Motherboards are the main hub of your computer system, keeping every component working and connecting each of their functions together. For something a little bit more technical, motherboards are circuit boards that function as the connector of many electrical connections through conduction. The thing that sets the motherboard apart from other circuit boards is that they’re configured to fit a whole computer system
There are many kinds of motherboards, each with their own set of purposes and functions. Different models are produced with varying levels of quality and efficiency, some more desirable than the rest. Modern units, for instance, can also connect with the latest drives, microprocessors, chipsets, etc., and they often perform better than their more dated counterparts.
Chipsets are a primary motherboard component that regulates and monitors the data obtained and delivered from different parts of the computer, such as its peripherals, memory, and processor, and one of the rising motherboard/chipset designs is the Z270.
Asus Prime Z270-P
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Asus Prime Z270-A
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ASUS Maximus IX Formula
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Asus Prime Z270-A
“The Asus Prime A is a solid choice for anyone who wants great performance at a more affordable price.”
The Asus Prime is a solid piece of hardware that doesn’t feel too cramped, with more than enough space to get through the sockets easily because of their compact heatsinks. It’s SATA ports are positioned perpendicularly, with headers being shielded using plastic rounds.
The Realtek sound chip this model comes with has added hardware that optimizes headphone use while adding shielding for its circuitry. For network capabilities, it features a Gigabit Ethernet chip that can be easily modified using Window’s tool, Turbo LAN. The UEFI BIOS from ASUS comes into play as well and performs impressively, much like the older models that have it implemented.
In terms of performance, the Prime is very capable and deliver consistently good benchmark results. While other components of your system are usually the ones that handle the brunt of the work, motherboards also play an important role, so it’s good to know that this model doesn’t hold back the performance of your rig. It’s peak, and idle figures for power is also considerably lower (97W max), and considering that other Z270 boards go above 100W when under stress, the Prime’s figures are very impressive.
All in all, the Asus Prime A is a solid choice for anyone who wants great performance at a more affordable price.
- Fast in terms of application performance
- Affordable compared to similarly built models
- Convenient Layout
- Optimal power consumption
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MSI Arsenal Z270 Gaming Plus
“This model gives a lot of bang for your buck, offering great features like an M.2 slot and decent network capabilities.”
This model gives a lot of bang for your buck, offering great features like an M.2 slot and decent network capabilities. We also found that its BIOS is very to maneuver around (but could be more intuitive), with software that allows you to customize the OS.
In terms of overclocking, it performs similarly to motherboards within its price range and handles well in terms of real-world use. If you’re using regular overclocking, this model has a built-in overclocking protection as an extra measure of safety for your rig.
One drawback that might be a deal-breaker for some audiophiles is that its audio codec is very dated, considering that the Realtek ALC892 that it uses has been in the market for five years. Considering its price, it still packs a decent punch, and you can remedy the lower quality audio with a good headset.
- Affordable price
- High-speed RAM
- M.2 slot
- Easy-to-use BIOS
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ASRock Gaming K6
Best for Speed
“The ASRock K6 is a very well-balanced motherboard in terms of performance”
The ASRock K6 is a very well-balanced motherboard in terms of performance, covered with an appealing design and RGB lights that add to the aesthetic.
It has multiple PCIe slots with an M.2 layout that’s designed in a way that it takes up the least space as possible, leaving a lot of room to aid breathability and cooling. Its power phase design uses 10+2, which fulfills most gamers overclocking needs, and they use efficient heatsinks made from aluminum alloys to cool it down. Much like other Z270s, it features 4 DDR4 slots that are dual channel and can support a maximum of 3800MHz,
Fan headers abound for this board. The cooler fans for your CPU might be hidden from view, so plug it in first before you add this board to your system. In terms of audio, it uses a built-in system that’s inspired by Realtek’s ALC 1220 using a Sound Blaster Cinema V.3 that can be found on the board’s edge to enhance its noise-canceling capabilities. The BIOS of this board is easy to navigate through and comes with handy features. For performance, it stays at 4.8GHz and doesn’t heat up significantly.
All in all, this is an affordable board that offers the competence that us gamers require.
- Good layout
- Decent USB 3.0
- Comes with Thunderbolt connection
- Fan connectors abound
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ASUS Maximus IX Hero
Best Mid-Range Motherboard
“Beats many motherboards that have double the price in terms of features and performance.”
This mid-range entry from ASUS performed fantastically on many levels, beating many motherboards that have double the price in terms of features and performance.
Its hardware is very easy to maneuver about, with easy access to buttons that handle the system reboot, power, BIOS entry, memory reset, and other essential settings. Its fan headers are also well-placed and sports many useful features like flow tachometers and in-depth fan control found in the BIOS.
For performance, it easily handles 5.1 GHz and goes beyond its rated capacity of 3600MHz. It performed well nearing 5.2GHz, but it started heating up quickly beyond that. It has ten ports for USBs and numerous external connectors. However, they only sport USB 2.0s, so you would need to get a USB adapter cable or expander for USB versions beyond 2.0 if you want to use components that require them.
- Amazing memory and overclocking
- Relatively affordable
- Well-designed hardware
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GIGABYTE AORUS GA-Z270X-Gaming 8
“The latest from Gigabyte is a powerful unit that offers a lot in terms of features and customization.”
The latest from Gigabyte is a powerful unit that offers a lot in terms of features and customization.
Its cooling system is both unique and efficient, a hybrid system that can passively and actively keep your unit at low temperatures. It also uses dual-channel DDR4 capable of going at 4133MHz at maximum capacity. An added plus is its Thunderbolt ports that offer really high transfer speeds.
Another feature that sets it apart is it’s USB UP 2 DAC, which lets you control the flow of voltage to optimize more power-demanding rigs. The audio system is also a cut above the rest thanks to its Realtek ALC. They’ve also used Creative Sound Core 3D and Creative Sound Blaster, making this one of the few units with a quad-core chip solely dedicated to audio quality.
It’ BIOS remains the same as older models, offering good customization but might feel clunky to some. One minor drawback with this unit is that you need to be an experienced overclocker in order to optimize this board’s capabilities. The settings that it has might overwhelm gamers who are new to the world of overclocking. The Aorus 8 might come at a high cost, but the features that it offers will pay you back in terms of their worth and more.
- USB UP 2 DAC
- Uses Smart Fan tech
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MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon
Best for VR
“MSI offers a powerful unit at a more than reasonable price”
Coming in the form of Gaming Pro Carbon, MSI offers a powerful unit at a more than reasonable price, especially if you compare it to their previous release.
The Pro Carbon comes with features exclusive only to MSI products such as the Tomahawk OPT Boost and M.2 shields. It comes with a dual-channel DDR4 that can handle a maximum of 3800 MHz, a PCIe x16 that’s reinforced with steel, and a PWM power system (11 phased).
For cooling, it has a dual heatsink and six fan headers. It also has a good audio capacity using ALC 11220 and Audio Boost 4, both of which are isolated to reduce any hits in sound quality.
For performance, it runs during stable overclock at 4.6GHz, but it does sport weaker VRMs compared to more expensive models. The interface of it’s BIOS and overclock settings are newbie-friendly, so you won’t have a hard time tweaking it regardless of your experience. If you want MSI exclusive features and good performance, then the Pro Carbon is for you.
- GPU support
- M.2 shield
- Latest USB 3.1 ports
- VR capable
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ASUS Maximus IX Formula
This is a good model if you’re willing to splurge on a high-quality motherboard that offers top performance.
Formula IX offers good substance covered in a sleek and beautiful style. This is a good model if you’re willing to splurge on a high-quality motherboard that offers top performance.
Its sides are well-lit, and its build feels and looks very sturdy. Being a higher-end unit, it performs well in terms of CPU speed, going over 5GHz with ease. It also has a built-in EK water block for support that lowers the temperatures with the help of its internal modifications.
It has a vertical slot allowing you to add another M.2 connector without making any compromise to its other features. Aside from its good storage, it comes with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. For sound quality, it has Realtek ALC1220. A few downsides to this unit are that it uses an older form of Wii and doesn’t have teamable Ethernet, but even if you’re into online gaming, these aren’t really deal-breakers.
- Fantastic performance
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Beautiful design
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ASRock Fatality Z270 GAMING-ITX/AC
Budget Thunderbolt 3 controller
“It’s Thunderbolt 3, however, is JHL6240, which is much lower in power compared to other models, and it only connects with two PCIe 3.0 ports.”
Much like other ITX motherboards, its M.2 slot is inaccessible after installation, so if you’re planning on upgrading with an extra M.2, try to do it before initial installation to save yourself a bit of trouble.
It does come with useful features, though. It has an upgraded Intel Wi-Fi 7265 at 867MBs that’s mounted in its Key-E M.2 slot. The unit also sports a Thunderbolt 3 controller that is useful for USB Gen2 3.1 connectors. It’s Thunderbolt 3, however, is JHL6240, which is much lower in power compared to other models, and it only connects with two PCIe 3.0 ports. This creates a less than ideal limit of 16 GBs.
This slower speed of Thunderbolt does come with some advantages in that it can support its maximum bandwidth in just one port, great for those who have storage for their Thunderbolt 3. Without getting into its 16GB interface, it can pass through Thunderbolt 3 displays at 4k and 60Hz. In terms of overclocking, it runs a bit poorly but considering its size, it overall decent. Most buy a separate graphics card for smaller builds, anyway.
- Good performance
- High-quality Wi-Fi controller
- Thunderbolt 3 controller
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Asus Prime Z270-P
“A much more affordable version than Prime A, the Prime P offers overall decent performance that’s more than enough for a casual gamer on a budget.”
A much more affordable version than Prime A, the Prime P offers overall decent performance that’s more than enough for a casual gamer on a budget.
In terms of performance, the Prime P doesn’t offer as much compared to higher-end models, but it still holds on its own pretty well. It comes with a memory support of DDR4 that can be overclocked up to 3866MHz. It makes us of dual M.2 systems that are integrated into the unit, and much like other Z270s, it has a pre-configured support for Intel Optane that will reduce your waiting times even outside gaming. It can also support dynamic cooling that can use both liquid and air, with customization options available through the FanExpert system created by ASUS.
All in all, Prime P is a good choice for gamers on a budget. The main reason why most choose the A option despite the much higher price point is that it can support up to 9 GPUs while Prime P can only support 8. If you can live with that, then this model is the right fit for you.
- Good performance
- Many safeguards for hardware
- Can overclock up to 3866Mhz
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MSI Z270 Tomahawk
Best for Casual Gamers
“It’s capabilities, however, is more than enough for a casual gamer who doesn’t want to spend too much on their system.”
There’s a lot that we like about MSI’s Tomahawk. Despite being just a bit above the lowest price in its range, it still offers great build quality and helpful features.
It takes a little bit of a hit in terms of CPU speed, where performance wasn’t that good at 4.9GHz, and the memory can only reach 3200MHz. These values were reflected in its benchmarking results, but in terms of real-world gaming, you don’t observe the performance hit too much. Its audio is also a bit dated, having an older Realtek ALC892.
It’s capabilities, however, is more than enough for a casual gamer who doesn’t want to spend too much on their system. The Tomahawk also looks stylish to boot, with a sleek design and pretty RGB lights that accent its muted main color.
- Very affordable
- Comes with Ethernet
- Decent Real-world gaming capabilities
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This motherboard is very unique, especially when its chipset comes to mind. Intel created this model to focus on performance above all else. To put it simply, individuals who get Z270s for their gaming rigs already have a solid foundation to build on.
In terms of gaming, the Z270 takes a step ahead of the rest in terms of graphics and processing compatibilities. It also sports impressive overclocking capacity and can be integrated with the latest processors from Intel.
The Z200 series comes with numerous features that will prove useful in both work and play; here are but a few:
Intel Chipset (200 Series)
Because LGA1151 is the most modern form of Intel socket, it can support the latest generation of Intel CPUs, and you won’t have to worry about compatibility because this socket won’t be replaced for quite a long while.
Top-Notch Display Capabilities
The Z270 comes with the newest display connectors that are compatible with the most modern technologies, such as HDR and OLED, along with legacy connectors that are useful for beamers. This ensures that you get the highest-quality image that the rest of your rig’s components can handle.
SATA Being Replaced With M.2s
M.2 have more data storing capacities and transfer data faster than their mSATA counterparts. M.2s also supports USB 3.0, PCIe 3.0, and SATA 3.0 interfaces, while mSATAs can only support SATA.
In terms of SSD performance, mSATAs and M.2 have equal ground, but in M.2 PCIes, on the other hand, are much faster. These cards have the capability to reach 4GB/s, while SATAs can only reach a maximum of 600MB/s. Most modern motherboards are starting to phase out SATAs and replace them with M.2s because of these very reasons.
Additional PCIe Lanes
The H270 and Z270 chipsets now feature a higher number of PCIe 3.0 lanes; this is a four-lane increase if you compare them to their older Z100 models. Having the most up-to-date form of PCIe ports, you can add much more bandwidth connections with high capabilities such as the latest graphics cards, USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt. The Z270, personally has 30 available lanes, 24 of which are PCIe 3.0.
Double Data Rate Version 4 (DDR4) is the newest release of DDR. While it does come with a higher price tag, the upgrades you’ll be getting compared to the older DDR3 are substantial because it:
- Sports lower power consumption
- Has a faster speed
- No maximum memory limits, where DDR3 can only have 16 GB max
- DDR4’s minimum clock speed is 2133 MHz, with no limit the maximum speed it can accomplish, while DDR3s can only have clock speeds between 800MHz and 2133MHz.
- In terms of latency, DDR4 has a slight edge against DDR3
Most modern motherboards already feature Integrated LAN, and the 200 series isn’t any different. This means that the chipset has network connectivity as a part of its components. This lets you bypass the need to get a separate card dedicated network interface like an Ethernet card that can be attached to your motherboard.
USB 3.0 & Versatile I/O Panel
Legacy ports are beginning to phase out. The headers for USB 2.0s and many back-panel connectors that have been in the game for a long time now are being replaced with their much newer 3.0/3.1 models.
As we’ve mentioned before, both U.2 and M.2 Storage numbers are being raised while SATA ports are getting fewer and fewer with each new model released. We predict that SATAs will phase out completely once M.2 prices begin to fall.
This line of new chipsets can support Intel’s Optane tech, which will eventually feature in up and coming SSDs that are based on the 3D XPoint memory tech.
What does Optane Memory do exactly? To put it simply, this Intel invention is a piece of smart technology that can accelerate your gaming system’s response times. This means that your computer can access the documents, videos, pictures, and many other applications much more quickly, and remembers your preferences even after you turn your system off. This means that the loading time for your games will be much shorter!
In combination with the latest Intel processors, you’re the gaming capabilities of your rig will be accelerated. Installing the games you like will have a larger HDD capacity and you can play them in speeds that are akin to an SSDs.
Other Advanced Intel Technologies
Aside from Optane Memory, here are a few more implemented techs from Intel that the Z200 series makes use of:
- HD Audio Technology
- Rapid Storage Technology for PCI Storage
- Rapid Storage Technology
- Platform Trust Technology
- Smart Response Technology
- Stable Image Platform Program (SIPP)
- Smart Sound Technology
- Virtualization Technology
Let’s have a look at the changes from each processor and motherboard release to get an idea of when you should use each option:
- Z100 Series
The 200 series chipsets have been given some notable updates in comparison to their older counterparts. For example, 200 series chipsets have an updated form of Intel Rapid Storage (RST), and this will improve the reliability and performance of all SSHDs and SSDs across the board.
With this in mind, the highest-quality 100 series motherboards still hold up well in terms of gaming capabilities. The newer models have a new, more streamlined interface for desktop management, additional PCIe lanes, as well as up-to-date compatibility that is able to use the latest hardware.
- The Z200 Series
Intel comes out with new processors for their units every single year. These new models come with the latest advances in technology that minimally improves overall performance. It goes without saying that the performance of your motherboards can differ significantly depending on the processors that you use. It depends on what kind of system you’re building, one built for gaming, or for work?
Both Intel and AMD have made huge launches for their new processors, with Intel improving upon the architecture of their Skylake format, transforming it into what’s now known as Kaby Lake, bringing with it higher clock speeds as well as a whole other slew of great features. In response, AMD released the Ryzen processors along with the new AM4 platform, while Intel moved forward with a new release of the Kaby Lake-X and the Skylake-X that came with LGA 2066.
The latest 200 series of H270, Z270, B250, Q250, and Q270 are fully compatible with the Kaby Lake processors as well as the Skylake processors. This cross-compatibility with two different processors enables gamers to select from a wider variety of models when building a rig to suit their preferences and needs. Not only that, but Intel’s Coffee Lake and Cannonlake models reported to be compatible as well.
- The Z270 Series
When comparing to the similarly built Z390, Z370, and Z170 motherboards, what the Z270 offers is that it has the capability to perform optimally with the latest versions of Kaby Lake and Skylake. This ensures that a Z270 will have an increase in performance every time a new processor update rolls out.
In terms of other features, the Z270 can support up to 4 PCIe M.2 slots (3.0), along with additional PCIe lanes and configurations for dual-GPU builds. For the sound, it sports an ALC1220 by Realtek, which performs really well for current standards. With that said, most new motherboards also have this type of sound card. Its overclocking capabilities are also more refined. In the looks department, the Z270 models look more subtle, with customizable color formats to suit your taste.
To put it simply, the Z270 motherboard’s features are well suited for gaming rigs and come at a reasonable price.
The Difference Between Z270 And H270
Despite falling in the same 200-series category, Intel has created several distinctions between these two. The Z270 is more for enthusiasts who are willing to invest in a more expensive unit for better features. The H270, on the other hand, goes well with those on a budget without sacrificing too much in terms of performance. Because of the price cut, H270s won’t have many GPU setups and allow overclocking, leaving those features open to the Z270s only. Z270s have the capacity to support a total of three slots for M.2s, the same as its older 100-series counterpart.
- The Z300 Series
The Z370 was released at the same time as Coffee Lace, where it introduced added support for the latest 3.1 USB models and added modes for RAID. The Z390, on the other hand, was released a bit shortly after, coming with Gen 2 USB 3.1 support and built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi. These models are pretty good for enthusiasts who want the latest tech releases.
We Take Our Product Testing Seriously
The motherboards we’re recommending has been researched and evaluated extensively, and this includes enclosure installation, benchmarking their performance, testing for stability, and long-term testing to see how they hold up when using them for entertainment and gaming.
Whenever possible, these tests were done in a controlled setting where other components of the rig are the same, with only the motherboard being the variable.
The extensive benchmark tests done include 3DMark FireStrike, Cinebench 15, PCMark 8/10, DPC Latency Checker, AIDA 64 Extreme, and many others. For long-term testing, we’ve mostly focused on media streaming as well as playing demanding games such as The Witcher 3, Far Cry 5, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Forza Horizon 4, and others. We ran these tests at 1080 set at high to medium settings in order to remove any potential bottlenecks caused by the performance of the graphics card.
We’ve also taken the important factors we’ve discussed in the buying guide into account while creating this review, making sure that we have a selection to suit different budgets, each with the best components befitting of their price range. In our motherboard review below, we’ve added the general specifications to give you an idea of what you’ll be getting with the unit as well as their key attributes that we have come across during testing.
Granted, most modern Z270s perform really well, considering that they were built with performance in mind, but for those who want models with a bit more edge, here are the top Z270 Motherboards we’ve discovered during our testing and research.
With the constant release of new motherboards, it’s hard to pick out which one fits your bill. The Z270 series was created for PC builders who care performance above all else, which is why they can still offer fantastic results and remain a relevant series despite the release of newer models.
The recent surge of new processing units might make it difficult for those who want the gaming motherboards that suit their needs. The latest generation of Coffee Lake units have been released, and while they also use the LGA1151 socket (just like Kaby Lake), these processors will require Z300 series chipsets, which can get very expensive.
If you want something more mainstream for your gaming rig using Core i7-7700K or Core i5-7600 that still hold up pretty well with good prices, then a Z270 model might be the best fit for you.
The changes of these chipsets are pretty minor, where we only see a small number of updates for every release. By going back to one generation, you can save more money without sacrificing much. The Z270 is a solid choice for enthusiasts who want something a little more up-to-date and powerful for current standards.