MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk Review
First impressions are always funny things. If you've ever seen on of those Youtube videos that is someone reacting to the new thing they've got you'd assume everything was amazing. The reality of course is that a few weeks down the road it's fallen apart or doesn't do what it promised or any number of things. The MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk is, to a small degree, the opposite of that. You get it out of the fairly plain box and see a fairly plain motherboard and the creeping dread sets in that this might be another one of those motherboards which does just about enough and nothing more.
Fortunately its abilities are much deeper than any surface looks. It's almost the thinking person's approach to designing a motherboard. We won't pretend that its aesthetics aren't a matter of taste, especially as it's a tiny bit too bland and stripy for our own tastes. However, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and just as many people will be pleased that it hasn't got endless flashing lights and bling out of the wazoo. It's the antithesis of the MEG Godlike approach to motherboard design.
What it does have is performance. Lots of performance. We've seen motherboards with all sorts of power designs in our B550 reviews and the Tomahawk sits somewhere in the middle with its 60A power stage, but the performance and overclocking abilities go far beyond what you might expect. It pushed our Ryzen 9 3900X - the twelve core model fact fans - to 4.4 GHz across each of its dozen cores and the results bore out this high level of 'on paper' performance. It's like a stealth motherboard. Little flash, but massive ability. It wasn't only in the overclocked testing where the capabilities of the Tomahawk shone either. At stock the AMD setup always pushes the single threaded benchmarks hard thanks to their boosting ability, and that has been honed and refined over recent months until it now can hit clock speeds it would be impossible to attain across all of the cores in a fixed overclock. The Tomahawk made the most of that feature and was often to be found near the top of our single threaded graphs.
One of the areas that differentiate the various B550 motherboards we've reviewed for today is how they have split the capabilities across various USB types, and we were pleased to see that the Tomahawk not only had a pair of USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, but had plenty of USB 3.2 Gen1, including both Type-A and Type-C front panel connectors, which is a feature we've seen too little of on the latest AMD chipset. Additionally with a pair of LAN ports, 2.5G and 1G, those of you with a home networking setup are well catered for too. What really stood out though is the consistency of the power delivery and the low temperatures it was able to maintain, even with a powerful 3rd Gen Ryzen CPU installed and running as hard as it can. The VRM heatsinks do their job and then some. It isn't only heatsinks that help keep your system too as the Tomahawk has a host of fan headers letting those of you with larger cases and more case fans still plug everything in to the PCB without having to resort to external fan controllers.
Whether you're a plug and go type, or someone who is willing to take the time to manually fettle your system, the MSI Tomahawk rewards you with performance in spades. It might be hiding its light under a bushel but what a bright light it is, and at £180, an affordable light.