AMD has finally announced its most affordable option for the current generation of motherboards, but what does it offer over the previous generation or the overclocking friendly B550 chipset?
For this comparison, I will ignore the X570 chipset, if you are considering A520 I doubt you will be persuaded with the premium-priced X570.
One big advantage of A520 vs B450 & X470
The new affordable A520 motherboards have one significant advantage over previous generations which you may be able to pick up for a similar price.
B450 and X470 boards will only official support up to AMD Zen 3/Renoir, and this is only after they backtracked following a backlash about lack of support. However, it is not quite as simple a this, the motherboard ROMs only have enough memory for so many generations of CPU, so for AMD to provide support they have to remove an older generation. So upgrading the BIOS without thought could brick a motherboard for older CPUs. This would be a one-way upgrade, so flashing back to an older BIOS won’t work.
AMD plans to prevent any accidental upgrades and users ending up with a no-boot situation by policing the bios update. It has not been made 100% clear how they will do this but the official statement says:
“AMD will offer BIOS download only to verified customers of 400 Series motherboards who have purchased a new desktop processor with “Zen 3” inside. This will help us ensure that customers have a bootable processor on-hand after the BIOS flash, minimizing the risk a user could get caught in a no-boot situation.
Timing and availability of the BIOS updates will vary and may not immediately coincide with the availability of the first “Zen 3”-based processors.”
CPUs beyond Zen 3 will not be supported on B450 & X470
So if you think you may upgrade your CPU after Zen 3 and need an affordable motherboard, the A520 is possibly your best bet.
AMD A520 vs B450 & B550
Where the A series motherboards fall short is that they lack overclocking support, so if that is of any interest you, then you can skip them.
Beyond that, there is not that much difference between the AMD A520 and the older B450. However, it also depends on the motherboard design too, most of the A series motherboards only have one PCIe 3.0 slot, with only support for one GPU, this is likely all most users will need. However, it does limit upgrade options for other devices such as network cards, soundcards etc.
A lot of the B450 motherboard will likely offer additional features beyond what the chipset itself offers, this often includes things like RGB functionality, more fan headers and support for faster RAM.
AMD A320 vs A520 vs B450 vs B550 Chipset Comparison Table
|PCIe Interface from CPU||3||4||3||3|
|PCIe Interface from Chipset||3||3||2||3|
|PCIe Lanes (Total/Usable)||34/26||38/30||36/28||32/24|
|USB 3.1 Gen2||5||6||2||1|
|Max USB 3.1 (Gen2/Gen1)||2 & 5||2 & 6||2 & 6||1 & 6|
|Max SATA Ports||6||8||6||6|
|Storage support||PCIe 3||PCIe 4||PCIe 3||PCIe 3|
|GPU Support||1x16||1x16/ 2x8||1x16||1x16|
The new A520 motherboards are only just coming to market. Overclockers has some mATX boards listed starting at £62 and going up to £80.
The cheapest micro ATX b550 motherboards start at £80 and get up to £185
However, if you have no intention of upgrading beyond Zen 2 then you can pick up microATX b450 motherboards from £75 up to £95.
If you want full ATX you can pick up an X470 for as low as £100
Personally, I am not sure if I would invest in an A520 with the intention of keeping it beyond Zen 2, so for me, if I was looking for an affordable motherboard, I’d stick to B450 / X470 until they become phased out.
Last update on 2021-05-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API