The MSI B350M Gaming Pro Review: Micro Size, Micro Priceby Gavin Bonshor on October 12, 2018 10:00 AM EST
The B350M Gaming Pro focuses on offering reliable and respectable components, such as a pairing of Realtek controllers for the audio (Realtek ALC887) and networking capabilities (Realtek 8111H) in a comparatively small and low-cost package. The main and only full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 on the board is equipped with MSI's Steel Armor to offer rigidity to the slot to prevent damage when heavy graphics cards are installed. The single PCIe 3.0 x4 capable M.2 slot allows for drives up to 22 mm in width and 80 mm in length (M.2 2280) to be installed, and the slot itself remains independent from the rest of the board which also includes two PCIe 2.0 x1 slots.
|MSI B350M Gaming Pro mATX Motherboard|
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
|Memory Slots (DDR4)||Two DDR4
Up to DDR4-3200+
|Video Outputs||1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x VGA
1 x DVI-D
|Network Connectivity||Realtek 8111H Gigabit LAN|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC887|
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)||1 x PCIe 3.0 x16|
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)||2 x PCIe 2.0 x1|
|Onboard SATA||Four, RAID 0/1/10|
|Onboard M.2||1 x PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA|
|USB 3.1 (10 Gbps)||N/A|
|USB 3.0 (5 Gbps)||4 x Type-A Rear Panel
2 x Header (four ports)
|USB 2.0||2 x Rear Panel
2 x Header (four ports)
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8pin CPU
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU (4-pin)
2 x System (4-pin)
|IO Panel||4 x USB 3.0 Type-A
2 x USB 2.0 Type-A
1 x Network RJ45 (Realtek 8111H)
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x VGA
1 x DVI-D
1 x Combo PS/2
3 x 3.5mm Audio Jacks (Realtek)
Given the relatively low-cost nature of the B350M Gaming Pro ($80), some of the more premium features have been omitted to cut costs such as a secondary full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot that mATX boards such as the GIGABYTE AB350M DS3H ($65), which even sports four RAM slots whereas the MSI B350M Gaming Pro only has two. Another skipped feature purely due to the board's price point is any USB 3.1 10 Gbps capability, as well as no Type-C connections to be found.
With the B350M Gaming Pro sitting towards the cheaper end of the B350 market and being of a smaller mATX form factor (244 x 210 mm), the PCB in itself is somewhat bare. The PCB is all-black while MSI has implemented a red pattern resembling circuitry and tracks which is predominately featured around the CPU socket. This adds an extra level of contrast to the black PCB and ties in nicely with the modern styled power delivery and chipset heatsinks. The full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot underneath the Steel Armor and two RAM slots are also red in color. There is no RGB, but MSI has equipped the B350M Gaming Pro motherboard with red LEDs instead which illuminates from the four corners at the rear, as well as along the PCB separation line from the audio components to the rest of the board. The rest of the single red LEDs can be found around the PCH or chipset heatsink towards the bottom right-hand side of the board.
As with all AM4 desktop motherboards, the B350M Gaming Pro has a single 24-pin ATX power connector to provide power to the motherboard, whereas the power to the CPU is delivered by a single 8-pin ATX 12 V connector. In regards to cooling options, there are three available 4-pin fan headers to use which includes one dedicated to the CPU fan, with the remaining two being dedicated to case fans. The rear panel doesn’t feature a clear CMOS button, so the header to jump the BIOS can be found just above the chipset heatsink; a single 4-pin LED header to extend upon the built-in red LEDs can also be found to the bottom right-hand corner of the chipset heatsink as well.
Although roughly half of the current B350 mATX line-up has four RAM slots, the B350M Gaming Pro is one of the models which has only two. The two RAM slots offer support for DDR4-3200+ kits and with two sticks installed, will operate in dual channel mode. The increase in supported speeds over launch day boards in 2017 is thanks to a wave of AGESA firmware updates which addressed numerous issues in regards to supported memory speeds.
While the power delivery is a fairly basic one, the immediate thing I noticed was how keen MSI is on using the Nikos PK616BA MOSFETs across their AM4 range of motherboards. The B350M Gaming Pro makes use of ten of the PK616BAs, as well as ten Nikos PK632 MOSFETs with them being split into pairings for each of the five power stages on the board. The configuration of the power delivery is split into a 3+2 configuration with three specifically for the CPU and the remaining two for the SoC. What’s interesting is that MSI has chosen to use the same MOSFETs across three different AM4 boards ranging from this one at $80, all the way to the X370 XPOWER Gaming Titanium whose review was published back in April of this year. Controlling the 3+2 power delivery is a Richtek RT8894A PWM controller with an R22 solid choke for each of the VRMs. We believe that each choke is rated for 60A, but specs are very vague and this needs to be confirmed. The small red and black heat sink only manages to cover the CPU area of the VRM while the SoC area contains no cooling whatsoever; this means there is a reliance on passive airflow within the case when memory is overclocked and/or if a compatible Raven Ridge APUs such as the Ryzen 3 2200G ($99) and Ryzen 5 2400G ($169) is used.
Regarding storage, the B350M Gaming Pro has four SATA 6 Gbps ports which are controlled from the B350 chipset with RAID 0/1 and 10 arrays being supported. Two of the SATA 6 Gbps ports are right-angled whereas the other two ports are angled up straight. A single PCIe 3.0 x4 which is located just below the full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot has support for drives up to M.2 2280 (22 x 80 mm) and also supports SATA drives too, without removing bandwidth or capabilities from the existing ports.
The B350M Gaming Pro has a single full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 which has a coating of MSIs Steel Armor slot protection which gives the slot a more stringent construction - it essentially an extra layer of protection to the slot to avoid unwanted damage from heavier graphics cards. Sandwiching the full-length slot is a pairing of PCIe 2.0 x1 slots with one directly above and one further below to allow room for the installation of a single M.2 drive.
On the rear panel is a standard set of USB connections including four USB 3.0 Type-A ports and two USB 2.0 ports; the low-cost nature of this board prunes off any Type-C capability and USB 3.1 10 Gbps ports which are to be expected of a board at this price point ($80). The back panel also has video outputs which consist of a DVI-D port, a VGA port and an HDMI 1.4 port. This allows for support for the Ryzen 3 2200G ($99) and Ryzen 5 2400G ($169) APUs and with low budget users in mind, it could make for a great pairing with minimal cost for the performance offered. Also present is a single PS/2 combo port, a LAN port controlled by the Realtek 8111H Gigabit controller and three 3.5mm audio jacks to allow use with the implemented Realtek ALC887 audio codec.
In The Box
Inside the box, MSI has included a standard set of accessories which consists of two SATA cables, cable stickers, an IO shield, a driver installation DVD, an instruction manual marked B350M/A320M Gaming Pro and a thank you for purchasing this product card.
- Driver Disk
- Quick Start & Motherboard Manual
- Rear I/O Plate
- Two SATA Cables
- Thank You Post Card
- Cable Stickers