Visual Inspection

The B450 Tomahawk is an ATX sized motherboard which comes from MSI’s Arsenal Gaming range with a heavy focus on value. The board does not have an overburdened PCB, which gives the black and grey color more pop.  The patterning across the board resembles a circuit board (of sorts) and the light gunmetal grey MOSFET/chipset heatsinks offer a sense of uniformity to the design. The B450 Tomahawk includes a single section of eight RGB LEDs in a vertical alignment on the underside of top right-hand side of the board. Users wishing to expand upon have access to two 5050 RGB headers which are both capable of supporting strips with a maximum of 12 V. Comparing the B350 Tomahawk to the B450 Tomahawk, the heatsink follows a much sleeker design with MSI focusing a lot of its attention on improving the power delivery cooling capabilities, as well as the cleaner and more neutral looking aesthetics.

MSI’s implementation of the PCIe layout focuses around the center of the board with the solitary and full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot getting a garnishing of Steel Slot armor protection. This is designed to minimize the risk of slot damage from heavy graphics cards when in transit. The rest of the available PCIe slots all conform to the PCIe 2.0 interface, with a second full-length PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for add-in cards.

The improved firmware over the first iteration of AM4 motherboards allows for faster memory. The B450 Tomahawk supports DDR4-3466 straight out of the box, and with the four available RAM slots it allows for a maximum capacity of up to 64 GB. Unbuffered ECC is also supported.

The B450 Tomahawk has better than average SATA support for a B450 board, with a total of six SATA ports. Four of the ports are from the B450 chipset, and two are driven directly from the CPU internal IO. The ports are split across the bottom right-hand side of the board with four of the ports banked together with right-angled connectors, whereas the other two ports are on the bottom of the boards PCB with cheaper straight connectors. The available SATA ports do have support for RAID 0, 1 and 10 arrays.

Also on storage, there is a single PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with support for PCIe and SATA drives, up to a maximum size of M.2 22110. Populating the M.2 slot with any drive does disable two SATA ports.

In terms of fan headers, there are six 4-pin headers which are split into three different areas; one for the CPU, one for a water pump/AIO fan and four designated for system fans. The rear panel offers eight USB ports in total (which is fairly standard for a motherboard in this price range) and users looking to expand on this can do so with a pair of USB 2.0 headers and a USB 3.1 Gen1 header. Power to the motherboard is provided through a 24-pin ATX power connector and for the CPU, an 8-pin ATX 12 V power input is present. Users looking to reset the CMOS can do so with an old-fashioned jumper which is located right next to the battery.

Focusing on the power delivery on the B450 Tomahawk, and we have a total of six phases which is split into a 4+2 configuration. This is the maximum supported limit of the Richtek RT8894A PWM controller which this board has. On the CPU section of the power delivery, each of the four true phases gets a pair of ON Semiconductor 4C029N high side MOSFETs which is complemented by a further two 4C024N low side MOSFETs also from ON Semiconductor. The SoC area, much like the CPU area, also uses ON Semiconductor MOSFETs with two 4C029 high side and two 4C024N low side assigned to each of the two SoC phases. A total of eight inductors are present across the power delivery which is split into two banks, four for the VCore and two for the SoC which gives a 4+2 power delivery configuration. 

AM4 Motherboard Power Delivery Comparison
Motherboard Controller H-Side L-Side Chokes Doubler
ASRock B450
Gaming ITX/ac
ISL95712 (6+2) 10 10 8 -
ASRock B450
Gaming K4
ISL95712 (3+3) 12 9 9 -
ASRock X470
Taichi Ultimate
16 16 16 8
Biostar X370GTN ISL95712
7 7 7 -
Biostar X470GTN ISL95712
7 7 7 -
Gaming 7 Wi-Fi
12 12 12 5
MSI B350 Tomahawk RT8894A
8 12 6 -
10 16 10 5
MSI X470 Gaming Plus RT8894A
14 14 11 -
MSI B450 Tomahawk RT8894A
12 12 6 -

When you compare the key differences between the power delivery featured on the previous Tomahawk to this, MSI has certainly upped their game so to speak. Firstly, MSI has ditched the more value-focused NIKOS MOSFETs in favor of those from ON Semiconductor, and the new B450 opts for four MOSFETs per phase.

MSI B450 Tomahawk power delivery heatsinks (bottom left) next to the B350 Tomahawk heatsinks (top right)

The other major improvement over the previous generation Tomahawk comes through the included heatsinks. The B450 Tomahawk not only has much cleaner and stylish looking heatsinks, but MSI has both increased the mass and extended the VCore MOSFET heatsink to have a larger area on top. This should help with longevity and stability as far as temperatures go. One of the usual caveats of a ‘refresh’ is that manufacturers sometimes recycle PCB designs and only change the visual aspects, but in this case the B450 Tomahawk is a step up.

That being said, the audio area of the PCB on the B450 Tomahawk looks a little underwhelming in comparison. MSI has implemented the older Realtek ALC892 HD audio codec, which isn’t strange given the boards pricing. However it should be noted that the audio PCB on the B350 Tomahawk is certainly heftier with a total of ten Nippon Chemicon audio capacitors, which dwarves that of the B450 Tomahawk which has only four available.

As previously mentioned, the rear panel offers a total of eight USB ports. The B450 Tomahawk offers two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports, a Type-A and a Type-C. Other connections include a DVI-D port and a HDMI 1.4 port, a single PS/2 combination keyboard/mouse port, and a Realtek RTL8111H Gigabit networking controller. MSI has included a BIOS Flashback+ button as well. 

What's in The Box

The accessory bundle as expected is rather basic but contains all the vital necessities to get a system up and running out of the box. MSI has scrimped a little on the SATA cables as they have included only two. Also present is a user manual, a driver and utility installation CD, a rear IO shield and an M.2 mounting screw. 

  • User manual and quick installation guide
  • Driver installation CD
  • 1 x M.2 installation screws
  • 2 x SATA cables (1 right-angled, 1 straight-angled)
  • Rear IO shield
  • MSI Gaming shield sticker
  • MSI thank you card
MSI B450 Tomahawk Overview BIOS And Software
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  • kn00tcn - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    buildzoid has said gigabyte went backwards in memory support for their second gen mobos

    16gb sticks are more demanding, 32gb total is more demanding

    you dont 'need' to buy bdie, but you should be aware of various aspects that can hurt stability

    XMP doesnt mean much, the secondary timings are not in the profile, the mobo has to make them up, the mobo may not even be sending clean or high enough voltage, the mobo can cause multiple problems already & that's before the cpu's memory controller variance is even looked at
  • plonk420 - Friday, December 14, 2018 - link

    yeah, i got the B450M Mortar on the suggestion of Buildzoid and am loving it! took my VRM temps at 1700X stock speeds from 87C on the AB350M-DS3H with its wickle cooler to 65C on the Mortar
  • kn00tcn - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    if you're still around to read this, i have booted a mortar to 3466 on hynix m-die (gskill trident z 2x8gb) with mostly auto settings, but it was unstable of course (not like i expect hynix to run at this speed at c16)

    how can you refuse to believe something you have no statistics on? what cpu was it? 32gb is more demanding than 16gb, dual rank is more demanding than single rank (rank not channel, 16gb sticks are likely dual rank)

    try 2T CR, try geardown & bankgroup enabled, try 1.36 or 1.37v, try 1.1v soc
  • kn00tcn - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    *using 2600x cpu, stock cooler
  • rocky12345 - Monday, December 17, 2018 - link

    I'm not sure it is the retailers fault that the board is not working for you now. They did not do a bios flash and render the board dead now did they. When you installed the board yes it had problems seeing both of your memory sticks and that was because of it having a older bios firmware installed.

    The fault is that of MSI them selves for having a newer bios that does not seem to be working properly on this model of board. With all of that said the most the retailer can do is offer to take the board in and try to get it working for you and if they are nice won't charge you anything or if they do want to charge maybe a really small fee (since it was them that flashed the board making it useless now.)

    As a retailer myself I would offer to take the board in and get it working for free. My own thoughts are because of the board first having issues with your memory sticks on the older bios that is where the problem is. If they took the board in and tried to fix it any good tech with that information in hand would very quickly pull your memory out and use actual memory that is known to work with these boards without problems and then do the flashback again. Chances are that is when the problem will be corrected and you would have a fully functioning board again.

    I do think it is good of you not to mention names at this point. I do think that if they have a decent tech on staff this should be a easy fix for them and get you running again. Now if you just want to return the board for the sake of returning it then that is up to them if they want to do that or not. The board is either going to end up fixed or sent back to MSI for replacement. Now if it does end up going back to MSI who pays for the shipping MSI,the retailer or you that is the question.
  • 0ldman79 - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    Can you overclock using p-states with this board?

    I still use all of the various power saving features on all of my systems, my FX, my Core i5, i7 and Xeon and all but the laptops are overclocked.

    I guess I got spoiled with my FX, I could alter base, turbo 1 and turbo 2 settings individually and keep Cool-n-quiet enabled. I'm looking for that capability on my eventual Ryzen build as well.
  • kn00tcn - Sunday, December 16, 2018 - link

    should be some sort of PBO settings
  • Cellar Door - Tuesday, December 11, 2018 - link

    The audio on this board is absolute trash. Not even bad, terrible. It is muddy and with such poor amplification that if you have even an entry pair of headphones such as Audio Technica ATH-M50, you will be barely able hear stuff, and outright forget any soundstage or bass definition.

    I had no choice but to exchange it for a Asus B450-F - well worth the extra $25. In my 20 years in IT - I've seen better audio on 10 year old prebuilt Dell and no name PCs. MSI should be ashamed they are putting a 'gaming' sticker on this.
  • gavbon - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    I had no issues with my Beyerdynamic DT770's 80ohm pair of cans.
  • Cellar Door - Wednesday, December 12, 2018 - link

    From this review - "our testing shows that the B450 Tomahawk performs the worst out of all the Realtek ALC892 equipped boards thus far."

    83.5db in the dynamic range - no offense but either those DT770 are being wasted on you or you never actually hear what they are capable of when properly amplified.

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