Best gaming motherboard 2018 | PCGamesN

Best gaming motherboard 2018

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 Z370 motherboards and mainstream chipsets 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.

Take a look at our pick of the best AMD gaming motherboards, y'know, for contrast.

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 Z370 chipset for the Intel Coffee Lake CPUs launching last October, with other 300-series boards dropping this year.

The best gaming motherboards are:

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

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Best gaming motherboard - Asus STRIX Z370-E Gaming

Asus ROG STRIX Z370-E Gaming

Winner: Best gaming motherboard

Chipset: Z370 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2x SLI, 3x CF

Approx. $208 / £192

Asus has been classically cheeky with its Republic of Gamers STRIX Z370 board, and enabled the ‘all-core enhancement’ feature from the outset. It does only pop up when you enable the XMP for your RAM, but that’s a standard part of setting up a new board, so it’s almost inevitable. What that all means is that out-of-the-box your new Coffee Lake CPU will be running at its peak rated single-core Turbo speeds rather than the lower, standard all-core clockspeed.

For the top-end i7 8700K that means you’re getting a heady 4.7GHz straight away rather than the 4.3GHz you’ll find on the Gigabyte and MSI motherboards. It also means that the Asus Z370 is able to offer the highest performance for the Coffee Lake boards we’ve tested so far.

That’s not all the STRIX board has going for it, however, as this Asus option has a quality feature set too. There’s built in Wi-Fi support (the MSI Gaming Pro Carbon AC has a separate module you need to drop into a spare PCIe slot), support for SLI and 3-way CrossFire, reinforced graphics card slots, and a pair of M.2 SSD sockets. One of those is even given a little thermal loving via an integrated heatsink, a la MSI.

My only real criticism is the relative paucity of USB ports on the back panel. There are only five standard size USB connections, with a Type-C thrown in for good measure. I’d recommend a good chassis with a host of front panel USB ports to make up for it, as there are a host of internal headers on the board you can use.

 

Best gaming motherboard runner-up - MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC

Runner-up: Best gaming motherboard

Chipset: Z370 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2x SLI, 3x CF

Approx. $204 / £169

It’s a close-run thing between this mighty MSI Z370 and the quality li’l 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 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 the Asus Z370 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.

Check out the full MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC review.

 

 

Best gaming motherboard runner-up - Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming

Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming

Runner-up: Best gaming motherboard

Chipset: Z370 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2x SLI, 2x CF

Approx. $153£144

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.

Check out the full Asus TUF Z370-Pro Gaming review.

 

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Best cheap gaming motherboard - MSI B360M Mortar

MSI B360M Mortar

Winner: Best cheap gaming motherboard

Chipset: B360 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: mATX | mGPU: 2x CF

Approx. $90£91

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, do 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.

Check out the full MSI B360M Mortar review.

 

 

Best cheap gaming motherboard runner-up - Gigabyte B360 Aorus Gaming 3 WiFi

Gigabyte B360 Aorus Gaming 3 WiFi

Runner-up: Best cheap gaming motherboard

Chipset: B360 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: Quad CF/2xSLI

Approx. $114 / £102 

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.

 

Best cheap gaming motherboard runner-up - Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming K3

Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming K3

Runner-up: Best cheap gaming motherboard

Chipset: Z370 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2x CF

Approx. £116

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.

 

 

Best cheap gaming motherboard runner-up - ASRock Z370 Killer SLI

ASRock Z370 Killer SLI

Runner-up: Best cheap gaming motherboard

Chipset: Z370 | Socket: LGA 1151 v2 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2x SLI, 2x CF

Approx. $150 / £120

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. 

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*sigh* avatarDave James avatarMan_Of_Mayhem1344 avatarMalfious avatar
*sigh* Avatar
291
1 Year ago

Now Im just a bit curious why pcgamesn are picking MSI stuff.

Is MSI Eng-ger-lund? (Big Dave voice off)

When most others go for asus hero.

Does MSI pay for a (Big Dave voice on) AD. Ill kick yer teef in, duff up yer postie and steal yer giro. Yer bunch of pansies.

1
Dave James Avatar
627
1 Year ago

Is that an impression of me :(

Not sure what you mean though. We try and review kit from all manufacturers, why should we exclude MSI from that?

But, if you're referring to us recommending MSI boards specifically, we've actually recommended Asus motherboards as the top choice for all three categories above. MSI have just been the runner-up.

2
Man_Of_Mayhem1344 Avatar
2
9 Months ago

I bought a asus z270 stix gaming board and it was a pile of trash. After 2 months all the USB ports quit working the system was buggy the whole 9 yards. Bought the msi m5 just a week or so ago and the thing is flawless and it's stock over clocking programs gained me addition performance over asus. I will NEVER buy asus again.

1
Malfious Avatar
16
4 Months ago

Motherboards have been the only sticking point in my system.. having never bought one or tried to upgrade in the past, i feel a little scared incase it doesnt fit all my other stuff or it messes up windows.. that and my CPU is water cooled so i have no idea how to remove/reinstall that either haha.

Need to bite the bullet and buy one some day, my pc is in desperate need of an upgrade

1