When endeavoring to craft the perfect PC for gaming, it is imperative that you choose a quality motherboard to act as your system’s foundation. In this article, we’re going to be discussing some things you should keep in mind while searching for the best motherboard for you and addressing some of the most commonly asked questions by motherboard novices.
We’re also going to be presenting you with some of the most popular motherboards on the market in an attempt to streamline your search and guide you towards the models that are most deserving of your hard-earned money.
ASUS is one of the top names in the gaming industry and proudly proclaims itself to be the world’s No. 1 motherboard manufacturer, as well as one of the top-three vendors of consumer notebooks. Given ASUS’ history of excellence, we’re going to be discussing two motherboards offered by the brand in this article. Up first, the ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming.
The ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming features ASUS’ controversial five-way optimization. Five-way optimization is an auto-overclocking utility and can be relied upon to enhance the speed of your computer’s processor beyond what was intended by the manufacturer.
This, in turn, makes for faster graphics and, some would argue, a more enjoyable gaming experience. This motherboard also boasts an M.2 heatsink integrated into its PCH heatsink. This virtually guarantees any inserted SSD remains at optimal temperature throughout every gaming session for a consistently impressive performance.
This motherboard features dual onboard 5050 RGB headers, as well as an addressable RGB header that can be connected to fans, lighting strips, and similar accessories. One of the most unique features of the ROG Strix Z370-E comes in the form of its 3D printing mounts. These mounts allow the most dedicated gamers to design and print their own components, giving them the ability to craft a gaming system customized to their specific needs and preferences.
While it is certainly beneficial to those who wish to overclock their computers but aren’t exactly sure how to do it manually, five-way optimization often miscalculates and extends the processor far beyond what is safe, which can cause vital components of the computer to overheat. While this is certainly not guaranteed to happen if you purchase this motherboard, the dangers of auto-overclocking and overclocking in general are something that you should definitely be mindful of.
MSI is a gaming industry pioneer and prides itself on its reputation for manufacturing top-tier gaming equipment. The brand has developed a series of impressive motherboards since opening its doors, but few have been more heartily embraced than its Z370-A Pro.
The MSI Z370-A Pro boasts multiple MSI Super Charger USB ports. These ports are markedly more powerful than their more traditional alternatives and are capable of charging smartphones, tablets, and similar connected devices in a fraction of the time most gamers have grown used to. Meanwhile, a series of Chemi-Con audio capacitors enhance sound quality and ensure high-fidelity listening when paired with studio-grade headphones.
By using Military Class 6 components in the manufacturing of the Z370-A Pro, MSI has put the product right at the forefront of resilience innovation. The most vital components of the Z370-A Pro boast top-quality protection and are unlikely to be damaged even in extreme conditions.
Similarly, this motherboard comes equipped with PCI Express steel armor slots. These connections are reinforced and soldered, ensuring a stronger hold and reducing the risk of bulky graphics cards causing damage to the motherboard and its important components.
The MSI Z370-A Pro doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of overclocking. Obviously, this won’t be an issue for gamers who aren’t particularly concerned with overclocking, but those who desire to push their processor to its limits may have to look elsewhere to do so safely. It should also be pointed out that some gamers who have purchased this motherboard have bemoaned its lack of front lighting and the absence of built-in Wi-Fi.
Crafting a quality gaming computer can get pretty pricey. Thankfully, there are a number of affordable motherboards which can rival their more expensive counterparts when it comes to overall quality. The B360M DS3H from Gigabyte is one of them.
Despite the low price of the B360M DS3H, Gigabyte took a couple of steps to ensure its longevity. For example, this motherboard features anti-sulfur resistors which eradicate the risk of sulfur in the air penetrating the motherboard and causing it to malfunction, thereby adding years to the lifespan of the product. This motherboard also features premium-quality audio capacitors, as well as an audio noise guard, giving you a gaming experience that is pleasing to both the eyes and the ears.
One of the most noteworthy features of the Gigabyte B360M DS3H is its ultra-fast M.2. With its PCIe Gen3 X4 and SATA interface, this M.2 protects SSDs from overheating, making for a consistent performance and allowing gamers to access files in a timely manner. As long as we’re discussing measures taken by Gigabyte to prevent overheating, let’s take a moment to look at the brand’s Smart Fan 5.
Smart Fan 5, which is present in the B360M DS3H, is a cooling system comprised of a number of temperature sensors and hybrid fan headers. It allows gamers to interchange their fan headers to match their preferences. Gamers can even use the motherboard’s unique Fan Stop technology to play in total silence should they desire it.
The BIOS of the Gigabyte B360M DS3H is a little awkward, with many gamers labeling it counterintuitive and even archaic. Furthermore, as a budget motherboard, the B360M DS3H has no overclocking capabilities and so is more suited to casual gamers than their hardcore counterparts.
If you’re a dedicated gamer and don’t mind spending extra to get a quality motherboard, you should pay careful attention to the Z370 Taichi. A product of ASRock, this is considered by many to be among the very best motherboards on the market and comes loaded with features that give it a legitimate claim to that title.
The ASRock Z370 Taichi comes fitted with three M.2 SSD sockets. These multiple M.2 slots are arguably the most alluring feature – or features – of this motherboard and promise a faster and more personal gaming experience. Complimenting the M.2 slots with which this motherboard comes fitted is its ability to overclock.
While there are some minor flaws with the Z370 Taichi’s overclocking, it remains primarily impressive and is scarcely rivaled by similarly priced motherboards. The ASRock Z370 Taichi offers a number of manual and automatic overclocking features and guides the user through the entire process so he or she can arrive at the solution that is most suited to their needs and preferences.
What has really impressed us about the ASRock Z370 Taichi is its speed. This motherboard powers up in just eight seconds, so you won’t lose any precious gaming minutes. When you are finished your session, the motherboard can be turned off in less than five seconds, with some gamers reporting their specific unit powering down in just two seconds.
As an ultra-fast performance can lead to overheating if overheating is not adequately prepared for, ASRock fitted the Z370 Taichi with dual heatsinks, ensuring it performs to its highest possible standard without risking malfunction, no matter how long or how often you play.
As a consequence of its many useful and unique features, the ASRock Z370 Taichi will set you back quite a bit. Commonly selling for close to $220, this is the single most expensive motherboard to appear in this article. While many will make the argument that this motherboard is worth every penny, its high price tag makes it an absolute impossibility for many gamers.
Next up from ASUS is the Prime Z370-A, which is actually slightly more affordable than the brand’s previous offering, so if you want an ASUS motherboard but would like to keep your spending to a minimum, this may be the best option for you.
Many motherboard manufacturers fail to realize that audio quality is just as important as visual quality. Thankfully, ASUS recognizes the importance of quality audio to gamers, which is why the brand’s Prime Z370-A boasts industry-leading eight-channel HD audio. The quality of this motherboard’s eight-channel HD audio is further improved by the inclusion of the manufacturer’s exclusive Realtek S1220A, which uses Crystal Sound 3 to engulf the gamer in sound.
Much like the ASUS motherboard that started this list, the Prime Z370-A comes equipped with 3D printing mounts, allowing those who purchase it to create a custom board that they can be certain no other gamer will share.
Furthering the similarities between the ASUS ROG Strix Z370-E Gaming and the ASUS Prime Z370-A is this motherboard’s use of five-way optimization. Gamers who lack the skill or desire to manually overclock will be able to enhance the performance of their motherboard at the touch of a button if they purchase the Prime Z370-A (or its earlier examined counterpart). Similarly, the ASUS Prime Z370-A boasts dual M.2 slots for maximized speed and connectivity.
We discussed the risks of five-way optimization and auto-overclocking when covering the ASUS ROG Strix Z370-E, but it would be remiss of us not to tackle them again now. Because the ASUS Prime Z370-A also features five-way optimization, it is also at risk of extending beyond what is safe for your computer, which could lead to overheating, melting, and maybe even explosion if not detected and remedied early.
It should also be noted that a number of gamers who have purchased this motherboard have complained about what they have called its “obnoxious” lighting, which can be awfully distracting and is a challenge to disable.
If this is your first time shopping for a motherboard, you may be a little uncertain as to what you should be looking for. In the below buyer’s guide, we will be discussing some important things to keep in mind as you search for the best motherboard for you.
Form factor essentially denotes the size of a motherboard and influences the location of its mounting holes, its number of ports, and so on. There are a number of motherboard sizes available to gamers, the most popular of which is ATX. ATX motherboards promise enhanced control and power while effectively combating overheating. Mini-ATX motherboards are also available, as are Flex ATX and LPX. LPX motherboards are among the most affordable and are most commonly seen in desktops.
If your motherboard exclusively supports DDR2 RAM, there is no sense in purchasing the more modern DDR3 alternative, even though it promises a more impressive performance. Most recently released motherboards are capable of supporting DDR4 RAM, which is the latest generation. However, DDR5 is currently in the works, so you may want to hold out a couple of months for a motherboard that is compatible with the impending update.
Expansion slots allow for additional accessories to be connected to a motherboard, thereby enhancing its versatility. Expansion slots can be used to provide clear audio and video processing, while an SSD can speed up the processing and accessing of files. It should be pointed out that many of the expansion slots seen on older motherboards are today obsolete and are incapable of supporting newer expansion cards. Modern motherboards almost exclusively feature PCI, PCI Express, and AGP expansion card slots.
Your chosen chipset influences your expansion options and determines what components will be compatible with your motherboard. If you intended to pursue overclocking, you should search for a chipset which lends itself to that goal, as certain models have limited overclocking capabilities. Oftentimes, manufacturers will suggest specific chipsets for their motherboards, but you don’t exactly have to listen to them. You could, in theory, install a chipset not advised by the manufacturer of your motherboard without any impact on its performance.
In the pursuit of higher resolution, gamers often add a graphics card to their motherboard. A graphics card requires a PCI Express x16 slot to be connected to a motherboard. The good news is that graphics cards are generally backwards compatible, so you can purchase a PCI Express 3.0 graphics card safe in the knowledge it will work in your motherboard’s PCI Express 2.0 slot.
The majority of gaming authorities recommend going with an ATX motherboard if possible and you can count us among them. Because of its large size, an ATX motherboard offers more expansion slots than mini alternatives and that means increased versatility and more possibilities.
There are a couple of things you should look for when shopping for a gaming motherboard. If you’re planning to pursue overclocking, you should ensure that your chosen motherboard is capable of withstanding the extra stress overclocking places upon it. Multiple memory slots are also important and you should view any less than four as a deal breaker. Similarly, your chosen motherboard should feature at least one PCI Express x16 slot.
If you’re a Windows user hoping to identify your current model of motherboard, you can do so by pressing the Windows and X buttons, which will bring up the Power User Task menu. From there, select the Run option and type “msinfo32” in the Run text field before hitting Enter. This will provide a number of details regarding your computer system, including its motherboard.
Mac users can establish their motherboard model by clicking on the About This Mac option which appears after clicking on the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen. When you click on About This Mac, you will see your Mac’s serial number, which you can then type into Google to find its motherboard model.
When searching for the motherboard that is right for you, give some thought to your aspirations as a gamer. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re probably going to want to manually overclock, so a motherboard that has proven overclocking capabilities should be on your shopping list. If you want to overclock but can’t do it manually, an ASUS motherboard may be the way to go as its five-way optimization allows for auto-overclocking.
If overclocking isn’t a concern to you, you’ll be able to find a suitable motherboard for less than $100 (although you shouldn’t let money be the deciding factor in which motherboard you purchase). Form factor is also important. If you’re replacing the motherboard in your current system, measure the model you’re getting rid of and go with a motherboard of the same form factor.
Laying your CPU case on its side, remove its rear screws, exposing the GPU. Detach the holding clip to facilitate the removal of the GPU itself. Once the GPU is out, disconnect all cables and remove all screws in the installed motherboard so it can be safely taken out. Add your RAM, CPU, and CPU cooler to your new motherboard before placing its I/O into the corresponding position within your case. Follow it with your new motherboard, using the board’s standoff screws to prevent it from touching the wall of the case.
Fasten your new motherboard in place with a sturdy set of screws – you can use the screws that held in your previous motherboard if you trust them – and begin hooking up your power connectors. Once all cables and necessary expansion slots have been introduced to your new motherboard, you can seal your case back up and start gaming.
If you have the room in your budget, we suggest choosing the ASRock Z370 Taichi over the other motherboards covered in this article. While we understand the high price tag of this motherboard may turn many people away from it, dedicated gamers stand to gain a great deal from its many features.
With greater overclocking capabilities than most less expensive alternatives, the ASRock Z370 Taichi allows the CPU to run at a higher speed with less risk of overheating (don’t forget about its 8-second startup time). Meanwhile, a 2-year warranty ensures those who do choose to drop the $200 plus that ASRock asks for this motherboard will be able to obtain a repair or replacement should something go wrong.
If you’re hoping to get a high-quality motherboard without spending more than $200, you may want to instead go with the Z370-A Pro from MSI. An affordable alternative to ASRock’s offering, this motherboard promises high-fidelity audio and comes optimized for VR gaming. Furthermore, the Military Class 6 components MSI used in the manufacturing of its Z370-A ensure a consistent performance even after years of regular use.