Motherboards are the single most important component in a PC build. There are so many considerations when deciding on what platform your new PC should be based upon, from the chipset that your board is sporting, to the number of PCI-E and RAM slots available. All of these things need to be thought about ahead of time so that you are not surprised a few months down the line when a compatibility issue rears its ugly head.
It is for these reasons that you should always do your homework, and take into account what CPU manufacturer you are looking to buy from, and what socket type do you need to accommodate? The same applies to your RAM, is it DDR4? What are the maximum frequencies that your memory clock runs at? Are you looking to overclock your CPU, RAM and graphics card? If so then not all motherboards are created equal, and you will need to find the right motherboard for the job.
Aesthetics are also another consideration, does your board have RGB LEDs? Do they cycle through different colours or do they stay on continuously? Does your motherboard’s colour scheme match your existing PC case? Are you going air or water cool? These are all things that you need to think about if you want to build a truly impressive gaming PC.
Another factor to consider is how many graphics cards you intend running? You will need to check that you have enough slots in place, and also if your motherboard is CrossFireX or SLI capable, depending on the graphics card brands.
So, with all of this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best motherboard offerings on the market in 2017 and see what comes out on top. We certainly are spoilt for choice as there is a lot going on out there in the world of motherboards.
At A Glance:
- Good component layout
- Solid performer
- Socket LGA 1151
This is a bit of a different platform than what many are accustomed to, as this C232 chipset actually comes from the workstation end of the spectrum. It has support for ECC memory and is definitely capable of being overclocked.
The board itself features Fatal1ity branding (Where is he these days??) and has a gaming kind of aesthetic. Red and black dominate the board and heatsinks, and in my opinion it looks quite good, with no over the top lighting or garish heat pipes jutting out of it.
On the gaming side of things, we have 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 and is capable of a x4 Crossfire configuration to provide dual graphics card opportunities, and 4 x DDR 4 RAM slots that top out at 64GB maximum installable memory. The BIOS has plenty of niche options and overclocking is a breeze.
Over all, this is a no frills system board that will have no problems running as a gaming system.
At A Glance:
- Performance is great for the price
- Fully loaded with features
- Power efficient
This is a great motherboard and it features USB 4 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, HDMI, DVI and a USB C connector. There is also a legacy PS2 port for your retro hardware to plug into, like your old keyboard or mouse. There is a gigabit Ethernet port for connectivity, and all of your standard audio options are available, with the exception of SPDIF or optical.
The board also features 2 x full speed PCIe and one x 8 slot. The multi GPU duties are handled by SLI technology. RAM is catered for with 4 slots and it is limited to 64GB, it runs DDR 4-3800 and can handle overclocking quite well. The CPU socket is LGA 1151 and supports 7th and 6th generation Core i, Pentium and Celeron CPUs. The afore mentioned audio options are augmented with Audio Boost 4 technologies.
The board features black with white accents and it has a take no prisoners look about it. Overclocking features are good and MSI offers a decent 3-year warranty on this unit
For the price it is definitely a great option for a mid-ranged PC build.
At A Glance:
- Out the box overclocker
- Advanced overclocking options also available
- 12 fan connectors in total!
Asus have always made premium boards that look great and perform even better, and their Republic Of Gamers series of boards are a distillation of all of their years of experience in creating high performance gaming motherboards.
Asus has also mounted two 10Gb/s USB 3.1 controllers as with 8 ports, 2 x HDMI ports. The board is really overclockable and it has a smart MemOK feature that lowers the RAM clock speed during the boot sequence, so that if you accidentally set some parameters incorrectly then you can at least get into the BIOS so that you can correct any settings that are causing your PC to fail on its memory timing.
Overall, the ROG series has always been a good mid to high level option for enthusiasts to sink their teeth into, it is definitely a solid Intel board.
At A Glance:
- Highly efficient
- Excellent overclocking potential
- Built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
This is a value board, and has some fantastic features that make it one of the best value for money boards in our round up. Some of the USB controller functionality and speed was sacrificed to squeeze this board into the budget-performance segment of our write up.
The onboard WiFi is great, but how does it do in the gaming stakes? The two x16 slots offer potential for an effective twin graphics card install. It comes with an SLI bridge that is compatible with GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 cards, so ASROCK know what the enthusiasts are most likely to install in their gaming boards in the GPU department.
Included accessories are a pair of WiFi antennas, some SATA cables and an I/O plate, and a driver CD, if you have an optical drive.
GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 Gaming Motherboard LGA1151 Intel Z270 4-Way SLI ATX DDR4 Motherboard
At A Glance:
- Triple and quad SLI support
- Dual gigabit ethernet
- Water cooling options
This is a motherboard made with the fanatical PC builder and gaming enthusiast in mind. The layout of the board is solid, the inclusion on 4 PCIe slots is made even better by looking at the LEDs that light up around the slots. 4 way SLI also sweetens the deal here and performance is available in spades.
The CPU also features these great LEDs and makes the board look seriously mean when installed into a PC case. The water block included is a G-Frost Hybrid, and there is also a 40Gbs/s Thunderbolt 3.
If you are looking for a DDR 4 capable monster board with complete overclocking functionality, this is definitely the board to grab.
This round up featured an interesting cross section of Intel compatible motherboards, specifically the LGA Socket 1151. The different price points give you an interesting overview of the options that exist in the market at the moment in our 2017 round up.
Many of the boards, with the exception of our last contender, will normally have to make a sacrifice of some kind to allow the pricing to line up with the intended target audience. But, this is normally overcome by the performance gains that we see in some of the enthusiast boards in the range.
The Intel LGA1151 platform has really matured and is a high performance, overclocker’s dream, and any of these boards would be a solid choice for a gaming PC build, with the right RAM, PSU, CPU and graphics card, you will find the best performance rig that will suit your needs, and your budget.