If a CPU is the brain and the GPU is the heart, the best gaming motherboard is the central nervous system of any PC build. It's the electronic interface all your beautiful components communicate across, and choosing the right one can make the difference between the machine of your dreams and an under-performing botch job. But how do you figure out which mobo is the best fit for the build you're imagining, or how well it'll accommodate all those expensive components you're sinking your hard-earned cash into?
The first thing you need to consider when you're shopping for the best gaming motherboard is compatibility, of course. No board is any good if it won't take the CPU you just spent hundreds of dollars on—AMD's brand new X570 chipset, for instance, only supports 2nd generation AMD CPUs/APUs forward. Beyond that, it largely comes down to features. How many SATA drives do you intend to install, and does the board have enough ports for them? Do you want to add an M.2 NVMe drive? How many USB slots will you realistically need, and where on the machine do you want them to live? Figuring out these answers before you buy a board will save you a lot of future headaches, and will also determine how upgradable your machine ultimately is.
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
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 bit of a winner. We've liked the Aorus branded motherboards starting with Skylake in 2016, and its 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.
2. ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero Wi-Fi
Superior Core i7 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
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.
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
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.
4. 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
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.
Gaming motherboard retailers
If you can't find exactly what you're looking for here, a good tip is to check out some of the big retailers' landing pages, where they're constantly updating prices and deals. Some common options are below, leading straight to their latest selection of gaming motherboards.
- Gaming motherboard deals - Walmart
- Gaming motherboard deals - Amazon
- Gaming motherboard deals - Newegg
5. Gigabyte Z390 UD
Save some cash by going with an affordable mid-tier Intel option
Chipset: Z370 | Memory: (4) DIMM, 64GB, DDR4-3800 | 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
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 $119.
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. 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.
6. 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 (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
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.
7. 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
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.
8. MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC
Built for multi-core Intel CPUs, without sacrificing gaming performance
Chipset: X299 | Memory: (8) DIMM, 128GB, DDR4-4000 | PCIe slots: (2) x16, x16 (x8), x16 (x4), (2) x1 | USB ports: (9) rear IO, (9) internal | Storage: (2) M.2, (1) U.2, (1) M.2 Key-E, (8) SATA | Network: Ethernet, 867Mbps 802.11ac | Lighting: Three zone RGB, (1) RGB header
What if you want more cores for serious work or streaming, plus dual graphics cards without CPU bottlenecks, and overclocking potential as a bonus? If that's what you're after, look to Intel's HEDT (High-End Desktop) X299 platform and the Core i9 processors. The MSI X299 Gaming Pro Carbon AC is a utility infielder that offers every feature you’d expect along with impressive performance and style at a reasonable price, a rarity for the HEDT platform.
Performance is strong, and a solid overclocking experience tops off at 4.6 GHz on a Core i9-7900X (a few ticks shy of the top boards). Memory support is good, running quad-channel configurations at speeds up to 3600. Dual x4 M.2 slots and a U.2 connector deliver high-speed drive access, along with eight SATA 6Gbps ports for more traditional storage media. Intel’s v219 Ethernet and AC-8265 Wi-Fi handle networking with typical aplomb (with the latter in the third M.2 Key-E slot), and the rear panel offers four Gen1 USB 3.1 ports and a pair of Gen2 ports, including one with a Type-C connector.
There are faster X299 boards with exotic extras like 10G Ethernet controllers, 3T3R or 801.11ad Wi-Fi, and a third M.2 slot or bundled expansion cards. The MSI board omits these and goes with a price that's more than fair for the features on tap.
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 - a breakdown of some common 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.
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).
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).
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 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.
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.
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