On August 18, 2020, AMD launched the new AMD A520 chipset. The AMD A520 is a new ultra budget chipset that replaces the old A320 ultra budget chipset. This new chipset will make it easier to assemble a very affordable new system with 3rd Generation Ryzen (Zen 2) processors. That is, as long as you are willing to make some compromises. Fortunately, these compromises won’t matter in many situations.
AMD A520 Chipset Compared
AMD now has three different chipsets that officially support 3rd Generation Ryzen (Zen 2) processors (without having to use a beta BIOS). One of the main advantages of these Zen 2 desktop processors is PCIe 4.0 support, which you don’t get with an A520 chipset. But for many use cases, that doesn’t matter.
Most current video cards are still PCIe 3.0, and the few that are PCIe 4.0 (from AMD) don’t see much real-world benefit from PCIe 4.0. The existing PCIe 4.0 M.2 storage cards are still relatively immature and expensive. If you are looking at an A520 chipset motherboard, you probably are NOT looking at more expensive PCIe 4.o storage.
You also don’t get overclocking support with the A520 chipset, but that also is not a huge issue with Zen 2 desktop processors (which don’t have very much overclocking headroom).
The A520 is basically a refreshed A320 that supports Zen 2 processors and upgrades the chipset general purpose PCIe lanes from PCIe 2.0 to PCIe 3.0.
Motherboards with the A520 chipset are currently priced in the $60-$100 range. In contrast, motherboards with the B550 chipset are currently priced in the $80-$290 range. Decent B550 motherboards typically cost about $130-200, so you can save perhaps $70-$100 by going with an A520 motherboard instead.
AMD has some guidance about exactly which processor families work with which chipsets.
So who should be looking at an A520 motherboard? Well, if you are planning using a Ryzen 3 3100, Ryzen 3 3300X or Ryzen 5 3600 processor, then an A520 motherboard would be a good match. For example, you could save perhaps $40-50 off of my $900 AMD Gaming PC Build Guide by using an A520 motherboard.
If you are thinking about a Ryzen 7 3700X or higher, I think you should get a B550 or even an X570 motherboard. Both of those are more “future-proof” too.
These A520 motherboards will typically have less robust VRM solutions than a mid-range B550, so I would not want to be running higher core count Ryzen processors in an A520. If saving $70-$100 on the motherboard is important to you, then an A520 makes sense, as long as you are ok with its limitations.
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