Gaming pc motherboard and cpu

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7 Best Motherboard CPU Combos for Gaming

Getting the best processor for your needs is the cornerstone of every PC build. Go too low and you’ll create a CPU bottleneck. Spend too much on a CPU and you won’t have enough money for a graphics card that can follow it. The best course of action is buying a processor that’s just right for your needs.

A high-end CPU won’t do you much if you’re left without enough money for a fast GPU. In that case, it’s better to buy a budget gaming CPU and pair it with a fast graphics card. Because, you know, budget CPUs are more powerful than you think. And then there are the motherboards.

A quality motherboard doesn’t mean a high price and every single feature you can get. You have excellent boards, especially for Ryzen CPUs, that are quite affordable and provide superb bang for the buck. The result, getting the best CPU and board for your needs, may seem tricky but it isn’t. And today we will show you it isn’t by listing the best CPUs and boards to pair them with. Check out the 6 best CPUs (for gaming and productivity) and 6 best boards (along with alternatives), for both Intel and AMD processors.

Best Entry-Level Gaming Motherboard CPU Combo

Intel Core i3 10100F

Gigabyte B460M DS3H V2

Let’s start with an entry-level combo that’s perfect for playing esports games and indies. You can also play AAA titles with this combo. On the flip side, the 10100F will have less than stellar performance when running CPU-intensive titles such as Battlefield V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, or the current Hitman trilogy. We went with the cheapest 10th gen Core i3 because, at the moment, comparable Ryzen CPUs (Ryzen 3 3100 and the 3300X) sell for ludicrous prices. If you have enough money for Ryzen 3 CPUs, then you should get the Core i5 10400F instead.

Overall, the Core i3 10100F is a nice little gaming CPU that you can pair with an entry or mid-range graphics card. Its 4 cores and 8 threads make for an excellent Windows experience. If you’re on a tight budget, you can also use the 10100F for stuff like video editing. Just be ready for long waiting times for stuff to finish. As for the motherboard, the Gigabyte B460M DS3H V2 is one of the cheapest B460 motherboards that will have no issues running the 10100F. The board’s good enough to be paired with something like the Core i5 10400F down the line, but we wouldn’t recommend it for anything over six cores.

The board has two M.2 slots, six USB ports, it supports dual-channel memory, and 11th gen Intel CPUs after a BIOS update. Overall, a pretty solid choice that won’t break the bank. Now, if you have some extra cash you might opt for the B560M DS3H. This is a newer board that supports memory overclocking. This means you can run memory faster than DDR4 2666, giving you a noticeable performance boost. Later on, you could upgrade to something like the Core i5 11400F.

Best Budget Gaming Motherboard CPU Combo

Intel Core i5 10400F

MSI MAG B560M Bazooka

Going up a notch we have the 10400F paired with a budget B560 motherboard. We didn’t go with the 11400F because, at the moment, it sells for an overly inflated price and it just isn’t worth getting. If you find the 11400F at its MSRP then, by all means, get it over the 10400F. With that said, the 10400F is a capable gaming CPU. It has six cores with hyperthreading, an all-core boost clock of 4.2GHz, and it can tackle any game you throw at it with ease. Unless you plan on getting something like the RTX 3080 or the RX 6800 or higher, the 10400F will be just fine. You can freely get it if you plan on pairing it with a high-refresh-rate monitor. The 10400F also is a quite capable budget CPU for heavy multithreaded workloads, which is another plus.

When picking the motherboard, we realized that it’s better to go with a B560 chipset. The reason is that the price difference compared to value B460 motherboards are almost non-existent while you get support for memory overclocking. The B560M Bazooka is a great motherboard for the price. It will have no issues running the 10400F without power limits and with fast (DDR4-3200 or faster) memory. This will give you a noticeable boost to performance, as long as you run the memory in dual-channel mode. The B560M Bazooka is also a solid investment for the future. It can run, for instance, the 10700F, 10900F, or the 11700F, giving you nice upgrade options down the line.

The board has two M.2 slots, six USB ports, six SATA Ports, and a basic audio section. The ASUS TUF Gaming B560M-Plus Wi-Fi is a great substitute if you need wireless connectivity. It’s a bit more expensive but if you find it at the same or lower price than the Bazooka, get the B560 TUF instead, even if you don’t need Wi-Fi. And yes, the 10400F doesn’t support PCIe 4.0 but, if we’re being honest, chances are you won’t need a PCIe 4.0 SSD for gaming anytime soon.

Best Value Motherboard CPU Combo

Intel Core i5 10600KF


If you want to get the best bang for the buck gaming CPU, get the Core i5 10400F. But the Intel Core i5-10600KF isn’t far off. This is a powerful 6-core CPU that will chew through any current AAA title without breaking a sweat. The 10600KF’s stock gaming performance is a bit slower than the Ryzen 5 5600X, which is 50 percent more expensive. And once you overclock the 10600KF to 5GHz the performance difference melts less than 10%. And that’s at 1080p. Since we reckon gamers who buy the 10600KF won’t game at 1080p, you can count that these differences stay below 10 percent on average at 1440p. This makes the 10600KF an excellent purchase at the moment. You lose PCIe 4.0 support compared to the 5600X, but you won’t need it anytime soon, not for SSDs or for GPUs.

Now, you might spend a bit extra on the cooler if you plan on overclocking, making the price difference between the 10600KF and 5600X a bit smaller. But even if that’s the case, you will save some cash by going with the Intel CPU. As for the motherboard, the MSI Z490-A Pro is an affordable Z490 motherboard that can run the [email protected] without issues. It’s comparable in price to B550 boards of the same quality. It packs an excellent VRM section for the price, two M.2 slots, 2.5Gb Lan, six USB ports, and a mid-tier audio section. Overall, this is a great purchase and a perfect pairing for the 10600KF.

If you want to save some cash you can get the Gigabyte Z490 UD, another affordable Z490 motherboard that can run the [email protected] Overall, this is a compelling CPU and motherboard combo for gaming. You’ll get the almost identical performance to the 5600X for noticeably less cash. We would recommend the 5600X only if you get something like the RTX 3080 or RX 6800 XT and you want to squeeze every frame from these GPUs. And when it comes to future upgrades, we don’t recommend counting on those. Intel’s 8 and 10-core 10th and 11th gen CPUs don’t bring enough of a performance boost, at least in games, to justify the upgrade over the 10600KF. That said, the 10600KF should last you for years for 1440p high refresh rate gaming.

Best All-Around Motherboard CPU Combo

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X

MSI Prestige X570 Creation

If you want to get the best all-around CPU, there’s only one choice. The Ryzen 9 5950X is a beast of a processor, boasting 16 cores and 32 threads, with a maximum boost clock of over 5GHz. That’s impressive. And when it comes to gaming performance, there’s no better CPU than the 5950X. On top of all that, this 16-core behemoth is incredibly power efficient, being way below the Intel lineup when it comes to the max TDP.

The motherboard we picked to pair with the 5950X is also a behemoth. The Prestige X570 Creation packs everything you might imagine you could find on a consumer-grade motherboard. 12 USB 3.2 ports, Wi-Fi 6, 10Gb LAN, top of the line VRM, server-grade PCB, two M.2 slots with an add-on card that has room for two more, A bunch of OC-friendly features, three PCIe x16 slots, a ton of RGB, etc.

Together, these two make for an ultimate consumer-grade combo. If you want something more powerful, you have to look at the Threadripper lineup. Of course, you don’t need the Prestige X570 Creation for the 5950X to reach its maximum. Any quality B550 or X570 board will do. If we had to pick another board, we would probably go with the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero for its excellent overclock features. Or maybe the MSI MEG X570 Unify, which is another board that has it all sans 10Gb LAN. There’s also the X570S Tomahawk Max if you don’t like a chipset that needs active cooling. Creators should take a look at the Gigabyte X570S Aero G, which has a ton of fast USB ports, four M.2 slots, and a stunning design.

Best Productivity Motherboard CPU Combo

AMD Ryzen 9 5900X

Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master

The Ryzen 9 5900X is just below the 5950X in terms of gaming and multithreaded performance. This is a 12-core CPU that can reach almost 5GHz and that destroys any productivity benchmark like it was made of butter. Gaming performance is virtually the same as on its larger cousin, making the 5900X the best choice for people who want the best but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the 5950X.

We’ve chosen the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master as the pairing for the 5900X because this board offers a plethora of features along with one of the best designs we’ve seen, while not being one of the most expensive X570 boards on the market. You get three M.2 slots, ten USB ports, a 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, superb VRM section, excellent audio section that features Sabre HiFi DAC, a ton of extra features, and excellent RGB implementation. You can pair the 5900X with any quality B550 or X570 board while keeping its incredible performance.

Our recommendation for a budget X570 board would be something like the ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Pro, MSI X570 Tomahawk, or the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Elite. You could also get the MSI B550 Tomahawk, ASUS ROG Strix B550-F Gaming, or the beautiful Gigabyte B550 Vision D. Of course, all the boards we recommended for the 5950X are also great choices for the 5900X. Finally, while the 5900X is a beast, if you make money with your CPU and if the faster-multithreaded performance of the 5950X can save you time and earn you more money, feel free to go for the 5950X over the 5900X. Time is money, after all, so if you do a ton of rendering or video production and earn a living out of it, you could benefit from the four extra cores found on the flagship CPU.

Best Motherboard CPU Combo for Gaming

AMD Ryzen 5 5600X

Gigabyte B550M Aorus Pro-P

If you’re a gamer and don’t plan on doing anything other than gaming, watching YouTube, and performing lightweight tasks along with some simple photo and video editing, you don’t need anything more powerful than the Ryzen 5 5600X. This six-core CPU is just a hair below the 5800X, 5900X, and 5950X when it comes to gaming performance while costing way less. And no, you won’t need anything more than a six-core CPU for gaming for the considerable future.

Those claims saying that an 8-core CPU will age better than a faster six-core part aren’t grounded in reality. The 5600X is perfect both for 1080p and 1440p high refresh rate gaming. You can pair it with any GPU on the market and the most you will lose is a couple of frames when running undemanding esports titles. The 5600X is a perfect match for the RTX 3080 (Ti) or the RX 6800 XT. And since this Ryzen part is surprisingly power efficient, you can put it into a budget board and the CPU will still be fast as hell. With that said, we would recommend getting an aftermarket cooler since the CPU will lose a portion of its performance if you decide to use the box cooler.

Our board recommendation is the Gigabyte B550M Aorus Pro-P. This is a budget B550 board that has two M.2 slots, ten USB ports, 2.5Gb LAN, a solid audio section, and a VRM section capable of running the 5900X or the 5950X (without PBO) if you plan on upgrading the CPU down the line. Another great board to pair with the 5600X is the B550 Tomahawk from MSI. If you need Wi-Fi connectivity, get something like the MSI B550 Gaming Edge, or B550M Mortar (regular B550M Mortar is also an excellent choice). The ASUS Prime B550M-A WiFi is another quality board if you want to save some cash.

Of course, the market has a ton of other boards that are a great match for the 5600X. Just remember that the 5600X isn’t a power-hungry CPU. It’s better to save some money on the motherboard that you can spend on a better GPU or more RAM than to have an expensive board and less memory or less graphical performance for your gaming sessions. Now, if you plan on streaming or if you use your PC for more demanding video editing or rendering projects, the 5600X isn’t the best choice. In that case, you’d be better off by getting the 5800X, 10700KF, or some other CPU with eight or more cores.

Best Motherboard CPU Combo for Overclocking

Intel Core i9 10900K

MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk

Look, the Core i9 10900K isn’t the performance champion anymore. AMD Ryzen CPUs are better both at games and productivity. But the 10900K still is the most fun processor to have if all you care about is pushing it to its limits. This is an overclockers’ dream so if all you care about is playing with the CPU and trying to break new personal records, we recommend getting the 10900K. 11th gen CPUs are already pushed to their breakpoint out-of-the-box. And AMD Ryzen counterparts all have meek overclocking potential. For these reasons, the 10900K is still the best choice for people who want to overclock the hell out of their CPU while still having excellent gaming performance.

The MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk is an excellent Z490 motherboard and one that can follow the 10900K over the magic 5GHz barrier. That said, if you don’t mind spending more cash, there are several boards out there made for OC-heads. Boards such as the MSI MEG Z490 Unify, Z490 Ace, ASUS Maximus XII Apex, or the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Xtreme Waterforce. If you want to get a Z590 board, there’s the ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Extreme and MSI MEG Z590 Godlike.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do motherboards come with a CPU?

No. Motherboards and CPUs are sold separately. Bundling them would severely limit the options a PC builder would have when it comes to building their rig.

How do I know what CPU is compatible with my motherboard?

You’re gonna need to pay attention to a few things. The most obvious is the socket (LGA 1151 and AM4 for example), but you also want to look at the memory (DDR3 and DDR4 for example) and chipset compatibility (Z390 and B450 for example).

How much should I spend on a motherboard?

It depends on your budget. There’s a point of diminishing returns and that’s determined by what you want to do with your build. Higher-end options should typically be chosen only if you want to use multiple graphics cards, need better RAM, or push your CPU to its absolute limit.

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Goran Damnjanovic

Goran is LEVVVEL's senior hardware writer. He studied psychology but found that video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. Over the years he's developed expertise in everything gaming tech related.


Best gaming motherboards in 2021

The best gaming motherboard may not seem like a big deal, but it'll make a huge difference. A good motherboard will provide a foundation on which to build a great rig, and power up your gaming experience. Choosing the best motherboard for your system determines what case size will work, what your storage options are, and how much of a CPU upgrade you can work up to. 

There may not be heaps of difference between motherboards of the same chipset nowadays, but it's still important to get it right—it's just more about features than it is performance. Do you want to be able to overclock your CPU? Do you need high-performance RAM support? Do you need a small server's worth of USB ports? I know you do. These are just some of the things you should consider when getting ready to purchase a motherboard.

The best gaming motherboards also give you some level of future-proofing, as much as this ever-changing world will allow. Whether that's in the form of a socket or chipset that can support the top-end processors, such as the Intel's Z590 chipset and its Rocket Lake chips, or one that can deliver next-gen interconnects, such as the B550's PCIe 4.0 support.

Best gaming motherboard

Best Intel Z590 motherboard

1. Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI

The best Z590 motherboard for Rocket Lake CPUs


CPU support: Intel 10th & 11th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size: ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-5133

Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x4), 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x4), 2x PCIe 3.0 x1

Video ports: 1x DisplayPort 1.4, 1x HDMI 2.0

Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C, 5x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 6x USB 2.0

Storage: 3x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Network: Intel Wi-Fi 6E, 1x Intel 2.5Gb ethernet

Reasons to buy

+Decent value for money+Good VRM and cooling at this price+Subtle looks

Reasons to avoid

-4+8-pin power connectors could be restrictive-A few more USB at the back would be nice

This is a gaming motherboard positioned as an entry-level option for anyone looking to run Rocket Lake. Asus has always positioned its TUF products as reliable options, with decent pricing and a more basic feature set. Combined it means this is a good affordable option for someone after a no-fuss, solid, and reliable system. And given the pricing of many Z590 motherboards, that makes for a welcome change.

The TUF Z590 Plus features a subtle design with a particularly nice white font. You get a couple of little splashes of RGB around the right side too. It’s a nice look. There are three M.2 slots with the topmost one supporting PCIe 4.0. The two at the bottom are contained under a single heatsink. Also, note the vertical SATA ports that sticklers for cable management might find objectionable. There are a further two regular horizontal ports adjacent to the heatsink. You get six fan headers and two addressable RGB headers too. 

This is a board for anyone who would prefer to allocate money towards a faster GPU or larger SSD instead of paying through the nose for 10G LAN or expensive add-in cards. And I can totally get on board with that. Bang for buck and the true essentials are the name of the game here. If you’re on a budget, it’s definitely one to look out for.

Read the full Asus TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI review.

2. Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Tachyon

The best Z590 motherboard for overclockers and tweakers


CPU support: Intel 10th & 11th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size: E-ATX

Memory support: 2x DIMM, up to 64GB, DDR4-3200

Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 4.0 x16 (x8), 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x4), 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x1)

Video ports: 1x HDMI 2.0

Rear USB: 1x USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C, 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4x USB 3.2

Storage: 3x M.2, 8x SATA 6Gbps

Network: Intel Wi-Fi 6E, 1x Intel 2.5Gb ethernet

Reasons to buy

+Mega VRM and cooling+Endless tweaking options+Well featured for an OC board

Reasons to avoid

-Only really for overclockers-Inevitably expensive

Overclocking focused motherboards have made a proper comeback. This time around all the major manufacturers have Z590 boards specifically designed for serious overclocking. The dual memory slot design, all those buttons and switches, a monstrous VRM, and a unique layout are all aimed at making life easier for overclockers. Then there’s a comprehensive BIOS with extensive tweaking options. It’s clear that this isn’t a regular board with a fancy sticker slapped on.

The idea behind having only two memory slots instead of four is to minimize trace complexity and bring the slots closer to the CPU. This helps reduce latency and allows for a little more performance headroom compared to a four-slot design. The primary PCIe slot is not the topmost one either, it’s the one below it. This is another choice to aid overclockers who use LN2 cool a GPU by allowing extra room for pots and insulation.

The Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Tachyon won’t magically add frequency to your CPU and memory. What it will do is help you to extract the maximum efficiency out of your system, no matter what cooling you’re using. An enthusiast who loves to tweak, spending time reducing latency and tweaking sub-timings, or a gamer dedicated to finding a few extra FPS will enjoy peace of mind knowing you’ve got a board that’s specifically designed to take whatever punishment you throw at it.

Read the full Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Tachyon review.

Best Intel Z490 motherboard

1. Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

The best board for a Comet Lake Core i9


CPU support: Intel 10th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size: Extended ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-4700

Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 3.0 x16 (or x8/x8), 1x PCIe 3.0 x4

Video ports: 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports on extension card (DP1.4)

Rear USB: 10x USB 3.2, 2x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 2x M.2 (DIMM.2 board), 8x SATA 6Gbps

Network: 1x 10Gb Marvell ethernet, 1x Intel ethernet, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless

Reasons to buy

+High-end performance+Stunning bundle+Incredible build quality

Reasons to avoid

-Money-no-object pricing

If you want the best, most fully-featured Intel Comet Lake motherboard, then I'm afraid you're going to have to pay for it. And pay through the nose if Asus' Z490 Maximus XII Extreme is anything to go by. It is, as the name suggests, extreme, packing in a variety of luxurious and convenient extras (a frickin' screwdriver with interchangeable heads for one), and it's also one of the highest performing Z490 boards we've tested.

But it only really makes sense if you're buying a K-series Core i9 and genuinely intend to overclock the nuts off it. The Maximus XII will allow you to get the highest clock speed out of your 10900K and won't turn it into a pile of molten slag while you're at it. The MSI Z490 Godlike is actually the fastest Z490 outright at stock speeds, but I'd rather have the ROG board in my camp if I'm going down the OC route.

Obviously, it's only for the very highest of high-end PC builds; however, the $750 price tag means you could actually build a respectable full gaming PC for the price of this single motherboard. It's an aspirational Z490 motherboard and arguably the best gaming motherboard for Comet Lake overclocking, but I'll concede it's not a particularly realistic purchase for most of us.

2. MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

A vaguely affordable high-end Z490 motherboard


CPU socket: Intel 10th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size : ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-4800 (OC)

Expansion slots: 3x PCIe 3.0 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4), 2x PCIe 3.0 x1

Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI

Rear USB: 5x USB 3.2, 2x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Network : 1x 2.5Gb LAN, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless

Reasons to buy

+ More reasonably priced Z490 + Still competitive performance 

Reasons to avoid

-Runs hot

The sparse back panel and missing OLED displays will tell you we're back into normal motherboard territory with this MSI offering. The rarified air of the ultra-enthusiast ROG board up top might make one giddy, but the Z490 Gaming Carbon will bring us back down to earth without a bump. Sure, you're never going to get the same level of luxury feature list as you'll find with either the Maximus XII or MSI's own Godlike boards, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of pure performance, it's right up there. 

Where it matters, in the gaming performance stakes, there's practically nothing between any of the Z490 boards we've tested, and it's only ever a little behind when it comes to the actual CPU performance in productivity apps. However, when it comes to overclocking, the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi inevitably can't compare to the big boys, with our 10900K running at its peak.

The power componentry and cooling aren't enough to stop the thirsty CPU from throttling when it's pushed to its 5.3GHz all-core maximum. But, while that might mean it's not the board you'd choose for an overclocked Core i9 machine, that's a tiny niche of gamers, and for either i5 or i7 CPUs, the MSI Gaming Carbon is still a quality home for your Comet Lake CPU.

Best Intel B460 motherboard

1. MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi

A premium and well-priced mATX B460


CPU support: Intel 10th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size: Micro ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to DDR4-2933 (i7,i9) or DDR4-2666 (i5)

Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x1

Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI

Rear USB: 4x USB 3.2 Gen (1x Type-C), 2x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Network: Realtek 2.5Gb LAN, Intel Wi-Fi 6 wireless

Reasons to buy

+Great value+Strong VRM+Quality I/O and connectivity

Reasons to avoid

-Only 4 fan headers-B460 memory limitations

Grabbing one of the best Z490 motherboards might be appealing to your inner elitist, but the sticker price shock is definitely a problem. Sure, it would be nice to have 10Gb LAN, seven M.2 slots, or quad GPU support, but who really needs all that stuff? Most of us will be perfectly happy with a quality B460 motherboard, such as the MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi. 

If you can put up with the memory speed limitation and have no intention of overclocking (well, with a K-series CPU anyway), then this is the kind of board that should be on your PC building wishlist. It ticks most of the important boxes, and at $125, it’s well priced, though the competition is tough with many premium B460 motherboards priced in this range.

It’s got a strong VRM configuration, 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, and adequate, if not particularly outstanding, I/O. Pairing it with a 65W non-K processor and having a crack at pseudo overclocking is definitely worth the minimal efforts too. If you can live with the maximum DDR4-2666 speed, something like an Intel Core i5 10600 and B460M Mortar, paired with a decent mid-range GPU, would deliver a quality, affordable gaming combo.

Read the full MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi review.

2. ASRock B460 Steel Legend

An affordable alternative


CPU support: Intel 10th Gen

Socket: LGA 1200

Size: ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to DDR4-2933 (i7,i9) or DDR4-2666 (i5)

Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x1

Video ports: 1x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI

Rear USB: 4x USB 3.2 Gen (1x Type-C), 2x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Network: Realtek 2.5Gb LAN

Reasons to buy

+Quality VRM+Good value for money+Strong performance

Reasons to avoid

-No Wi-Fi-B460 memory limitations

The ASRock B460 Steel Legend is an awesomely named mid-range B460 entry. At USD 120, it’s what we’d call a mid-range B460 board. A look over the specs indicates that your $120 is well spent on some important areas. You get a pair of heatsink-covered M.2 slots, an e-key M.2 slot for an optional Wi-Fi card, a front USB Type-C header, and a good helping of RGB onboard.

The increased power demands of 10th generation CPUs mean motherboards generally have to include improved VRM designs, and on that front, the B460 Steel Legend is well equipped. It includes a 9+1 phase VRM powered by a single 8-Pin EPS connector. Each stage can deliver up to 60A. Bear in mind that overclocking is not allowed on B460 motherboards, so the VRM will not see extreme loads as you might get with an all-core overclocked Intel Core i9 10900K. 

The ASRock B460 Steel legend will appeal to buyers who aren’t so interested in bells and whistles but want a solid ATX board capable of powering any 10th Gen CPU without bursting into flames. Integrated Wi-Fi would have been a nice cherry on top for the price, and that's arguably one of the reasons we prefer the MSI B460M Mortar. But the ASRock B460 Steel legend is still a highly competitive offering and comes highly recommended by us. It shows its steel, one might say. If it had Wi-Fi, we might even have said it was legendary.

Read the full ASRock B460 Steel Legend review.

Best Intel Z390 motherboard

1. Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra

The best gaming motherboard for Intel's Coffee Lake CPUs


CPU support: Intel 8th and 9th Gen

Socket : LGA 1151

Size: ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, DDR4-4400 (OC)

Expansion slots: PCIe x16, PCIe x16 (x8), PCIe x16 (x4), 3x PCIe x1

Video ports: HDMI

Rear USB: 4x USB 3.2 Gen2 (1x Type-C), 2x USB 3.1 Gen1, 4x USB 2.0

Storage: 3x M.2, 6x SATA

Network: Ethernet, 1.73Gbps 802.11ac wireless

Reasons to buy

+No-compromise features, including triple M.2 slots+Slick RGB package with two LED headers

Reasons to avoid

-Visually 'loud' design

The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra competes with the MSI Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), lower price tag, and more features. It has triple M.2 slots for your super-speedy NVMe SSD needs, Intel Wi-Fi Wave2 and ethernet, a full RGB treatment with multiple headers, and ALC1220 audio. You'd have to climb right to the top of the product stack to get the same from MSI and ASUS, both of whom offer a little more polish but also charge plenty for the privilege. Though there's a lot to be said for extreme motherboards, this is a great value Intel board.

The only real downside for us is that this mobo is perhaps a little too flashy and may not suit more restrained gaming builds. Thankfully, you can disable all the RGB bling within the BIOS if you want, though other elements may still clash. But that's a small criticism of an otherwise top board.

2. Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Best for small form-factor Intel 9th Gen builds


CPU support: Intel 8th and 9th Gen

Socket: LGA 1151

Size: Mini-ITX

Memory support: 2x DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4800 (OC)

Expansion slots: 1x PCIe x16

Video ports: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2

USB ports: 7x rear IO, 1x front IO, 4x internal

Storage: 2x M.2, 4x SATA

Network: Ethernet, 866Mbps 802.11ac

Lighting: Edge RGB, 1x Addressable Aura RGB

Reasons to buy

+Dual M.2 slot+Great overclocking and system performance

Reasons to avoid

-RGB Software issues-Runs run

As the price drops and the previous Z370-based model disappears from vendors, ASUS's Strix Z390-I Gaming moves into the boutique ITX segment's top spot. Despite its diminutive size and paucity of upgrade options, the ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming provides excellent performance and value. Boasting stable 5GHz overclocks using several memory speeds, including 3,600MHz with tweaking, its single PCIe x16 slot pushed top-shelf graphics cards to speeds that matched or exceeded most Z390 ATX boards during testing.

The smallest Strix has a lengthy features list, with no shortcomings despite the tiny form factor, including dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 slots, Intel v219 ethernet, upgraded Intel 9560 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an ALC1220A audio codec supported by isolated circuitry and headphone amps. Despite the dense set of features, the Strix Z390-I's clean design makes quick system assembly and configuration an important consideration for ITX rig building. 

It's worth noting that this board can be hard to find, but the previous generation ROG Strix Z370-I model, with its slimmer design, remains an excellent alternative, especially at clearance prices.

Best AMD X570 motherboard

1. Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero

The best X570 ever created, and the last AM4 board you'll ever need


CPU support: AMD Ryzen 5000 Series / 4000 G-Series / 3000 Series/ 3000 G-Series / 2000 Series / 2000 G-Series

Socket: AM4

Size: ATX

Memory: 4x DIMM, Up to 128GB, DDR4-4866 (OC)

Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x16, 1x PCIe 4.0 x1

Video ports: N/A

Rear USB: 4x USB 3.2 Gen1, 8x USB 3.2 Gen2 (1x USB Type-C)

Storage: 3x M.2; 8x SATA

Networking: 802.11ax 2.4Gbps Wi-Fi; Intel I211-AT 1G & Realtek RTL8125 2.5G LAN

Reasons to buy

+Clean design+Great performance+No chipset fan

Reasons to avoid


Asus' ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero wants to be the last AM4 motherboard you'll ever need. But what is it that makes a great motherboard? Features are important, as is a stable and refined BIOS, value for money, a good design, but sometimes intangible. Sometimes it's that the damn thing works. 

Motherboard testing is often one of the most painful things a tech journalist has to do. With some boards, you have to fight it to get it to do what you want, or expect it to, or have to or crank up some voltage setting to a level you don’t really want to, but the Dark Hero just boots the first time, even as we played with the memory clocks and timings and the Infinity Fabric. 

The Crosshair VIII Dark Hero might not be the best AM4 motherboard ever made, we’d have to review a few hundred others to make that claim, but it’s an easy claim to make that the Dark Hero is certainly one of the best AM4 motherboards we've ever used. Time and months of user feedback will determine if the Dark Hero assumes a position as one of the truly legendary ROG motherboards, but we wouldn’t bet against that happening.

Read the full Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero review.

2. MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WiFi

The best gaming motherboard for AMD Ryzen 3000 builds


CPU support: AMD 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Gen Ryzen / Ryzen APUs

Socket: AM4

Size: ATX

Memory: 4x DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-4400

Expansion slots: 1x PCIe x16, 1x PCIe x16 (x4), 2x PCIe x1

Video ports: HDMI

Rear USB: 4x USB 3.2 Gen2 (1x Type-C), 2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 2x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA

Network: Ethernet, 2.4Gbps 802.11ac

Reasons to buy

+2 PCIe 4.0 M.2 Slots+Wi-Fi 6 Compatible

Reasons to avoid

-Too few USB ports

The MSI MPG X570 represents an amalgamation of bleeding-edge motherboard tech built to get the most out of AMD's 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs. It has four DIMM slots that can handle speeds up to 4,400Mhz and two M.2 slots sporting PCIe 4.0.

The rear I/O panel features seven USB Type-A ports for peripherals and a single USB Type-C port for connectivity and high-speed data transfer. There are headers for the included Wi-Fi antenna to help with wireless connectivity, as well as a gigabit ethernet port. The MPG X570 supports Wi-Fi 6, and while that does necessitate a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router, it's backward compatible with other Wi-Fi standards and gives the potential for a speed boost down the line. Also of note is the HDMI port, which many X570 boards omit (not that we'd really recommend using an AMD APU with integrated graphics in a high-end board like this).

The MPG X570 features enough compatibility to get the most out of your hardware now and in the future, provided you're willing to pay a premium for it. While it's certainly an excellent mobo, if you aren't already committed to a shopping list of top-of-the-line components now or shortly, you may want to consider a slightly less expensive board for your needs. 

3. Gigabyte X570S Aorus Master

The best AMD motherboard with a million USB ports


Chipset: X570S

Memory: 4x DIMM, up to DDR4-5100, up to 128GB

Expansion Slots: 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, 2x PCIe 4.0 x16 (x4), 3x PCIe 4.0 x1

Video ports: None

USB ports: Up to 3x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 8x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 6x USB 2.0

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA

Network: Killer E3100G 2.5G LAN

Lighting: One RGB logo, ARGB headers

Reasons to buy

+Strong VRM and cooling+Loads of USB+Four M.2 slots

Reasons to avoid

-Single 2.5G LAN only-5G would be nice

Despite the X570 chipset showing its age, Gigabyte's X570S Aorus Master feels like an old dog that's learned some new tricks. The fact that it comes with four M.2 slots alone is impressive along with decent heatsink. Really the cooling all around gets a thumbs up from us. The finned VRM heatsinks add a ton of surface area. 

Our only real knock against the Aorus Master only offers single 2.5G LAN and lacks 5G which is a bit a bummer. That being said it's still one of the better AMD motherboards out there. I'm a sucker for a motherboard with a ton of USB ports this mobo has SO many. 

The Aorus Master is still keeping AM4 and X570 relevant thanks to its many USB ports and storage options. Even at $400, it's got enough features (and looks good to boot) to justify the higher price point. 

Read the full Gigabyte X570S Aorus Master review. 

Best AMD B550 motherboard

1. Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming

Simply the best B550 motherboard


CPU support: AMD 3rd and 4th Gen Ryzen

Socket: AM4

Size: ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, up to DDR4-4600

Expansion slots: 2x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Networking: Intel Wi-Fi 6, Intel 2.5Gb ethernet, Bluetooth 5.1

Rear USB: 3 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 4 x USB 2.0

Reasons to buy

+Extensive feature set+Build quality+Top-end networking

Reasons to avoid

-Very pricey for a B550 board-Stock-clocked performance is unremarkable-Limited bandwidth for peripherals

Sure, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E is the same price as other X570 motherboards; in fact, it pretty much matches our favorite of AMD's top-end boards, the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon. But it's a premium motherboard, with all the trappings you'd expect from Asus' Republic of Gamers stables, such as 14+2 power stage, M.2 heatsinks, and pre-installed backplates. You also get Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking as well as Intel 2.5Gb ethernet too. And RGB LEDs, of course. If you're looking at building a Zen 3 system, then the necessary BIOS updates should drop in January for this motherboard.

Performance is typically good for a high-end Asus board, matching X570 motherboards for gaming performance without issue. That said, of the B550 boards we've tested, it's the far more affordable MSI board that actually comes out top in our straight performance testing. But the Asus can overclock far better, even if it does chew up more raw power from the plug on the whole.

The Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is the whole package then, and right now is our all-around pick for the best B550 motherboard. Though that still feels like a tough recommendation when X570 boards are the same price…

Read the full Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming review.

2. MSI MAG B550M Mortar

The best B550 motherboard for pure gaming performance


CPU support: AMD 3rd and 4th Gen Ryzen

Socket: AM4

Size: Micro-ATX

Memory support: 4x DIMM, up to 128GB, up to DDR4-4400

Expansion slots: 1x PCIe 4.0 x16, 1x PCIe 3.0 x4

Storage: 2x M.2, 6x SATA 6Gbps

Networking: Realtek 2.5Gb ethernet

Rear USB: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 2x USB 2.0

Reasons to buy

+Great stock-clock performance and efficiency+Slick BIOS+Competitive pricing

Reasons to avoid

-Poor overclocking-Stingy back-panel port count-Short on luxuries and frills

When it comes to gaming performance above all else, MSI's micro-ATX MAG B550M Mortar is your best bet for an affordable next-gen Ryzen machine. It comes in around the $160 mark, making it cheaper than a great many X570 and other B550 motherboards on the market right now. 

The gaming frame rates of the MSI B550 Mortar put it above the rest of the B550 crew we've tested so far, and indeed its straight CPU performance puts it up there with some of the best X570s. That bodes well if you're looking for an affordable home for your AMD Zen 3 CPU of the future (BIOS updates to support Ryzen 5000 chips are due to start rolling out in January); this B550 has a great chance to ensure it performs to its fullest stock-clocked potential without breaking the bank.

But you will be missing out on extra PCIe 4.0 M.2 and x16 graphics slots if those extras mean a lot to you. You can also opt to ditch wireless networking, depending on whether you pick the straight Mortar or the more expensive Mortar Wi-Fi version. The 8+2+1 power phase design is arguably a more unwelcome miss, however, as that results in a board that will not spark any overclocking joy in your heart. But, as an affordable gaming board without OC pretensions, it's a great shout.

Read the full MSI MAG B550M Mortar review.

Best AMD A520 motherboard

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Best Motherboards 2021 for Gaming, by Socket and Chipset

Note:For AMD's AM4 X570(S), B550, B450 and Threadripper motherboards, see page two or our Best AMD X570 Motherboards or Best AMD B550 Motherboards pages. This first page focuses on Intel, after laying out some basics.

Choosing the best gaming motherboard (or best motherboard for another type of build) is arguably the key step in your PC build, even though choosing the best CPU for gaming or the best graphics card often gets more attention. Every part of your PC plugs into your motherboard. Its form factor will decide the size of your computer and your case, and its chipset and socket limit what type of CPU you can install.

If you’re not sure which chipset you’re after when choosing the best gaming motherboard, or you have more basic questions for a different type of build, you can visit our motherboard basics and motherboard buying guide features to help narrow down your shopping options.

The picks below include the best gaming motherboards designed for Intel's 11th Gen "Rocket Lake" and older "Comet Lake" processors. It's looking like Alder Lake Z690 motherboards will land soon, with some retailers already listing them. As soon as we get our hands on Intel's next-gen platform, we'll get testing and post reviews on our motherboard review page.

Below are our mainstream picks for current boards. You’ll find our recommendations for the best motherboards for Z590, as well as Intel's high-end desktop (HEDT) LGA-2066 socket and X299 chipset supporting the X-Series and Extreme line of processors.

The second page of this guide covers the best AMD motherboards, including X570 and B550 chipset models, as well as high-end Threadripper picks that compete with Intel's X-Series platform. 

Quick Motherboard Shopping Tips 

When choosing a motherboard, consider the following:

  • Get the right socket for your CPU: You can find great CPUs from either Intel or AMD. But whatever processor you choose, make sure that your board has the correct socket to support it. The latest mainstream AMD chips use AM4 CPU sockets while  Intel's 10th Gen and 11th Gen Core CPUs require LGA 1200 sockets.
  • Smaller boards = fewer slots and features. Motherboards come in three main sizes--for more info see our diagram and explanation of motherboard parts. From largest to smallest, there’s ATX, Micro-ATX and Mini-ITX. (Yes, Mini is smaller than Micro). You can use a smaller chassis with the micro or mini boards, but you'll have to settle for fewer card expansion slots, sometimes fewer RAM slots, and other connectors.
  • Pay for built-in Wi-Fi and high-end ports only if you need them. Don't spend extra for wireless if you are using Ethernet. You can future-proof your PC by getting USB 3.1 Gen 2 and / or Thunderbolt support. But Thunderbolt is very rare on AMD motherboards.

The Best Intel Gaming Motherboards: Z590, Z490 X299

1. Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero

Best ATX Z590 Motherboard


Socket: LGA 1200

Chipset: Intel Z590

Form Factor: ATX

Voltage Regulator: 16 Phases

PCIe x16: (2) v4.0, (1) v3.0

USB Ports: (2) Thunderbolt 4, Type-C , (6) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A, (2) USB 2.0

Warranty: 3 years

Reasons to buy

+High-quality 14-phase 90A VRM+10 USB ports, incl. 2x Thunderbolt 4+Dual 2.5 GbE plus Wi-Fi 6E+Four M.2 sockets+Premium audio

Reasons to avoid

- Expensive

The Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero has the premium parts and attractive looks to stand out, despite its fairly high price. From its clean, high-end appearance to the robust power delivery, four M.2 sockets and a premium audio solution, the Hero is a well-rounded, feature-laden solution in the upper-midrange of the Z590 motherboard space. With more-than-capable 90A power phases and dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, plus the four PCIe 4.0 M.2 sockets and premium audio bits, the board justifies its $499 price.

Performance compared to the other Z590 models we’ve tested to this point was spot on, and often negligibly faster in many of our tests. Memory testing went without a hitch, with DDR4 3600 supported at 1:1 and easily handling the DDR4 4000 kit. And overclocking testing proceeded without any issue.

Read: Asus ROG Maximus XIII Hero Z590 review 

2. Asus ROG Maximus XIII Extreme Glacial

Best ATX Z590 Motherboard for Custom Cooling


Socket: LGA 1200

Chipset: Intel Z590

Form Factor: ATX

Voltage Regulator: 18 Phases

PCIe x16: (2) v4.0

USB Ports: (2) Thunderbolt 4, Type-C , (8) USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type A

Warranty: 3 years

Reasons to buy

+Includes waterblock+High-quality 18-phase+100A VRM 10 USB ports, including Thunderbolt 4+10 GbE plus Wi-Fi 6E+Five M.2 slots+Premium audio w/DAC

Reasons to avoid

-Very expensive

The Asus ROG Maximus XIII Extreme Glacial is a full-featured Z590 motherboard that include robust power delivery, premium audio with a DAC, five M.2 sockets, 10 GbE and integrated Wi-Fi 6E and includes a custom waterblock. While pricing is tough to take, the Extreme Glacial ($1499) represents what flagship-class motherboards should be.

Read:Asus ROG Maximus XIII Extreme Glacial review

3. Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Tachyon

Best ATX Z590 Motherboard


Socket: LGA 1200

Chipset: Intel Z590

Form Factor: E-ATX

Voltage Regulator: 11 Phases

PCIe x16: (1) v4.0 x16, (1) v4.0 x8, (1) v3.0 x4, (1) v3.0 x1

USB Ports: (1) USB 3.2 Gen 2x2, Type-A and Type-C (20 Gbps)

Warranty: 3 years

Reasons to buy

+Costs less than competition+Capable power delivery+Feature-rich

Reasons to avoid

-Standard audio

The Z590 Tachyon is an attractive E-ATX-size board that, outside of the extra buttons, you’d never know was designed to be an extreme overclocker. And while it’s certainly not cheap, it costs less than competing overclocking-focused models from ASRock and Asus. The Tachyon’s 11-phase power delivery may not sound like the most robust option, but it delivers 1100 amps to the CPU. This means the VRMs shouldn’t hold back your clock speeds back, whether you’re taking on ambient or sub-ambient cooling with a flagship CPU. If you’re after a board to deliver the best possible speed while looking good and not breaking your build budget, this is the best option we’ve tested.

Read: Gigabyte Z590 Aorus Tachyon review

4. ASRock Z490 Taichi

Best ATX Z490 Motherboard


Socket: LGA 1200

Chipset: Intel Z490

Form Factor: ATX

Voltage Regulator: 15 Phases

PCIe x16: (3) v3.0

USB Ports: 5 USB 3.2 Gen1, 4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A, One USB-3.2 2x2 Type-C

Warranty: 1 year

Reasons to buy

+Solid 12-phase/50A VRM for Vcore+USB 3.2 Gen 2X2 Type-C port+Three M.2 and eight SATA ports

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive compared to Z390 Taichi-Annoying use of star screws on chipset shroud-Tough to press PCIe slot latch for removal

The ASRock Z490 Taichi is a great motherboard in the $350-$400 price bracket for building a Z490 system, comparing favorably to similarly priced competition.It includes eight SATA ports (while others have six), as well as a speedy USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C port. It also has a premium appearance and runs cooler than competing boards in the power delivery department.

If you need three M.2 slots and eight SATA ports, this is the only board around this price point with that storage configuration. If your budget allows for an upper mid-range board, ASRock’s Z490 Taichi should be at the top of the list. 

Read: ASRock Z490 Taichi review 

5. Gigabyte X299X Designare 10G

Best ATX X299 Motherboard


Socket: LGA 2066

Chipset: Intel X299 PCH

Form Factor: EATX

Voltage Regulator: 12 phases

PCIe x16: (4) v3.0 (@48: x16/x8*/x16/x8), (CPU @44: x16/x4*/x16/x8), (CPU @28: x16/x4*/x8/x0)

USB Ports: 10Gbps: (2) Type-C via Thunderbolt 3

Warranty: 3 years

Reasons to buy

+Dual 10GbE, plus 2.4Gbps Wi-Fi 6+Thunderbolt 3 with dual Type-C outputs and dual DisplayPort inputs+Price premium is lower than the value of its premium components

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-Excessive PCIe, M.2 & SATA sharing-10.8-inch depth requires extra case considerations

Fully equipped for the 48 lanes of Intel's 10th generation Core Extreme processors, the X299X Designare 10G comes loaded to the brink with Intel X550 dual 10Gb/s Ethernet and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 headers with dual DisplayPort passthrough on Intel's 40Gb/s controller. A four-drive M.2 expander card and 2.4Gb/s Wi-Fi 6 finish a package of which the added component value far outweighs the price difference over its closest competitor.

Read: Gigabyte X299X Designare 10G Review

Savings on the Best Motherboards

Whether you're buying one of the best motherboards or a different model, you may find some savings by checking our list of coupon codes, especially our list of Newegg promo codes and Micro Center coupons.

MORE: How To Choose A Motherboard
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Matt began piling up computer experience as a child with his Mattel Aquarius. He built his first PC in the late 1990s and ventured into mild PC modding in the early 2000s. He’s spent the last decade covering emerging technology for Smithsonian, Popular Science, and Consumer Reports, while testing components and PCs for Computer Shopper and Digital Trends. When not writing about tech, he’s often walking—through the streets of New York, over the sheep-dotted hills of Scotland, or just at his treadmill desk at home in front of the 50-inch 4K HDR TV that serves as his PC monitor.
Top 5 Best Motherboard of (2021)

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