MSI MEG B550 Unify and Unify-X Released: The Apex of AM4

0
MSI MEG B550 Unify and Unify X

MSI have now released their new MEG B550 Unify and Unify-X. Aimed squarely at AMD’s Ryzen 5000 series CPUs, these boards eschew RGB in favour of a monster VRM. In addition, key features like three PCIe gen4 M.2 slots, Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5Gbps ethernet support a well-rounded high-end build. Taking it further the Unify-X adds a 2-DIMM memory layout, unique among full-size AM4 motherboards, to maximise memory overclocking potential.

Meet the MSI MEG B550 Unify

MSI MEG B550 Unify angled to show the IO as well as the board, with the box and wifi antennaB550 Unify M.2 Configuration

Other than the tasteful black colour scheme with silver highlights, the first thing that jumps out about the MSI MEG B550 Unify is the M.2 slot count. Despite being based on the B550 chipset, this is a board that sports a full four slots for M.2 SSDs. Moreover, MSI is touting PCIe 4.0 on three of them.

In order to support a full four M.2 slots, the arrangement is a little complicated. By default, one is connected directly to the CPU with a full PCIe 4.0 x4 interface. The remaining three are all fed by the chipset, and share their connection with other parts of the board. However, by changing BIOS settings, the 2 middle M.2 slots can be changed to a direct PCIe 4.0 x4 connection. This works by taking lanes from the GPU, dropping the GPU slot from PCIe 4.0 x16 to x8.

Here’s a diagram of the default arrangement;

An MSI MEG B550 Unify identical in this to the Unify X, showing how the M.2 slots are laid out in the default configuration. From top to bottom they are PCIe 4.0 x4 direct from the CPU, 3.0 x2 from the chipset shared with the two PCIe x1 slots, 3.0 x2 from the chipset shared with SATA ports 5 and 6, and finally 3.0 x4 from the chipset shared with the bottom PCIe x16 physical (x4 electrical) slot.
This is the default configuration for the MEG B550 Unify and Unify-X, without any changes in BIOS.

And here’s a diagram of the arrangement when using GPU lanes;

An MSI MEG B550 Unify identical in this to the Unify X, showing how the M.2 slots are laid out in the direct configuration. From top to bottom they are PCIe 4.0 x4 direct from the CPU, two direct 4.0 x4 shared with the x16 GPU slot, and finally 3.0 x4 from the chipset shared with the bottom PCIe x16 physical (x4 electrical) slot.
This is the direct configuration for the MEG B550 Unify and Unify-X, which has to be explicitly set in BIOS.

Six SATA ports provide further storage, though by default two are shared with an M.2 slot (shaded green above).

B550 Unify VRM

MSI have a monster VRM for the B550 Unify. An Infineon XDPE132G5C true 16-phase voltage controller is utilised in a 14+2-phase configuration with 90A smart power stages. Depending on the exact power stages, this is a contender for the most powerful VRM on AM4.

vrm diagram as decribed in text
This diagram is just the Vcore – the SoC VRM adds another two phases of the same, from the same controller.

As well as impressive components, it has a huge heatsink. Like other Unify boards, the heatsink is made from anodised aluminium in a tasteful black. The heatsink doubles as an IO cover, with an embossed silver dragon logo and brushed finish completing the look. Visually this looks like it should be very effective, especially installed in a case where the fins can align vertically.

B550 Unify Connectivity

The IO section of MSI’s B550 Unify and Unify-X is well stocked, with a total of 8 USB ports. 4 USB 3.2 10Gbps ports fed directly from the CPU – one of which is type-c – join 4 USB 2.0. In addition, a PS/2 port provides mouse or keyboard connection on the still-useful legacy interface. Furthermore, an HDMI output port allows the use of integrated graphics. A Realtek-powered 2.5Gbps Ethernet port and onboard Intel Wi-Fi 6 take care of networking. Finally, a Realtek ALC1220P codec provides surround sound.

Buttons are also present on the rear IO to flash the BIOS from a USB flash drive and to clear the CMOS in the event of a bad overclock stopping the system from booting.

Turning to internal IO, MSI is doing everything they can with the B550 chipset. In addition to the previously explored M.2 slots, there are four internal USB headers. Two of these are USB 2.0, one USB 3.0 5Gbps, and one USB 3.2 10Gbps Type-C. All are fed from the B550 chipset.

Expansion slots themselves are sparse, and as explored above are shared with M.2 slots. Nonetheless, if the lanes aren’t taken by M.2, there are two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots and an x16-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot. Despite only having a single slot that’s practical for a GPU, MSI has included an optional 6-pin PCIe power connector to supplement the 24-pin.

Although Unify boards lack onboard RGB, MSI has nonetheless included a total of four RGB headers – one 4-pin RGB, two 3-pin addressable RGB, and one 3-pin for Corsair addressable RGB. Six fan connectors, plus a seventh intended for water pumps, solidifying the Unify’s high-end credentials.

You can read more about the MSI MEG B550 Unify, including full specifications, on MSI’s website.

Meet the MSI MEG B550 Unify-X

Joining the Unify is MSI’s pitch to extreme overclockers – the MEG B550 Unify-X. One feature that overclockers really look for in the modern age is motherboards that have only one DIMM slot per channel. With the Unify-X, MSI has adapted the Unify to meet this requirement.

The reasons for preferring 1 slot per channel are twofold. Firstly, it allows the slots to be closer to the CPU – shorter wires lets signals run faster. Secondly, a more conventional configuration has the extra slot hanging off the same wires. This hurts the signal quality, particularly as a result of electrical reflections. In addition, it’s just more metal to soak up charge, making it more difficult to change what signal is on a given wire.

Now, supposedly the tabbed memory traces seen on Intel Z490 are actually capable of mitigating the issues with reflections that really hamper conventional memory layouts. However, the fact remains that a 2-DIMM, 1 slot per channel still gets the very best memory overclocking results. Actually Hardcore Overclocking on YouTube has already posted a video showing off DDR4-5500 passing HCI memtest on the Unify-X, using a Crucial Ballistix Max DDR4-5100 kit. AHOC have also confirmed that the Unify-X includes VTT control for the memory both above and below default, something past MSI boards lacked that can be important for extreme memory overclocks.

Pricing and Availability

The MSI MEG B550 Unify is listed on Amazon US for $289.99, though a long shipping time indicates the stock is still in transit to Amazon. US retailer B&H list the B550 Unify at $289.99 and the Unify-X at $299.99 and have apparently already sold through their initial stock with more on the way. Botton Line Telecommunications also carry both, currently “ordered as needed” with prices of $284.06 for the B550 Unify and $293.99 for the B550 Unify-X.

Over here in the UK, the B550 Unify is available now from Box for £259.99, who also have a listing for the Unify-X with price TBC at time of writing. AWD-IT also carry the regular Unify at the same £259.99 price.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.