Building your own PC is a rewarding experience for anyone interested in computers. The process of picking components and then assembling them into a working computer is probably the easiest it's ever been. In fact, when it comes to building a PC, the trickiest part might just be getting all the disparate parts and pieces ordered.
What, exactly, are you hoping to achieve with your new PC? Are you looking for pure, unadulterated power? There are top motherboards that support SLI configurations with up to four graphics cards.
Maybe your pockets aren’t quite that deep, and you're looking for a nice, lower-tier PC to break into the world of computer gaming. Or, perhaps your primary concern is fitting the motherboard into a really cool case, everything else be damned.
We've assembled this motherboard guide based on reviews and popularity from several different sites, including Newegg, Amazon, PC Part Picker, and more, to help put you on the right path toward the ultimate status symbol of the PC world. Different sockets, CPUs, graphics configurations and sizes are all represented, to help you build a PC to fit your needs with the best motherboard for the foundation.
Coming to terms
Before we get into the recommendations, a little bit of a primer for the uninitiated. Motherboards come in several different form factors, the most common of which are ATX and Micro ATX. There are a whole bunch of other form factors, but generally speaking, the case you end up buying will probably support one or both of these sizes.
A socket-type refers to the actual socket where the processor "plugs in" to the motherboard itself. Different manufacturers have different sockets for their CPUs, and different CPUs from the same manufacturer might not share a common socket. For example, Intel Core processors come in LGA1151 – but, also LGA1155 – and sometimes LGA1150. AMD processors also have varying socket sizes.
- Pair your new mobo with the best graphics card of 2016
Asus MAXIMUS VIII HERO
The Hero your computer deserves
Form Factor: ATX Socket: LGA1151 | Chipset: IntelZ170 | Max. Memory: 64GB | Crossfire/SLI Support: Yes
Asus's Republic of Gamers line includes basically any computer component you can imagine, from graphics cards to monitors to gaming laptops. The MAXIMUS VIII HERO in particular is an ATX motherboard. It features an LGA1151 socket that not only works well, but also looks damn good while doing it. It packs all the signature embellishments you'll find on Asus's entire ROG line, the lion's share of which are part of its built-in cooling functions and I/O port shielding.
In addition to being a solid motherboard for raw graphics applications, the MAXIMUS supports 64GB of DDR4 RAM at speeds up to 3400 MHz. Asus's proprietary overclocking software makes voltage adjustments user-friendly, if that's your prerogative. It also has a nice, 1-piece connector for all the front cables. The board goes so far as to include a de-pop relay to absorb speaker-pop from power cycling, or plugging and unplugging speakers or headphones.
ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Professional Gaming i7
Max out your allowable amount of graphics cards
Form Factor: ATX | Socket: LG1151 | Chipset: Intel Z170 | Max. Memory: 64GB | Crossfire/SLI Support: Yes
The ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 has a lot in common with the MAXIMUS, but fortunately comes in at a lower price point. In fact, at first glance the two are nearly identical, down to the covers over the rear I/O panel. A closer look turns up some differences not immediately apparent, like more USB ports and two honest-to-goodness Ethernet ports.
But aside from price and more available USB ports, the Fatal1ty Z170 supports Quad SLI or 3-Way Crossfire, which makes it a solid choice if you want to throw caution to the wind and fill your case with as many as 4 GPUs.
MSI 970 GAMING
Save a few bucks and still build a solid computer
Form Factor: ATX | Socket: AM3+ | Chipset: AMD 970 | Memory: 32GB | Crossfire/SLI Support: Yes
For the AMD fans out there (go team red), the MSI 970 GAMING is a great choice at a sub-$99/£89 price. It's not quite as flashy as the MAXIMUS up there, with only a few streaks of black steel to catch the eye, but it certainly gets the job done and is a great base for a medium build on a budget.
The 970 has Killer Ethernet, for optimal speeds for competitive multiplayer games. It also supports multiple graphics cards from either Nvidia or AMD. Memory caps out at 32GB of DDR3 at 2,133MHz, which is probably more than enough for the time being, but honestly, it ain't the greatest either. Luckily, the 970 GAMING has plenty of ports, including a "gaming device port," something MSI claims results in faster mouse response.
MSI B150M Mortar
Smaller form factor, but tons of room for RAM
Form Factor: Micro ATX | Socket: LGA1151 | Chipset: Intel B150 | Max. Memory: 64GB | Crossfire Support: Yes | SLI Support: No
You probably guessed by the name, but the Micro ATX form factor is smaller than standard ATX, but there's still a lot to it. The biggest disadvantage to a Micro ATX board is lack of multiple GPU options. The MSI B150M Mortar supports AMD's Crossfire standard for multiple GPUs, but not Nvidia's SLI. Not too big of a ding against it, but definitely something to keep in mind.
Aside from the lack of SLI support, the B150M Mortar is a solid motherboard, supporting up to 64GB of DDR4-2133 memory. Oh, it also has LEDs to backlight it inside your case. Say whatever you want about gaming culture, LEDs are always cool. Always. The Mortar Arctic version is essentially the same board but in digital snow-camouflage.
Because looking the part is important, too
Form Factor: Micro ATX | Socket: AM3+ | Chipset: AMD 760G | Max. Memory: 32GB | Crossfire/SLI Support: No
This is the budget-rig choice if you don't want to concern yourself with anything more than a single graphics card. If you dig around, you could probably grab yourself one for less than $49/£59, and at that price, who cares if you can't jam a bunch of GPUs on there?
One big advantage the M5A78L-M has, in addition to its price, is onboard graphics. It has ATI Radeon HD 3000 built right in, which is pretty awesome if you're building your PC piecemeal. If you don't want to drop the money on a graphics card, you still get to use your PC. Granted, you won't get much in the way of gaming until you save up enough for that Nvidia GTX 1080, but if you also use the PC for basic internet and desktop applications, it's a great choice.