MOBA game or first-person shooter.
There is a microphone on this headset and just like the original, it is not removable. It would have been nice if you could remove it when you are not using it because even if you fold the microphone (which also acts as a way of muting it), you will still see it which can be annoying at times.
This thing is quite simple and all you have for the controls is the volume slider that is located on the right ear cup.
While other HyperX gaming headsets come with a carrying pouch, I am sad to say that the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t have one.
All you get in the box aside from the headset is a USB dongle that is attached to a relatively long cable and some documentation. And, since you use this thing completely wired, it can also be used in your Playstation or other game consoles as well.
The 3.5mm analog cable should be inserted in the USB dongle if you wish to use its 7.1 surround sound implementation, but if you are just going to watch movies or play non-competitive games, I suggest that you do not use it.
There are two modes that you can utilize if you are going to use the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. You can use its 3.5mm headphone jack and enjoy stereo sound or you could insert that into the included USB dongle and use the 7.1 surround sound feature.
Keep in mind that if you are going to use the 7.1 output that it is only supported on the PC since you will need the NGENUITY software to enable it.
That being said, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S’ sound signature leans more toward being bright and with a little emphasis on the bass. This seems to be the preference of the majority of gamers since lower frequencies can make those in-game sounds pop-out more.
I also love the mid frequencies as it is quite balanced as well. I’ve had no problems listening to in-game dialog and when I am using the microphone, it just works really well.
Although the high frequencies are okay, I would say that it is the weakest of the bunch, though not so much as to diminish the overall sound quality. You will still hear the sibilance of the cymbals and lead guitars, but it is not as pronounced as the lower and mid frequencies.
As for the 7.1 surround sound, you should enable it in the companion software and it is only available when you are on the PC.
Anyway, its surround sound is okay but I say this because it is a budget gaming headset. If you compare it to the more premium ones, this is subpar at best. Still, you could enable it in your favorite games but I will advise against it if you are just listening to music or watching movies.
Despite a relatively good clamping force, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S doesn’t do so well in terms of sound isolation. People around me can still hear what I was listening to, so this might not be ideal if you are playing at night and there are people sleeping.
There is usually this notion that budget headsets have horrible microphones but not the HyperX Cloud Stinger S. In fact, I would go on to say that it has one of the better ones on the market.
Instead of sounding tinny, the microphone quality of the Cloud Stinger S is full-bodied and my teammates can hear every word I said without any problems.
The volume of the microphone is also quite good as well. Normally, with budget offerings, you tend to sound a bit ‘too far’ but that is not the case here.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the microphone. The only thing that I do not like is that the flippable microphone may impede your vision sometimes, but I think that you can adjust to this.
For a budget headset, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is definitely one of the better sounding ones. I also love the fact that the microphone’s quality is top-notch and it can even go head-to-head against its more premium counterparts.
I am just a bit disappointed that you do not get a carrying pouch with this one because other HyperX gaming headsets have them. But, this is a minor inconvenience.
I did not feel the need to talk about the NGENUITY software mainly because it is pretty barebones and all you can do with it is to enable the 7.1 surround sound, adjust the volume and microphone, and that’s about it. There is no equalizer present which is quite odd.
Still, for what it is giving you, the HyperX Cloud Stinger S is highly recommended. This thing costs $60.
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