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While the whole tech world aimed their attention at the B550 chipset AMD launched its latest budget chipset intended for Ryzen CPUs, the A520. AMD announced the A520 on August 18 but many boards are still not available at large online retailers at the time of this writing. Once the full A520 lineup launches you can expect lots of affordable motherboards targeting the budget market.
The A520 chipset is the successor to the A320. The launch was a surprise because no one expected the successor to the A320 since there are lots of affordable B450 boards on the market. But the B450 is replaced by the B550 and its only a matter of time before we hear that there are no more B450 boards in production. That’s why AMD needed a chipset clearly aimed at the budget market.
The A520 chipset supports Ryzen 3000 series CPUs excluding the 3000 APUs such as the Ryzen 3 3200G and Ryzen 5 3400G. If you want to pair a cheap APU with an A520 motherboard you’ll have to wait for Ryzen 4000 APUs or settle for something like the Ryzen 3 3100. As for the detailed A520 specs, its place on the market compared to the B550 and X570 chipsets, and its potential as a budget AMD Ryzen platform, we’ve covered that below. But first, check out the full list of every available A520 motherboard.
A520 Motherboard List
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A520 Chipset Features
The A520 is a humbly specced chipset. You don’t get PCIe 4.0 support like on the B550 and X570, there’s no dual GPU support (although, considering that the only Ampere GPU to support SLI is the RTX 3090 we can safely conclude that multi GPU setups are dead), you get fewer USB ports and SATA ports. A520 also doesn’t officially support CPU overclocking. You can OC your CPU at the moment but future firmware updates may disable the exploit.
Talking in numbers the A520 chipset comes with 26 PCIe 3.0 lanes and 6 PCIe 3.0 lanes reserved for PCIe storage (2 of which can be reconfigured as SATA). No PCIe 4.0 support here, which also means no ultra-fast NVMe drives based on PCIe 4.0 tech as well as no full support for Ampere and Big Navi cards, which will utilize PCIe 4.0 technology. This shouldn’t bother you because firstly, only flagship models will be able to even come near to utilizing full PCIe 4.0 bandwidth and secondly, we don’t recommend anyone pairing an A520 board with a high-end graphics card.
As for the CPU compatibility, the A520 chipset works with Ryzen 3000 as well as the upcoming Ryzen 4000 (Zen 3) CPUs. It can also run Ryzen 4000 APUs but those still aren’t selling to the general public. Ryzen 3000 APUs are not supported.
We already mentioned there’s no official CPU overclocking on the A520 boards but there’s an exploit you can use to OC CPUs on these boards. AMD may release a patch at a later date that will disable the exploit, so it isn’t a full-proof solution. This shouldn’t bother future A520 owners much since AMD designed the chipset to run budget CPUs. Their VRMs are pretty basic and aren’t made to run anything more powerful than the Ryzen 7 3700X.
As for the future CPU support, the A520 will run all CPUs based on the Zen 3 architecture. That includes the upcoming Ryzen 4000 processors as well as the Ryzen 4000 APUs. As for the Ryzen 5000 CPU support, there’s no info about potential support.
A520 vs B450 vs B550 vs X570
Now let’s compare the A520 with the current AMD chipsets along with the B450. Boards rocking the B450 can be found and are still in production. But, it is expected for the chipset to reach end of the production cycle soon since AMD released its successor, the B550.
A520 vs B450
Specs-wise, the B450 is a clear upgrade over the A520 even though it’s an older chipset. Firstly, you can find affordable B450 boards that have better VRM units than any A520 motherboard. Next, you get two USB 3.1 Gen2 ports instead of one with the number of other USB options (3.1 Gen1, 2.0) being the same on both chipsets.
The Chipset link is the same on both the B450 and A520 (PCIe 3.0 x4) and the number of total PCIe lanes is 28 on the B450 and 26 on the A520. Officially, there’s no dual GPU support on either chipset although we’ve seen B450 boards rocking dual GPU support. At the end that doesn’t matter since SLI and Crossfire are more or less dead in 2020. What’s interesting is that A520 boards support faster memory than any B450 board. But since you don’t need anything higher than DDR4 3200 or maybe 3600, faster memory support isn’t a big advantage.
The A520 also doesn’t officially support CPU overclocking. Overall, the B450 is a better chipset but if you plan on building a budget gaming PC the A520 can be a great choice. If you find an A520 board that’s noticeably cheaper than any quality B450 board go for it. Just remember that these aren’t designed for anything more powerful than, let’s say, Ryzen 7 3700X. Some A520 boards could end up running Ryzen 9 3900X but with active cooling over the VRM and with pretty low boost clocks.
If you’re in the market of building a cheap office PC (or a bunch of those), the B450 is a better choice right now. Although there are A520 boards with specific business features, the chipset doesn’t support affordable 3000 series APUs, such as the dirt-cheap Athlon 3000G. On the other hand, the cheapest CPU you can pair with an A520 board at the moment is the Ryzen 3 3100.
A520 vs B550
Comparing the current mid-range chipset with the latest budget chipset will always favor the B550 for obvious reasons. The most important one is the PCIe 4.0 support. With a B550 board, you can run multiple PCIe NVMe drives as well as having full support for the upcoming PCIe 4.0 GPUs. You also get more one more USB 3.1 gen2 port, more usable PCIe lanes (30 vs 26), much better VRMs (on a majority of B550 motherboards), faster memory support, higher bandwidth LAN ports, better audio quality, etc.
But B550 boards also sell at much higher prices than A520 models. B550 and A520 also support the same CPUs. Although, as we’ve already mentioned multiple times, you’ll hardly be able to run anything more powerful than the 3700X on an A520 board. B550 models with better VRMs, on the other hand, can run any Ryzen CPU with zero issues. You can also overclock that CPU on a B550 board but you cannot OC the CPU on an A520 motherboard.
For users building a budget gaming rig, an A520 board should be a better choice. If you’re on a budget but can save a couple of dozens of bucks for a half decent B550 board, get it. If you can’t spend extra money on a motherboard pick an A520 board. As for those building productivity-related rigs, stick to the B550 or the X570.
A520 vs X570
Finally, when compared to the current flagship chipset from AMD, the A520 trails miles behind. With the X570 chipset, you get eight USB 3.2 gen2 ports compared to just two on the A520. The X570 also comes with much more usable PCIe lanes (16 vs 6), which are all PCIe 4.0 on the flagship chipset. X570 boards also rock much better VRMs, have better audio, can have Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5 wireless cards, and pack a ton of extra features.
This isn’t really a battle since the price disparity is tremendous but the X570 is the clear winner. For those wanting to build a gaming rig, either get the A520 (or B450 if you find it at a competitive price) or the B550 motherboard, depending on your budget because quality budget X570 boards cost double as much as A520 models. Machines made for work can greatly profit from all those fast PCIe 4.0 lanes reserved for NVMe storage as well as a ton of other extra features found on high-end X570 boards.