Best AMD gaming motherboard

Best AMD gaming motherboard

Ryzen has stormed the market and taken over this last year, and while Intel's Coffee Lake i5 8400 has now taken the top spot for our top CPUs for gaming, they aren't easy to come by. With AMD's AM4 socket plans, you don't want to make the wrong choice when it comes to a new motherboard, as it may last you for some time to come. We've done the testing, so you don't have to.

Check Amazon US and Amazon UK for the best prices and specs on AMD gaming motherboards.

AMD’s latest processors mark a fresh start for the red team and it's the first time team red have ever topped our gaming processor charts. But with a host of different chipsets, features, and manufacturers, which motherboard should you be partnering with them?

Right now we're just talking about AM4 boards, but with the high-end AMD Threadripper CPUs now very much in consideration, we're going to have to be including the expensive TR4 / X399 boards in the conversation soon. Though maybe not so much on the gaming side as that's not really what AMD's new megachips are for.

The motherboard itself, however, doesn’t have the great impact on overall performance that it once did. Since more and more of the key componentry has been brought onboard the processor there isn’t a whole lot left for the mobo to do. AMD have really only got themselves to blame as they kicked that whole process off by flipping the industry on its head and bringing the memory controller on-die many moons ago. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can buy any ol’ AMD motherboard with a compatible AM4 socket for your Ryzen chip – there are a bunch of other things you’ll need to take into account before finding the forever home for your new CPU. Do you have a PCIe SSD? Do you want / aspire to run a multi-GPU rig? Do you want to build a micro machine PC? These are all questions you’ll want answers to. And that’s why you go to the experts…

Click on the jump links below to get to the relevant section in super-quick time.

________________________________________________

Best AMD gaming motherboard

Best AMD gaming motherboard - Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3

Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3

Chipset: B350 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire (ish)

Approx. $104 / £96

You might have expected to see an X370 motherboard topping our list of the best AMD gaming motherboards. But, in real terms, there’s precious little to choose between the B350 and X370 boards in our tests. And, considering out of all the Ryzen chips AMD have released it’s the Ryzen 5 1600X we’re recommending as one of our favourite gaming CPUs, spending anywhere near $200 on a supporting motherboard seems like overkill.

And so Gigabyte’s smartly priced B350 board is the AM4 mobo we’d be lovingly jamming our Ryzen chips into. It’s only around $110 / £100, and yet, at stock settings it’s one of the most capable of any of the AM4 boards we’ve tested so far.

It actually posted the highest multithreaded Cinebench R15 figures, though the delta between the top and bottom of that benchmark list is pretty darned minimal. That’s its only win, but the Gigabyte board is essentially as capable as the rest. It does share bottom spot in the Doom Vulkan test, but again, we’re talking about a range of only 5fps between the best and worst of them.

More concerning though is the power/thermal side of things. It is the toastiest of the boards, running hotter at both peak and idle temperatures, and that’s borne out by the fact it also draws the most juice when running at full chat. It also doesn’t have the friendliest BIOS, nor the most effective overclocking performance – we managed the same 4.05GHz all-core overclock most of the other AM4 boards delivered, but it needed a chunk more voltage to get there. 

And, if you’re chasing a multi-GPU setup, this probably isn’t the board for you. Gigabyte claims CrossFire support, but there is only one full x16 PCIe 3.0 socket – the second one only runs at x4 bandwidth, and shares that with all the x1 sockets on the board too.

But if you’re after a straight gaming board, not one that demands the sort of price premium much more feature-packed mobos do, then the Gigabyte AB350M-Gaming 3 is an excellent, value motherboard to drop a stock chip into and just game away, worry free.

The best Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals. 

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - MSI X370 Gaming Pro Carbon

MSI X370 Gaming Pro Carbon

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $155 / £140

MSI’s Gaming Pro Carbon is one of the most affordable of the X370 crew, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s light on features. Aside from the Fast and the Furious-inspired RGB LED downlighting, MSI have also ensured they’ve got all the bases covered on the specs front, as well as the aesthetics.

The memory, GPU, and PCIe SSD slots have all been reinforced to avoid damage when poking components into them, the screw holes are double-protected so you don’t break the PCB when installing, they’ve added both AMD’s CrossFire and Nvidia’s SLI multi-GPU support, and MSI have also specced-out a pair of VR-ready USB ports too. Like their small-form factor mini-PCs MSI have added a little silicon to the mix which ensures a stable signal across the USB port, something absolutely vital in VR to avoid a full-on barf fest.

There’s nothing particularly exemplary in the Pro Carbon’s benchmarks (something which is true almost across the board), though it’s never less than utterly competitive in the gaming benchmarks, and stands tall in the CPU tests too. So it’s got the performance chops and it’s also an impressively feature-rich board for money – a worthy runner-up.

The best MSI X370 Gaming Pro Carbon prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - ASRock X370 Killer SLI

ASRock X370 Killer SLI

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $150 / £123 

Don’t let the name mislead you, if you’re planning on jamming multiple AMD GPUs into one rig then the X370 Killer SLI will happily support CrossFire too. Just don’t be too excited about the touted four-way support. This isn’t going to be your quad-GPU gaming behemoth because ASRock are talking about quad-SLI and CrossFire running across the PCIe 2.0 x1 slots – that’s for those crypto-miners who are nabbing all our graphics cards, not us gamers.

In performance terms, the ASRock is absolutely competitive with the big boys, however, it comes behind the MSI Pro Carbon in our gaming tests; though never by a particularly long way, it has to be said. It does run toastier than the others, with only that bargain-priced Gigabyte winner up top running hotter. Under overclocked conditions with our 1800X chip that did seem to become a bit of a stability issue in-game.

The best ASRock X370 Killer SLI prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - Gigabyte Aorus AX370 Gaming 5

Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $176 / £170

Gigabyte’s Aorus Gaming-5 is perched uncomfortably on the fence between the standard gaming motherboards and the high-end, high-priced boards below. It’s got a beefy feature set, with reinforced slots, Killer network support and discrete front and rear headphone amps. Oh, and it’s got RGB LEDs for that ‘daddy, daddy, look at me!’ aesthetic. Obviously, because gaming.

But that all comes at a high price compared with the very similar, cheaper boards which makes the Aorus a bit of a halfway house board between the value and high-end segments. If you’re looking to save cash, go for the Gaming 3 and if you want to splash the cash it’s the Asus ROG below we recommend.

The best Gigabyte Aorus AX370-Gaming 5 price we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

________________________________________________

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard - Asus ROG Crosshair VI Hero

Asus ROG Crosshair VI Hero

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $230 / £208

Asus’ Republic of Gamers brand is always about the high-end and that’s no different with their AMD boards. We haven’t seen one of Asus’ AMD-focused Crosshair boards in a long while (it took them soooo long to bring us Zen) but, thankfully, the new AM4 version really delivers. It is a lot of money, and in real terms the board alone is not going to deliver a lot of extra gaming performance, but when it comes to our money-no-object Ryzen recommendation this is it.

It’s all down to the build quality and feature-set of the ROG board. It is a tight little battle to the top between this and the MSI XPower Gaming Titanium, however, but thanks to the classically stuffed ROG feature set the Crosshair gets the nod. Both are aimed at the overclockers, with dedicated features like the on-board controls and extra CPU power connections, but the Asus board has extra power phases – 12 vs. the MSI’s 10 – a physical LN2 mode switch, voltage check points, and more USB sockets than there are Beatles ‘greatest hits’ albums.

In terms of a board for the serial tweakers, the ROG is likely to satisfy them more than the MSI. As well as the packed feature set it’s also cooler and draws less power at full chat too. This Crosshair VI is also a touch cheaper than the top MSI, especially in the UK, making it almost a clean sweep for team ROG. 

The only real issue is that, if you’re not overclocking like a pro, a lot of those extra features will be lost on you. For basic, home-style overclocking you’re not getting more out of an expensive X370 than a cheap B350 board. And, sadly, there is very little difference in the actual gaming performance of a machine using the different boards we’ve tested too. On the whole, frame rate variance is so minute as to be practically invisible. 

But if you want a serious, feature-rich, high-performance, multi-GPU ready AM4 motherboard Asus have got you covered. Haven’t they always?

The best Asus ROG Crosshair VI Hero prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium

MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX| mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $262 / £270

MSI’s AMD-focused XPower board is a bit of a beast, but it’s also the most expensive of the AM4 mobos we’ve tested. That high price isn’t the reason it’s sitting close to the top of our pick of the money-no-object Ryzen boards, it’s also thankfully right at the top of the performance tree. The XPower is one of the fastest in our CPU tests and also polls higher than nearly all the boards in the graphical tests too, most especially if you look at the 3DMark scores.

It’s also pretty potent when it comes to the overclocking side of things. While we could only hit the same 4.05GHz all-core overclock with our 1800X that most of the other boards managed, the XPower has a whole lot of dedicated overclocking features for the pros, too. There’s an extra four-pin power connection for the CPU and, combined with the ten-phase power setup, on-board power, reset and overclocking buttons, it’s a mobo with a lot to offer the serial frequency tweakers. It also stays relatively cool even when you’re jamming a lot of extra voltage through your processor too.

But the ROG board above has just got it pegged thanks to the extra USB connections, lower price, and even more extensive overclocking features. That said, the attractive titanium-shaded PCB is one for the aesthetes and, if you crave storage performance, the XPower features a pair of M.2 sockets (one with their M.2 Shield cooler) giving you scary levels of RAID performance potential.

The best MSI X370 XPower Gaming Titanium prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best high-end AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Gaming Professional

ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming

Chipset: X370 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire/SLI

Approx. $250 / £258

ASRock’s high-end Ryzen board is a great example of how far the company has come from its humble beginnings. Originally a low-end offshoot of Asus, designed to handle the more basic side of board building, ASRock are now capable of competing directly with their one-time parent company.

The Fatal1ty Professional Gaming is another feature-rich AM4 board with a great deal of focus on the overclocking side of the CPU game. It actually generated the highest stable overclock with our Ryzen 7 1800X CPU, hitting 4.075GHz with just some light-touch tweakery. The best-in-test 16 phase power design plays its part here, allowing the processor to hit those frequency heights and post the highest Cinebench score, but it’s also what helps the board as a whole remain cool during heavy use and avoid the excessive peak wattage of some of the other boards.

But it’s not the most stellar gaming board around, hence it sits beneath the Asus and MSI competition. Though, as you can barely squeeze a 4K pixel between the actual frame rate performance of the suite of motherboards we’ve tested, that’s not necessarily a major issue here.

The best ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Professional Gaming prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

________________________________________________

Best budget AMD gaming motherboard

Best budget AMD gaming motherboard - MSI B350M Mortar

MSI B350M Mortar

Chipset: B350 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: Micro ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire

Approx. $90 / £91

The B350 is AMD’s more budget-focused Ryzen chipset, yet it still retains essentially the same performance and almost all the overclocking potential of the top-end X370 chipset. Officially, it cannot utilise the extended frequency range (XFR) of AMD’s Ryzen CPU’s, but we’ve found that of limited import during our testing of the platform as a whole.

Which all means MSI’s sub-$100 B350M Mortar board is a motherboard capable of delivering the same stock performance as some of the big boys in this test, which cost at least twice as much. The gaming performance is certainly on par with the rest of the AM4 gang and the Mortar is mighty competitive on the CPU side too. And it does all that in a smaller form footprint. It doesn’t have the super-small stature of a mini-ITX board, but the micro ATX form factor will still allow you to create a pleasingly diminutive gaming rig.

Where you are losing out is, inevitably, in the feature-set MSI are providing. The BIOS is the first indicator; it’s a cut-down, basic affair, with little in the way of high-end niceties. There aren’t even any multiplier settings when you’re doing the CPU overclocking dance. That said, I was still able to hit a happy 4.05GHz without setting the board on fire.

You do still get shielded audio, separated on the PCB to avoid electrical interference, and MSI’s Steel Armor reinforcement on the primary PCIe connection. There is a secondary slot, but that only runs at x4 speeds making the CrossFire performance a little under par. It’s also a little light on USB too, with a scant six on the rear I/O panel, though there are a number of expansion headers on the board for front panel connections.

But this is a bargain-priced motherboard which retains the performance of its larger siblings. It may be light on features, but it’ll make a great base for a budget Ryzen gaming rig.

The best MSI B350M Mortar prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best budget AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best AMD gaming motherboard - Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3

Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3

Chipset: B350 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire

Approx. $104 / £96

I mean, if it’s our pick as the best overall board, and only a little more expensive than our favourite budget board, Gigabyte’s AB350-Gaming 3 still needs to get an honorable mention in the value sector, right?

The Gaming 3 is a fantastic combination of price and performance, delivering the highest stock-clocked Cinebench score of the lot, and is never less than seriously competitive in the gaming benchmarks too. Our biggest concern is the level of heat it generates at full speed, but if you’ve got decent cooling, and aren’t too concerned with building the most energy efficient machine, then it really is a great value Ryzen mobo.

The best Gigabyte AB350-Gaming 3 prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

Best budget AMD gaming motherboard runner-up

Best budget AMD gaming motherboard runner-up - ASRock Fatal1ty AB350 Gaming K4

ASRock AB350 Gaming K4

Chipset: B350 | Socket: AM4 | Form factor: ATX | mGPU: 2-way CrossFire

Approx. $100 / £90

Yes, it’s a bit of a bargain, but the Gaming K4 is actually the weakest of all the AM4 boards we’ve tested. Aside from the Doom test, it posted the slowest gaming frame rates and was propping up the 3DMark scores too. And, when it came to overclocking, the budget board’s weakness was laid bare, only managing to hit 4.02GHz with our test chip and even struggled nailing 2,667MHz with any of our different DDR4 memory kits.

Like the other ASRock boards, the Gaming K4 is also ambitious enough to claim compatibility with quad-CrossFire, despite only sporting a single x16 PCIe 3.0 connection. Even with a pair of cards you’re limiting your second to x4 bandwidth, so jamming another two into the waiting PCIe 2.0 x1 slots is going to make a mockery of your tertiary and quandary GPUs.

It’s not a bad Ryzen board, and its performance metrics really aren’t that far behind the rest, but when there are cheaper, quicker mobos out there this ASRock really becomes a bit of a last resort.

The best ASRock AB350 Gaming K4 prices we’ve found today:

If you can't see the price widget it might be because your browser is running ad-blocking software. If you pause it you can check out the latest deals.

________________________________________________

AMD gaming motherboard benchmarks

AMD Ryzen 5 1600X benchmarks

________________________________________________

How to buy an AMD gaming motherboard

AMD AM4 platform

Buying a motherboard is a serious business. Pretty much any other component can be dropped into your existing rig without too much surgery, but when you’re buying a new motherboard you’re committing to ripping your PC apart and almost building from scratch. And that’s why you need to make sure you get it right from the start because you don’t want to be elbow deep in your PC that  often.

But hell, that’s what also makes PC building fun. If you’ve been worried about buying a new motherboard and CPU yourself because you think it’ll be too complicated, don’t be. PC building is just like LEGO now, with obvious connections and, mercifully, no jumpers to short. In fact, sometimes it’s less complicated. I mean, have you seen the frickin’ LEGO Death Star?

Why go for an AMD motherboard for gaming?

AMD AM4 socket

Gaming performance has been a bit of an issue for AMD in the past and we’re still seeing Intel’s processors being generally capable of delivering higher gaming frame rates using the same graphical hardware. But AMD have also long been the value option and, with the latest Ryzen range, delivering six-core, 12-thread CPUs into the same price point as Intel’s resolutely quad-core i5 chips, you can build a seriously powerful, versatile gaming rig using the AMD platform.

The performance delta between the two CPU makers also isn’t that great, and is shrinking evermore as developers work at optimising for AMD’s new Zen architecture. With the modern DirectX 12 and Vulcan APIs making better use of all the CPU cores and threads available to compatible software, the future is also looking rosier for heavily multithreaded processors too.

Intel have, however, upped their core game with this year’s new Coffee Lake CPU generation, bringing six-core i5 CPUs into the mix, along with six-core, 12-threaded i7s. But, after an effective paper launch, those aren’t going to be available in decent numbers until the end of the year so, if you’re building right now, AMD is where the smart gaming money is going.

AMD motherboard chipsets

AMD AM4 chipset comparison

There are ostensibly four different AMD chipsets which have been created for the Ryzen range of processors. They all use the same AM4 sockets and will also be compatible with the upcoming Raven Ridge APUs when they launch. Those are the chips which pack both Ryzen CPU architecture and Vega GPU tech onto the same die. Tasty, no? 

This unification is something AMD waxed lyrical about at Ryzen’s launch as it was supposed to offer a buy-once platform for every CPU they’re going to release going forward… well, they waxed lyrical about it until they went and announced a whole new platform for their Ryzen Threadripper processors. Then they went a bit quiet on that front...

Whatever. Of those four different chipsets we really only need concern ourselves with the top two. The official lineup is: X370, B350, A320, and X300. The X370 is the top chipset, offering both native multi-GPU support for twin x16 sockets, as well as what AMD call ‘overclocking+’. That basically means the X370 is the only chipset that supports the extended frequency range (XFR) feature of Ryzen’s CPUs, but given how we’ve seen limited evidence of that actually doing anything useful, it’s not really such a big thing.

The B350 is the mainstream chipset which looks like the ideal pairing with our favourite gaming CPU de jour, the AMD Ryzen 5 1600X. It delivers the same essential performance as the X370, along with some impressive overclocking performance, but lacks a little of the extraneous luxury features.

The A320 chipset is the lowest of the low, delivering cheap motherboards with none of the performance features of the top two. In short, we can ignore that. We can also ignore the X300 chipset too, mostly because the board manufacturers are avoiding it like so much silicon excrement.

The X300 itself was designed as a small-form factor chipset. Because all the necessary I/O can be housed inside the Ryzen CPUs and the X300 chipset there doesn’t need to be anything extra on the board to take up space. So any of the luxury extras dropped onto the larger, ATX-scale boards, such as extra PCIe support or USB connections, can be lopped off in favour of a tiny PCB. Sadly, the board manufacturers aren’t willing to take a punt on buying in a load of different chipset silicon when they can just do what they’ve always done and drop the top-end chipset onto a mini-ITX motherboard. 

Multi-GPU malaise

Nvidia SLI

If you’re really serious about building a gaming PC with more than two graphics cards then the straight Ryzen platform isn’t for you. You want to be laser-focusing your thoughts, and wallet, on the HEDT Ryzen Threadripper platform. Unlike the competing X299 / Core X-series setups from Intel, all the CPUs in the Threadripper range have an unprecedented 64 lanes of PCIe 3.0 support.

With Ryzen, however, you’re essentially limited to two-way CrossFire or SLI GPU support as the processors only have 20 PCIe lanes with a further 16 on the X370 chipset. A lot of the motherboards are touting quad-CrossFire / SLI support, but that’s generally limited to running across a bunch of x1 bandwidth PCIe slots, massively limiting the throughput of the third and fourth GPUs in a four-way array.

It’s a similar issue running two-way on a B350 board. You don’t have native support on that chipset for a twin x16 PCIe 3.0 slots, so you end up having one running in x8 and the other card running at x4 speeds, again limiting the secondary card’s potential performance.

Paladins
Sign in to Commentlogin to comment