|by MAC | January 7, 2018|
MSI Unveils New Mini-ITX B350 AM4 Motherboard
Hopefully the expression 'better late than never' rings true, because MSI has finally unveiled their first Mini-ITX AM4 motherboard, the B350I PRO AC. Aimed at the small form factor PC market, this new model definitely has a more conservative aesthetic than most of MSI's larger AM4 motherboards, but it is also going to be easier on the wallet.
With this welcomed announcement, MSI now joins ASUS, ASRock, Biostar, and Gigabyte in offering a full stack of AM4 motherboards ranging in sizes from Mini-ITX to full ATX. Given the popularity of the AM4 platform this fleshing out of the lineup took much longer than expected, but thankfully that time has now come.
Designed for AMD Ryzen or 7th generation A-series APUs processors, this B350I PRO AC model is based on the mainstream B350 chipset, which is a perfect choice for a Mini-ITX motherboard since the fact that the B350 chipset only supports a single graphics card is not actually a limitation on such a tiny motherboard. Furthermore, the B350 chipset is significantly cheaper than the X370 chipset, which ultimately benefits consumers since they aren't paying for capabilities that aren't required.
Given that this petite motherboard has to support power-hungry eight-core processors, it has been designed with an impressive 9-phase VRM consisting of six phases for the CPU cores, two phases for the SOC, and a large single phase for the dual memory slots that support speeds of up to DDR4-3200. While the specific VRM components are a mystery to us at this time, the power chokes with integrated heatspreaders look fairly high-end, lending some credence to MSI's "Military Class components" slogan.
As is the case on most AM4 Mini-ITX motherboards, this model has four SATA 6GB/s ports that support RAID 0/1/10 and a single full-speed M.2 PCI-E x4 slot that supports SATA and NVMe solid state drives. This M.2 slot is located on the rear of the motherboard, which is also a common design choice on these space-constrained models.
When it comes to rear I/O connectivity, this model certainly does not disappoint. Starting from left to right, there two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 port for an old-school mouse or keyboard, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 1.4 video outputs for those installing an APU and wanting to use the integrated graphics, two USB 3.1 Gen.2 ports powered by an ASMedia 3142 controller, a gigabit LAN port controlled by a Realtek 8111H controller, two USB 3.0 ports (with two more available via a mid-board header), onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi / Bluetooth 4.2 courtesy of an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 1x1 module, and three analog audio jacks that link up to a slightly dated Realtek ALC887 codec.
Despite the stodgy brown PCB and basic design, those who want to add a little pizzazz to their system will not be disappointed since MSI's Mystic Light RGB LED lighting feature is supported via two light strip headers. Since the light strips can be powered by the motherboard and fully controlled by the included LED Utility, there's a world of colours and effects at your finger tips.
While we don't yet have any firm information regarding pricing or availability, looking at the competition we strongly suspect that MSI are going to be pricing the B350I PRO AC very aggressively ($100-105 USD).
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