Best z97 Motherboards for Gaming – Everyone wants the fastest, most reliable, and best performing computing power available. Having a high-end motherboard is crucial if you want to play all the latest games and applications without lag or performance issues. Before we get into looking at three best z97 motherboards of 2016-2017, for the purposes of those who may just be starting out or need a refresher on motherboards, we’re going to cover what they are and why they are all so different.
Pros & Cons
One of MSI’s main focus points of the last twelve months has been style. This typically means fashioned heatsinks, almost-invisible traces and if possible a reduction of on-the-board components (trying to balance price as well). MSI wants its motherboards to be shown off, rather than hidden inside a case, such that other users can show it off to their friends and perhaps entice them into a similar build. The Gaming 5 aims to the more cost conscious Haswell build while still maintaining a full ATX size in the red and black livery featuring the MSI Gaming logo.
On the gaming side of the hardware equation the Gaming 5 is fitted with a Killer E2205 network port which comes with application prioritization software, as well as an enhanced Realtek ALC1150 audio solution via Audio Boost. For users with USB DACs there is a feature to offer enhanced power to a pair of USB ports as well to improve power signal quality. There is also M.2 support for 22x42mm to 22x80mm devices up to PCIe 2.0 x2 speeds, and all the fan headers onboard are 4-pin.
2.MSI MPG Z390
Pros & Cons
- Supports 9th i9-9900K, i7-9700K, i5-9600K and 8th Generation Intel Core / Pentium Gold / Celeron processors for LGA 1151 socket
- Supports dual channel DDR4 Memory, up to 4400(OC) MHz
- 2x TURBO M.2, Intel Optane Memory Ready. Turbo USB 3.1 GEN2, Extended Heatsink
- Intel CNVi Ready: Supports Intel CNVi Wi-Fi module, IEEE802.11 AC wave2
- Built for esports, streaming, and gaming.Operating system:Support for Windows 10 64-bit
They’re a necessary means to an end for most PC gamers, and that’s fine. So long as a new motherboard does its job, doesn’t get in the way, and allows you to get the most out of the rest of your expensive PC hardware, that’s all you can ask. Unless you’re planning on strapping a bunch of graphics cards together, along with an unwieldy RAID array, then most of us PC gamers can get by with a relatively modest motherboard as the base of their PC.
And that’s what MSI’s MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC is looking to offer. But, despite its relatively low price for a top-end chipset board, this MSI Z390 still has the sort of lengthy feature set you’d want for your gaming PC. What’s not to like?
3.ASUS Micro ATX DDR3 1600
Pros & Cons
- ASUS 5X Protection: All-round protection provides the best quality, reliability, and durability
- USB 3.0 BOOST (UASP Support): 170% faster transfer speeds than traditional USB 3.0
- Network iControl: Real-time network bandwidth management
- Fan Xpert :Dedicated CPU and case fan controls
- Crash Free BIOS 3: Restore corrupted BIOS data from USB storage
- AI Suite 3: One-stop access to innovative ASUS features
If you’re not installing a graphics card, there are VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs. The DVI and VGA ports can support Full HD resolutions at 60Hz while the HDMI port can manage 4,096×2,160 pixels at a jerky 24Hz or 2,560×1,600 at 60Hz.
Performance with our benchmark hardware on board was inline with our expectations, scoring 101 overall. There are no automatic overclocking options that you’d find on more expensive boards; just “optimal” settings in the friendly, albeit basic UEFI BIOS.
The Asus B85M-G is a competent and basic microATX motherboard. If you need more ports and overclocking options, go for the Asus Z97-E instead, but for simple builds this is a great choice.
4.ASRock ATX DDR3 1333
Pros & Cons
- Supports the 5th/ New 4th/ 4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/ Pentium/ Celeron Processors
- Memory: 4x DDR3-3200+(OC)/2933+(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2133(OC)/ 1866(OC)/ 1600/ 1333/ 1066 DIMM Slots, Dual Channel, Non-ECC, Unbuffered, Max Capacity of 32GB
- Slots: 3x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots (run at x16 or x8/x8 or x8/x4/x4), 3x PCI-Express 2.0 x1 Slots
- Multi-Graphics: Supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX, CrossFireX and NVIDIA Quad SLI, SLI Technology
- SATA: 8x SATA3 Ports, Six Support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10; 1x SATA Express Port
- M.2: 1x M.2 (NGFF) Port, Support SATA3 & PCI-Express 2.0 x2 Mode
The ASRock H97M Pro4 is a micro-ATX board with 4+1 power phases and the ability to overclock the unlocked Pentium G3258. Let’s take a look at it — but first, a little vindication: I achieved very poor overclocking results in prior testing, so I bought another G3258 to see if the budget boards I’m testing are the issue, or if I had simply lost the silicon lottery, which was my suspicion.
The board about to be exposed could not overclock the original chip over 4.0GHz stable either, but the new chip was fairly happy at 4.2GHz on the board-selected 1.28V, just getting a little warm in some tests. That warmth discouraged me from going for an even higher overclock, but a tweaker, using a better cooler, may zoom right on past my efforts. Worth noting is that I couldn’t find a spot on or near the VRMs registering as high as 37C on my IR thermometer during my tests.
Pros & Cons
- Chipset: Intel Z97 Express
- Memory: 4x DDR3-3200(OC)/ 3100(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2933(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2666(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2500(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2200(OC)/ 2133(OC)/ 2000(OC)/ 1866(OC)/ 1800(OC)/ 1600/ 1333 DIMM Slots, Dual Channel, Non-ECC, Max Capacity of 32GB
- Slots: 3x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots (one runs at x8, one runs at x4), 2x PCI-Express 2.0 x1 Slots, 2x PCI Slots
- Multi-Graphics: Supports 3-Way/ 2-Way AMD Crossfire and 2-Way NVIDIA SLI Technology
- LAN: Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 and Intel Gigabit Ethernet Controllers
- CPU Support: Support for Intel Core i7 processors/Intel Core i5 processors/Intel Core i3 processors/Intel Pentium processors/Intel Celeron processors in the LGA1150 package
- Memory Support: 4 x DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB;3200(O.C.) / 3100(O.C.) / 3000(O.C.) / 2933(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666(O.C.) / 2600(O.C.) / 2500(O.C.) / 2400(O.C.) / 2200(O.C.) / 2133(O.C.) / 2000(O.C.) / 1866(O.C.) / 1800(O.C.)
- Onboard Graphics: 1 x D-Sub port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200at60Hz; 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200at60Hz;1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160at24Hz or 2560x1600at60Hz
- Support for up to 3 displays at the same time
- Expansion Slots: 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16); 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8); 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4);2 x PCI Express x1 slots;2 x PCI slots; Support for 3-Way/2-Way CrossFire and 2-Way SLI
- Storage Interface: 1 x M.2 PCIe connector; 1 x SATA Express connector; 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10; additional 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors Support for RAID 0 and RAID 1
- USB: 8 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (6 on back panel 2 through internal USB header); 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (2 on back panel 4 through internal USB header)
We covered the nuances of the Z97 chipset in our Haswell Refresh review on Sunday, but the take home message was storage. Z97 allows motherboard manufacturers to use chipset lanes for SATA Express and M.2 ports, bringing PCIe based storage to the desktop platform without the need for a PCIe card.
At current, these solutions only provide two lanes of PCIe bandwidth (10 Gbps), which should be 66.67% faster than SATA 6 Gbps, but it all comes down to the controller on the device used. There are currently a few M.2 PCIe x2 drives on the market, mostly SATA based, but zero SATA Express, making the manufactures who invest in these storage technologies waiting for future product.
As we all know Asrock used to be a smaller sub-division of Asus back in the day, but they were doing so well for the budgeted mainstream niche that Asrock eventually was able to separate and stand on their own feet. Asrock has earned their reputation for consistently shipping out generations of solid and affordable motherboards that really pleased the BYOPC market.