Everything you need to know in order to choose the right motherboard for your next AMD or Intel PC assembly
What is the coolest, most personal part of your equipment? It is not the microprocessor. They all look alike. It’s not the graphics card either. There is more diversity but not as much as that.
The most interesting component of your system – the part that reflects your personality and style, unless you already have a sophisticated liquid cooling system – is the Best Motherboard for Ryzen 7 2700X. They exist for any use, niche and sensitivity, and these days they are marketed in different colors and patterns. It becomes difficult to believe in the quantity of existing models on the market.
Our guide to the best gaming motherboards
The range of choices can be confusing, particularly since the major differences are in functionality and not aesthetics. A small variation in the serial number hides huge differences in performance and hardware compatibility.
We will guide you through this chaotic universe and help you select the right “chipset ” (main controller) and “ socket ” (processor receptacle) that match your choice of processor ( CPU ) and your system style. That you swear by the gaming or developing your configuration of overclocking , or even to optimize the tasks of the workstation, there is probably a motherboard model specifically for you.
Motherboards do not deliver performance as such, but they do help by enabling quality components to reach their full potential. A sparkling, “unbridled” processor is useless on a motherboard that does not support overclocking. Even with overclocking compatible cards , you will have better results and more stability with a quality card. Here you will know how to choose the right one.
Think about the style and size of your montage
Personalized equipment, especially constructions for gaming, is not just about indicators. Sure, performance is important, but if you’re willing to spend money on a system you’ll be using for a few years, you should be proud of it.
Before you start editing, spend some time thinking about the style and identity of your future PC. Do you want something flashy, sprinkled with LEDs or rather an elegant and discreet model? Do you feel like you are building a large “flashy” Plexiglas tower or a magnificent compact silver case for your office? Once your draft in mind, you can move on to the choice of material.
Remember that there are four major motherboard sizes that adjust to the different case sizes:
Mini-ITX: The smallest, designed for compact towers. In general, it has a single PCIe slot , which means that you can only connect one graphics card to it.
MicroATX: Smaller than a standard motherboard, but with more functionality and expansion possibilities than mini-ITX cards.
ATX: The standard size motherboard that fits most PC cases, with multiple PCIe slots, M.2 slots for SSDs, lots of SATA connectors, and many other features. For any medium or large tour, this is the classic choice.
E-ATX: These “enlarged” motherboards are generally used for high-end processors, such as Intel’s Extreme series. They are more expensive and often offer high-end features. Often, they require a large tower to be able to fit well.
Our guide to the best PC cases presents a wide choice of cases and mentions the size of compatible motherboards.
Intel or AMD
If you are not sure which processor to choose, take a look at our CPU guide where we present the models for all budgets and interests. It becomes easy to find the right CPU for you. While your choice affects the type of motherboard you can use, don’t worry about missing out on the latest fashionable features, as you might have seen a few years ago. Even if enthusiasts of AMD or Intel can advance the superiority of this or that processor, the positioning for motherboards is largely equivalent nowadays.
Now you should determine the graphics card. For a gaming platform, this is the only important component for performance and the rest of the system should be built around, ensuring that this GPU operates under the native resolution of your monitor, with the highest level of game details. High and a frame rate that your budget allows. It may also impose some prerequisites for components like power, and case size, so keep the sizes and your budget in mind for the future.
Motherboard “chipsets” explained
The “chipsets” provide the control logic necessary to make all the components of the system work, from the processor to the storage disks. They also determine the types and number of connectors available on a PC, both indoors and out.
Motherboards are identified by the chipsets on which they are built, and these names change when a major processor version is released, which happens frequently. This means that at one point, different generations of almost similar motherboards are found on the market, creating more confusion. To help you find your way, here (at the end of 2018) are the latest supported chipsets and sockets.
Main processor socket: LGA 1151v2
The latest mainstream chipset from Intel hosts the 8th generation and the 9th generation of Core processors (also called Coffee Lake). The Z370 and Z390 chipsets , which allow overclocking and Nvidia SLI, are the most popular among amateurs. The more traditional H370 and B360 chipsets complete the gamer sector of the Intel range. Intel also offers the fervent X299 chipset , which is particularly suitable for “Extreme” series processors.
The Z370, Z390, H370, and B360 chipsets have the CPU socket named LGA1151v2 . The X299 chipset implements the larger LGA 2066 socket , it accommodates the additional cores and other functionalities of the processors of the Extreme range. With a high price, the X299 series offers a good number of improvements compared to the older and smaller chipsets from Intel, notably including channels for M.2 SSDs, several graphics cards, faster DDR4 support, more connectors, and many other things.
Apart from being from Intel, the exceptional X299 platform is of interest, but it is mainly for non-gaming uses. Skylake-X processors like the Core i9-7980X, have up to 18 cores and numerous I / O channels for expansion ports. If you need 10 GB Ethernet, multiple high-end PCIe SSDs, or other expansion cards, and more M.2 slots, the X299 is worth it. But, with traditional platforms now supporting up to 8-core processors, the X299 is primarily intended for professionals.
The reality is that Nvidia moving towards an NVLink, SLI and gaming connector remains more efficient on the classic LGA1151v2 platform. The Core i9-9900K via the Core i7-8700K have more sustained clock speeds and lower memory latency, all to the advantage of the players.
There are, however, additional features of the X299 that you may appreciate. Most cards will offer you all the bling-bling you can hope for. From LED lighting to the remote control panel for overclocking, you will find the craziest ideas in the Intel computing world. The X299 is not for all budgets, but it offers the techno of tomorrow today.
Cheap choice: H370 and B360
Below 90 €, the motherboard market becomes cloudy. The cards ‘ low cost ‘ Z370 cutting back on features to bring the price down, but they are not the only ones on the market. Indeed, the H370 and B360 chipsets save the day.
The H370 and B360 gaming chipsets show little sacrifice in performance and design. It’s a less scalable approach, but when it comes to money, savings multiply quickly. You can draw a line under a fast DRAM since the maximum memory speed is 2666 MHz. You can also forget about the SLI Nvidia. It is not that we reject the assembly of several graphics cards, but through a Crossfire configuration of AMD the possibility exists if however you accept to be somewhat penalized in terms of performance.
The other sacrifice concerns overclocking. But sticking to the speed limit and choosing a processor from a non-K series (for example, the Core i5-8400) instead of an i7 or i9 with the possibility of overclocking (like the Core i7-8700K) you will save money that can be used for a more powerful graphics card. This constitutes a better return on investment in the context of gaming.
The latest from Intel: Z390
Intel’s motherboards that offer the latest Z390 series were released in late 2018, but offer few practical advantages over the Z370, which dates from 2017. Both have the same LGA1151v2 socket, and an update for the BIOS is just necessary for old cards to accept the latest Intel core processors. The Z390 offers a few additional ports, native support for USB 3.1 Gen 2, wi-fi built into the chipset, and other improvements.
The 8th generation of Intel processors and the Z370 main controller are the best option for players who are careful about their budget during the holiday season, especially when the sales and other discounts allow good deals. The Z390 and 9th generation processors are the fashionable components and pushing prices to the top.
AMD Socket main processor: AM4
AMD is a little better than Intel on the socket compatibility aspect and the life of the motherboard. The AM4 Ryzen and TR4 Threadripper sockets are relatively new, and we expect both platforms to remain active for some time. The 3rd generation Ryzen processors are expected to arrive in 2019 and will still run on 1st generation AM4 motherboards with a BIOS update.
The most popular chipsets for AMD sockets include the X370 and X470 for Ryzen, and the X399 for Threadripper. The compatibility of AMD processors covers several generations of products. Therefore, older Ryzen processors should run smoothly on newer motherboards. However, you will need to check the manual and update the BIOS to run the new processors with old chipsets.
The Threadripper also offers 64 PCIe lanes and the number of cores needed to support them, making any combination of cards and additional drives possible. As for the X299 platform, for gaming, you will only be better with the AM4. It’s not that the Threadripper doesn’t allow you to play, but it’s not as fast as a Ryzen and the extra hearts are not used in any current game.
At the other end of the price range, AMD offers its own floor price chipsets with the B450, B350, A320, and A300. These have fewer connectors than the flagship X470, but the B450 and B350 allow overclocking and run at the same memory speed by default as the high-end X370 and X470, making them an interesting alternative for users. Seeking to save a few euros while leaving a door open for adjustment options. At the same time, the A320 / A300 cards are attractive offers but lack a lot of options, and in most cases they do not cost much less than a B350. We would avoid the A320 / A300 as much as possible.
If you absolutely do not need a single core processor with high performance to satisfy your irrepressible desires, and if you use a more reasonable graphics card (such as a Vega 64 / GTX 1080 or lower), you will find life with AMD more pleasant and naturally more flexible. Pleasure and low prices are the winning combination.
Choosing a motherboard: What do you expect from your system?
The secret to getting out of the motherboard labyrinth is to imagine what you want to do with your system. It starts with the size. How big should your computer be? When it comes to motherboards, “the bigger the better the better.” Overall aim around the ATX size. Choose the largest card that your box can comfortably accommodate; don’t be seduced by the innovative nature of a compact card unless you really need it, or if the unpublished dimension is just part of the plan.
Why ? Smaller cards cost more. They offer fewer features and are not as stable as the big ones. If there is no particular reason for retaining an ITX card, it is best to avoid them for gaming. Larger cards are easier to handle; they provide better voltage regulation and offer subtleties such as space for compet ‘graphics cards, slots for M.2 disks, and RAM expansion possibilities. You will also avoid flayed joints and the strong pressures inherent in compact and constrained assemblies.
For example, for ITX cards that have M.2 slots, they are frequently positioned on the back of the motherboard, therefore, you will need to systematically dismantle your system to access it, or else make the purchase of ” a case with a special cutout for this purpose.
The principle of “bigger is better” is less true for very large motherboards. Indeed, the prices of E-ATX, ATX-XL cards and the corresponding boxes are skyrocketing. Enclosure prices can more than double from mid-tower to large-tower, adding significant cost to the entire system. Remember to consider hidden costs during the purchase and assembly, beyond the ATX format.
The next step is to list everything you expect from the system. What types of discs hook you up? Do you use Wi-Fi or an Ethernet link? Are you running more than one graphics card? How big is the processor cooler? Any motherboard worthy of interest should allow space to evolve. It is easy to be seduced in store by an expensive card and then realize that the RAM locations are too close to the processor support thus hampering the positioning of the cooler, or that it has a USB-C connector less compared to your needs. When it comes to motherboards, functionality and stability overshadow performance demands.
Learn more about PCIe lanes
The I / O speed within a motherboard is limited by the number of PCIe lanes available for the chipset and the processor. The main slots in which you connect graphics cards supports x16 speeds. However, using multiple cards will reduce the speed to x8 or even x4, depending on the motherboard and processor. The good news is that you will not have to deal with this type of complexity at all, unless you are considering an SLI Nvidia configuration with 3 or 4 graphics cards.
Standard Intel desktop processors have 16 lanes for one or two PCIe x16 slots, with additional lanes provided by the chipset. It seems a lot except that remember, a graphics card allows up to 16 channels for itself.
Fortunately, recent high-end chipsets, such as the Intel Z370, provide the processor with 24 additional channels at full speed ( which makes a total of 40 ), enough to meet configurations with two graphics cards or atypical configurations M.2. It is also a huge leap forward compared to the handful of channels available at the time of the Haswell architectures (4th generation Intel cores). Note that the link between the chipset and the processor requires only 4 PCIe lanes. However, this can turn out to be a bottleneck if you run multiple components on the chipset tracks at high speed.
The Intel X299 with its Core i9 processors will offer you 44 channels for Skylake-X processors like the i9-7900X and the new i9-9900X and higher, with also 24 additional channels from the chipset. (The old models i7-7800X and i7-7820X are limited to 28 PCIe lanes from the CPU.) Keep in mind that even if the lanes are accessible from the chipset, some cards only provide physical connectors for a single x16 slot, implying a reduction to x8 or less for execution on additional slots.
With its latest generation, AMD marks the differences well, with a total of 24 channels for Ryzen (four for the chipset) and an incredible 64 channels for Threadripper. The majority of AM4 processors have four PCIe lanes dedicated to an M.2 slot, a definite advantage for a conventional platform.
The main thing to remember is that the drop in performance from x16 to x8 is barely noticeable for gaming and a surge in workload.
All of these answer basic questions. Define your layout both in terms of size and aesthetics, so choose the chipset that best fits your processor and PC. Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to go shopping! Go to our guide to gaming motherboards and start your quest for the perfect motherboard for your construction. Good hunt !