Asus ROG Maximus XII Extreme

If you want the best, most feature-packed Intel Comet Lake motherboard, I'm afraid you'll have to pay a premium. If Asus' Z490 Maximus XII Extreme is any indication, expect to pay a premium.

It's as extreme as the name implies, with a slew of opulent and useful extras (like a screwdriver with replaceable heads), and it's also one of the best-performing Z490 boards we've seen.

However, it only makes sense if you're buying a K-series Core i9 with the intention of seriously overclocking it. The Maximus XII will help you to get the most clock speed out of your 10900K while also preventing it from turning into a pile of molten slag.

The MSI Z490 Godlike is the fastest Z490 at stock speeds, but if I'm taking the OC path, I'd rather have the ROG board in my camp. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi

The lack of an OLED display and a minimal back panel indicate that we've returned to regular motherboard terrain. The ultra-enthusiast ROG board at the top may make you dizzy, but the Z490 Gaming Carbon will bring us back down to earth without a hitch.

Sure, it won't have the same degree of luxury features as the Maximus XII or MSI's own Godlike boards, but when it comes to pure performance, it's right up there. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

Where it matters, there's almost no difference between any of the Z490 boards we've tested in terms of gaming performance, and it's only a bit behind when it comes to actual CPU performance in office apps. When it comes to overclocking, though, the MPG Z490 Gaming Carbon WiFi can't compete with the big guys, even when our 10900K is at its top.

MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi

Getting your hands on one of the top Z490 motherboards may appeal to your inner elitist, but sticker price shock is a real issue for many individuals. Sure, 10Gb LAN, seven M.2 slots, and quad GPU support would be wonderful, but who really needs all that? A good B460 motherboard, like as the MSI MAG B460M Mortar WiFi, will enough for the vast majority of us.

If you don't mind the RAM speed limitation and don't plan on overclocking (at least with a K-series CPU), this is the kind of board you should consider for your next PC build.

It checks most of the major boxes, and at $125, it's a good value, albeit there are many of excellent B460 motherboards in this price range. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

It has a powerful VRM, 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, and acceptable, if not exceptional, I/O. It's also worth the minor effort to pair it with a 65W non-K processor and try your hand at pseudo overclocking.

Something like an Intel Core i5-10600 and B460M Mortar, along with a reasonable mid-range GPU, might give a quality, economical gaming combo if you can live with the maximum DDR4-2666 speed.

ASRock B460 Steel Legend

The ASRock B460 Steel Legend is a mid-range B460 entry with an excellent name. It's a mid-range B460 board, priced at USD 120. A review of the specifications reveals that your $120 was wisely spent in certain key areas. There are two heatsink-covered M.2 slots onboard, as well as an e-key M.2 slot for an optional Wi-Fi card, a front USB Type-C header, and plenty of RGB.

Because of the higher power demands of 10th generation CPUs, motherboards must generally have upgraded VRM designs, and the B460 Steel Legend is well prepared in this regard. It contains a single 8-Pin EPS connector that powers a 9+1 phase VRM.

Each stage is capable of delivering up to 60 amps. Because overclocking is not permitted on B460 motherboards, the VRM will not be subjected to the same high demands as an all-core overclocked Intel Core i9 10900K.

The ASRock B460 Steel legend will appeal to buyers who aren't as concerned with frills as they are with a sturdy ATX board capable of running any 10th Generation CPU without catching fire. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra

With a lower price tag and more features, the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra competes with the MSI Z390 Gaming Pro Carbon AC and the Asus ROG Maximus XI Hero (Wi-Fi).

It has three M's on it. 2 NVMe SSD slots, Intel Wi-Fi Wave2 and ethernet, a full RGB treatment with various headers, and ALC1220 audio are all included.

For us, the only true drawback is that this motherboard is a little too showy and may not be suitable for more restricted gaming builds. If you want, you may disable all of the RGB bling in the BIOS, but other parts may still clash. But that's a minor quibble with an otherwise excellent board. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming

ASUS's Strix Z390-I Gaming takes the top rank in the boutique ITX market, thanks to a price cut and the disappearance of the prior Z370-based model from dealers.

The ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming delivers exceptional performance and value despite its small size and lack of upgrade options. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

Its single PCIe x16 slot pushed top-shelf graphics cards to speeds that equal or exceeded most Z390 ATX boards during testing, with steady 5GHz overclocks at numerous memory speeds, including 3,600MHz with tinkering.

The smallest Strix boasts a long list of features, including two PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 slots, Intel v219 ethernet, improved Intel 9560 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and an ALC1220A audio codec with separate circuitry and headphone amps, despite its compact form footprint.

Despite its extensive feature set, the Strix Z390-I's clean design allows for speedy system assembly and configuration, which is critical for ITX rig construction.

It's worth mentioning that this board can be difficult to come by, but the older ROG Strix Z370-I variant, with its thinner form, is still a good option, especially at clearance pricing.

Asus ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero

The AMD Ryzen 5000 CPUs don't come with a new chipset, but Asus' ROG Crosshair VIII Dark Hero claims to be the last AM4 motherboard you'll ever need.

What, on the other hand, makes a great motherboard? A stable and refined BIOS, value for money, and a decent design are all vital, but sometimes it's intangible. It's sometimes just that the dang thing works.

Motherboard testing is often one of the most painful things a tech journalist has to do.

With some boards you have to fight it to get it to do what you want, or expect it to, or have to or crank up some voltage setting to a level you don’t really want to, but the Dark Hero just boots the first time, even as we played with the memory clocks and timings and the Infinity Fabric. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

The Crosshair VIII Dark Hero might not be the best AM4 motherboard ever made, we’d have to review a few hundred others to make that claim, but it’s an easy claim to make that the Dark Hero is certainly one of the best AM4 motherboards.

If the Dark Hero becomes one of the truly famous ROG motherboards, only time and months of user input will tell, but we wouldn't bet against it.

MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon WiFi

The MSI MPG X570 is a combination of cutting-edge motherboard technology designed to maximise the performance of AMD's 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs. It includes four DIMM slots with a maximum speed of 4,400MHz and two M.2 slots with PCIe 4.0 capability.

Seven USB-A ports for peripherals and a single USB-C port for communication and high-speed data transfer are available on the back I/O panel.

There are headers for the accompanying Wi-Fi antenna, as well as a gigabit ethernet connector, to aid wireless networking. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

The MPG X570 supports Wi-Fi 6, which requires a Wi-Fi 6 compatible router, but it's backward compatible with earlier Wi-Fi standards and could result in a speed gain in the future. The HDMI port, which is found on many X570 boards, is also worth mentioning.

If you're ready to pay a premium, the MPG X570 has enough compatibility to get the most out of your system now and in the future.

While it's a great mobo, if you haven't already committed to a shopping list of top-of-the-line components, you might want to pick a somewhat less expensive board for your purposes.

Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming

The pricing of the Asus ROG Strix B550-E is comparable to other X570 motherboards; in fact, it's nearly identical to our favourite of AMD's top-end boards, the MSI MPG X570 Gaming Pro Carbon.

But it's a high-end motherboard, with features like the 14+2 power stage, M.2 heatsinks, and pre-installed backplates that you'd expect from Asus' Republic of Gamers lineup.

There's also Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking and Intel 2.5Gb ethernet. And, of course, RGB LEDs. If you want to build a Zen 3 system, the essential BIOS upgrades for this motherboard should be available in January. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

The performance is also typical for a high-end Asus board, easily matching X570 motherboards for gaming performance.

However, in our pure performance tests, the significantly more cheap MSI board comes out on top of the B550 boards we've examined. The Asus, on the other hand, can overclock significantly better, even though it consumes more raw power from the plug overall.

The Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is the complete package, and it's our top selection for the finest B550 motherboard right now. Even so, since X570 boards are the same price, that seems like a tough suggestion...

MSI MAG B550M Mortar

MSI's micro-ATX MAG B550M Mortar is your best chance for a budget next-gen Ryzen system if gaming performance is your top priority.

It costs roughly $160, making it less expensive than many X570 and other B550 motherboards currently on the market. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

The MSI B550 Mortar outperforms the rest of the B550 crew we've tested so far in terms of gaming frame rates, and its raw CPU performance is on par with some of the finest X570s.

That's good news if you're looking for a cheap place to put your upcoming AMD Zen 3 CPU (BIOS updates for Ryzen 5000 CPUs are expected to start trickling out in January); the B550 has a good chance of ensuring it operates to its full stock-clocked capacity without breaking the bank.

However, if more PCIe 4.0 M.2 and x16 GPU slots are important to you, you will be without them. Depending on whether you choose the standard Mortar or the more expensive Mortar Wi-Fi, you can also forego wireless networking.

ASRock A520M

The A520, AMD's low-cost Ryzen motherboard chipset, has mostly gone unnoticed.

While the B350 and B450 motherboards were typically considered entry-level, the A320 was regarded as the absolute bottom of the heap.

The launch of B550 motherboards, as well as their subsequent price increase, carved a large hole in the sub-$100 market. Then there's A520. If you're on a tight budget and don't need PCIe 4.0 or the overclocking capabilities provided by the B550, the A520 motherboards could be just what you're looking for.

There's cheap and then there's extremely cheap, yet at twice the price, a quality A520 board can do pretty much anything aboard.

The cherry on top is AMD Ryzen 5000 series CPU support, as well as, nearly as importantly, Ryzen 4000 series APU support. When you pair a Zen 3 CPU with a motherboard like the ASRock A520M ITX/ac, you can create a cost-effective and small system that can outperform any Intel chip in every workload.

The audio on the ASRock A520M is a bit of a letdown, but that's something that budget boards frequently sacrifice. The immersion of a gamer listening to compressed audio files in-game is unlikely to be diminished. The ASRock A520M ITX/ac is a small yet powerful motherboard that will serve you well in a budget gaming setup.

It takes advantage of the Ryzen platform's features while also providing some future-proofing.

ITX enthusiasts seeking for a capable AMD Ryzen solution on a budget should put this one on their consideration. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

Gigabyte A520 Aorus Elite

To be fair, AMD's A520 motherboard chipset isn't the most attractive of PC components. You wouldn't put one in the heart of a water-cooled setup or Nvidia RTX 3090 gaming machine, for example.

When looking at the chipset itself, it doesn't appear to be lacking in any real-world features. PCIe 4.0 isn't available, but neither are Intel systems, at least not until Rocket Lake next year. This is one of the cheap motherboards for gaming available in 2021.

The Gigabyte A520 Aorus Elite is a high-end A520 board, which may seem contradictory, but if you didn't know what it was, you'd think it was a mid-range board rather than a $90 bargain.

It also includes two RGB headers and two ARGB headers. The only true drawback is the lack of Wi-Fi, but do you really expect Wi-Fi at this price?

Gigabyte should be commended for including audio based on the ALC1200 codec. This is usually only used with more expensive motherboards. This Gigabyte A520 Aorus Elite is certainly worth a look if you're on a budget. Also, check out the Best Motherboard For i5 11600K In 2021.