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Last Update: Apr 09, 2019

Top 7 Gaming Motherboards

Published 14:46 PM
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While GPUs and processors dictate how well your computer can render games, motherboards play a vital behind-the-scenes role too. The best gaming motherboards optimize the performance of all the components of your rig so that you can play without a hitch.

The motherboard is perhaps the most ignored and neglected part of a PC build. You might think of it as just a board to plug all the parts in. But, every component of a computer is built around the motherboard. Slot types, socket speeds, memory support, power consumption, networking features, WiFi, overclocking capability – all directly depend on your motherboard.

So, buying the cheapest motherboard – one that is just compatible enough for your build – isn’t the way to go. In fact, it’s a recipe disaster in the long term. It won’t be compatible with newer components. It might throttle the performance of compatible components, and reduce the overall performance of your PC significantly.

Worst case scenario, it will cause irreparable damage to other parts and result in a complete system failure. 💻 ☠

That said, you don’t necessarily need to break the bank. The most expensive motherboards are, for most people, overkill. This is true for gaming motherboards, too. Gamers, even professional gamers, do not need super-expensive motherboards to compete at a high level. But, for example, if you want to buy one of the best CPUs for gaming, you should try to pick a motherboard that’s compatible with it as well.

It’s important to know that motherboards don’t have a direct impact on gaming. They don’t add fps or improve resolution directly. Instead, they optimize the performance of the components that matter.

The best gaming motherboards balance performance, price, and aesthetics just right. So, here’s a list of the best motherboards for gaming on the market in 2019.

1

Best Choice: Gigabyte z370 Aorus Gaming 5

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 13.18 x 10.62 x 3.14 inches
  • Weight → 4.29 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • LGA 1151 Socket
  • 4 DDR4 DIMM sockets.
  • Realtek ALC 1220 Audio
  • Smart Fan 5 for gaming

Gigabyte z370 Aorus Gaming 5 Review

The Gigabyte Aorus 5 is the ‘cheap’ version of the Aorus 7. The primary concern with the latter board was that it didn’t offer value for money. It had all the features you could imagine, but the price tag was just too high.

So, Aorus 5 was launched. It keeps all that’s necessary, offers an important update, and eliminates a few unnecessary (for most users) features, like the second Gigabit Ethernet port, a few buttons, and single M.2 heat spreader.

This time they added a WiFi adapter. It’s not the best in town, but it’s good enough to work without causing a problem. So, this leaves us with a motherboard that is, for all practical purposes, second to none.

The variety and number of USB headers are the same, meaning the board offers USB 3.1 and USB 2.0 support. Except for the USB 3.1 ports, all the ports get to have their own voltage regulators, allowing you to control the voltage level at all times.

Gigabyte z370 Aorus Gaming 5 Gaming Performance

Gaming and overclocking generate serious heat. You’ll be able to battle it all out, thanks to the class-leading fan control system that’s directly poached off the Aorus 7. You get an external temperature sensor header, temperature probes – the complete lot. If there’s one thing that sets the Aorus 5 apart, it’s the cooling system. It is excellent. Even high-end gaming shouldn’t be a problem.

There are two other features that stand out. Most sub-$200 boards offer only 2 M.2 slots. The Aorus 5 offers three. Also, most sub-$200 boards don’t have a POST-Code display whereas the Aorus 5 does. The POST code display is extremely useful when you’re having boot issues.

There are a few drawbacks as well. To begin with, the WiFi card is 1×1, which means the speed is limited to 433Mbps. While this won’t reduce performance drastically, the 867Mbps 2×2 is now the industry standard and the Aorus 5 doesn’t have it.

If you’re planning on using the third M.2 slot, you should know this. When you use it, the bottom PCIe slot will drop to two lanes, and that will affect performance.

Gigabyte has always been radical, flashy, and in-your-face with its RGB lighting. Some like it while others hate it. It’s up to you. The lights are gaudy, but if that’s your thing, go for it. But even if you aren’t a fan of the lighting, it’s too small a reason to ignore the Aorus 5. It ticks all the right boxes and does it below $200, which is why it’s the leads our list as the best gaming motherboard.

+Pros
  • Wi-Fi Enabled
  • Supports USB 2.0, 3.0 and 3.1
  • Support for RGB lighting is excellent
  • Designed for gamers
-Cons
  • PCIe lanes are reduced to two if the third M.2 slot is used.
  • 1 x 1 WiFi card instead of 2 x 2
2

Premium Pick: GIGABYTE X299 AORUS Gaming 7 Pro

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 15 x 12.25 x 4.22 inches
  • Memory Slots → 2
  • Form Factor → ATX
  • CPU Model Socket → LGA 2066

Key Features

  • Easy RAID
  • 2 Memory Slots
  • Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec
  • Fan speed controller

GIGABYTE X299 AORUS Gaming 7 Pro Review

If your budget isn’t too tight and you’re willing to spend on the very best product out there, the Gigabyte Aorus 7 Pro is for you.

It doesn’t work with any old PC, though. The Aorus 7 Pro is a HEDT (High-End Desktop) motherboard, meaning that you can only pair it with high-end processors like the Intel X line of CPUs.

The 7 Pro is actually an updated version of the Aorus 7. The Aorus 7 had only one drawback – value for money. So, within six months, the 7 Pro was launched. It now has new heatsinks, two extra M.2 heat spreaders, and a better voltage regulator. These changes have made a real difference.

VRM is the best in business. If you’re using a HEDT, chances are you need that performance. And with computers, high performance means high temperatures — lots of heat. To improve cooling performance, Gigabyte has changed its VRM altogether. Instead of a true 8 phase VRM, Gigabyte has now gone to a 12 phase (2 x 6 configuration) VRM that is far more powerful. Cooling isn’t an issue with this motherboard.

GIGABYTE X299 AORUS Gaming 7 Pro Gaming Performance

A more practical advantage for you, if you’re a gamer, is the sheer variety and quantity of ports. USB 3.1, internal USB 3.1 type C header, USB 3.0, Qualcomm WiFi and Bluetooth are just a few of the ports that are on offer. The advantage is that you will never have to compromise on hardware. The slots and ports are always there if you decide to add something new to your rig.

Audio matters to gamers. Bad audio is a buzzkill. Gigabyte has stepped up its hardware game big time. The 7 Pro features the amazing Realtek ALC1220 codec, which is the best in the industry right now. Gigabyte has also gone ahead and made a few hardware tweaks to improve sound and it impresses.

No product is perfect and the Aorus 7 Pro is far from perfect if you’re a gamer. If gaming is your primary aim, the Aorus 7 Pro is just way too expensive. It’s not just the motherboard that’s costly either. Every component that features in a 7 Pro build will be expensive.

The main problem you’ll have is processors. The 7 Pro features an LGA 2066 slot, rendering most Intel processors incompatible. Only the super-expensive Intel X (Skylake) line of processors is compatible. This is true of every other component.

So, if you’re building a rig exclusively for gaming, you’re better off with the Aorus 5.

There are a few technical problems as well. If you have a 16 lane CPU, they won’t support 2-way SLI with this motherboard, thanks to the way Gigabyte route PCIe lanes.  Also, memory overclocking is bad. For the price, it’s rather mediocre.

In conclusion, the 7 Pro is an amazing motherboard, but only if you have a real use for super-expensive PCs.

+Pros
  • Class leading VRM Thermals
  • Stunning LED lights
  • Abundant Temperature sensors and Fan Headers
  • Improved Voltage Regulator
-Cons
  • Pricey
  • The additional M.2 and PCIe slots share lanes
3

Best Value: Asus ROG B350-F Gaming

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 12 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Weight → 1.5 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • AM4 socket
  • Audio CODEC S1220A
  • AURA lighting control
  • ESD guards for LAN, Audio, and USB 3.0/2.0 ports

Asus ROG B350-F Gaming Review

The Asus ROG B350-F isn’t compatible with Intel processors. It’s an AMD offering with an am4 socket, meaning that it’s for computers that run on AMD Ryzen 2nd generation processors.

If you want AMD budget gaming, the B350 is the perfect board.  Though the BIOS needs a lot of optimization, we have no complaints with the Software Suite. Sure, it isn’t the best, but at this price, it’s more than good enough.

On the memory front, the can support 64GB DDR4 RAM. One quick tip is to buy memory that supports Asus Aura RGB.

Ports and header are important for gamers and Asus has been very generous here. 6 SATA ports of 6GB/s are on offer, meaning you never have to delete a game. Ensure that you buy a few SATA cables because Asus only ships 4 cables. There’s also an M.2 memory socket for high-speed data transfer.

One disadvantage that the B350-F has over other motherboards of a similar price is that isn’t the best looking board out there. The B350-F is rather plain and unassuming.

Asus ROG B350-F Gaming Performance

Aesthetics are a serious consideration for many gamers, and the B350-F is just not good enough to be put in a glass case, which is a shame because the board pretty much hits the nail on its head in every other aspect. This isn’t to say that the board looks bad. It’s just the competition looks much better.

One redemption for this lies in the RGB lighting. If you play around with the settings, the Asus really shines through. The colors and patterns are truly excellent.

For an inexpensive motherboard, the B350-F has amazing overclocking abilities. The software suite includes a program that allows you to overclock the processor easily. It’s just a one-step process and it works really well.

For the price, the Asus B350-F is an excellent motherboard. It offers enough ports, plenty of helpful features, and a cool RGB lighting setup. If you have an AMD am4 processor and want a simple, clean motherboard, the B350-F doesn’t disappoint.

+Pros
  • Value for Money
  • Easy Overclocking
  • LED setup is brilliant
  • Great feature to price ratio
-Cons
  • BIOS needs optimization
  • No WiFi limits for hardline connections
4

Best Audio: Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 12.2 x 14.17 x 3.54 inches
  • Weight → 4.89 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • AM4 Socket
  • 6x SATA 6GB/s
  • 2 x M.2 memory slots
  • 3x PCIe x16

 Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 Review

If you want something more powerful than the Asus B350-F for your AMD motherboard, the Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi is about as good as it gets.

Gaming 7 offers premium features without blowing a hole in your pockets. After a long time, Gigabyte is offering actual, real, working heatsinks. Because this board is usually paired with high-end Ryzen processors, this feature is really important.

Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 7 WiFi Gaming Performance

High-end AMD processors release a lot of heat and managing this heat is crucial to maintain performance levels. The board is stuffed with 10 VRM phases and high-rating inductors. For the actual cooling, Gigabyte has gone with a set of rather stunning fin-style heatsinks.

The cooling cavalry doesn’t stop there. You get 8 fan headers, two additional temperature input headers (with two temperature sensors), 2 2A headers, and full control. If you’re a gamer, you can stick one sensor to the GPU, meaning you always know the heat levels when you play.

On the audio front, you get the ALC1220. SNR has been improved and so has the hardware, meaning that you don’t have to miss out a killer audio experience.

I’ve mentioned before in the article that aesthetics is subjective, but this board challenges that. It looks amazing. The fin-style heat sinks add a flair to the overall design and the motherboard provides excellent RGB lighting.

After all, lighting is a bit of a specialty for Gigabyte and with the Gaming 7 WiFi, they have done something really thoughtful. They give you full control of the lights. In the past, some users complained that the lights on Gigabyte boards were too gaudy. That problem has now been fixed. You control the lights – all of them.

The only negative point about the board is the BIOS and Software suite. They aren’t optimized at all. A lot of work needs to go into these areas.

If you want a high-end motherboard for a reasonable price, there’s really no other board that’s better than the Gaming 7 WiFi. There are boards that cost twice as much and offer half the features. If you want high-end gaming, the Gigabyte X470 Aorus 7 WiFi is the way to go.

+Pros
  • Extensive features
  • Excellent price to feature ratio
  • Performance is consistent
  • Latest ALC1220 Audio Codec
-Cons
  • BIOS needs optimization
  • Gen2 M.2
5

Best Overclocking: Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 14.57 x 4.25 x 12.28 inches
  • Weight → 6.38 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4.0
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • LGA 1151 socket
  • 6 SATA Ports 6GB/s
  • ALC 1220 Audio Codec
  • Synchronized RGB Lighting

Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi Review

The Asus Maximus XI Hero is an expensive motherboard. If overclocking or high-end gaming isn’t that important to you, you’re better off with something cheaper.

The appeal of the Hero series motherboards is that it’s not as expensive as the Formula or Extreme boards and yet has all the Asus goodies. That includes water cooling heaters, Ai-overclocking, multi-zone Aura Sync, and much more.

All these features make it very attractive to one set of buyers. Overclockers.

Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi Gaming Performance

Because Intel Coffee Lake processors all derive their bus frequencies from a single reference clock, overclocking capabilities are somewhat restrained. You don’t get a lot of headroom. Asus has thought about it and come up with a plan.

The Hero XI has a separate, dedicated clock generator on board which feeds dynamic reference clocks to the processor, allowing you to extract maximum performance from the system.

Apart from all this, there’s also an Ai-overclocking tool. If you’re new to overclocking and aren’t sure of how things work, this Asus board will help you. In fact, it’ll do everything for you. A couple of clicks is all it takes to push an i7 into the 5GHz mark.

The Hero isn’t the best looking board out there, though. For the price, Gigabyte or MSI boards look far better. They have better LED lighting, sharp fin-style heatsinks, and much more.

The real drawback, however, is the price. There’s no denying the fact that the Hero performs very well. But, not everyone needs this extra performance. In fact, for most PC users, this board is useless.

Motherboards at this price point have a niche audience. Professional gamers, overclocking enthusiasts – basically people who want high-end performance. If you’re one of them, this is an excellent choice. If you’re just a casual gamer, invest in GPUs instead. Good GPUs will do infinitely more to better your gaming experience.

+Pros
  • One of the best boards for Overclocking
  • Improved M.2 Heatsink
  • 3D LED showpiece
  • WiFi Enabled out of the box
-Cons
  • Pricey
  • The 2nd M.2 slot is placed at an awkward angle
6

Gigabyte Z390 UD

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 12.79 x 10.23 x 2.75 inches
  • Weight → 4 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • LGA 1151 Socket
  • 3 PCIe 3.0 x16
  • 1 M.2 Slot
  • 64GB DDR4 RAM

Gigabyte Z390 UD Review

If you’re looking for a motherboard that costs well under $150 and can run an Intel i9 9900K with no VRM throttling, the Gigabyte Z390 UD is the one to have.

It’s one of the cheapest Z390 motherboards currently on sale, and yet, it features the best VRM for the price range.

The Z390 UD has one M.2 slot for high-speed data transfer and 6 SATA 6GB/s slots. It supports DDR4 RAM up to 64GB and is also equipped with an integrated RGB LED Header.

Gigabyte Z390 UD Gaming Performance

For your gaming needs, the board supports AMD CrossFireX technology that helps in linking multiple GPUs.

Given the price, there are a few drawbacks as well. There’s no support for USB 3.1 and it does not get the latest Realtek ALC1220 audio codec. Instead, you’ll have to make do with good old Realtek 8118.

But those are forgivable mistakes. The cooling is excellent and you get all the important stuff. The I/O panel has enough ports and connectors for most user’s needs and the UD also matches most entry-level boards in other common features.

The Gigabyte Z390 UD is the perfect choice if you want to use a high-end processor with a relatively inexpensive motherboard.

However, if you want something cheaper, there’s a simple way. You can go a generation back. Older motherboards have almost all the features of the new ones and are cheaper. The only caveat is that you’ll have to use an older processor as well. For most mainstream users, that doesn’t lead to a lot of differences at all.

+Pros
  • Inexpensive
  • Does not suffer VRM throttling
  • Native WiFi support
  • Integrated RGB-LED Header
-Cons
  • Plain Design
  • No USB 3.1 Support
7

Asus Prime z370 A

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Specifications

  • L x W x H → 12.01 x 1 x 8.58 inches
  • Weight → 2.5 lbs
  • Memory Slots → 4
  • Form Factor → ATX

Key Features

  • LGA 1151 Socket
  • 64GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2 M.2 Slots
  • Native USB 3.1 Support

Asus Prime z370 A Review

The Asus Prime Z370-A is a very popular board, outselling all the motherboards in this list. The reason for its popularity boils down to a combination of features, ports, aesthetics, and price.

Asus has been going with a steady design language for a while now. Jet blackboard with silver heatsinks. While it may sound plain, it actually looks very good. Add a good LED lighting system, you’ve got a looker here.

The other important reason for its popularity is the Software Suite and BIOS. The Asus Ai Suite gives you complete control over most hardware components. Fans, motherboards, LED lights – the lot.

The Z370-A is also one of the very few motherboards that offer 2 usable M.2 (one even gets a heat spreader) slots and three x16 PCIe lanes that can be used simultaneously. While similarly priced MSI motherboards offer more USB 3.0 ports, the Asus has enough to keep most users happy.

Asus Prime z370 A Gaming Performance

If you’re a gamer, this is why you’ll want to buy this board. Cheap SLI. Well, relatively cheap. The Asus Z370-A offers a high-bandwidth SLI, meaning you can have 2 GPUs connected and working together at the same time. This increases gaming performance significantly.

There are two things that we didn’t like about this board. One, it doesn’t offer any new features. Yes, there’s Ai Suite, but that’s not new by any means. Even in the Ai Suite, Asus does not include key features like Turbo Lan and Aura Sync.

The second problem is the overall port count and the types on offer. All included, the Asus Prime Z370-A has just 6 I/O ports, which is low by any standard. This includes the PCIe 3.1 USB ports as well. For a company that’s trying to appeal to gamers, this is a serious oversight.

However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem for most buyers. People usually buy this board for its inexpensive SLI and M.2 slots, which are key to gaming performance. While we would have loved to see more I/O ports, the pros on this board easily outweigh the cons.

+Pros
  • High Bandwidth SLI Bridge
  • Value for money
  • Supports 6 SATA drives and M.2 Slots
  • Excellent memory bandwidth
-Cons
  • Only 6 I/O ports
  • Overclocking capability isn’t great

Gaming Motherboard Buying Guide

Terminology, tech language, lingo – call it what you want, but this is what most new PC builders find the most confusing about motherboards. There are just way too many names and numbers to digest in one go.

If you’re new to this PC building world, these are the few names and numbers you should know.

ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ATX

These terms are collectively referred to as the ‘Form Factor’ of a motherboard. In essence, they are simple dimensions. Most everyday PCs are built on the ATX platform, meaning that the board size is around 9.6 x 12 inches.

Every motherboard in the list above is an ATX board, which is usually the choice for most users, including gamers.

motherboard parts closer look

Micro ATX and Mini ATX are smaller motherboards that are usually used for SFF (Small Form Factor) builds.

Of course, there are other differences too. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll just say, chances are, you need an ATX motherboard.

CPU Sockets

A lot of new builders seem to have a problem with this. Simply put, a CPU Socket it a hole on the motherboard into which a processor is plugged.

Specific processors need specific socket types. Not all AMD motherboards are compatible with all AMD processors. For example, if you have an AMD motherboard which was paired with an AMD Ryzen 1700x, you cannot use the same motherboard for the new Ryzen 7 2700x.

black motherboard

Why?

The 1700x used an am3 socket while the Ryzen 7 uses an am4 socket. The same is true of Intel processors away.

PCIe Express Slots

x16, x8, x4, and x1 – these are the slots.

They usually hold video cards, graphics cards, and other board components. As a general rule, higher the number, longer the slot. So, x16 is a long slot which can accept long cards and x1 is a small slot that can accept a short card.

A short card can be used on a long slot but the vice versa isn’t possible. These days, x8 and x4 are becoming rare. You’re more likely to encounter the x16 and x1 slots.

If you plan on installing a graphics card, you should know this. The best graphics cards for gaming need an x16 slot, which supports x16 bandwidth.

X470 AORUS Gaming 7 WiFi Motherboard

Without getting into too many details, here’s a simple explanation.

Some x16 slots don’t really have that much bandwidth. Think of them as dummies. They are useful elsewhere, but not if you’re installing a graphics card. For example, even a cheap gaming GPU under $150 needs all the bandwidth.

So, when installing a graphics card, make sure you put it in an x16 slot that actually has the bandwidth and the lanes required.

These aren’t the only terms that matter. There are lots more, but if understanding these terms will make your buying experience far easier.


Motherboards for Gaming: Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions about motherboards from people working on their first builds. We answer the most popular ones here

What is the difference between LGA motherboards and AM motherboards?

They are just different sockets. LGA sockets are for Intel processors whereas AM sockets are AMD sockets.

Should I buy a motherboard with built-in WiFi?

If you have a wired broadband connection, save some money with non-WiFi motherboards. WiFi boards with the same specifications and features are significantly pricier. If you end up needing a WiFi connection in the future, you can always stick an adapter/antenna to the system.

Are Intel motherboards better than AMD for gaming?

Motherboards do not have a direct impact on gaming at all. Instead, they help other components perform flawlessly.

Intel gaming motherboards are usually preferred to AMD ones owing to IPC scores and core strengths. However, if you do use a lot of 3D creation applications, or do a lot of streaming and video editing, AMD processors are far better. There are some really good AMD gaming processors in the market currently.

How many RAM slots should my motherboard have?

The number of slots is becoming almost irrelevant these days. That being said, 2 to 4 slots are more than enough.

ssd mounting compatibility motherboard

For gaming and most non-gaming tasks, 16GB is more than enough, especially if you have the best RAM for gaming. However, if you are you’re going to use a lot of high-end applications, 32GB is better. Even for 32GB RAM, 2 slots that house 16GB each are enough.

Does motherboard aesthetics really matter?

Not really. It’s just that. Aesthetics. If you’re a casual gamer, your motherboard won’t even be visible to the outside world. It’s inside the PC case. So, unless you’re installing a transparent case (glass, for example), no one will even know how good (or bad) your motherboard looks.

How many ports should my motherboard have?

The answer is very simple. As many as you can. More the better. No exceptions.

These are some points that’ll help you make a more informed decision when you’re buying a motherboard. All the boards on this list are excellent. They’ll do the job just fine. Go through the FAQ and the Buying Guide again so that you pick the best one for you.

Happy building!


Sources:

  1. Steve Lander, Characteristics of a Motherboard, Chron
  2. Microprocessor, Wikipedia
  3. CPU Compatibility Tool, Intel
  4. CPU Support List, Gigabyte
  5. AMD CPU Technologies, AMD Support
  6. Brian Jung, Purpose of a Motherboard, Chron
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