BIOS

Unspringsingly, GIGABYTE's B550 firmware is practically identical to its X570 models, as we've seen previously in our GIGABYTE X570 I Aorus Pro WIFI review. The GIGABYTE UEFI firmware for its AMD 500 series Aorus branded models follows a distinct black and orange theme, with white text and orange highlighting. Looking at the BIOS layout, GIGABYTE has split the firmware into two modes, easy mode for the beginner and advanced for the more experienced user. 

Focusing on the Easy mode screen, which is the default screen when POSTing for the first time, displays basic yet relevant information about hardware installed. Towards the top is a list of information, including the motherboard model, the BIOS version (F11g for our test), and the processor and amount of memory installed. Users can select between the different types of devices to check if the hardware is installed correctly, including SATA, PCIe, and M.2 devices, as well as a basic list of Smart 5 fan details for the board's three 4-pin fan headers. Along the right-hand side, users can select between different functions, including the advanced mode by pressing the F2 key, load up the Smart Fan 5 tuning utility by pressing F6, and the board's integrated Q-Flash utility for updating the board's firmware by pressing the F8 key.

The rest of the board's firmware focuses on the Advanced mode, which can be done by pressing the F2 key. This allows users to select between various BIOS functions, including the Tweaker sections where all of the board's CPU, memory, and integrated graphics overclocking can be done. Users can adjust CPU frequency, the base clock (BCLK), CPU VCore, among many other voltage settings, including CPU VDDP and DRAM termination voltages. This is also where users can enable XMP profiles at the click of a button or customize memory profiles further for performance tweakers. It should be noted the sweet spot for Ryzen 3000 processors is DDR4-3600, with an Infinity Fabric clock speed of 1800 MHz. 

Overall, GIGABYTE's Aorus UEFI firmware keeps things simple with the basic mode, with a basic looking, but the bountiful and endless list of configurable variables, most of which can be found in the Tweaker section. The firmware itself is responsive and offers users from both the novice and advanced spectrums plenty of options to work with.

Software

All of the major motherboard vendors have equally impressive software packages, with various functions to use all of the boards primarily features. GIGABYTE includes plenty with the B550I Aorus Pro AX model, including the EasyTune software designed to allow users to overclock within Windows, the RGB Fusion 2.0 software to control the board's RGB capabilities, and the System Information Viewer (SIV). The SIV software allows users to access the Smart Fan 5 utility within Windows and allows for system alerts for over-voltage and various temperatures.

The most prominent piece of software bundled with the GIGABYTE is the Aorus Easy Tune software. This allows users to overclock the memory and CPU within Windows, with plenty of voltage options and important CPU ratio and memory ratio settings. We still recommend all of the overclocking is done within the BIOS, but overclocking software has come a long way over the last decade, and Easy Tune is quite intuitive. 

Unfortunately, GIGABYTE doesn't include any audio software within the bundle, and users looking to make customizations will need to download the Realtek Control Panel directly from the Microsoft Store. Focusing on what is actually there, the bundle offers plenty of customizability. This includes the Fusion 2.0 RGB software for those adding additional RGB LED strips and the Realtek Gaming LAN manager for traffic shaping when used with the RTL8125 2.5 GbE port on the rear panel. It's not the most comprehensive software suite we've seen over the years, but it's more than enough for a sub $200 model aiming at the mid-range.

Visual Inspection Board Features, Test Bed and Setup
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  • romrunning - Monday, December 7, 2020 - link

    Almost all, if not all, of the better B550 ITX boards ($180+) released in June/July of this year have 2.5Gb ports. For onboard 10Gb, you would have to go with some specialized solutions, like the ASRockRack mini-ITX server boards. They have EPYC-based mini-ITX boards and even a X570 board (X570D4I-2T) with 10Gb. Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - link

    Just buy a PCI-E NIC. Oh wait...
    ;)
    Reply
  • Dug - Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - link

    or wait.. Bifurcation Reply
  • mkarwin - Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - link

    Oh wait.. similar approach could almost be used here... If only they added even more higher speeds USB outs (eg. with TB support) one could use them and plug in some USB NIC dongle as a stop gap interim solution... but the amount of 10/5gbps connectors is at a premium here as well ;) Reply
  • mkarwin - Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - link

    Especially since 2.5GbE does not force replacement of cabling... and AFAIK costs on the NICs are somewhat similar if not equal. Heck, I wonder why premium ATX boards come with 2 multigig NICs and premium mITX or mATX do not (besides those AsrockRack server'y solutions that skimp on all the other QoL integrations we've come to expect from home/desktop PC parts). Reply
  • lorribot - Monday, December 7, 2020 - link

    I would like to see more variation in the features not offered on ITX boards so they could be cheaper. mATX boards are the cheapest you can buy, but also come with a wide range of options, ITX seem to only come fully loaded.
    First I would delete any Video out capability as most AMD processors have none built in for the majority of users this is pointless. 2.5Gb networking is not required for most people, 2.5GB switches are few and fa between and definitely of no use in the UK for any internet capability and no router in the UK comes with that so you would have pay out for expensive switches, if you really need to move a lot of data. How about no wireless or only wireless? Or dual gigabit.
    Task based designs rather than one size fits all.
    Reply
  • mkarwin - Tuesday, December 15, 2020 - link

    I almost agree... though not entirely.
    I'd leave one display output, just to appease corporate overlords and PR departments so they could check the box near the "applicable for Ryzen with integrated Radeon solutions"... As to which one to use, that's another question. Perhaps leave only HDMI would appease most users as this is one standard that's proliferated among displays' connectors the widest... Plus, I'd allow sending digital audio from the integrated audio card through the same HDMI connection. But I'd add such a setting on the BIOS level, so as to remove dependency on OS drivers. That'd tick another box on the feature lists... Alternatively, I'd consider using USB-c connected to the CPU - for the port to be used as a DP over USB3-c as it is done on laptops, or as a iGPU output akin to the USB-c port on the new Radeons... Then again if not used in such a manner allow it to be switched to a very fast general purpose USB with connectivity nearly straight to CPU right within the BIOS to again remove any obstacles from driver/OS reworks/compatibilities...
    As to networking - I disagree whole-heartedly. I'd say go with dual multigig ports, preferably X550-class based 10GbE. And if 10GbE is too far, go with 2.5 and 5GbE solutions instead. The internet speeds are not the important, most devices are connected to LANs. And here, higher speeds matter much, especially in mITX forms. Why? Cause one could use external storage of NAS variety - it's easier to add tons of disks and copious amounts of space to NASes than to your PC's small mITX cases ;) Plus, you may want to work more using various network appliances, or in enthusiast markets home servers. And for that purpose, high quality high bandwidth NICs are a must. I'd even go one step further, and consider using 2.5/5GbE on all consumer boards and switching to (Q)SFP+ slots to reduce the costs a bit (though I understand that this instead requires more space which is at a premium in smaller builds/MBs). After all the market adoption is driven by the masses, and currently we're having a chicken and egg situation here - most home networks are still at 1GbE speeds cause there aren't many devices most people are using that come with higher speed wired NICs so there's no push towards higher network gear, and since there's no push this not a lucrative enough market for the netowrk appliance manufacturers to start offering faster devices that could support those higher speeds at the prices an average Joe could find enticing. BTW. the enthusiast market as well as pro market have already gone forward and people are already thinking of jumping ship to 10GbE, either in CAT6A/CAT7 or FC forms. Just check the popularity of Mikrotik's 10GbE SFP+ switches... Plus you need to remember that due to smaller consumer base with mostly enthusiasts and pros, companies can easily price those products accordingly and still sell out batches of products - once the speeds become more widespread the rules of competition and market push would enforce price drops for mass-produced offerings. Plus, you'd really need to use 2.5GbE+ wired speeds to keep up with the WiFi6 speeds ;)
    And onto the WiFi debacle - I'd still leave the antenna ports, but instead of WiFi/BT module on board, I'd suggest adding M.2 port for those WiFi/BT devices on the back side or on top of M.2/chipsets - that way they'd get the chance to sell another additional product option, one that is tested and used widely in laptops already with success, one used in their NUC-alikes as well, one that's easily replacable or upgradable, and one that could reduce the pricepoint for those not wanting to shell out on sucha feature... That's a fair bit more interesting boxes to tick for the PR people and the "start small go big" mantra...
    And speaking of M.2 connectors, I'd really appreciate if more devices actually came with support for 22110 sized ones - even though 2280 has become the defacto standard for M.2 NVMe drives, the 22110 is the one used by the more pro-oriented/server-grade markets due to those usually packing PLP circuitry on board.. That's a tiny QoL feature that could easily differentiate the devices on offer and again allow the PR reps to show how one product stacks better than the competition...
    And speaking of server-grade stuff that most MB manufacturers are already doing very well in their server departments, why not dig deeper into those roots as well and start adding BMC in those prosumer solutions? Those in the know would appreciate it, others might find it an extra feature... Sure, Intel has vPro and AMD has joined the game with their Pro series but neither can replace a full BMC solution for remote working/helping...
    Now going wireless only solution could sound great on paper but would require a lot work - they'd have to allow WiFi connection management including security/WPS on BIOS level to allow eg. PXE. Furthermore, they'd have to polish the BT issues/stack on BIOS level - so eg. they could allow BT keyboard/mice for system management, so OS agnostic. Furthermore, they might have to instead get in touch with various key/mice manufacturers and license built-in RF transmitters to speak with those devices - its doable and possibly easier than getting BT stack working fully on BIOS/firmware level... Than maybe they'd have to discuss opening to NFC communication. And going back to BT, they'd have to get AptX and similar certs to speak better with wireless audio devices - and that's additional costs many CEOs wouldn't agree to unless presented with a clear ROI numbers... and possibly market adoption of competition's products with similar feature sets. Similarly going the wireless route would necessitate digging into the HDMI over WiFi/WirelessHDMI standards which are not yet adopted widely. I dare say that it's easier to sell the idea of going full 10GbE wired product stacks than finding the wireless HDMI solution markets. Of course having a built-in LTE/5G modem could well play the "going wireless" game in any product stacks but there is another issue going wireless requires - MBs would have to get option to create WiFi networks and act as APs/WiFi routers thus the BIOS would have to get at least a simple WiFi sharing functionality....
    Dual gigabit? Nah, that's too restrictive - either think of 4x1GbE or 2x2.5/5GbE or 10GbE. Don't let yourself be rooted in the years old standard that should have already been replaced in all cabled devices.
    Now the task based designs could fare great if their implementation was made correctly...
    But I'd just consider some copanies thinking of the fact that nowadays smaller boards are not chosen mostly by average users, rather these are power users, enthusiasts, pros... And they need something more for a product to be seen as a premium offering. For example, Gigabyte could have easily gone the Xtreme Waterforce route and create and sell a mITX board with integrated full-board monoblock+pump+res (or monoblock only) that covers CPU+VRM+SoC+M.2 - I bet such a product could easily find new homes among the target consumer group ;) Especially if they priced it right. Heck, Asus could just reach out to EkWB/Bitspower for a cooperation and release boards with blocks out-of-the-factory... I'd say nowadays those smaller monoblocked boards would sell like cupcakes (provided they are priced reasonably) and they could push more people towards custom loops, thus also proliferating monoblocked GPU sells. Or maybe go even one step further and get in touch with both block maker and AIO manufacturers - I think every company would like to consider such cooperation offer to sell truly integrated solutions... for the AIO companies that would have necesiteated only slight adjustments to pump/block/reservoir-combo units to adjust for the full coverage solutions, but you could get far better temps throughout the lifecycle and these would still sell well for the mITX market or even mATX - 240mm/280mm/360mm rads would suffice to cool such full coverage heat sources...
    Reply
  • DiHydro - Monday, December 7, 2020 - link

    Have you tried to use Smart Fan 5? I found it to be horrible! I have a Noctua CPU cooler and it had the fans spinning at near max, even when the CPU temp was down in the 50°C range. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, December 8, 2020 - link

    I suspect you're doing it wrong, then. SF5 is working great for me. The fan curve follows the temperatures I set just fine. Each fan port gets its own fan curve, so maybe you're setting the curve on the wrong port? Reply
  • DiHydro - Sunday, December 13, 2020 - link

    I did see that it has per fan curves, but the out-of-the-box curves are terribly aggressive. Even in the so called silent mode. Reply

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