Since I repurposed my previous gaming system (by giving it to my wife), I needed a new gaming system to replace it. I had my eye on an MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk, but I got tired of waiting to find one in stock. Luckily, I stumbled on a great deal on a higher-end Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master motherboard. This post will cover the initial steps in building a B550 Aorus Master system. To start with, I just built this on a test bench before installing it in a case. I also have a YouTube video of this process. Please watch that if you want more information.
To my surprise, Micro Center Denver recently listed an MSI MAG B550 Tomahawk in stock (as an open box return). I reserved it online, and drove up to Micro Center to pick it up. During the drive, they emailed me to tell me that they actually didn’t have that motherboard after all. Unfortunately, I didn’t see the email until I arrived. This was a disappointment, but since I was there, I figured I would look around…
A Lucky Find!
By pure good luck, I found an open box return for a Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master motherboard, mixed right in with the new stock motherboards. Open box items stand out since they have a big yellow sticker showing the reduced price. I grabbed it and purposely walked away from the motherboard area so I could take a closer look at it.
While I was looking at it in another aisle, a salesperson walked up and started chatting with me. He noticed the motherboard box I was holding, and he commented “If that is the one I think it is, the guy who bought it didn’t even install it.”. From the condition of the box, and the contents inside, I think that was a true statement.
At any rate, the motherboard was marked down by 20%. I bought a new AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor at the same time to get a $20 bundle discount. Finally, I used my Micro Center credit card to get another 5% discount on the entire transaction. All of these discounts turned an expensive B550 motherboard into a much better deal.
Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master
This motherboard has a normal retail price of $279.99, which is quite expensive for a B550 motherboard. As I have said before, if you are going to spend that much money on a B550 motherboard, you probably should just get an X570 motherboard. In exchange for that high price, you do get some interesting premium features.
First, the B550 Aorus Master has three M.2 slots that are all PCIe 4.0 x4 capable. All of these slots are connected to the CPU rather than going though the B550 chipset. The actual B550 chipset only has PCIe 3.0 support. There is one caveat here, since if you use the second or third M.2 slot, then the primary PCIe 4.0 expansion slot goes from x16 down to x8. This is the slot where your video card should be located. If you have a PCIe 4.0 video card (such as a Radeon 5700XT) this won’t be a problem. It might be an issue with some very high-end PCIe 3.0 video cards.
Second, this motherboard has a very high quality set of voltage regulator modules (VRMs) with very large heatsinks. This will ensure that the VRMs stay cool under a heavy load (such as an overclocked Ryzen 9 3950X). The board has a 2.5GbE Realtek NIC and Realtek ALC1220-VB integrated audio. It also has an Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 chip that has BT5 support. This motherboard has eleven USB-A ports and one USB-C port on the back panel. There are also connectors for additional front panel USB ports.
Building a B550 Aorus Master System
For now, I am going to use an affordable AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor, that will be cooled by a Noctua NH-D15 chomax.black CPU cooler. I will be using a pretty decent EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 Super XC Ultra Gaming video card to start with. For storage, I am using a relatively humble 500GB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe card.
The eventual plan is to upgrade to a Zen 3 processor when they are released later this year. I also plan on getting a Samsung 980 PRO M.2 PCIe 4.0 storage card when they are released.
I did the initial assembly and testing on a red Open Benchtable (which works great). This lets you easily assemble the main motherboard components and connect the power supply to do your initial smoke testing. If you don’t have something like this, just setting the motherboard on top of the cardboard motherboard box also works.
After installing the CPU, you will want to install the CPU cooler mounting brackets. After that, I install the M.2 boot drive and then the RAM. The next step is the CPU cooler. After that, you will need to install a video card and connect the power supply cables.
You will want a monitor, keyboard, and mouse to use during your testing. An inexpensive wired keyboard and mouse work the best, but wireless units with a USB dongle also work.
Once everything is connected, you can use a small screwdriver to briefly bridge the two small front panel power connectors on the motherboard. If you have done everything correctly the system should start, and then go through the POST sequence.
On the first boot, it will probably complain about the CPU or memory being reset, and take you to the BIOS setup screen. This is where you want to go anyway, since the BIOS probably needs to be updated. Using another machine, you should go to the motherboard vendor’s website and download the latest BIOS version. After that, unzip it and copy it to a USB drive.
All modern motherboards have some sort of BIOS flashing utility built into the BIOS. Some motherboards will even let you flash the BIOS with no CPU installed. Gigabyte’s utility is called Q-Flash.
Once you have the BIOS sorted out, you can install the operating system while the motherboard is still on the test bench.
Here are the parts that I used for this build. I also added a link to the newer Samsung 970 EVO Plus, since the Samsung 970 EVO is getting harder to find now.
- Gigabyte B550 Aorus Master motherboard on Amazon
- AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor on Amazon
- Noctua NH-D15 chromax.black CPU cooler on Amazon
- 32GB G.SKILL Trident Z neo DDR4-3600 memory on Amazon
- 500GB Samsung 970 EVO M.2 NVMe storage card on Amazon
- 500GB Samsung 970 Plus EVO M.2 NVMe storage card on Amazon
- EVGA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER XC ULTRA GAMING, 8GB GDDR6 on Amazon
- 550W ASUS ROG Strix 80 Plus Gold modular power supply on Amazon
Note: Links to Amazon and Newegg are typically monetized on my blog (affiliate links) and may return a commission of sales to me from the retailer. This is unrelated to the product manufacturer and does not increase the price you pay.
I have written a number of other posts related to this subject that you might find interesting:
- Should You Buy an AMD Ryzen 3000XT?
- Avoiding Common DIY PC Building Mistakes
- Replacing My Wife’s Computer
- Checking Your Memory Speed
- How Do You Orient Case Fans?
- Building an AMD Ryzen 9 3950X System
- Gaming PC Component Choices
- How to Tell if You Have XMP Enabled
- Seven Setup Tips for a New AMD Ryzen 3000 System
- Ways to Save Money on a New Desktop System
If you have read this far, don’t be afraid to ask me questions in the comments or on Twitter (where I am @GlennAlanBerry). One thing I really like doing is “sanity checks” for people BEFORE they buy their components. Don’t hesitate to send me a PCPartPicker build list, and I will tell you what I think of your choices! I really do hate to see people make bad choices on components.
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!