Best Motherboards: Q1 2020
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: Q1 2020
Catching up on the state of motherboards for the quarter, the first part of 2020 has been very quiet. Overall, only a handful of new motherboards have been released, and none of which are particularly notable, as motherboard launches are increasingly centered around new platform launches from Intel/AMD. Which isn’t to say that Q1 has been a complete snooze; we did see the Threadripper 3990X launch, but those motherboards were already in the market.
The upshot, at least, is that Q2 looks to be a busy period. Barring the very real possibility of Coronavirus-related delays, this quarter should see Intel unveil its Z490 chipset for its Comet Lake desktop processors, while AMD will have its more budget-orientated B550 chipset. So Q2 is going to be a busy quarter for motherboard vendors. With that in mind, here are our recommended picks for the Q1 2020 period.
With the current situation surrounding the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus reaching a global pandemic level, it’s had a noticeable effect on the computer hardware industry. MSI has even extended warranty on its products by a further two months to help accommodate the situation. The knock-on effect has led to several large trade shows being postponed and in some cases, canceled. Not only this but at present, it’s speculated that the pricing of computer hardware with pricing expected to fluctuate over the coming months.
|Motherboards Recommendations: Q1 2020|
|Favorite Motherboard (Money is no Object)|
|GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme||–||$700|
|Favorite Motherboard (Gaming/Performance)|
|GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI||$260||$260|
|Favorite Motherboard (Value)|
|MSI B450 Tomahawk Max||$111||$123|
|Favorite Mini-ITX Motherboard|
|ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac||$209||$209|
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 Holiday 2019 guide, we’ve opted to remain with the same picks given no new chipsets from either Intel or AMD have launched yet. As the AMD X570 chipset and Intel Z390 desktop chipsets have been around for the majority of the past year, each platform has matured with firmware updates compared to launch making both chipsets a solid option for users to use as a platform to build a new system. The effect that the coronavirus has had on pricing has been considered as well, with some fluctuation on hardware pricing already taking hold; although it remains to be seen on the full extent the virus will have on pricing and availability in the coming months.
For users looking for other options, we’ve also gone over multiple chipset families as well in the links below.
Best Motherboard Q1 2020: Money Is No Object
GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme ($700 at Newegg)
We’ve had the chance to review and analyze quite a few X570 boards to date (with some still to do), but one of the standout models 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. For our money is no object selection, there isn’t a more well-rounded X570 flagship than the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Xtreme. 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. It’s also one of the best X570 models currently on the market from a performance perspective. 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 current Q1 2020 period.
Best Motherboard Q1 2020: For Gaming/Performance
GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI ($260 at Amazon/$260 at Newegg)
Moving onto the selection for the best motherboard for gaming and performance, pricing played a huge role here. Picking between Intel’s Z390 paired with a Core i9-9900K and an X570 paired with a Ryzen 9 3900X is still a trade-off which a user will ultimately have to decide before selecting a suitable motherboard. 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 from this.
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 the 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 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 remains 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 $260 which marks a $10 reduction from the previous guide (previously $270). This model 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 Q1 2020: The Value Option
MSI B450 Tomahawk Max ($111 at Amazon/$123 at Newegg)
Sticking with a B450 model for value from our previous two motherboard guides might come as a surprise to some, but there is plenty to like about the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max. Especially since AMD’s successor chipset, B550 isn’t quite ready for retail.
Even though PCIe 4.0 isn’t supported on the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max, 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 onboard which costs $111 at Amazon. The $50+ saving over an X570 model at the expense of PCIe 4.0 is one worth taking when budget is a huge factor. Even still, 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 compliment this good valued option. The B450 Tomahawk Max currently sells $111 at Amazon, which until AMD launches the B550 chipset, it remains my go-to pick for anyone looking to build a cheap system paired with a clearance Ryzen 2000 processor, or even one of the newer Ryzen 3000 chips.
Best Motherboard Q1 2020: The Best Mini-ITX Motherboard
ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac ($209 at Amazon/$209 at Newegg)
There is an abundance of solid mini-ITX motherboards on the market at present, including both Intel and AMD based chipsets. With an undoubtedly decent number of solid small form factor options across both the Intel Z390 and AMD B450/X570 chipsets, I have gone with the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac for the second time in a row. The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac is a board we’ve reviewed previously and is one of the best mini-ITX motherboards we’ve seen to this date. The Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac has a wave of features including two M.2 slots, four SATA ports, two memory slots with support for up to DDR4-4266, and a very desirable Thunderbolt 3-capable USB Type-C port on the rear panel.
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 last 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 for Intel Z390. Even though the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Impact has since hit shelves, the hefty price tag of $430 is a big barrier, and awkward mini-DTX form factor causes compatibility issues with many small form factor chassis, which the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac avoids.
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard is available for $209 at Amazon and Newegg, and although it’s had a slight price bump over the last 3 months ($20), it has a great balance of performance, features, and it still represents a good price. It might be small, but it’s mighty and perfect for a single graphics card system with an Intel i9-9900K or one of the better-binned i9-9900KS processors.
It’s worth noting that Intel is planning to launch its new Z490 chipset for Comet Lake-S in Q2, which will bring plenty of new motherboards to select from. Intel’s Z490 chipset will release with the new LGA1200 socket which means existing Intel 8th and 9th generation processors won’t be supported.