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During our quest to find the best Z390 motherboard, we couldn’t help but notice how unappreciated motherboards are. Despite being the holding ground of your rig, something that defines what components you will be able to choose, these guys hardly get as much of the limelight as a CPU or GPU. Which is why it was all the more important to discuss the latest LGA 1151 motherboards.
Testing The Best Z390 Motherboards
For the uninitiated ones, the Z390 line of boards comes building upon the Z370 motherboards. And apart from the USB 3.1 Gen 2 and the 802.11ac WiFi connectivity, the line offers greater value for money as well as chipset quality. In our rundown below we have highlighted motherboards covering a variety of price points.
Best Value Motherboard
GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS Ultra
While some insanely expensive models like the MSI Z390 MEG Godlike cost twice as much, the Gigabyte Z390 motherboard is top of the line as far as value for money is concerned. The detailed RGB setup even makes it feel better.
Rigged with USB 3.1 Gen 2, integrated 2T2R Wave 2 802.11ac WiFi, multiple M.2 ports and a wide range of expansion possibilities, this ATX motherboard is definitely future proof.
Technical Analysis: GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS Ultra
Gigabyte motherboards are some of the most prominent products among enthusiasts. Replacing the outstanding Z370 Aorus Gaming 5, they have jumped up the 9th generation Intel processors bandwagon with the Z390 Aorus Ultra. However, don’t expect it to go beyond bounds because it is based on a newer chipset.
Apart from the added USB 3.1 Gen 2 and a few other advances that all Z390 boards have, it only gets better qualitatively. For instance, the Gigabyte Z390 board has a very similar RGB set up across the board and the heatsinks. It comes with a single LAN port, but makes up more than enough for it with the integrated 2T2R Wave 2 802.11ac WiFi.
Moreover, it packs a 13-phase VRM (12+1) power meaning you will have a lot of juice for overclocking the processors. Next up is the wide array of ports and connectivity solutions provided by the Z390 Aorus Ultra. The highlight here is, of course, the addition of three USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A ports.
Additionally, you get a USB Type C port as well as four decent USB 2.0 ones – raising the number to an impressive eight. You can also push up the audio if using one of the DAC-UP marked Type A ports, thanks to the audio boost technology of Gigabyte.
In order to keep you comparable with the rest, it is one of the three Gigabyte motherboards that come with three or more M.2 ports. The other two being the Aorus Master and the Aorus Xtreme. While Aorus Master takes a step ahead of it in terms of high-end treatment, the price is also higher. And since both the models are based on the ATX form factor, we didn’t see why the expensive alternative should be included.
With x16, x8 and x4 PCIe 3.0 slots, it matches the Z370 Gaming 5 again. But it does better than the latter thanks to the new metal slot protection that each of the PCIe slots has. You will also be fully equipped to boost up the speeds by expanding the RAM to as high as 64 GB DDR4-4133. To round of the rest, there’s a single HDMI, five 3.5mm audio jacks and an S/PDIF optical output.
Our very pricey high-end category winner, the MSI MEG Godlike is the big brother of the ACE, which you can call an undercut version of that super expensive board. MSI MEG Z390 ACE is in no manner a mediocre motherboard, in fact, it is one of the best in the market, with features like 3x M.2 Slots, with one having a heatsink to keep it cool, preinstalled rear IO shield with a beautiful RGB in the IO heatsink. There are many differences that make the MSI MEG Z390 Godlike worthy of its price that this board lacks though.
Best High-End Motherboard
Top of MSI’s enthusiast gaming class, the MEG Godlike comes with three M.2 slots and an Xpander Card, greatest number of PCIe slots and SATA ports; all turning it into an expensive beast.
Technical Analysis: MSI Z390 MEG Godlike
It is true that a motherboard is not something you’d usually set aside a large chunk of money for while building a gaming rig. You’d be hard-pressed to look for better graphics cards, processors and even heating solutions. However, that doesn’t mean there is no space for a no-compromise ultra high-end motherboard.
So if you have got money to spare that you could otherwise get a mid-range laptop for. You could always opt for MSI MEG Z390 Godlike. That is right, it will cost well above $500 to get your hands on the Z390 motherboard. But it has the goods to show, too.
Offering the most diverse RGB installations, you get an Infinity Mirror over the VRM, a dragon RGB over the heatsink, and three different sport for 3-pin and 4-pin RBG connectors. But those are just the aesthetics. The MSI Motherboard belongs to their new MEG class which denotes enthusiast gaming. It is the top crop from the component maker alongside the MEG Z390 ACE.
Here’s how: thanks to the M.2 Xpander Card, you get space for as many as two M.2 drives. Talking of, it also has three M.2 slots of its own. And since it is the larger E-ATX motherboard, it will also require a bigger PC case. This, in turn, will get you a greater PCB space. At x16, x16, x8 and x4 it has four PCIe slots and six SATA ports.
Instead of the single Realtek ALC1220 codec of the Gigabyte Z390 Aorus Ultra, the Z390 GODLIKE comes with a second codec at the front. It even has double the number of LAN ports i.e. two, with E2500 Gigabit pairing. One of the key selling points of the Aorus Ultra was its three USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, which the Z390 GODLIKE matches.
In fact, packed with the 1550 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter, it is one of the most gaming-oriented motherboards out there, with a great overclocking potential thanks to a 16-phase power. It also does boast of high-end features like dual NIC, four-fold CrossFire and threefold SLI support, a dedicated capture card and a U.2 connector.
But the problem here is that nothing about the MSI Z390 Godlike is economical. Even with the additional features and aesthetic edge, we find it hard to justify the price tag, except for the cases where not compromising on feature set is the only concern.
Just like the Godlike motherboard, our runner up in the same league is also an E-ATX board. Gigabyte’s recently confirmed baddest beast has an assortment of fan slots and tank-like heatsinks. It is a 16-phase powered board allowing for super overclocking potential. To choose one over the other, there’s hardly a thing to pick from either one of the Z390 boards in question.
Best Budget Motherboard
Although it only includes a basic heatsink structure, there are four DDR4 slots, PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots, M.2 slots as well as other preliminary requirements of any good value motherboard these days.
Technical Analysis: ASUS Prime Z390-P
We also had to include the best motherboards for gaming on a budget in our list. And despite the fact that enthusiast gaming just has a threshold level of spending it requires of you, there still are a handful of Z390 motherboards that can be bought for an awfully low price as compared to our previous featured products.
Costing less than four times that of the MSI MEG Godlike board, the ASUS Prime Z390-P is an aesthetic advancement over the Z390-A. But it also comes with DDR4-4266 RAM support of up to 64GB. Nonetheless, in almost component on the board, you will see the focus is on greater value and not higher feature set.
For instance, there is only one PCIe 3.0 x16 slot. Although there are five other slots two x4 and three x 1, this is just the basic configuration you’ll need from a healthy board these days. Nonetheless, having the CrossFire multi-card support due to the slots means you can up the game with better hardware.
There are two M.2 slots and four SATA ports, but then again, greater I/O configurations is one of the first things you expect when paying for a mid or high range motherboard. Which, is not the case here. This is not the board you’d buy for enthusiast overclocking, but it sure does fill the space when you can’t buy a more high-end product.
Moreover, you will get the much-needed USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A ports alongside the now standard USB 3.0. Everything else is also standard i.e. HDMI and DisplayPort PS/2 ports and three Realtek ALC892 audio jacks instead of Realtek ALC1220. Even the Gigabit LAN port is a Realtek RTL8111H.
On the other side, ASUS has tried to push in something for everything in the Z390 motherboard which is why it does have other areas of slack. For instance, the heatsinks provided on the board are certainly no match to a hotter rig. In turn, it would rather not be your pick to go with the newer 8th gen 9900K processors of Intel.
In fact, if overclocking is going to be your primary concern, we would suggest you go with something like the Gigabyte Aorus Ultra Z390 above.
Though our best budget board is way below the $150 mark, the only reason why the ASUS TUF Z390-Plus Gaming Wi-Fi is only the runner up regardless of how great this board really is because it is a bit pricey. Considering how we have some pretty high-end motherboards in the other categories, it seemed fitting to add something under the $180 price tag for a runner-up in the budget category. With 2 M.2 slots, reinforced PCIe Slot and some RGB accented lighting, this board is no joke. The overclocking potential on this board is great as well with some pretty solid VRM, 1x M.2 and Chipset heatsinks.
Whatever price range you are looking for, if it is a Z390 that you wish to buy, these are the best at offer. We would have loved to pick an ASRock motherboard too. But the models above from Gigabyte, ASUS, and MSI above cover all three primary price points for buyers. Since the chipset is relatively new, it should be all you ask for in a mainstream platform running an 8th or 9th gen processor. Especially due to the inclusion of in-demand connectivity options like the USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type A or the multi-phase VRM power.