The motherboards are the core element of any computer. For the same price, there are almost no differences among the available models. The most important component of a motherboard is its chipset and its properties/capabilities are defined by the processor’s companies.

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How To Choose The Best Motherboard

Basics

The manufacturers can add additional features like better audio or red chipsets, more or fewer PCIe slots or M.2 slots.

The chipset will define the motherboard connectivity (CPU and RAM compatibility, overclocking) as well as its target use: standard, gaming, overclocking.

The difference between a standard and an overclocking motherboard is in the components quality (better capacitors, interference protection, adapted for liquid refrigeration) so it can handle stable higher CPU and RAM clock speeds. Overclocking motherboards prices start at 80 to 90 dollars.

The Motherboard’s chipset define its compatibility with the different CPUs and RAMs types, brands and/or generation.

Recommendations

The motherboard’s chipset simply determines what processor type accepts, how many USB ports can support, the maximum amount of RAM permitted or the graphics card connections.

So, before losing your mind looking at millions of motherboard models, you should know:

  • What is your CPU’s socket?
  • How many RAM do you want to install?
  • What kind of storage will you use (standard HDD, SSD, M.2, …)?
  • Type and number of graphics cards.
  • Will you overclock the CPU, GPU and/or RAM?
  • What computer case size do you have/want?

Now you have an idea of what you want, but there is still more to talk before choosing your motherboard. Follow the next recommendations in order to get the better while fitting your budget:

  • Do not spend more than 70 – 80 dollars unless you really need the expansion options that that model offers.
  • Above 80 dollars you will find the overclocking models or models with better audio controllers, less network latency…
  • Be sure that your CPU socket is compatible with the motherboard’s chipset.
  • PCIe 2.0 or PCIe 3.0? You will only perceive a difference if you are using a +$400 graphics card, and the performance difference is less than 5%.
  • The motherboard’s power consumption is almost in all cases lower than 10W. So, in this component, the TDP is not a critical feature.
  • ATX, Micro ATX (or uATX), Mini ITX (from largest to smallest size): this defines the motherboard’s size. ATX has more expansion options but it is the most expensive models and you probably won’t need those extra options. Micro ATX is the most used size and Mini ITX is usually used in bare-bones or All-In-One computers.

As a general advice, try to focus on ~$80 Micro ATX motherboards, as these will cover all your needs and will fit in a wide variety of super cool cases.

 

Buying Guide

AMD AM4 – Ryzen, 2017

The AMD socket used on their latest CPUs, the Ryzen family. As you can see in the following table, the maximum performance chipset is the X370. For high-end gaming computers is recommended using the B350. Finally, for the standard consumer there is a third chipset, the A320, which offers all the features the vast majority of the gamers will ever need from a motherboard.

AMD AM4 - Ryzen Chipsets
A320B350X370
Max RAM64 GB64 GB64 GB
OverclockingGPUCPU + GPU + RAMCPU + GPU + RAM
SATA3446
USB 2.0664
USB 3.06610
RAID0, 1, 100, 1, 100, 1, 10
M.2222
SATA Express222

Standard – Up to $80

Advanced – From $80 to $120

High-end – From $120 to $250

Master Race – From $250

Intel LGA 1151 – Coffee Lake, 2017 Q4

Intel LGA 1151 - Coffee Lake Chipsets
H310H370B360Q370Z370
Max RAM64 GB
OverclockingCPU + GPUCPU + GPU + RAM
SATA346
USB 3.04106810
USB 3.1-46
RAID-0, 1, 5, 10-0, 1, 5, 10
Wifi 802.11 acYesNo
PCIe0213
Additional PCIe62012-24

Standard – Up to $80

Advanced – From $80 to $120

High-end – From $120 to $250

Intel LGA 1151 – Kaby Lake, 2017 Q1

This is the socket used by the 7th generation of Intel Core processors but it also supports Intel’s 6th generation. The new characteristics of the new Kaby Lake architecture are:

  • M.2 slots for ultra-fast SSDs available on basic motherboards (under $80)
  • Intel’s Optane technology support
  • Non-overclockable motherboards now support DDR4 up to 2400 MHz, compared to the Skylake boards, which support up to DDR4 2133 MHz memories.
Intel LGA 1151 - Kaby Lake Chipsets
B250H270Z270
Max RAM64 GB64 GB64 GB
Overclocking--CPU + GPU + RAM
PCIe Support1x PCIe 3.0 x161x PCIe 3.0 x161x PCIe 3.0 x16 / 2x PCIe 3.0 x8 / 1x PCIe x8 + 2x PCIe x4
SATA2000
SATA3666
USB 2.0664
USB 3.06810
RAID--RAID 0, 5, 10
M.2123
SATA Express123

Standard – Up to $80

In this price range, you will find a wide variety of B250‘s with different sizes and connectivity options. But they all have some thingies in common: support for 2400 MHz RAM and M.2 slots. Any of the following boards will suit you if you are building a basic gaming computer.

B250

Advanced – From $80 to $120

This is the most common price range, so you can expect to see boards of the three available chipsets: B250, H270 and Z270. Just try to define your needs and pick the one that suits you best.

Remember that the only difference between the different chipsets is the connectivity options. Try to answer the following questions: what RAM speed do you want to use? Are you going to use an overclockable CPU? Do you need USB 3.1 ports? How many M.2 devices are you going to use?

If you don’t care any of the previous questions, then a B250 is what you need 🙂

B250
H270
Z270

High-end – From $120 to $250

The following motherboards are mainly Z270 boards, though you can also find high end B250 and H270 models. The Z270 chipset is necessary to use either SLI or CrossFire technologies (2 or more graphic cards installed at the same time). It is also necessary in order to overclock your (overclockables) CPU, RAM and/or GPU.

B250
Z270

Master Race – From $250

The top-notch motherboards. They offer all kind of connectivities possibilities, the most stable overclock, configurable LEDs and are so damn beautiful.

Z270

 

Changelog

Added Products

  • July 11, 2018: ASRock X370 PRO4
  • April 17, 2018: GIGABYTE B360M DS3H
  • April 9, 2018: ASUS TUF H310-PLUS, GIGABYTE H370 HD3, GIGABYTE H370M D3H
  • October 11, 2017: MSI Z370 SLI PLUS Pro, MSI Z370-A Pro, MSI Z370 GAMING PLUS
  • October 7, 2017: MSI X370 GAMING PLUS, ASUS Prime X370-A, ASRock A320M-DGS, ASUS Prime A320M-C R2.0, ASUS Prime B350M-A/CSM, MSI ProSeries B350M PRO-VDH
  • August 1, 2017: remove all outdated models from previous generations (AM3, Skylake, Haswell)
  • July 9, 2017: MSI Pro Series RAIDER X299, Gigabyte X299 UD4, ASUS PRIME X299-A, MSI X299 GAMING PRO CARBON AC, GIGABYTE X299 AORUS Gaming 9
  • May 9, 2017: Gigabyte GA-A320M-HD2
  • April 23, 2017: first batch of AM4 models, including B350 and X370 chipsets, ranging between $85 and $250+

Removed Products

  • February 5, 2018: Skylake-X products
  • December 15, 2017: Intel 2016 product generation (Skylake and LGA 2011-v3)

 

How did you find this guide? Do you have any super modded motherboard? How much did you spend on your model? Did it worth it?

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Adrian Benavides

I've been always an avid gamer with limited resources. This led me to learn how to build the best gaming computers within tight budgets. Now, I want to share the knowledge I've acquired over the years with the world!

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