What you have to learn about motherboards? What’s the coolest, most individual part of your rig? It’s not the CPU. Those all look the same, and there are only a few notable ones per cycle anyhow. It’s not the graphics card either, although those are pretty cool. They have a bit more range than CPUs, but very little. The coolest part of your system, the part with the most personality and design without a doubt, is the motherboard. There’s one for every single use, specific niche and sensibility. It’s hard to believe how many of them are out there.
When it comes to video gaming, it’s a good idea to be choosy about motherboards. Drawbacks that otherwise go unnoticed in office applications can crash the party in action or racing games, and keep you off leaderboards like a case of shaky hands. Ensure those costly drives, graphics cards and overclocked CPUs live up to their possible by giving them a loving home with an excellent motherboard.
The Best Gaming Motherboards
New Broadwell-E CPUs were released last month, however did not bring along a new platform chipset from Intel. Rather, they’re totally compatible with existing X99 motherboards. Our tests also figured out that if you’re video gaming on X99, choosing Haswell-E is still the better choice for gaming.
Skylake CPUs require a brand-new family of chipsets, which finally pave the lanes wide for serious I/O efficiency. We’ve created a separate guide on the best Z170 motherboard for lovers, while this guide covered all the bases. The 170 chipset blurs the lines in between Intel’s severe and basic platforms with a lot of positive results for players and enthusiasts, although X99’s greater prices have rubbed off a little, too.
The best mid-range Skylake motherboard (LGA 1151)
- Budget price for mid-range features
- Overclocks well
- Smart component list, solid building and construction
- BIOS a bit thin
MSI continues its winning streak in a shocking upset victory over ASUS with the Z170A Gaming Pro, a simple mix of style, features, and price that resets expectations for motherboards under $150. Matching the more costly ASUS Pro Gaming in features however beating it conveniently in price and present firmware stability, MSI seems to have a much better grip on Intel’s new chipset than the competition, a minimum of in this segment.
With a $130 street price, the Z170A Gaming Pro nearly certifies as budget hardware but delivers an experience well beyond the modest asking price, with full-speed M. 2, 14 USB ports including a pair of 10 Gb/s 3.1 adapters, boosted ALC1150 audio, and a completely adjustable Mystic Light LED range along the right edge of the motherboard.
Memory support complete at a lofty 3600 MHz, however more relevant are steady, basic XMP profiles, an accomplishment ASUS is still having difficulty carrying out, numerous BIOS modifications after the release of its competing Z170 Pro Gaming board.
The best well-rounded Skylake motherboard (LGA 1151)
2. Asus Z170-Pro
- Exceptional overall efficiency
- Solid BIOS
- No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
- Few gaming-specific features
If you’re tired of waiting while ASUS sorts out the Pro Gaming series or gun-shy about going with MSI, ASUS provides the Z170-Pro. This non-gaming focused alternative features better VRM hardware than either of those midrange boards along with ALC 1150 audio, Intel v219 Ethernet, suppressed white/silver looks, and ASUS’s signature-series BIOS, a package that offers the best overall experience on LGA1151 today.
Skipping past the beta-board waiting line will cost you a bit though, as the Z170-Pro is just readily available at its large preliminary market price of $195, making it pricey for a general recommendation however the best fit for the vast $200 gap in between Z170 mid-range and newly found $300+ high-end frontier. These are early days for Skylake nevertheless, so expect $150-170 street costs soon, once the new-car scent disappears and the discount rates start.
Appearances are sharp for a mainstream motherboard. The white plastic shroud and silver heat spreaders that ASUS signature boards share appear sedate at first but match all elements equally. In a nod to MSI’s Mystic Light, a mini color and pulse adjustable LED light show lives under the chipset logo design guard, adding some flash right where the side window on a lot of cases lives and providing a welcome touch of character, among the Z170-Pro’s few deficiencies.
The best mini-ITX Skylake motherboard (LGA 1151)
- Great function set for the money
- Full-speed M. 2 slot on back
- Wacky BIOS
- Early stability problems
ITX remains a land of minimal returns for players, although Skylake’s power and heat decreases imply much better construct situations than Haswell might offer. While ASRock’s Fatal1ty series narrowly missed taking the budget pick in the ATX form aspect, the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/AC managed to land the total ITX recommendation for Z170 with a full-sized function list in addition to some special techniques that separate it from the remainder of the pint-sized pack.
Considering that a substantial sector of small builds pull double task as media servers and HTPC’s, ASRock fortifies wireless qualifications with full 802.11 air conditioning dual antenna Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 and sets them off with Intel’s latest v219 Ethernet.
Audio gets an upgrade with a boosted 7.1 channel ALC1150 codec mated to optical ports. There’s likewise HDMI 2.0 built in, a long overdue feature and a crucial one for libraries use.
The best high-end Skylake motherboard (LGA 1151)
- Dual Intel LAN
- Exceptional overclocking support
- Really expensive
- Early issues with secondary DIMMs
While ASUS might be having problems with a few mid-range boards, there’s no issue at the high end. A perusal of the product catalog reveals a bunch of overachievers above $200. There isn’t really a loser in the lot, however some are smarter than others, and the Z170 Deluxe is ASUS’s general valedictorian. A genius in motherboard type, it can do whatever other motherboards do, only much better.
It starts with function list that leans to the tangible. While other high-end boards promote fairly abstract upgrades such as armor plating or level-up electronic devices, ASUS offers you additional LAN ports, triple antenna 1300 Mb/s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and half a dozen 10 Gb/s USB 3.1 ports, consisting of an elusive built-in type C adapter.
This motherboard isn’t low-cost, however you’ll never ever wonder where the cash went. There’s a rack loaded with additional elements spilling from every aperture.
The best mid-range Haswell motherboard (LGA 1150)
- Restrained ROG style
- Piece de resistance
- No USB 3.1
- No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
Asus has dominated the mid- to high-end motherboard market in the last few years, and the present generation is no exception. The generic however reliable (and out of stock) Z97-A works well as a standard recommendation, however if you’re ready to drill down a bit into the item lineup, the scenario get more intriguing.
Not listed in many Asus comparisons is a hybrid board that combines some of the much better Republic Of Gamers brand features along with the robust simpleness of the primary Pro series, a line of product Asus named the Z97 Pro Gamer.
Sporting a stylish however restrained black and red color scheme, a 10Gbs M. 2 socket, 8-phase VRM, a bunch of controller-enabled fan headers and plenty of overclocking techniques, it’s the best mix of features and style in the midrange market, running $160 on the street.
The best budget plan Haswell motherboard (LGA 1150)
- Terrific price
- Improved ALC 1150 audio
- Cant get Intel Ethernet and M. 2 on the same design
- Budget plan board building
ASRock’s Fatal1ty takes the budget motherboard pick b
y combining a considerable amount of midrange features, easy installation and trick overclocking for an overall package that’s hard to beat for the price.
While not as robust as Asus’s low-budget runner up, the H97 Gamer Pro, the Fatal1ty matched Asus’s raw efficiency and outdistanced ASRock’s own Z97 Extreme boards on cost, stability and compatibility in this price-sensitive segment.
Making use of Iow-latency Intel gigabit Ethernet and Crystal Sound-enhanced Realtek 1150ALC audio, the H97 Fatal1ty Performance forgoes M. 2 support to reach a great $80 street price, and represents the best option in budget plan video gaming if you’re sticking with basic SSD drives, such as Samsung’s 850 EVO.
The best high-end Haswell motherboard (LGA 1150)
- Restrained and sophisticated style
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Fantastic overclocking
- Slow M. 2 slot
Stuck in between the quality of the Z97 midrange and the opulence of X99 extreme platforms, high-end Z97 boards have a tough time standing apart. While the driver and BIOS desertion issues that pestered the early gaming motherboard brand name period are mainly gone, it’s hard to justify spending over $200 when much better choices exist both up and down the ladder.
The smart technique for high-end Z97 consumers concentrates on helpful features over seasonal styles, which puts Asus’s Z97 Pro Wi-Fi/USB 3.1 at the top of the list. One of the few products that include USB 3.1, Bluetooth and high-speed Wi-Fi integrated on the motherboard, the Z97 Pro satisfies most computing needs out of the box and leaves the slots and ports complimentary to set up as you like.
Fully grown drivers, Intel-based gigabit Ethernet and 12-phase CPU power control amount to steady, low-latency operation and the highest LGA 1150 overclock ratings in this assessment – a steady 4.8 GHz from the laboratory’s Intel i7 4790K.
The best mini-ITX Haswell motherboard (LGA 1150)
- Healthy overclocks
- M. 2 slot
- Great worth
- Only 2 DRAM slots
The number of legitimate ITX video gaming system situations are almost as small as the motherboards themselves, so there’s just a set of suggestions for motherboards in this class, the Asus Z97I Plus and the Maximus VII Impact. Why aren’t we insane about ITX for video gaming? Well, you’re paying a lot more for the miniature form-factor and getting less in return. Tiny boards only have space for many features, so some ATX niceties get cut, and cooling is harder in a smaller case, too.
However if you do wish to build a small ITX rig that can being in your living-room or on top of your desk, you may as well get an excellent one. Despite a restricted 6 stage VRM and simply two DRAM slots, this little Asus Z97I Plus showed a proficient overclocker in testing and is more likely to be limited by the truths of ITX enclosure cooling than any motherboard design limits.
You’ll discover less ports than bigger offering but 2T2R Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are both standard, along with a 10 Gb/s M. 2 slot situated on the back of the motherboard, options that are most likely to get plenty of use for libraries responsibility. At $155 on the street, the Asus Z97I Plus provides all you need from an HTPC box at midrange motherboard costs. Too bad Asus didn’t include ALC1150 audio.
The best Intel Extreme motherboard (LGA 2011 v3)
- Great looking
- Lots of PCI lanes
- USB 3.1 by means of bundled PCI card
Nice as high-end Z97 is, it’s the Haswell-E and Broadwell-E builds that represent completion of the rainbow for Intel players, and the Asus Rampage V Extreme is the best board I’ve checked in this high-end dreamland. As Jarred pointed out in his review of Broadwell-E however, Hasewll-E CPUs still represent the better buy for actual gaming tasks.
Asus has a new version of its X99 flagship called the Rampage V Edition 10. The new board brings along numerous brand-new features:
- Onboard U. 2
- Auto detection of PWM/DC fans on each header
- High amperage fan headers, efficient in providing 3 amps
- SpremeFX HiFi audio chipset
- RGB lighting galore with 5 zones
- Reinforced PCIe slots
The Rampage V Edition 10 cost’s $130 more than the Rampage V Extreme, so for many X99 users, we still reckon that the Extreme is still the best buy.
X99 and Haswell-E make more sense for desktop performance junkies like videographers than they do for players, as the core count efficiency advantages over high-end Z97 systems do not equate into framerate boosts or included features beyond ultra-rare triple- or quad-GPU setups, but video gaming systems based upon X99 motherboards still have some techniques up their sleeves.
Currently, Haswell-E is the home of the fastest 4-lane gen 3 M. 2 slots. While Z97 technically supports this type of M. 2 slot, so few producers implement it that it’s simpler to just strive X99 or bite the bullet and go NVMe by means of an Intel 750 PCI card. If you’re having doubts this single function makes a difference, reconsider. These drives move information at rates three times the speed of the fastest SATA SSDs; it’s an increase you’ll see instantly.
The best AMD motherboards (AM3+)
- Solid building
- Excellent overclocking
- Old-fashioned BIOS
With AMD motherboards constantly on sale nowadays there’s little reason to cut corners if you’ve decided to build an AM3+ or FM2+ based system. Gigabyte’s GA-970A-UD3P is the best place to begin for a spending plan AM3+ build; around 90 dollars gets you a generic but reliable board with an 8 +2 phase VRM and a solid collection of SATA drive controllers and USB adapters.
You likewise get a few modern-day touches like BIOS backups and quick-charge USB ports, however there’s a clearly vintage feel to the procedures given that AM3+ is getting on a bit in years.
You will not get SLI support on the GA-970A-UD3P’s cut-down AMD 970 chipset but Crossfire remains an alternative if you seem like filling expansion slots. If you can bear the cost, stepping up to the complete FX chipset is recommended as the versatility well worth the price and some of the alternatives are unexpected.
The best AMD motherboards (FM2+)
11. Asus A88X-Pro
- Distinct look
- ALC1150 audio
- Quality building
- No M. 2 support on FM2+
Life with the A88X chipset is a bit more contemporary and bit less expensive since it’s still an actively established platform created for tight budgets from the start. Considering that you will not be purchasing a video card, you can spend a bit more on the motherboard and 2400+ Mhz DRAM to draw out the most from your rig, which suggests skipping the lower end boards and go straight to the midrange. That makes the Asus A88X-Pro the primary choice for FM2+.
You can find more affordable A88X boards, however the 10 or 20 dollars saved at this level aren’t worth the reduced stability or features they’ll cost you down the road.
The sensible $100 entry charge gets Realtek ALC 1150 audio, a steady 6 +2 stage VRM and an appealing, unique Asus gold color heat spreader design which includes a nifty looking heat pipeline that snakes throughout the board for better thermal circulation.
You do not get Intel Ethernet but a minimum of the included generic Realtek gigabit doesn’t frustrate like Killer’s previous LAN bundle software application. Asus’s UEFI BIOS and tuning software application control permit easy, highly granular control of the CPU, iGPU and RAM speeds, so you can have fun squeezing the most from your APU and high speed DDR3 DRAM. M. 2 is also missing, however that’s nothing new as no FM2+ boards are shipping with M. 2 slots at this time.
The best high-end AMD motherboard (FM2+)
If you ‘d like to spend lavishly, $150 gets you the Crossblade Ranger, which includes Intel Ethernet, improved audio via the FX, dual 16X PCIe 3.0 slots and ROG red/black accents instead of standard Asus gold. DPC latency decreases in the process also, no doubt due to that Intel NIC.
Without M. 2 or USB 3.1, the Crossblade Ranger feels somewhat behind the curve however you will not discover another ROG product near its price, so if you’re trying to find entry into Asus’s special club, this is the least expensive ticket around. Besides, isn’t really that what you have all those slots for?