Best PC Gaming Motherboards 2015 Guide and Review
Top Rated 1150 and AM3 Gaming Motherboards for the Money 2015
A good gaming motherboard doesn't have to be expensive and with the right overclocking features can extend the life of your components. While there are clearly a lot of options out there some motherboards seem to give you not only better options, but also a much better value for your money.
Even older LGA 1155 options give you great value if you can find them at the right price.
In this post I'll review and list the top rated Haswell 1150, Ivy and Sandy Bridge 1155, and AMD AM3+ socket motherboards for gaming. Don't forget to vote for your favorite motherboard in the polls below.
Understanding Current Sockets and Chipsets
If you're building a new computer this year, then here's a quick summary of sockets and chipsets that have been released in the last couple of years.
Haswell Compatible LGA 1150 Motherboards:
Compatible with Intel's most recent Haswell release and future Broadwell release, 1150 motherboards come in 6 chipset types; H81, B85, Q85, Q87, H87, Z87, and most recently Z97. If you're an overclocker you'll want to look at the Z87 chipset which, in my opinion, offers the most flexibility for gamers looking to build performance machines. Also, keep in mind that only the Haswell motherboard chipsets which end in "87" offer Intel Rapid Storage and Smart Response technology. All Haswell motherboards offer built-in GPU support.
If you're building a new PC, its worth upgrading to the new Z97 chipset:
Those looking for forward compatibility should look for the new Z97 chipset which is compatible with all Haswell processors as well as Intel Broadwell processors.
AM3+ motherboards were originally released in 2011 and are compatible with AMD's newer FX series processors. AM3+ is also backward compatible with older Phenom II, Athlon II, and Sempron 100 Series CPU.
LGA 2011 Socket R
These motherboards are typically enthusiast-focused and in 2011 replaced Intel's 1366 motherboards. LGA 2011 motherboards are compatible with Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge-e or enthusiast level processors.
Best Haswell 1150 Z97 PC Gaming Motherboard 2015
There's no real best when it comes to everyone. For those of you who don't plan on overclocking I'd recommend you spend no more than $120 and move more of your budget to your CPU and graphics card. One that I like in particular right now is the which is a good buy and gives you a lot of features for under $110. Gigabyte Z97 GA-Z97-D3H
For overclockers, the sky is nearly the limit. Benchmarks for speed are important for comparing entry, mid, and high-end options. Also, keeping quality and features in mind could save you trouble in the long-run.
For the money here are some current 1150 motherboards which you should consider:
ASUS Maximus VII EXTREME Z97 LGA 1150 Motherboard
If you want the best of the best, then this is it. That being said most will find that this is a bit overkill. I'd recommend it for those wanting to use high-end multi GPU setups or professional overclockers. This is the newest Z97 version which is compatible with Haswell processors as well as Broadwell Processors set for release December of 2015.
The UD5H is a good mid to high-end level overclocker. It's proof that 10 USB 3.0 ports is not too many. If you don't need as many features, then go with the UD4H which is very similar for less money. Extreme overclockers wanting a Gigabyte board should probably go with the OC version of this.
Asus Z97 PRO LGA 1150
The Asus Pro series is known is well constructed for all of the hardware you'll attach to it. Perhaps the most enticing aspect is the plentiful expansion and port options (6 SATA III).
It has received several awards this year including the Tom's Hardware Smart Buy Award.
MSI LGA 1150 Motherboards Z97-GD45 GAMING
Supported by International team, FNATIC and built for gaming performance. I love the new color and dragon scheme. The Killer E2200 Intelligent Networking Platform is built for minimizing latency. Also includes Overclock Genie which allows you to overclock in as little as 1 second.
Which Type of Motherboard are you Going to Get?
What socket type is on your wish list?
Best AMD AM3 Plus Motherboards for Gaming 2015
Bulldozer and Bulldozer Enhanced / Piledriver Compatibility
AMD's Piledriver FX series of CPU along with its Mantle capability have resurrected the company and this year mid-range options like the FX-8320 and FX-8350 seem to be a better buy for the money than ever before.
Even options like the FX-6300, often found for $120, are useful with games that utilize multiple cores.
Best AMD Budget CPU Motherboard Combo for 2015?
My pick for best Budget CPU motherboard combo of the year is the AMD FX 6300 with the GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3 Motherboard. You can get them both for under $200.
My Favorite AM3+ Motherboards
A Good AMD Motherboard CPU Combo Under $300
GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3 AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
This is a very stable motherboard and a good overclocker for those looking for a good mid-range board. It's also regularly on rebate. I also really like the jet black. Pair it with the FX 8350 for a high-end AMD motherboard CPU combo option under $300.
GIGABYTE GA-970A-D3 AM3+ AMD 970 SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX AMD Motherboard
This inexpensive option from Gigabyte is another really solid board for those of you looking to finish a budget rig.
ASRock 970 EXTREME3 AMD 970
This motherboard is another good value option at under $100. It received the NewEgg customer award in 2014 and is easy to setup and get going. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for overclocking, but it gives you a lot of features for the money you spend.
Best Z77 1155 Motherboard 2015
Originally released April 8, 2012, the Z77 chipset uses the LGA 1155 socket and is compatible with Intel's latest third generation "i" series of Ivy Bridge Processors as well as backwards compatible with Sandy Bridge. Ivy Bridge motherboards, including the Z77, H77, and Z75, have native USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0, and DDR3L thanks to its power gated DDR3 interface. This allows performance users to use DDR3-2800 memory. These motherboards also have more efficient power delivery which makes them somewhat less expensive to manufacture.
In addition to standard features that come with motherboards, manufacturers also have added features that are specific to their motherboards. For example, Asus has included a new technology called T-Topology Memory which allows higher-end power users a 15% increase in their memory overclock.
The ASRock Z77 Extreme 4 May Surprise You...
The most popular 1155 motherboard for 2014 thus far is ASRock's Z77 Extreme 4.
As someone who watches the hardware market closely I've been surprised to see just how well a company like ASRock is now competing with Gigabyte and Asus. This particular board was recommended by Tom's Hardware and gives you speed on par with most motherboards in the $200 range. For an inexpensive quality motherboard with lots of features consider the ASUS P8Z77-V DELUXE.
For those of you who plan to run your hardware at stock speeds, you may be able to save yourself additional money by going with a cheaper board. I've listed a few more of my favorite Z77 motherboards for gaming below.
Best Z68 Gaming Motherboard
ASUS LGA 1155 Z68 P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3
The most popular motherboard chipset for the last part of 2011 was the Z68, released in Q2. In 2014 this chipset lost most of its popularity due to the new Z77, Z75, and H77 chipsets made to specifically be compatible with Ivy Bridge. That being said the Z68 can still a great option for those who can find a decent Z68 GEN3 Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge motherboard CPU combo.
Keep in mind that if you find a GEN3 and beyond Z68 motherboard that it will support PCI-e 3.0. In 2014 I'd recommend a budget Z68 board like the the Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 which gives you good value and speeds for the money you spend.
Information about Intel's Z68 Chipset
The Z68 chipset brings together the best of the P67 and H67 allowing you to overclock your GPU and your CPU together. The Z68 also comes with smart response technology which allows you to get near solid state drive performance out of your hard drive by combining it with a portion of your solid state drive (up to 64GB) used for "cache". Intel has also released the 310 SSD a 20GB solid state drive as an inexpensive option made for use in conjunction with the Z68 chipset and smart response technology. I recently purchased the Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3 for my gaming rig and was able to use a 64GB Sata III OCZ SSD to improve my overall system performance which, for the price, was a better deal than Intel's new SSD.
If you're willing to sacrifice your boot time/ secondary drive for a drive that is really installed similarly to a RAID drive, then you'll see large improvements in your computer's overall performance. This is especially true for programs that you use regularly.
Z68 Chipset Motherboard Poll - (New Poll)
What's Your Favorite Z68 Motherboard?
Best P67 1155 Computer Motherboard
Asus Sabertooth P67
For Intel and AMD CPU there are 4 main socket types still widely used for gaming; 1150 (Haswell), 1155 (Sandy and Ivy bridge), 2011 (Sandy and Ivy Bridge-e or Enthusiast), and AM3(+).
AM3+ was released in Q2 of 2011 to be compatible with the the new Bulldozer series of CPU from AMD. Bulldozer CPU will be compatible with AM3+ socket motherboards alone, however; the AM3+ motherboards will be compatible with any CPU that was compatible with the AM3 motherboards.After some work shipping out revised chipsets the B3 1155 motherboards were re-released.
My favorite P67 motherboard in 2013 is still the Sabertooth P67.Â The Sabertooth P67 is made with Asus "TUF" thermal armor which improves cool air circulation andÂ dissipatesÂ heat away from the case allowing for cooler hardware and therefore increased performance. Â
The Sabertooth Tuf Thermal Radar also monitors various components in order to automatically increase or decrease fan speed in desired areas.
Overall it's been one of my favorites for performance overclocking and I'd recommend it if you need to replace a motherboard for your Sandy Bridge Processor. That being said, it's probably not the best value if you're looking to build a new computer.
Motherboard Learning Guide
*If you already have a wealth of knowledge, then scroll down to our list of 1366 and AM3 motherboards.
The completion of the USB 3.0 specification was finished in November 2008 effectively giving manufacturers the ability to add it to their existing hardware. The first consumer motherboards with this option appeared in early 2010. Although motherboards with the USB 2.0 designation are still available it's always a good idea to upgrade to the next available technology. Simply put, the biggest difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 is speed. USB 2.0 transfers data at a rate that is approximately 10 times slower (maximum rate of 480 Mbit/s) than that of USB 3.0 (super speed up to 5.0 Gbit/s max or 3.2Gbit/s to meet the specification). Other differences between USB 2.0 and 3.0 include 3.0's ability to better conserve energy while idling.
*Tip - Also consider the number of USB ports included on the motherboard to make sure you have room for all of your gadgets.
SATA Version 2.0 3Gb/s vs. Version 3.0 6Gb/s
Another specification that should be strongly considered is Sata version 3.0 rather than just the standard Version 2.0. While shopping this typically will be referred to as Sata 6Gb/s and 3Gb/s. Essentially Sata 6Gb/s is capable of delivering twice the bandwidth of version 2.0 (Sata 3Gb/s). Although SATA 6Gb/s is far from the standard for HDD at this point they are clearly capable of this transfer rate. If you want your computer to meet standards in years to come, then it's probably a good idea to stick with a motherboard that upfront will be SATA 6Gb/s Compatible.
*Tip - Consider the Seagate Barracuda XT for a Hard drive that is compatible with Sata 6Gb/s.
How much Ram do you need?
For now, the ram you need depends on the intensity of the game you are playing. For higher intensity games we recommend 8-12GB Ram; however, we recommend you get a motherboard that is compatible to up to at least 16GB Ram.
DDR3/SDRAM vs DDR2
For gaming, ram is essential. Improvements of DDR3 vs. DDR2 include less power consumption, faster bandwidth performance, and better latency. Here's a review of the best gaming ram for 2013.
Some motherboards include 2 PCI-Express 16x slots. This is for gamer's or high intensity users who want to use two linked graphics cards for extreme performance. SLI is for Nvidia technology and Crossfire is for ATI technology.
Understanding X79 Socket 2011 Enthusiast Motherboards
Benchmarks on sites like CPUbenchmark.net show a dramatic improvement in overall performance using Intel's all new Enthusiast series CPU, the i7-3930k and i7-3960x. In my opinion the performance differential between the two doesn't warrant the extra $500 in going with the i7-3930x, but if you have to have the best, then right now that's it.
This is one of the reasons why the i7-3930k has become so popular. If you can afford it and get your hands on it, then you'll see a noticeable difference. Some key differences include their 40 lanes of PCIe bandwidth for PCI Express devices, a quad channel memory controller, and that these new CPU don't actually come with their own cooling option. So, you'll need to purchase a separate CPU cooler.
If you want to go X79, then you should also check out the i7-3820 which is another good value in the $300 range.
What about Ivy Bridge Enthusiast Processors?
It appears that Ivy Bridge-e processors are a Q3 2013 release.
A Solid 1366 Motherboard
A Few Year's Old, But Still A Good Option
The X58 chipset was not designed with your basic office worker in mind. For this reasons you don't find too many low-end 1366 motherboards, and all of them are made (ideally) for use with an external video card.
I've featured the Asus Sabretooth X58 not only because it's the most popular 1366 motherboard between gamers, but also because of its raw power, options, and reasonable price at just under $200.
If you're looking to replace an old motherboard and overclock an older CPU, then this would be a great option.
In 2014 we're seeing a lot of good overclocking options even in the $130 range. Those wishing to build a standard PC and not overclock can save a lot of money by going with a budget board under this price range.
What motherboard do you have your eyes on in 2014? Leave a comment in the feedback section below.
More Gaming-Related Posts from This Author:
If you have, then check out our other lens on the best gaming monitors, the best gaming cases, and the best processors of 2014. You can contribute to this lens by leaving a comment in our reader feedback section below.