Friday, May 24, 2024

Best Gaming Motherboard 2021: The Foundation of Your Gaming PC

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Your choice of motherboard shouldn’t be an afterthought. Sure, your graphics card and CPU are easier to get excited about, since they’re the components that are most closely associated with all the in-game settings you’ll get to dial up and just how fast you’ll be running your games. But, your motherboard choice goes well beyond determining your CPU compatibility, and it has a lot more to do with the capabilities your gaming PC will ultimately have.Most mainstream motherboards will let you go with your choice of graphics cards, as PCIe 3.0 x16 slots are nearly ubiquitous, but your choice of motherboard will figure into just what other expansion cards you can use. The ability to set up multiple graphics cards or get plenty of bandwidth through numerous PCIe lanes will come down to your motherboard and its chipset. Your motherboard will also play into how much overclocking you can do, what RAM speeds you can enable via XMP, and how many different storage devices you can attach – just because a motherboard has eight SATA ports and two M.2 slots doesn’t you can populate all of those with drives.

With these things in mind, it’s worth considering your motherboard carefully before getting too excited about what your gaming PC will be able to do based off just its CPU and GPU. To help you through this selection process, we’ve rounded up a bunch of quality motherboards for both Intel and AMD systems, so you can find one that checks all your boxes. If you’re building a more compact system, then you should also check out the best Micro ATX motherboards. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can find the best gaming motherboard.

TL;DR – These are the Best Gaming Motherboards:

1. Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master

Best Intel Motherboard

Our Pick

Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master

On Amazon

You don’t want to run your high-performance Intel processor on just any motherboard, and the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master checks every box of what you should want from an enthusiast board. This Z490 motherboard offers up three PCIe x16 slots, letting you fit a ton of add-ins cards. That’ll readily let you run multi-GPU setups with either Nvidia SLI or AMD CrossFire.

You won’t miss out on fast storage either, as the board boasts three M.2 slots for PCIe 3.0 x 4 SSDs. Even better, this board offers a modicum of future-readiness as several of its PCIe slots are PCIe 4.0-ready, so they can effectively double their bandwidth when paired with a future Intel processor that supports the standard.

You also get plenty of high-speed connectivity. You’ll find a smattering of USB ports, support for Thunderbolt add-in cards, and even a 2.5 Gigabit LAN port to handle modern networking speeds. This board also has built-in Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity.

2. Asus ROG Maximus XII Apex

Best High-End Intel Motherboard

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Asus ROG Maximus XII Apex

On Newegg

If you want an Intel motherboard that can do even more, the Asus ROG Maximum XII Apex is here to take you to the extremes. This board is ready for overclocking, with built-in overclocking profiles for CPUs to help you easily get an effictive setup. The motherboard will feed your CPU power over two auxiliary 8-pin connectors to ensure it doesn’t come up short, and it’ll manage that power delivery with sixteen teamed power stages.

The rest of the board will give you plenty of performance as well. You’ll get two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that can each run in x8 to let you power a multi-GPU configuration. There are also two M.2 slots for PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe SSDs. And, your networking options will get a speed boost with both Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5 Gigabit LAN.

3. Asus TUF Gaming Z490-Plus

Best Mid-Range Intel Motherboard

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Asus TUF Gaming Z490-Plus

On Amazon

Asus’s TUF Gaming line gives you bang for your buck, and that can’t hurt when you’ve just plunked down some cash on a 10th-Gen Intel Core processor. The Asus TUF Gaming Z490-Plus will let you make the most of that chip with few compromises.

You’ll get plenty of room for high-speed memory, and even dual PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots (though the second only has 4 PCIe lanes). Three extra PCIe 3.0 x1 slots will let you connect an assortment of add-in cards, and two M.2 slots offer up room for fast NVMe SSDs. You’ll also find support for USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports and Thunderbolt, so you can connect high-speed peripherals.

4. ASRock H470 Phantom Gaming 4

Best Budget Intel Motherboard

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ASRock H470 Phantom Gaming 4

On Amazon

If you only need to let a few components in your system shine, there’s no shame in going with a more affordable motherboard. The ASRock H470 Phantom Gaming 4 is a compelling option.

At just about $100, it’ll get you up and running on the latest Intel CPUs. You won’t get the fastest RAM speeds or support for CPU overclocking, but many games don’t need you to go beyond stock speeds just to get playable visuals. You can get extra fast SSD speeds though, as there are two M.2 slots running at PCIe 3.0 x4 speeds. And, if you want to go heavy on graphics, this board supports CrossFireX.

5. Asus ROG X570 Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi)

Best AMD Motherboard

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Our Pick

Asus ROG X570 Crosshair Hero VIII (Wi-Fi)

On Newegg

The Asus ROG X570 Crosshair VIII Hero (Wi-Fi) gives you all the expandability and overclocking potential of a high-end AM4 motherboard, but without a price that completely empties your bank account. it still costs a pretty penny at $380, but it’s well worth the expense if you mean to take advantage of the untapped potential of your Ryzen-based system.

Thanks to its modern X570 chipset there support for a much wider range of dual-channel DDR4 memory, as well as PCIe 4.0 SSDs and GPUs. The light show you’ll be able to generate on this part is also quite the spectacle to behold, even if it isn’t quite ornate as the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Xtreme. This mobo is a hard-hitting performer.

6. MSI MEG X570 Godlike

Best High-End AMD Motherboard

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MSI MEG X570 Godlike

On Newegg

If you need a motherboard that’s going to be ready for just about anything you might want to throw at it with Team Red, then you’ll want the MSI MEG X570 Godlike.This E-ATX motherboard takes full advantage of the extended room and is ready to house your most powerful systems. The motherboard can handle some serious power delivery to the CPU for overclocking thanks to dual 8-pin connectors providing loads of juice to a 14+4 phase power deliver system with an advanced VRM design. That CPU overclocking potential can pair nicely with the memory overclocking.

The MSI MEG X570 Godlike also goes all-in on expansions. It features four full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slots, albeit with shared PCIe lanes among the first three and four lanes for the fourth slot. MSI is likely expecting you’ll want to use one or two of these for expanded storage and networking capabilities, as this premium package includes a 10Gb networking card and an M.2 Xpander-Z Gen 4 add-in card. Combine that Xpander-Z with the three M.2 SSD slots built onto the motherboard itself and you’ll be looking at some monstrous storage potential for up to five M.2 drives running at full PCIe 4.0 x4 speeds. It’s no wonder this motherboard is over $600.

7. ASRock X570 PG Velocita

Best Mid-Range AMD Motherboard

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ASRock X570 PG Velocita

On Newegg

It may seem like all the most impressive X570 motherboards come in at painfully high prices, but the ASRock X570 PG Velocita brings a lot to the table for under $300. On top of support for the latest AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs, the motherboard also supports memory speeds up to 5,000MHz. You also get plenty of system storage potential with dual PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slots in addition to eight SATA ports.

The board has plenty in the way of connectivity options. In addition to a plethora of USB ports (and even a Thunderbolt option), the board boasts Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and 2.5Gb networking. Throw in a splash of RGB lighting on the IO shroud and chipset cooler as well as support for RGB peripherals, and you’ve got a stylish and capable board at this mid-range price.

8. ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming 4

Best Budget AMD Motherboard

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ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming 4

On Newegg

If you need an affordable board to house your Ryzen rig, then the ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming 4 has you covered. This motherboard features AMD’s B550 chipset, ensuring you get full support for one of the hottest features from modern Ryzen chips: PCIe 4.0. This board includes a PCIe 4.0 x16 slot you can throw a graphics card in and an M.2 slot with PCIe 4.0 x4 speeds you’ll want to load up with a killer SSD.

The ASRock B550 Phantom Gaming 4 can support a variety of builds, whether you go light on extras and stick to air cooling or strap in a liquid cooler and go fully-loaded. It’ll let you connect up to six SATA drives (though you’ll be limited to four if you use the second M.2 SSD slot). You can make your case a veritable wind tunnel with connectors for four case fans. You’ve even got RGB control headers on the motherboard. So, where you save on your build budget with this motherboard, you can then splurge elsewhere.

Where to Get the Best Motherboard in the UK

Z490 Aorus Master

What’s Next For Gaming Motherboards

The announcement of Ryzen Threadripper 3rd Generation processors came with the introduction of TRX40 motherboards. Although it might seem like these motherboards have the same socket AMD has used since introducing its first Zen-based HEDT chips, this new platform utilizes a new sTRX4 socket that makes buying a new motherboard essential to any Threadripper 3rd Generation system.

While this will be an inconvenience to those hoping to continue using their X399 motherboards into the next generation, you at least get PCI-Express 4.0 support. In fact, you get 48 PCIe 4.0 lanes straight off the processor itself then another 24 from the TRX40 chipset—just be prepared to pay for some pricey motherboards

What to Look for in a Gaming Motherboard

Below we’ve broken down the various chipsets that Intel and AMD processors support along with what specifications and features you should look for in a motherboard.

You might be wondering what makes a motherboard good for gaming when you can pretty much game (to a limited degree) on an Ultrabook these days. Well, it comes down to choosing a gaming motherboard, you’ll want to find one that can do everything you want, whether that be overclocking your processor, having multiple M.2 slots for the fastest solid-state drives or Nvidia SLI and AMD Crossfire support to plug in more than one graphics card.

But let’s quickly go back to the most basic thing you should look for when buying a motherboard: chipsets. Intel and AMD processors are designed to work with a variety of tiered chipsets. The highest-end Intel motherboards will feature a Z390 chipset that supports the latest Intel 9th Generation processors with native 802.11ac Wi-Fi and USB 3.1 Gen 2 connectivity and up to 24 PCIe lanes. Additionally, these high-end motherboards will be made of better materials and components to consistently deliver the power necessary for overclocking components attached to them.

Just below that, you’ll find a Z370 chipset that is nearly identical to the Z390 chipset, except it lacks the native 802.11ac Wi-Fi and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support. With an H370 motherboard, Intel CPUs will only have access to 20 PCIe lanes while losing the ability to overclock. Next up is the Intel B360 chipset, which drops the number of PCIe lanes to 12. Lastly, the Intel H310 chipset only supports six PCIe lanes.

AMD motherboards mostly follow the same tiered system, except you’ll be able to overclock your CPU on almost any motherboard. The highest-end chipset on this platform is X570 and it complicates things a bit by having PCIe 4.0 lanes that support twice the bandwidth of PCIe 3.0 lanes. X570 comes with 16 PCIe 4.0 lanes and a Ryzen 3rd Generation CPU itself adds another 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes.

Older AMD AM4 platforms like X470 supports 28 PCIe 3.0 lanes, meanwhile, B450 motherboards only have access to 24 PCIe PCIe 3.0 lanes. The A320 chipset is the only one that doesn’t support overclocking Ryzen CPUs, but honestly, you’d be better off spending a little more on a B450 or B350 motherboard instead.

We mentioned PCIe lanes before and these are important because they dictate how many high-speed components you can install into your PC. For example, a single graphics card can use up 16 PCIe lanes and each NVMe SSD needs four PCIe lanes to operate at its maximum speed.

You’ll also want to look for a motherboard with all the physical PCIe slots you need to plug in your components. The good news is that most ATX boards come with at least two to three PCIe slots to slot in multiple GPUs using either Nvidia SLI or AMD Crossfire. M.2 PCIe slots will also be crucial for plugging in the fastest NVMe solid-state drives, should they be part of your build as well.

And those are pretty much the basics you need to know about buying yourself a quality motherboard. Be aware that we’ve primarily chosen only the best full-sized ATX motherboards in this guide, but there are also microATX and Mini-ITX motherboards to consider if you’re building a smaller PC.

More Expert Tech Roundups

Kevin Lee is IGN’s Hardware and Roundups Editor. Follow him on Twitter @baggingspam

Mark Knapp is a regular contributor to IGN and an irregular Tweeter on Twitter @Techn0Mark


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