In our series of motherboard buyers guides, here’s the latest update to our list of recommended motherboards. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.
Best Motherboards: Holiday 2019
The fourth quarter of 2019 has been a quiet one for motherboards, with AMD’s X570 and Intel’s Z390 chipsets already established as the go-to platforms for multi-core and gaming performance. November marked the release of AMD’s TRX40 chipset with a total of twelve new boards and two new 7 nm HEDT processors: the Threadripper 3970X and 3960X which we reviewed. and we’ve taken a quick look at the 12 launch motherboards in our TRX40 chipset overview. With this in mind and a minor shift in pricing on X570 and Z390 models, here are our recommend picks for the 2019 holiday period.
On the Intel side of things, there hasn’t been much activity aside from a refresh of some key models on the X299 chipset. These new models are designed for the new Intel Cascade Lake-X i9-10980XE processor. The battle of HEFT platforms is one that AMD currently leads thanks competitive IPC performance, a higher core count, and the added benefits of PCIe 4.0. With that said, despite leading the way for high-performance desktop computing, neither of these HEDT platforms are great choices at the moment for buyers looking for something now, as their associated CPUs have quickly gone out of stock.
|Motherboards Recommendations: Q4 2019|
|Favorite Motherboard (Money is no Object)|
|GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme||–||$700|
|Favorite Motherboard (Gaming/Performance)|
|GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI||$220||$220|
|Favorite Motherboard (Value)|
|MSI B450 Tomahawk Max||$111||–|
|Favorite Mini-ITX Motherboard|
|ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac||$194||$180|
Our recommendations for motherboards are based entirely on my personal and professional opinion. There are notably a large number of different motherboards across a host of chipsets, so I selected my top four picks based on the four market segments, regardless of the chipset. From our Best Motherboards Q3 2019 guide, two selections remain on our list with ASRock ruling the mini-ITX form factor at the moment, and MSI offering an extremely good value at the entry-level. As the AMD X570 chipset and Intel Z390 desktop chipsets have been around for the majority of the year, each platform has matured with firmware updates compared to launch, and pricing has come down on a lot of boards on both chipsets. This guide is revised and updated to reflect this.
For users looking for other options, we’ve also gone over multiple chipset families as well in the links below.
Best Motherboard Holiday 2019: Money Is No Object
GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme ($700 at Newegg)
Now that the X570 platform is well established, we’ve had a chance to review and analyze quite a few boards. One of the boards that piqued our interest during testing was the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme, which is the only X570 board to include a passively cooled chipset heatsink. What made the X570 Aorus Xtreme stand out, however, came in our power delivery thermal testing, which showed how far GIGABYTE has come in its power delivery implementation and design. With a true 14-phase power delivery for the CPU with the Infineon XDPE132G5C spearheading the design, the proof is in the pudding in terms of performance, overclocking performance, and efficiency.
The E-ATX board sports a fittingly high-end feature set. In terms of networking support, the board includes an Aquantia AQC107 10 G Ethernet controller, an Intel I211-AT Gigabit controller, and an Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 + BT 5.0 wireless interface. For storage, there are three PCIe 4.0 x4 slots and six SATA ports that support RAID 0, 1, and 10, as well as support for up to DDR4-4400 and 128 GB across four memory slots. A Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec powers the rear panel audio, while an ESS Sabre 9218 DAC helps to bolster the quality of the front panel audio.
The GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme also has dual BIOS, which is handy for BIOS Flashback and allows one to be used for extreme overclocking, while the other could be used for more stable 24/7 settings. Focusing more on the Xtreme element, GIGABYTE also includes an overclockers toolkit with a power button, reset button, voltage measurement points for better accuracy, and an OC PEG power connector.
With a current price tag of $700 at Newegg, it’s not a board for those with shallow pockets. But for the few who can justify a $700 board, the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme offers a solid premium feature set, looks good with its full cover thermal armor, and it offers highly efficient and reliable power delivery. In other words, it ticks the majority of boxes for both enthusiasts and gamers looking for a high-end foundation for a powerful gaming system.
There are other flagships such as the MSI MEG X570 Godlike ($700), and the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Formula ($700), but neither has a true 16-phase (14+2) power delivery design, and our testing shows its efficiency in reducing temperatures. Couple that in with the recent release of AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X processor, it makes the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme our money no object selection for the holiday period.
Best Motherboard Holiday 2019: For Gaming/Performance
GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI ($220 at Amazon/$220 at Newegg)
Picking between Intel’s Z390 paired with a Core i9-9900K and an X570 paired with a Ryzen 9 3900X remains an interesting task. While the i9-9900K offers some frame gains in gaming with a higher core frequency, the overall winner is the Ryzen 9 3900X which has 12 cores and 24 threads at a much sweeter price point. Although the extra cores don’t offer much for gaming, overall system performance and multi-core optimized applications benefit greatly.
The GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI has everything a user could need to build a gaming PC including two full-length PCIe 4.0 slots which operate at x16 and x8/x8, meaning that there’s official support for 2-way NVIDIA SLI graphics setups. There’s also a full-length PCIe 4.0 x4 slot at the bottom of the board.
On the component side, GIGABYTE has equipped the X570 Aorus Pro WIFI with a solid 14-phase power delivery system, which is more than capable of pushing the Ryzen 3000 series of processors to their ambient limits. Included are an Intel I211-AT Gigabit NIC and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax wireless interface, making up the board’s networking capabilities. Meanwhile for audio the board includes a Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec, which in turn drives the five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output on the rear panel. On the storage front are two PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2 slots, which both come inclusive with their own individual M.2 heatsinks, and also present are six SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays.
While the board does omit a 2.5 G Ethernet controller, the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI still offers a great trade-off between price and performance, and many users shouldn’t be too concerned as prices on 2.5/5 G equipment remain high. Memory support is also impressive, with support for up to DDR4-4400 memory and up to 128 GB supported across the four available memory slots makes this an attractive offering.
The GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI is available for $270 which represents good value for money, but it also packs a punch for anyone looking to build a solid mid to high-end gaming system with the extra money saved from opting for this over a flagship model which be distributed to other areas such as storage, and graphics.
Best Motherboard Holiday 2019: The Value Option
MSI B450 Tomahawk Max ($111 at Amazon)
Sticking with a B450 model for value from our previous motherboard guide might come as a surprise to some, but there is plenty to like about the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max. Even though PCIe 4.0 isn’t supported on this board, the chances of anyone looking for a budget option and then pairing it up with PCIe 4.0 SSDs is likely to be slim. The Ryzen 3000 processors are supported out of the box, so no firmware updates are needed. Meanwhile the recent price drops on the Ryzen 2000 series processors further improve the value of the B450 chipset, and the MSI B450 Tomahawk is a prime example of this.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk Max slots in at the same price as the older B450 Tomahawk, and is the epitome of value with a variety of low cost, but effective features in board which costs $115 at Newegg. The $50+ saving over an X570 model at the expense of PCIe 4.0 is one worth taking, as there are few-to-any consumer peripherals that can take meaningful advantage of PCIe 4.0 at this time. A mixture of black and grey patterning across the PCB, with black aluminum heatsinks and an array of RGB LEDs in the top right-hand corner, makes this a neutral option for users to build a Ryzen-based single graphics card gaming system.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk Max has a pair of mid-range controllers with a Realtek ALC892 HD audio codec and Realtek 8111H Gigabit LAN. Also present are six SATA ports, a single M.2 slot, and two full-length PCIe 3.0 slots with support for two-way CrossFire. There’s support for DDR4-3466 memory, and MSI includes a robust software package to complement this good valued option. The B450 Tomahawk Max currently sells $111, which until AMD launches the B550 chipset, it remains my pick based on value alone.
Best Motherboard Holiday 2019: The Best Mini-ITX Motherboard
ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac ($194 at Amazon/$180 at Newegg)
Other prominent features include four USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C ports, DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 outputs, and a clear CMOS switch is also located on the back panel. Networking is handled by an Intel 9560 802.11 2T2R Wi-Fi adapter and a single Intel I219V NIC, which is more premium than what some full-fledged ATX models offer. For overclockers, a solid looking 5+2 power delivery is more than adequate to propel the new Intel Core i9-9900K to its limits on ambient cooling, and the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac even has some RGB LEDs on the rear of the PCB (located just behind the full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot).
Earlier on this year, we pitted two of the most premium mini-ITX Z390 motherboards against each other, the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac and the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I. Our analysis and conclusions indicated that the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac isn’t just one of the best mini-ITX motherboards currently on the shelves, but one of the best motherboards in the mid to high-end motherboard segment. Even though the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Impact has hit shelves, but the hefty price tag of $430 and awkward mini-DTX form factor brings pitfalls which the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac doesn’t
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard is available for $180 at Newegg and as far as mini-ITX models go, it has a great balance of performance, features, and all at a very reasonable price. It might be small, but it’s mighty, and perfect for a single graphics card system with an Intel i9-9900K or the newer and better-binned i9-9900KS.