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The best gaming motherboards

The best gaming motherboards in 2019
Give your build a solid foundation with one of the best gaming motherboards. (Image credit: Future)

Choosing one of the best gaming motherboards can be a particularly tricky task for PC builders; the motherboard is one of the most complex off-the-shelf components in a computer, and one of the most important. Picking a motherboard with the right CPU socket, the proper number of PCIe and memory slots for the parts you plan to buy, and the number of ports you’ll need for your setup are just a few of the more obvious options you’ll need to consider before committing to your next mobo.

After you’ve narrowed things down by picking an AMD or Intel CPU and identified what processor socket you’ll need, you should figure out what size motherboard will be best for your build. The size will create a more focused range of how many ports and components you can use, and will help determine what case you use. There is a rough correlation between motherboard size and case size, but don’t buy anything until you’re sure it’s compatible, as there can be surprising discrepancies.

Once you have the size and socket out of the way, then there are many individual considerations to make, based on what you plan to build. If you’re planning to overclock your Intel processor, you’ll need to make sure and buy a motherboard with a Z-series chipset. High-end motherboards now often require 8-pin EPS12V and 4-pin ATX12V connections, which will dictate which of the best power supplies can work with your system. Plus, the number of PCIe and M.2 slots can vary from motherboard to motherboard, so if you want to add dual graphics cards to your rig or have a M.2 NVMe SSD as your primary storage solution, make sure there are enough slots.

Then there are the non-essential factors: If you’re willing to spend more, some motherboards come with bells and whistles like built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi support. Last but not least, if your case has glass sides, many high-end motherboards have RGB lighting, so you’ll want to pick something that performs well and looks good.

The best gaming motherboards

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1. Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra

The best gaming motherboard in 2019

Chipset: Z390 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 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, 1733Mbps 802.11ac | 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 recommendations of late. Combined with a consistently lower cost, that 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, 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), with a better price and features. It has triple M.2 slots, Intel Wi-Fi Wave2 and Ethernet, a full RGB treatment with multiple headers, and ALC1220 audio. You'd have climb to the top of the product stack to get the same from MSI and ASUS, both of whom offer more polish but also charge plenty for the privilege. This is great value.

The only real downside for us is that this mobo is perhaps a bit too flashy and may not suit more restrained gaming builds. Thankfully, you can disable all the RGB bling within the BIOS if you want, but other elements may still clash. It's a small criticism of an otherwise top board, but when you're using the Z390 as the base for your other components, it's worth considering how they'll all look together.

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2. ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi

Superior overclocking for enthusiasts

Chipset: 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 boards. While Asus offers the Code, Formula, and Apex boards a step above the Hero, we found little reason to go with the pricier models. The minor bumps in speed, features, or fashion that costlier boards provide are difficult to justify. This is a minor update to the previous Maximus X Hero Wi-Fi, which we also liked.

The current Z390 Hero adds 802.11ac 2x2 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 board is nearly perfect, with better Wi-Fi and an extra M.2 slot on our short list of potential improvements.

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3. ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

Best for small form-factor builds

Chipset: 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 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 for quick system assembly and configuration, although the previous generation sported a less bulky design, 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 cut out in the right area, or you'll be taking everything apart again.

While it's getting hard to find, the previous generation ROG Strix Z370-I model, with its slimmer design, remains an excellent alternative, especially at clearance prices.

Best gaming PC | Best PC cases | Best SSD for gaming
Best PC fans | Best CPU cooler | Best DDR4 RAM

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4. MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WiFi

Chipset: 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
Expensive

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 PCIe 4.0, and the X570 is all about getting the most out of the best components.

The rear I/O panel features 7 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. Unfortunately, the majority of the fan headers are located near the bottom of the board, which can be problematic if your build is particularly fan-heavy.

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. 

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5. Gigabyte X470 Aorus Gaming 5 Wi-Fi

A good motherboard for previous gen Ryzen CPUs

Chipset: 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
X570 has largely displaced X470 now

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, particularly the X-models, 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.

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6. ASUS TUF H370-Pro Gaming Wi-Fi

A budget option with excellent Wi-Fi for the non-overclocking CPUs

Chipset: 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
Weak audio

ASUS claims a third category for Coffee Lake 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 2x2 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.

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7. Gigabyte Z390 UD

Save some cash by going with an affordable mid-tier Intel option

Chipset: 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

Excellent price
4 DIMMs for expansion
Only a single 'full' PCIe x16 slot

If you're looking for an excellent Z370 board that's well specced but still available at a killer price, the Z390 UD from Gigabyte is a killer choice. It's packed with DIMMs for memory upgrades, plenty of SATA ports (and an M.2) for storage, and it's regularly available for less than $110. 

The only real notable drawback on this board is the single x16 PCIe slot, which is only critical if you plan on running multiple graphics cards and demand the very highest throughput. (You probably shouldn't.) Otherwise, the pair of full size x4 slots will happily accommodate less demanding add-in cards, and the Z390 chipset makes a wonderful home for 8th and 9th gen Intel processors.

How we tested

The 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, X470, X299, and older motherboards and narrow the list down to the best, most competitive boards before choosing each round of boards for the guide. 

Benchmarks include AIDA 64 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 GTAV, 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 comfortably 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.

USB Header

A slot 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). 

BIOS/UEFI

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 board 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).

DIMM Slots

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. 

Chipset

The communications pathways that the various parts of a motherboard use to talk to each other. The chipset determines which processors a motherboard is compatible with.

SATA Ports

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment ports, an interface for attaching 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.