High-end PC components receive all the attention, but if you take a moment to consider the capabilities of some relatively affordable gear, you might be in for a pleasant surprise. Consider the motherboard B660M Steel Legend from Asrock: This LGA1700 board for Intel 12th Generation “Alder Lake” CPUs boasts a feature set competitive with some low-end Z690-based motherboards, despite being priced at $149.99 and targeted at gamers on a tight budget. This consists of contemporary lighting features, a front-panel USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 connector, and even some restricted overclocking support. What could a gamer possibly want more from a MicroATX platform? If you locate it in a shipping board, please let us know. In the meantime, we’ll give this board our Editors’ Choice designation for MicroATX boards that are based on Intel.
The Winter Soldier Look is the design. The B660M Steel Legend was given a winter-camouflage look by Asrock. Although I find it a little too showy for my tastes, you won’t even see it after your build is complete, especially if you’re using MicroATX, which is likely to require a tight casing. I find the white and gray color scheme used on the board’s heatsinks to be more visually pleasing and it blends nicely with the camo background.
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received a score of 4.0, which is excellent.
received a score of 4.0, which is also excellent.
(Image courtesy of Michael Justin Allen Sexton) Instead of the more recent and expensive DDR5, the Asrock B660M Steel Legend employs the more popular and reasonably priced DDR4. There are a total of four RAM slots available, with a 128GB maximum supported capacity and a 5,333MHz upload clock speed restriction. Although we didn’t have any DDR4 capable of reaching that high speeds, the motherboard handled our 4,133MHz Corsair DDR4 RAM without any issues.
0 (Credit: Michael Justin Allen Sexton) Despite the fact that this is a substantial feature change, it doesn’t actually matter that much. The majority of people will probably detect the difference in audio quality, while it is not particularly significant. Today, many users prefer audio transmitted over HDMI or DisplayPort connections. Some audio devices, like as USB or wireless headphones or S/PDIF speaker systems, also completely avoid the ALC897 audio chip. True audiophiles will probably choose a dedicated sound card, too.
In conclusion, the Steel Legend’s lower-end audio controller is merely a small flaw; most users won’t use it or will be OK with its performance, which falls short of symphonic. On a high-end motherboard, we’d have more issues with it, but in this price range, it’s OK.
The B660M Steel Legend’s networking gear, in contrast to its audio, is excellent for this market. The board can handle data transfers at 2.5Gbps thanks to the Realtek Dragon RTL8125BG LAN controller, which puts it on par with many midrange and even some high-end Z690 motherboards. Although there isn’t any built-in WiFi, there are cutouts in the back I/O panel for adding antennas and an M.2 Key-E port for installing an M.2 Wi-Fi card.
Six USB ports are available on the back I/O panel, including two older USB 2.0 connectors and four USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports. The fact that they are all Type-A connectors is a little unusual for contemporary motherboards.
1 (Credit: Michael Justin Allen Sexton) There are five 3.5mm audio connectors, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort output, an Ethernet jack, and S/PDIF connections in addition to the USB ports. There is also a button to flash the BIOS and a vintage PS/2 port for a keyboard or mouse.
It doesn’t take long to connect all of your wires to the B660M Steel Legend; some components, including the CPU power connector and CPU fan headers, are more challenging to reach than on many other motherboards. Being on the right side of the RAM slots makes one of the CPU fan headers a little bit simpler to access, which is helpful. The remaining headers are arranged in what is essentially a typical pattern along the board’s bottom and right sides.
A SHORT PERUSE OF THE BIOS When you initially switch on the system and press the F2 or Delete key, the B660M Steel Legend immediately enters the EZ Mode BIOS. You won’t typically need to delve any farther into the BIOS than this. You can flash the BIOS, change the boot order, enable a memory profile, and check to see what hardware is detected.
2 (Credit: Asrock) There are many more choices in the advanced mode BIOS, but unless you want to experiment with overclocking or fine-tune settings to speed up boot time, boost IGP performance, or do something else equally specialized, there’s no incentive to utilize it.
AROUNDING: YES, WE CAN! Although the B660 chipset from Intel technically doesn’t permit overclocking, if you’re feeling daring, you shouldn’t let that stop you. There are two major ways to turn up the processor and boost performance with the Asrock B660M Steel Legend.
Performance and Efficient cores (also known as P-Cores and E-Cores), which do exactly what their names suggest, are two different types of CPU cores that Intel chips starting with the 12th Gen CPUs have. The former offers superior overall performance, whereas the latter is slower but uses less energy. P-Cores are present in all “Alder Lake” CPUs, but E-Cores are not. This is a crucial distinction.
3 (Source: Asrock) You can overclock your CPU to operate all of the CPU cores at their maximum turbo speed if it has P-Cores and supports Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. Let’s use the Core i7-12700K as an example. Its maximum turbo speed is 5.0GHz, although when many cores are engaged, this speed reduces to 4.9GHz. However, you can instruct the CPU to operate all of its cores at 5.0GHz regardless of how many are currently engaged. In our test system, this worked without a hitch, but whether you can accomplish the same thing will depend on your hardware.
4 (Credit: Asrock) Even while that is a rather modest overclock, if your CPU includes E-Cores, you may be able to unlock much higher performance. The clock multiplier for the E-Cores is completely unlocked and can be increased as high as you’d like, in contrast to the P-Cores. If your cooling system can handle it, this could help you get more performance out of your CPU. Of course, you’ll want to raise it gradually while regulating power and testing for stability.
THE CONCLUSION: BEST BUDGET GAMING YET Overall, the Asrock B660M Steel Legend is a great motherboard for gamers on a budget. Although its feature set may not quite match that of Z690 rivals, it doesn’t actually lack in any significant ways, and its modest overclocking potential is a nice addition that helps to distinguish a board that costs only $149.99. The RGB lights on it are also a wonderful addition.
5 (Image courtesy of Michael Justin Allen Sexton) All things considered, budget shoppers stand to gain in this price range. Utilizing existing DDR4 increases the value equation in favor of consumers looking to save money.
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