Best Intel Motherboards: October 2021by Gavin Bonshor on October 22, 2021 10:30 AM EST
Here is the latest update to our list of recommended Intel motherboards in our series of motherboards buyers guides. All numbers in the text are updated to reflect pricing at the time of writing.
Best Intel Motherboards: October 2021
We're moving closer to the launch of Intel's 12th generation Alder Lake processors, and with that will come new chipsets including Z690 which has already been leaked by multiple sources. As we approach Alder Lake's arrival, we must pay homage to what's actually available on the current market for users to buy. Right now, we have Intel's Rocket Lake (11th gen) and its Comet Lake (10th gen) processors, and all the associated chipsets such as Z590 and B560. This includes many different LGA1200 motherboard options to select from at many different price points, with multiple levels of features and controller choices on offer. The Z690 models may be on the horizon, but we focus on the now as it's time to make our picks for October 2021 in our latest Intel motherboard buyers guide.
Here are our choices in the motherboard market for Intel. For AMD recommendations, head on over to our AMD guide. This is updated monthly just like our Intel motherboard buyers guide.
|Intel Motherboards Recommendations
|Price vs Features||ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI||$249||$249||$260|
|Value||ASUS ROG Strix B560-A Gaming Wi-Fi||$180||$180||$160|
|Micro-ATX||ASRock B560M Steel Legend||$135||$135||$120|
|Mini-ITX||ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3||$242||$300||$280|
|Money No Object||MSI MEG Z590 Godlike||$800||$900||$1019|
Our recommendations for motherboards are based entirely on personal and professional opinions. There are notably many different motherboards across the Intel chipsets including B460, Z490, the latest Z590/B560 chipsets, and the workstation-focused W480 chipset. Some of our choices and options here are also limited by what stock is available.
There have been one or two notable Z590 motherboard announcements over the last couple of months or so, including NZXT's N7 Z590, and the EVGA Z590 Dark, although the latter doesn't fit into the conventional remit of motherboards for general purpose - the EVGA Z590 Dark is primarily equipped and designed for extreme overclockers, and as such, doesn't come into consideration today. We actually reviewed the EVGA Z590 Dark motherboard earlier this month and found it to be a solid option, despite the high price tag.
Best Intel Motherboard For Gaming/Performance
ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI ($249 at Amazon/$249 at Newegg)
If you are looking for a model that combines performance with functionality and a solid feature set, there are plenty of Z590 and Z490 models to choose from. For each price bracket, there is a good selection, but something like the ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI offers plenty of good quality features for a reasonable price. It offers users a solid entry point onto Intel's 11th Generation processors.
Included is a decent networking array with an Intel I225-V 2.5 GbE controller and Intel AX200 Wi-Fi 6 CNVi, as well as one USB 3.2 G2x2 Type-C, two USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A, and two USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel. For storage, the Z590-Plus WIFI has three M.2 slots including one PCIe 4.0 x4 and two PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA M.2, as well as six SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays. There is also enough PCIe slot support to make it usable including one full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, one full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot, and two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. Memory support consists of four memory slots, with official support for up to DDR4-5133 and a total combined capacity of 128 GB.
The ASUS TUF Z590-Plus WIFI is meant to be set as ASUS' 'entry-level gaming' range (yes, even at $255), but there is enough in the specifications and feature set to make this a solid mid-level solution for gamers and content creators. If you're ready to jump into a $500+ Core i9-K processor, it's about this price-point for motherboards that should be the bare minimum to have a balanced system.
The ASUS TUF Z590-Plus WiFi is currently available at both Newegg and Amazon for $249 at the time of writing. There are plenty of options at this price point, but perhaps not as many as well-equipped as this model with such a reasonable price tag, and this alone makes the TUF Gaming Z590-PLUS WIFI our pick for gamers.
Best Intel Motherboard: The Value Option
ASUS ROG Strix B560-A Gaming Wi-Fi ($180 at Amazon/$180 at Newegg)
The term 'value' can be taken any different ways, as it can be related to budget but with plenty of quality, or it can be relative to how much money is available and the cheapest option possible. The prices of high-end motherboards have increased over the years - I remember when a high-end board would cost $175! But today the top chipsets start at that price, which means we pivot to a more budget friendly solution. One of Intel's latest chipsets for budget users is the B560 chipset, and although it does take away some of the premium features from a Z590 model, the B560 offerings are still pretty decent. One such model is the ASUS ROG Strix B560-A Gaming Wi-Fi.
Some of the board's main features include a Realtek RTL8125 2.5 GbE controller and Intel's AX200 Wi-Fi 6 CNVi, one PCIe 4.0 x4 M.2, and another PCIe 3.0 x4/SATA M.2 slot. It includes six SATA ports with RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 support, and can accommodate up to 128 GB of DDR4-5000 memory which is impressive for a budget model. When used with Intel's Rocket Lake processors, it offers support for PCIe 4.0 devices, including one full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, with one full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 and three PCIe 3.0 x1 slots allowing for various types of expansion cards to be installed.
For audio, ASUS is using a premium SupremeFX S1220A HD audio codec, and connectivity is also impressive for the price with one USB 3.2 G2x2 Type-C, one USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A, and four USB 2.0 ports. The Strix B560-A Gaming Wi-Fi also benefits from a BIOS Flashback button which means users can update the board's firmware to the latest BIOS with power to the board and a USB flash drive, while an HDMI and DisplayPort video output pairing allows users to use Intel's integrated UHD graphics.
The ASUS ROG Strix B560-A Gaming Wi-Fi is currently available to buy for $180 at both Amazon and Newegg. Given the included feature set, it represents exceptional value for users planning on using 11th or 10th Gen Intel desktop processors. Other boards in a similar price range are the MSI MAG B560 Torpedo ($180) and the ASRock Z590 Pro4 ($185), but the ASUS not only has better quality audio but has better networking support. Despite not including Z590, the feature set of the ASUS makes it a solid all-around alternative for users on a budget, but those that want to benefit from premium features and PCIe 4.0.
Best Intel Motherboard: The Best Micro-ATX Motherboard
ASRock B560M Steel Legend ($135 at Amazon/$135 at Newegg)
The Micro-ATX form factor has trade-offs with its larger ATX sized options, but with less PCIe slot real estate due to the size limitations. Given that the vast majority of micro-ATX models look to cut back on certain features, our pick is based on a balance of price versus features, and we feel there's no better model to fit these criteria than the ASRock B560M Steel Legend.
The ASRock B560M Steel Legend is the smaller variant of the ATX sized B560 Steel Legend and offers users a mixture of unique urban camouflage-style aesthetics, silver heatsinks, and includes some RGB LEDs. Based on Intel's B560 chipset, there's no official CPU overclocking support, but Intel does allow for memory overclocking, with the B560M Steel Legend supporting up to 128 GB of DDR4-4800 memory across four memory slots. Storage options include dual M.2 slots, with one of these allowing for up to PCIe 4.0 x4 fast NVMe drives, and the other limited to PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA drives. For SATA devices, there are six SATA ports, including four with right-angled connectors and two with straight-angled ports.
The board also includes one full-length PCIe 4.0 x16 slot, with two PCIe 3.0 x1 slots for devices such as additional networking, audio, and storage controllers. On the rear is a Realtek RTL8125BG 2.5 GbE controller, HDMI, and DisplayPort video output pairing, with a Realtek ALC807 HD audio codec powering five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output.
Taking out the lack of CPU overclocking support which is a limitation of the B560 chipset, the ASRock B560M Steel Legend is a solid offering at the price. Taking other B560 micro-ATX sized models into consideration, there are plenty available, including the ASUS Prime B560M-A ($110), the MSI MAG B560M Bazooka ($139), or even on Z590, there's the ASUS Prime Z590M-Plus ($229). Not only is the ASRock B560M Steel Legend cheaper than the majority of the models above, but there isn't much difference to signify the price increase with the more expensive boards and with the Steel Legend. But it does come with a unique aesthetic, which is down to personal preferences.
The ASRock B560M Steel Legend is currently available to buy at both Amazon and Newegg for $135, which is higher than last month, but the pricing on this model fluctuates very regularly. Right now, there isn't a micro-ATX board on LGA1200 that offers the level of features and for system builders looking for a smaller system, the B560M Steel Legend is a solid purchase.
Best Intel Motherboard: The Best Mini-ITX Motherboard
ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 ($242 at Amazon/$300 at Newegg)
There are just six Z590 mini-ITX models to select from for small form factor enthusiasts and gamers, and just six for Intel's Z490 chipset, but one of our favorites is from ASRock. These models are generally popular with enthusiasts looking for a solid balance of features, good quality components, and pricing. The ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 is an update over the previous Z390 model, with a similar feature set, but designed for Intel's LGA1200 socket.
Out of the small handful of available mini-ITX Z490 motherboards, only two include Thunderbolt 3 connectivity on the rear panel: the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 and the MSI MEG Z490I Unify. The reason for selecting the ASRock over the MSI, having seen numerous ASRock mini-ITX models over the years, including the Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac before, is that we know what to expect from ASRock and it's a feature-packed model for its size. Aside from the single Thunderbolt 3 Type-C connector on the rear panel, it includes a Realtek RTL8125BG 2.5 GbE Ethernet controller and Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 interface pairing for the networking, as well as supporting up to two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 drives, one on the front and another slot on the rear.
Also on the rear panel are five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output powered by a premium Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec and three USB 3.2 G2 Type-A and two USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports. A handily located clear CMOS button is featured in the middle of the rear panel, with a PS/2 keyboard and mouse combo port, and two video outputs including a DisplayPort and HDMI pairing, although the Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port can also output video. The ASRock also supports up to DDR4-4666 officially, with a maximum capacity of up to 64 GB across two memory slots. In addition to the two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots are four SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays.
One important thing to consider is boards such as the ASRock Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 make solid options for Rocket Lake, as it includes the capability for PCIe 4.0 with one of the M.2 slots, and the full-length PCIe x16 slot. In regards to the competition, we reviewed the MSI Z490I Unify ($270) with a similar feature set and a 10-layer PCB, as well as the GIGABYTE Z490I Aorus Ultra ($270). The ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming is slightly more expensive with an MSRP of $300, and we've yet to review any mini-ITX Z590 models as of yet. If you need a small LGA1200 board with support for both Comet Lake and Rocket Lake, this is what we recommend while stocks last, and it doesn't make much sense to pay over the odds for Z590 when Z490 ITX is as feature friendly with a much better cost to performance ratio
The Z490 Phantom Gaming-ITX/TB3 has an MSRP of $280 and is currently available at Amazon for $242. It is however more expensive at Newegg with a whopping price tag of $300, Regarding LGA1200 mini-ITX, it's very difficult to find a small board that's as feature-packed. Even at $242, it's a cracking mini-ITX board with plenty of premium features such as Thunderbolt 3, and support for PCIe 4.0, so it gets our vote.
Best Intel Motherboard: Money Is No Object
MSI MEG Z590 Godlike ($800 at Amazon/$900 at Newegg)
Our previous pick from the Z490 series in the 'money is no object' category was the MSI MEG Z490 Godlike. This, compared to other brands flagships, stood at the top of the desktop market in terms of features but also in price.
The MSI MEG Z590 Godlike is an example of a premium flagship model with plenty of aesthetic upgrades over the previous Z490 version. This includes MSI's improved Dynamic Dashboard II which blends in seamlessly with the black and silver design. Users looking for plenty of RGB LED will appreciate a large customizable RGB MSI Dragon logo on the rear panel cover, with a funky new triangular shaped set of LEDs built into the chipset heatsink.
MSI has opted for a very overkill power delivery which consists of a direct 20-phase design just for the CPU, with premium 90 A power stages and a pair of 8-pin 12 V ATX CPU power inputs. Other features include a pair of full-length PCIe 4.0 slots operating at x16 and x8/x8, with another full-length PCIe 3.0 x4 slot located along the bottom of the board. For storage, there are four PCIe M.2 slots, including one operating at PCIe 4.0 x4 and three with support for PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA drives. MSI also includes six SATA ports with support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 arrays.
The MSI MEG Z590 Godlike has official support for DDR4-5333 memory with Rocket Lake which is an improvement over the last generation, with a total capacity of up to 128 GB available across four memory slots. Rear panel connectivity is also impressive with Intel's latest Thunderbolt 4 controller providing two Type-C and two mini-DisplayPort inputs, as well as two USB 3.2 G2 Type-A, and six USB 3.2 G1 Type-A ports. The Z590 Godlike also offers dual Ethernet with one Aquantia AQC107 10 Gb and an Intel I225-V 2.5 Gb controller pairing, as well as Intel's newest AX210 Wi-Fi 6E CNVi for access to the 6 GHz Wi-Fi band and BT 5.2 connectivity. It is also using Realtek's ALC1220 HD audio codec which adds support for 7.1 surround sound via five 3.5 mm audio jacks and one S/PDIF optical output.
The MSI MEG Z590 Godlike has an MSRP of $1019 and at present, it's available at Newegg for $900, and even cheaper at Amazon for $800, which is a good $200 below MSRP pricing. This makes the Godlike even better value if you can consider such an expensive outlay. Despite this, it's still a good saving over last month's price of $900 which makes it a good price (for a flagship) on Amazon. Stock worldwide for components is sketchy, to say the least. We do expect stock of the Z590 Godlike along with other Z590 models to filter into retail channels quicker as Rocket Lake's processor launch looms at the end of the month. As it stands, the MSI MEG Z590 Godlike is the only flagship model even listed on Newegg currently, with Amazon's listings also being slim pickings too. That being said, MSI has increased the price of its flagship model for Intel's latest desktop model from $750 to the current price of $900, and judging by what's on offer, it's easy to see where the money has been spent.
Intel Rocket Lake and Z590
For those looking for Z590 models, we've compiled details on over 50 of them in our Z590 motherboard overview. We've also taken a look at over 30 budget-focused B560 models too:
- The Intel Z590 Motherboard Overview: 50+ Motherboards Detailed
- The Intel B560 Motherboard Overview: 30+ Budget Models Starting from $75
Our review of Intel's 11th Generation Rocket Lake processors is also available to read:
For users looking for other options, we've also gone over multiple chipset families as well in the links below.
- The AMD B550 Motherboard Overview: ASUS, GIGABYTE, MSI, ASRock, and Others
- The Intel W480 Motherboard Overview: LGA1200 For Xeon W-1200
- The AMD TRX40 Motherboard Overview: 12 New Motherboards Analyzed
- The AMD X570 Motherboard Overview: Over 35+ Motherboards Analyzed
- Intel Z390 Motherboard Overview: 50+ Motherboards Analyzed
- Analyzing B450 for AMD Ryzen: A Quick Look at 25+ Motherboards
- Analyzing Z370 for Intel's 8th Generation Coffee Lake: A Quick Look at 50+ Motherboards
- An AMD Threadripper X399 Motherboard Overview: A Quick Look at Seven Products
Z590: Reviews (Over and Done With, Alder Lake and Z690 Next)
We've reviewed all the Z590 motherboards we intend to test which can be found below:
- ASRock Z590 OC Formula Review
- ASRock Z590 Steel Legend WiFi 6E Review
- ASRock Z590 Taichi Review
- ASUS TUF Gaming Z590-Plus WIFI Review
- ASUS ROG Maximus XIII Hero Review
- EVGA Z590 Dark
- GIGABYTE Z590 Aorus Master Review
- GIGABYTE Z590 Aorus Tachyon Review
- MSI MEG Z590 Ace Review
The next step will be preparing for Alder Lake, which looks likely to be announced at some point soon. With this being said, it's likely to mean big changes to our guides in November/December.
With multiple reports of next-generation Alder Lake 600-series motherboards starting to leak, are there any models that you find interesting that we should review?