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If the processor or CPU is the heart of your computer, then consider the motherboard to be the backbone. It’s the crucial bit of infrastructure that houses your chipset and links in all of the other hardware you need, including your GPU or graphics card, memory, storage, ports, cooling systems, and really anything else onboard.
Given all of that, it’s no surprise that picking a motherboard is a critical decision in any build. You can’t just roll the dice and hope for the best with a motherboard: it needs to support the CPU that you plan to fit in and play nice with the rest of your system too. Besides, there are multiple motherboard form factors designed for different types of builds, and they come with varying features, ports, aesthetic touches, and more.
For 10th-gen Intel Core builds, we recommend the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master at Amazon, a motherboard that can push your processor to the limits without breaking the bank (at least as much as some other motherboards). And if you’re of the AMD persuasion instead, the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon Wi-Fi is an ideal motherboard that supports both the latest generation of Ryzen processors as well as the previous one.
Before shelling out for your PC’s new backbone, consult Lifewire’s buyers guide to PC motherboards to learn more about the various form factors and other considerations at play when assembling your build.
Cleaner looking that previous model
14 Phrase Digital VRMs
On the pricier side
If you’re looking for a new motherboard to match the 10th-gen Intel Core processors, the Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master is our pick for the best overall option. It’s not the most affordable of the bunch, but also far from the priciest (keep reading), putting it in a sweet spot for the average enthusiast looking to eke out a strong performance from the latest-gen Intel chips.
The Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master has a cleaner overall look compared with its predecessor, yet it’s also stocked with a vast array of what the company calls Thermal Reactive Armor—or various heat-dissipation methods, including a dedicated heat sink for each M.2 SSD slot. And it can handle some serious power, thanks to its 14 Phase Digital VRMs with 90A smart power stages.
Lots of slots and ports
Stays cool in use
A little pricey
The MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon Wi-Fi motherboard is a great option for AMD processors. While it still supports 2nd-gen AMD Ryzen processors, it’s really designed to help you make the most of the latest and greatest 3rd-gen models. Core boost technology helps you squeeze every bit of processing power out of your chip, plus the motherboard has four DIMM slots for DDR4 RAM up to 4,400Mhz or potentially higher when overclocked.
It’s a well-stocked board with a pair of M.2 SSD slots that will support the upcoming PCIe 4.0 standard, and they’re kept cool by MSI’s M.2 Shield Frozr heatsink. In fact, cooling is a major focus on this board, including an optimized design for optional water cooling. Some customer reviews note that it may not feel as precisely and uniformly designed as some pricier alternatives, but that doesn’t seem to have any impact on the overall quality for AMD fans.
Strong build quality
Just because Intel has switched chipsets twice since Z270 debuted doesn't mean these boards aren't worth taking a look at. Even at two years old, 6th and 7th-generation Intel CPUs are still great performers when it comes to gaming, video production, and general computing.
The Asus ROG Maximus IX Hero is one of the best Z270 boards produced and is loaded with features that still make it a great product today. If you're into air cooling, but you like to control your fans, this board is impressive. It has eight 4-pin headers and a breakout header for a four-fan adapter. This means you could control up to twelve fans with this bad boy with minimal work.
VRM heat sinks run warm
The Gigabyte Z390 UD is dirt cheap at $120 but still manages to drive Intel's latest processors well. You're not getting any frills here, though. There's no USB 3.1 or Wi-Fi, and don't you dare expect any RGB. However, it has everything you need to drive the basics.
The top, metal-shielded PCI-E port is a full x16 slot, and you've still got stables like gigabit LAN and USB 3 ports available. The Z390 UD even has an M.2 port available, which is fantastic for the price. If you're looking to overclock, or you want fancy sound or more connectivity options, the Z390 UD might not be for you. If you just need a board that provides the basics, you won't find a quality board for any cheaper than this.
Great CPU overclocking
Limited ports, slots
If you’re keen on a compact PC, then the AsRock Mini-ITX B450 Gaming motherboard is one of the best picks around. This small Mini-ITX naturally isn’t heavy on ports and slots, given the smaller size compared to a full Standard-ATX board, but it does a good job of giving you exactly what you need to make the most of a compact build—and at a great price, too.
Built for AMD’s B450 chipset, the AsRock Mini-ITX B450 Gaming motherboard doesn’t skimp on CPU overclocking capabilities. It feels like a fully-featured motherboard for a modest gaming setup, but the limitations come with the number of USB ports (4x USB 3.1 Gen1, 2x Gen2) and a single M.2 slot for SSD storage. Still, there’s plenty to like here for the price and size alike.
No USB-C port
No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi
This is exactly the kind of motherboard you want if you’re attempting a dirt-cheap PC gaming rig build. It’s a Micro-ATX board, which means it sits between the full-sized Standard-ATX boards and the Mini-ITX seen above, but it sells for considerably less than anything else on this list.
Luckily, the Gigabyte B450M DS3H doesn’t skimp on the core essentials. It has 4 DIMM slots for DDR4 RAM, both HDMI and DVI-D ports for video output, and 6 USB 3.1 ports along with 8 USB 2.0 ports. That said, this kind of board isn’t ideal for overclocking, plus it lacks USB-C ports along with built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth support. Hey, that’s the price of cheap, but it could hit all of the basics needed for many low-cost builds.
Can take a ton of storage
Can feel overcrowded
You can build a truly insane PC for gaming or creative professional needs with an AMD Threadripper CPU onboard, but you’ll need a motherboard built to handle that kind of intense power. The AsRock TRX40 Taichi is our pick to suit that need. Not only can this motherboard help you get the most out of a pricey Threadripper, but it does so with more of a distinctive aesthetic edge than we usually see from motherboards.
The gear design pattern suggests at a glance that this is a very cool board, but that “coolness” applies to the actual experience of using the motherboard too. Despite all the power in play, the TRX40 Taichi keeps heat in check thanks to its extra-large aluminum heatsink and fan. It’s also built for speed thanks to the 2.5Gb/sec LAN port and Wi-Fi 6 support, plus it has a 20Gb/sec USB 3.2 Gen2x2 Type-C port onboard. Reviews point to this board getting a bit cramped under certain build configurations, however, so be aware of potential hitches there.
OLED status screen
No USB 3.1 Gen2x2 ports
Talk about truth in advertising: the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike lives up to its name with capabilities that might feel like they’re divine indeed. It’s similar to the Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme mentioned earlier on this list, but MSI’s hook here is to not only deliver the kind of incredible performance you expect but also to augment it with loads of handy perks and flourishes.
The MSI MEG Z490 Godlike has just about anything you could want from an Intel 10th-gen motherboard… and more. It has 4 DIMM slots for up to 128GB of RAM at up to 5,000Mhz overclocked, as well as an INTERSIL digital PWM (16+1+1) with 90A smart power stage. Add to that a 10GB Super LAN port and 2.5G LAN plus Wi-Fi 6 support, and a pair of Thunderbolt 3 ports. And on top of a comprehensive cooling solution, it even has a built-in OLED status screen to help you keep tabs on its running condition. It’s expensive, no doubt, but this is a drool-worthy motherboard for anyone looking to go all-out.
NO PCIe 4.0
Little visual flash
Just because you want to run a new 10th-generation Intel Core chipset doesn’t mean that you need to shell out big bucks for a motherboard. Other boards might pack more perks and style or hit higher performance peaks, but if you want something that works well and doesn’t do any more than it needs to, the MSI Z490-A Pro might be your ideal pick.
It’s not loaded with RGB lights (which you can add), but this motherboard supports the same 1200 socket and up to Intel Core i9 chips as pricier boards, and its 4 DIMM slots can push DDR4 RAM up to 5000Mhz overclocked. Customer reviews point to a well-constructed board that is ideally suited to mid-range and budget-friendlier builds, not to mention more understated ones that aren’t filled with RGB light shows.
Compact Intel board
No PCIe 4.0
Riser adds size
Last but not least, if you’re keen on running a 10th-gen Intel chipset but want to keep your build compact, the AsRock Z490 Phantom Gaming ITX is the best mini-ITX board out there. It’ll push out power like other comparable full-sized Z490 motherboards, with DDR4 RAM speeds of 4666Mhz or potentially higher via overclocking.
It’s outfitted with the latest connectivity features, including Wi-Fi 6 and 2.5Gbps LAN support, plus it squeezes in a pair of M.2 slots for SSDs. Customer reviews point to it staying cool under pressure too, although note that this motherboard doesn’t offer PCIe 4.0 support. Also, there’s a PCI riser that extends upward from the board and could make it a tougher fit for very tight cases.
The Gigabyte Z490 Aorus Master (view on Amazon) is the best overall motherboard for 10th-gen Intel Core processors, delivering impressive performance and strong cooling capabilities. For AMD builds, the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon Wi-Fi (view on Amazon) is the best all-around option for most users, although, for both Intel and AMD, there are plenty of other options for more or less cash.
About our Trusted Experts:
Brittany Vincent has covered games and technology for more than 10 years, and was previously editor-in-chief of modojo.com.
Andrew Hayward has been covering subjects such as technology and gaming since 2016, with his work included in more than 100 publications to date.
CPU support - Choosing the right motherboard requires quite a bit of consideration, but it really starts here: Do you want an Intel or AMD build? Once you have your processor brand choice mapped out, then you’ll have to see which motherboards support the particular chipset you choose. All of the Intel boards on here are for the current 10th-generation chips, while there’s a mix of AMD options explored.
Form factor - What kind of PC are you going to build? Do you want the full-size tower, a compact unit, or maybe something in between? There are three types of motherboard form factors: the Standard-ATX, mid-sized Micro-ATX, and compact Mini-ATX, and each has its strengths and weaknesses given the size, price, etc.
Ports and slots - When it comes to the nitty-gritty details, you’ll need to dig into the specs and see what kinds of ports and slots found on any motherboard you’re considering. How many USB ports are there, and what kind are they? Are there enough M.2 slots for the number of SSD drives you could potentially pop in? Do you care if the motherboard is ready for the future PCIe 4.0 standard? These are all things to weigh in your decision-making process.