Simple economics may have played as big a role as anything else. Of course, there are still cheap and basic B660 boards that you wouldn’t even dream of pairing with an Intel Core i9 12900K, but given the high cost of high-end Z690 boards, there’s a gap in the lower midrange. are now busy with premium B660 boards and low-cost Z690 boards.
These days, it’s entirely possible to get a good quality B660 board with a powerful VRM, fast network connectivity, ample connectivity, and a cooling solution that won’t have a problem with a high-end CPU. Throw in the all-important support for high-speed memory, and you’ve got just about everything a gamer needs, except for CPU overclocking support. Which, you know, no one needs.
If you absolutely don’t need four or more M.2 slots, or if you’re running a few add-on cards, the B660 chipset deserves some serious consideration.
Specifications B600 Tomahawk
Connector: Intel LGA 1700
Shape factor: ATX
Memory support: 128 GB | Up to DDR4-4800
Storage: 3x M.2; 6x SATA
USB: Up to 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2×2, 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 8x USB 2.0
Video output: 1x HDMI 2.1; 1x DP 1.4
Net: Intel WiFi 6; LAN Realtek 2.5G
Audio: Realtek ALC1220P 7.1CH HD Audio
Price: $190 | £186
About $190 (£186AU$349) B660 Tomahawk DDR4 is not what you would call it cheap motherboard, but compared to more than a few overpriced Z690 options, it’s definitely a lot more affordable than some. But is the B660 Tomahawk DDR4 board you should consider powering your 2022 gaming system? I would say yes.
The B660 Tomahawk is clearly inspired by MSI’s Unify line. Both feature a non-RGB black design that will easily fit into most systems. There are four RGB headers, including two addressable ones, so RGB is there if you want. The Tomahawk comes with three PCIe slots. The first slot is an x16 slot that supports PCIe 4.0, the second is an x16 (electrical x4) slot that supports PCIe 3.0, and finally, there is a PCIe 3.0 x1 slot.
PCIe 5.0 support for the main slot would be nice, although it’s unlikely to bring any tangible benefits to GPUs for the foreseeable future.
The Tomahawk can hold up to three M.2 drives, each cooled by a heatsink. Two of them support PCIe 4.0 x4. The third slot supports PCIe 4.0 x2. Three slots will be enough for most users, but if you want four or more, you’ll have to upgrade to the Z690. Don’t forget the six SATA ports as well.
The overall layout looks solid. The area below the main PCIe slot is completely free of M.2 slots ready to fry. SSDs there can stupidly get warm under the GPU. There’s a USB Type-C chassis header, and we count five fan headers, plus two more for the CPU and AIO pump. In short, this is not a budget feature set that extends to power components as well.
MSI’s Tomahawk motherboards are known for their robust VRM solutions, and the B660 continues this tradition. It includes a 12+2-phase VRM powered by two 8-pin power connectors. Bearing in mind that overclocking is not allowed on the B660 boards, all it has to handle is a maximum turbo load of 12900K. This will not be a problem, we assure you. All this is cooled by massive black radiators. For our review, we used an Intel Core i5 12600K, a chip most likely to be paired with a mid-range chipset. As a result, the VRM load temperature was only 47°C. Although we use an open test bench, even if you add 30 degrees or more, it will still be within the allowable range.
Rear I/O is another highlight of the board. You get Realtek 2.5G LAN and Intel WiFi 6, which will handle the networking needs of most typical users. There are nine USB ports, consisting of four USB 2.0 ports, four 3.2 Gen 2 ports, and a Type-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 20 Gbps port. It’s good to see the 20Gb USB port starting to filter the market as well. There is also a full set of audio ports with S/PDIF. The Realtek ALC1220 chip is responsible for the sound. Finally, there are HDMI 2.1 and DP 1.4 ports if you want to use the integrated Intel Xe graphics.
In terms of overall performance, the MSI B660 Tomahawk performed pretty much as I expected. Its gaming performance is on par with other DDR4 boards. A few system benchmarks are a little behind, but they are mostly within the margin of error and can come down to a couple of different memory timings.
As a side note, we also took the opportunity to re-test the 12600K with a DDR5-6000 speed dial and noted that performance was definitely improved over the early BIOS. But still, if you have a decent set of DDR4 from your latest build, you’ll save yourself a few hundred dollars that you can put towards a better GPU. You will notice more than a few percent difference in performance between DDR4-3600 and DDR5-6000.
Usually, we overclock the board a bit, but since this is not possible with the B660 board, this is a moot point. However, Intel has finally allowed memory overclocking on the B560, and sure enough, it’s unlocked on the B660. It’s possible to work well with DDR4-4000, but to do so you’ll need to install a board on the Gear 2, which cuts the speed of the memory controller in half and negates the latency advantage that DDR4 has. Running memory in the range of DDR4-3200 to 3600 or a little more when setting up the Gear 1 board will provide the best gaming performance.
All in all, the MSI B660 Tomahawk DDR4 is definitely a board worth considering for your Alder Lake setup. This would be a bargain for the typical gamer who uses one GPU, XMP memory, one or two SSDs, and is happy that the 12th Gen CPU does its job of turbo-boosting without manual overclocking.
Honestly, this is probably 95% of the market, and maybe more. At $190, it’s not what we’d call a cheap motherboard, but in a market where a good mid-range Z690 board can cost a lot more, the B660 Tomahawk definitely packs a lot of features without losing sight of the value usually offered. B660 boards.