How We Choose and Test our Motherboards
There’s a lot of different factors that can make a motherboard the right, or wrong, choice for a gaming PC build.
From the most expensive, fully-featured cards on the market to the basic stuff that’ll just get your new machine up and running, we’ve looked into every single factor that might affect how well a new mobo is going to perform. We also try our best to provide you with every possible choice no matter what your needs are, or what budget you happen to be working with.
We ensure that every board we choose will serve you well by testing them all ourselves. Not only do we put these parts through rigorous benchmarking, but we also use them in our own machines on a day-to-day basis. You can be sure that every part we recommend is high-quality and highly reliable.
Out Top Intel Core-i9 11700K Motherboard Picks
Taking the top spot on our list is the excellent ASUS ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WIFI board. While it’s by no means the highest premium option on this list, it is certainly some of the best value you can find for running a powerful Intel i9 CPU without having to rob a bank to do it. There’s also plenty of features of this board that will help it give more powerful mobos a run for their money.
Even just from looking at this thing, you can tell it’s incredibly well made. It features a decent number of M.2 ports, 2 PCIe4.0 compatible ports, and 2 PCIe3.0 ports, and each of the ports is supported by a huge heatsink meaning you’ll struggle to find any sort of thermal throttling on your data transfer speeds. You’ll also find 2 PCIe 4.0 x16 slots for running two modern GPUs or whatever else you want to shove in there. There’s an extra PCIe 4.0 x16 slot too, for running some of the less demanding expansions on the market.
In terms of memory expansion, you’ll find 4 slots on the board capable of accepting DDR4 RAM and memory clock speeds maxing out at around 5133Mhz depending on your system configuration. You also get a decent amount of ports on the I/O shield, including 8 different USB configurations, HDMI and DisplayPort options, and of course Dual Intel 2.5 Gb ethernet ports.
When it comes to RGB, you’ll find the Strix Z590-E more than capable of keeping up with even the most rabid RGB fan’s strangest dreams. As well as coming with some minor RGB elements on-board from the various logos, you also get a couple of different RGB headers, and access to Auro Sync 2.0, ASUS’s RGB customization software. One final feature of this board is the built-in WiFi 6, just in case you plan on keeping the desktop away from an ethernet port at some point.
If you want a board that’s going to hold together even if you shoot a missile at it, then you need some TUF gaming components. The TUF Gaming Z590-PLUS WIFI is a great card because you can be sure it’s not going to fall apart as you look at it. It also incorporates a lot of the important features of a motherboard that really make it stand out from the pack while remaining lower down on the price chart than most comparable boards on the market.
Don’t be fooled by the basic aesthetic of this board, it comes packed with power thanks to some really good power delivery tech involved in its construction. It also features a really sturdy cooling system, relying on several different designs of heatsink across the board to dissipate heat on everything from the PCB to the storage devices.
Speaking of storage, this mobo features 3 M.2 slots, 1 supporting PCIe 4.0 and 2 supporting PCIe 3.0. All 3 of these M.2 slots are covered by their own heatsinks, so you can be sure any SSDs you plugin here will remain cool even when you’re running them at full tilt. You also get 1 PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, and 1 PCIe 3.0 x16 slot to add some different expansion card options to your mobo depending on how you want to run your machine.
As we mentioned above, the aesthetic design of this board is somewhat lacking, and that very much carries over to RGB support in some ways. There are no elements on the mobo itself that feature RGB, so you’ll have to add your own strips or other features if you want your PC to really shine. Luckily, there are 4 different headers you can use to add RGB strips, and you’ll get access to Aura Sync 2.0 software once your machine is up and running to help you manage those strips.
While high-grade components aren’t hard to find online, there are certain boards that are clearly aiming at a premium market and want the buyer to know it. The ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero is easily one of the most expensive boards on this list, and thanks to that it comes with a more premium building mentality behind it than anything else we’ve covered recently. Does that mean it’s worth shelling out for? That really depends on how stretchy your budget happens to be.
For the huge cost of this board, you get your hands on something truly breathtaking. The mobo is 60% covered with different heatsinks, giving this board some of the most efficient heat dissipation of any board we’ve ever covered before. This heat management covers everything from the 4 M.2 slots on the board, as well as the other close-to-board components.
In terms of expansion cards, the board features 3 PCIe x16 slots, 2 4.0 compatible slots, and 1 3.0 compatible slot. You also have 4 DDR4 RAM slots, meaning your maximum memory size tops out at around 128GB of high-quality 5333+ Mhz RAM. The board in general has some awesome power delivery too, so you should be able to get some decent overclocking results if you’re into that sort of thing.
The ASUS ROG Maximus has a few bonus features that are a nice touch and add to the overall premium feeling of the board. Obviously, because this is ASUS, you get RGB headers with Aura Sync 2.0 software support, but there are also some tasteful RGB elements directly on the board itself. There’s also built-in WiFi 6 so you can get working on your build straight away without needing to find an ethernet port.
When it comes to running a powerful PC, many people don’t even consider boards smaller than mATX, usually, because they want the extra ports or overclocking potential that a bigger board typically brings. However, if you really are interested in building a powerful, yet small gaming PC, then the Gigabyte Z590I AORUS ULTRA is almost certainly the best option currently on the market.
The AORUS ULTRA is incredibly reliable and stable, and despite the smaller size manages to incorporate a lot of the features that are necessary for a truly great mobo. For instance, the board is dominated by a couple of sizeable heat syncs that do a great job of dissipating heat across the mobo when you’ve got it running at full tilt. One part of the mobo is also dedicated specifically to the board’s single M.2 PCIe 4.0 slot, so your SSD won’t be throttled at all.
You only get a single PCIe 4.0 x16 expansion slot so there’ll be no dual GPU setups going on here, but that’s a small price to pay for such a well-compacted board. You also get 2 RAM slots rather than the more typical 4, but it’s at least still DDR4 RAM and comes with some nice extra armor around the slots to ensure they don’t get broken or damaged while you’re fiddling with the intricacies of your compact build.
While the AORUS ULTRA doesn’t feature any onboard RGB, it does feature 2 headers so even if you’re making a compact gaming PC you can also get access to some of that glorious RGB to make it stand out a bit more. The board also comes with WiFi 6 and BlueTooth 5 as standard so you won’t have to worry about connecting your wireless peripherals or getting your new build near an ethernet port once you’re done.
ASUS has really dominated a huge number of spaces on this list, but it’s hard not to pick them out when they’re really just knocking it out of the park like this. If you’re looking for a stripped-down budget board to get your rig up and running, but don’t want to lose out on a well-made mobo, you won’t find a better board than the ASUS Prime Z590-P. It manages to keep all your components running in top condition without those extra features that increase the cost on other boards.
For instance, you still get a PCIe 4.0 M.2 slot covered by a really decent heatsink, and you still have 2 PCIe x16 expansion ports, one supporting 4.0 while the other supports only 3.0. As with some other examples on this list, you’ll also find that the more advanced expansion slot on the board comes with some added armor to prevent it from breaking down under pressure during building.
Memory-wise you’ll find 4 slots for DDR4 RAM which can max your memory out at 5133 Mhz clock speed, depending on your overclocking and system configuration. You’ll also have plenty of connectivity and storage options. There are already 6 USB ports on the back, with headers for 4 more on the board itself, and there are 6 SATA ports if you want to add some HDD storage or maybe even an optical drive if you’re feeling retro and have a case that will support it.
As with any budget board, RGB was clearly not the primary focus of the designers behind this component. There’s no onboard RGB with this mobo, but you do get 4 RGB compatible headers which are once again supported by ASUS’s Aura Sync 2.0. Other than that, there are almost no added features to sell you on this mobo, it’s a barebones component for those who just want a mobo that is going to work well for their chosen CPU.
Things to Think About
Whenever you’re buying a part for your PC, there are a lot of important factors that could affect your purchasing decision. With a motherboard, that problem can be even worse, so we’ve put together a list of some of the most important factors that may impact your decision.
When it comes to picking the right mobo, almost nothing is as important as the form factor. Not only will the form factor of your board affect how big the overall PC is going to be when you’re done, but it’ll also change how many expansion options you have when it comes time to upgrade your machine further down the line. There are generally 3 standard motherboard sizes that you’ll come across while shopping around, ATX, MATX, and ITX, though there are a few extra weird ones that you probably won’t have to worry about.
ATX boards are the biggest and often come with the highest number of expansion slots, making upgrading much simpler. However, their larger size means PCs built using these boards often end up quite a lot of space. At the other end of the scale is the ITX boards. These tiny boards have much less space for expansion slots but can fit inside insanely compact pc cases to take up much less space. It should go without saying that MATX is somewhere between the two.
Almost all of the boards on this list are of the ATX form factor, so if you’re looking for a compact build then the only real option available here is the Gigabyte board above that is the only ITX board we’ve featured.
The socket on your motherboard is arguably more important than anything else on your board, even more so than the form factor. Whatever socket your board has will define which processors will fit onto the board. Sockets are especially important if you already have your heart set on a particular processor. There’s no worse feeling than finding a mobo your love and discovering you were looking into the wrong socket.
The Intel Core-i9 11700K processor requires an LGA 1200 socket on any motherboard you’re thinking of pairing it with. It’s also worth remembering that the LGA 1200 socket will also work with any 10th or 11th gen Intel processor that you have.
RAM slots on your mobo will decide how many RAM sticks you can actually fit into the thing. It’s also important to note the maximum speed that your mobo supports as well since it would be pointless buying an expensive RAM kit that runs too fast for your board to take full advantage of.
When it comes to overclocking memory, you’ll need to make sure that your mobo actually supports this feature. Having good power going to the board is one thing, but a number of boards mention their specific support for memory overclocking as well.
NVME and SATA
The NVME and SATA ports on your board are important when it comes to storage expansion, as well as a few other niche drives. SATA ports allow you to plug HDDs and SSDs into your PC to upgrade your storage. You’ll also be able to install optical media drives like a Bluray or DVD-ROM drive if that’s something you’ll want. NVME ports can accept various expansions but the most important is SSDs which will run considerably faster than those going through a SATA connection.
That’s All There Is To It
With everything on this list, you should be more than prepared to tackle your next mobo purchasing decision head-on. We’ve tried our best to provide you with an option for every level of budget and need out there. From the highest of the high-end, all the way down to the compact and budget boards, you should find something on this list to suit you.
If you’re not 100% sure about your current build, or just want to look into your other options, consider checking out the rest of our site. We’ve covered a huge array of different components, builds, and even pre-built gaming PCs. Whether you’re looking for advice on a total build or just want to know which GPU makes the games look prettiest, we’ve got you covered.