The computer motherboard is perhaps the most misunderstood and neglected component of a PC. While it’s true that the CPU and GPU are going to play a more important role in most gaming rigs, failing to find the appropriate space in your budget for a gaming motherboard means that neither of those components are likely to work as well as they should. It’s essentially the glue that holds your computer build together.
Whether you’re looking to build a new gaming PC from scratch or simply better understand the specs as you go shopping for a pre-built model, our guide can help. In addition to providing gaming motherboard reviews for 10 of the best models, we’ve also included a breakdown of some of the most important things you need to know.
- The Best Gaming Motherboard
- 1. GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO
- 2. MSI Performance Gaming Intel X299
- 3. GIGABYTE B450 AORUS PRO
- 4. ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero
- 5. GIGABYTE H370 AORUS Gaming 3
- 6. MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge
- 7. GIGABYTE X470 AORUS ULTRA GAMING
- 8. ASUS ROG Strix Z390 Motherboard
- 9. ASUS Prime Z390-A Motherboard
- 10. GIGABYTE Z370 AORUS Ultra Gaming
- Best Gaming Motherboards Buyer’s Guide
The Best Gaming Motherboard
1. GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO
The Z390 Aorus Pro may be the best gaming motherboard for gamers with a price cap of $200. It takes the core framework of the vanilla Z390 and adds some handy features for just a few dollars more. It comes equipped with an abundance of USB ports and VRM thermal performance that outmatches gaming motherboards that cost over a hundred bucks more. It has no problem hitting the motherboard benchmarks for the latest top-shelf gaming CPUs either. This gaming motherboard is equipped to handle the latest eighth and ninth generation chipsets from Intel, so you don't need to have any concerns about how it will hold up over time. Unique to the Pro model is the inclusion of two thermal guards for each M.2 slot, the added security of PCIe armor in the form of I/O Shield, and a USB-C slot. It's well worth the upgrade.
2. MSI Performance Gaming Intel X299
The X299 is the flagship top end motherboard from a company that specializes almost exclusively in meeting the needs of gamers. And this DDR4 motherboard is every bit as good as you might expect given its strong pedigree. The number of PCIe 3.0 lanes available (over 20!) offer a phenomenal amount of room for memory and storage and networking without you having to make sacrifices to the processor connection. The results are 4 M.2 storage slots and one U.2 as well as compatibility for WiFi and USB 3.0.
This LGA 2066 motherboard also sports a sleek aesthetic, but that won't be an issue unless you're looking for an open tower design that really shows off the guts. Of more practical use is its VR capabilities (which can produce great results without lag) and the support for phenomenal sound quality through the BOOST 4 technology built in.
3. GIGABYTE B450 AORUS PRO
A great motherboard won't mean a whole lot if you don't have the processors to do it justice, and that's where entry level gaming PC motherboards like the B450 come in. This is a Ryzen motherboard compatible with the 2000 models. And for an entry level model, it's got a lot of heft. The aesthetics are strong here, but more important is the presence of a generous selection of connectivity options. It's not going to be able to overclock a Ryzen processor to its max, but it should easily be enough for the average gamer.
The fact that this AM4 motherboard comes with WiFi makes it an especially useful choice for the price range, but that value is further bolstered by HDMI, DVI, and USB 3.1 support. It also includes an integrated back panel, a nice addition that's generally only seen in higher end models.
4. ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero
Like the Aorus Pro listed above, this version of the Maximus XI Hero is built off the Z390 chipset, but its nearly double price increase is largely justified. If you want to make the most of Intel's latest generation processors, the overclocking potential on this LGA 1151 motherboard is truly phenomenal. The dual PCIe x16 slots are fully furnished with the sort of voltage regulation and firmware updates that you need to get the most juice out of your rig, and heat spreaders are available for the M.2 slots if you're looking to further enhance your build with SSD units.
It makes use of a five way optimization system to maximize your tuning. An onboard clock generator provides experts with all the metrics they need to safely overclock. This is also an RGB motherboard with a highly intuitive software interface that allows you to create incredibly complicated light shows.
5. GIGABYTE H370 AORUS Gaming 3
If you're not interested in trying to make the most of overclocking your processor, you're better off opting for a cheaper H370 chipset than the more loaded Z370 alternatives. And with something like this Gigabyte model, you get to exchange that overclocking potential for a spectacular price tag and a broad range of features.
This can still serve reliably well as an i7 motherboard, and it comes with all the perks you'd expect from the Aorus series: the best and latest WiFi controller, a USB 3.1 second generation controller built in, and a generous selection of RGB lighting. Motherboards with WiFi are now the rule rather than the exception in a good gaming motherboard, but it's still nice to see it in such an affordable model. For the most part, overclocking is the only real thing you're sacrificing here. The ports are still vast and protected with heatsinks.
6. MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge
The Gaming Edge may come in at less than $200, but it can run Intel's highest end Core processors. They've taken some clever steps to ensure quality performance without charging a fortune. The standard 8-pin connector has been enhanced with an additional 4 pins to help you get the most out of overclocking even when you're running a beastly CPU like the i9-9900K, and they've managed to fit in a heat sink well above the price point to prevent any internal damage from that power boosting.
The WiFi support is a nice touch, although you should keep in mind that its throughput maxes out at 433Mbps. And where this motherboard really cuts corners is in the factors that aren't all that important. The RGB lighting is a bit below average, but that's allowed MSI to squeeze as much performance as possible out of this relatively cheap gaming motherboard.
7. GIGABYTE X470 AORUS ULTRA GAMING
The X470 is AMD's latest attempt at a high-end CPU, and the company seems to have finally found a top tier processor that can hold its own against Intel. The combination of quality and budget pricing in the Gigabyte X470 only makes the X470 a more viable choice for gamers. The RGB lighting is substandard, but that's the only omission (and a justifiable one) in a board that otherwise punches above its weight class. In addition to the six SATA ports, it comes with headers for both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 and plenty of space designated for cooling systems.
The Realtek 1220 audio is respectable in its own right, but it's only further bolstered by the inclusion of a strong software suite. Considering the number of cores available in the latest Ryzen processors, this motherboard could conceivably turn your computer into a tank.
8. ASUS ROG Strix Z390 Motherboard
Asus' Republic of Gamers products are usually bombastic pieces of hardware that push hard towards offering innovative new designs, sometimes to mixed results. The Strix Z390-I turns away from the standards to produce a motherboard that focuses on the fundamentals, and it manages to get practically everything on point. The level of commitment to USB generations means it can suit your needs regardless of the age of your other components, and both WiFi and Bluetooth are built right in.
The dual M.2 ports are a pleasant surprise given the price. If you needed proof that a mini ITX board can compete with more standard options, the Strix is it. Improvements to the VRM are notable as well, included six components for improved virtual memory. This may not be a showpiece stunner, but it's a master class in how a quality manufacturer can do more (a lot more) with less.
9. ASUS Prime Z390-A Motherboard
Asus' PRIME series isn't technically tailored for gamers. It's a motherboard with hardware enthusiasts in mind, and while it loses some gaming specific features due to that specialization, its all-around functionality makes it a worthwhile consideration. This is a meat and potatoes motherboard, offering little more than what the chipset offers out of the box, but that's a methodology that allows Asus to keep the price low. And the basics of a Z390-A motherboard are pretty beefy anyway.
The high definition audio and Intel Optane supercharge are both nice features to have, and if you're thinking about running dual graphics cards, the option is there. The PRIME supports both NVIDIA two way SLI and AMD 3-way CrossFireX technologies, so you have some flexibility on what GPU you choose.
10. GIGABYTE Z370 AORUS Ultra Gaming
There's a reason why our list is so littered with Gigabyte's Aorus builds. They thread the needle of quality and pricing perfectly, and it's as true of their Z370 model as it is of any of their other entries on our list. Since this is a Z-model compatible chip, you can expect overclocking functionality, and Gigabyte's superb cooling technology really shines here. That trademark 5x protection that's been showing up in every other Aorus model is available here as well, along with the five way optimization for ideal overclocking conditions. Gigabyte has been generous with their features as well. Both external and internal USB 3.1 slots are available, and there are two M.3 slots (a standard on this list but always nice to see in a card at this budget).
Best Gaming Motherboards Buyer’s Guide
If you’re looking to build a new gaming computer, you almost never want to start with the motherboard. The CPU and GPU will play the most critical role in a computer’s performance, and since motherboards have very specific capability with these components, the ones available to you are going to be limited by your core specifications.
That’s why understanding what those specs mean at a glance is important. The ability to skim over a motherboard’s specs and immediately understand which ones will work with your components will allow you to quickly narrow down the results to only those that are applicable to your build. We’ll outline the important specs below so you can readily understand what you’re looking at. Once you’ve determined what boards work with your CPU, you can start digging deeper into their features to see which one is best for your needs.
Central Processor Compatibility
The most important consideration when looking for a new motherboard is figuring out what CPUs it’s compatible with. The CPU is the living brain of any gaming PC, and finding one that’s powerful for your gaming needs is going to be one of your top considerations during your build. Three of our specs relate to the compatibility of the central processor: the socket, chipset, and CPU.
You can think of these three specs as the family, genus, and species. The socket type can tell you with a glance what manufacturer’s CPU the motherboard supports. Modern Intel processors use the 1151 or 2011 formats, while current AMD processors utilize AM4 sockets. If you have a specific brand in mind but haven’t yet settled on the type of processor you want to use, this can be a useful identifier.
The chipset is a little more narrow, as the chipset directly identifies the group of processors that are compatible with a motherboard. While AMD and Intel both offer an extensive selection of chipsets, the fact that we’re dealing exclusively with gaming motherboards narrows things significantly. Either way, you should look to the chipset when you’re trying to pair the right motherboard CPU combo.
The majority of the motherboards on our list are Intel boards. The letter at the front of an Intel chipset tells you its general purpose. H-class chipsets are a good choice for baseline gaming performance. They offer compatibility with most modern Intel CPUs and an expansive selection of ports. Z-class chipsets are fundamentally the same but come with overclocking potential. X-class chipsets are compatible with Intel’s top shelf X-series CPUs and use a 2011 format socket.
The main difference between 370 and 390 chipsets are the native inclusion of WiFi 802.11ac and USB 3.1 generation 2, but many manufacturers have folded those protocol into 370 motherboards. Only two AMD gaming motherboards made our list. The B450 is a budget range processor largely equivalent to the Intel H-series, while the X470 competes with Intel’s Z390. Understanding chipset classifications is important because it tells you more than just the compatible CPUs. It can also give you insight into the features and variety of ports available.
When looking at what Intel CPUs are compatible with a motherboard, you want to keep an eye out for those that support the eighth and ninth generation Core processors. Core is the recognized standard for gaming rigs. The eighth generation constitutes a major jump in quality above the prior generation, so anyone looking for a gaming PC that will be equipped to really get the most out of next gen games will want to make it a priority.
RAM (random access memory) isn’t the only factor in determining the speed of your computer, but it is an important one. RAM is essentially the short term memory of your computer. The more space you have for RAM, the more readily accessible information your computer can hold. That reduces the workload of your central processor and results in speedier performance. There are two factors to consider when evaluating the memory: the number of slots available and the maximum transfer speeds of those slots.
Any good gaming motherboard is going to offer four DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots, but some of the higher end models offer eight. Eight slots is a great choice for running servers, but four should be quite enough for most gamers. 32GB of RAM is more than enough for even the biggest AAA games, and that can be reached with just two modules. It can’t hurt to have more, but you don’t need to worry if the board you’ve picked out only has four.
DDR (double data rate) is the other important definition. It allows RAM modules of the same design to pair together for increased data transfer rates. The current standard is DDR4, and it supports a max bandwidth nearly double that of what can be achieved with DDR3. If you want to make the most of your RAM, you’ll want to pair together modules of the same capacity and design. Two 8GB modules paired together will perform significantly better than a single 16GB module.
Today’s largest games can take up a tremendous amount of space, and until streaming becomes a viable alternative to traditional gaming, it will continue to be a bottleneck for gaming PCs. The number of space available for attaching hard drives is determined by your motherboard, so you’ll want to make sure you have a reasonable amount of room. Of course, if you’re a dedicated Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed player, your demands will be higher than if your Steam list is mostly loaded up with indies. There are two formats to consider here: SATA and M.2.
The SATA has been the standard in use for a long period of time, and its main advantage is its broad compatibility. SATA slots can be used to connect traditional hard drives, optical drives, and solid state drives. SATA also comes in different speed grades. SATA 3, for instance, offer a maximum data transfer rate of 6 Mbps. Almost all modern motherboards will come in the SATA 3 designation.
If you’re really looking to maximize these data rates, you should dig a little more deeply and look into the RAID protocol supported. This allows multiple drives to work in conjunction with one another to transfer data more quickly. RAID support often varies from one SATA port to another in motherboards.
M.2 slots are significantly more modern, but they’re consistently available across the motherboards we’ve reviewed. M.2 drives are designed like traditional SSDs, but they’re significantly more compact. They’re a great way to provide more efficient storage in a smaller space (and SSDs are universally superior to HDDs), but M.2 drives come in a number of different lengths, so you’ll want to check and make sure that you get an M.2 that will fit comfortably with your motherboard. The M.2 slot can also be used to connect select WiFi cards, and they often employ their own heat sinks.
The form factor of a motherboard refers to its size and the layout of its components, and it can have a major impact on what sort of features and connectivity options are available. But you also need to consider the size of your computer case. If a motherboard won’t fit in your tower, it won’t do you much good. While there’s a diverse variety of form factors on the market, there are three you need to consider when building a gaming rig: ATX, micro ATX, and mini ITX.
Standard ATX motherboards are the most common option on the consumer market, and they’re the standard used in most PC towers. They typically offer dimensions of 9.6×12″, though that can vary a bit depending on the manufacturer. If you have the space for them, they’re going to be the best choice since they offer the largest selection of slots. Micro ATX motherboards are the middle ground option, often used in desktop cases. At approximately 9.6″ in size, they offer less slots than a standard ATX but usually enough slots for both graphics cards and a couple of additional cards. Mini ITX are the smallest standard, with a standard square dimension of 6.7″. They usually offer a single expansion slot.
Unless you’re especially enamored with the idea of a small frame computer, you’ll almost always want to go with a standard ATX card. This is especially true when you’re looking to build a gaming PC. Even if you don’t have the space to make use of all of the expansion slots available, a larger card allows you to beef up your machine over time without having to replace the entire motherboard.
Finding the right balance between the maximum specs for your budget and what you actually need is one of the biggest issues faced by gamers. In some instances, like when considering the number of expansion slots supported, opting for more will open you up to expanding your PC in the future. In others, like overbuying on RAM capacity, that potential will almost certainly never be used. Dual processor gaming motherboards typically fall in the latter category.
That doesn’t mean that dual processors can’t be useful in hypothetical terms. Packing two separate CPUs into a single computer can result in impressive improvements to your multitasking, and dual processor CPUs tend to come with extra PCIe and RAM slots. But the four cores that are the standard baseline for gaming processors is more than enough to handle the needs of gamers. There’s a plateau where CPU value flattens out and the GPU becomes the principle area where improvement happens. Ultimately, a single high-quality CPU will perform better than dual budget cards, and once you start considering putting two high-end CPUs into a machine, you aren’t just looking at an expensive rig. You’re also looking at performance that far outmatches the needs of gaming.
There is one exception to the rule. If you’re looking to stream your gaming on a professional level, a dual CPU gaming motherboard could be what you’re looking for. Streaming and gaming at the same time can hog your performance, and many pros make use of separate computers to split the workload. A dual CPU can provide a sensible solution that doesn’t require you to build two separate machines.
Compared to shopping the specs for a graphics or central processor, a motherboard can seem boring. That means it can sometimes be overlooked by new builders, but that’s not a mistake you should make. The motherboard may not deliver much direct performance in its own right, but the choice you make will ultimately determine the maximum threshold for how well your computer will perform. Determining the right gaming motherboard CPU combo in particular is crucial.
That’s why it’s important to not jump into the deep end of the pool without knowing what you’re talking about. Check out our guides to the best gaming CPUs and the best gaming GPUs, and combine that with the knowledge you’ve acquired from this guide to create a balanced machine that’s within your budget.