The Intel Rocket Lake i5 CPUs represent some of the best value gaming options on the market right now, particularly the i5-11400. To get the most out of them you need a B560 motherboard, so we thought we should test them out so we can make some recommendations to you.
B560 Motherboards under test
|B560 Motherboard||ASUS TUF B560M-Plus WiFi||ASUS ROG Strix B560-I Gaming||Gigabyte B560M Aorus Pro AX||MSI B560M Bazooka||ASRock B560M-HDV|
|VRM Design||8+1 Phase||6+2 Phase||12+1 Phase 50 Amp DrMOS|
|M.2 Slots||2 (one PCIe 4.0||2||2||2||2|
|PCIe Slots||Two X16 One X1||One X16||Two X16 One X1||One X16Two X1||One X16Two X1|
|Wifi||Wifi 6||Wifi 6||Wifi 6||Wifi 6||No|
There’s a lot more going on here than simple features and looks – there’s some great B560 motherboards here but there’s also a product you’re definitely going to want to avoid.
We’ll take you through the features of these motherboards, how easy they are to install and set up, the BIOS configuration of each, and give some insights into performance because unusually some of these motherboards can actually limit the performance of a CPU, even an i5-11400 – one of them because it’s just a bad B560 motherboard, others if you don’t set them up correctly. Because we’ve selected boards across the range and from different manufacturers, we can use this to recommend other boards not on this test but that share components or specification with them. We’ve used our testing to give recommendations for boards to pick for the entry-level, mid-range and at the high end, so let’s get stuck in!
1. Features Overview
All of these boards share some basic features common to the B560 platform. All are PCIe 4.0 compatible in the primary M.2 slot and PCIe slot. All have 2 M.2 slots total. They all allow RAM overclocking.
The ASRock B560M-HDV is unquestionably the bottom of the stack. It has just 2 RAM slots, and it’s cut down from the normal mATX size using just 6 mounting points instead of the usual 8. It doesn’t have any POST code troubleshooting lights or a Bios flash button. The rear IO lacks Displayport and instead has HDMI, DVI and even a D-Sub port, along with 3 audio jacks and just 6 USB ports. There’s Gigabit LAN but no WiFi. It has just one full-length PCI-E x16 slot and two x1 slots. It lacks a USB 3.2 gen 1 header so many more modern cases aren’t compatible without an adaptor, and will lose that connectors potential speed. It has just 4 SATA ports for additional drives. There’s no heatsinking on the m.2 drive or the Voltage delivery circuitry – but more on that later.
The MSI B560M Bazooka has heatsinking on the VRMS and primary M.2 slot, and a military-themed aesthetic. There are 4 RAM slots but still just one full-length PCIe slot and two additional single length slots for WiFi cards or similar expansion. The rear IO is pretty sparse, with just 6 USB ports, 3 Audio jacks, and a 2.5Gigabit Ethernet port. There are HDMI and Displayport outputs if you want to use the iGPU. It does have some basic troubleshooting boot LEDs and 6 SATA ports. There’s an AIO pump header and adequate fan headers for most builds. It does lack the USB 3.2 Gen2 header so check your case compatibility. There are RGB headers but no RGB on the board.
The Asus TUF Gaming B560M-Plus WiFi plus is firmly mid-range and has a good suite of features. Importantly it has inbuilt Wifi 6, so there’s no need for an additional card to get WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, it’s right there on the rear IO. It’s got 8 USB ports on the rear plus a USB C, five audio jack connectors plus optical out, and 2.5 Gigabit Lan, as well as Displayport and HDMI. The IO shield is inbuilt too, making install a cinch. There are 2 full-length PCIe slots so a capture card or similar ‘X4’ secondary card will fit in the lower slot. There are 4 RAM slots, 6 SATA ports, and a USB 3.2 Gen 1 header to give you those high-speed ports on the front of the case. It has the ‘TUF’ militarised aesthetic and some neat RGB highlights on the board.
The Gigabyte Aorus Pro AX represents the higher end, with a sleek silver aesthetic, heavy aluminium heatsinking and an integrated IO plate. They’ve crammed in 9 USB ports on the rear, and a USB C socket as well, alongside the WiFi 6 antenna connectors. Internally there’s 2 full length PCIe slots, and one awkwardly placed single length slot, along with 6 SATA ports and a USB 3.2 gen 1 header socket. There’s also a good number of USB 3.0 and audio connectors as well as RGB control headers. It has a Q-Flash button on the bottom edge of the board, useful for recovering BIOS or updating without RAM and CPU installed. It’s worth mentioning the VRMs here, this board has a 12 phase 50 Amp VRM set up which is clearly the best specified in test.
Finally, we come to the only mini ITX board on test, the ASUS B560-I ROG Strix. This is a premium board but contends with the constraints imposed by its tiny size. The rear IO is integrated and includes 6 USB sockets, a USB Type C, WiFi 6 antenna connectors, and five audio jacks and unusually it also has an audio type C connector. There’s 2.5Gigabit ethernet, a Displayport and HDMI output. Internally there are two M.2 slots, one front at PCIe 4.0 speeds with dual-sided heatsinking and a rear PCIe 3.0 slot as well. You’ll have to contend with the mini ITX limitations of a single PCIe slot, 2 RAM slots, 4 SATA ports, one each of USB 3.0 and 3.2 gen 1 header, and one each of CPU, Chassis and AIO pump fan headers. ASUS include a handy USB C extension cable – and a key ring…
2. Ease of set up and install
Full marks go to Asus here for their M.2 clip which makes drive installation a cinch. The manuals are clear and accurate, and they have integrated backplates to ease installation.
The Gigabyte also has an integrated IO plate, but it loses marks for an awkward M.2 installation solution with a split standoff. The heatsink looks like it’s hinged but it’s actually just a tab. The awkward process is exacerbated by a manual that doesn’t have clear diagrams or even reference the m.2 installation process. It’s outdated and could do with a refresh to help first time builders along.
The MSI Bazooka has a separate I/O backplate, but the m.2 installation is easy enough and the manuals are clear. POST lights help diagnose any installation or settings errors.
In a clear last place is the ASROCK HDV. The IO shield is incredibly basic pressed tin, there’s no diagnostic lights or BIOS flash button to help troubleshoot. At least with no M.2 heatsink, and only 2 RAM slots, it’s hard to get it wrong when you put it together. There’s a major problem when it comes to the configuration of this board though, which we’ll come to in the performance section.
You don’t often see a critique of BIOS in reviews. It’s a one time deal for most people who just want to build and set up their PC and won’t re-enter BIOS unless something goes wrong.
B560 is the first non-enthusiast chipset to permit RAM overclocking, so that opens up the need to enter BIOS to set up RAM correctly, and delve through menus and settings that otherwise you may never see. There’s another issue here, and that’s that some of these boards have default power settings that actually limit performance even of i5 CPUs. That means you might need to dig into power settings to get full performance and if the BIOS isn’t intuitive that can be a tricky task.
BIOS is somewhat subjective because your comfort with a particular lay out hinges on what you’re used to. However, in our opinion, the MSI BIOS is the best laid out and most intuitive to use. On initial set up it’s the only BIOS that clearly explains the need to set your power limits according to the cooler you’re using and shows exactly what the limits will be set to. Once you’re in BIOS, there’s a basic simple mode that lets you select XMP and boot order, likely the only 2 tasks you’ll need to do. Advanced mode opens up a wealth of options including fan tweaking, Memory overclocking, setting power limits for the CPU, and saving and applying profiles.
Asus and Gigabyte suffer from the same slightly confusing advanced layout, with numerous options jumbled together and not always in a logical order. Asus buries sub-menus making them hard to navigate. It does however default to using ‘Multi-core enhancement’ which allows a CPU to utilise higher power limits, but it’s not entirely clear to the first time user exactly what this means and it’s very much sold as an option you should select.
Gigabyte makes no mention of power Iimits: It appears the option may depend on what CPU is fitted. It suffers from the same problems as ASUS with a slightly confusing BIOS layout but does make some attempt to explain some settings like Load Line Calibration which is nice to see.
The ASROCK BIOS is acceptable in layout and function, but again the power settings are both obscured, and actually do not allow a free choice of power limits, likely because of constraints of the motherboard’s design. As a result, you cannot set a power limit higher than 100W and this has a negative effect on performance. Other than that, the Asus, Gigabyte and ASRock BIOSes are similar in layout and function and serve their purpose well enough.
Firstly, one of the main reasons the B560 chipset is recommended is because it allows memory overclocking for the first time officially on non-K CPUs. This can bring decent performance benefits and is worth exploring if you are opting for this platform.
All of these boards allow memory overclocking, all have very similar settings available to enable that, and all allow running memory in ‘GEAR 1’ mode at 3600MHz – meaning the memory controller clock matches that of the RAM itself. All the boards accepted the XMP profile on the 3600MHz CL16 G.Skill kit we used for testing.
Where we start to see some important differences is in how the boards behave due to their implementation of Intel’s power limit specifications, especially at default.
To demonstrate, here’s a graph showing the Cinebench R23 score of each of these boards running an i5-11500 CPU using default power settings:
Whilst the two Asus boards and the Gigabyte Aorus all turn in similar results at about 10,200, we can see the MSI Bazooka and ASRock fall significantly behind. What’s going on?
Logging metrics, we can compare the CPU behaviour through this test on the different B560 motherboards.
This graph shows the impact of power limiting behaviour by the motherboard. The MSI deploys it’s high power limit which allows the CPU to draw 110W for the first section of the test, and permits running the CPU at it’s rated 4.2GHz all core speed. It then drops to a 65W long term power limit which limits clock frequencies to 3.3 GHz and causes a low score.
The ASRock HDV initially appears to be doing better: But look closely: It is never able to deliver more than 100W, and it then drops to 65W and the clocks to 3.5GHZ.
Meanwhile, the Asus TUF maintains 110W for the full duration of this test, running the CPU at 4.2GHZ throughout, and that’s down to ‘multi-core enhancement’ being active by default.
The MSI Bazooka’s behaviour can be fixed: Selecting ‘Tower’ or ‘All in one water cooler’ on initial set up in the BIOS imposes a higher power limit and allows the CPU to perform to its full potential.
The ASROCK HDV however, cannot be saved. Imposing a 100W limit in BIOS improves the CPU performance as can be seen in this re-test with power limits removed, but its performance still falls short of the other B560 motherboards. If you’re thinking ‘hey, that’s not too bad, it’s only 200 points behind’… all I can say is please watch our linked video exploring this issue on B560 boards. We’ve got much more testing including testing with an i9-11900K, and they show why this is such a bad result for the ASROCK HDV, and why you shouldn’t consider this motherboard for even an i5 build.
In terms of performance, the ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI boards perform equivalently and are able to extract the full potential from this CPU whilst the ASRock HDV gets a serious black mark against it for failing to meet Intel specification and failing to extract the full potential from an i5 CPU.
Conclusions: Power delivery matters on B560 Motherboards
Our testing has highlighted important differences in the B560 chipset motherboards available. You need to factor in not only features and price, but also potential performance issues with some of these B560 motherboards.
The performance issue really is one of Intel’s own making: Their dogged adherence to squeezing every last drop out of aged architecture and process leaves them with mid-range CPUs that draw a lot of power when performing at their full potential. These components aren’t cheap, and this leaves motherboard manufacturers in the unpleasant position of trying to deliver compatible boards at an attractive price point. It appears that boards like the ASROCK HDV or some of the Gigabyte UD offerings are intended for use with i3 CPUs in office style low-demand builds because they’re not suitable for more demanding CPUs or usage.
B560 Motherboard Recommendations
Best Entry Level B560 Motherboards
In our testing, the MSI MAG B560M Bazooka proves itself to be an excellent entry-level B560 motherboard. Or, if your budget is tighter, the MSI Pro VDH which is identical in specification and has VRM heatsinks, but loses the gamer aesthetic, but is also available with inbuilt WiFI.
ASUS has used a robust 8 phase VRM design across their affordable Prime Range, and also have heatsinking. The B560M-A or B560-PLUS are also good options at the entry-level price point.
Best Mid Range B560 Motherboards
If you are looking for an ATX board the MSI MAG B560 Torpedo is a strong option with similar specification to the Mortar.
Best High End B560 Motherboard
Gigabyte has done a good job of VRM design since the ‘Coffee Lake’ era, and the VRM on the B560M Aorus Pro AX is no exception. The closely matched Aorus Elite and Aorus Pro are near identical in specification, with the Pro version having slightly stronger components in the VRM but retaining the same basic design. Either B560 motherboard will make a great choice for an i5 CPU. The Aorus Pro is our pick for the strongest VRM on test, it had no problems supplying power to the i9-11900K and its all-round specification matches the other motherboards on test.
Beyond $200 – Look to Z590 or AMD Zen 3
If you’re pushing towards $200 you perhaps look to a Z590 motherboard instead. Whilst the Asus Strix and MSI B560 Tomahawk are good offerings, you should look to gain the flexibility of a Z590 motherboard as you approach that price point.
You could also consider the platform cost of a switch to a Ryzen Zen 3 CPU and a more cost-effective AMD B550 motherboard, where there’s a range of good options for around $100-$150 that offset the slightly higher CPU cost. There isn’t really a lot of sense in trying to get the value out of a CPU like the i5-11400 or i7-11700, but then overspending on motherboards to support them.
Best Mini ITX B560 Motherboard
If you’re looking for a mini ITX board, then the ASUS ROG Strix B560-I doesn’t disappoint. It allows both the i5-11500 and i9-11900K to perform to potential and has the same features as any other B560 ITX board on the market. You might want to consider the heat loading of an Intel Rocket Lake CPU in a small form factor build, especially when compared to a more efficient AMD Zen 3 CPU. That said, it’s a great looking and well-specified board and gets our recommendation from the handful of mITX B560 offerings.
That concludes our roundup. We hope you have this interesting, and perhaps it’s saved you from buying a part that would lead to the disappointing performance of your build. The B560 motherboards we’ve recommended will provide an excellent basis for your next PC, with a great blend of features, performance, ease of use and good value too.
We also have produced a video companion to our B560 motherboard article, which we have linked below.