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The best gaming motherboards in 2019

The best gaming motherboards in 2019
(Image credit: Future)

Not all of the best gaming motherboards are created equal. Without an eye for detail or paying attention to the spec sheet, it would be relatively easy to mistake one motherboard for another at a surface level, but closer inspection will slowly reveal the details that can make all of the difference in your gaming PC build. This is especially important when you consider that your motherboard can potentially be a long term investment. Choosing a motherboard with some room to grow can potentially save you money down the line provided you pick something that's a little future proof. 

So how do you pick out which motherboard is right for you? With virtually every manufacturer getting its hands in the motherboard game, there can be a dizzying array of options available. However, there are really only a handful of factors you need to consider before you start drilling down to a more granular level. 

The first thing to consider is what processor you're using, while AMD and Intel CPUs do use visually distinct chipsets, there's nothing worse than sorting out all the parts you need, only to find that your CPU doesn't quite fit where it needs to go. Best practice is to always check the specs of the motherboards socket type before committing to a particular CPU. Typically this means LGA1151 for Intel, and AM4 for AMD. There are larger sockets available for HEDT CPUs like the LGA 2066 and TR4, but we don't recommend those for gaming.

When you're picking out the best PC case for your build, make sure it's large enough to house the size of motherboard you've picked, whether that's an ultra-compact Mini-ITX like the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming or a massive ATX battle station like the Gigabyte X470 Aorus. The size of the mobo doesn't just dictate the size of the case, but how much hardware you can cram in there and therefore what kind of potential performance you can ultimately expect.

You can also play around with options like RGB lighting, built-in Wi-Fi or additional USB headers. You should also be mindful of mobo deals that come bundled with CPUs, especially with Black Friday right around the corner, there is some serious savings potential. 

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. It's a small criticism of an otherwise top board, but when you're using the Z390 as the base for all 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.

This year's 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 with getting the most out of AMD's 3rd gen Ryzen CPUs. Four DIMM slots that can handle speeds up to 4400Mhz and two M.2 slots sporting PCIe 4.0, 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 X570 does support Wi-Fi 6 and while this does necessitate a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router, there is still the potential for a speed boost down the line if you're looking to upgrade.

As with most gaming motherboards, the 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 to 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 fan, 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

The best gaming motherboard for multi-core Ryzen 7 users

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

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 Ryzen 7 builds. If, however, you're looking for more advanced features and the ability to do serious overclocking, this one won't satisfy like the Crosshair VII.

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6. Gigabyte Aorus AX370 Gaming 5

Great compatibility and performance, at a lower price

Chipset: X370 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-3200 | PCIe slots: x16, x16 (x8), 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, (2) RGB header

Stable BIOS and good memory support
32 Gb/s M.2 and U.2 connectors
No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
Single M.2 slot

Gigabyte's Aorus AX370 Gaming 5 got the nod early on for showing up on time and being stable from Ryzen's start, and it remains an impressive midrange AM4 effort. While others have largely caught up now, Gigabyte sorted out the platform ahead of the competition, delivering a motherboard that proves an easy partner during the build process and providing a slick experience comparable to assembling a Z170 or Z270 system.

Overclocking isn't a top priority for Aorus gaming motherboards, or Ryzen in general. The Ryzen 7 1700X used in testing could only manage around 4GHz, but at stock clocks the 1700X's higher IPC and eight cores pull comfortably away from Intel's more expensive 6-core counterparts. If you're on a budget and don't mind using an older platform, the AX370 Gaming 5 is more than sufficient for most AM4 gaming builds.

It does lack some of the features that you get from more premium boards, like WiFi and Bluetooth compatibility, so you should decide whether or not the saving you make on your mobo would be lost adding in connectivity with separate components.

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7. 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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8. 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

Built-in Operating System/Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, which connects the permanent 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.