Does the word “gaming” instantly add value? You’ll find this a little misleading, once you see what a motherboard is. Maybe if we call it “The Best Motherboard for Gaming” it wouldn’t seem like such an oxymoron?
First, don’t get caught up in “gaming” label sales hype. Secondly, avoid reading the same old “buy this, not that” B.S. You’re going to learn to pick the best motherboard for gaming all by yourself, with a little bit of help from me of course.
What Is The Motherboard and What Does It Do?
You can’t possibly decide what the most “1337” and best motherboard for gaming is if you know nothing about it. First, let’s get real basic with “motherboard” before we start saying it’s “the best.”
What Is The Modern Motherboard Made Of?
When you look at a motherboard (MOBO) what do you see? In the big picture, you see circuits, transistors, metal pins, connectors, and sockets. Its appearance can seem simple, yet it is the most essential component in your PC.
For now, it’d be easier if you take the phrase “Best Gaming Motherboard” and change it to “Regular Ole MOBO.”
Pro Tip: Don’t jokingly substitute MOBO with “MOFO” you’ll lose friends.
To summarize, the MOBO is square-shaped and made with layers of fiberglass and copper. It’s accompanied by its own “mini-components,” that enable it to act as a high-tech switchboard operator.
For example, it sends signals down separate channels of communication allowing components to link up, trade data and perform tasks.
The components that make up a motherboard are:
Processor (CPU) Socket
Memory (RAM) Slots
Graphics Card (GPU) Slots
Motherboard (MOBO) Power Connector
IDE And Sata Ports
Front Panel Connectors
At last, you’ve got a basic idea of all of the parts that make up the nervous system of your PC. How do they function though? After all, if you’re going to handpick the best gaming motherboard for your system, you need a little more info.
What Is The Sole Purpose Of The Motherboard?
It lives to do your bidding! There is no single “purpose”, instead, it has many “purposes.” It communicates with each component at a lightning fast pace to satisfy your every click of the mouse.
However, when learning what to look for in the best “gaming” motherboard; we don’t need to know about every one of those parts. The main components you do need to look at are ones that are going to contribute in one way or another to your skill as a PC gamer.
Remember, we are trying to justify using the word “gaming”.
The Obvious Parts You Need To Focus On For Gaming:
Processor (CPU) Socket
Graphics Card (GPU) Slots
Memory (RAM) Slots
Every motherboard comes with a CPU socket. It is vital that you pick a board chipset that is compatible with your CPU. That is to say, make sure your CPU fits!
Not only the best gaming motherboard, but every modern board comes with a slot for a graphics card. Commonly referred to as a PCIe x16 slot, it’s a primary factor when choosing to run one vs. two graphics cards.
So, if you run two graphics cards, you need two PCIe x16 slots!
Next, what type of RAM does the board support? In 2019 we are using DDR4. The other thing to look at is speed of the RAM stick. For example, if you get a board that supports DDR4-3800 and you try to use DDR4-4333, it will downclock it to 3800Mhz. That’s because 3800Mhz is the max speed the MOBO supports. You can use RAM with lower latency, but not higher.
Finally, any motherboard you get needs at least one m.2 slot. Most modern MOBOs will have anywhere from x1 to x4 m.2 slots. What you get will solely depend on your budget. Want the speed of m.2, but can’t afford a 1 TB stick? You can get a 256 GB m.2 stick and then for mass storage you can fall back to an HDD.
Congrats! You Now Know What Parts Make A “Gaming” Motherboard!
That’s it in a nutshell! Do you still want the best gaming motherboard on planet Earth? Unless you’re overclocking, then your $100.00 “budget” board will perform just as good as one with a $200.00 “premium.”
Finally, you should know how to pick the best gaming motherboard that suits you and your PC preferences. Now, what satisfies YOUR taste for “bling” is another issue.
An example of your unique taste would be that you fancy LED lighting effects and even accent pieces with custom paint jobs. If you’re custom building a PC and you’ve got a high budget—the sky’s the limit. However, you’re going to pay nicely for extras, as with everything else PC related.
Sometimes, the difference between a $100.00 and $200.00 MOBO is a single LED. And you can take that to the bank. Unrelated, I don’t want to use the word “MOBO” anymore, so you will see it used less after this point.
Speaking of the bank—let’s talk budget!
The Perfect Board For Every Budget
Next, you’re going to see top gaming motherboards for different budgets. Whether you’re an enthusiast, who could care less about price, or a budget builder who could care less about added features—there is something for everyone.
How we decided: We made our decision for the following based on personal experience, user feedback, specs, features and price comparisons. In other words, endless amounts of research and testing!
We use Amazon affiliate links in the following reviews. We may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
The Best Gaming Motherboards For Intel LGA1151
Before looking at actual gaming motherboards, let’s compare the different chipsets of the Z390, Z370, B360, and H310.
Stepping up to bat first is the H310, for the insanely low price of $60! It’s so vanilla that it didn’t feel right adding this chipset to a list for “gaming motherboards.” However, if you’re on a budget and need any motherboard at all, this will still get the job done.
What makes the H310 so average? Well, you can’t overclock anything, no Optane support, no Gen2 USB 3.1 ports, and no Intel Rapid Storage. It does come equipped with integrated WiFi, which is a plus.
Next, we will touch base on the B360. It has features that qualify it as a gaming motherboard, though it lacks overclocking. Features include Optane support, x2 DIMM RAM channels, x4 Gen2 3.1 USB ports, Intel Rapid Storage and integrated WiFi.
The Z370 is arguably one of the most popular and pricey boards chosen by gamers. Features include overclocking, Optane support, x14 total USB ports, x30 high-speed IO lanes, Intel Rapid Storage and multiple PCI-E 3.0 configurations. Strangely it has no WiFi and zero Gen2 USB 3.1 ports.
Finally, we reach the enthusiast driven Z390. It’s an improved upon Z370 with all of the same features, with WiFi and x6 Gen2 USB 3.1 ports. As a small little extra, it comes with an updated Intel Management Engine.
High-End/PC Enthusiasts ($250-$300)
ASUS ROG Maximus XI HERO
|CPU Intel Socket 1151 for Intel Core 9000 series, 8th Generation Core i7/ i5/ i3, Pentium and Celeron processors|Chipset Z390 |Memory 4 / 64 GB DDR4 4400+ MHz(O.C.)|PCIe X16 Slots 2 @ x16 or x8/x8 or x8/x4+x4 “1 max @ x4”|Graphics Connectors HDMI/DP|M.2 1 x M.2 2242-2280 (SATA + PCIe 3.0 x 4) “1 x M.2 2242-22110 (PCIe 3.0 x 4)”|Wireless 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac|RGB Headers Yes, Aura|Form Factor ATX
This ROG motherboard is a HERO by design. ASUS provided a rich layout with personalization, extra connectors, and great overclocking in mind. Its features are nearly on par with most flagship motherboards, but with a couple of caveats.
First, you would think a preinstalled I/O shield would’ve been a good idea, however, there are tons of reports related to improper fit. Most solutions to the problem seem to resort in bending or filing down the I/O shield—which is ridiculous.
Second, a much smaller issue that may not even be a deal breaker for you, is lackluster LED lighting. If you have case lighting, it may wash out most of the light put out by the motherboards LEDs.
Priced under $300.00, you’ve much to consider. Features include compatibility for 8th and 9th gen Intel CPUs, 802.11AC Wi-Fi, Dual m.2 SSD ports, x4 DDR4 4400MHz RAM slots, x2 PCIe x16 GPU slots, and x2 Aura RGB headers.
But that’s not all! It wouldn’t be an ASUS ROG board without overclocking software, dubbed it’s “5-Way Optimization Technology.” If you’re one of those who favor using ROG UEFI BIOS to control your performance manually, you’re still welcome to it.