The best motherboard 2021: the top Intel and AMD motherboards we've seen
The best motherboards ensure that the PC you’re building and all its components will reach their full potential. A motherboard is a PC’s backbone or foundation, allowing your internals to interact with one another as well as run and even overclock better. Your choice of motherboard, therefore, will either make or break your PC.
While the best motherboards may not be as sexy as the best graphics cards or processors, they’re more important than other PC components out there. And, unless you want to rebuild your entire PC from scratch or if you’re setting out to build a PC to rival the best PCs, make sure to budget properly for a quality board.
To help you find the perfect board for your next PC, we’ve rounded up the best motherboards on the market. And now’s the perfect time to invest, considering both Asus and MSI recently unveiled their new Intel Z490 motherboards for the newly-released Intel Comet Lake-S.
Best motherboards of 2021 at a glance
- Asus ROG Maximus XII HERO – best Intel motherboard
- MSI MEG Z490 Godlike – best high-end Intel motherboard
- GIGABYTE Z490 Gaming X – best budget Intel motherboard
- MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC – best Intel micro-ATX motherboard
- Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming – best Intel mini-ITX motherboard
- ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X – best AMD motherboard
- Aorus X570 Master – best high performance AMD motherboard
- Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming – best budget AMD motherboard
- Asus TUF Gaming B550M-PLUS – best AMD micro-ATX motherboard
- ASUS ROG Strix X470-I – best AMD mini-ITX motherboard
- ASRock X299 Taichi – best Intel Core X-series motherboard
- MSI Creator TRX40 – best AMD Ryzen Threadripper motherboard
For the best motherboard for the latest Intel chips, you need one that brings plenty of power to the table, as well as intelligent cooling and support for faster memory. That’s why the Asus ROG Maximus XII HERO gets our vote as the best Intel motherboard for 2021. If you’re thinking of upgrading to a 10th-generation Intel Core processor, invest in this motherboard as well. With it, you’re also getting AI overclocking, AI networking with Wi-Fi 6 support and Asus’ Aura Sync illumination.
High-end motherboards may cost a fortune, but if you’ve got something like the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike under the hood, you’re pretty much guaranteed top-notch performance, especially if you’ve got Intel components. As long as you’re willing to pay the price. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that this is the best z490 board out there right now, with an excellent thermal solution, staggering overclocking performance, easy installation and diagnostic solutions for do-it-yourself-ers, and a solid build.
The GIGABYTE Z490 Gaming X may not have any flashy new features to bring to the table, but if you’re an Intel fan who needs a new motherboard in the budget sphere, it’s certainly a great choice. This entry-level motherboard for gamers has a decent feature set for its price tag, including three PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots, six SATA ports and four memory slots with support for DDR4-4600 and up to 128GB, to start. Most importantly, it performs like the best of them without burning a hole in your pocket.
If you’re looking to get an edge on the competition, but you don’t have a lot of extra space on your desk, you’re going to need a Micro-ATX motherboard – more specifically, the MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC. What you’re getting here is a Micro-ATX motherboard with all the features a full-sized ATX one offers, but at a fraction of the price. Despite its smaller size, you still get dual M.2 slots, SLI and Crossfire support, and all the fiery performance that Intel Coffee Lake Refresh has to offer. If you’re looking for a smaller motherboard, you can’t afford to pass on the MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge MC.
If you need the smallest possible motherboard available without compromising on key features of your CPU, you should look into the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming. With this motherboard, you don’t need to compromise on features or power. You don’t even need to settle for a measly 32GB of RAM. Thanks to Asus’ double capacity memory compatibility – you can have up to 64GB of memory in the most miniscule motherboard you’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, like most Z390 boards, its price tag is not for the faint of heart, so prepare yourself to shell out some serious dough if you want the smallest of the best motherboards.
If you’re considering an AMD setup for that PC you’re building, then you cannot go wrong with the ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming X. This is the best motherboard for AMD fans right now, with a top-notch feature set, great design and a highly-effective cooling solution. It’s certainly a favorite among overclockers out there, and with Wi-Fi 6 support to boot. If you have a penchant for tweak and upgrade your internals, there might be some limitations as to what you can do physically. But, other than that, it’s hard to find fault in this board.
The Gigabyte Aorus X570 Master is not only an aesthetically pleasing motherboard, with splashes of silver on a black board meant to complement its RGB lighting. It is also capable of being the centerpiece of a very powerful computer. It can handle up to 128GB of DDR4400 RAM, the latest 3rd gen AMD processors and multiple GPUs for anyone wanting to future proof their gaming needs. The X570 Master is also very astutely designed, with shielding on its I/O ports, WiFi 6 and a number of other placement choices that make this a quality board. Best of all, its price is significantly less than the high end Intel motherboards.
If you’re looking to build from scratch, the Asus ROG B550-E Gaming Motherboard is a cost-effective and feature-rich motherboard to pair with that AMD 3rd gen Ryzen chip you just bought. Its I/O ports are shielded, it comes with a PCIe 4.0 slot (and a second PCIe 3.0 one), and it has just about all the ports and port headers you could desire. With this motherboard, you’re getting excellent power delivery, a great feature set and an incredibly effective cooling solution, as well as a cool aesthetic to boot.
An upgrade from its predecessor, the B450, the Asus TUF Gaming B550M-PLUS boasts not only a much better power solution and a great cooling solution, but also game-ready features and military-grade components. Among those features are the AI Noise-Canceling Microphone software, which supports 3.5 mm, USB or Bluetooth headsets, and full RGB lighting control. All, of course, while still touting that TUF Gaming Alliance promise for easy compatibility and building, as well as aesthetics that complement its trusted partners.
Asus is out to prove that big things can and do come in small packages with the ROG Strix X470-I. Featuring the latest and greatest AMD chipset, everything in this tiny board is designed with excellent performance in mind. That extends down to the BIOS where you can find a stress test for overclocks before you even boot into Windows. This board also elevates beyond the constraints of the Mini-ITX form factor by including an M.2 Audio Combo riser, so that you can install your M.2 NVMe SSD without crowding out other components.
The X-series processors are here, and they are spectacular. But if you want to take advantage of all they have to offer, you need an X-series motherboard. This ASRock X299 is an incredible choice with support for overclocked memory speeds up to 4400MHz(!!!) and 8 different slots for memory modules. It also supports up to 128GB of RAM. Add in an X-series processor and a good graphics card or 3, and this thing will absolutely tear apart anything you could possibly throw at it. If you’re seeking one of the best motherboards money can buy, this is it.
When you’ve got an AMD Threadripper under the hood of your PC, you absolutely need a beast of a motherboard like the MSI Creator TRX40. This is designed and built specifically for creators with the most demanding computing needs, this motherboard also boasts quite a feature set. Among those features are the latest PCIe gen4 slots and M.2 connectors, USB3.2 Gen2x2, Wi-Fi 6 and 10G LAN, as well as MSI’s Frozr Heatsink design and Mystic Light RGB lighting. It’s a little pricey, especially next to the competition, but then again, nothing in the creative sphere isn’t these days. If you want the best motherboard for your professional creative endeavors, it doesn’t get better than this.