ASRock Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4
The Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is the cheapest AM4 Fatal1ty gaming board to date. But can it really perform on a level that justifies it being a gaming board? We will take a look and try to clear that up.
RGB LED Zone+ Header
Creative Sound Blaster™ Cinema 3
PCI-E STEEL SLOTS
Memory slots: 4
Memory type: DDR4
PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots: 2
PCIe x 1 slots: 4
M.2 slots: 2
SATA ports: 6
USB 3.1 Gen1: 6 + 2
USB 2.0: 2 + 4
Audio ports: 3 x 3.5mm
Codec: Realtek ALC892
Network: 1x 1 GBit
RGB: 1 x Zone on board + 2 Header
RGB features together with a red and black layout
Small VRM heatsinks
Today we will take a closer look at the ASRock Fatal1ty B350 Gaming motherboard. As the currently cheapest mainboard of ASRocks Fatal1ty lineup, with a price of just about 100€, it has big shoes to fill to live up to the name of its brand. A tough job given the budget. But we will see exactly how well it was done and what you’ll miss out on if you opt for the smaller Fatal1ty B350 Gaming K4 instead of its considerably more expensive counterparts, like the Fatal1ty x370 Gaming K4 or even more so the Fatal1ty x370 Professional Gaming. So let’s start right up.
Inside the package you’ll find the obligatory manual and quick installation guide as well as two SATA cables and M.2 screws. As with all Fatal1ty boards you’ll also get a post card featuring the gaming logo of the brand. Last but not least there is, of course, an I/O shield. This one is rather plain and simple without the colored design that you might have grown used to with Fatal1ty boards.
Layout and features
First of all we’ll have to talk about the elephant in the room: the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is the first board with a B350 chipset within our reviews so there is no way we can skip this. As you can see within the slides from AMD, the differences between B350 and X370 lie in the small details. There is no SLI/CrossFire capability but then again most users don’t use that feature anyway. Besides that you’ll get fewer native USB 3.1 and PCIe 2.0 lanes as well as SATA 3 6GB/s ports. Other than that AMD didn’t mention any differences at all.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can take a look at the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 itself.
The overall design is definitely Fatal1ty with the well-known red and black themed layout. You can also see the first two visible differences to the higher end Fatal1ty versions. There is no I/O armor and the heatsinks look rather small. If that will have an impact on system stability, temperatures and/ or overclocking remains to be seen as of now.
Looking at the rear I/O you’ll immediately notice that the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is most likely prepared for APUs that are suspected to hit the market later this year. With an HDMI as well as a dual link DVI-D and a VGA port you will be able to attach every monitor no matter if it is 20 years old or the latest 4K display. Here you’ll also find 2 of your USB 2.0 as well as 2 USB 3.0 and 4 USB 3.1 ports, one of which is Type-C. Obviously you’ll also get you PS/2 port present on every single Fatal1ty board to date and a Realtek 1 GBit networking port, instead of an Intel on the bigger versions. Last but not least there are three audio jacks.
The Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 offers up to 6 SATA 3 6GB/s connectors that support AHCI, NCQ, Hot Plug and RAID (for four of those ports) with the modes 0, 1 and 10 together with an M.2 and an ultra M.2´slot. Your read that right. A total of six ports, even though the chipset itself, as shown above, does only contribute two of those. Two are coming from the processor itself since all Zen based CPUs add two more to the pool and then there is the ASMedia controller with yet another two. Four of those are mounted vertically while the remaining two are placed in an upright position right above the heat sink of the chipset.
The only thing that you’ll need to keep in mind is that the lower, normal, M.2 slot (called M2_2 in the handbook) and SATA3_3 share lanes and are therefore exclusive of each other.
The upper PCIe slot has been reinforced for better durability to counter the possible issue of bending while especially heavy gpus are used.
Like all the current Fatal1ty boards, the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 offers the possibility of customizing your system with on mainboard RGB zones as well as additional RGB headers. Of the former you’ll find one whereas the latter is present twice. The RGB zone is the area around the chipset heat sink while the headers are located at the upper right corner of the board so that you’ll be able to attach, for example, LED coolers like the AMD Wraith Spire without the need of extension cables. This feature would be even better if ASRock could have gotten rid of the red and black theme of the board itself. Sadly this is a problem with all current Fatal1ty mainboards and something we really hope they get right in the next iteration.
The Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 uses the Realtek ALC892 audio codec and we already saw that there are not that many audio jacks. This, together with the ELNA instead of Nichicon Gold Series audio caps, makes it pretty obvious that the sound was one of the areas that had to be cut down in favour of a more appealing price tag. Despite that, you still get the Creative Sound Blaster™ Cinema 3 software to get the most out of the hardware you have.
Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 fan placement
The fan placement on Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is slightly better than that of its x370 pendant with a chassis fan header on the left hand side of the board and the bottom two being placed more to the right.
The BIOS is exactly how you would expect it to be given that we’re talking about ASRock. The design is straightforward and you will find everything you might need. Overclockers might miss the SOC voltage though but then again overclocking is a whole different matter that we will cover later. Since Agesa 18.104.22.168 you can delve deeper into your memory settings and tune it just the way you see fit. A very convenient feature is the internet update that will check for newer versions and will automate the whole process of updating you BIOS for you. Seeing that we’re looking at the BIOS of a gaming board on a budget some features might not even be needed.
Since the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 utilizes the AMDs B350 chipset overclocking is still an option. Of the three chipsets currently available only the A320 disables overclocking altogether. But please don’t see the results as a comparison between the capabilities of those chipsets even though we now have data from all non-itx AM4 Fatal1ty boards. Even if there would be a difference we couldn’t possibly measure how big it is since the design of the mainboards as a whole differ quite too much.
Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 Heatsinks
The Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 has 9 power phases which is quite much for a B350 board with most competitors using 6 phases. This would be something getting us to hope for some decent numbers if it weren’t for the rather tiny looking VRM heatsinks. But let’s see were we got.
Again we used our trusted Ryzen 5 1600 together with the G.Skill Trident-Z RGB (F4-3200C14D-16GTZR) modules. Both served us well in the past and we already know what they are capable off. While the ASRock AB350 Gaming K4 is able to work perfectly with the XMP settings for 3200 MHz as well as 3333 MHz with the same timing going higher was not possible at all. Since we got it running smoothly with both Fatal1ty x370 boards we can safely say that this is most likely due to the limitations of the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4. Focusing on the CPU we can tell you right away that the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is capable of some very decent numbers. Obviously we couldn’t hope for the nearly 4.2 GHz the Ryzen 5 1600 was able to reach on the x370 Professional Gaming but we would say that 4050 MHz isn’t bad either for an entry level gaming / performance board and that the setup itself is indeed capable of some decent numbers.
That said unfortunately our second presumption was also true. Fewer phases alone, build quality aside, result in higher temperatures which again result in higher fluctuations of our voltages. The heatsinks simply can’t cope with the heat resulting from 1.55V that were necessary on the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 to get to 4050 MHz. We had to attach another heat sink as well as some fans blowing directly at them to get there. Since there is no temperature sensor for the VRMs we had to stick to the old method: touching the heat sink and see how it feels. If you can stand it everything is fine but as soon as you get a blister the temperatures are almost certainly too high and that was exactly what happened. Without switching out the heatsinks we would not recommend going beyond 1.4V for a longer period of time which in turn got us to roughly 3.9 GHz.
Now that we’ve gotten all that out of the way we can focus on how the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 performs in our tests. As always we stuck to the same hardware, switching only the board itself, to get comparable results and not depend on some guesswork when we get to the final verdict.
- Processor: Ryzen 5 1600 @ 3.4 GHz (Boost deactivated)
- Mainboard: ASRock x370 Gaming K4
- Memory: G.Skill Trident-Z RGB @ 2666 (16-16-17-35)
- GPU: Zotac NVidia GTX 780Ti AMP! Edition
- System disk: Samsung 850 Evo 256 GB
- Storage disk: Western Digital Blue 2 TB
- Power supply: Seasonic Prime Titanium 750
- Case: Raijintek Paean
Test methodology and results
We ran all tests at least 5 times and the results listed below represent the average values of such measurements. For FPS data from games, the same scene was selected and the average frame per second figure was measured over 10 minutes.
Looking at those numbers we were honestly surprised. Not only was the performance Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 not falling far behind in every test but ASRock managed to not sacrifice anything in terms of performance. Raw CPU power, memory and storage performance as well as graphics are all up there head to head with the big players. An incredible feat given the price difference and the cutbacks that had to result in but somehow they did it.
So what can we say about the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4? It is absolutely not the first choice for overclockers. The chosen VRM components as well as the small heatsinks on top of them made sure of that . It is also not equipped with the best onboard audio you could imagine. Last but not least you won’t be able to set up a storage solution with two RAID 10s and attach every single USB device you can find together.
But for just about 100€ the Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4 is a very interesting board anyway. Obviously you can’t expect to get the same features and capabilities as you would from a high class board but it is very clear where ASRock drew the line in terms of what is really necessary. Since the focus has always been building well performing gaming mainboards they cut back on everything except performance while maintaining a good cost to quality ratio. If that means sacrificing overclockability to a certain degree (while still being able to go beyond the default frequencies) and features most users don’t even notice or care about like having the best audio components (without buying a dedicated card) and 10 or even more SATA and USB3.1 ports we say GOOD CHOICE.
So this board is clearly designed for people who want to get the best they can from the start without wanting to tweak and tune their components to the limit and ASRock did a very good job delivering exactly that. Therefore we’re handing out our Value-award for the absolutely compelling price-performance-ratio.