The AMD Chipsets
A new processor will need a new chipset. AMD sold its chipset division I think two years ago already, a new processor series will need a new chipset as the motherboard needs an infrastructure as well. While most of the chipset functionality is harbored inside the processor, a new generation and architecture processor will always require a new motherboard chipset.
AMD announced chipsets for Ryzen based on AM4: X370, B350, A320 and the mini-ITX X300, and A300/B300 with the X370 and B350 already available. Only the X370 chipset is going to support SLI. That means the B350 would not support SLI (but does support Crossfire). This information has been confirmed. We are not 100% sure why but Nvidia might still be licensing SLI functionality and thus SLI supports adds a charge per sold motherboard. The B350 series is a more budget aimed one so the choice makes sense. You'll notice there are 20 PCIe 3.0 lanes pulled from the Ryzen processor. Ryzen has 24 of them yet 4 are being used to interface with the chipset. Then depending on the chipset used it adds gen 2.0 PCIe lanes through the chipset. The X370 will add 8 lanes, B350 6 lanes and onwards. Have a peek at the chart for more details.
Let's check out the I/O interfaces of the chipsets and processors:
|X370||B350||A320||X300 / B300 / A300||Ryzen (CPU)||Bristol Ridge (APU)|
|PCIe 3.0||0||0||0||4||20 *||10|
|USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbit/s)||2||2||1||1||0||0|
|SATA 6 Gbit / s||4||2||2||2||2||2|
|CrossFire / SLI||Yes / Yes||Yes / -||-||-||-||-|
|* 18 when 2 x SATA is running
** Only X300
Each chipset will add USB ports, but the Ryzen processor also offers four native USB 3.0 ports. There is support for RAID 0/1/10 configurations as well as overclocking support on the X370, B350 and X300 chipset. Obviously the motherboard partners can add 3rd party chips to increase USB 3.0 and so on. The four PCIe 3.0 links for X300 / B300 / A300 seem to be a bit odd, we'll try and confirm that soon.
For you guys two series will jump out the most, high-end enthusiast class end-users will go for the series X370 chipset whereas the B350 series hints towards the budget or business side of things. Mind you, there will be five chipsets for Socket AM4, namely the X370, B350, A320 and, for smaller form factors, the X300 and A300.
Chipsets Get DDR4 DIMM Memory Support
AMD obviously brings DDR4 support to Ryzen, this remains to be dual-channel; we certainly would have liked to see quad-channel support to be brutally honest. The motherboards will be paired with 4 DIMM slots, again in dual-channel setup. AMD will support the standard Jedec SPD timings and frequencies at 2133/2400 and 2667 MHz, but we have already seen some motherboards support 3200 MHz and I think I even noticed one offering 3600 MHz support in OC mode. So yeah, that will be solely dependent on the motherboard partners. While that is not in the same ballpark as what Intel is doing, a nice 3000 MHz kit with low latency would be more than sufficient for all your bandwidth needs.
Other than that, PCI-Express Gen 3.0 is now confirmed as well as support for the NVMe protocol, USB 3.1 Gen 2 (10 Gbps) and M.2 and SATA Express support. Interestingly the Ryzen processor has IO paths and a controller built in for USB 3.1 (Gen 2) as well as 4 PCI lanes dedicated for your NVMe needs. The chipsets can be used for adding more as well of course.
AMD X370 Chipset (High-End)
So the most high-end chipset will be the X370 with that 'X' for 'Extreme'. This chipset will support Multi-GPU rendering (Crossfire and SLI) with two x16 PCI Express slots (Gen 3.0). The Ryzen processor has an I/O of 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes. Four of them are used as interconnect to the chipset and then the Chipset adds another 8 PCIe 2.0 lanes. So if you run Crossfire or SLI, you will be running at Gen 3 x8 modes. The chipset will support overclocking. Basically this is the chipset series you and yours truly will be using much like Z170, Z270 and X99 for Intel.
AMD B350 Chipset (Mainstream)
If it has a 'B' in the naming schema, you should think mainstream and that 'B' is for 'Business'. A more generalized chipset that offers full performance, yet less tweaking options and often less PCI-Express lanes available, the mainstream series. For B350, specs show 8x Gen 3 PCI-Express lanes for graphics, it'll add/hook another 6 Gen 2 lanes through the chipset and will offer a wide variety of USB connectivity. This motherboard series will offer dual channel DDR4 memory.
AMD obviously already showcased high-performance AM4 motherboards from several manufacturers, including ASRock, Asus, Biostar, Gigabyte and MSI as well as innovative third-party CPU cooler designs, demonstrating a ready and robust ecosystem for Ryzen CPUs. For us gurus the most interesting will be the X370, X300 and B350 series. X370 chipset-based motherboards are designed for those who need the most performance, features, and I/O connectivity from their PCs including support for overclocking, and dual graphics. For users looking for performance in a more compact size, the X370 chipset also features an AMD Ryzen-ready AM4 socket while utilizing the mini-ITX size ideal for small form factor PCs. Both chipsets take full advantage of innovative technology features including:
- Dual-channel DDR4 memory
- M.2 SATA devices
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 and Gen 2
- PCIe 3.0 capability
Thermal Solutions AKA Coolers
For enthusiasts and PC builders focused on a premium, quiet, and effective cooling solution or wishing to overclock, AMD has been working with 15 top cooler manufacturers and vendors to create an array of aftermarket CPU coolers for AM4 processors. For ultra-quiet air cooling, Noctua will offer both its NH-D15 and its slimmer counterpart the NH-U12S. In addition, EKWB will offer AM4 support for its custom water cooling solutions. There will be some processor SKUs (Ryzen 7 1700) with a Wraith Spire cooler.
AMD Ryzen Master Utility
Tweaking and overclocking can be managed in two ways. Standard traditional tweaking can be managed in the BIOS of course. I assume 99% of you guys will do just that. However, AMD is introducing their Ryzen Master Utility as well. You might recognize the design as the the tool is styled in the very same way as Radeon Crimson drivers, it works the same and feels the same. The tool has been designed to tweak and overclock the basics like your clock frequency, voltages, memory and core parking. Once you OC above 3.7 GHz, the protection will switch off and stuff like XFR is automatically disabled for you to gain maximum performance.
Ehm, yeah - we'd still advise a BIOS OC though.