In this article we are going to present the keys to choosing the best gaming motherboard based on your needs. If you are assembling or want to assemble a gaming PC by parts, one of the key hardware components will be the motherboard, the rest of the components will be connected to it, so it will be very important that you know how to choose the best one .
The truth is that the term ” gaming ” is currently fashionable . Also, it seems that because something bears the nickname gaming, it will mean that it is better than the rest and it really is not. If we want a gaming PC, the least we can do is buy gaming components, this is partly true and partly not, not all gaming is good or the most suitable for our needs, but they almost always have impressive designs and are usually focused on gaming computers.
When buying a gaming base pack we will need to take into account a lot of points, not only the price , although as always each user will have to base themselves on their budget and then look for a motherboard that is really worth it.
- Intel or AMD platform, how to choose the socket
A fundamental aspect on which we must always base our purchase is on the processor that we want to install in our new equipment, or where appropriate, in which we have already purchased. We all know that there are two processor manufacturers on the market, Intel and AMD , and within them an immense infinity of models from different generations.
Each of these two manufacturers will need their own motherboard as we can imagine. An Intel brand processor will not be compatible with an AMD motherboard, and in this they have an important role, the chipset , which we will talk about later, and also the socket , which we will talk about right now.
The socket is nothing more than the connector where our processor is located. Intel will have certain sockets and AMD others, obviously they will be incompatible with each other . A gaming motherboard should have one of these four sockets, two for each manufacturer:
LGA 1151 – will be the most common for Intel processors of the 14nm build process. We are currently in the 8th and 9th generation of these processors and socket 1151 supports practically any of these processors, whether they are locked or unlocked. For him we find the Intel Core i3, i5, i7 and i9, Intel Pentium Gold and Intel Celeron . It will be the smart option to buy on a gaming computer.
LGA 2066 – Also called the R4 socket, and it’s the socket that installs the company’s most powerful desktop processors . They are intended for enthusiastic configurations with incredible performances, but be careful, because they are very expensive and are not purely geared towards games , but rather high workloads.
AM4 : This will be a socket for the AMD Ryzen 3, 5 and 7 , processors that have excellent gaming performance and will also be the smartest purchase for our gaming motherboard, if we choose AMD.
TR4 : This huge socket houses AMD’s Threadripper processors , with brutal performances, but not as gaming-oriented as the previous ones, in addition to being also more expensive.
In short, the smartest purchase will be an LGA 1151 socket motherboard for Intel or one with AMD AM4.
- The chipset to choose
The chipset is a chip, or sets of chips that are responsible for managing all the peripherals and part of the connections of our motherboard , at least all those that do not go directly to the CPU, such as USB for example or PCIe x1 connections . The chipset communicates directly with the processor, and consequently must understand perfectly with it and be able to carry out its work as quickly as possible.
A real gaming motherboard must support overclocking techniques for the processor, and must have a chipset with a large capacity of connections and that withstands high stress. The capacity of a chipset is measured in lines or ” Lanes ” and this forms a set with those of the CPU. The more Lanes, the more information can travel on the motherboard , and this will be essential when installing peripherals and powerful hardware on it.
Intel Z390 Chipset: It is Intel’s upper-middle-range chipset and goes hand in hand with the LGA 1151 socket and compatible processors. It is the one used by most users , because we have motherboards of many prices from 90 to 500 euros and more. The Z390 is a chipset that supports processor overclocking and has a total of 24 PCI Lanes in x1, x2 and x4 mode. It supports 14 USB 2.0 ports, or 10 USB 3.1 gen1 ports, or 6 3.1 Gen2 ports . Likewise, we have a maximum of 6 SATA 6 Gbps connections and it supports PCIe configurations of the processor in 1 × 16, 2 × 8 and 1 × 8 + 2 × 4.
Intel X299 chipset: goes hand in hand with the LGA 2066 socket and the most powerful processors from Intel. It also supports overclocking and has 24 PCIe Lanes , although they have a greater capacity for PCIe configurations for the CPU and supports more SATA connections with 8 and the same number of USB , with 14.
AMD B450 chipset: If the AMD chipsets have something good, it is that they all allow overclocking , so this will be ideal for mounting a low-mid-range gaming equipment in socket AM4. It supports 2 USB 3.1 Gen2 + 6 USB 3.1 Gen1 + 6 USB 2.0, along with 16 PCI Lanes and 4 SATA 6 Gbps + 2 NVMe lanes.
AMD x470 chipset: this chipset will be ideal for mid-high-end gaming motherboards with AM4 processors, as it supports PCIe in x16 and 2 × 8 configuration, as well as 2 USB 3.1 Gen2 + 10 USB 3.1 Gen1 + 6 USB 2.0. In addition to 6 SATA 6 Gbps + 2 NVMe. Greater capacity of connections in general as we see.
AMD X399 chipset: it is intended for AMD Threadripper processors and obviously elevates the performance of the previous ones with more PCI lanes and more USB ports and storage.
In this section, we recommend a board with Intel’s Z390 chipset and boards with an AMD X470 or B450 chipset for the low-end.
- Expansion slots
We left behind critical elements like the socket and the chipset to talk about the possibilities of expansion. On a gaming motherboard, this will be very important, since we are supposed to have a large number of high-performance peripherals, as well as powerful graphics cards.
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The main thing will be the RAM, current games require high-powered hardware, and at least 16 GB of RAM or even 32 DDR4 . Although if you are short of budget with 8 GB you will be fair but you can still play decent with this amount.
With the chipsets seen above, we will have guaranteed a RAM capacity of up to 64 GB DDR4, compatibility with Dual Channel technology and support for XMP profiles on Intel or AMP boards for AMD.
Similarly, a gaming PC needs a dedicated graphics card , and this will work under a PCI-Express 3.0 x16 (16 Lanes) interface . The presented chipsets perfectly support this type of card. If we plan to make configurations with two or three graphics cards in AMD CrossFire or Nvidia SLI , we will need two PCI-Express 3.0 slots that at least function in x8 / x8 , although we would have to go to high-end cards with chipsets such as the Z390 or the X470. In order for it to go to x16 / x16, you usually need an additional chip, such as PLX chipset that acts as a bridge between the graphics card and our motherboard.
We will need a lot of USB connections on its rear panel. Currently we should order at least one or two normal USB 3.1 Gen2 or one Type-C + a normal one, in order to obtain capacity for very fast peripherals such as portable drives. In the same way, we recommend at least 6 normal USB 3.0 or 2.0 , since currently there are many peripherals that even need two USB for data and for lighting.
In this regard, there are already numerous boards that implement Thunderbolt 3 connectivity , of course only on boards with an Intel chipset. Although it is not a necessary connection for gaming and is more focused on workstation.
M.2 and SATA III connections
Games take up a lot of storage space, good read and write rates for storage devices. It is essential that a gaming board has at least two M.2 PCIe x4 slots with NVMe 2280/22110 protocol instead of SATA. It is the most powerful storage option, much faster than SATA.
We will have SATA connectivity guaranteed on all boards, but be careful, because manufacturers, to compensate for the deficiencies of the slower chipsets, make SATA connections share bus with NVMe connections on many occasions . That is why it is worth reading the motherboard manual beforehand to know the limitations that we will have in this regard and where the manufacturer recommends installing each device.
If you are going to mount a single M.2 NVME, a Z390 motherboard will suffice , but if we already want two to mount a good RAID 0, it is advisable to use the enthusiastic AMD platform, due to the greater number of LANES that support its processors.
- Durability, VRM and BIOS stability
On a motherboard that allows overclocking, as gaming motherboards tend to be, it will be important to have a UEFI BIOS with a simple and complete interaction by the user. But the most useful thing in this case is the possibility given by manufacturers to implement two BIOSes simultaneously . In one of them we can make an overclocking configuration while the other we will keep it as standard and without changes because something goes wrong. In addition, they implement physical buttons so that at any time we change from one BIOS to another and restore our hardware to the initial state.
This will depend on the manufacturer of the board in question. The main and most reliable manufacturers will be Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and ASRock . The components are always first class with power phases of enormous durability and that protect our CPU and PCB made of several layers of fiber composite material with epoxy resin or similar, and well isolated electricity and data paths .
MSI is usually the manufacturer that has the most powerful VRMs with up to 14 power phases on their boards . The VRM is basically the power support for the processor and the PCI-Express slots. For overclocking you always need a good VRM capable of supplying sufficient and constant power to the CPU . Asus, for example, has a series of gaming boards called TUF that adds an extra durability and quality to these units or its ROG motherboards that we think are the best on the market, although they are also one of the most expensive. We recommend a minimum 8 power phase configuration with quality MOSFETs and thermal element cooled capacitors.
Another very fashionable element now is to reinforce the expansion slots with steel plates . We will notice this immediately and with the naked eye in the PCI-Express and DIMM RAM memory slots when they have a silver color. It is not only for decoration, the slots are welded to the board and with the use and heat of the graphics cards it is possible that some pin will come loose due to temperature expansion. The steel reinforcement helps preserve the slot as it supports the graphics card’s own weight , which sometimes exceeds 1000 grams.
Other plates even have a metallic backplate in the rear area that prevents deformation of the plate with the passage of time and large heatsinks. Either way, the takeaway is that cheap is always expensive, so it is best to invest a little more money in a good motherboard.
- Internal connections, lighting, network and sound
In addition to the typical connections, a self-respecting gaming board will have the capacity to connect expansion ports such as USB chassis and sound connectors. But the headers for the fans , for the lighting and the temperature sensors will also be important :
Fans: These headers are quickly visible because of their inline four-pin configuration. They are able to control the speed of the installed fans, as long as they are PWM .
Pump: for liquid cooling, specific headers for fluid pumps also usually come.
Temperature sensors : if the motherboard has management software, the minimum we can ask for is that it be capable of monitoring temperatures such as those of the memories, the chipset or the M.2.
RGB headers : it usually has a configuration in four pins in line with the absence of one in the middle. Some will be RGB Header , only to connect RGB LED strips without the possibility of configuration, and others will be addressable RGB headers , which will allow customizing animations of these strips or fans.
Connectors for temperature control : many of these gaming boards allow us to connect a temperature monitoring system to them, which will be a good option for enthusiastic configurations.
Surely if we mount a gaming PC we will have the objective of playing competitive games on the LAN or over the Internet. The minimum we should ask for is a gigabit Ethernet RJ45 connector , but if we have the opportunity, two of them will be the best option , for e-Sports and increase the versatility of our PC. In this field, having built-in Wi-Fi is interesting, although the cards are somewhat basic and rarely reach speeds in 2 × 2 of 1.73 Gbps, the Intel CNVi chip will be key in this regard. The high-end ones have 10 GbE connectivity with top-of-the-range Aquantia or Realtek chips .
Of course the sound card will be the subject of special attention. Realtek systems will almost always be installed in them, on quality boards we hope to see, for example, the Realtek ALC1220 with its variants that will allow us high definition quality and capacity for 7.1 systems and S / PDIF connections . In addition, it will be important to have a quality DAS (digital – analog converter) for our headphones or our Hi-Fi system.
Last but not least for many, a gaming board almost always has lighting. The more expensive, the more lighting , this is key to raise the FPS of the games … or not. In any case, if we want to build a gaming PC full of lighting, then perhaps we want to opt for a model with lighting. The four main manufacturers have their own systems , which are also usually compatible with peripherals from other manufacturers such as Razer or Corsair. Asus Aura Sync, MSI Mystic Light, Gigabyte RGB Fusion and ASRock Polychrome RGB will be their names.
Conclusion on the keys to consider in a gaming motherboard
There are five sections, but we touch on a lot of properties of motherboards . We hope that with this basic information you will know a little more in depth the important characteristics of a motherboard when choosing it. In the market there are a lot of them, and it is difficult to know which ones are better, so we have taken the trouble to choose the best of today in our guide . We are always on the lookout for new releases to see if they deserve a place among the best or not.