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The best Z270 motherboard

Intel's mainstream LGA1151 platform is the best place to start for most gamers.

Last year was crazy with new processor launches from AMD and Intel. Intel got things started with a refresh of its existing Skylake architecture, codenamed Kaby Lake, which brought higher clockspeeds and a few new features to the existing LGA1151 platform. AMD countered with its Ryzen processors and the AM4 platform, and then Intel launched its enthusiast Skylake-X/Kaby Lake-X parts with LGA2066 and AMD countered with Threadripper and socket TR4.

With all the new processors, it can be difficult to know what the best gaming motherboards are the best for each platform. Intel's new 8th Gen Coffee lake processors is out now, and while they use the same LGA1151 socket as Kaby Lake, the processors require new 300-series chipsets. But if you're looking to build a new mainstream gaming system with an Intel processor, where the Core i7-7700K and Core i5-7600K remain respectable choices at reasonable prices, you'll want to start with a Z270 motherboard.

The jump in features, style, and performance from Z97 to Z270 has been dramatic and useful to enthusiasts of all stripes, far outstripping CPU advancements since Haswell. Most Z270 motherboards support multiple x4 PCIe Gen3 M.2 slots, sufficient PCIe lanes dual-GPU configurations, subtle or changeable color schemes, Realtek’s new ALC1220 audio codec is commonplace, and there are a host of refinements for overclocking. Mounts for 3D-printed add-ons are even starting to appear. 

Meanwhile, legacy ports are starting to disappear. USB 2.0 headers and back-panel connectors are getting swapped for 3.0 and 3.1 counterparts. SATA port counts are getting shaved to free resources and space for M.2 and U.2 storage. All the boards here feature at least a pair of M.2 slots, and all are full-speed, 32 Gb/s implementations. The days of SATA may be numbered (at least if they can get prices on M.2 SSDs down to more reasonable levels).

The Z270 chipset (and other 200-series parts) remain backwards compatible with 6th Gen Skylake CPUs, and 100-series chipsets will also work with 7th Gen Kaby Lake processors. However, Z270 provides four additional PCIe lanes, which is why we're seeing more M.2 slots this round, and you'll also need a 200-series chipset if you want to use Intel's Optimus Memory technology.

While most motherboards will work well, enthusiasts will often want more than the base level of performance and features. After extensive research and testing, these are the best Z270 motherboards.

Best overall Z270 motherboard

Best overall Z270 motherboard

  • Good price
  • Best overclocking and memory scores
  • Mild or wild, depending on how you tune the lights
  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • More board than you need for a typical PC
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Best budget Z270 motherboard

Best budget Z270 motherboard

  • Excellent price
  • Stylish design with built-in I/O cover and LED backlighting
  • Intel Ethernet
  • Ancient Realtek ALC892 audio
  • Poor overclocking results
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Best midrange Z270 motherboard

Best midrange Z270 motherboard

  • Great CPU overclocking
  • Slick looks and RGB system
  • Board layout improvements
  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
  • Few legacy ports
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Best high-end Z270 motherboard

Best high-end Z270 motherboard

  • Top-shelf performance
  • Armor and Aura RGB look impressive
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
  • Armor impedes access to some ports and connectors
  • Where's the 3T3R Wi-Fi, third M.2 slot, or teamable Ethernet?
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Best ITX Z270 motherboard

Best ITX Z270 motherboard

  • Well-made and stylish
  • Dual M.2, with one easy-access topside slot
  • Inexpensive
  • No USB 2.0 headers on motherboard
  • Others have Thunderbolt 3
  • Sharp corners bite during tight installs
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How we test gaming motherboards

Testing component list:

The motherboards recommended in this guide all received various forms of hands-on 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 researched the entire field of Z270 motherboards and narrowed the list down to the best, most competitive boards before choosing these to test.

Benchmarks include AIDA 64 Extreme, PCMark 8, Cinebench 15, CrystalDiskMark, 3DMark FireStrike, PCMark 8, 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 such as GTAV, Total War: Warhammer, DiRT Rally, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Far Cry Primal, Hitman, and others.

Gaming tests are run at 1080p at medium to high settings to remove any bottlenecks caused by graphics card performance. When possible, both single- and dual-graphics card configurations are tested to insure motherboard stability in SLI and Crossfire situations.

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