A lot of people seem to underestimate the importance of a good motherboard. Not only does it provide all the interfaces you will be using, but it’s also a way for all the other components to communicate with each other. That’s why choosing one of the best motherboards is critical when you’re building your system. To add to this, nowadays you can get a good motherboard without spending a lot of money.
With that in mind, what are some of the best motherboards out there? How do you pick the right option for you, that fits your budget, and does what you need it to?
Choosing a motherboard can be complicated at first, so let’s make it a bit easier.
The first thing you should look for is the socket. The socket is going to be either an Intel, or an AMD socket. It will also dictate what CPUs you can use. If you’ve already picked a CPU – choose a motherboard that uses the same socket. With AMD’s Ryzen CPUs, that’s the AM4 socket, while Intel’s latest, 10th gen CPUs all use the LGA1200 socket.
Next up, choose the chipset. This depends on your budget, and what you expect of your motherboard. It’s usually the case that higher-end chipsets (like AMD’s X series or Intel’s Z series) come with exclusive features. In the case of Intel, there’s also the fact that a Z series chipset allows for overclocking. But the budget options are getting better, too. So, unless you need those high-end features, you could be very well off with a budget chipset, especially for AMD.
Moving on, we have the motherboard form factor. The case you’ve chosen will dictate this, as you can’t fit a large motherboard in a small case. ATX is considered to be the “standard”. However, you could go for a mini ITX for a more compact build, or an EATX if you want to go all out. Larger motherboards will also come with more features, like more RAM slots, more PCIe slots, and sometimes more M.2 storage slots, too.
Last but not least, consider the actual extra features you’ll be getting with your motherboard. Not all of them come with wireless networking, not all of them have gigabit ethernet, or a good audio chipset, or Bluetooth. When you’re choosing your motherboard, you should consider how many of these features you need. Oh, and consider which ones you’re willing to spend a bit more money on.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the best motherboards, for both Intel and AMD builds.
At the top of ASUS’s Intel motherboard range sits the Maximus XII Extreme Z490. Even though pricey, this Z490 motherboard comes with a lot of features that make it the best premium pick.
Aside from looking good, all those heatsinks at the bottom help keep components like the M.2 drives and the entire chipset cool. There’s also the excellent VRM cooling, which helps with overclocking.
The motherboard also comes with four M.2 slots, which lets you put plenty of storage in your build, as well as four DIMM slots that support dual-channel memory. Add to this the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 connectors for fast front panel I/O, and you’re looking at a truly versatile feature set.
Last but not least, we shouldn’t forget the personalization you get. There’s a 2” Livedash OLED, Asus Aura Sync RGB, and addressable headers for even more RGB. You get a lot for your money, even though this is an expensive motherboard.
MSI has been the overclockers’ favorite brand for a while now. The MEG Z490 GODLIKE is another one of those premium motherboards that let you use your 10th gen Intel K-series CPU to its full potential.
Surrounding that LGA1200 socket is an ISL digital PWM with 16+1+1 phases and 90A smart power stages. While this VRM section does require two CPU power connectors, it also gets you stable and reliable power to your processor for heavy overclocking.
To add to this, you have four DIMM slots that allow you to use dual-channel memory, up to 128GB of it to be exact and at up to 5000MHz. This is truly impressive. You’re looking at three M.2 slots with heatsinks, as well as dual Thunderbolt 3 ports on the back. Oh, did we mention SLI and CrossFire compatibility? Yeah, this motherboard does have it all.
GIGABYTE does have a lot of motherboards to offer. However, none gets you the value you’ll get from the Z490 Gaming X. This is an LGA1200 motherboard that doesn’t cut corners where you don’t want it to. And yet, it comes in at a price that’s rather impressive by anyone’s standards.
Even though budget, you do get an 11+1 phase digital VRM and a MOS heatsink for the VRM section. This means overclocking and stable power delivery is no problem at all. There are also four DIMM slots for dual-channel memory, which is pretty great.
Unfortunately, the price means that you’ll only get two M.2 slots, one of which has a heatsink. However, at this price, we aren’t complaining. Last but not least, you’re getting Intel Gb Ethernet, as well as an excellent audio section with an ALC1200 codec.
People who look at the best motherboards to fit in a small case should look no further than the ROG Strix Z490-I. Even though with a mini ITX form factor, this motherboard manages to get you an impressive feature set.
First things first, you have an 8+2 phase VRM with active cooling – yes, you have an embedded Delta Superflo VRM fan to keep the VRM section cool when overclocking. Furthermore, you get dual M.2 slots, as well as a connector for a front panel USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C. There’s also support for both HDMI 2.0a and DisplayPort 1.4, so you get a bit of versatility in this regard.
As you’d expect from a mini ITX board, you have a single PCIe slot and two DIMM slots, which is pretty standard. What’s not standard is Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax and 2.5 Gb Ethernet, but you still get it. Neat!
Yes, performance is the most important thing for a motherboard. But when you want your build to look nice too, the motherboard is a great place to start. For Intel builds, the Z490 Vision G by GIGABYTE is what you should be looking at. It’s a truly stunning motherboard with a black PCB and white heatsinks all over the place.
Functionality hasn’t been put in the back seat either – you have a 12 phase VRM section that’s passively cooled. Therefore, overclocking is certainly a possibility, even though this is a creator-oriented motherboard. The four DIMM slots get you dual-channel memory, and you also have two M.2 slots with a heatsink for each.
Last but not least, while you don’t have Wi-Fi, you do get 2.5 Gb Ethernet, as well as an excellent audio chip with a Realtek ALC1220-VB2 codec.
At a price that’s higher than a complete entry-level gaming system, you might be wondering whether the MEG X570 GODLIKE is even worth considering. But the answer is a resounding yes, as this is possibly the best AM4 motherboard on the market today.
Not only do you have a truly great VRM section that keeps the system running reliably under heavy loads, but you also have active cooling on the chipset itself. There’s also the heatsinks on the three M.2 slots which keep them running cool.
MSI doesn’t play games with the DIMM slots – four of them will accept up to 128GB of memory at up to 4600MHz, which is truly impressive. You also have four PCIe 4.0 X16 slots, as well as 2.5Gb LAN, and a 10Gb LAN add-in card included. Factor in Mystic Light RGB, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth, and this E-ATX board becomes a great choice.
Enthusiasts might correct us on this because you can’t manually overclock Ryzen CPUs too much. But the X570 AORUS Xtreme is still the best motherboard if you’re going to be pushing your CPU to its limits.
Not only do you get a direct-touch heatpipe with a LAIRD thermal pad and passive cooling on the VRM, but the VRM is also a 16 direct phase model, which gets you stable power delivery even when you’ve enabled PBO on the processor and are pushing it to its limits.
Aside from this, the X570 AORUS Xtreme is about what you’d expect from a high-end motherboard. It has four DIMM slots for dual-channel memory, three M.2 slots with their heatsinks, and a truly stunning all-black design with RGB Fusion 2.0 support. It’s overall an excellent high-end choice.
If you don’t really need too many high-end features, and just want an overall reliable AM4 motherboard, the B450 Tomahawk MAX should be your go-to. It’s the successor to the Tomahawk, and it’s one of the best selling B450 boards at the moment.
The motherboard comes with a fairly reasonable VRM section that’s nothing to write home about, but it does do the job well. There are four DIMM slots where you can add memory at up to 4133MHz, something you don’t see on many other budget boards. There’s also the passive cooling on both the VRM and the chipset itself. This helps with reliability and keeping the temperatures low.
To add to this, you do get an M.2 slot for storage, as well as USB 3.2 Gen 2 connectivity for the rear I/O. Overall, it’s a really neat budget board that won’t break the bank.
ASROCK aren’t ones to leave out critical features when they’re downsizing, and the Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 is a great example of that. It’s a compact motherboard with a mini ITX form factor that still makes sure to include all the key things you need with a good X570 board.
To begin with, just about everything on the board is cooled – from the VRM section to the chipset itself. There are two DIMM slots with support for up to 64GB of memory, at up to 4533MHz, which is rather high. You get a Hyper M.2 slot, as well as something we haven’t seen on any other AMD motherboard – a Thunderbolt 3 port at the back.
Combine this with things like Gigabit LAN, Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax, and Bluetooth 5.0, and you have a great compact motherboard for a reasonable price. Oh, and you also get Polychrome Sync RGB.
The last motherboard we’ll be taking a look at is the ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming. It’s an excellent choice for an all-black build. This is an ATX motherboard on AMD’s brand new B550 chipset, and it gets you a lot of value for your money.
Being a B550 chipset, you get things like PCIe 4.0, which used to be reserved for X series chipsets only. There is also the great power design and fanless heatsinks on the VRM and chipset, which do a great job of keeping the key components cool.
In terms of features, you have plenty – 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, HDMI 2.1, as well as a SupremeFX S1220A codec for your audio section. If you want the latest-and-greatest without spending too much, this should be the motherboard you go for.
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