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Thread: MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk Review

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    MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk Review


    MAG X570 Tomahawk Review

    Introduction

    It's been a while since I've written a motherboard review so I thought it was about time for another peoples review taking a look at an X570 chipset mainboard. We will be looking at the X570 Tomahawk WIFI from MSI this time, there has been some really weird stuff going on at MSI in more recent times with a prominent individual committing suicide, shady practices whereby MSI try to strong arm reviewers into giving them favourable review scores and moderators in their forums threatening users who have a difference in opinion and politely explain why they are wrong about something and even give independent sources not just opinion to substantiate their claim(s). For these reasons I too will be distancing myself from MSI for the time being (but I will be keeping a close eye on you, MSI) after this review but let us push forward and try to focus on just the hardware, will the X570 Tomahawk "return to honour" as MSI like to say, or be dishonourably discharged? Let's find out, and rest assured MSI are under an extra powerful microscope from me today with their recent behaviour and shenanigans I won't be allowing them to get away with anything, not even the tiniest discretion.


    Gallery





    In terms of packaging the X570 Tomahawk is packaged quite well the box doesn't have that same feeling of quality the X470 Gaming Pro Carbon had though despite the Tomahawk being about 30 pounds more expensive. The accessories on the other hand are, well, as good as non-existent excluding the standard paraphernalia included with every mainboard such as driver DVD and user manual literally the only things you are getting are 2x SATA cables and the mandatory WIFI antenna, and that's it. I recall the same thing happening with the SATA cables with the X470 Gaming Pro Carbon as well but you weren't spending 200 quid on that board the lack of SATA cables here is penny pinching to the extreme by MSI.

    If budget was a concern MSI could have made the instruction manual localised to the region they are selling, or better yet, make the manual digital only like almost every instruction manual is now to get the budget for the extra couple SATA cables in that way. I hate seeing needless waste and the user manual has 39 pages of use to English speaking countries, the ensuing 120 pages are naturally of no use at all so why not localise the manual MSI and be more environmentally friendly.



    Taking a look at the IO layout it is populated with 2x USB 2.0 ports, WIFI connections, a PS2 port, HDMI, flash CMOS button, 2x USB 3.2 5Gbps, 3x USB 3.2 10Gbps Type A and C ports, 2.5G LAN port and obligatory audio jacks with SPDIF.

    I'm not a fan of the PS2 port, in my book that is obsolete tech and the space it takes would be much better utilised as USB ports and I'm not sold on the inclusion of WIFI. MSI have at least taken one thing on board, heh, yes, pun intended, by including a firmware flashback feature that you can also use to update the UEFI on the board even without primary components installed, this gives users the ability to easily recover from a bad flash themselves without having to rip the system apart to RMA for what is a very simple fix.



    Taking a closer look at the Tomahawk itself nothing stands out as being a particular weakness but I am going to point out the awful placement of the fan headers, you have one 4 pin header either side of the DIMM banks and the rest are lazily shuffled along the bottom of the board in a "just let the user deal with it" manner. We collectively established many years ago MSI that a fan header mid board for rear intake or exhaust fans is important, as is having one in the general area of the SATA ports for a side or front fan. On the plus side, with a total of 6 fan headers at least you still have more than the meagre 4 Gigabyte give you with the similarly priced Aorus Elite.

    I am absolutely elated by the fact the Tomahawk is not loaded with LEDs but the placement of the few LEDs the board does have I don't like, MSI for reasons that I'm quite sure absolutely nobody can fathom still insist on placing the LEDs on the rear of the board at the edge near the DIMM banks, this position someone clearly has a real turn on for heh... lights, turn on and off, yes, another intended pun. The most logical place to put LEDs if you are going to use them is somewhere you can't easily illuminate yourself if you want to, like as part of the shroud over the rear IO like on the X470 GPC (you're going to see this board referenced a lot). Finally coming to the M.2 slots I am pleased to see both of them have a heatsink, you either include heatsinks for every M.2 slot you have on the board or don't include any there is no halfway house here because people like to match things like that up.


    Laid To Bare



    Alright, now for the good stuff tearing the board down reveals exactly what hides under all those shrouds and heatsinks. We get a good view of the layout as well and that is where we will start. The first thing that is immediately obvious is what has been covered in brief already, the sheer stupidity of the CPU AIO Pump header placement, who's going to use that being all the way out there? Nobody is going to have a cable trailing half way across the board and memory to use that header. The only time it might become feasible to use is if you have an extension cable allowing you to route most of the AIO pump wire behind the board but that comes with drawbacks of its own like having to negotiate your way around the VRM heatsinks, you're going to be better off using this header for a front fan or RAM cooler the lone CPU fan header will deal with the requirements of an AIO pump just fine as all of the fan headers are rated for 1 amp. Considering the number of people that still use traditional air coolers an extra fan header for people that have dual CPU fan configurations wouldn't have gone amiss either, now those people are going to have to use a splitter cable which certainly won't look particularly nice when going for a clean looking build.

    A look at the integrated components doesn't reveal much it is better than average with the 2.5Gbit RTL8125B, intel AX200 WIFI and Realtek ALC1200 but I'm willing to bet the LAN makes no difference to the majority of people over the more standard Realtek L8200A (1Gbit) LAN. The cost of that WIFI module is really starting to have detrimental impacts at this point I feel not including it definitely would have allowed for higher quality components overall and extra USB ports.

    Speaking of components capacitors on the board are standard looking through hole polymer, I'll guess they have a lifetime guarantee of 5000hrs, but could be anywhere between 1000hrs and 5000hrs. I'd hope they are the upper end of that scale as pricing is negligible for much better caps, for example when looking on farnell.co.uk a 105c rated 6.3v Panasonic 560μF polymer through hole 5000hr capacitor is 25.9 pence per piece while a 6.3v 105c rated KEMET 560μF polymer through hole capacitor specified for a mere 2000hrs is 24.7 pence per piece. 1.2 pence for a much more durable capacitor is nothing at all so there's no reason not to use higher life guarantee capacitors for extra durability.

    PCI-E slot layout has been thought about at least with an M.2 slot being placed above the first PCI-E slot so an M.2 drive won't cook itself when a GPU is under load and allows for much more convenient M.2 upgrades and cleaning not having to pull the GPU out. Spacing is also good between slots and as optimal as you get on an ATX board. I'll draw attention now to the "Armor" MSI are again including on the PCI-E slots and once again pose a simple question; have you, or anyone you know, ever broken a PCI-E slot just inserting or taking an add-in board out? No? I didn't think so. All of the "reinforced armour" as far as I am concerned is yet more clap-trap rubbish primarily for marketing that adds manufacturing cost to the construction of a board without giving any useful benefit. What makes this worse is that MSI have half arsed their "armor" (no typos here, I'm British so for me armour has a "u" in there) by doing it for the top 16x PCI-E slot and just "brackets" for the lower slot, choose which way you want to do it MSI and stick to it, or don't do it at all. You do get 2x USB 3 headers which is useful but the second one does feel like more of a cheap solution to the lack of USB ports on the rear IO but at least this does allow someone to add a drive bay USB expansion which is better than nothing.

    Taking a look at the VRM and DIMM banks topology the Tomahawk appears to be a Daisy Chain, the VRMs are the one real highlight in this tear down consisting of Intersil ISL99360 BFRZ rated for 60A, the controller is the Intersil ISL69247 IRZ which is 8 phase configured for 6+2 and also used are the Intersil ISL6617 phase doublers. On the other end of the scale we have the On-Semi 4C024 rated for 78A and 4C029 rated for 46A. These are all good components there's nothing to really turn your nose up at here. For comparison the X470 GPC I reviewed used the IR35201 configured for 5+2, On-Semi 4C024 and 4C029 as well as the IR3598 phase doublers so there is actually very little difference between the two boards here.


    Test Setup

    CPU: AMD Zen 2700X @ 4.1GHz 1.3v
    Mainboard: MSI X570 Tomahawk
    RAM: 2x16GB Klevv BoltX 3600MHz @ 3466MHz 18-19-18-18-35 2T
    GPU: Powercolor 6800XT Red Devil
    Storage: 250GB Hynix SL301 SATA SSD, Asgard 250GB NVMe (OS drive) & 500GB, 2TB Seagate Barracuda
    Opticals: 24x Lite-On iHAS324 DVD-RW, 16x HP BH40N Blu-Ray
    Sound: Xonar DX 7.1, Realtek ALC1200
    PSU: EVGA 1000w Supernova G2
    OS: Windows 10 Pro x64 (latest ISO) and all updates
    Case: NZXT Phantom 530


    Test Your Metal

    As ever for thermal load testing I will be using a DT8380 infrared temperature gun, accurate to +/- 2% and to ensure tests have a good degree of consistency where possible across reviews stock thermal pads are replaced with Akasa 6w/mk pads. We want to test heatsink solutions and their efficiency here, not which manufacturer has the better stock thermal pads.

    For those that don't know the most efficient type of heatsink is always one that uses high grade thermal interface material, the thinner the better, good contact between heatsink and IC (a good, solid imprint of the heatsinked ICs is a sure indication of optimal contact), solid way of mounting the heatsinks, and the heatsinks themselves will have a lot of fins to maximise cooling capacity to take advantage of any natural airflow with the base of the heatsink being free of any milling marks that would hinder thermal efficiency.



    Taking a look at the heatsinks and their mounting we can see that the X570 Tomahawk heatsinks are well made with a decent amount of surface area the mounting for them is also extremely good no board warping and the heatsinks have a lot of heft about them with a less traditional but good number of fins all standing them in good stead for being excellent heatsinks. The surface area is also well finished with no machine milling marks ensuring good heat transfer. The main VRM heatsink also doesn't just have that plate screwed to it I thought I was going to get MSI here in a "gotcha" moment but nope, that plate seems to be soldered or at least stuck down with thermal glue.

    Scrutinising the chipset heatsink there's no weak thermal epoxy used we get a thin thermal pad so replacing it with TIM if you prefer is nice and easy and something I would recommend given the temperature the X570 chipset can get you want that thermal transfer as good as it can be. Mounting pressure as you can see from the imprints in the thermal pads is also very good and the pads aren't too thick so thermally there isn't much of an issue here but I will turn your attention to the surface area, all that area yet MSI didn't use a silent finned design sticking a tiny noisy fan in there even though the heatsink is crying out to be a silent finned solution with all that surface area, absolutely incredulous.

    Now let's take a look at those VRM temperature results.



    The results are in and they are good, very good, dethroning the reigning champion of 3 years, the X370 Titanium, is deserving of applause thermal load balancing is clearly not an issue here either despite there being no heatpipe, I would still like to see one on every board though especially the ones that have very minimal VRM heatsinks. I did also peek at chipset temperatures and with an idle load and default fan speed (none) for me it runs a little warm at 54c, this is quite typical for an X570 chipset but an extremely minimal 15% of the chipset fans maximum RPM will drop that temp to about 43c which is much better. Do the chipset a favour and use some nice thermal paste with a tiny amount of airflow it'll thank you for it.


    The UEFI - Unified Extensible Firmware Interface

    The next stop is the firmware all images have been taken from firmware 7C84v15, I'll admit this review got delayed where I wanted to wait for this firmware release because earlier versions, to be as succinct as possible, were below par, missing features of older AM4 boards, questionable memory compatibility, old bugs rearing up again older chipsets have long since had firmware updates to resolve, etc. And yes, it is UEFI, not "BIOS", the latter is simply a component of the former now this link will give you some of the simpler reasons why this is now the case.





    Cutting out the chuff we are going to get straight to where people will spend most of their time, the OC menu. With UEFI 1.5 you'll finally have a complete set of options I won't praise or judge for it taking until this point to happen as it is hard to know if the fault lays with MSI or AMD in this instance due to the AGESA code but it certainly would have been nice to have more refined firmware for the board earlier than this point. I do like how you literally have every tool for OCing at your disposal including the more obscure ones like CPU switching frequency and Spread Spectrum although the latter you can only enable or disable which is a bit annoying and certainly limits the usefulness of Spread Spectrum when trying to get rid of some EMI but chances are it won't do much for EMI anyway.







    DRAM options are comprehensive and we do have TRFC2 and 4 which is something the X470 GPC did not initially have, this is something which got addressed after me recommending the addition of these settings things have certainly gone way beyond coincidental at this point with almost everything I have bought up in the past as things to fix getting addressed in firmware updates or newer board releases in succession starting with the X370 Titanium progressing to the X470 GPC, and now the X570 Tomahawk so perhaps you should just reach out MSI.



    Now to take a look at the available fan control, much like everything else about the firmware it is extremely comprehensive and well laid out the only gripe I have is that there is not a way to manually key in fan values as setting the values you want via the fan graph can be finicky. I found myself spending a good 10-15 minutes configuring all the fan profiles when a simple key-in feature would have allowed me to do the same thing in about 1 minute, top marks for layout and features but not so much for usability and practicality.


    Audio Analysis

    Continuing on from the introduction of it with the X470 Fatal1ty K4 review the audio analysis returns for what is now a permanent new section in these peoples reviews. With mainboards ever increasing in price and seemingly ever diminishing returns for your investment mainboards deservedly require much more scrutiny than what they are currently given and I intend to give mainboards just such scrutiny.

    The objective in this section is to more than just test the audio and present an RMAA graph I like to also put an audio implementation through its paces by testing its capabilities by assaulting it with many sound sources and reverb effects all at the same time to truly test how good it is, measure the performance against a dedicated sound card and above all else to see if I can make the on-board audio make any pops or cracks where it becomes overwhelmed or susceptible to EMI or crosstalk, for this purpose I will use the Metro Last Light Redux benchmark for the excellent variety in audio it offers.

    Beginning with the ALC1200 specs grabbing these details to answer the prevalent question on the internet - Just what are the differences between the ALC1200 and ALC1220 were not easy to come by at all as Realtek are extremely secretive about these CODECs being their latest and greatest but I can now peel back this veil of secrecy to a good degree for everyone to answer that question.



    So the short answer is that the differences are not substantial for the most part but the weak front audio will certainly put some people off, as will the lack of a DSD (Direct Stream Digital) encoder and decoder making the ALC1200 powerful for the most part on paper, but very basic. Ok, enough with paper specs let's look at the hardware.



    Hiding under that aluminium anti-EMI shell is the ALC1200 which is filtered, as noted by the plain PCB line. The implementation is average without so much as being customised to the point of including an op-amp but at least the filtering caps that would otherwise be used for the op-amp aren't removed they are moved up next to the ALC1200 this should stop the nasty audio pops and cracks the X470 GPC suffered with. MSI still aren't using my preferred Nichicon Fine Gold capacitors electing to stick with the Nippon Chemi-Con instead, I say preferred as the Nichicons have always provided a better sound than the Chemi-Cons from my experience with audio projects. We are ultimately looking at a downgrade here though as the X470 GPC uses the better ALC1220.





    Taking a look at the audio software this is what you will be greeted with if you install the latest UAD (Universal Audio Driver) and then separately have to head to the Windows Store and search "Realtek Audio Console", once installed do a Windows search for it, open it, right-click the icon on the taskbar and select "Pin to taskbar", yes, this really is meant to be easier than just downloading and installing the old Realtek HDA driver that installs everything in one swoop. You can still find the HDA drivers but MSI aren't going to point you to them in fact the download page doesn't even have a link for the HDA drivers but worry not simply head here for a custom package I put together. Due to all of this inconvenience, and the unreliable nature of Windows and the Windows Store at installing the UAD audio console I have compiled a custom package for the UADs as well you can get here. Be sure to read the readme to correctly install the audio console.

    I think you can all probably guess what I'm going to bring up next... the horribly, and needlessly, bloated UI. Just look at all of that wasted space this UI could be much more compact and every bit as easy to use what is it with all these unnecessarily bloated UI's over the last couple years?

    On further investigation neither Nahimic 2.5+ or Nahimic 3 will function on the X570 Tomahawk meaning MSI haven't paid a license fee to Nahimic for the Tomahawk, if you are a gamer who bought the Tomahawk and expected the Nahimic suit to be included I'd imagine you are feeling pretty miffed right about now getting this confirmation, and with good reason considering the price of the Tomahawk and the already cut down audio implementation. Perhaps in-use testing rather than a pure hardware analysis will reveal something that is not yet apparent.

    Now for testing, my RMAA results will differ from most as I test with the system loaded not idle because this is when EMI and crosstalk potential is going to be at the highest levels, and guess what sorts of scenarios this happens in, Yup, gaming, so testing this way will give you a more accurate representation of how the audio will perform in actual usage and why I test the audio with a gaming benchmark in addition to RMAA.

    I'll be testing at 24bit 48KHz, not 192KHz, this is because unless you have audio hardware costing in the thousands you will not be able to hear the extra frequencies 192KHz produces but you will be able to hear intermodulation between inaudible frequencies in some situations and you could potentially see odd frequency response due to resampling this is why 24bit 48KHz is far more realistic and practical to not only use as a standard but test at as well. It also needs to be noted that with RMAA you cannot reliably test the quality of the DAC (Digital to Analogue audio Converter) a mainboard uses but rather the quality of the ADC (Analogue to Digital Converter) on the Line-In with the standard test however both the ADC and DAC are important. What RMAA will do for us with the standard test is provide insight into the D/A and A/D electrical design to give some evidence at least that corners have not been cut however the loopback test is also not infallible as it represents the absolute best case on the Line-Out and not necessarily represent what you would get in practice, for instance if you have very long low quality wires.

    If you want to run your own RMAA tests using the same criteria I do you can do so by following these steps;

    1. Download and install RMAA 6.4.5
    2.Connect Line-Out (Speaker Out) to Line-In on the rear IO with a 3.5mm male to male stereo cable, something with gold plated connections and adequate shielding on the cable is preferable for the most accurate results.
    3. Set speaker volume to 100%
    4. Start RMAA and change the drop-down fields to 24bit and 48KHz
    5. Click the button with a gold speaker
    6. Adjust Line-In level in your audio CP until both channels are somewhere in the -2db to -1db range
    7. Disable the Equaliser in your audio CP (or set it to "flat") otherwise results will be affected.
    8. Start the test

    Right, to the RMAA results the first two charts are for people less experienced with audio to show more clearly what is considered good and bad the Xonar will go first;



    Anyone who is familiar with the Xonar DX is likely aware of just how good it is, or was, it is about 12 years old now, but if we take RMAAs result at face value it would still have us believe it kicks some rather serious posterior so is our yardstick to measure all other challengers by.

    Step up ALC1200...



    I am by no means an audiophile nor am I the type of person to go spending thousands on equipment for near imperceptible differences but like everybody I do expect the hardware to do the task it is meant for to an acceptable standard and in this regard the MSI attempt at audio is not even close to acceptable on the Noise test or the THD + Noise and IMD + Noise tests, these are differences that you can hear through speakers or headphones and we will get in to this shortly.

    The indication in these results is that MSI have on paper done a rather bad job and is frankly embarrassing for a 200 pounds mainboard next to what is now a 12 year old audio card. You would be right to think the ALC1200 won't have phenomenal results however the performance here is very sub-standard for a modern on-board audio solution. Let's have a look at the side by side comparison.



    The comparison chart shows us nothing new but does make things easier to look at the loop back results from the Xonar DX absolutely eclipse the rather miserable results of the MSI Tomahawk's ALC1200. I wouldn't blame you for thinking there is an error in these results but I can assure you there is not I thought there was an error with the ALC1200 results as well so I ended up spending almost 2 days re-running tests, changing audio equipment, checking and re-checking things, and even getting some new audio equipment to make absolutely sure. The results are accurate.

    For the final RMAA test we are going to examine the quality of the ADC and DAC to see exactly where MSI has cut corners by using the Xonar DX output to loop back to the ALC1200 input to measure the ADC, we'll then switch things around and connect the Xonar input to the ALC1200 output to measure the DAC. This test also has the nice benefit of being able to do a more specialised result of the ALC1200 recording and playback performance as the standard loopback test cannot isolate and independently test the ADC and DAC.



    Here we have it the Analogue to Digital Converter (ADC) is the culprit of the bad results from the standard loopback test it is safe to say the ADC is largely absolute trash with terrible noise levels, THD + Noise, and IMD + Noise results, dynamic range and stereo crosstalk also isn't particularly good. On the other hand the DAC, while not amazing, is pretty good with only the IMD + Noise result being below expectations. Now, I know for a fact that most soundcard manufacturers use testing equipment from Audio Precision so you would think mainboard manufacturers also use the same software when designing and calibrating their on-board audio however based on these results here MSI aren't there is no way given the results this would pass anything but a blind test with no comparison, and we'll be putting that into action now as well so let's move on to the Metro LL tests for some subjective listening to see if there's any surprises in wait.



    These subjective listening tests are done using a 5.1 Auna Concept 620 speaker system (LINK), I have entirely recapped the sub with Rubycon capacitors and power current handling upgraded to twin 50v capacitors instead of twin 25v. The twin RCA to 3.5mm jack is made by Neoteck and is dual shielded, uses oxygen free copper wire and 24K gold plated connections. This gear can be considered pretty standard with mods it takes it to a high enough level to separate the wheat from the chaff.

    As it left less than a pleasant impression during the RMAA tests the ALC1200 has the chance to draw first blood in the subjective audio test, with no equaliser sounds are muddy, muffled, and flat sounding like everything was being spewed out across the same channel, the audio just has no life or soul, or depth, definition, and clarity if you prefer.

    Enabling the equaliser and using custom settings does at least help restore some clarity, punch and depth but nowhere near enough. The moved filtering does at least appear to prevent any audio pops and cracks with no performance anomalies outside of scene changes. Overall the gaming audio experience I found to be an unpleasant assault to listen to lacking a lot of definition and clarity, subjectively it isn't the worst I've ever heard but it also by far and away stands out as the worst I've heard even in blind testing through the X370/470/570 era. Honestly I don?t think it is even close to being good enough to even say the casuals will be satisfied not just in quality but lack of gamer orientated audio software features.



    The last test is just a formality at this point and sees the comparison against the Xonar DX, in terms of performance anomalies there are none and in fact the graph paints a picture of a more stable frame rate compared to the ALC1200 with less extreme low points. When talking about audio quality there could not be more of a difference the Xonar simply blows the ALC1200 away in every imaginable metric, depth is better, the audio has clarity, there is a hefty punch. It has life and soul.


    Software

    This is where we would usually take a look at the MSI Command Centre and I would heap praise on it for the versatility it has but MSI have replaced the Command Centre with "Dragon Centre", the latter is total poison being a regression in every way compared to Command Centre I wouldn't waste your time, or mine, with it in this review but even the stand alone Mystic Light has been axed and melded with this monstrosity so to look at the LED functionality of the Tomahawk we are all going to have to suffer through this.



    I'm going to pull everyone to this right away, after DC (eventually) finishes installing you'll have to do a Windows search for "Dragon Centre", yes, you don't even get an icon placed on the desktop for convenience, secondly do not sign in when given the opportunity to do so (just click the "X") then in the bottom left corner click the cog icon and disable the collection of data. MSI have no reason whatsoever to do this with a utility meant for system monitoring, overclocking and usage of all the available features. If you take a read through the T&Cs that appear the first time you launch DC it sounds like MSI would kidnap your mum and sell her back to you if there was a single pound they could make from it, I'm not even joking here, disgusting the level of privacy invasion and data collection (including attempts at suppressing opinion) MSI are willing to go to if you let them. If you have to use this software I'd even add it to the blocked list in the Windows firewall.



    This is the only place really worth visiting in Dragon Centre, everything else worth doing or you need to do you can do faster and easier with a combination of HWinfo64, CPU-Z, and Ryzen Master. If it wasn't for the fact there isn't any good third party RGB software (yet) there wouldn't be any need for DC at all even the LAN manager is nothing more than a customised version of cFosSpeed. DC does at least offer plentiful LED effects to choose from but not as many as you would think let you change the colour, if you regularly like to change LED effects but don't like the sound of DC you will probably want to keep an eye on JackNet .


    Storage Performance & Benchmarks

    At last here it is, buried in the depths of this review we finally get to the benchmarks, let's see how the Tomahawk stacks up.



    For the opening volley of benchmarks we start with AS SSD performance, results are right around where they should be here for all drives, even the Seagate Barracuda which I benched purely as a legacy comparison, and boy, I wish I didn't it took about a million years to complete so.. hmm... I should probably check in on the state of quantum computing after all that time. Buy an SSD people, or whatever the equivalent now is in this far flung future.



    Next we have the AIDA64 results, nothing out of the ordinary here to talk about so let's move straight on to the gaming benchmarks.

    Unless otherwise stated all results have been obtained with the highest possible in-game graphical settings. Gaming performance a mainboard in and of itself has very little impact on so we won't be running a huge amount of tests here but enough to ensure everything is in order.



    Unsurprisingly there is nothing unusual or out of place here, I will make a note that the newer AMD drivers look to have fixed Gears 5 performance at 1080p where it has jumped about 10FPS. Tomb Raider results are also interesting as the system managed 121FPS average for both 1080p and 1440p.


    Overclocking

    Now for the final part of this peoples review it is time to see how the X570 Tomahawk OCs and to see if there are any firmware bugs to report on.

    As I stated earlier this review got delayed waiting on UEFI 1.5 as there certainly are, or were, some quirks and issues to contend with in UEFI 1.4 and the beta 1.53. Those issues included DRAM voltage just deciding to be 1.372v after setting CPU and SoC LLC to level 3, a 0.1v negative offset for the CPU resulting in the system failing to POST, the system failing to POST if you enabled Above 4G memory support and BAR at the same time, and memory TCWL values of 18 and 20 not sticking, instead being pegged at 16.

    The worst issue though was with memory I used several different kits on the board all using different ICs including Samsung B-Die, Micron E-Die, Hynix DJR, and Hynix MFR. The B-Die kit seemed ok but all of the Hynix and Micron kits had varying degrees of success the Micron kit particularly did not want to work on the Tomahawk one set of DIMM banks the board outright refused to POST and the other set of DIMM banks the most I could coax out of the kit was 2933MHz and that was the kit of Crucial Ballistix I reviewed so know full well the kit is capable of at least 3333MHz. The kit I ended up using for this review is the Klevv BoltX which as it turns out is on the Tomahawks QVL list for 3000 and 5000 series CPUs while very similar kits from Klevv are on the memory QVL for the 2000 series CPUs. Even with this kit however the Tomahawk still would not POST at some frequencies without the XMP profile being enabled which is quite unusual, the board really doesn't have a clue on how to set memory timings when left to its own devices. Don't be fooled by the memory QVL list for the 2000 series CPUs for the Tomahawk at a glance it looks impressive but on slightly closer inspection you will notice the vast, vast, VAST majority are Samsung B-Die kits, not Hynix or Micron. Other manufacturers like Asus and Gigabyte are doing far better on their QVLs for 2000 series CPUs when it comes to actual tested IC variety which is far more important than number of tested brands all using the same ICs.

    Things like this is why I test with a slightly older CPU to see if the level of standards you would expect extend to the slightly older hardware as well because most people do incremental upgrades when the time is right, not all at once so it is very common to see a slightly older CPU on a up to date mainboard either because upgrades are being done incrementally or because a certain CPU was significantly cheaper than the newer ones while still offering a large portion of the performance the newer CPUs offer.

    With the encountered bugs detailed then with UEFI 1.4 and beta 1.53 just how many are addressed with UEFI 1.5? This is the good news, the TCWL issue is fixed, and the CPU offset voltage and BAR issues have a plaster on them, the former the offset voltage just won't take effect until you change the CPU multiplier and the latter 4G support toggles enabled or disabled when you enable or disable BAR.

    The DRAM voltage issue is still present annoyingly, due to the delays I didn't have time to re-test the other memory kits to see if the Tomahawks memory compatibility is any better. Three out of five issues fixed or patched is pretty good so hopefully another UEFI revision or two will sort these things out fully.

    Right, so time to have a look at the OC results and find out the Tomahawks standing.



    If I had to choose one word for the AIDA result "strong" would come to mind, Hynix DJR really is underrated those 18-20-18-35 timings are substantially tighter than the stock 18-22-22-42 and there's plenty of wiggle room outside of the primary timings as well all with a mere 1.37v. Yes, I could throw more voltage at it but these timings at this voltage are already quite good for DJR and there's only so much slack you can pick up that has notable gains for Zen ordinarily there is just no need to push a memory kit that hard and that is the usage scenario I think is what most people will go with so I do the same to keep things as representative as possible.



    How I OC has changed a bit since the R7 1700 days I mainly now look to optimise CPU frequency with required voltage, in this area the X570 Tomahawk performed well getting up to 4200MHz with 1.35v, the X470 Carbon couldn't manage this with even up to 1.4v which is curious given that the board has a VRM that is still pretty strong so without more time it's difficult to say what the issue here was. Memory results are as good as you can expect from a 2700X really so unsurprisingly all is square here between the Tomahawk and Carbon.

    Let's see how these OC results impact gaming performance.



    For a game that leans on the GPU heavily these results are pretty good giving the 1080p and 1440p results a small but healthy bump, at 4K we are completely GPU limited so it should come as no surprise that things remain unchanged here.


    Conclusion

    Here we are at the end of the road, and one that not only had some unexpected turns but a road that was longer than I would have liked it to be. Mainboard manufacturers really don't like making their hardware easy to review do they? We'll be doing much the same as I did for the Powercolor 6800XT review and getting the miscellaneous things out of the way with first before breaking into the scoring to keep things as easy to follow as possible.

    With the VRM setup the Tomahawk has it will comfortably cope with the likes of an R9 5950X which a good number of other boards at the price point the Tomahawk is at certainly can't claim to do as easily. I do think it's about time manufacturers were only allowed to advertise CPU support based on the VRM capabilities though otherwise we will see the day when manufacturers have a CPU on the supported list for a mainboard but said board can only run that CPU at 2GHz rather than, say, for sake of argument, a default 3.7GHz. We've already seen very similar happen with the MSI X570-A Pro and the supposedly much higher end X570 Gaming Edge, and you can include the X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WIFI, Gigabyte Gaming X, and Asrock X570 Steel Legend in that list none of those boards in my book have a VRM good enough and/or adequately cooled by the VRM heatsinks to support a CPU like the 5950X yet all of those boards are happy to list the 5950X as "supported". It would certainly be interesting to find out how much those boards throttle a 5950X due to inadequate and/or overheating VRMs.

    I do like that the Tomahawk doesn't light up like Mardi-Grass if you want LED lighting that's what LED fans, strips, cathode lights, etc are for and you can replace those when they start to dim or become faulty no such ability with mainboards incorporating lighting. I don't like that despite all of the effects you can choose from that you can't customise the colour on all of them which quite severely affects the entire point of having LEDs on the board to begin with.

    I'm also hard pressed to find any reason to justify the 2.5Gbit LAN and the on-board WIFI, the 2.5G LAN you'd need an internet connection of being able to take advantage of it and considering the majority of ISPs cap at 1Gbit it becomes a flip of the coin as to if that 2.5G LAN is really welcome and the included WIFI isn't anything special either I tested it with a cheap USB adapter that uses a Realtek chip and it didn't perform any better making the only point in the WIFI being the Bluetooth and when you can easily go out and get a USB Bluetooth adapter it renders the included WIFI also worthless especially as the space and costs saved could have easily gone to adding USB ports on the rear IO which are just infinitely more useful. I really don't like that PS2 port either with so few USB ports, get rid of it and add more USB ports.

    So the question becomes do you really want that 2.5G LAN and WIFI all things considered? I'm going to bet that at this level the large majority of you are going to answer "no" to that meaning MSI could have gone with something like the Realtek L8200A which is a perfectly acceptable option and ditched the WIFI entirely to allow for improvements in much more important areas, like with the audio.

    Ok, time for some scoring.

    Hardware Functionality & Quality: 14 / 20

    Overall the quality of the Tomahawk is high with great heatsinks, a strong VRM, ample albeit poorly placed fan headers, heatsinks for both M.2 slots, flashback port, and well laid out PCI-E slots but the board loses points for not specifying maximum temperature and lifetime for the capacitors, BOTH of the brass nuts for the WIFI came loose during testing leaving the antenna just flopping about which I then had to mess about unscrewing the IO then tightening the nuts properly with pliers. While the hardware for the audio isn't terrible on the surface you don't have to scratch it too deeply to uncover it for what it really is which for a 200 pounds board is an embarrassing example of what the ALC1200 is really capable of and the atrocious results of the audio ADC particularly really drag the score down the audio can, and is, done better on other cheaper boards. I expected better here and so should you. If ever you wanted to hear what chronically depressed audio sounds like look no further than the X570 Tomahawks example.

    Accessories: 3 / 10

    I never thought there would be a day when I would have to rate the accessories bundle below the automatic 5, but here we are, exclude what isn?t absolutely necessary, the WIFI antenna, driver DVD and manual and what are you left with? Two SATA cables, bloody two! Hands up who has more than two devices in their system that require the use of a SATA cable, I bet that's 80% or more of you and exactly why MSI earns the dishonour of being the first to score below the automatically awarded 5 points for an "average" accessories bundle. You need to at least include enough SATA cables MSI to amount to half of the SATA ports on the board, that's the rule for the accessories to be considered "average". It is the lowest of bars, and you failed.

    Aesthetics: 7 / 10

    I don't think many people will have too much to complain about with the Tomahawk in terms of looks it's quite an attractive board that will look good in any build, if it wasn't for the placement of the LEDs the board does have instead integrating them as part of the rear IO shroud it would have scored higher that is one area that isn't easily customised with lighting so the board would have been well served by having some there, we just don't need LEDs near the DIMM slots anymore MSI because we have these doodads you might have heard of that have been around a while now called LED RAM coolers and these fancy things called LED memory modules.

    Software 4 / 10

    This area used to be a slam dunk for MSI, more than that I considered them the best at it... until Dragon Centre, this piece of software is not only a real personal data leak risk if you let it but the lengths MSI are willing to go to in order to get information on you in addition to clear attempts at stifling opinion if you read the T&Cs is egregious to say the least. Worse still is that you are likely going to have to install this data leak software at least once to set an LED colour or effect that matches with the rest of your system. Dragon Centre is worse in every conceivable way to Command Centre.

    Compounding the software woes is the lack of the Nahimic suit leaving the audio as nothing more than a barebones example I'd expect to see on a board 50-60 pound less and even then it would be designed better, nowhere in the title does the Tomahawk have "gaming" so the absence of the suit I can understand but you get absolutely nothing in place of it, not even a semi-custom ALC1200 better geared for headphones.

    UEFI Functionality & Quality: 23 / 30

    The firmware has slipped with the Tomahawk it's quite good but pretty much unchanged from 3 years ago and the X370 boards, the UEFI is still on the buggy side even as of UEFI 1.5, MSI seem to be on the slow side with updates as well to fix these issues and memory compatibility with slightly older CPUs is not of the same standard as what Asus and Gigabyte offer, you want to test as many different ICs as you can, testing as many different memory brands as you can does not equate to testing as many IC types as you can. Asus and Gigabyte have fewer memory kits on their 2000 series QVL lists for X570 but they have tested a wider variety of memory ICs which will always lead to better compatibility. MSI could probably just transplant all the 2000 series CPU memory support from something like the X470 Gaming Pro Carbon and be done with these issues. I really don't understand why MSI keep forcing the graph on users to set fan profiles either and not allowing direct key-in method as an option which is just much faster and easier.

    Performance & Overclocking: 15 / 20

    Thankfully the board is a good overclocker which will definitely be a deciding factor for a lot of people and if you are looking for a board with a robust VRM with the intent of perhaps putting a 12 or 16 core CPU in the board you have that as a more viable option than you do with either the Asus X570 TUF or the Asrock X570 Extreme 4 which both have a VRM that is only a 4+2 vs. the Tomahawks 6+2 and on top of this advantage the VRMs also stay the coolest compared to VRMs I've measured over the last 3 years which is nothing short of superb. However the memory compatibility issues on slightly older Ryzen CPUs cannot be ignored when other manufacturers are ensuring their boards work with as wide of a range of memory ICs as possible regardless of CPU generation. MSI are simply not doing this with the Ryzen 2000 memory QVL list dominated by Samsung B-Die kits with nary a mention of Micron or Hynix.

    Final Score: 66%


    In closing don't pay much attention to the hype around the Tomahawk a good piece of hardware is something that amounts to more than just the sum of its parts not just doing one thing slightly better than most, in this case the VRM. The Tomahawk is alright but it isn't anything special the WIFI and 2.5G LAN I think forced the MSI engineers to cut corners to meet the desired price point which directly impacted far more important areas like the audio's poor Analogue to Digital Converter, and lack of USB ports on the rear IO. Memory compatibility with slightly older Ryzen 2000 series CPUs also isn't as good as the competition and Dragon Centre is a data leak risk.

    If you want a good all-round affordable well made board buy the Asus X570 TUF (non WIFI) and save yourself anywhere between 30-50 pounds depending where you shop. If you want a better VRM than what the TUF offers and comes fairly close to the Tomahawk in this area while offering a lot more USB ports buy the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite (non WIFI) and save yourself about 15-35 pound. If you want everything the Tomahawk offers and more for the same price buy the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Pro. With all of the aforementioned boards also coming in WIFI flavour it puts the Tomahawk in a weird place of having no particularly notable positive trait and therefore never a serious contender to the Asus TUF or Gigabyte boards. In military vernacular MSI, despite the Tomahawks good training grades the displayed attitude is awful you are hereby dishonourably discharged now go and think about what you are doing, you know all the things I'm talking about here.

    EDIT: On further testing the Performance and Overclocking score was too generous. Adjusted accordingly and award REVOKED.
    Last edited by Ket; 03-03-2021 at 02:31 PM.

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  2. #2
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    Tank you for this review . Built with shis board had no idea it was that good

  3. #3
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    Glad you like the review @Adonay, "Good" is a matter of perspective the Tomahawk is by no means a bad board but MSI are adopting some terrible practices that must be taken into account and the audio on the board is easily the worst I have seen and heard in some time, for the price MSI want for the board unless you REALLY want the strongest possible VRM you can get at the lowest possible price my general advice would be to stay away from the Tomahawk. In the UK at least there are better boards you can buy for the same price, boards you can buy that are quite close in terms of features and quality for a good chunk of change less, or boards that don't cut any corners for only a little more, the Asus X570-F comes to mind here.

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  4. #4
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    Thank you for the nice review Ket!

    My 2c:
    In the age of USB DACs I really don't care about onboard audio quality, I don't need 2.5 Gbit LAN nor WiFi on a motherboard. What I really care about is a strong VRM, which this board has at an incredible good price. If you can buy it of course, it was really hard to get one, it's still non-existent in my country. Support is another thing which comes in my mind, and MSI are looking good today. I've never had an MSI motherboard before, I almost always used Asus ones, but struggling almost 2 years with a pretty unstable X470 board from them, I fed up and throw it out in the garbage and bought this Tomahawk. Such a relief!
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    I'll respond bullet style Sunfire to save some time as I'm in the midsts of writing another review

    1. Thanks
    2. Ask anyone that cares about good audio, which is pretty much everyone as everyone listens to music, plays games, is a creator, etc, if the ADC results are acceptable from the Tomahawk and it'll get laughed out. Particularly as A) not everyone wants ugly add-on devices that completely defeats the purpose of things getting smaller and improving with progression, and B) having to use a USB port for an external USB DAC on a board that has an extremely thin smattering of USB ports is not really an option unless you only really have a USB mouse and keyboard but most people have substantially more USB devices than that and nobody likes to continuously plug and unplug devices.
    3. You should re-read everything about the MSI Dragon Centre, unless you plan to totally stay away from it, it is a legitimate personal information security risk just read the T&Cs MSI are trying to force on users.
    4. The Gigabyte board I'm currently reviewing absolutely annihilates the Tomahawk in more ways than it doesn't, memory compatibility and performance along with general stability are just a few areas this next board I'm reviewing murders the MSI board.

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    1. You are welcome! I've seen your work on another forums and I think you should be hired as a reviewer. Quality content.

    2. I've never seen a satisfied audiophile person in my life, perfection is not reacheable for them. My 2c is if it works, it's good enough for me. I don't have the equipment to listen quality audio anyway, but still listening to a lot of music and playing games too. I know that in a review you have to compare it to other motherboards, and it's ok, it's just me who doesn't care about audio.

    3. I suffered so much with softwares bundled with motherboards, I abandoned them for 20+ years now. Maybe Dragon Center is a security hole, I don't know, but even being on the internet is unsafe and unsecure. Every time when you power on your PC, smart phone, etc. you're exposing yourself. Privacy nowadays is a myth.

    4. Well, time flies, so many newer boards out there after this one was released. They have an advantage for sure. If I would have to choose a motherboard now, it would be one with a B550 chipset. A lot of them have much better VRM than this board, supporting much higher DDR4 frequencies etc. Although price/performance should be checked when comparing, some of them have a much bigger price tag. Back in the day this board was so cheap considering the VRM it have, MSI must have been loosing money selling it.

    I'm not sure what do you mean about "general stability". In my opinion every motherboard has to have it, or go back to RMA/trashcan.
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    I'm not an audiophile I'm just an IT guy that knows how things should work through almost 30 years experience MSI just did a piss poor job with the audio. The internet is nowhere near as big of a threat if you just install an ad blocker let alone much more stringent measures you can take, I strongly encourage people who install Dragon Centre to read the terms and conditions then judge for themselves on MSIs actions and behaviour but even then disable the data collection and block Dragon Centre with the Windows firewall. As for general stability specifically I'm talking about system stability with varying kinds of memory ICs. Before moving to the current review I'm working on I further tested the Tomahawks memory overclocking and its truly horrible for Ryzen 2000 series CPUs at least while the system would boot at 3600MHz full stability was only attainable at 3333MHz. Add to this I mention about slow firmware updates for outstanding issues, then a few days later after this review goes up and a new beta UEFI pops up for the Tomahawk there begins to be quite the string of coincidences occurring The OC chart will certainly be updated in my next mainboard review reflecting this.
    Last edited by Ket; 03-07-2021 at 04:51 PM.

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    You have to cheap out on something if you want to sell a board with an X570 chipset around 220$ don't you?
    I always use an adblocker, and yes, it helps, but in general if something/someone was on the internet it stays on the internet and you can't do anything about it. No, I don't wear a tinfoil hat
    Memory overclocking is mostly limited by the IMC with the Ryzen 2xxx series, these chips can't handle high DDR4 speeds. Anything above 3200 MHz is a gift, some of them could do 3400+ and I even seen a golden one stable @3800Mhz. At these speeds the motherboard isn't even sweating. One thing what I noticed with this motherboard is that XMP profiles are not well implemented. For example, I have a Samsung B-die kit, rated 3600 MHz@16-18-18-36-68 XMP, but when I load this profile and manually lower the frequency to 3200 it can boot, but its not stable at all. Although it runs fine when I tune it manually to 14-14-14-28-42 with tight subtimings. On the other hand, some of the "Memory Try It!" profiles are working fine, but you have to "Try it".
    Funny you mentioned slow firmware updates, when almost all cases MSI was the first manufacturer rolling out new BIOSes. Btw these firmwares not even depend on the manufacturers, but on AMD. AGESA is still a work in progress as I see, although Ryzen 2xxx and 3xxx series got their final version of it months ago, but 5xxx series has still got issues to be ironed out.

    If the beta BIOS you are refering to is the v1.61 it won't change anything for the review you made. You have to use a Ryzen 5xxx to notice that you can do 1900 MHz+ FCLK without WHEA errors again. Also L3 cache performance is back at the levels it should be, and USB device compatibility is seems to be fixed too.
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  9. #9
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    There is this thing called balance when making a product and MSI have not done that with the Tomahawk. You have to be the most braindead engineers on the face of the earth if the decision to just implement crap audio was made rather than tone down obviously overkill features in order to deliver a much more balanced product. To begin with there is the VRM, something with 50A power stages instead of 60A would have been the first skimming step if you needed a little more budget to properly implement other features, 50A would have still been abundantly powerful. The next is the WIFI, the Tomahawk didn't\doesn't need that at all which would have saved likely 15-20 quid on manufacturing alone, and the third thing is the 2.5GB LAN could have been replaced for the usual 1Gbit LAN. Hell, removing the WIFI alone would have freed up enough manufacturing budget to allow for a far, far, FAR superior integrated audio solution if budgeting really was the constraint. MSI could have even had 2 Tomahawk SKUs, one without WIFI and 50A power stages but a much better audio solution, no PS2 port and more USBs. I'd put money on that board selling better.

    The memory problems is something I also commented on in the review the Tomahawk doesn't have a clue how to set memory timings and even with the XMP profiles loaded the board is still iffy and memory performance is still below other boards (this is something I'll elaborate further on in the next mainboard review). Again, the point about Dragon Centre is that it does not need to collect information with the purposes it is intended for and the MSI terms and conditions in this regard are indefensible I'm not going to keep saying the same thing different ways here.

    What you also seem to be failing to realise and you can see from charts alone is that I am well aware of the capabilities of the test hardware and architectures but to spell it out the test CPU I use is capable of at least a memory frequency of 3466MHz, even the old R7 1700 I used to use can do the same and no these are not cherry picked just regular off the shelf I like literally everything about my reviews to be as representative as possible to what other people will go and pick up. Frequencies above 3200MHz with Zen/Zen+ is not really a "gift" when every one of those generation CPUs I've ever seen (which is somewhere around "countless" at this point) paired with suitable memory can do above 3200MHz. The Tomahawk fell below the 3466MHz bar the test hardware I use is capable of with extended testing even with a memory kit on their own QVL and thus the board and MSI are judged accordingly.

    Lastly you are stating something I already mentioned in the review about AMD and the AGESA so I don't see what the point is in telling me something I already know? I made it very clear that there are things MSI can do themselves that they don't need AMD holding their hand for and this is what I was addressing when saying they are slow with fixing some things and issuing updates.

    Sorry, but at this point you are sounding like an MSI apologist or someone who works for MSI.

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    What I wrote is just my 2c, I'm not criticising your hard work at all. Why are you taking it so personally? You did a great review, I already stated that, but you are taking my opinion so seriously like I'm your enemy or something. And no, I don't care about MSI or any other manufacturer, it's just simply rude from you to state that. Most of the time I ignore people when they come to this point, because I see no reason to continue a coversation when it's not constuctive anymore. Good luck with your next review.
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  11. #11
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    Context is important, I wasn't intending to sound like I was taking anything personally because I definitely wasn't and don't I always encourage people to talk about things because the further knowledge spreads the more it keeps manufacturers on the straight and narrow, I was just clarifying some things that seemed like they needed it. Anyway glad you liked the review I think some people might be surprised with what I say in the next review given how the last meeting myself and Gigabyte had

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