Choosing the best gaming motherboard is a decision that you should definitely stress over, because it is the ultimate in bottlenecks, limiting that pricey, hard drive you’ve bought, that amazing video card, and your overclocked CPU.
Your build starts with the chipset you’re going to run, then gets narrowed down by the motherboard you choose. Once you’ve figured out the motherboard you’re going to run, choosing other components becomes easy.
We’ve covered a wide variety of chipsets and tested numerous different motherboards to determine which ones are best and provide the highest level of performance for the money that you’re going to be spending on them.
- 1 How To Choose A Gaming Motherboard
- 2 Best Intel Z170 Motherboards: Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1 Motherboard
- 3 Best Intel H170 Motherboards: Gigabyte GA-H170-D3HP
- 4 Best Intel Z97 Motherboards: ASRock Z97-Extreme6 ATX
- 5 Best Intel H97 Motherboards: ASRock H97M Pro4
- 6 Best Intel H81 Motherboards: MSI H81M-E34
- 7 Best Intel X99 Motherboards: MSI X99S SLI Plus ATX
- 8 Best AMD AM1 Motherboards: Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Micro ATX
- 9 Best AMD A88X Motherboards: Asus A88X-Pro
- 10 Best AMD A78 Motherboards: ASRock FM2A78M-ITX+
- 11 Best AMD 990FX Motherboards: MSI 990FXA Gaming
- 12 Best AMD AM3+ Motherboards: Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P
- 13 Best AMD FM2+ Motherboards: Asus A88X-Pro
- 14 Best General Skylake Motherboard: Asus Z170-Pro
- 15 Best Mid-Range Skylake Motherboard: MSI Z170A Gaming Pro
- 16 Best Budget Skylake Motherboard: MSI H170 Gaming M3
- 17 Best Mini-ITX Skylake Motherboard: ASRock Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac
- 18 Best High-End Skylake Motherboard: Asus Z170 Deluxe
- 19 Best Mid-Range Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97 Pro Gamer
- 20 Best Budget Haswell Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty
- 21 Best High-End Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97 Pro WiFi/USB 3.1
- 22 Best Mini-ITX Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97I Plus
- 23 Best Intel Extreme Motherboard: Asus X99 Rampage V
- 24 How We Tested These Motherboards
How To Choose A Gaming Motherboard
Your processor, video card, and RAM speak directly to the performance you’ll get from the system that you’re building, but the motherboard is going to be the ultimate question you need to answer to determine exactly what you can run.
All of your hardware compatibility questions are centered around the motherboard you choose, so this should be your first area of concern.
In today’s landscape, choosing hardware is much easier than it was ten years ago. A decade ago, you needed to look at the software you were going to be running, find the minimum requirements, and then build your PC around those.
Today, though, hardware has dramatically outpaced software, and games are the most intensive programs that you’re going to be running. Any motherboard you choose will be capable of running hardware that can easily handle the software’s requirements.
To choose a motherboard, you’re going to need to address four different areas: size, cost, lifespan, and future pacing. Most budget motherboards are going to be able to handle the hardware required to run the latest graphics-intensive games.
When you’re looking at the difference between a budget motherboard and hardware compared to a high-end motherboard and hardware, you’re mainly looking at a few frames per second.
The big difference is what is going to happen over the next two to three years. If you’re planning on overclocking your CPU or running multiple graphics cards, for instance, that budget motherboard you bought may need to be replaced, putting you back at square one.
That means you need to anticipate what your future needs are going to be, so you can account for them now and only spend the money once. Buying a higher end motherboard now could be cheaper for you in the long run when it comes time to upgrading your system again.
To determine your future needs, you’ll need to ask yourself a few different questions.
Can you expand to a second graphics card later? Is the onboard sound sufficient for the long run, or does it provide an additional slot to upgrade to a standalone card? Can you safely overclock the CPU down the road? Are there enough USB ports available? Can you plug in all of your drives, and possibly more drives in the future?
The answers to most of these questions can be found in the size, or form factor, of the motherboard you’re thinking about purchasing.
The form factor you choose largely depends on where you plan on storing the new PC that you’re building. Will it take up space on your desk? On the floor next to your feet? Or do you have a cubby specially designed to contain the system?
There are five different form factors you’ll need to consider, from largest (and most expansion) to smallest (and least expansion): ATX, Micro ATX, Flex ATX, DTX, and Mini-ITX.
The ATX form factor provides the most expansion slots, for hardware such as your graphics card, sound card, and NIC card, while the Mini-ITX provides the least amount of expansion slots, but also allows you to build a “micro” PC that can be stored almost anywhere.
Best Intel Z170 Motherboards: Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1 Motherboard
Gigabyte’s Z170X-Gaming G1 has zero trouble providing enough features for qualifying it as a top-tier motherboard. With advances in the DSL6540 Thunderbolt 3 controller, the Z170 adds a myriad of possibilities to your hardware configuration.
This motherboard is as close to you can get to a no-expenses-spared PC build, and comes ready to handle liquid cooling out of the box, a 22-phase voltage regulator, four-way SLI support, and 6th generation Intel Core processor capability. Next generation SATA Express nearly triples the transfer rate of your drives and gives you more configuration options.
It comes with a built-in 802.11ac MIMO WiFi controller with up to 867mbps bandwidth, while still retaining the Gigabit ethernet capability, along with USB 3.1 Type C universal connectors. Dual PCIe slots allow up to 32Gb/s data transfer to keep your hard drives operating at blistering speeds.
Onboard Creative SoundCore 3D gaming audio means you won’t need a separate card, and the Gigabyte UEFI DualBIOS technology allows you to easily dial in the motherboard to your exact specifications. You can safely overclock your processor on this board.
2-Way SLI / 3-way CrossFire graphics configurations offer better graphics performance for enthusiasts that demand the highest framerates without compromising on the resolution you’re playing your favorite games at.
ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4
At less than $150, this may be one of the best buys for Z170 chips in 2018. Considered a mid-tier motherboard, the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming K4 allows high-end overclocking on two separate memory modules, an amazing Killer E2400 network controller that provides lower latency in online games.
The only downfall to this motherboard is the fact that you aren’t able to achieve the elite overclocking that most enthusiasts demand, but when you’re on a tight budget, this is one of the most feature-packed motherboards you can get for the Z170 chipset at this price.
The ATX form factor allowed ASRock to pack the board full of other features that make up for the lack of DIMM overclocking, though. It sports 2 PCIe 3.0 x16 slots and 3 PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, along with built-in 7.1 channel HD audio.
Dual SATA Express combined with 6 SATA3 gives you plenty of options for your drive configurations, and the board comes with full spike protection to ensure the drives are safe from electrical issues.
Best Intel H170 Motherboards: Gigabyte GA-H170-D3HP
For around $110, you can get the Gigabyte GA-H170-D3HP board for your H710 chipset. The ATX form factor supports Dual Channel DDR4 with 4 DIMM slots and 2-way graphics support with 4 PCIe Gen3 slots.
Dual SATA Express connectors allow up to 16Gb/s data transfer, while the integrated Intel GbE LAN controller with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator software helps reduce online latency and drop your ping times substantially.
MSI H110M Pro-D
If Micro ATX fits your style better, the MSI H110M Pro-D board fits the bill at an attractive price, while still managing to pack in the features most high-end builders are looking for. Don’t let the low price tag fool you; this motherboard can still help you build a beast system capable of playing the latest games without dropping frames.
It supports Intel’s latest 6th Generation Core processors, and DDR4-2133 memory with built-in DDR4 Boost, giving your memory increased performance without overclocking. EZ Debug lets you quickly troubleshoot problems while the enhanced CPU overvoltage protection keeps your components safe.
Gigabit network support comes baked onto the board, along with VGA armor that keeps your PCI slots functioning flawlessly, no matter how many times you have to move cards around to get the perfect arrangement.
Best Intel Z97 Motherboards: ASRock Z97-Extreme6 ATX
At $195, the ASRock Z97-Extreme6 may be a bit pricey for some builds, but some features and support you get from ASRock makes it totally worth it when you’re building a Z97 based system.
The board supports 4th and 5th Generation Intel Core processors and comes with 12K Platinum resistor caps baked into the board. It supports dual channel DDR3 / DDR3L 3200+ safely overclocked DIMM memory.
Dual PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, combined with a single PCIe 2.0 x16, two more PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and a mini-PCIe slot topped with gold contacts allow you plenty of expansion and your choice in hardware components.
It supports AMD Quad CrossFireX and NVIDIA Quad SLI and provides DVI-I, HDMI, and DisplayPort connections built into the board. The Z97-Extreme6 also features built-in 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection.
Networking is provided by 1 Intel Gigabit LAN and 1 Realtek Gigabit LAN while giving you a wide range of drive options with the single SATA Express lane, 10 SATA3 lanes, 1 eSATA lane, and a single SATA lane.
This is, hands down, the best board available for the Z97 chipset, and well worth the higher price tag that ASRock is asking for it.
MSI Z971 AC Mini ITX
When your Z97 build needs to fit into tight places, the MSI Z971 AC Mini-ITX is the perfect choice at the right price. At less than $90, this is one of the best budget Z97 boards currently available to gamers looking for peak performance without busting their build budget.
With MSI Z971 AC features twice the number of Gigabit ethernet ports and 867 Mb/s bandwidth, along with three times the warranty of its closest competitors. With a simple, yet highly effective voltage regulator heatsink, the Z971 provides the highest level of overclocking support for boards in this price range.
The lower price means that MSI had to cut corners in some places, which, in the case of the Z971 AC, meant that overclocking is slightly weaker and it is unable to handle a secondary graphics card. It also may have issues providing the extra voltage needed for the newest Core i7 processors.
Even with its lower overclocking support, the MSI Z971 AC wins the award for the best budget gaming motherboard for the Z97 chipset, especially with its smaller Mini-ITX form factor.
Best Intel H97 Motherboards: ASRock H97M Pro4
The best H97 motherboard isn’t the most expensive, and it’s a Micro ATX form factor, to boot. Who would have thought that it could have taken the top spot and be featured as one of the best mainstream gaming motherboards for the H97 chipset? We didn’t until we tested it.
At only ~$80, the ASRock H97M Pro4 supports all 4th and 5th Generation Intel Core and Xeon processors and comes with a ton of component lanes, despite it’s smaller form factor.
It features a solid capacitor design and supports dual channel DDR3 / DDR3L 1600 DIMM memory, and sports a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, along with a single vertical half mini-PCIe slot for additional WiFi and Bluetooth support.
The D-Sub, DVI-D, and HDMI ports allow you to run triple monitors without requiring an additional card, and the onboard Atheros Gigabit LAN helps keep your latency low. It’s got 5 SATA3 lanes, 6 USB 3.0 ports, and 4 USB 2.0 ports for extra expansion.
The ASRock H97M-ITX/ac allowed ASRock to take both of the top spots for the H97 chipset and supports all 4th and 5th generation Intel Core and Xeon processors. It supports dual channel DDR3 / DDR3 1600 DIMM memory.
Onboard, you’ve got a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, along with a vertical half mini-PCIe slot for additional WiFi and Bluetooth support. It allows you to run triple monitors like the H97M Pro4 and has the same 7.1 channel HD audio support and Atheros Gigabit LAN built in.
With 5 SATA3 slots, 6 USB 3.0 slots and 4 USB 2.0 slots, the H97M-ITX/ac provides maximum expansion in the tiny form factor. This is the ultimate board when you’re trying to save space while still getting the best performance for your gaming sessions.
Best Intel H81 Motherboards: MSI H81M-E34
Another Micro ATX board makes its way onto the list. The MSI H81M-E34 board is small enough to fit the antiquated Flex ATX chassis, so for as little as $40, you can get a board that supports all 4th Generation LGA 1150 socket chips, DDR3-1600 memory, and 6Gb/s SATA drives.
The board allows you to overclock your chipset in as little as 1 second, with Click BIOS that lets you fine tune the specs. 4K UHD support allows you to play at the highest resolutions, while the built-in fast boot, M-flash and Live Update 5 keep your board functioning flawlessly with the latest BIOS and driver updates.
The H81M-E34 features an additional USB 3.0 controller to provide two extra ports, extra integrated display output to run a secondary monitor, and granular overclocking controls so you can safely boost your processing power.
The layout of the board is well thought out, compared to other H81 boards, especially in this price range. The MSI H81M-E34 easily won in the H81 chipset category.
Best Intel X99 Motherboards: MSI X99S SLI Plus ATX
MSI’s lowest priced X99 motherboard is also one of the best X99 motherboards currently on the market. While it may be a little pricey, you get what you pay for – especially with this board. It beat every other competitor in every single category to claim the top spot.
The X99S SLI Plus allows you to run multiple graphics cards, PCIe M.2 solid state drives, from a 28-lane PCIe controller. While other competitors forced their customers to buy a more expensive CPU to support 3-way SLI on their lower priced boards, MSI worked it in, which helped them win in the ATX category.
It supports all LGA 3011-3 socket chips, quad channel DDR4-3333 OC memory, and provides up to 32 Gb/s transfer speeds with the M.2 Gen3 x4 performance onboard. Multi-GPU support, combined with the OC Engine allows to perfectly dial in your components for the highest level experience.
USB Steel Power provides a stable 5V power supply with better signal transmission over traditional USB. The integrated Intel Gigabit LAN allows you always to stay connected with decreased latency, while the OC Genie 4 and Click BIOS 4 allow you to dial in your overclocking and board settings easily.
ASRock X99M Extreme4 Micro ATX
Dual networking and selectable dual BIOS are just two of the reasons that the ASRock X99M Extreme4 claimed the top spot in the Micro ATX category. It also comes with a single 4-lane PCIe 3.0 based Ultra M.2 slot so you can run ultra-fast storage options.
While the X99M Extreme4 did claim the top micro ATX slot, it did have better features than it’s the closest competitor but was required to give up a few features to work those more coveted features in.
For instance, there is no USB 3.0 controller, and its third x16 expansion slot is wired as a PCIe 2.0 x4 slot, making it almost superfluous for most gaming builds. This does still allow you to run dual double-slot graphics cards in a four-slot case, though.
Even with the micro form factor, the X99M Extreme4 packs quite a punch. It supports all 18-core processors, and quad channel DDR4 3000+ OC, ECC, and RDIMM memory. Onboard 7.1 channel HD audio comes with Purity Sound baked in.
10 SATA 3 slots, 1 eSATA slot, and a single Ultra M.2 slot give you plenty of options when it comes to choosing the perfect drive setup. 6 USB 3.0 ports and 8 USB 2.0 ports give you plenty of expansion options.
MSI X99A Godlike Gaming EATX
This is hands down, the best overclocking motherboard you can buy for the X99 chipset. MSI’s X99A Godlike Gaming board is designed specifically for gamers and high-performance enthusiasts in mind.
It features true USB 3.1 ports, both Type A and Type C, Triple Killer Networks controllers — one 802.11ac and dual Gigabit Ethernet. Turbo U.2 SSD support allows you to run solid state drives at up to 2.4Gb/s read speeds, while the Turbo M.2 SSD support allows for speeds up to 32Gb/s.
Multi-GPU support lets you run multiple graphics cards while the OC Engine allows you to reach higher overclocking results with flexible BCLK adjustments from 100 to 167MHz. Audio Boost 3 RPO provides crystal clear sound, and the board’s ship with both OC Genie 4 and Click BIOS 4.
In the EATX form factor, there are no motherboards that are even close to competing at the level of the X99A Godlike Gaming, especially when you bring price into consideration.
ASRock X99E-ITX/ac Mini-ITX
When it comes to tiny boards, the ASRock X99E-ITX/ac packs a full-sized punch. The closest competitors were still football fields away from being able to compete with the latest ASRock board. It comes equipped with a full sized ATX appetite for overclocking.
This board is highly recommended for enthusiasts that need the smaller form factor, along with more CPU cores, but don’t need the additional memory bandwidth capabilities of the CPU’s quad channel integrated memory controllers.
The X99E-ITX/ac features X Series OC sockets, a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot and a vertical mini PCIe slot for additional WiFi and Bluetooth support. With 6 SATA3, 1 eSATA, a single SATA Express and one Ultra M.2 slot, you have numerous different drive configurations available.
Dual integrated Gigabit LAN and true USB 3.1 10Gb/s ports, along with 6 USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports provide plenty of room for expansion.
As you can see, even with the Mini-ITX form factor, ASRock packed a ton of features into the X99E-ITX/ac motherboard, allowing it to compete with some of the larger boards in the X99 chipset category.
Best AMD AM1 Motherboards: Gigabyte AM1M-S2H Micro ATX
At less than $40, the AM1M-S2H Micro ATX board from Gigabyte is one of the best buys for the AMD AM1 chipset. It provides the greatest range of expansion options by increasing the size of the board while still maintaining the form factor.
The AM1M-S2H boasts the Micro ATX form factor but provides two additional PCIe slots over the leading competitors. This still leaves the board one slot shy of most other full Micro ATX boards, but Gigabyte makes up for the lack of the additional slot by providing, even more, expansion capabilities.
The board supports DDR3 memory and 6Gb/s SATA drives, along with 4K HD resolutions. It features three different display outputs, allowing you to connect through HDMI, DVI, and D-Sub channels. Fast Boot capabilities allow you to quickly boot and enter into an OS.
MSI AM1I ATX
Originally $40, the MSI AM1I hammered its competitors based on price alone. With the newest release of the board, the price has dropped even further, allowing it to easily secure the top spot in the ATX form factor category for the AM1 chipset.
The AM1I focuses primarily on the mini desktop market and forgoes parallel ports and both front panels and I/O ports for a mini-PCIe slot. It comes with UEFI BIOS support baked in, along with HDMI and D-sub ports for multiple displays. Dual USB 3.0 ports and onboard GbE LAN round out the board, helping it secure the top spot for AM1 chipsets.
Best AMD A88X Motherboards: Asus A88X-Pro
Asus handily surpassed the competition by packing as many features into the A88X-Pro board as they could legitimately fit onto it. The Micro-ATX form factor board comes packed chock full of features that aren’t available on the competitor’s boards.
It comes with three PCIe x16 graphics cards slots, dual PCIe x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots to ensure backward compatibility. Front and rear accessible USB 3.0 ports allow you to expand your peripherals easily.
Overclocking your DDR3 memory is possible and fairly effortless, allowing you to extract maximum performance without worrying. The integrated Radeon R7 graphics engine allows you to achieve maximum framerates at the highest resolutions possible.
Best AMD A78 Motherboards: ASRock FM2A78M-ITX+
Built with home theater systems in mind, the ASRock FM2A78M-ITX+ board features an HDMI passthrough connection to power your primary display, while allowing you to attach as many as six drives for the ultimate in home theater storage solutions.
The built-in DTS Connect allows you to encode live multichannel audio streams into the digital output. Overclocking your CPU is easy with the board, allowing you to squeeze even more power out of the FM2+ chipset.
The board sports a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, integrated Radeon R7 graphics, along with D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI-Out and HDMI-In ports. 7.1 channel HD audio with Content Protection and DTS connect ensures the highest quality auditory experience. Six SATA3 slots, 4 USB 3.0 ports, and 6 USB 2.0 ports round out the expansion slots.
Best AMD 990FX Motherboards: MSI 990FXA Gaming
With high-end AMD motherboards being so hard to come by, the 990FXA is a breath of fresh air. MSI went to the drawing board and added enough features to get noticed and claim the top spot for the 990FX chipset. It provides amazing power efficiency, true USB 3.1 ports and even more features that bring the ancient platform up to modern day specifications.
It features Digi+ Power Control, giving you full hardware control and performance tuning. Each board also features USB 3.0 Boost, allowing you to squeeze more throughput from your USB 3.0 ports. It also allows you effortless CPU and DRAM overclocking for even more performance.
The boards come with OC Genie 4, providing easy and safe overclocking, along with Click BIOS 4 to easily fine tune your hardware. Rounding it out with sound Blaster Cinema 2 delivers you a realistic surround sound experience.
Asus M5A99FX Pro R2.0
The full sized M5A99FX Pro R2.0 from Asus supports up to four single slot graphics cards or three double slot graphics cards, along with two-way SLI.
Asus built in proprietary USB BIOS Flashback features, allowing it to claim the top spot in the ATX 990FX chipset category. The battle was close, but the USB BIOS Flashback feature, coupled with the highest stable overclocking in the category helped Asus easily secure their victory.
At less than $150, the board sports a 5.2 GT/s transfer rate on the databus, with a max bus speed of 2600 MHz. It features 4 DIMM slots, 4 PCIe 2.0 x16 slots, a single PCI 2.0 x1 and another PCI slot to provide plenty of expansion capabilities.
With 2 USB 3.0 ports, 8 USB 2.0 ports, a serial port, single SPDIF out and a single audio port, there is enough room to build your entire theater system and connect your gaming peripherals without having to juggle cords and slots.
Best AMD AM3+ Motherboards: Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P
When it comes to the AMD AM3+ chipset, very few boards were able to compete with the Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3P motherboard. At less than $100, the board is fairly generic, but extremely well made and thought-out. It features an 8+2 phase VRM, along with a solid collection of SATA controllers and USB ports.
Modern touches like BIOS backups and quick charge USB connectors help bring it into today’s standards, while the AM3+ chipset shows the board’s vintage appeal. Even though the AM3+ chipset is becoming dated, it is still a solid chipset for budget PC builders.
Unfortunately, SLI support is unavailable, but Crossfire is still an option when you plan on filling up the expansion slots. This board is the best budget board for the AM3+ chipset, but if you have the funds available, you may be better off upgrading to a higher end chip.
ASRock 990FX Killer/3.1
AMD designed the AM3 chipset before technologies like M.2 and true USB 3.1 existed, but ASRock realized the power of both technologies and began implementing them onto their 990FX Killer/3.1 board.
Even though most AM3+ boards are designed to be budget friendly (which usually means lack of features), ASRock brings the AM3+ chipset into today’s standards. It’s built with a 10Gb/s M.2 slot and comes with a true USB 3.1 card, all for less than $150.
Full overclocking support is available and complemented by a wide range of slots. The board comes with x16 PCI slots to help you accommodate a huge amount of configuration options. Realtek provides Crystal Audio support to reduce distortion and provide amazing sound.
Best AMD FM2+ Motherboards: Asus A88X-Pro
Because the FM2+ chipset is still being developed, there are a lot more options available in terms of the boards that you can choose to start your build with. The Asus A88X-Pro helps budget builders stay within their financial limits by loading the board down with the essentials so that you can spend more in other areas.
For instance, you can spend more on the higher throughput 2400+ Mhz DRAM since you won’t have to spend money buying a high-end video card. You also get Realtek ALC 1150 audio, a stable 6+2 phase VRM, and Realtek Gigabit LAN.
Asus’s UEFI BIOS allows plenty of control over the CPU, GPU, and RAM speeds, so you can make the most of the expensive RAM you’ve bought.
Unfortunately, you don’t get access to the ultra-fast M.2 drive slots at this time, but for this price range, you may not be able to notice the difference in speeds when you’re thinking about all the money you’ve saved.
Asus Crossblade Ranger
When you’re putting together an FM2+ build and aren’t necessarily worried about the costs, the Asus Crossblade Ranger is the perfect board to help you make that happen. At around $150, the board sports Intel ethernet and SupremeFX 2014 audio that is unmatched in other boards in this price range.
The board supports 6Gb/s SATA drives, provides USB 3.0 and HDMI ports for extra peripherals, and features Asus’s UEFI BIOS and GPU Boosting technology to help you squeeze every bit of performance out of your chips.
The 4K ready board may have a higher price tag than most of the other competitors in this category, but the quality you get from Asus makes it perfect for builders that aren’t necessarily concerned about budget and want more performance and future-proofing from their system.
Best General Skylake Motherboard: Asus Z170-Pro
While Asus sorts out their Pro Gaming series motherboards, and MSI forces you to wait while they step up their game in the Skylake category, Asus has a board that’s available that can hold you over.
The Z170-Pro board features VRM hardware that’s better than most mid-range boards. Included baked into the board is ALC 1150 Audio, Intel v219 Ethernet, and Asus’s proprietary BIOS that provides the best LGA1151 experience available today.
If you’re waiting for the beta testing to happen for Asus’s newest boards, you may want to consider the Z170-Pro. It’s been time-proven to deliver, even with its hefty price tag but is still substantially cheaper than most high-end motherboards, even when offering comparable features.
Now, you may not be able to get WiFi, Bluetooth, or handheld overclocking consoles with the Z170-Pro, but Asus makes up for it with true USB 3.1 connectors, full speed four lane M.2 slots, and DIMM support up to 3866MHz.
This may not be the most expensive, or feature packed board on the market, but when you’re wanting to get a high-quality build put together without busting your budget, the Asus Z170-Pro is the best board in this category.
Best Mid-Range Skylake Motherboard: MSI Z170A Gaming Pro
Where price meets features, you’ll find the MSI Z170A Gaming Pro motherboard. It’s the perfect mid-range board for building a strong PC that doesn’t annihilate your budget at the same time. They beat out Asus to secure the top spot for the best Z170 motherboard under $150.
It matches the more expensive Asus Gaming Pro in specifications and features, while still managing to undercut them on pricing. The firmware stability and research that went into Intel’s new chipset make this board a much better choice.
On the board itself, you’ll find 14 USB ports, including a pair of true 10Gb/s 3.1 connectors, enhanced ALC1150 audio, and support for 3600MHz DIMM memory and easy overclocking. Intel v219 LAN is included to provide low latency gaming.
MSI’s BIOS is, hands down, one of the easiest to use in the industry, allowing you to achieve top clock speeds that are on par with other mid-range boards, and comparable to high-end boards in the same category.
Best Budget Skylake Motherboard: MSI H170 Gaming M3
Budget motherboards aren’t going to provide the high level overclocking that speed freaks are looking for, which makes the H170 perfect for a budget build. Saving money from the H170 chipset over the Z170 chipset is provided primarily by skipping the K processor premiums.
When your budget matters more than ever, but you want a machine that is going to be future-proof and last you for years, the MSI H170 Gaming M3 is a solid choice and winner of the best budget Skylake motherboard category.
Both MSI and ASRock battled it out for the budget board spot, but MSI won with a better price tag and better, easier to use BIOS that hides where they’ve compromised on features for a lower price range.
The features baked into the MSI H170 Gaming M3 are comparable to the features you would see on most mid-range gaming motherboards. It boasts a single 32-bit four-lane M.2 connector, allowing you to run your favorite SSD at 2.5GB/s.
Seven PCI slots allow you the most expansion out of all other boards in this category, and six 1st Generation USB 3.1 ports allow you peripheral options without juggling cords. You’re not able to overclock on the board, which is one of the major downfalls for boards in the budget H170 category.
Best Mini-ITX Skylake Motherboard: ASRock Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac
ITX boards are one of those uninhabited lands for gamers, especially those looking to build a high-end system, but ASRock is trying to change the game with their Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac board. The Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac is feature packed, even for its bite-sized form factor, allowing them to easily secure the #1 spot for best mini ITX Skylake based board.
ASRock understands that most ITX based builds are primarily used for media servers, with gaming coming in at a close second, and built full 802.11ac dual antenna WiFi and Bluetooth directly onto the board itself, handling both with Intel’s v219 Ethernet.
7.1 channel HD audio is handled by the ALC1150 codec, and HDMI 2.0 is built in so you have immediate access to 4K streaming. High-speed drive possibilities are ready to go out-of-the-box with M.2 four-lane 32Gb/s speeds, along with true USB 3.1 Gen 2 A and C connectors.
Even though the size may slightly limit your peripheral options, ASRock fully understands what you’re trying to achieve and built the Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac board to meet those requirements and perform exceedingly well.
Best High-End Skylake Motherboard: Asus Z170 Deluxe
Asus may not completely have their act together with their mid-range motherboard offerings, but when it comes to high-end boards, they own the category with the Z170 Deluxe. While there weren’t necessarily any losers in the category, Asus did win by providing more high-end features than their closest competitor.
In its current form, it does everything that its competitors do, only better. Much better. Instead of putting intangible upgrades into the board to increase their price tag and make themselves sound prestigious, Asus put in usable upgrades that gamers will appreciate.
For instance, Asus includes extra LAN ports over their next competitor, along with triple antenna 1300Mb/s WiFi, Bluetooth, and six 10Gb/s USB 3.1 ports, including the ever-elusive Type C connectors.
The price on this board isn’t cheap, by any means, but you’ll never have regrets about buying it, especially if you pair it with other high-end components. Asus’s BIOS is still the head of the pack and what other manufacturers are trying to emulate, providing amazing control over your chips.
Instead of providing extra M.2 slots, Asus builds in the handy Hyper M.2 x4 Mini Kit, so you still have plenty of options for high-speed drives. At the end of the day, this is a small sacrifice to make when you get as much as you do from the Asus Z170 Deluxe gaming board.
Best Mid-Range Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97 Pro Gamer
Asus has pretty solidly secured their place in the mid-range and high-end motherboard market, and make no exceptions with the current release of their Z97 Pro Gamer board. The board is a mix of ROG features combined with the simplicity of the main Pro series boards, helping them to secure the top spot for mid-range Haswell-based motherboards easily.
It’s built with 10Gb/s M.2 sockets, 8 phase VRM, and tons of options for controlling your fans so you can safely overclock the Z97 chipset without frying it in the process. It’s the best mixture of mid-range features at a price tag that isn’t painful to swallow.
The only feature missing is true USB 3.1 ports but does allow you to expand to them using a PCI card. It also doesn’t include Bluetooth or WiFi, but that’s an area sacrificed to keep the price down since WiFi cards are so affordable.
The Z97 Pro Gamer supports dual DDR3 3200(OC) DIMM, and both 4th and 5th Generation Intel Core, Pentium, and Celeron processors. SupremeFX audio keeps your 7.1 channel HD audio crisp and clear.
Best Budget Haswell Motherboard: ASRock Fatal1ty
When it comes to building a budget Haswell-based PC, the ASRock Fatal1ty tops the charts by combining largely mid-range features, easy installation, and amazing overclocking capabilities into a package that’s impossible to beat in this price range.
It’s not nearly as robust as the H97 Gamer Pro, but it also doesn’t have the high price tag that comes along with that board. The performance you can get from the Fatal1ty at this price range is unmatched by other boards, even those packed with more features.
It’s got low latency Intel Gigabit Ethernet baked onto the board, along with Crystal Sound handled by Realtek ALC1150 audio. M.2 support is left out so that they could get the price this low, so you’re stuck with primarily standard SSD drives.
Updated BIOS allows you to boot fast off an SSD, and get more out of your processor. Installation is easy, especially when you see all of the extras that come inside of the box. At less than $100, this board is simply hard to beat and can provide a very future proof budget based build.
Best High-End Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97 Pro WiFi/USB 3.1
You’re venturing into muddy waters when you start looking for a high-end Haswell-based PC build, especially in the motherboard category. However, out of the available options, Asus has taken the crown with their Z97 Pro WiFi/USB 3.1 offering.
Spending more than $200 on a motherboard gets dicey, primarily because there are so many different options available both up and down the ladder. However, Asus baked more useful and proven features into the Z97 Pro WiFi/USB 3.1 rather than seasonable fashions to ensure that they are delivering on exactly what high-end builders are looking for.
It features USB 3.1 (pretty obviously, right?), Bluetooth and high-speed WiFi directly on the board, so the slots and ports are free to configure as you wish. 12 phase CPU control, coupled with Mature drivers, and Intel-based Gigabit Ethernet provide low latency operation and smooth, safe overclocking capabilities.
The overclocking controls baked into the BIOS allowed for easy automatic tuning that enabled us to push speeds as high as what we had achieved through manual tuning, and our fans stayed nice and quiet while the CPUs were pushed to their peak performance.
Best Mini-ITX Haswell Motherboard: Asus Z97I Plus
Building an ITX based gaming build may be as far fetched sounding as finding a high-quality ITX based Haswell motherboard, but Asus delivers with their Z97I Plus. The ITX form factor is forced to forego higher end options to maintain the small size, which makes it a hindrance for gaming.
However, many enthusiasts are pairing together their home theater system with their light gaming use and choosing the ITX form factor as the route they want to take. For those enthusiasts, the Z97I Plus is simply the best choice and the winner of our ITX based category.
Even though it features a slightly limited 6 phase VRM and only two DRAM slots, the board allows you ample overclocking options, control, and fan configurations so you can safely boost up the speeds without worrying about heat induced problems.
Both 2T2R WiFi and Bluetooth are standard on the board, along with a single M.2 10Gb/s slot on the back. The only missing feature from this, for both gaming and home theater builds, is the inclusion of Realtek ALC1150 audio.
At this price range, you’re likely not going to find another board that packs as many features into such a small form factor as the Z97I Plus from Asus.
Best Intel Extreme Motherboard: Asus X99 Rampage V
When it comes to high-end Intel Extreme builds, the Asus X99 Rampage V represents the end of the rainbow for gamers looking to round out their build with an amazing board that’s packed chock full of features, slots, and ports.
Building an X99 based system means you’ve probably already accepted the fact that diminishing returns are just a part of life, and the price tag on the X99 Rampage V doesn’t let you down in that regard.
Even with its steep price tag, though, the X99 Rampage V is perfect for both gamers and videographers, along with other resource junkies that demand an ultra high performing system and spare no expense in the process of building it.
The X99 Rampage V features the fastest four land Generation 3 M.2 slots to deliver data transfer rates three times faster than the next competitor. Tapping into the blazingly fast speeds offered by the latest SATA SSDs is a feature that you’ll immediately notice.
The board also features either 28 or 40 I/O lanes through the CPU, giving you plenty of breathing room and allowing for maximum expansion cards without having to resort to trickery or downgrading the performance of your CPU’s cores.
At the end of the day, there is no such thing as a budget build in the X99 category, and Asus understands this fact. They make up for it by ensuring that the board is future proof and full of ports, like the built in USB 3.1 card, 3T3R WiFi, and OC Panel that provides real-time system information.
How We Tested These Motherboards
The motherboards featured in this guide were tested under hands-on scenarios that ranged from installing them into the case, benchmarking their performance, testing their stability, and testing them in real-world break-in situations that focused on gaming, entertainment, and office use.
Whenever possible, hardware components were switched between systems to ensure we could maintain the same builds as closely as possible. The main differences were the motherboard itself, along with the CPU.
Benchmarks were provided by AIDA 64 Extreme, Cinebench 15, Crystal Disk Mark, Unigine Heaven, 3DMark’s FireStrike, and Skydiver, while the real-world break-in period consisted of office and creative work, video streaming, and gaming with some of the most demanding games currently released.
All gaming tests were run at 1080p resolution to ensure that the bottlenecks caused by the graphics card were kept to a minimum. Whenever possible, we used both single and dual graphics card configurations were tested to ensure stability in high bandwidth scenarios.