Best Motherboards: Q3 2019
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: Q3 2019
In the third quarter of 2019, a lot of the buzz in the motherboard market is going to be dominated by the release of the AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors and X570 chipset which brought a lot of features along with it including PCIe 4.0, a lot of Wi-Fi 6 wireless interfaces, and improved componentry to give users the most premium models on an AMD desktop platform for a very long time.
Intel hasn’t really released anything very notable since its Z390 chipset debuted so the majority of the picks are based on a trade-off between AMD’s Ryzen 3000 series and the Intel 9th generation of desktop processors, with the focus put squarely on the motherboards themselves and not the performance trade-off between the processors.
|Motherboards Recommendations: Q4 2019|
|Favorite Motherboard (Money is no Object)|
|ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme||$1800||$1800|
|Favorite Motherboard (Gaming/Performance)|
|GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI||$270||$270|
|Favorite Motherboard (Value)|
|MSI B450 Tomahawk||–||$115|
|Favorite Mini-ITX Motherboard|
|ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac||$186||$186|
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 segments, regardless of chipset. From our Best Motherboards Q1 2019 guide, there hasn’t been much of a change with two of our picks remaining from our previous list. The biggest addition during Q2 2019 was the introduction of the AMD X570 chipset based on the AM4 socket, and is the first platform to bring PCIe 4.0 to the fold; this guide is revised and updated to reflect that.
For users looking for other options, we’ve also gone over multiple chipset families as well in the links below.
Best Motherboard Q3 2019: Money is no Object
ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme (C621) ($1800 at Amazon/$1800 at Newegg)
Some users may question as to why the ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme is still at the top of our picks, but with budget not being a concern, this motherboard offers one of the most comprehensive feature sets and set of componentry ever found on a consumer-level motherboard. With a high-performance processor such as the Intel Xeon W-3175X, which offers 28 unlocked cores of Skylake fury to chomp through whatever is thrown at it. Taming an overclockable 28-core processor doesn’t just require enthusiast level cooling, but it requires a solid and high-quality foundation which the ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme excels at.
The EEB form factor ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme is built around the C621 chipset and was the first motherboard to support the $3000 Xeon-W3175X processor (GIGABYTE has since lifted the lid on its C621 Aorus Extreme). The cornerstone of the Dominus Extreme is of course its 32-phase power design, which is capable of shrugging off the Xeon W3175X’s massive 255 W TDP and allowing users to go farther with the unlocked CPU. There is also support for up to 512 GB of ECC and non-ECC RAM, with twelve slots allowing for hex-channel memory configurations. ASUS also includes two ROG DIMM.2 slots, allowing users to install up to four M.2 drives in total, all with support for Intel VROC. The board also brings two U.2 ports and a total of eight SATA ports for additional, off-board storage.
Other highly notable features include dual LAN with an Aquantia AQC107 10 GbE NIC and complementary Intel I219-LM 1 GbE NIC, an Intel 9260 802.11ac MU-MIMO Wi-Fi adapter, and a ROG SupremeFX S1220 HD audio codec. The board also comes with four full-length PCIe 3.0 slots that operate at x16/x16/x16 or x16/x8/x16/x8; leaving plenty of expansion options for additional AIC SSDs, network controllers, accelerators, and other high-bandwidth cards..
Being a ROG product, Dominus Extreme offers plenty of features for overclockers. An overclockers toolkit is integrated onto the PCB and offers a total of twelve 4-pin fan headers as any system built on this board is going to require big cooling solutions.
With a price tag of $1800 at both Amazon and Newegg, the ASUS ROG Dominus Extreme targets users with big wallets as the outlay on just the Xeon W-3195X CPU ($3000), this motherboard ($1800) and a 192 GB memory kit (up to $3000) alone is more than some users would pay for a car, let alone a system. If money is no object, this kind of setup offers unparalleled high-core performance and with an unlocked multiplier on the CPU, more performance can be squeezed out with the right configuration.
Best Motherboard Q3 2019: For Gaming/Performance
GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI ($270 at Newegg/$270 at Amazon)
With a massive amount of Z390 motherboards and more recently, X570 motherboards on the market, it made the pick for gaming and performance a lot more difficult. The board I’ve picked is the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI which retails for $270 at both Newegg and Amazon, and has plenty of premium features for a very reasonable price. 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 componentry side, GIGABYTE has equipped the X570 Aorus Pro WIFI with a solid 14-phase power delivery which is more than capable of pushing the Ryzen 3000 series of processors to their ambient limits. Included is an Intel I211-AT Gigabit NIC and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax wireless interface making up the boards networking capabilities, with a Realtek ALC1220-VB HD audio codec controlling 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 its own individual M.2 heatsink, and also present is six SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, and 10 arrays.
While the board does omit a 2.5 G NIC, the GIGABYTE X570 Aorus Pro WIFI still offers a great trade-off between price and performance and for users not using upgraded networking devices to benefit from the 2.5 G, the masses won’t be too concerned for the meantime until the prices on 2.5/5 G equipment is more affordable. 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 to be distributed to other areas such as storage.
Best Motherboard Q3 2019: The Value Option
MSI B450 Tomahawk ($115 at Newegg)
Now, this is going to be a controversial pick but I’ve decided to remain stuck on the MSI B450 Tomahawk, which is based on the more budget-friendly B450 chipset. The main reason why I’ve decided to keep this good value pick is that even though PCIe 4.0 isn’t supported on this model, the chances of anyone looking for a budget option pairing it up with PCIe 4.0 SSDs is likely to be slim, and AMD’s B550 chipset isn’t quite ready yet. Users can update the firmware on the MSI B450 Tomahawk to support the Ryzen 3000 processors and while it has been reported by various users that firmware is a little sketchy currently, this stretches across the entire AM4 platform at present. The recent price drops on the Ryzen 2000 series processors also allows users to opt Ryzen 2000 and a B450 motherboard combination even more so than before.
The MSI B450 Tomahawk is the epitome of value with a variety of low cost, but effective features in a package which costs $115 at Newegg which is a reduction of $5 since our Q1 2019 guide. A mixture of black and grey patterning across the PCB, with gunmetal grey 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 has a pair of mid-range controllers with a Realtek ALC892 HD audio codec and Realtek 8111H Gigabit LAN. Also present is a single M.2 slot, six SATA ports, 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 currently costs $115, which, outside of even the cheapest X570 motherboard on offer at present, is still a good saving and until AMD launches the B550 chipset, the MSI B450 Tomahawk remains my pick based on value alone.
There is also a B450 Tomahawk MAX model, which retails for a bit more, but has a larger BIOS chip (32 MB vs 16 MB). This enables support for older processors, as well as a more graphical BIOS experience.
Best Motherboard Q3 2019: The Best Mini-ITX Motherboard
The amount of smaller but equally adept hardware is on the rise, and to complement this, vendors are cramming even more features and componentry onto their mini-ITX motherboards. One standout model from the smaller-sized crowd is the new ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac, which on paper looks like one of the most comprehensive models in a long list of ASRock’s small form factor series. 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 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 there have been a couple of X570 mini-ITX motherboards launched since then, the primary competitor in the ASUS ROG Crosshair VIII Impact still hasn’t hit the market yet and as a result, our pick remains unchanged going into Q3 2019.
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac motherboard is available for $186 at both Newegg and Amazon at the time of writing, and as far as mini-ITX models go, it has a great balance of performance, features, and all at a very reasonable price.