While stocks of Ryzen CPUs are relatively abundant, builders have had some trouble finding AM4 motherboards to pair with them. That may be for the best, because our survey of online reviews and our conversations with builders and other reviewers suggest that the state of AM4 mobos can politely be described as "immature." Part of the problem may be the AM4 platform's stringent memory requirements, which we'll address soon enough.
Thanks to those inventory issues, we've had limited hands-on experience with the full range of AM4 motherboards on the market. That said, our Gigabyte boards have all been well-behaved. Going by that experience, we're generally sticking with Gigabyte AM4 boards where possible for this Guide, though we're tapping other boards where needed to fill in price gaps.
Meanwhile, Intel's 200-series chipsets arrived alongside its Kaby Lake CPUs. Much as with the 100-series chipsets before them, the new lineup's main interest is the Z270 chipset, which lets users overclock their unlocked CPUs. The H270 chipset is mostly similar to the Z270, except that it doesn't allow for CPU or memory overclocking.
The Q270, Q250, and B250 chipsets, on the other hand, are all "business-class" chipsets. They share most of their bigger brothers' characteristics, with the only noteworthy omissions being a decrease of chipset-driven USB ports and PCIe storage devices in the Q250 and B250 variants. You won't find SLI or Crossfire on anything but a Q270 board among this trio, either. As far as we're concerned, though, a mobo with any of these chipsets is a perfectly fine choice for a budget or even a mid-range box, as long as you're not looking to overclock an unlocked CPU with them.
Buying a motherboard these days is pretty straightforward. There are only four major manufacturers to choose from, and their offerings have very similar performance and peripheral connectivity at each price point. The main differences between competing boards lie with their Windows software, firmware, and overclocking tools.
|MSI B250M Pro-VDH||$74.99||Intel LGA1151 processor, microATX case|
MSI's B250M PRO-VDH is an interesting choice for non-overclocked Kaby Lake builds. It's pretty cheap for a recently-released motherboard from a top-tier manufacturer, and despite its compact dimensions, it still offers an M.2 slot, a full complement of six SATA ports, a metal-reinforced PCIe x16 slot, and USB 3.1 Type-C connectivity. If you don't plan to overclock, and you're OK living with DDR4-2400 RAM, the B250M PRO-VD seems like all the motherboard one would need for a budget system.
|Gigabyte GA-AB350-Gaming 3||$109.99||AMD Socket AM4 processor|
If you're looking to drop a Ryzen CPU into an affordable motherboard, we'd look no further than Gigabyte's GA-AB350-Gaming 3. For $110, this board taps most of the B350 chipset's goodness, including a pair of USB 3.1 ports and an M.2 slot. Builders won't find a USB 3.1 Type-C port on this board's back panel, but that's a common omission on B350 motherboards, and we doubt most will care at this board's price point.
The B350 chipset also can't bifurcate the 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes from a Ryzen CPU, even though the AB350-Gaming 3 claims Crossfire support across its PCIe x16 slot and second PCIe 3.0 x4 slot. We doubt most builders shopping in this price range have multiple Radeons in their shopping carts, so we aren't bothered by this arrangement.
|MSI Z270 PC Mate||$124.99||Intel LGA1151 processor, ATX case|
|Asus Prime Z270-A||$159.99|
For folks who want a not-so-basic Z270 board to pair with an unlocked Kaby Lake CPU, we like MSI's Z270 PC Mate. This $125 mobo has everything the enthusiast needs without a lot of frills. Despite its wallet-friendly price, the MSI Z270 PC Mate offers a full complement of PCIe expansion slots (one of them metal-reinforced), two M.2 slots, an Intel Gigabit Ethernet adapter, and a smattering of USB 3.0 ports alongside Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 connectors. For a little more than a Benjamin, this board isn't missing much. SLI support is the only feature we didn't see that some builders might want.
If you've gotta have SLI support or more goodies, Asus' Prime Z270A lets builders install multiple Nvidia graphics cards. It also adds a few other niceties compared to our budget pick. This board packs two M.2 slots, an Intel Gigabit Ethernet controller, a fancy Realtek S1220A audio codec with DTS Connect multi-channel encoding, and USB 3.1 Type-C and Type-A ports. Asus also offers an optional Thunderbolt expansion card should you need that kind of connectivity. Considering it's a recently-released model, the $160 asking price doesn't look too bad for this feature set. TR Lord of the BBQ Colton Westrate has one of these boards, and he's really happy with it.
|Asus Prime X370-Pro||$159.99||AMD Socket AM4 processor, ATX case|
|Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5||$194.99|
If you're looking for more from a Ryzen build than the B350 chipset can offer, Asus' Prime X370-Pro motherboard looks like a solid choice. This board pairs Asus' firmware chops with metal-reinforced PCIe X16 slots capable of a split x8/x8 mode for multi-GPU or other expansion card setups, and it's got a little RGB LED flair for those who don't need to be 100% buttoned-down.
Ample USB 3.1 connectivity (albeit not through a Type-C connector, a slightly bewildering decision), an M.2 slot, and Intel Gigabit Ethernet round out this board's appealing and reasonably-priced feature set.
For even-higher-end Ryzen builds, your faithful Editor-in-Chief recommends the Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5. Gigabyte has provided frequent BIOS updates for this board since the Ryzen launch, and they've largely stomped out my largest complaints about the AM4 platform (including annoying fan-control behavior and the underlying temperature-reporting issues).
Gigabyte decks out this board with dual NICs—one Killer E2500, one Intel—and fully taps the X370 chipset's USB 3.1 connectivity with a Type-A and a Type-C port. I've also had no trouble taking full advantage of the AX370-Gaming 5's DDR4-3200 support, and I think most builders will enjoy similar stability so long as they stick to Gigabyte's qualified vendor list. If you're into that sort of thing, Gigabyte also studs this board with RGB LEDs nearly everywhere they'll fit.
The one thing the AX370-Gaming 5 doesn't have is an external base clock generator for the resident CPU. If you're raring to run even faster memory, Gigabyte's own GA-AX370-Gaming K7 (or Asus' spendy ROG Crosshair VI Hero) fit the bill. The jury is still out on whether Ryzen base-clock tweaking is a wise idea for systems that need to run 24/7 stable, though, so we don't think it's worth the wait—or the extra cost—for these boards to come into stock.
|Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming||$199.99||Intel LGA1151 processor, ATX case|
If you want a Z270 motherboard that's packed to the brim with features, the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming is where you want to be. It carries two metal-reinforced PCIe x16 slots with SLI support, two M.2 sockets, and both Type-A and Type-C USB 3.1 ports. Nothing that fancy so far, but there's more. Asus saw fit to add built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi via a 2x2 adapter with MU-MIMO support. There are also dual headphone amplifiers and a front-panel USB 3.1 connector. Last but not least, the board has a rather tasteful dash of RGB LEDs and a connector for controlling additional strips. I've used this board extensively in the TR labs for CPU-review purposes, and it's well worth its asking price.
For a different tack, you may want to consider Gigabyte's GA-Z270X-UD5. This mobo doesn't have lots of LEDs or Wi-Fi. It makes up for those omissions with an Intel Thunderbolt 3 controller capable of pushing data at up to 40Gbps, dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet chips, and a U.2 port.
The onboard Type-C port also supports the Power Delivery 2.0 spec, meaning it should be good for pushing up to 36W to compatible devices. Like the Asus board above, the GA-Z270X-UD5 supports both SLI and Crossfire and offers metal-shielded PCIe and DIMM slots.
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