A lot of gamers are happy to purchase a PC off the shelf and then add a few gadgets and gizmos to improve their gaming experience. And then there are those serious Gamers (yes they need a ‘G’ in caps) for whom the average Joe Gamer’s computer just isn’t going to deliver.
Building your own PC has its frustrations and there are times you will question your sanity, but as it slowly comes together, and you find optimal components such as the best gaming motherboard and a good cpu to go along with it, you will feel like a demigod. You’ll understand it better than anyone else and you will love it as if it were a baby you had just birthed. And when something stops working, you’ll know exactly where to kick or bash it.
Reasons to build your own gaming PC
If you have never built your own PC you will be wondering why anyone in their right mind would; there are so many to choose from, off the shelf, ready to plug in and play but believe us when we say there is nothing like building your own computer. Among the many reasons people do it are a few we have listed below:
- It is cost efficient – building your own PC means you’re in charge of the budget from start to finish. Also you’ll probably get an incredibly powerful computer with a solid motherboard for gaming at a more affordable price
- It is a match made in heaven – often gamers are a breed of their own (in a good way) and building your own gaming PC means you can customize it anyway you want, from the components (motherboard, cpu, etc) to the design and color. By the time you’re done it has your personality all over it.
- The pride and satisfaction – the satisfaction that comes with knowing you have built your very own PC is out of this world and nothing comes close; you are like the Victor Frankenstein of PCs and you’re creating your own (PC) monster
- It is a lot of fun – if you’re so inclined it’s a lot of fun. From researching the various parts and visiting forums, to finding the best components and tinkering away, there is nothing better. You connect with people, learn new things and end off with a better understanding
Building your own PC
Right, what you need to know first and foremost when building your own PC is the importance of all the parts. Think of a computer as a person; the processor is the brain and the motherboard is the heart and central nervous system, it is the main point of communication, relaying information to all the different parts. While it might not improve your gaming experience it will improve the performance of your computer, which in turn will have an impact on your gaming. Just like your heart, if your motherboard isn’t working properly your PC won’t work as well, and the worst case scenario could happen – your PC will die.
When choosing the best gaming motherboard you need to take into account how it will work with the other components, the reliability and sturdiness and of course, the cost. Given how important this is to your PC we suggest you set aside a fair bit of cash – a powerful motherboard with a lot of features will enable you to upgrade in the future, which trust us, you will want to do.
The good news is motherboards are very affordable. There was a time when a gaming motherboard meant big bucks and something best left for the high-end market. Today manufacturers cater to the mass market, regardless of your needs and budget.
Our Top Picks
|Best Overall Gaming Motherboard||Gigabyte GA-Z170X|
|Best Budget Motherboard||MSI LGA 1150 H81M-P33|
|Best Motherboard For I7||MSI ATX DDR3 2600 LGA 1150 Z97|
|Best AMD Motherboard||ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z|
|Best LGA 2011 Motherboard||MSI Extreme Gaming Intel X99|
|Best LGA775 Motherboard||ASRock G41C-GS|
|Best FM2 Motherboard||Gigabyte AMD FM2+ A68H SATA|
What to look for when buying a Gaming Motherboard
There are loads of good motherboards available and if you know what you want and what to look for you will definitely find something. There are well-priced ones for people on a budget; mid-level ones with some pretty cool features and then there are the high-end ones.
Ask yourself what kind of motherboard you’re after. Unless you’re one of the lucky few for whom budget doesn’t matter you might have to compromise here and there, and that’s ok. Where the MoBo ‘lacks’ in one area it’ll make up for it in another.
Building your own PC means you’re already tech-savvy, but if you’re fairly new to it, or maybe just need a recap, a lot of it might sound like Greek to you. We’ve put together a list that’ll turn Greek into Geek-Speak:
This refers to the size of the motherboard and at the moment there are three popular sizes. There is another one that is much bigger but chances are it’s not going to be one many people buy.
The popular sizes are:
ATX – this is the standard or average size
mATX – is smaller and cheaper
mITX – this is the smallest of the three. It has fewer features than the other two and is also the cheapest option
When it comes to deciding which of these is the best one for you, consider your needs, your budget, what you’re willing to compromise on and the casing you’re putting it in.
When looking at sockets you’ll notice there is usually a number behind the word – this number links to a specific type of processor socket and needs to be used together.
The DIMM or RAM slots you get depends on the size of the motherboard, so for the ATX you usually get 2-4 RAMS, mATX and mITX you get 2. We suggest you try and get a motherboard with at least 4; this will let you add more down the line.
SATA and M.2 Ports
SSDs and HDDs are an important part of your PC, and you need to have enough SATA ports to plug them into. If you have, for example, 3 HDDs and one SSD you will need 4 SATA ports.
Because we’re specifically talking about good gaming motherboards you are going to need PCIe slots for graphic cards so look out for a PCIe x16 for the main card. If you plan on doing multiple GPU setups you’re going to need more PCIe slots.
One of the most important elements on a PC nowadays is the USB port. From external hard drives and flash drives, you’re going to come unstuck pretty quickly if you haven’t factored these in. Skylake motherboards have at least 6 ports, while others, like the Z170 have 10 or more.
We think it goes without saying that you want a mother board that is durable and sturdy to safely house everything, also you need it to last as long as possible, because when your motherboard dies all other components are going to be compromised.
All motherboards come with LAN support but there are a few that will have built-in Wi-Fi support. If you’re wanting Wi-Fi then you have two choices, get a motherboard with Wi-Fi (these are usually more expensive) or buy an add-on wireless adapter.
A Wi-Fi adapter comes as a PCI or PCIe card that will fit onto a slot on your motherboard or you can get a USB dongle adapter. Either of these will be more than adequate. If you want Bluetooth support check your motherboards specs.
SLI / CrossFire Support
This is if you’re planning to set up dual graphics card you. You will need have a look into the support available as this isn’t standard but rather on the higher-end motherboards. If you, like so many others, are working on a budget system you won’t need to worry about this.
Once again motherboards today come with pretty good built-in audio and unless you have a huge budget and intend buying the very best (and costly) speakers, and headset you don’t need to spend money on a sound card.
The fact that you’re building your own PC means you know what you want for gaming, and that means find a top gaming motherboard with loads of extra features.
Buy a brand you know
By no means are we brand snobs but when it comes to some stuff it’s best to stick to a brand you know. It just helps if for after-sales support, warranties and guarantees. The most trusted manufacturers are MSI, AsRock, Gigabyte and Asus.
We recommend you still do your research because a board made by any of these doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for you, or overall.
The Best Motherboards
Now you know what to look for let’s take a look at the best gaming motherboards out there. This review includes the best overall gaming motherboard as well as the best budget, AMD, and the best LGA 2011 to name a few. We consider our list to be comprehensive and have covered likes, needs and budgets – there’s very little chance you won’t find something here for you.
Best Overall Gaming Motherboard
Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming G1 ATX Motherboard (Intel Z170, DDR4 RAM, SATAe/SATA3 6 GB/s, PCIe 3.0)
What we like:
- Top of the line performance
- Plenty of features
- Layout is easy to work with
What we don’t like:
- Garish design
- Only six USB ports on rear IO
This motherboard comes highly rated, with LAN, M.2 SSD slots as well as a whole lot of other high-end features. What we really like is the mult0-color lighting that can be changed to suit your system.
We don’t necessarily like the design itself, it just seemed a little gaudy but perhaps the thinking is if it performs as well as it does, then it can certainly be OTT.
Ignoring the looks, because after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the Z170X is one heck of a motherboard with a lot of features, a good layout and as far as performance goes there are no complaints.
Perhaps they could spend less time on the design and add USB ports, as that’s probably the only area that is lacking for us. At first glance it might seem expensive but considering it is a high-end motherboard with a lot of features and excellent performance, we think it’s a great purchase at a very fair price.
Best Budget Gaming Motherboard
MSI LGA 1150 H81M-P33
What we like:
- Excellent price
- Versatile – can be used to build a budget PC or a high-end gaming PC
- Includes some of the latest technology
What we don’t like:
- No bells and whistles
- Limited USB and SATA ports
Gone are the days when a motherboard cost the same as a small island. Today you can get some pretty cheap, budget-friendly motherboards for less than $100, even $50, like the MSI LGA 1150 H81M-P33.
For under $50 it’s obviously a pretty basic board but it has some awesome features and while it’s limited in terms of SATA and USB ports it can support any high-end 4th generation Intel processor. With the MSI H81M you can install one graphics card and a sound or Wi-Fi card; it has 5 SATA ports, 2 are SATA 2.0 and 2 3.0. It has 8 USB 2.0 ports and 3 USB 3.0, which we don’t think is too shabby at all.
What most people like about this affordable MSI motherboard is that it can be used to build a budget gaming PC or a high-end one, it depends on the processor you choose.
Best Gaming Motherboard for i7
MSI ATX DDR3 2600 LGA 1150 Z97 – G45 GAMING
What we like:
- A lot of ports for most configurations
- Easy to use
- Unbelievable audio boost
- Extra SATA plugs
- Supports multiple graphics cards
- Very well-priced
What we don’t like:
- Only 5 fan ports
The MSI ATX is another high-end system. One of the most noticeable features is the Killer E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform. It detects and accelerates game traffic for a smoother, stutter-free performance and real-time chat gets priority over chit-chat.
It’s hard, if not impossible, finding any negative reviews or complaints about this motherboard and we strongly recommend this one for your i7. It has an Intel Z97 chipset, which means it has advanced overlocking features and it is able to support multiple graphics cards via NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire.
Other features include Socket LGA 1150, it’s VGA, HDMI and DVI enabled, has a built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and is 2-wat SLI ready.
Best AMD Gaming Motherboard in 2017
ASUS Crosshair V Formula-Z
What we like:
- USB 3.0
- Plenty of SATA 3.0 ports and PCI-E x16 slots
- We like the design
- Good warranty
What we don’t like:
- There are a few complaints regarding the memory clocking correctly
Sweet motherboard of all motherboards! The Asus Crosshair is unbelievable. Not only does it look good, it performs well too. It comes with a lot of features like the 8 SATA 6GB/s devices, 8 USB 2.0 and 4 USB 3.0 and Supreme FX III, an onboard video that will make sound cards obsolete in the future. Also it has an easy to use Overlock tuner and an easy-mode for automatic over-clocking.
The Asus Crosshair is a little pricey and you might need some convincing to purchase it but believe us, it’s worth every penny. You’re paying for a well-known and reputable brand and a kick-ass AMD motherboard. Definitely for mid to high-end builds.
Best LGA 2011 Motherboard
MSI Extreme Gaming Intel X99 LGA 2011 DDR4 USB 3.1 ATX Motherboard
What we like:
- Everything – there’s nothing not to like on the MSI Extreme Gaming Intel X99 LGA 2100
What we don’t like:
- The price – it’s a little steep for the average gamer
If you are on a budget and need your money to stretch a little then it’s best you look at other brands. The LGA 2011 doesn’t come cheap and not for the average gaming PC. Of course if money isn’t an issue then by all means, go ahead.
A LGA 2011 can cost anywhere between $200 and $400, and we think that unless you plan on spending two or three times that on your system then it’s best to relook motherboard options. However, if you’re set on getting one then we suggest the MSI X99A SLI Plus.
If you’re happy to invest around $200 or so, the MSI X99 is the entry level motherboard. It has everything you’re going to need, plus a whole lot more, and as much as it’s costly, it’s worth it.
The motherboard comes with a number of PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, which means you get to choose the best spots for your graphics cards for better fit and better airflow. DDR4 Boost technology makes sure the memory signals stay pure and the award-winning CLICK BIOS 5 lets you tune your system for optimum performance.
Last but definitely not least is the unbelievable speed – up to 32Gb/s using Gen3 x4, Turbo M.2 is 5 times faster than a standard SATA III connection. If you get this motherboard you will have everything you could possibly need and it will last around 10 years.
Best LGA775 Motherboard In 2017
ASRock G41C-GS LGA 775 G41 DDR2+DRR3 8GB Micro ATX Motherboard
It was quite difficult for us to find a LGA 755 we could happily recommend. Only because they are for chips that are now several generations old and there aren’t a lot of Socket 775 boards available anymore.
We stand to be corrected (and we would love the feedback) the LGA 775 is perfect for older PCs that need a replacement motherboard and probably not the best purchase for mid to high-end gaming PCs.
Best FM2 Motherboard
Gigabyte AMD FM2+ A68H SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 mATX ATX DDR3 2133 NA Motherboards GA-F2A68HM-H
What we like:
- A10-7850k support
- Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
What we don’t like:
- For the price it’s hard to find any
A FM2 motherboard is perfect for a budget build and by budget we mean under $100, or less.
This is a good option if you are starting out with building gaming PCs or if you want a small-build. It is easy to use, easy to set up and for the price it looks really good. Most of the reviews we looked at were happy with the way it runs and they all mentioned they would buy it again.
This Gigabyte AMD FM2+ comes with everything you need to get set up quickly and has some incredible features including built-in Wi-Fi. It is safe to say it’s not the sturdiest of motherboards or features, but it has what it needs, at a very good price point. It is not the best board out there but it is excellent value for money and will serve its purpose.
One problem did come up and that was to do with the USB 3.0 – there weren’t any slots to attach the 3.0 cable. Besides that it’s an excellent MoBo for the price. It does what it says and it does it well.
Hopefully after reading this you are equipped to make an informed decision when you shop for your gaming motherboard. There is a smorgasbord of extra features available, from overclocking support to improved temperature monitoring and mega durability, but if we have to be entirely honest if they’re features that add to the overall cost of the gaming MoBo then they’re not worth it. Rather look for features that are going to make a noticeable difference, like an effective fan – this will make your system quieter, which is something we think is important.
Also keep your budget in mind. Prices can get out of hand quickly these days and while it’s nice to have the best motherboard for gaming you do need to ask yourself it it’s worth it. While you can spend anything from $200 upwards you can also find some excellent ones from Asus, Gigabyte and ASRock, and even at their low prices they have features like built-in Wi-Fi, good audio and even Bluetooth. Think long and hard about where you want to spend your money; if we had to choose we’d rather spend our money on a better video card or a quicker processor. But that’s us.