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  • Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi Review

    Lately, we’ve seen custom builds sporting huge AIO coolers, lots of fans, and enough RGB to keep significant others up at night. But what happens when you trim off all that glitz and glam and get to the base requirements for a great system? And that's where the B350 comes in. AMD has placed this chipset right in the middle of its AM4 lineup where it supports both enthusiast-grade performance while shaving off enough features to satisfy our mainstream computing needs.

    Specifications

    Specifically, B350 grants access to a lone x16 PCIe Gen3 connector for GPUs, and reduced USB 3.1 Gen2, storage, and general purpose PCIe connections that are almost the bare minimum for enthusiast-grade systems.

    MarketEnthusiastPerformanceMainstream
    ChipsetX370B350A320
    PCIe Gen3 Graphics1x16/2x8 (Ryzen)
    1x8 (APU/Athlon)
    1x16 (Ryzen)
    1x8 (APU/Athlon)
    1x16 (Ryzen)
    1x8 (APU/Athlon)
    USB 3.1 G2 + 3.1 G1 + 2.02+10+62+6+61+6+6
    SATA + NVMe4 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
    or
    6 + x2 NVMe
    2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
    or
    4 + x2 NVMe
    2 SATA + 1 x4 NVMe (Ryzen)
    or
    4 + x2 NVMe
    SATA Express
    (SATA & GPP PCIe G3)
    211
    PCI Express GPx8 Gen2
    (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
    x6 Gen2
    (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
    x4 Gen2
    (plus x2 Gen3 when no x4 NVMe)
    OverclockingYesYesNo

    ?
    With all of those reduced features, why not refine it down even more to create a compact solution? Gigabyte does just that with the AB350N-Gaming WiFi. This mini-ITX board, the first B350 motherboard we've tested, makes compact builds feel like full-fledged power systems. As with any mini-ITX board, there are several compromises and design choices you'll need to make to accommodate such a lofty goal.

    Contents of the box are sparse, with only two SATA cables, driver CDs, a Wi-Fi antenna fixture, the manual, and Gigabyte Gaming sticker. The back panel comes equipped with two USB 3.1 Gen2, four USB 3.1 Gen1, two USB 2.0, PS/2, gigabit Ethernet, and six analog audio ports. If you install an APU, you can use either DiplayPort 1.2 or HDMI v1.4 to connect displays. If the board’s name wasn't a hint, you get two SMA Wi-Fi antenna ports for 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2. The included antenna is also a unique fixture that you can mount on a desk or monitor.

    The Wi-Fi module is the same Intel 3165NGW card that ASRock used in the X370 Killer SLI/ac. We prefer this implementation, however, because it is securely mounted vertically on the board below the back-panel shield, optimizing board space without vertical clearance issues.

    As for expansion slots, there isn’t a lot of surface area to stick our PCBs. One PCIe Gen3 x16 port is available for the graphics card, and two single-latched DIMM slots are available for dual-channel DDR4. Four SATA3 ports max out the B350’s available SATA storage, but there's additional real estate for an M.2 NVMe drive on the backside of the board. There are headers for USB3 and USB2, front panel, SPDIF, TPM, two auto-sensing 4-pin fans (which support 2A each), and RGB and AMD fan LEDs. Overall, it is a decent assortment of connections and options.

    In the power department, the Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi sports a modest 4+2 phase design using IR’s 35201 regulators. Having tested several boards with larger phase counts, it will be interesting to see how these IC’s hold up against Prime95. Gigabyte throws in a full 8-pin ECS 12V header for overclockers who need additional CPU current on their voltage rails. The board’s six LEDs are positioned on the backside of the planar close to the DIMM solder joints to provide ambiance rather than direct lighting, which is a nice change from previous products we've reviewed.?

    This all sounds great, right? But pump the breaks. This is mini-ITX after all. Although this list of features is sweet, the layout is very cramped. Gigabyte moved the PCH from the standard lower right quadrant of the board to the upper left, which at first seems bizarre, but doing so accommodates CPU cooling zone restrictions and reduces the footprint for additional PCH Redriver ICs.?

    Along with the PCH are the aforementioned headers for USB and the front panel. Given that we're still testing this board in a Thermaltake Suppressor F51, the cables were almost a hair too short for proper installation. Similarly, our 8-pin power supply cable was not long enough to be gracefully routed out the back, so we violated cable management rule #5 and draped it across our GPU. We imagine routing to the RGB-5050 header will be a similarly tricky task, although there is just enough clearance between the PCIe and DIMM latches. Our case might not have been ideal for this motherboard, but a cube or inverted mini-ITX case would probably be perfect.

    Board placement quirks aside, the Gigabyte AB350N-Gaming WiFi makes lemonade out of the size constraints of the mini-ITX form factor, cramming in enough features to make it comparable to bigger solutions.

    MORE:?Best Motherboards

    MORE:?How To Choose A Motherboard

    MORE:?All Motherboard Content

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