The Best Motherboards for Gaming in 2021

In the span of only a few decades, PC gaming has gone from being an obscure hobby reserved for nerds to being the go-to source of entertainment for millions of people worldwide. Oftentimes we’re left with big chunks of time on our hands, whether from a slow work week or bad weather, and are forced to find new ways to kill time. With that in mind, there hasn’t been a better time to get into PC gaming, and the first part of building your first PC is choosing the right motherboard. Let’s talk a bit about the best motherboard for gaming.

If you’re new to the PC master race or you’re only used to buying prebuilt systems, we’re here to educate you on what to look for in the best motherboard that’ll meet your particular needs. The motherboard is the base of each build and will dictate what type of CPU you can use, the type of RAM, expansion options, transfer rates for storage, and much more.

We’ll cover the best AM4 motherboard as well as LGA 1151 motherboard, what features are more important for different applications so that you get a comprehensive view of what the market has to offer as well as how your motherboard will impact your system’s performance.

asus rog strix z490-e gaming
  • LGA 1200 Socket
  • 14+2 Phase VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6, 2.5Gb LAN
  • Six SATA III, Two M.2 Slots
CHECK PRICES

If you’re looking for a packed LGA 1200 motherboard with a ton of features, check out the ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming. This is a high-end board and while it isn’t the most expensive Z490 model, it does have virtually everything you might need.

First of all, we have a superb, 14+2 VRM section that can handle the 10900K (or the upcoming 11900K) without issues. The board packs your regular storage combo, consisting of six SATA III and two M.2 slots. There are lots of heatsinks, the board has three PCIe x16 slots (even though SLI and Crossfire are more or less dead), and it comes with a high-end audio section powered by the SupremeFX S1220A codec.

As for the connectivity you have 2.5Gb LAN coupled with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. Rear I/O has four USB 3.2 gen2 ports one of which is USB-C, two USB 3.2 gen1 ports, and four USB 2.0 ports. And if you like overclocking, there’s a nice selection of OC-friendly features that include Flash BIOS button, POST code, and debug LEDs. Overall, the ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming is one of the best Z490 boards around and unless you’re an enthusiast overclocker or in need of three or more M.2 slots, this board will get you covered.

Pros:
  • Great Design With Lots Of RGB
  • Excellent Power Solution
  • Great For Any LGA 1200 CPU
  • Rich Suite Of Features
  • Superb For Overclocking
Cons:
  • Three M.2 Slots Would Be Great At This Price

GIGABYTE Z490 AORUS Ultra

High-End LGA 1200 Motherboard Perfect For Most Gamers

gigabyte z490 aorus ultra
  • LGA 1200 Socket
  • 12+1 Phase VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6, 2.5Gb LAN
  • Six SATA III, Three M.2 Slots
CHECK PRICES

The Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Ultra is a high-end motherboard that’s not of flagship quality but it’s really close. In other words, the Z490 AORUS Ultra has more or less everything you might need on a motherboard. First of all, we have a 12+1 VRM solution, which is pretty good but not the best in class. Nevertheless, it will be enough for a fully OCed 10900K.

The board also comes with three M/2 slots, six SATA III ports, as well as three PCIe x16 slots. The audio section is powered by the Realtek ALC1220-VB codec and this setup should be quality enough for most users sans true audiophiles. Connection options include a 2.5Gb LAN port as well as a Wi-Fi 6 chip that also comes with Bluetooth 5.

On the back, you can find four USB 3.2 gen2 ports (one of those is USB-C), two USB 3.2 gen1, and four USB 2.0 ports. BIOS Flash button is located on the PCB instead of on the rear I/O and while the board has POST code, there aren’t debug LEDs, which is a noticeable miss at this price point.

Pros:
  • Can Handle Any LGA 1200 CPU
  • Three M.2 Slots
  • Slick Design With A Huge Heatsink
  • Rich Suite Of Features
Cons:
  • No Debug LEDs Is A Huge Miss At This Price Point
  • Not For Serious Overclocking

ASUS ROG Maximus XII Hero Z490

Flagship Z490 Board And A Great Choice For Every Gamer

asus rog maximus xii hero z490
  • LGA 1200 Socket
  • 14+2 Phase VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6, 5Gb + 2.5Gb LAN
  • Six SATA III, Three M.2 Slots
CHECK PRICES

The ROG Maximus XII Hero Z490 is a high-end Z490 motherboard and one of the best gaming motherboards for LGA 1200 CPUs. Its 14+2 VRM can handle the 10900K without issues, overclocked or not. The rest of the specs follows the suit. You have three M.2 slots and six SATA III ports, large heatsinks for cooling M.2 drives, VRM, and the chipset, and three PCIe x16 slots coupled with three PCIe x1 slots. Impressive expansion potential.

The board includes a premium audio solution, comes with two RGB arrays, and looks very attractive without being too flashy and/or aggressive-looking. When it comes to rear I/O, you have plenty of ports. Four USB 3.2 gen2 (one of those is USB-C), four USB 3.2 ge1, and two USB ports.

The ROG Maximus XII Hero Z490 is equipped with dual gigabit LAN (2.5Gb+5Gb), Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1, an impressive array of connectivity options. Last but not least, we have plenty of extra features here. BIOS flashback and clear CMOS buttons, power and reset buttons on the PCB, multicolored debug LEDs, as well as the POST code.

Pros:
  • Slick Design And Tasteful RGB
  • 5Gb + 2.5Gb LAN
  • Excellent VRM Section
  • High-End Audio Solution
  • Great For Overclocking
Cons:
  • Pricey

MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC

Full-feature Gaming Motherboard

msi mpg z390 gaming edge ac
  • Up to 128 GB of DDR
  • 2 x M.2 PCIe 3.0 NVMe
  • RGB Integration
CHECK PRICES

Maybe you’re looking for a motherboard that’ll make for a good gaming setup, maybe you want to have some productivity features on the side. Either way, the MSI MPG Z390 Gaming Edge motherboard, paired with the right components, will help you shred through any AAA title or hardware-demanding software.

With features like the support for high-frequency RAM, up to 128 GB of DDR4 in dual-channel, Gen3 PCIe and an I/O for everything you might need, the Gaming Edge AC is an amazing choice both in-game and out. While it’s not the best Z390 motherboard, it still brings a lot of value.

The reinforced PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, the Gen2 USB3.1 ports, the two M.2 and six SATA ports, they all hint towards a great product. This is a solid base for any build and will facilitate good cable management while giving your components solid voltage for longevity and stable performance.

Pros:
  • ECC memory support
  • Great OC features
  • Nice gaming aesthetic
Cons:
  • No USB 3.2
  • No PCIe 4.0

ASUS ROG Strix X570-E

The Best Ryzen 9 Gaming Motherboard

asus rog strix x570-e gaming
  • PCIe 4.0
  • Bluetooth 5 and Wifi 6
  • 2-way SLI and 3-way Crossfire
CHECK PRICES

With the massive popularity of 3rd Gen Ryzen CPUs and the overall success that AMD is having over Intel, it makes sense that your next build should be powered by the Zen2 architecture. The ASUS ROG Strix X570-E motherboard is the perfect choice for adding that multithreaded goodness in your next build.

What you’re looking for in a Ryzen build is solid power delivery, support for high-speed RAM that will increase your performance by a big margin, and features that enable you to overclock your multi-core, multi-threaded processor. The ASUS ROG Strix X570-E brings all that and more.

Set this puppy up with a 3900X, a top-tier GPU, and melt through any game. Sync your peripherals and in-case RGB through Asus Aura Sync, get super-fast reading and writing speeds on your M.2 SSD with PCIe 4 technology, connect your wireless peripherals with Bluetooth 5.0, and you’re the ultimate gamer.

Pros:
  • More USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports than other similarly-priced mobos
  • Great VRM, great for overclocks
  • Wifi 6
Cons:
  • Kind of pricey compared to the competition
  • A single M.2 slot

Asus Prime X570-Pro

Enthusiast-level at a Discount

asus prime x570-pro
  • Up to 3rd Gen Ryzen 9 support
  • Dual-channel DDR4 up to 4400 Hz
  • DIGI+ VRM
CHECK PRICES

The Asus Prime X570-Pro is a motherboard equipped with all the features you need to run up to a 16-core 3rd generation Ryzen processor. With a design that doesn’t scream RGB, but still has a tasteful, clean gaming aesthetic, multiple RGB headers, PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots for up to 64 Gbps transfers, and UBS 3.2 connectors, you’re gonna be playing games and sharing memes for years to come.

High-speed memory is important to the Zen2 architecture, and it supports up to 128 GB of DDR4 running as high as 4.4 GHz, running in a dual-channel setup. The DIGI+ VRM in multiple power phases gives your components solid voltage, allowing you to hit high clockspeeds and crush records in the Cinebench and Superposition CPU and GPU benchmarks.

What else is there to say about the Prime X570-Pro? Nothing. Just that it has every feature you need to squeeze every bit of performance out of your components.

Pros:
  • Great RAM OC
  • Easy-to-use BIOS
  • Great for solid overclocks
  • PCIe 4.0
Cons:
  • Some models have issues with USB reliability

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge WiFi

The Best Z490 Motherboard For Most Gamers

msi mpg z490 gaming edge wifi
  • LGA 1200 Socket
  • 12+2 Phase VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6, 2.5Gb LAN
  • Six SATA III, Two M.2 Slots
CHECK PRICES

The MSI Z490 Gaming Edge is an excellent mid-range Z490 board that can cover the needs of most gamers. First of all, we have 12+2 phase VRM, quality enough for overclocking any LGA 1200 CPU. Next, the board has two M.2 and six SATA III ports, which should be enough for most gamers.

There are two PCIe x16 slots and two PCIe x1 slots again, more than enough for most users. The audio solution is a bit weaker than what we’ve seen on competing boards (Realtek ALC1200-VD1 codec) but real-life performance should not suffer unless you have high-end audiophile-grade cans.

The rear I/O hosts two USB 3.2 gen2 ports, four USB 3.2 gen1 ports, and two USB 2.0 ports. Solid, but be careful not to run out of USB ports since one is USB-C. The board includes 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1.

Last but not least, the board comes with debug LEDs but no BIOS flash button. Overall, the Z490 Gaming Edge is the sweet spot choice in the mid-range segment. The Z490 Tomahawk, also from MSI, is a great alternative for people who don’t need wireless connectivity.

Pros:
  • Excellent Bang For Buck Pick
  • Quality VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6
Cons:
  • No BIOS Flash Button
  • A Couple More USB Ports Would Be Great

ASUS ROG Strix B450-F

The Best Value Board for Ryzen Processors

asus rog strix b450-f
  • Supports dual-channel DDR4, up to 3600 Hz
  • RGB integration
  • AM4 slot can be used with 3rd Gen Ryzen
CHECK PRICES

If you’re looking for a platform that’ll hold your 3rd Gen Ryzen but are concerned with the current prices of X570 motherboards, going for a B450 alternative is a very smart choice. While you won’t have access to PCIe 4 or 5 GHz RAM, the ROG Strix B450 comes with amazing features at a very good price.

This motherboard has plenty of features like an M.2 PCIe 3 NVMe slot, RAM OC up to 3600 Hz (only available for 3rd Gen Ryzen) with an easy-use BIOS, USB 3.1 Gen1, and more. These features alone hint that this motherboard can go toe to toe with any 2020 model.

For the average user, this is really a great product. You’re getting a good I/O, nice design with RGB elements, good header ports, all for a very good price. If you can live without PCIe 4 and Wifi 6, then this board will do you a lot of good.

Pros:
  • Great value
  • Has NVMe, USB 3.1, and good features for a budget choice
Cons:
  • Overclocks aren’t very stable
  • No RGB integration

MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max

The Best AM4 Motherboard on a Budget

msi b450 gaming plus max
  • USB 3.2 Gen2
  • DDR4 RAM as fast as 4133 Hz
  • Decent VRM
CHECK PRICES

When you’re building a PC on a budget, you have to make every penny count. If you’re looking to cut down on costs and save a bigger chunk of cash for your CPU and graphics card, then getting a cheaper motherboard is probably the best way to start.

The MSI B450 Gaming Plus Max is a budget mobo, but it still brings a lot of values to users. 3rd Gen Ryzen processors can use RAM as fast as 4133 Hz, and quality-of-life features like the smart BIOS are still very much present.

What you’re losing is a high-quality VRM, meaning that, while you can still overclock your components, you probably can’t hit stable clockspeeds at stock voltage. You’re also going to see a smaller I/O, but you’re still getting USB 3.2 Gen 2 and an M.2 slot. Overall, it’s the “best bang for your buck” motherboard.

Pros:
  • Good features for a budget product
  • Fortified PCIe slots that prevent GPU sag
Cons:
  • Bland design
  • Limited overclocking

ASUS Prime X299-Deluxe II

The Best Motherboard for Building an Intel-powered Workstation

asus prime x299-deluxe ii
  • 5G LAN and Wifi
  • Thunderbolt 3
  • RAID 0/1/5/10
  • Support for Quad SLI and Crossfire
CHECK PRICES

If you’re looking to build a high-end workstation and an apex gaming machine, then what you’ve seen so far hasn’t been of much help. The ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II is the perfect motherboard for an LGA 2066 beast of a machine.

5 Gbps LAN, integrated 5G wireless, RAID 0/1/5/10, all the features that an enthusiast would want in a workstation are here. Power delivery is superb, so overclocking your i9 is a must. The build quality is great and the integrated cooling methods are efficient without taking up much space.

The Prime X299-Deluxe II is a high-end mobo, so the price will be pretty steep. That being said, features like Quad-GPU SLI and Crossfire and Thunderbolt 3 make it worth it. If you’re looking for a workstation powered by a Team Blue CPU, then this is for you.

Pros:
  • Great for enthusiasts who want to build a high-end gaming rig or a workstation
  • Has plenty of features that make data transfer be less of an issue for workflow
  • A lot of features for redundancy, adding a lot of reliability to your build
Cons:
  • No PCIe 4.0
  • Only works with Non-ECC RAM
  • Doesn’t make sense for a gaming-only build

ASUS ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha

The Best Gaming Motherboard For Threadripper Processors

asus rog zenith ii extreme alpha
  • sTRX4 Socket
  • 16+2 Phase VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6, 10Gb + 1Gb LAN
  • Four SATA III, Three M.2 Slots (You Cad Add More Via Adapter)
CHECK PRICES

The ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha is a premier TRX40 board made for the latest generation of AMD Threadripper CPUs. If you use your PC for heavy work but also for gaming, this board is one of the best choices on the market.

It’s packed with features and ready for anything you throw at it. It comes with 16+2 stage VRM, just what you need for a power-hungry workstation CPU. You also get eight DIMM slots, three M.2 slots, and four SATA III ports. It’s worth noting that you can get additional adapters that turn one DIMM slot into two M.2 ports.

The board also includes four PCIe x16 slots, an excellent audio section, and a design similar to other ROG motherboard models. That means tasteful RGB implementation and attractive design. Connectivity-wise the ROG Zenith II Extreme Alpha comes with a dual gigabit (10Gb + 1Gb) LAN, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1.

The rear I/O includes five USB 3.2 gen2 ports, one high-speed 20Gbps USB Type-C port, four USB 3.2 gen1 ports, and BIOS flash and clear CMOS buttons. Extra features include a small, multipurpose OLED screen found on the board, debug LEDs, and power and reset buttons found on the PCB.

Pros:
  • Excellent Design
  • Superb VRM
  • DIMM Slots Can Host Additional M.2 Drives (Adapter Is Needed)
  • 20Gbps USB-C
  • Lots Of Extra Features
Cons:
  • Pricey
  • Only Four SATA III Ports

How to Choose the Right Motherboard

motherboard structure

Choosing the perfect motherboard for your build isn’t rocket surgery. PC building is all about finding balance and avoiding bottlenecks. So, depending on the other components you plan on purchasing, you might want a better or a more value-oriented mobo.

Size

For starters, you need to make sure that your motherboard will fit your future case. Cases and motherboards come in standard sizes. You have E-ATX, XL ATX, ATX, Micro ATX and Mini-ITX motherboards. ATX boards and cases are the most popular, and all of the motherboards that we’ve talked about so far are made respecting that standard. Make sure that your case is ATX compatible and you’re golden.

Overclocking

Overclocking is something that all enthusiasts should do. It allows you to squeeze every last drop of performance out of your GPU, CPU, and RAM. For the best overclocking results, you need to make sure that your motherboard comes with a solid VRM (voltage regulator module). This is a combination of chokes, MOSFETs, and capacitors that take the current from the PSU and convert it to something that the other components can use. The more intricate the VRM, the more stable the voltage, hence better overclocks.

Most of the time, the manufacturer will talk about power phases or use terms like DIGI+ VRM. When a board comes with such features, then you’re guaranteed to have an easy time overclocking your components. And hey, overclocking might be coming to mobile platforms soon, so all systems might soon be factory-unlocked.

I/O

Ins and outs. Simple as that. Depending on your peripherals, external drives, or other gadgets that you use in your day-to-day routines, your motherboard must come equipped with ports that will allow you to stay connected.

For example, if you’re using an old-school mechanical keyboard that prevents ghosting, it’s likely using a PS2 port, which is a very old standard. Maybe you want to use integrated graphics for a TV or an older monitor. You get the idea.

Front Header Connectors

Cases come with front header connectors, like USB and audio. If your case has USB 3.1 or 3.2 Gen2, then you need to make sure that the motherboard you’re going to purchase has front header connectors that match your case’s features. It’s easy, just check the motherboard’s specifications and everything you need to find is right there.

About The Author

Catalin Tabacu

Catalin is a long-time PC enthusiast and an avid gamer. His love for overclocking is second only to his love for a well-written RPG. Having taken a swing at competitive DOTA2, he has the know-how to give you the best recommendations that will elevate your in-game performance to the next level.

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