Best gaming motherboard 2018

The best gaming motherboard is a vital part of your gaming PC, so make sure your Intel CPU has the perfect chipset companion

Best gaming motherboard

Picking the best gaming motherboard is a vital part of piecing together your gaming PC, so we’ve tested the best Intel Z390, Z370, and mainstream chipsets to make sure you find the right board for you.

It might not have the same performance impact as your choice of graphics card or CPU, but your motherboard will dictate which of either you can jam in your gaming build. And it doesn’t stop there, your motherboard will decide what sort of storage drives you can plug in and what memory you can use too. We’ve tested the best boards from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock to help you choose the right one to build your rig around.

There are myriad options to consider when you’re picking the best motherboard for gaming. The most important choice, however, is whether you’re opting for an Intel or AMD processor as the beating heart of your rig. Last year team red launched the AMD Ryzen CPU platform, along with a whole new line of AM4 motherboards, making the choice a lot tougher.

We’ve covered the best AMD gaming motherboards in another guide to cater for the AMD Ryzen 2 CPUs, but, because Intel can still just about claim the absolute best gaming performance from its platform, we’re focusing on the different Intel options here.

And it’s been a busy ol’ time for the chip giant, with the Z390 chipset for the Intel 9th Gen CPUs launching this October.  These new CPUs are backwards compatible, which means us gamers have a wide range of motherboards, from budget chipsets to the top Z390 boards, to choose from.

The best gaming motherboards are:

Check out the best gaming motherboard prices at Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming

WINNER: BEST GAMING MOTHERBOARD

ASUS ROG STRIX Z390-E GAMING

Approx. $266 £228

STRIX Z390-E

If you want the high quality of ROG without the high price tag, then Asus' cheeky board will see you right.

  • ChipsetZ390
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form FactorATX
  • Multi GPU2x Nvidia SLI, 3x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Z390 chipset
Tick Easy overclocking
Tick Great connectivity

Cons
Cross Expensive

The Asus ROG Strix Z390-E Gaming marks the entry-level into the high-end ROG range. Despite that high-end heritage, it’s rather well-suited to avid gamers and moderate overclockers alike. While most of its high-end siblings favour liquid nitrogen and record-breaking functionality in lieu of affordability, the Z390-E blends just enough of that ROG approach without overstepping into the extreme.

The Z390 chipset doesn’t offer all that much in the way of native functionality over its predecessor: Z370. However, AI overclocking and a few iterative updates to the tried and tested formula make the Z390 a worthwhile improvement. So long as you don’t find yourself paying a premium for the Z390 board over its Z370 equivalent, there’s nothing to lose with the Asus Strix Z390-E Gaming.

Read our full Asus Z390-E Strix Gaming review.

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC

Runner-up

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC

Approx. $198 | £191

PRO CARBON

The Asus boards almost automatically overclock Coffee Lake CPUs, while you have to put in the work with the MSI.

  • ChipsetZ370
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorATX
  • Multi GPU2x Nvidia SLI, 3x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Z370 chipset
Tick M.2 heat sink included
Tick Great connectivity

Cons
Cross Won’t automatically apply all-core boost

It’s a close-run thing between this mighty MSI Z370 and the quality STRIX board above. The Asus only really gets the win because it doesn’t need any user input to get your CPU running at its best, just you setting the XMP switch in the BIOS. But the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon AC is still more than capable of matching the CPU and gaming performance of at least the Asus Z370 board with only a little light tweaking of the clockspeeds, easily hitting the same 5.2GHz overclock with the i7 8700K. And if you’re opting for a K-series CPU then what the hell are you doing not overclocking?

This ‘AC’ version comes with a discrete 802.11ac WiFi card, reinforced PCIe slots and a twin M.2 sockets. One of those has the M.2 thermal shielding to help cool your NVMe drive, but isn’t as rigid as the one on their X299 or the Asus Z370. It also has more readily available USB connections on the rear of the board and more RGB lovin’ than you can shake a hot LED strip at. And it’s often a mite cheaper too.

Read our full MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC review.

Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming

Runner-up

Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming

Approx. $155 | £179

TUF PRO GAMING

The TUF line no longer stands for robust design, but does stand for value and top-end performance.

  • ChipsetZ370
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorATX
  • Multi GPU2x Nvidia SLI, 2x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Affordable
Tick All-core enhancement compatible
Tick Great performance

Cons
Cross Flimsy PCB

The lower-priced Asus TUF board delivers Coffee Lake performance for a lot less than either of the ~$200 MSI or Asus STRIX boards. The feature set is a little lighter – there’s only protection on a single PCIe slot, and the PCB feels a touch more flimsy than the others – but it still has the overclocking performance as well as Asus’ all-core enhancement feature which means it ignores the Intel Turbo limitations.

That makes it a speedy little board straight off the bat with any K-series CPU you care to toss its way. That also means it’s got the gaming performance without you having to do any tweaking beyond ensuring your RAM’s running at its XMP settings.

Read our full Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming review.

MSI B360M Mortar

Winner: Best cheap gaming motherboard

MSI B360M Mortar

Approx. $90 | £88

B360M MORTAR

If you want a bargain Coffee Lake motherboard then the B360 chipset is what you covet.

  • ChipsetB360
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorMicro ATX
  • Multi GPU2x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Affordable
Tick Micro ATX form factor
Tick Great alternative to Z370

Cons
Cross Unable to overclock

The Intel H370 motherboards were a long time coming and, for the most part, don’t really offer any significant savings over the budget end of the Z370 range. As they’re newer boards they’re often more expensive. The B360 however, exemplified here by MSI’s excellent B360M Mortar, does represent a good-value alternative to the Z370 option, without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.

You will miss out on any overclocking potential of the K-series Intel processors, but with the mighty Core i5 8400 and its non-K ilk still offering serious gaming performance at stock speeds, that’s not too big an issue. The B360M Mortar is also a nicely proportioned Micro ATX board too, allowing you to drop it into more svelte chassis than the larger ATX board standard.

Read our full MSI B360M Mortar review.

Gigabyte Aorus B360 Gaming 3 WiFi

Runner-up

Gigabyte B360 Aorus Gaming 3 WiFi

Approx. $139 | £110

AORUS GAMING 3

Gigabyte's full-size B360 is a good alternative to MSI's Mortar, with the added benefit of wireless.

  • ChipsetB360
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorATX
  • Multi GPU4x AMD CrossFire, 2x Nvidia SLI

Pros
Tick Good selection of ports
Tick Wireless connectivity
Tick Great value

Cons
Cross Unable to overclock

The B360 boards are your best bet for a cheap gaming motherboard now that the mainstream chipsets have been launched. The H370 options are generally too expensive in comparison with the budget Z370 boards, which also offer higher performance.

The MSI B360M Mortar has the better overall performance, is cheaper, and has the smaller form factor for extra versatility, but the Gigabyte has the added bonus of wireless connectivity. Realistically the MSI is the better option, but the Aorus is a decent backup.

Gigabyte Aorus Z370 Gaming K3

Runner-up

Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming K3

Approx. £128

AORUS GAMING K3

Unfortunately the well-priced Z370 K3 is an Aorus that only seems to be available in the UK at the moment.

  • ChipsetZ370
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorATX
  • Multi GPU2x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Great value
Tick Z370 chipset

Cons
Cross Gaming performance lacking
Cross Not available in the US

Gigabyte’s Aorus breed of motherboards is a bit of a strange beast. While this impressively low-priced Z370 is freely available in the UK, it’s not listed at all in the US, with only a couple of other Aoruses (Aori?) available for America. Which is a shame because this isn’t a bad budget Coffee Lake board, especially given that the lower-spec H370 boards arrived with higher price tags and weaker performance.

Like the MSI Z370 it’s stuck to Intel’s Turbo guidelines, but there is Gigabyte’s own multi-core enhancement feature in the BIOS which you do have to activate deliberately. Then it matches the Asus design and ramps your K-series chip up to its peak Turbo clockspeed. Unfortunately some of the gaming performance is still a little off the mark and, try as we might, we couldn’t get the Aorus to match the 5.2GHz overclock the Asus and MSI boards offer, having to make do with 5.1GHz. Which is still none too bad for a budget board.

ASRock Z370 Killer SLI

Runner-up

ASRock Z370 Killer SLI

Approx. $160 | £128

KILLER SLI

ASRock's affordable Z370 is a good budget alternative, but MSI and Gigabyte's offerings just shade it.

  • ChipsetZ370
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorATX
  • Multi GPU2x Nvidia SLI, 2x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Affordable
Tick Nvidia multi-GPU support
Tick Solid VRM

Cons
Cross Gaming performance not great

This ASRock Z370 is another well-priced Z370 looking to corner the budget Coffee Lake chipset market in the face of the unfortunately pricey H370 boards. Unfortunately both Gigabyte and Asus have released similarly priced boards with the same sort of feature set and generally better performance.

The Killer SLI doesn’t do badly, however, and can offer the Nvidia multi-GPU support the Aorus can’t. It’s also got a healthy 10-phase power system which ought to make it a decent overclocker too. Sadly that’s all a bit strange. The out-of-the-box performance looks good initially as our i7 8700K hit 4.7GHz straight away, like the STRIX board, but then throttled single-core performance to 4.3GHz, which makes the gaming performance a little weak. It was also a little less reliable when trying to hit 5.2GHz too.

ROG-STRIX-Z390-I-GAMING

Winner: BEST COMPACT GAMING MOTHERBOARD

Asus ROG Strix Z390-I gaming

Approx. $210 | £217

STRIX Z390-I

The Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is a top pick for miniature eight-core monsters.

  • ChipsetZ390
  • SocketLGA 1151
  • Form FactorMini-ITX
  • Multi GPUN/A

Pros
Tick Great features
Tick Compact Mini-ITX
Tick Impressive connectivity

Cons
Cross Expensive

Mini-ITX motherboards are adorable. If cute factor alone isn’t enough to convince you, however, the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming also packs an ungodly amount of functionality onto a compact motherboard of its minuscule size. You can get eight cores and 16 threads running contempt on this board, turning even the smallest gaming build into the PC equivalent of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s quads.

This mini-ITX board packs in some serious functionality within its tiny frame. While the chipset has little to offer over its predecessor, Z370, Asus have put plenty of extra goodies on the board to make the next-gen worthwhile. For miniature eight-core monster builds, the Z390-I can’t be beat.

Read our full Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming review.

MSI B360M Mortar

Runner up

MSI B360M MORTAR

Approx. $90 | £88

B360M MORTAR

If you want a bargain Coffee Lake motherboard then the B360 chipset is what you covet.

  • ChipsetB360
  • SocketLGA 1151 v2
  • Form factorMicro ATX
  • Multi GPU2x AMD CrossFire

Pros
Tick Great features
Tick Micro ATX form factor
Tick Affordable

Cons
Cross Unable to overclock

The Intel H370 motherboards were a long time coming and, for the most part, don’t really offer any significant savings over the budget end of the Z370 range. As they’re newer boards they’re often more expensive. The B360 however, exemplified here by MSI’s excellent B360M Mortar, does represent a good-value alternative to the Z370 option, without sacrificing too much in the way of performance.

You will miss out on any overclocking potential of the K-series Intel processors, but with the mighty Core i5 8400 and its non-K ilk still offering serious gaming performance at stock speeds, that’s not too big an issue. The B360M Mortar is also a nicely proportioned Micro ATX board too, allowing you to drop it into more svelte chassis than the larger ATX board standard.

Read our full MSI B360M Mortar review.

Motherboard PCB

Picking the perfect motherboard for your rig can feel like walking a tightrope with all the I/O you want on one side and cost on the other. However, with a little critical thinking, and planning out your build around your board, the process can be rather painless.

After all, unless you are a super hardcore 1337 overclocking pro, it really all comes down to good quality, a form factor that works for your case or preference, and a healthy handful of ports. Performance between motherboards is totally negligible at this point, everything that used to make a difference to PC performance has long since been shifted aboard the CPU itself.

After all, the motherboard is the vessel for all your other, frankly, more interesting components that really make your gaming PC tick. It’s an important part of the puzzle, but one that needn’t keep you up at night either.