Asus TUF B350M-Plus Gaming is ready to take the heat

Asus' TUF branding might not get the lion's share of attention, but there are a few interesting items in the lineup. The latest reliability-focused motherboard to come out of Asus' stable is the Ryzen-ready TUF B350M-Plus Gaming. We have to say it looks the part.

The B350M-Plus Gaming is a microATX board with support for RAM speeds up to 3200 MT/s. There are two PCIe x16 slots, one of which is reinforced with metal—just the ticket for holding that hot-clocked GeForce GTX 1080 Ti you're eyeing. Despite the compact size, the mobo still offers a full complement of six SATA ports, along with an M.2 PCIe x4 slot. Around the back, you'll find two USB 2.0 ports, three USB 3.0 connectors, and two Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2 ports. A Realtek RTL8111H chip handles networking duties, while a tried-and-true ALC887 codec takes care of audio output.

According to Asus, the TUF branding on this board means that it should be more durable than common offerings. The VRMs, chokes, and capacitors are purportedly of a superior breed. The capacitors in particular should be able to withstand operating temperatures up to 125°C—about half as hot as Kansas City when I visited in the middle of July.

Asus says the board has three-year warranty coverage, but didn't offer pricing information. Our gerbil eyeballs would probably pin the TUF B350M-Plus Gaming at around the $100 mark. Expect to see this board in stores in fairly short order.

Comments closed
    • just brew it!
    • 2 years ago

    Assuming the price comes in at around $100, this could actually be a contender when I finally pull the trigger on a Ryzen build.

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    I really like the color scheme. I like the front-facing SATA ports. And the B350 chipset makes the $100 price possible. The only thing I’m not crazy about is the ALC887, which isn’t even listed on Realtek’s webpage of 8-channel audio codecs. That’s a sign that this isn’t a codec that they’re particularly proud of. Can’t complain given the price though. Should be fine for 99% of this board’s target buyers. Who cares as long as there’s sound, right?? 😀

    Overall, should still be a damn fine board for the price.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      The ALC887 is an older design; the data sheet I have for it is from 2008, and my Asus M5A97 R2.0 (released in 2012) uses it. It’s a fairly generic, middle-of-the-road Realtek codec. IME it works well enough, though it may need some help (external headphone amp) when driving less efficient headphones, if (as I expect) Asus did not include a discrete op amp on this board.

      (There’s an integrated headphone amp on the ALC887 that you can enable in software; this definitely helps, but depending on your headphones it may still be borderline.)

        • ronch
        • 2 years ago

        Oh I just remembered… Asus does make sound cards. “Does your motherboard audio suck? Well, it just so happens that we make sound cards too!”

          • just brew it!
          • 2 years ago

          Yeah, there may be a little of that going on. Heck, they convinced [i<]me[/i<] to get a Xonar card. LOL. But it's not entirely crazy either. If (like me) you tend to buy mainstream motherboards (no OCing), but want better sound, getting a decent discrete soundcard you can carry across multiple upgrades makes sense. Kinda sad that my Turtle Beach Santa Cruz isn't compatible with current motherboards (due to the lack of legacy PCI slots)...

    • ronch
    • 2 years ago

    Someone at Asus used to have lots of Transformers toys when he was a kid. He probably still has a sizeable collection of vintage Transformers toys.

    • albundy
    • 2 years ago

    Tuf…as in Tuf, you aint getting any VRM heatsinks. or is it Tuf, you aint getting that M.2 above the GPU. on the bright side, all that extra plastic makes it look Tuf.

      • just brew it!
      • 2 years ago

      The 4 main phases actually do have a heatsink on them, the angle of that picture just makes it hard to see (partially obscured by the I/O shroud). If you go on Asus’ web site and look at the other pics you can see the VRM heatsink.

    • boing
    • 2 years ago

    Is this an AMD or Intel board?

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 2 years ago

      The B350 chipset is for socket AM4 CPUs or APUs. This is the ninth micro-ATX socket-AM4 motherboard from Asus.
      [url<]https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/AMD-platform-Products/[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=118885&p=1341603#p1341603[/url<]

      • ronch
      • 2 years ago

      Intel.

        • just brew it!
        • 2 years ago

        Umm… no.

          • ronch
          • 2 years ago

          I was… being sarcastic.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago
    • Takeshi7
    • 2 years ago

    Are those Electrolytic capacitors in the bottom left corner of a TUF motherboard?! Blasphemy!

      • juzz86
      • 2 years ago

      They’re Nichicon caps for the audio subsystem. Latest marketing tactic for ‘discrete-quality’ onboard audio.

        • Takeshi7
        • 2 years ago

        That’s stupid. One of the main marketing points of the TUF line is that it has 100% solid state capacitors. Is the audio quality really any better with those caps vs solid state caps? It doesn’t seem like a good trade-off to me. If you want electrolytic capacitors buy a different board that isn’t in the TUF line.

          • AMDisDEC
          • 2 years ago

          It’s not stupid. Rather it’s a choice of trade-offs between electrolytic and solid state capacitors and their inherit pros and cons.
          I’m sure the designers wanted to use solid state caps, but were unable to due to the limitations of ceramic when used in low frequency audio circuits.
          It’s much more than a purely “marketing” decision.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago

            The solid polymer capacitors which have mostly replaced traditional electrolytics on motherboards and GPUs over the past decade are [i<]not[/i<] ceramic capacitors. Ceramic capacitors are a completely different thing. Traditional electrolytic caps contain a wet electrolyte. Solid polymer caps are still electrolytic, but use a conductive solid polymer instead of liquid electrolyte. Electrical characteristics are generally similar to "wet" electrolytics, but they are more durable. Ceramic capacitors are a different thing entirely. As the name implies, they use a ceramic material instead of an electrolyte (liquid or solid). Unlike electrolytics, ceramic caps are available only in low capacitance values (which indeed makes them unsuitable for use as DC blocking capacitors in audio output stages). Many of the tiny "chip" style SMT capacitors you see scattered around a motherboard are ceramics. But the cylindrical caps are all electrolytic (whether wet or solid). Given their location, it's a pretty safe bet that those caps are the DC blocking caps on the analog audio outputs, as juzz86 has speculated.

            • AMDisDEC
            • 2 years ago

            Not sure if they are there for DC blocking or crossover.
            What I am sure of is there is more than likely a valid cost/performance/reliability engineering reason for using the electrolytic.
            Although the board is supposed to be “Tuf”, that’s all relative.
            From my world, it’s just another COTS board.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago

            Crossover circuits are used in loudspeakers that have different drivers for different frequency ranges, to separate out the frequencies to be sent to each driver. The crossover is located inside the speaker cabinet.

            I can guarantee you that this motherboard’s audio section does not have a loudspeaker crossover circuit in it.

            With few (maybe no?) exceptions, electrolytics on motherboards are either power rail bypass, or DC blocking for analog audio signals. The caps in question here could be used for either of these purposes; using higher quality caps for blocking or for power filtering would both benefit an audio circuit. The extra ruggedness of polymer caps is not needed, since audio is not a high power application, and they appear to have intentionally located the audio codec as far as possible from the major heat generating components on the motherboard.

            • AMDisDEC
            • 2 years ago

            I haven’t seen the schematic so I won’t trouble myself to attempt to guess where and why they are used.
            Also, personally I consider it a foolish waste of time to try to second guess with limited data, why a structured engineering team made specific component selection choices.
            As I stated, none of these components are industrial grade so to me it makes little difference if they label it as “Tuf” or not. Even if they had used solid state caps, It’s still just a COTS board.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago

            The point is, I would not be at all surprised if the electrical characteristics are “better” for audio, at least on paper. The main thing you get with polymer caps is longer life in stressful (high power and/or high temperature) environments, which is not a major concern for audio.

            The other point of my previous post was to point out that they’re [i<]not[/i<] being used for a crossover, since having a crossover in a motherboard audio circuit makes zero sense.

            • AMDisDEC
            • 2 years ago

            Simple audio circuits such as this one are rather common, plus motherboard manufacturers have decades of experience designing and implementing them. The performance and reliability trade-offs should be very well known. The choice to use this particular type cap may have just come down to, they had a bunch in-stock, and they met the basic system requirement, or they could have simply cut and pasted an existing design of this section, without modification.
            I’m just saying, without the same level of information the designer has, it’s difficult to second guess his/her component choice decision.

            • ronch
            • 2 years ago

            I agree with your first paragraph there. Audio circuits don’t really need solid caps. It would be nice but unnecessary. My SB X-Fi is over 8 years old and it still works fine. It uses ‘wet’ capacitors, no solid cap to be seen.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago

            Wet caps do dry out. If you’re driving headphones directly, you may have lost a bit of low end (DC blocking caps), and/or a bit of noise floor (bypass caps). But if they were over-speced enough to have decent margin to begin with the degradation may not be meaningful yet. Maybe you’d notice a difference if you did an A/B comparison against a card where all the caps are “factory fresh”… or maybe not.

            On a motherboard it’s less of an issue, since it’s probably gonna be retired before the caps in a low-stress area like audio dry out.

            • AMDisDEC
            • 2 years ago

            I can’t explain it. Most electrolytic caps have a short lifetime expressed in thousands of hours (~12,000), but that is obviously worst case and a function of operating temperature. The longer they operate over the specified temp, the more prone they are to evaporation, but I too have stereo gear (Quad 405) that has been operating fine since I purchased it in 1993.

            Electrolytic caps do seem to have a high failure rate at high frequencies over 100-200KHz. I’ve noticed many LCD/LED large TVs have a high failure rate in power supplies, and it’s usually the Electrolytic cap in the high frequency stage.

            Not that solid state caps aren’t susceptible to degradation over temp ranges also. A 50mf SS cap can suddenly become a 10mf cap.

            FYI: Most all standalone or embedded power amps and pre-amps still use electrolytic caps.

            • just brew it!
            • 2 years ago

            Throughout the first half of the 2000s there were a lot of failures of motherboards, video cards, and other consumer electronics due to electrolytic capacitors that used a defective electrolyte formula: [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague[/url<] I imagine this was one of the main factors that pushed the PC industry towards polymer caps. "Wet" caps with a proper electrolyte formula are reasonably durable if not stressed by high temperatures or surge currents. Reputable manufacturers also build in a safety margin, which should allow the device to continue to function normally even after the caps start to degrade below their design specs.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 2 years ago

            That ended up being a fairly technical thread. Congrats!

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