In my opinion, we undeservedly pay little attention to budget models, because one of the meanings of overclocking is to buy inexpensively and get performance at the level of more expensive hardware. There is no review of any motherboard based on the AMD A520 chipset, but in the meantime – it should become one of the most popular on the market and there are several prerequisites for this.
Let’s start with the fact that motherboards based on it support all modern processors, including even the 5000-series. Yes, we are afraid that some old AMD Ryzen 3 3200G and AMD Ryzen 5 3400G processors are not supported. In fact, this is not so and we are only talking about cutting down the functionality associated, for example, with limiting the memory frequency. Yes, there is no processor overclocking, just like on AMD A320, but … In fact, it is not needed. Yes, it sounds silly, but here you just need to understand a simple sequence: powerful processor -> powerful power subsystem -> high heat dissipation -> etc. There is no need to chase the frequency here, because the processor often already works at its limit. Even to the turbo frequency, it is not always possible to overclock all the cores with air cooling and with an acceptable voltage.
But there is memory overclocking, which is much more important. Yes, Intel B460 just smokes on the sidelines. However, even that is not all. I have repeatedly encountered the fact that motherboards based on the Intel H410 chipset simply refuse to work with the Intel Core i5 10600K processor. Digging deeper, they generally support processors with a TDP of up to 65 W. With AMD A520, such problems are not noticed, and even 16-core models can be used. It is clear that for an expensive processor they will most likely buy a more expensive motherboard on flagship chipsets, but the very fact that it works on a budget one is also pleasing. However, with the prices of boards, things are not so simple. In theory, the new chipset was supposed to occupy a niche between AMD A320 and B450, but some models on the B450 are still cheaper than on the new A520. So it turns out that the choice is more difficult to make.
Today we tested one of the most flagship boards available, which is called ASUS TUF Gaming A520M-Plus. It is of course intended for gamers and is part of the TUF Gaming line. The board is far from the cheapest, but still less than $ 100. Even in the budget segment, ASUS makes good motherboards for gamers. Also, some proprietary technologies are used here and of course there is RGB backlighting.
What does TUF mean in Asus?
TUF Gaming is a new series of gaming devices designed for those who demand maximum reliability and durability at a reasonable price.
What is this device capable of and is there any point in purchasing it or is it necessary to take a fee on the B550? Are AMD Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G processors still working or not? Let’s try to answer these questions.
Packaging and equipment
Once again, I want to remind you that the end of 2020 is now, and now TUF Gaming is not at all the same as TUF a few years ago. Today, this line is closer to the entry-level device for gamers, but also solidly high quality and with a three-year rather than five-year warranty, because five years is a long time to support a device that is quickly becoming obsolete.
The box is compact because we are promised a device of the mATX format, which is even hinted at by the name, where the letter “M” is worn.
The background is dark. On the left side, the inscription TUF Gaming appears. In the upper left corner is the company’s logo and favorite slogan: In search of the incredible. On the right is the ASUS AURA Sync icon. This means support for the technology of the same name. By the way, it so happens that there is support for ASUS AURA Sync, but there is no backlighting on the device, but here there is a complete order, because gaming without RGB is no longer possible today.
Below on the right edge is the image of the motherboard. It turns out not as clear and informative as in the design of PRIME models, but at least some idea of the device in the box. Below, the inscription TUF Gaming is highlighted in orange letters, and below it the name of the model A520M-Plus is highlighted in outline symbols. At the very bottom, there are a bunch of icons. One refers to the designation of the chipset, the other reports support for AMD Ryzen processors, the third for HDMI, and the fourth is a classic scarecrow about support for AMD Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G processors (spoiler alert: no need to be afraid). In the lower right corner is the TUF Gaming emblem.
We turn the box over.
At the very top, we again see the inscription in large letters TUF Gaming A520M -Plus. Below are two photos of the device. One is straight on top and the other is angled so that you can see the rear panel connectors. On the left and right are tables that make up the detailed specification of the device. Below you can see four inserts describing the key features of the device. It’s time to look inside.
Here again, an interesting cardboard tray is used that folds over to form an envelope. Inside is the motherboard, which is additionally packed in an anti-static bag. The upper compartment contains a set of SATA cables. After removing the tray, you can find the remaining delivery set, which is located at the bottom of the package.
Information components are represented by the following set.
- User guide;
- Installation manual;
- Contact Information;
- Security information;
- Certificate of Conformity to Standards (USA);
- A set of stickers;
- DVD-ROM with drivers and software.
- Two SATA 6 Gb / s cables;
- Two sets of mounts for M.2 devices;
- Back panel cover.
Motherboard design and features
Recently, mATX is my favorite format. The boards are cheaper, the cases are cheaper, it is easier to assemble, there are fewer problems. But this cannot be said about mini-ITX because it is expensive and you get tired of dealing with compatibility problems. In this case, we have the classic dimensions of 244 x 244 mm. There are no clipping and four full memory slots.
The board is very light and cute. The combination of black and gray slots, gray and yellow prints on the surface – everything is very well combined and the board does not seem so budgetary. If the rear panel cover had already been mounted, the board would have looked even cooler and more expensive. However, it looks good, and the overall picture is complemented by radiators.
Also, unlike full-sized boards, there are practically no empty spaces in front. There are also few elements behind. We see an array of RGB LEDs in the lower right corner, where there is a pattern with no metallization layers. In some generation of devices, the inscription TUF Gaming was simply etched, which was understandable and looked great, but not everyone will like this picket fence.
The motherboard is powered through the main and one additional ATX connector in a 24 + 8 scheme. This is the first wake-up call to warn that power is poorly prepared for powerful processors.
This motherboard is not intended for overclocking at all, but is positioned as an entry-level solution for gamers. At the same time, full support for all processor models is declared, including AMD Ryzen 9 3950X and 5950X.
The manufacturer most likely reasonably assumes that no one in their right mind will use this board with flagship processor models, where a TDP of 105W is declared. It is only possible that there is some chance that someone will buy and supply such a processor by mistake. I just have one test sample in the form of AMD Ryzen 7 3800X, which is also not at ease here.
There are four black and gray slots for DDR4 memory modules. It uses a combination of latches and latches for each slot. To activate the dual-channel mode, you need to install two strips through the slot into connectors of the same color, which greatly simplifies the assembly procedure. It is recommended to start filling from the right edge. Nothing is said about the OPTIMEM function, but there is overclocking.
The manufacturer claims support for operating modes from DDR4 2133 to 4800 MHz in overclocking mode with a nominal voltage of 1.2 V, which can be increased. The maximum storage capacity of 128 GB is achieved by installing four 32 GB modules. I always prefer to take ATX and mATX boards with four slots.
In the processor power subsystem, we see 8 channels (4 + 2×2) for cores and integrated video. It uses conventional low Rds (on) transistors labeled RA12B and RA14B.
Each of the 8 channels also has one super ferrite coil. Solid-state capsule capacitors are soldered not far from the processor socket and behind the transistors, closer to the edge. It uses a PWM controller Digi + VRM EPU ASP1106JGQW. By the way, it was installed in motherboards based on the AMD B550 chipset, even on the ASUS ROG STRIX B550-F.
There is no radiator on top, but on the side the transistors are cooled by a small radiator. This is due to the fact that the top two phases are doubled and do not get very hot. There are no plastic covers here.
Under heavy load, the side transistors heat up to a maximum of 71 ° C with the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X processor. This is a very good result, considering that the cooler did not blow out the space around the socket.
The radiator is made of aluminum alloy and painted black. Outwardly, it looks good and has good ribbing.
It may seem that in the middle is a simple block, but in fact it is hollow inside, which increases the heat sink area. Fastening is carried out using two plastic clips with springs. A gray thermal rubber is used as a thermal interface. Under the heatsink is the AMD A520 chipset.
Its characteristics do not shine, but for the entry level it will come down, otherwise competition inside may turn out. No PCI-e Gen4 support. There are four SATA3 ports. All of them are not very convenient on the board – at the very bottom.
Next to the main ATX power connector is a header for two USB 3.2 Gen1 ports.
There are four SATA ports in the lower right corner. To the left is a connector for connecting buttons and indicators of the case, as well as a speakerphone.
Further along the bottom edge are two USB 2.0 pads, a debug connector, S / PDIF Out, and a BIOS reset jumper called Clr CMOS.
We see three extensions on this board. One PCI-e x16 and two PCI-e x1. On some of the company’s motherboards, I saw that the PCI-e x1 slots lack one wall and therefore you can install cards longer. This is not here.
The PCI-e x16 slot is highlighted with a steel frame. The technology is called SafeSlot Core +. Lines to it come directly from the processor, and the rest are provided by the chipset. There are two slots for installing M.2 devices. One is for the storage and the other is for the wireless module.
The rear panel contains the following interfaces.
- Two USB 2.0 connectors;
- Four USB 3.2 Gen1 connectors;
- One USB 3.2 Gen2 connector;
- One PS / 2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
- One RJ-45 network connector;
- Three audio jacks of minijack type;
- One Display Port video output;
- One HDMI 1.4a video output;
- One DVI-D video output.
The BIOS shell on the latest-generation ASUS motherboards is almost the same everywhere. Differences in different lines are purely cosmetic. Different background, different color palette, different logos.
The symbols of the TUF Gaming series are accordingly present here. As for the color palette, it is closer to the PRIME series. There is no overclocking function here. But there is the possibility of enabling the XMP profile and there is the possibility of overclocking the memory. Most of the functions are configured through the EZ Mode, but most of them take place in the familiar Advanced menu.
The assembly of the system takes place without any difficulties, so there is nothing to describe here. After everything is ready, you can connect the board to the power supply and see how the backlight works.
The only thing missing is a 5V ARGB backlight connector. Therefore, for recording, we had to install an ID-Cooling IS-50 MAX cooler, which has a usual 12 V connector for backlighting.
For the rest of my tests, I used the AeroCool Mirage 5 because I tested it on this board. I also used two processors. AMD Ryzen 5 3400G was needed to test the performance.
Everything works fine, despite the incompatibility warning on the box, on the website and the lack of supported processors in the list of supported processors.
Next, I installed an AMD Ryzen 7 3800X processor and continued testing.
Despite everything, I liked ASUS TUF Gaming A520M-Plus. In my opinion, this is how a modern budget board should look like, but I would like a lower price. They could have done the same on the Intel platform: remove processor overclocking, leave memory overclocking. It is clear that this is not a complaint against ASUS, but against Intel. And about the H410, I generally keep quiet.
ASUS TUF Gaming A520M-Plus demonstrates good functionality, stability and excellent memory overclocking performance. The processor does not overclock, but you can control the voltage on the cores. Downvolting is enough to reduce heat generation. I saw with my own eyes that under load the frequency of all cores becomes even higher than in the normal mode. It is clear that the manufacturer did not count on using the device with flagship processor models, and therefore the power subsystem is simple and without sophisticated cooling. However, even under the toughest load, the transistor temperature did not rise above 71 ° C with the AMD Ryzen 7 3800X processor, which is not the coldest and energy efficient model.
Yes, someone may not like that the board has only one M.2 slot for installing a drive, only one PCI-e x16 slot for a video card, and with Gen3 lines. However, this is enough for most users and one should not forget that the board is budgetary. And, of course, there is a gift in the form of support for AMD Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G processors. It seems to me that this is an important part of users of budget motherboards. The only limitation is memory overclocking. The frequency cannot be higher than DDR4 4200 MHz, and the voltage cannot be higher than 1.35 V.
The board has a lot of advantages, but I personally lacked only a couple of things to achieve the ideal. There is no normal indication. At least one small LED that would indicate the passage of the POST of the RAM, otherwise during overclocking you often have to use the BIOS reset jumper. Oddly enough, I also missed the ARGB connector. The board has the usual 12B ribbon connector, and it works great, everything is synchronized, including the memory sticks through the new Armory Crate app. I needed a 5V ARGB connector for the cooler and it was not there, I had to use an external controller. As for the rest, there are no complaints about the board and its work.