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The motherboard is a vital part of your PC; you can compare it to the nervous system being in all respects a computers communication center – all components connect to the motherboard and through it, they “talk” to each other -, so you need to make sure that it sports the best chipset in order to ensure that all other internal components reach their full potential. Your choice, therefore, can make or break your PC.
So, while a motherboard is not as “exciting” as the CPU and GPU, it is all the same very important. Thus, unless you want to rebuild your entire PC from scratch, we recommend that you allocate a generous part of your budget to purchase a quality “mobo”.
Which motherboard is best for me?
As we said, the motherboard is the foundation of every PC. As such it must be a stable and reliable base on which to build the entire system.
For the average user, motherboards do not directly affect performance. As long as your motherboard “plays well” with all other components, you are golden.
Do I need an expensive motherboard?
While the motherboard does not have a direct impact on PC performance it plays a key role in determining which components you can put into your build. The cheaper the motherboard and the more limited you will be.
Cheap motherboards usually do not offer support for CrossFire or SLI; they also feature fewer USB ports, no niche connections (USB-C, M.2, SATA Express), and have minor or no overclocking capabilities. Also, they don’t offer extra features like built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. However, if you are not going to use any of these, then you can save some money by opting for a basic model.
On the other hand, if you choose a mid to high-end motherboard, in addition to the extra features that you can take advantage of right away, you’ll also have plenty of possibilities for future upgrades — like installing a better (newer) CPU.
In addition, the more expensive the motherboard, the better its support for overclocking and the ability to house and use high-end components.
Ultimately, if your budget is limited, you can definitely choose a cheaper motherboard. And if all you need is a basic PC, then you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a premium motherboard.
What to look for in a motherboard
Generally speaking, the choice between motherboards is reduced to a question of socket, size, and quality:
The socket is where the CPU “sits”. Before choosing the right motherboard, you have to know which processor you intend to use.
A motherboard’s form factor affects – more than anything else – the size of your PC. In fact, opting for a smaller format doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing performance or features; a single PCIe slot is more than enough for most users, while some mini ITX motherboards come with two M.2 slots.
The size, however, will have an impact on the price. It is interesting to note here that Micro ATX cards are often the cheapest, while mini ITX boards can be among the most expensive.
Finally, the best motherboards can be somewhat future-proof — whatever that means in our fickle and fast-paced technology landscape — whether by having a socket or chipset capable of housing and running tomorrow’s processors, or one that supports next-gen interconnections, such as PCIe 4.0.
Motherboard buying guide
Anyhoo, finding the right motherboard can be incredibly difficult, and for some users, the tech jargon and fear of making a compatibility mistake can become a hindrance.
ATX, Micro ATX, and mini ITX
These three are the most typical form factors, from the biggest to the smallest, that determine the size of the PC case and (generally speaking) the number of expansion slots available.
Peripheral Component Interconnect (express) – in sort PCI and PCIe, the latter being a longer and faster version of the former – are slots for additional cards such as graphics cards, sound cards, network cards, SSDs, etc. PCI(e) slots are have a length (x16, x8, x4, x1) and a number of data transmission lanes (again x16, x8, x4, x1). It is possible that a PCIe x 16 slot has only 8 data lanes, which means that its maximum theoretical data transfer rate is effectively half (although in most cases fewer lanes don’t make a difference).
Basic expansion cards like a WiFi adapter require a small PCI slot, while larger and more powerful cards like a GPU require a longer and faster PCIe slot.
Make sure beforehand that your motherboard has enough PCI(e)slots to connect all your expansion cards.
The Dual In-line Memory Module (DIMM) slots are where the RAM resides. the maximum amount of RAM you can have depends on the number of slots, along with the type of chipset and version of the operating system.
The chipset tells you which processors (or rather which generations) are compatible with the motherboard.
Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) ports are for installing storage drives (HDD, SSD) and optical drives (DVD/Blu-ray players). These ports determine the total amount of drives that can be connected to the motherboard.
Things to consider in order to choose the best motherboard
Before choosing a motherboard there are a number of essential factors that should affect your decision-making process:
The form factor determines the motherboard’s dimensions and therefore the PC case’s size and thus the desktop’s overall footprint. If you have space and want to build a high-end system, larger form factor “mobos” are the way to go.
Choose the right socket for your AMD or Intel CPU
Whichever processor you choose, you need to make sure that the motherboard has the correct socket to accommodate it. You can not install an Intel CPU on an AMD motherboard (they don’t fit) and vice versa.
Choose the right chipset for your AMD or Intel CPU
In addition to having the correct socket, Intel motherboards are equipped with Intel chipsets that work only with certain Intel processors, and the same applies to AMD. So, you need to make sure that a motherboard’s chipset corresponds to the CPU model. Furthermore, the chipset also determines a motherboard’s extra features — from the number of PCIe lanes to overclocking (even if you use an unlocked processor it is the motherboard’s chipset that lets you overclock it).
RAM and headroom
Some processors do not play well with very slow or very fast memory. When it comes to checking RAM compatibility, you need to pay attention to four things:
- Maximum memory supported
- Memory speed
- Multichannel support
- How many memory slots (DIMM) are present
Always check the official specs on the motherboard’s website; this will let you know exactly what RAM (type and speed) to buy.
In addition, some motherboards will have their DIMM slots a little closer to the CPU socket than others. Sometimes this can cause a problem with the CPU heatsink. If you want to install a big heatsink, or a beefy RAM module (some come with their own heatsinks) it’s a good precaution to make sure there is enough headroom for both.
Voltage regulator module and cooling
VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules) and their cooling are both equally important. You want a stable delivery of power to the CPU, especially if you plan to overclock it.
Multi-phase power delivery is the ideal solution, especially in the case of overclocking. It is a feature usually reserved for the most expensive motherboards.
The selection of rear connections simply determines which ports will be available to your peripherals. It is the least important factor in choosing a motherboard since most of them are equipped with a similar set of ports.
The last thing you have to make sure of is having enough headers for the fans and/or RGB lights that you intend to use.
Pay extra for high-end connectivity only if you need it
Do not spend money on an integrated wireless module if you intend to use a wired connection. On the other hand, your PC will be more future-proof if it has support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 and/or Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Below, we have gathered the best motherboards on the market. Whether you’re looking for an Intel or AMD (make sure it comes with the right socket and chipset), budget or premium, ATX or mini-ITX, there is a motherboard perfect for you.
To simplify things we have divided this list into two parts, first, we have the best AMD motherboards, and second the best Intel motherboards.
Best AMD motherboards
Asus X570 ROG Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi): best high-end AMD motherboard
While this choice may seem a bit expensive for most of you, the quality of this motherboard is simply unparalleled.
The Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi) (Check on Amazon) is an excellent premium motherboard that offers many high-end features at a lower price. Not only does it have all the features you would expect from a premium board, but it also uses the latest AMD chipset.
MSI B450 Tomahawk: best AMD motherboard for most users
If you intend to build a mid to high-end AMD PC the MSI B450 Tomahawk is the best choice for most users. It costs (Check on Amazon), but offers some high-end features such as the possibility of light overclocking – even if you’re not interested in overclocking right now, having a B450 board at least gives you the ability to overclock later along the way – and support for AMD dual graphics card configurations connected in CrossFire.
Its B450 chipset was built for second-generation Ryzen processors but is ready for the latest third-generation Ryzen processors – although there are reports of minor problems with them.
Essentially you get everything you need from a mid-range motherboard with the addition of quality VRMs and large heatsinks on both the Vcore and the VRM SoC that can handle even a slightly overclocked Ryzen 9-3950X processor without problems.
In the end, if you don’t need multiple M.2 slots or support for PCIe 4.0 (available on motherboards with the X570 and B550 chipsets) and don’t want to pay a fortune for a solid AM4 motherboard, the MSI B450 Tomahawk is your best choice right now.
Best Intel motherboards
MSI MAG B660 Tomahawk: best cheap Intel motherboard
Despite the absence of DDR5 and PCIe 5.0, the MSI MAG B660 Tomahawk (Check on Amazon) is the best budget motherboard for Intel’s Alder Lake (12th generation) processors. While it is not possible to overclock the CPU, the card allows for memory overclocking (through XMP profiles) and is priced much more affordable when compared to other Z690 motherboards. Its VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules), however, are solid (12+2 phases with dual 8-pin power connectors) and are cooled by large heat sinks, so they can easily handle the maximum load of even an Intel Core I9-12900K (Check on Amazon).
This ATX motherboard sports an all-black finish and is devoid of lights but comes with four RGB headers (two of which are addressable). It has three PCIe slots (the main one is x16 and supports PCIe 4.0) and three M.2 slots (PCIe Gen 4.0 speed) – enough for most people. In addition, you get loads of I/O ports for the price (Realtek 2.5G LAN, Intel Wi-Fi 6, four USB-A 2.0 ports, four USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2×2 20 Gbps port, a full set of 7.1 audio ports including one S/PDIF, HDMI 2.1 and DisplayPort 1.4).
All in all, the MSI MAG B660 Tomahawk is a smart purchase for the typical user. At (Check on Amazon) it’s not the cheapest motherboard on the market but compared to other Z690 motherboards it definitely boasts a lot of features for the money.
Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero: best Z690 motherboard
The Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero (Check on Amazon) for Intel’s 12th generation (Alder Lake) processors is a premium motherboard that comes with all the frills and furbelows you would expect, such as an LED screen, the latest specifications (DDR5 and PCIe 5.0), plenty of expansion ports, and a powerful power supply.
Its PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is black and sports a customizable display on the I/O shield cover (which ASUS calls Polymo Lighting) that looks fantastic.
It boasts 20+1 power stages with circuitry capable of handling up to 90 amps. The VRMs (Voltage Regulator Modules) can accommodate an unlocked CPU, such as the Intel Core I9-12900K (Check on Amazon), and are cooled by two large heat sinks.
It can also accommodate an insane amount of NVMe storage with three M.2 Key M slots (expanded up to five using the ROG Hyper m.2 card). You also get plenty of ports, including two USB-C Thunderbolt 4, seven USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, Wi-Fi 6E, one RJ-45 jack, one HDMI port, five standard 3.5mm audio jacks, and one optical S/PDIF port.
Last but not least, Asus’s AI Overclocking software makes it a breeze to squeeze every last drop of performance out of your components.
Overall, we think the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero (Check on Amazon) is the best motherboard you can buy currently.
Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro: budget alternative
It is common for Z690 chipsets for Intel’s Alder Lake (12 Gen) processors to be so expensive. Add the premium for DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 support and we can see why motherboards like the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 Hero (Check on Amazon) cost so much. However, the Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro offers the same functionality for “just” (Check on Amazon).
Gigabyte has made intelligent “sacrifices” to do so. It limits connectivity to Wi-Fi 6 (as opposed to Wi-Fi 6E) and avoids unnecessary luxuries like Thunderbolt 4 or an extra M.2 slot.
The RGB lighting is also minimal with just a tiny Aorus logo on top of the rear I/O heatsink. There are, however, four RGB headers, two of which are addressable, so you can still add lots of flashy lighting if you like.
The Gigabyte Z690 Aorus Pro offers everything you’d expect from a premium motherboard, and at (Check on Amazon) you can invest the money you save on more important things like DDR5 memory or an even faster GPU.
Asus ROG Strix Z590-I Gaming WiFi: best Intel mini-ITX motherboard
With the advent of small form factor PC cases, mini-ITX builds are becoming more popular and the Asus ROG Strix Z590-I Gaming WiFi (Check on Amazon) motherboard is the best for building an SFF (Small Form Factor) PC using an Intel CPU.
It has an LGA 1200 socket, ideal for 11th and 10th-generation Intel Core processors but you can also use Pentium Gold and Celeron processors if you prefer.
The reason we chose it is that ASUS has managed to pack many features including RGB lighting. It features a rather sophisticated VRM and an aluminum heatsink that also covers one of the two M.2 slots. Thanks to the full-sized PCIe x16 slot, you can install a modern GPU (but keep an eye on the maximum length).
As for ports, you get one USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, one USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, and four USB-A 2.0 ports. Last but not least a 2.5G LAN port, an HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. But the cherry on top is the addition of Wi-Fi 6 which renders it future-proof!
Despite its small form factor, the Asus ROG Strix Z590-I Gaming WiFi (Check on Amazon) is arguably the best mini-ITX motherboard you can find on the market right now.
Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero Z590: best Intel gaming motherboard
The Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero is a premium motherboard that looks great and despite being expensive it comes with high-end features that justify its price (Check on Amazon).
The overall design is pretty impressive: it has a spacious layout while the aluminum I/O shield and ASUS ROG RGB lighting blend well together.
Its spec sheet, which includes Wi-Fi 6E, support for PCIe 4.0, tons of ports — including two Thunderbolt 4 ones —, four M.2 SSD sockets, a super-fast 2.5 GB LAN, a premium audio solution, a robust power supply — 14+2 phases rated for 90A — and a solid BIOS, will satisfy virtually anyone looking for the best Z590 motherboard to build a gaming PC.
Not only is it a great performance motherboard, but it’s also easy and safe to overclock. In fact, it boasts large heat sinks in all VRMs to keep temperatures low, and all its components are of the highest quality. All of this allows you to overclock the processor for even higher performance without sacrificing system stability.
This latest iteration of the ROG Maximus Hero family of motherboards (Check on Amazon) offers everything you need to get the best out of a high-end Intel Rocket Lake (11th generation) CPU — like the Intel Core i9-11900K (Check on Amazon) — but it’s also backward compatible for anyone who is still using the 10th Gen Intel Comet Lake ones. If you don’t intend to buy an 11th-generation Intel processor, we recommend one of our Z490 picks. However, a Z590 motherboard is more future-proof.
MSI MEG Z490 Godlike: best premium Intel motherboard
Premium motherboards cost a small fortune, but if you can afford one like the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike (Check on Amazon), you can rest assured that you’ll get the best possible performance, at least among Intel’s range.
The MSI MEG Z490 Godlike is in fact the best Z490 motherboard and the best Intel motherboard yet. It has a solid build, it’s easy to install and customize, offers excellent thermal performance, and has extraordinary overclocking possibilities.
It is very similar to the previous MSI MEG Z390 Godlike motherboard but boasts the new Z490 chipset that implements more features and controllers like 10GbE Ethernet, three PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots (each with its own M.2 heat shield), and Thunderbolt 3 Type-C connectivity.
In addition, the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike includes two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports on the rear panel and support for up to five PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots using the Xpander-Z Gen4 M.2 add-on card (included among the motherboard’s accessories) which adds two extra M.2 slots.
The rest of the spec is similar to the previous MSI MEG Z490 Godlike: this motherboard also uses an E-ATX format and sports Mystic Light RGB and an OLED display showing all debugging codes and temperatures. The connectivity module on the back panel includes (beyond the two Thunderbolt 3 Type-C ports that we already listed) two USB 3.2 G2 Type-A ports, four USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports, and two USB 2.0 ports. We also find two buttons for USB BIOS Flashback and CMOS reset.
Network connectivity is entrusted to an Aquantia AQC107 10G and a Realtek RTL8125B 2.5G controller, while the Intel AX201 module is responsible for Wi-Fi 6 and BT 5.1 connectivity. As for SATA devices, MSI includes six SATA ports with support for type 0, 1, 5, and 10 RAID. Finally, the four dual-channel DDR4 memory slots support a total capacity of 128GB and can now handle speeds of up to 5000MHz.
This is an incredible motherboard that finishes in front of the similarly priced Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme (Check on Amazon) and Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Xtreme (Check on Amazon). If you think that you will use all of its extra features, then this is definitely the best Intel motherboard you can buy right now.