The most important choice to make is going to be about who’s side you fall on in the great AMD vs. Intel debate. That will determine how much you’re going to spend on your subsequent CPU purchase, how much you really need to spend on a motherboard, and how much you’re going to have left over to spend on a quality graphics card.
But your choice of gaming motherboard will also influence other parts of your build, not least of which is the size of your PC. There are three main sizes to contend with: standard ATX, Micro ATX (or mATX), and Mini ITX. These days that doesn’t mean a compromise in performance, just a compromise on features and number of slots. Fewer memory, NVMe SSD, and graphics card slots, for example.
The best gaming motherboards
1. Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra
Chipset: Intel Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, up to 64GB, DDR4-4266 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x8), x16 (x4), (3) x1 | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (10) rear IO, (7) internal | Storage: (3) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 1.73Gbps 802.11ac wireless | Lighting: Heatsink and DIMM slots RGB, (2) RGBW headers
No-compromise features, including triple M.2 slots
Slick RGB package with two LED headers
Intel CPU compatible
Potentially TOO much bling
Gigabyte isn’t as flashy as the other top tier motherboard makers, but it has managed to accumulate plenty of PCG recommendations over the years. Decent performance, combined with a consistently lower cost, makes Gigabyte’s Z390 Aorus Ultra a winner. We’ve liked the Aorus branded motherboards starting with Skylake in 2016, and the company’s Ryzen boards have been excellent all-around picks too, but this is the best we’ve tested.
The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra competes with the MSI Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi), but with a 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 Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi
Superior overclocking for enthusiasts
Chipset: Intel Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4400 | PCIe slots: (2) x16 (x16 or dual x8), x16 (x4), (3) x1 | Video ports: HDMI, DisplayPort | USB ports: (8) rear IO, (7) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 866Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Heatsink RGB, (2) Aura RGB, (2) addressable Aura
Great CPU and memory overclocking
Not too expensive for a top-tier board
Wi-Fi could be faster
The Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi AC) is the latest in a long line of popular Republic of Gamers motherboards. While Asus offers the Code, Formula, and Apex boards as a step above the Hero, we found little reason to go with the pricier models. The minor bumps in speed, features, or fashion in costlier boards are generally difficult to justify. This is a minor chipset update to the previous Z370-based Maximus X Hero Wi-Fi, which we also liked.
The current Z390 Hero adds 802.11ac 2×2 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi to the networking mix (a non-wireless version is available for a few bucks less). Overclocking and performance remains first in class, in league with boards costing a third more. The Maximum XI Hero is nearly perfect, with only speedier Wi-Fi and an extra M.2 slot on our short list of potential improvements.
3. Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming
Best for small form-factor Intel builds
Chipset: Intel Z390 | Memory: (2) DIMM, 32GB, DDR4-4500 | PCIe slots: (1) x16 | Video ports: HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2 | USB ports: (7) rear IO, (1) front IO, (4) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (4) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 866Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Edge RGB, (1) Addressable Aura RGB
Dual M.2 slot
Great overclocking and system performance
One M.2 slot is under the motherboard
New I/O port shield is slick looking but bulky
With the price dropping and the previous Z370-based model starting to disappear from vendors, ASUS’s Strix Z390-I Gaming moves into the top spot for the boutique ITX segment. 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 3600MHz 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 regardless of the tiny form factor, including dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 slots, Intel v219 Ethernet, upgraded Intel 9560 2×2 802.11ac 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 for quick system assembly and configuration, an important consideration for ITX rig building. Just be sure to install that bottom-mounted M.2 drive beforehand or pick a case with a big enough cut out behind the motherboard, or you’ll be taking everything apart again.
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.
4. MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WiFi
The best gaming motherboard for Ryzen 3000 builds
Chipset: AMD X570 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4400 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x8), x16 (x4), (2) x1 | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (8) rear IO, (4) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 2.4Gbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Three zone RGB (3) RGB header
2 PCIe 4.0 M.2 Slots
Wi-Fi 6 Compatible
Heat shields make M.2 installation difficult
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 4400Mhz and two M.2 slots sporting support for PCIe 4.0.
The rear I/O panel features seven USB-A ports for peripherals, as well as a single USB-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 does support 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).
As with most gaming motherboards, the MPG X570 has 3-zone RGB lighting, as well as enough headers for three additional RGB-enabled components. The pair of M.2 slots each have a dedicated heat shield, and while this does help prevent potential thermal throttling, it makes installing or replacing them a more delicate process than with their exposed counterparts.
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 in the near future, you may want to consider a slightly less expensive board for your needs.
5. Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 5 Wi-Fi
A good motherboard for last-gen Ryzen builds
Chipset: AMD X470 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-3200 | PCIe slots: x16 (x16), x16 (x4), (2) x1 | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (10) rear IO, (9) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 1.73Gbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Three zone RGB, (3) RGB header
Dual 32Gb/s M.2 slots
Speedy Intel Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Other boards overclock better and run faster memory
Few advanced hardware enthusiast options
Generally speaking, if you’re building a new AMD rig now, or even replacing a motherboard in an existing PC, we recommend moving up to the X570 chipset. It supports PCIe Gen4 on the latest Ryzen 3000 CPUs, and typically has better RAM support. However, if you’re using a previous gen CPU, you don’t really need X570.
There are more expensive X470 motherboards out there, including the excellent Asus ROG Crosshair VII, but forking over the extra cash for higher-end hardware won’t necessarily provide a better building or gaming experience than Gigabyte’s X470 Aorus Gaming 5 Wi-Fi. This board serves up a full plate of features along with a side of RGB style for around $100 less than comparable hardware, leaving your GPU budget some room to grow.
Ryzen CPUs aren’t overclock-happy, but the X470 Aorus Gaming 5’s 8+3 phase VRM reliably allows chips like the 2700X to run all cores at full boost speeds alongside 3200MHz memory modules. Dual BIOS, dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 slots, and a healthy stack of both internal and external USB ports are plenty for most gaming builds. Combined with a top-tier audio codec and great networking hardware, the X470 Aorus Gaming 5 is our best overall pick for Zen and Zen+ Ryzen 7 builds. If you’re looking for more advanced features and the ability to do serious overclocking, you should probably step up to X570 and the Crosshair VIII.
6. Asus TUF H370-Pro Gaming Wi-Fi
A budget Intel option with excellent Wi-Fi for stock CPUs
Chipset: Intel H370 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-2666 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x4), (4) x1 | Video ports: D-Sub, HDMI, DisplayPort | USB ports: (7) rear IO, (6) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 1.73Gbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Edge RGB, (1) Aura RGB header
Great Wi-Fi implementation
Excellent real-world performance
Limited memory speeds
Asus claims a third category for Intel builds with its TUF H370 Pro Gaming Wi-Fi, and another spot in our mobo buying guides. It sports a bare-it-all retro look that back-to-basics rig builders will love, with a simple black and silver aesthetic and just a touch of RGB lighting along the right edge. It looks sharp and supports almost any color combination you toss at it. If you’re looking for something that won’t make your rig look like a disco-show, this is a decent option.
Under the hood, the TUF Pro Gaming packs dual M.2 slots, 10Gbs Gen2 USB 3.1, Intel v219 Ethernet, and a robust 2×2 Intel 9560 802.11ac adaptor that supports MU-MIMO and 160MHz channels, shaming the competition in a price segment where Wi-Fi is rarely found. Audio is less impressive, opting for the older ALC887 codec, but you can potentially make up some of this deficit with a decent gaming headset. Overclocking and higher memory speeds aren’t supported with the H370 chipset, but that doesn’t hold the TUF Pro Gaming back in real-world testing. Put your money into a faster GPU if you care about gaming, and don’t worry as much about the RAM speed.
7. Gigabyte Z390 UD
Save some cash by going with an affordable mid-tier Intel option
Chipset: Intel Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-4266 | PCIe slots: x16, 2 x16 (x4), 3 (x1) | Video ports: HDMI | USB ports: (6) rear IO, (4) internal | Storage: (1) M.2, (6) SATA | Network: Ethernet
4 DIMMs for expansion
Only a single full PCIe x16 slot
If you’re looking for an excellent Z390 board that’s well-specced but still available at a bargain price, the Z390 UD from Gigabyte is a killer choice. It’s packed with DIMMs for memory upgrades, plenty of SATA ports (and one M.2 SSD slot) for storage, and it’s regularly available for less than $110.
The only notable drawback on this board is the single x16 PCIe slot, though that is only critical if you plan on running multiple graphics cards and demand the very highest throughput. These days, however, you probably shouldn’t be doing that…
So, if you’re not trying to make use of the limited benefits of Nvidia’s SLI or AMD’s CrossFire setups, the Z390 chipset makes a wonderful home for your 8th and 9th gen Intel processors.
How we tested
The gaming motherboards recommended in this guide all received extensive research and evaluation, including enclosure installation (full tower, mid-tower, and ITX where applicable), performance benchmarking, stability testing, and a follow-up period of real-world break-in usage that focuses on gaming, entertainment, and media software.
When possible, all tests are performed with the same components installed to remove any variables except the motherboard itself. We also research the entire field of Z370, Z390, X470, X570, and older motherboards, narrowing the list down to the best, most competitive boards before choosing each round of boards for the guide.
Benchmarks include AIDA64 Extreme, PCMark 8/10, Cinebench 15, CrystalDiskMark, 3DMark FireStrike, DPC Latency Checker, and others. The real-world break-in period encompasses office and creative work, media streaming, and gaming with a variety of demanding titles like GTA 5, Total War: Warhammer II, DiRT Rally, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry 5, Hitman, and others.
Gaming tests are run at 1080p at medium to high settings to remove any bottlenecks caused by graphics card performance. When relevant, both single- and dual-graphics card configurations are tested to ensure motherboard stability in SLI and Crossfire situations.
Jargon buster – motherboard terminology
ATX, Micro-ATX, Mini-ITX
The most common form factors/sizes of a motherboard from largest to smallest, which beyond physical dimensions determines which cases it’ll fit into and (broadly) how many expansion slots are available. There are other, less common form factors as well (XL-ATX, HPTX, etc.) but these three are the most ubiquitous consumer form factors.
A connector on the motherboard that allows you to run a cable to the case to add additional USB ports, typically on the front panel (though some cases provide top or rear panel slots as well).
Basic Input/Output System/Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, which connects the hardware and software that lives on the board (the firmware) to the operating system (OS, like Windows or Linux). They allow you to adjust system level settings, such as fan speed or RAM frequency. UEFI has largely replaced the older BIOS standard.
PCIe Slots (Expansion Slots)
Peripheral Component Interconnect Express slots on the motherboard are designed to accommodate add-in cards like graphics cards, SSD cards, dedicated sound cards, etc. PCIe slots are measured in both length (x16, x8, x4, x1) as well as by the number of data transmission lanes they provide. It’s possible for a x16 slot to only provide 8 lanes of data, for instance, which means the maximum possible data transfer rate is halved (though in many cases, because PCIe provides such a high ceiling for transfer speeds, a lower number of lanes doesn’t make a tremendous difference).
Dual In-Line Memory Module slots, the slots on a motherboard where your RAM lives. The number of total slots contributes to the maximum amount of RAM your system can handle, paired with the chipset and OS.
The logic that allows the various parts of a motherboard to talk to each other. The chipset determines which processor generations a motherboard is compatible with, as well as what add-in cards can be used.
Serial Advanced Technology Attachment ports, an interface for connecting storage devices/drives to a motherboard (HDDs, SSDs, optical drives, etc.). The number of physical ports on your board, combined with ports for NVMe storage, will determine the total number of storage drives you can have connected to your PC at any time.