As a quick recap, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 processors use motherboards with AM4 sockets. AMD's X370 and B350 chipsets both allow for overclocking. We consider the B350 offerings the mid-range ideal, as this chipset has the most common features one might need without any special frills. Those looking to get the best of everything can pick a motherboard with the X370 chipset onboard. Those high-end mobos typically offer SLI and CrossFire support, among other fancy features. As for the lower-end A320, we reckon it's not currently worth picking, as the currently-available Bristol Ridge APUs to go with them just aren't sensible choices.
Meanwhile, Intel's low-end and mid-range CPUs require boards based on Intel's 200-series chipsets. The Z270 chipset lets users overclock their unlocked CPUs. The H270 chipset is mostly similar to 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, 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.
New CPUs often need new motherboards, and that's the case with the current crop of workstation-class processors from Intel and AMD both. AMD's Ryzen Threadripper CPUs require a big board based on AMD's X399 chipset, while Intel's Core X processors need a large mobo with an Intel X299 chipset on top. So far, nearly all offerings for either type of CPU are ATX and E-ATX models that tend to pack everything and the kitchen sink. They're also generally quite expensive, though X299 boards in particular can be found in the sub-$250 mark nowadays. Having said that, if you're thinking of building a workstation-grade computer, we figure that you're calculating ROI as we speak and paying top dollar for a motherboard isn't going to scare you off.
A word of warning on Ryzen Threadripper motherboards. Even though ECC is a platform feature, some motherboard models don't offer ECC RAM support for some reason. If you're building a Threadripper rig, make sure to double-check that your mobo of choice supports ECC RAM. Our TR4 motherboard choices below take this into account.
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.
- Asus is the biggest of the four main motherboard makers. We think Asus boards have better Windows software and firmware than the competition, plus the most intelligent and reliable auto-overclocking functionality of the bunch. The company's firmware interface offers the best fan speed controls around, too. Some Asus motherboards ship with cushioned I/O shields and header adapters that make it much easier to connect finicky front-panel cabling. Overall, an Asus board should offer the most polished experience of the lot.
- MSI's motherboards offer solid hardware paired with polished firmware and Windows software. The nicely-retooled fan controls in the firm's 9-series firmware have been carried over to its latest motherboards, though the company's auto-overclocking intelligence remains fairly conservative and somewhat rudimentary.
- Gigabyte's recent motherboards are also a good choice, even if their auto-overclocking intelligence, firmware, and Windows software aren't quite up to par with Asus' or MSI's in this generation. The company's firmware fan controls are now about on par with Asus', but the rest of its firmware and Windows software utilities could still stand some extra polish. Some Gigabyte models ship with cushioned I/O shields and header adapters, too.
- ASRock generally aims its products at more value-conscious buyers. ASRock boards typically offer a great hardware spec for the money. In our experience, however, ASRock's firmware and Windows software leave much to be desired. ASRock boards are appealing primarily for their budget price tags.
|MSI B250M Pro-VDH||$79.99||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. The Gaming 3 makes up for it by offering RGB LED accent lighting on its front edge and along its audio path.
|Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming K3||$139.99||AM4 processor, ATX case|
If you need multiple graphics card support or otherwise want to run a pair of PCIe x8 devices off your AM4 CPU, we're tapping the Gigabyte GA-AX370-Gaming K3 for you. This board offers metal-reinforced DIMM and PCIe x16 slots, CrossFire support, a Killer Gigabit Ethernet adapter, an M.2 PCIe x4 socket, and eight SATA ports. There's a total of five fan headers, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, and two USB connectors with noise-filtered power. Really, the only thing possibly missing from this board is a Type-C USB port and RGB LED lighting.
|Gigabyte Aorus GA-AX370-Gaming 5||$194.99||AMD Socket AM4 processor, ATX case|
For the highest-end Socket AM4 builds, our 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 it's largely stomped out his largest complaints about the AM4 platform (including annoying fan-control behavior and some temperature-reporting issues). He's also had no trouble taking full advantage of the AX370-Gaming 5's DDR4-3200 support, and believes most builders will enjoy similar stability so long as they stick to Gigabyte's qualified vendor list. With AMD's AGESA 18.104.22.168 firmware, the AX370-Gaming 5 gains a full range of memory multipliers up to DDR4-4000 and flexible command rate settings for better RAM compatibility.
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. If you're into that sort of thing, Gigabyte also studs this board with RGB LEDs nearly everywhere they'll fit, too. If you're building a Ryzen system with all the trimmings, we think the AX370-Gaming 5 remains the way to go.
|Gigabyte Aorus X399 Gaming 7||$389.99||AMD Ryzen Threadripper processor, ATX case|
We know what you're thinking, and yes, $390 is dear for a motherboard. That's the price of you pay for new technology, and it looks like the massive TR4 socket doesn't come cheap. Threadripper-ready motherboards are all $300 and up right now, and we picked out one of the better-equipped models, the Gigabyte Aorus X399 Gaming 7. We figure if you're buying a kitchen, might as well have it preinstalled with the sink. We also have hands-on experience with this board—we ran the entirety of our Threadripper review on it, and it performed most admirably.
The Aorus X399 Gaming 7 is a hulking beast with more hardware than a Lowe's store. The massive TR4 socket is surrounded by eight metal-reinforced DIMM slots bedecked in RGB LEDs and supporting RAM up to 3600 MT/s. There are a total of five PCIe x16 slots, four of which draw lanes from the Ryzen Threadripper CPU. Gigabyte offers a whopping three CPU-powered M.2 slots sitting under heatsinks, too.
The "everything" approach continues in the USB, audio, and networking sections of this slab o' circuits. Network connectivity comes by way of a Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet controller, while an Intel Wireless-8265 adapter handles 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2 duties. Around the back, you'll find eight USB 3.0 connectors, plus USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports in Type-A and Type-C flavors. Sound output is handled by a Realtek ALC1220 codec coupled with WIMA and Nichicon audio caps, potentially making for a particularly clean signal.
The Gaming 7 is also bedecked with more LEDs than you can shake a stadium scoreboard at. The chipset heatsink, PCIe slots, and even the DIMM slots are covered in RGB LEDs, configurable through Gigabyte's RGB Fusion utility. Nobody will ever say you didn't give your Ryzen Threadripper CPU a good home.
|Gigabyte Aorus X299 Gaming 3||$279.99||LGA 2066 processor, ATX case|
|Gigabyte Aorus X299 Gaming 7||$399.99|
Oh look, another Gigabyte board. Must be a conspiracy of some sort. The truth is much simpler, and it's just that the Aorus X299 Gaming 3 has the right price and feature set for a relatively affordable X299 board. Let's rattle off a few key specs: eight DIMM slots capable of pushing RAM up to a whopping 4400 MT/s, two M.2 sockets, and a total of five PCIe x16 slots, two of which are metal-reinforced.
An Intel Gigabit Ethernet controller handles networking duties, while the Type-C and Type-A USB 3.1 Gen2 ports are powered by an ASMedia controller. Sweet music will reach your ears courtesy of a Realtek ALC1220 codec coupled with WIMA analog components, and there's multi-zone RGB LED lighting to top it all off—just not quite as wild as the Aorus X399 Gaming 7 above. We figure the Aorus X299 Gaming 3 is a solid foundation for Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X processors.
The Aorus X299 Gaming 3 is a fine X299 motherboard for stock Kaby Lake-X and Skylake-X builds, but if you're planning on aggressively overclocking a Skylake-X chip, there may be value in the beefier power-delivery systems and better VRM cooling of some higher-end X299 mobos. Gigabyte's Aorus X299 Gaming 7 ups its power-delivery game with two VRM heatsinks joined by a large heat pipe, and its dual eight-pin EPS plugs should provide even the most power-hungry Skylake-X CPUs with ample juice. We're not kidding about the need for this, either: our tentative efforts with Skylake-X overclocking have resulted in eyebrow-raising levels of system power draw.
We're largely concerned with its functional virtues, but a high-end audio subsystem with an ESS DAC, onboard Killer Wi-Fi, and enough RGB LED lighting to land planes by make the X299 Gaming 7 an enviably high-end motherboard without venturing into the realm of needless excess.