While Intel’s Core i5-12600K certainly benefits from an overclock to increase both single and all-core boost frequencies, the fact is that gains are still limited from multiplier overclocking compared with previous CPUs, while the further up the field you go, the less fruitful overclocking becomes.
This means that CPU overclocking is getting much harder to justify, making a B660 motherboard such as the MSI Pro B660M-A DDR4 (which lacks overclocking abilities) a viable option for enthusiasts.
It’s also far more affordable than Z690 motherboards, and one of the cheapest LGA1700 motherboards we’ve reviewed so far, retailing for just £140. However, MSI has clearly had to cut some corners to get here, so does it still do enough to appeal to your average budget-focused enthusiast who is looking to drop a Core i5-12400F or Core i5-12600K into it?
Both the board’s banks of VRMs, which make up a 14-phase power delivery system, are cooled with heatsinks, which is a good start. Even if you won’t be overclocking a Core i9-12900K, it means the board should cope fine with boosting any CPU in Intel’s 12th-gen arsenal.
MSI even manages to include a USB Type-C header, M.2 heatsink and 2.5 Gigabit LAN port, but from here on the situation gets rather thin. There’s no Wi-Fi, and you only get a rather meagre total of six USB ports on the rear I/O panel. We’ve seen worse, but the panel doesn’t have a shroud or integrated I/O shield, which plenty of similarly priced boards in the B660 motherboard group test did offer.
There are also only four PWM fan headers, which is the bare minimum to run a single or dual-fan cooler with a couple of case fans. You only get Realtek ALC897 audio, there’s no USB Type-C port on the rear I/O panel and you get just a trio of audio jacks too, with no optical output.
On closer inspection, the layout seems to be nearly identical to that of the MAG B660M Bazooka we reviewed too, including its support for DDR4, placement of all the on-board components as well as its micro-ATX form factor.
The pair of M.2 ports both lack MSI’s tool-free SSD installation system we’ve seen on other boards, but they do support PCI-E 4, and the board’s four SATA 6Gbps ports should be enough for most people looking to build a new PC or transplant their existing hardware, as long as you don’t have half a dozen hard disks looking for a new home.
Similarly to the MAG B660M Bazooka, the VRM temperature peaked at 51°C under full load with our Core i5-12600K test CPU, while the tiny M.2 heatsink saw our PCI-E 4 SSD hit the same 64°C as its sister board.
If you’re looking to drive monitors using your Intel CPU’s integrated graphics, then the Pro B660M-A DDR4 does at least have two DisplayPort 1.4 ports and two HDMI 2.1 ports, all capable of dishing out up to 4K at 60Hz. You can also jazz up the board’s bland appearance if you want, as there are two 3-pin digital RGB headers on the board, although not surprisingly, no lighting on the board itself.
MSI’s EFI is up to its usual standards, though, lacking few features compared with pricier boards, except overclocking abilities. It can even change temperature inputs for fan control to other options than the CPU.
Despite being one of the cheapest boards we’ve tested, the MSI Pro B660M-A DDR4 kept pace with the rest of the field, with a RealBench system score of 149,604 – only a slightly low image editing score prevents it from rising to the top of our B660 performance chart. The Cinebench results were on par too, with no sign the board had issues with boosting or VRM temperatures.
Meanwhile, the Realtek ALC897 audio is no match for one of the latest codecs, but it’s one way that motherboard manufacturers cut costs. It’s certainly fine for most people’s PC audio needs and most PC benchmark tests, with a dynamic range of 93dBA and noise level of -95dBA, but these are still decidedly average compared with the best results we’ve seen from the ALC1220 codec, for example.
Power consumption sat at 201W under full load, which is a tad higher than the MSI MAG B660M Bazooka DDR4. However, with near-identical Far Cry 6 results, it’s clear the two boards are essentially the same, just dressed in slightly different clothes.
If you prefer your motherboard to be plain and understated rather than having an edgy, gamer-focused design, the MSI Pro B660M-A DDR4 is definitely a classic example. It’s not flashy, drenched in RGB lighting or in any way concerned about the way it looks. It also uses DDR4 memory, so it doesn’t require expensive, questionably beneficial and often poorly stocked DDR5 memory either.
It’s a little low on features, the audio codec is dated and it lacks the range of audio outputs on pricier boards, but so do lots of other B660 boards. At face value, it seems like a no-frills way to jump onto the Intel 12th-gen bandwagon. With many Alder Lake CPUs being compelling stock-speed performers, it’s never been a better time to consider a B-series motherboard either, especially as you can also run your memory at higher frequencies than in the past too.
The trouble is that, despite having fewer features than nearly identical boards in MSI’s range, it has a similar price. You may as well opt for a board that has a shroud to cover the I/O panel and an integrated I/O shield. Even the rather average MSI MAG B660M Bazooka DDR4 is better value and offers both of those features, while the ATX-sized Gigabyte B660 Gaming X DDR4 has considerably more features and only costs only a little more money.
£140 inc VAT
Performance: 30/35 | Features: 26/35 | Value: 21/30
- Cheap price
- Great EFI
- PCI-E 4 support
- Comparatively poor value
- Average features
- Bland looks
MSI Pro B660M-A DDR4 Specifications
- Chipset: Intel B660
- CPU socket: Intel LGA1700
- Memory support: 4 slots: max 128GB DDR4 (up to 4800MHz)
- Expansion slots: One 16x PCI-E 4, one 16x PCI-E 3, one 1x PCI-E 3
- Sound: 8-channel Realtek ALC892
- Networking: Realtek 2.5 Gigabit LAN
- Cooling: Four 4-pin fan headers, VRM heatsinks
- Ports: 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x M.2 PCI-E 4, 4 x USB 3.1 Type-A, 2 x USB 2, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C header, 3 x audio jacks
- Dimensions (mm): 244 x 244
MSI Pro B660M-A DDR4
A cheap route to owning an Intel 12th-gen system, but it’s lacking compared with similarly priced boards.