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.
Our Top Gaming Motherboard Picks
ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero Z590
When it comes to the tip-top of the high-end Intel boards, Asus manages to pull off a top spot once again with the ROG Maximus XIII Hero Z590. As with a lot of the boards made by ASUS, you can just tell this thing is a premium board from the moment that you look at it. The aesthetic design is incredibly neat and tidy, and there’s plenty of premium features that make this the perfect choice for almost any gamer.
One of the most important features for gaming are the PCIe slots, and this board has plenty, a lot of which conform to PCIe 4.0 so you’re getting a board that’s well and truly future-proofed in that regard. The main expansion slots are 3 PCIe x16 slots, 2 4.0s and 1 3.0, and with SLI support you can be sure that it’s easy enough to get a dual card, single-monitor setup going. There are also 4 M.2 slots, 2 PCIe 4.0 slots and 2 PCIe 3.0 slots, all of which are covered by the huge heatsink that dominates this board.
Speaking of the cooling solution, it’s insanely impressive. The minor heatsinks that cover the M.2 slots are all connected to the major heatsink, bearing the ROG logo, that covers the bottom right corner of the board. There’s also some huge heatsinks sitting on the opposite corner, with a tiered design to them, and some onboard RGB elements that really makes that part of the board pop out, as well as stay cool.
One of the most important parts of any high-end board is how well it responds to overclocking, and luckily the Maximus XIII Hero takes to it very well. Of course, ASUS provides the buyer with AI-based overclocking, but you can obviously choose to change your overclocking configuration settings yourself instead. From the CPU to the Memory, ASUS has provided some great firmware and a great board when it comes to getting that little bit of extra power.
With a name like Godlike, you’d probably expect MSI to deliver something truly spectacular, and luckily the company pulls it off with aplomb. The MEG X570 Godlike looks every inch the gaming motherboard, partially due to the RGB, but mostly due to the hard lines and angular design that is pretty common on various GPUs. Looks aside, the board has all of the right features to make this one of the best gaming mobos on the market.
The Godlike features three PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots, which is a great bonus for anyone who likes an insane amount of really high-speed storage space on their rig. Another great bonus is the fact that all of the M.2 ports have their own pretty beefy heatsinks. There’s also 3 PCie x16 slots, which once again all support PCIe 4.0 and both SLI and CrossFire so you’ll be able to chain your GPUs together to your heart’s content.
The board also contains a decent amount of memory space, with 4 slots for DDR4 RAM that maxes out at 128GB of capacity and 5000+ Mhz clock speed. There’s also a pretty hefty cooling system here, featuring a number of large heatsinks spread out across the entire board, as well as an onboard fan to really improve the efficiency of the unit’s heat dissipation.
It should go without saying that a board like this has more RGB support than most people will even know what to do with. There are several RGB lights at various different places on the board itself, as well as 4 different headers for different RGB and lighting elements depending on how you want to run your personalized light show. All-in-all, this board really does live up to the name Godlike.
If you’re running an older Intel processor, then you can’t go wrong with the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-E. While it might be a last-generation board, it’s still surprisingly robust and provides you with a decent amount of power for gaming, and pretty much anything else you might need to do on your rig. As with most ROG components, it also looks amazing, and if you’re planning on a case with a glass-panelled side, then you can’t discount that sort of advantage.
This board looks fantastic, decked out with a decent amount of onboard RGB and a very interesting design to the heatsinks on the bottom-right corner of the board. The main heatsink attaches to the larger M.2 heatsink at an angle, which certainly gives the board a unique look, giving a lot of hard diagonal edges across the entire board. If you’re into boards that look a fair bit different to most other mobos, then this will certainly fit the bill.
In terms of ports, you get dual M.2 PCIe 3.0 ports, both covered by their own heatsinks. You also get 3 PCIe x16 expansion slots with both SLI and CrossFire support just in case you want to chain your graphics cards together. In terms of memory, you get your standard 4 RAM slots supporting DDR4 sticks with maximum clock speeds of around 4266+ MHz when overclocked.
Speaking of overclocking, you’ll find that this board offers some great OC performance. There’s the benefit of ASUS’s Pro Clock technology, as well as the advanced AI overclocking features in case you don’t want to tinker with the settings yourself. Luckily, if you do feel like doing it all yourself, the ASUS firmware on the board offers a huge array of options for everything from your CPU to your RAM, so you should have plenty to mess around with.
While it might not be able to stand up to the MSI Godlike, the ASUS ROG X570 Crosshair VIII Hero is still a great board, and shares the X570 chipset with the MSI board. Some of the advantages of this board include the PCIe 4.0 support that makes this a good choice for anyone who doesn’t want to have to change their mobo over the next few years. Plus, it looks decent and has an excellent cooling solution.
The most dominant feature on the board is the heatsink. As with many other boards in the Crosshair family of boards, a heatsink covers a huge portion of the board, including all of the M.2 ports so you can be sure you’re avoiding thermal throttling. There’s also the added benefit of an onboard fan, as well as a huge heatsink on the opposite side of the board that covers the I/O shield.
In terms of expansion slots, you get 3 PCIe x16 4.0 slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX for multi-GPU chaining if that’s your bag. You also get 3 M.2 slots, 2 of which support PCIe 4.0 as well, so they’ll run as fast as lighting. Just make sure that if you’ve got a super fast SSD for your boot drive that you put it into one of the slots that supports 4.0 rather than 3.0.
If you’re into a more subtle form of RGB then you’ll like this board’s design. It features a couple of smaller lights in the two opposite corners to make the Hero and ROG logos stand out a fair bit. There’s also 3 RGB headers if you want to add your own LED strips or anything like that, with ASUS’s Aura Sync 2.0 software to help you with customization. Overall, a nice package of features that makes up a great board which isn’t over-the-top with its aesthetic presentation.
While it’s certainly not the cheapest board on the market, the MSI Z490-A PRO is a great motherboard with a lot of advanced features, all for an incredibly affordable price. It’s also a great board for anyone who happens to have a pathological distaste for over the top boards featuring a lot of RGB, because this board is incredibly understated, and doesn’t come with any built-in RGB on the board itself either.
There’s a decent number of ports on the board, including a couple of M.2 ports running at PCIe 3.0, one of which is covered by a shield FROZR heatsink to keep it nice and cool. There’s also a couple of x16 PCIe 3.0 slots for running your expansion cards, although you should note that it doesn’t offer SLI support, only support for AMD’s CrossFire tech instead. One final note on these ports is that the primary port features some extra shielding to prevent it from being bent by an excessively heavy GPU.
If you’re into memory overclocking then you’re going to have a good time with this mobo. It features 4 ports for memory, maxing out at 128GB of DDR4 RAM and supporting up to 4800MHz in terms of clock speeds. You can also squeeze extra power from your CPU and GPU as well, since this board has great performance for overclocking in these areas too.
If there’s any sort of drawback to this board it’s the overall presentation being a little bit dull, so if you are after something a bit more interesting you’ll probably want to spice it up a bit with some RGB working on the 3 RGB headers the board has. There’s also not a huge amount of connectivity on the I/O shield, with only a handful of USB ports for peripherals, so you’ll need to invest in a powered USB hub if you’ve got lots of stuff to plug in.
If you’re really looking for something that is 100% budget then you’ll be pretty happy with the MSI B450 Gaming Plus MAX. Once again, MSI manages to pull off producing a fantastic mobo for a budget price without the board falling to pieces when you look at it funny. It even manages to look pretty awesome while it’s at it, assuming that you like the combination of red and black at any rate.
The most noticeable deficiency on the board is the M.2 slot, as in only a single NVMe compatible slot for installing storage space. Not only does this mean investing in a more expensive SSD to fit more storage, but the slot doesn’t even come with a heatsink so your bigger SSD might struggle when things start to get heated inside your rig. There is at least a nearby heatsink on the bottom-right corner of the board, even if it does look a little underwhelming on it’s own.
For expansion slots, you get 2 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, one featuring the added armor that protects against heavy GPUs, or rather protects against PC builders who forget to screw in their graphics card. There’s also 4 slots for RAM sticks running at DDR4 maxing out at clock speeds of 4133MHz when overclocked, with a maximum capacity of 128 GB, assuming that you used 4 32GB sticks in each slot. Not that you should need that level of memory unless you’re doing some workstation tasks.
In terms of RGB support, the board features 2 RGB headers so you can get at least a couple of RGB elements on the go at once. There’s nothing on the board in terms of lighting, but honestly the board looks great on its own as it is. Not only do some of the ports come in red plastic to make them stand out, but there are lightning-esque red details across the entire board, which is a really nice touch that you don’t see often enough in motherboards these days.
Things to Think About
When it comes to motherboards, it can be tough to figure out exactly what you should be buying. There are numerous factors that you need to keep in mind while making your purchase decision, and that can be quite overwhelming. We’ve stepped in to provide you with this list of the different elements that could affect which mobo you decide to purchase.
The form factor of a board will impact a lot of different elements of your final build. Not only does it change the number of ports that you’ll have access to, affecting how easy you’ll find upgrading in the future, but it’ll affect which sorts of cases you can buy, and how much airflow your final product has.
As a rule, ATX boards tend to have the most ports, and are certainly the largest. This means that you’ll be able to run lots of expansion cards and RAM sticks without too much trouble, as well have an easier time swapping out or adding upgrades in the future as your other parts become obsolete. Unfortunately, this also means that any PC you build with an ATX board is going to be pretty big, and could be a bit of an eyesore.
On the other side of the spectrum you’ve got mATX and ITX boards. Both of these boards are smaller than ATX boards, and in most cases will contain fewer expansion ports and RAM slots, especially in the case of ITX. The biggest advantages to these boards is that you can create a PC that’s a fair bit smaller, so if you’re into compact builds these should be the boards you’re aiming at. Just bear in mind you need to have extra cooling in the smaller builds because they usually have worse airflow.
Almost all of the boards on this list or ATX, so they may not work if you’re more interested in a compact build. The only exception on the list is the AMD high-end pick, as that is eATX, basically a slightly bigger version of the ATX standard.
When it comes to mobos, the socket is even more important than the form factor. The kind of socket you’ll find on a board will completely define what sort of processors you’ll be able to fit inside your machine. There’s nothing more disappointing than finding a board you love, then discovering that it doesn’t have the right socket to match the CPU you’ve already chosen.
For modern AMD processors, you’ll need a board with an AM4 socket, and for modern Intel CPUs you’ll need an LGA 1200 socket. If you’re looking at 9th-gen Intel CPUs or before it needs to be an LGA 1151 socket, and last-gen AMD sockets go by the name AM3, surprisingly.
Most of the boards on this list are up-to-date AMD and Intel sockets, so AM4 and LGA 1200 respectively. However, the Intel 9th-gen pick does feature an LGA 1151 socket, so bear that in mind while perusing our list.
The RAM slots on your board will play a big part in its performance, especially in memory-intensive processes like video and image editing. The slots on your board will define not only your overall memory capacity, but also prevent you from using certain types of RAM depending on how out of date, or up to date, your ports are.
All of the boards on this list feature 4 ports and all support DDR4 RAM, the latest modern memory standard until DDR5 eventually sees a retail release at some point in the near future.
NVMe and SATA
The NVMe and SATA ports on your board will have the biggest impact on your storage capacity and data transfer speeds. SATA ports will accept both SSDs and HDDs, but can also allow you to add some optical media drives to your build if you’re into having physical backups outside of flash drives.
NVMe ports will also accept SSDs but you should bear in mind that these will be considerably faster than SATA-based drives, so if you want fast booting times then you should seriously consider using an NVMe SSD as your boot drive.
That’s All There Is To It
With this guide in hand, you should now have no trouble picking your next gaming mobo with ease. Whether you’re a fan of AMD or Intel, or need a high-end or budget component, this list has a little bit of something for everyone.
If you’re still not 100% decided about your build yet, consider checking out our other articles. We’ve provided a huge array of reviews for various different PC components for all sorts of different use cases and price points. We also offer completed build-guides to get you from start to finish, as well as pre-built PC lists in case you want to skip the building all together.