Which is the best Intel motherboard?
Tempted by one of Intel’s latest processors and want the best Intel motherboard to go with it? Here’s our guide to the best motherboards for every budget.
Intel’s Z390 platform can be used for building all sorts of PCs, from affordable day-to-day machines to high-end work and 4K gaming machines. But it’s difficult to know which to opt for, with motherboards that vary hugely when it comes to price and features.
So while there’s plenty of variety when it comes to picking parts, it also means much scope for potential confusion, especially if you’re not used to wading through motherboard specification lists.
That’s where this guide comes in. We’ve sifted through the market to find the best eight boards, which have been tested for performance, features and value, so you can come to a conclusion over which could take pride of place in your next rig, regardless of your budget, or what you want to accomplish.
We’ve listed eight of the best here. Find our pick of the absolute best here – scroll down for the full list complete with detailed explanations and links to our full reviews:
- Best overall Intel motherboard: MSI MEG Z390 Godlike
- Best Intel motherboard for gaming: Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme
- Best value Intel motherboard: Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro
- Best mid-range Intel motherboard: Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi)
- Best entry-level Intel motherboard: MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk
1. MSI MEG Z390 Godlike
Best Intel motherboard overall – Great application performance and features for work and creativity
- Solid application performance
- Great audio and storage features
- Ample PCI connectivity
- Good enthusiast-level on-board additions
- Less impressive in gaming
The MSI MEG Z390 Godlike is the most expensive Z390 motherboard in the group. For that money, the MSI delivers a vast slate of features: support for 128GB of DDR4, lots of M.2 connectivity, six SATA ports, and even a U.2 connection. In addition, you get four PCI-E x16 slots – more than any other board here.
The Realtek audio hardware is beefed-up with an eight-channel, 32-bit DAC, and you get dual Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11ac wireless.
The board also serves up extra CPU and PCI power connectors, numerous on-board buttons for tweaking, and a dynamic display that can be used to show component information or your own designs. There’s even a dial that can be used for CPU overclocking without heading into the BIOS.
The board is almost all-metal, although it’s dark and brooding – nothing like the competing Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme. This board is louder and has more lights, and its features are skewed more towards gaming and tweaking than work and creativity.
MSI’s board returned excellent application results that outpaced the Gigabyte, and the MSI board was frugal. However, it was inconsistent in gaming, and often behind the Gigabyte.
That Gigabyte board is better for a high-end gaming machine. But, if you want this broad specification inside a high-end work or creativity system, then the MSI is a fantastic, feature-packed option.
Review price: £533
Score: 4.5 /5
Read our full MSI MEG Z390 Godlike review
2. Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme
Best Intel motherboard for gaming – The price is justified by great gaming performance and high-end features
- Beats rival for gaming performance
- Loads of high-end tweaking features
- Colourful physical design
- Superb rear connectivity
- Not brilliant in applications
- A little less storage and PCI versatility
This monster motherboard costs £500 and looks the part. It’s covered with outlandish heatsinks and more RGB LEDs than anything else in this group, and it comes with high-end tweaking features, from extra PCBs that can be used for extreme CPU tweaking to on-board buttons and a POST display.
The core specification serves up steel-supported PCI and memory slots that can handle multi-GPU with ease, and you get three M.2 sockets and support for 128GB of DDR4. The audio circuitry is enhanced by a two-channel DAC, and you get 10Gbps wired networking and dual-band wireless.
There are loads of fan connectors, solid USB connectivity and Thunderbolt on the rear panel.
The Gigabyte’s gaming performance was mid-table in the wider Z390 group, but it did consistently outpace its expensive rival in gaming tests – the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike was slower here.
However, the Gigabyte was a little behind the MSI in application tests.
The Gigabyte is an expensive board for enthusiastic gamers and tweakers, and it delivered with reasonable gaming pace and loads of relevant features. The MSI board is better for work and creative tasks, though, and you need to make sure you’re going to actually use these features before you buy.
Review price: £500
Read our full Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Xtreme review
3. Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro
Best value Intel motherboard – Excellent, consistent performance, good features, attractive design, good price
- Excellent performance in all scenarios
- Versatile, well-specified features
- Attractive design
- A little pricier than rivals
- Some minor missing features
There’s a lot to like about the specification of the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro. A mid-range Z390 motherboard, it has solid PCI options that match its rivals, and few others at this price have steel supports around both PCI and memory slots.
No other boards at this price have two M.2 slots that both have heatsinks, and you get six SATA ports and an extra four-pin CPU power connector for overclocking.
The networking and audio hardware is good, and you get plenty of on-board fan connectors and USB options – including a front-panel USB 3.1 Type-C connector. The rear I/O is well equipped, too, with five full-size USB 3.1 ports and a couple that support the newer, faster Gen 2 protocol.
Few other boards at this price offer so many features and so much balance, and the Gigabyte also delivered great performance. It’s better than all of its affordable rivals in application tests, proved speedy in application and memory benchmarks, and finished off with gaming results that outpaced the competition.
This board is a few pounds more expensive than others in the middle of the market, but it justifies its price with great features and performance. It’s the best mid-range all-rounder.
Reviews price: £173
Read our full Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro review
4. Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi)
Good looks, solid design and consistent speed make for an excellent option
- Consistent, well-balanced performance
- Attractive physical design
- Solid core specification
- Rivals have more connectivity
- A little pricier in some circumstances
The Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) has a good core specification for single and dual-GPU rigs, with reasonable PCI connectivity, two M.2 connectors and six SATA ports.
Networking is fine, and this pricier version of the board also includes wireless. If you’re willing to get rid of that, the price drops to £258.
It looks attractive, too, with dark metal heatsinks, RGB LEDs on the board itself and plenty of options for connecting RGB LEDs elsewhere around the rig.
Most people will be sated by the specification, although the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 does offer better storage connectivity, more USB ports at the rear I/O and more on-board USB options.
This board’s specification isn’t as good as the ASRock, but the Asus is consistently faster in benchmarks. It takes a comfortable lead in applications, and its gaming results are always better.
The Asus is faster and more consistent than the ASRock, so it’s worth buying if you want some extra speed – although remember than the ASRock does offer a better selection of features.
Review price: £286
Read our full Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) review
5. MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk
Solid gaming speed, a reasonable specification and a low price – ideal for entry-level builds
- Solid gaming performance
- Good specification for single-GPU builds
- Impressive on-board connectivity
- Cheaper than rivals
- Weaker in applications
- Better multi-GPU options available elsewhere
- Mediocre storage and memory performance
The MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk is the cheapest board in this Z390 group, and it has a specification that’s capable of handling decent single-GPU gaming rigs – but not much more than that.
It can’t really handle multi-GPU and it doesn’t have wireless internet, for instance. However, you do get two M.2 connectors and six SATA ports.
The MSI does have plenty of fan connectors and four on-board USB connectors, and it has reasonable USB 3.1 connectivity at the rear.
Its networking and audio are suitably entry-level, but that’s still absolutely fine for most mainstream builds.
The MSI did deliver poor application performance in most of the benchmarks, and its gaming results were mediocre.
That won’t prove too much of a hindrance at this end of the market, though. You can certainly get more features and speed if you pay extra elsewhere, but this MSI is a fine, well-rounded option if you want Z390 without spending lots of cash.
Review price: £140
Read our full MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk review
6. ASRock Z390 Extreme4
Good application performance and features, but poor gaming grunt
- Solid application performance
- Good PCI and SATA connectivity
- Generous rear I/O
- Can’t compete in gaming
- Behind some boards in applications
- Subdued physical design
The ASRock Z390 Extreme4 is more affordable than its Phantom Gaming 9 board has good core features, with solid multi-GPU support, plenty of M.2 connectivity and eight SATA ports, which is two more than most rival boards offer.
It offers decent back-panel connectivity, too, with five full-size USB 3.1 ports and a Type-C connector.
As usual, there’s support for 64GB of DDR4 memory, a solid Realtek ALC1220 audio codec and entirely normal wired networking. On board you get reasonable USB connectivity, and average allocations of fan connectors and CPU power plugs.
It’s a reasonable performer in application benchmarks, with solid pace in Cinebench and Geekbench, but the board still couldn’t match the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro for application performance.
The ASRock wasn’t particularly good in gaming tests, either, and it looks plain.
This board has reasonable features, with PCI connectivity and storage being particular highlights. Other boards do sometimes offer more, though, and it couldn’t outpace rivals in either application or gaming benchmarks. This subdued board isn’t awful, especially for storage or work, but the Gigabyte is a better all-rounder.
Review price: £167
- Read our full ASRock Z390 Extreme4 review
7. ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9
Plenty of features, but this board remains hindered by poor benchmark performance
- Superb networking ability
- A good number of ports and connectors
- Ample storage options
- Poor performance in most situations
- Not particularly eye-catching
- A tad expensive
There’s a lot to like about the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9’s specification. It has lightning-fast 2.5Gbps networking, wireless internet, and plenty of ports on its rear I/O. Elsewhere, it has solid PCI options, three M.2 connectors and eight SATA connectors.
That’s normal for ASRock products, and it means that these boards are particularly good if you want to add a lot of storage.
You get good on-board USB connectivity, too, and this board’s higher price means there are also on-board buttons and a POST display for diagnosing problems.
It’s a better specification than the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi) – that board is more expensive, and it has fine hardware, but i isn’t quite as well-equipped when it comes to storage or rear I/O.
The table turns in applications, though. It’s consistently behind the Asus in application benchmarks, and its storage pace wasn’t brilliant. It was further behind the Asus in gaming tests, too.
The ASRock is a worthwhile purchase if you want options when it comes to storage and USB connectivity, but the competing Asus board still has a solid specification – and is faster in all situations.
Review price: £271
- Read our full ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming 9 review
8. Asus TUF Z390-Plus Gaming
A durable, basic specification and a low price – but it isn’t particularly fast
- Solid durability in key components
- Reasonable basic specification
- Poor benchmark performance in most tests
- Rival boards offer better features
The Asus TUF Z390-Plus Gaming motherboard is quite literally a solid entry level board. TUF-branded motherboards have durable components, which should improve this board’s lifespan compared to rivals.
The specification is solid for single-GPU builds, too, and you get two M.2 connectors, six SATA ports, four PCI-E x1 slots and four memory sockets. The layout is fine, and the rear I/O offers several USB 3.1 ports.
The various extra durability features included and shown off on this board can often be found elsewhere, though, and rival products feature USB 3.1 Type-C connectors, better audio kit and improved support for dual-graphics protocols.
The entry-level specification gives way to disappointing benchmark performance. The TUF board was a little better than rivals in single-threaded tests, and a little slower in more complex, multi-threaded workloads. It was often slower in gaming, too.
The Asus board does ensure better stability and is fine for affordable builds – but its rivals are often faster, cheaper and include similar features. The Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Pro is a better option for speed, while the MSI MAG Z390 Tomahawk is better value.
Review price: £161
- Read our full Asus TUF Z390-Plus Gaming review
Best Intel Z390 Motherboard 2020 – How we test
The motherboards are put through a demanding suite of benchmark tests. We run Geekbench 4 to test single- and multi-core application speed, and Maxon’s Cinebench R15 to test CPU and OpenGL GPU performance. We use CrystalDiskMark to test NVMe and SATA storage speeds, and SiSoft Sandra to evaluate memory performance and processor arithmetic speeds.
3DMark: Fire Strike, 3D Mark: Time Spy, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider are run to evaluate gaming ability. Then we test power efficiency by measuring the board’s power draw when idling and when running Prime95’s CPU stress-testing benchmark.
The test rig uses:
- Intel Core i7-9700K processor running at its stock speed (3.6GHz)
- Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060
- Samsung 970 Evo M.2 SSD
- Samsung 860 EVO SATA SSD
- 16GB of 3000MHz DDR4 memory
The Intel Z390 chipset
The Intel Z390 chipset was introduced in October 2018, and is a revision of the Z370 chipset introduced way back in 2017.
It’s an upgrade of existing hardware rather than anything new, then, which means that it still uses the LGA 1151 socket that’s been around since 2015.
It also means that Intel Z390 motherboards support both the 8th generation and 9th generation Coffee Lake CPUs – such as the Core i5-8600K, the Core i7-8700K, and the Core i7-9700K.
Remember, though, that the 9th generation of Coffee Lake has better Turbo speeds, a greater number of cores, improved thermal performance and fixes for the infamous Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities. If you have older hardware, or just want the newest kit inside your PC, then they’re certainly worth the upgrade.
Motherboards that use the older Z370 chipset support 8th-generation chips, but they’ll need firmware updates to support 9th-generation hardware. Similarly, you’ll need to use a BIOS update if you want to run an eight-generation CPU on a Z390 board.
So, what can this chipset handle – and what’s changed since Z370?
Since Z390 is a revision of Z370, a lot of the chipset’s upgrades are minor or evolutionary. You still get DDR4 support, for instance, but Z370’s maximum allocation of 64GB has been doubled to 128GB. In addition, while Z370 supported 10 USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, Z390 supports those 10 along with up to six faster USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports.
Z390 maintains native support for six SATA 3 ports and 14 USB 2 ports, and its PCI lane and bandwidth support levels remain unchanged. In short, you won’t have any issues running a couple of graphics cards on any board as long as it supports the relevant AMD CrossFire or Nvidia SLI protocols. SATA RAID and Intel Optane memory support remains unchanged.
Intel has added native support for 802.11ac wireless internet for Z390, but many motherboard manufacturers will add their own, better wireless chips, especially on more expensive boards.
It’s a revision to Intel’s high-end consumer chipset, so it’s no surprise that this platform is well-served by beefy processors.
There are four 9th-generation Core i5 CPUs available for general purchase at the moment. The most common are the Core i5-9400, which costs around £165, and the unlocked Core i5-9600K, which costs around £250. Core i7 uses can opt for the Core i7-9700K, which is about £370.
There’s also the Core i9-9900K, which has eight cores and costs £500.
Eighth-generation chips will work with Z390 motherboards, so that will save some cash if you don’t want to buy a new CPU alongside a new board. That means a huge number of Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 parts will continue to work flawlessly on this newer motherboard hardware.
However, it’s worth remembering that Z370 builds are still perfectly fine, and that Z390 only offers an incremental upgrade over its immediate predecessor – so it may not be worth upgrading if you have a relatively modern system.
If you have a creaking old PC, though, then Z390 represents an ideal upgrade path.
Key motherboard considerations
It’s worth thinking about the chipset when buying a new motherboard, but it isn’t the only area that needs important consideration.
Pay attention to the memory slots in a new motherboard. Every board in this test has four, which gives good headroom for the future. Some cheaper or smaller motherboards will only have two slots, though, and you should check the specification of any board if you want to run memory at particularly fast speeds or in huge quantities.
The PCI sockets are important, too, since these hold graphics cards, PCI-based SSDs and wireless cards.
Every motherboard will have the ability to run a single graphics card, but you’ll have to pay closer attention if you want to run two GPUs, or if you want to use a lot of M.2 or PCI-based SSDs in your machine. Some motherboards won’t have sufficient bandwidth to go around all of these components. That means their performance will be reduced.
Check that a motherboard has sufficient SATA ports and M.2 connectors for all of the storage that you want to include in a new build. And also check that M.2 connectors are capable of using the full bandwidth provided by their PCI-E x4 connections – otherwise, storage speeds will suffer.
Motherboards also tend to be covered by tiny connectors. These handle CPU cooling, USB connectivity, all of your PC’s front-panel connections, and your system’s lighting and case fans.
All motherboards will have enough connections for basic front-panel USB connectivity, basic fan arrays and basic cooling. However, if you want to have synchronised RGB LEDs, complex water-cooling, plenty of USB ports or more fans in your machine, then this is an area where it’s worth paying attention. It’s no good buying a case or a load of water-cooling gear, only to find out that it isn’t compatible with your new motherboard.
Take a quick look at audio and networking, too. The Gigabit Ethernet and basic audio gear included in all motherboards will be fine for day-to-day computing, but if you play games online, handle high-end work tasks or run creative tools, then this is an area where you’ll need more grunt.
Many motherboards have been audio chipsets that are enhanced with DACs, and a lot of them have wireless internet. Plenty also have beefed-up wired networking connections that prioritise gaming traffic or allow for higher speeds.
And then, finally, think about form factor. Most of the boards in this Z390 group test use the standard ATX form factor, which means that they’ll fit inside mid- and full-sized tower cases without issue.
However, a couple of the more expensive boards use E-ATX – which is like ATX, but wider. You’ll have to ensure that your case is large enough and has enough mounting points before taking the plunge.