There are a lot of choices when it comes to PC hardware. That’s the beauty of building a desktop PC over purchasing one pre-built. Mixing and matching parts to create something that you can truly call yours is awesome. That said it can be overwhelming sometimes with so many choices to choose from and you can quickly fall into analysis paralysis. Trust us, we know first hand.
To help you out, we’ve spent hours and hours of research putting together this guide to make it easy for you to get the best possible motherboard and CPU combination for your money. After all here we’re dealing with the brains for the whole system: The CPU. Get the wrong one and a sluggish feeling will follow you whatever you do on your PC. Then, there is the motherboard, the framework in which your CPU as well as other components will use to operate together with. So getting the best motherboard for the type of case that you have is going to be a worthwhile investment.
Below you’ll find the best motherboard CPU combos for your build based on the form factor (ATX, Micro ATX, and Mini ITX) and providing examples of Ryzen 5, 7, and 9 CPUs for AMD (AM4 socket) motherboards and Core i5, i7, and i9 CPUs for Intel (LGA 1151 socket) motherboards.
Best AMD CPUs
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
The Ryzen 5 3600X is a great mid-range CPU that offers excellent performance for productivity and gaming alike. It’s a direct rival to the Core i5-9600K.
It’s a great all-rounder CPU for gaming and a go-to if you want the latest from AMD without breaking the bank. The plus is also included Wraith Spire cooler which adds even more value to this CPU.
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X
Moving on to the Ryzen 7 3700X this is the equivalent to the Core i7-9700K. This 8 core/16 thread CPU is going to be more future proof than the Ryzen 5 and like the Core i7 it will work better for CPU heavy gaming and heavy productivity. It also performs well when streaming games.
If you decide to pair it with X570 motherboard it will support PCIe 4.0 otherwise you can get a X470 motherboard since it also offers backward compatibility. The nice part of getting Ryzen 7 3700X is included Wraith Spire RGB cooler.
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X
Lastly, the Ryzen 9 3900X is the competitor to the Core i9-9900K. This is a 12 core/24 thread CPU that is extremely capable and will chew through anything you throw at it; games are going to run at their best and workstation productivity won’t be a problem. This is the best gaming-focused CPU right now for productivity and extreme multitasking.
Best Motherboard and AMD CPU combos
Best ATX Motherboard: MSI MPG X570 GAMING PRO CARBON
The X570 chipset supported motherboard MSI MPG X570 GAMING PRO CARBON provides essential features for its price point. This slick motherboard features a built-in WI-FI 6 supported module, dual M.2, and dual PCIe 4.0 slots. It’s a great motherboard all around and is complete with RGB lighting via MSI’s mystic light.
This motherboard will support the gen 3 Ryzen CPUs as listed: Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 7 3700X, and Ryzen 9 3900X.
Best Micro ATX Motherboard: ASRock X570M Pro4
The ASRock X570M is going to be the top pick for the best overall AMD supported motherboard for the micro ATX form-factor. This motherboard supports the gen 3 Ryzen CPUs and comes with a host of features such as dual M.2 with support for PCI express 4.0, USB Type-C, and ELNA audio capacitors. We would have liked to see a built-in WI-FI module at this price-point but the fact that this is currently the only X570 motherboard available in this form factor makes it a winner.
As mentioned above, we are able to use the latest Ryzen CPUs with this board and thus we will start with the Ryzen 5 3600X. This is an upgrade from the Ryzen 2600X; the number of cores and threads remains the same here but we are working with slightly higher clock speeds and more cache memory (32 MB from 16 MB).
Best Mini ITX Motherboard: Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro Wi-Fi
However, if you are wanting a Ryzen 9 3900X the Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro Wi-Fi supports gen 3 Ryzen CPU’s and therefore you can use this CPU there.
Regarding gen 3 Ryzen; the CPUs are great; Ryzen 5 3600X, Ryzen 7 3700X and Ryzen 5 3900X the latest and are stronger than their gen 2 counterparts but the 2nd gen chips are more than good enough for even the latest games and they are still well relevant. We chose the ROG X470-I as our favorite motherboard for its extensive feature set and ease of use.
Best Mini ITX Motherboard for 2nd Generation Ryzen: ASUS ROG Strix X470-I Gaming
On the AMD side of things, we have yet another ROG product with the ASUS ROG Strix X470-I Gaming. This one offers a lot of features for such a small motherboard. We get 2 M.2 ports as well as 3 fan headers and slick RGB lighting. This a solid motherboard overall.
Since this motherboard supports up to 2nd Generation Ryzen CPU’s we are starting with the Ryzen 5 2600X. This CPU is relatively affordable and provides the punchy performance you need for the latest games. In terms of price for the performance, this is possibly the best value for a CPU we are looking at today because you can snag one for relatively cheap nowadays and it’s great for gaming. With 6 cores, 12 threads and a base clock speed of 3.6 GHz that turbos up to 4.2 GHz it is a steal for what you can find it at.
Moving up a tier you can also use a Ryzen 7 2700X with this motherboard. If you plan on doing more CPU taxing games that support the 8 cores (this processor also has 16 threads) in this processor then this is going to be your pick. This processor is fairly inexpensive for the performance you obtain.
While we say that most people will be fine with the Ryzen 5 2600X, if you are planning on being more future proof and utilizing the extra cores/threads then the Ryzen 7 is going to be your pick.
As the ASUS ROG Strix X470-I Gaming motherboard supports up to gen 2 there are no Ryzen 9 examples to note. Overall, we think that this motherboard with a Ryzen 5 2600X is going to provide the best overall experience to price ratio for this form factor.
Best Intel CPUs
Intel Core i5-9600K
This processor has 6 cores and 6 threads clocked at 3.7 GHz which turbo boosts up to 4.6 GHz. It’s overall a good all rounder CPU, it will handle what you throw at it and is about what you’d expect to pay for a decent CPU such as this one. The Core i5-9600K remains as the great all rounder CPU and a go-to for pure gaming needs.
Intel Core i7-9700K
This CPU features 8 cores and 8 threads clocked at 3.6 GHz and turbos to 4.9 GHz. You will see performance gains with this one on CPU intensive tasks such as video editing or strategy games with a lot of things happening on screen. The Core i7-9700K is a step up from the i5 and if you have the spare money and are going to utilize the extra performance and cores it is well worth it. It’s the pick for more CPU heavy tasks and games. Check out our article specifically dedicated to the i7-9700K for more recommendations and how you should go about cooling it.
Intel Core i9-9900K
On to the best, the Core i9-9900K is a CPU for the hardcore who wants the most CPU performance. With 8 cores, 16 threads and a turbo boost clock speed of 5.0 GHz you will certainly have a tiny powerhouse that will handle anything you throw at it. If you go for this one it’s quite expensive so if you are weighing between the i9-9900K and the i7-9700K consider what you need a strong CPU for and what performance you are expecting. The Core i9-9900K is an absolute beast but is also really pricey. With it you are looking at a CPU that will be more future proof and faster for high-end productivity.
Best Motherboard and Intel CPU combos
Best ATX Motherboard: ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero
The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Hero Z390 gaming motherboard is a high end ATX motherboard that supports 9th and 8th Gen Intel processors. It’s great for overclocking, has user-friendly bios, crisp audio quality with the SupremeFX sound chip and a pre-mounted I/O shield. It comes with Aura Sync that also supports Philips Hue. This motherboard is perfect for getting the most out of the latest Intel CPUs.
We are recommending the 9th Gen Intel CPUs: i5-9600K, i7-9700K and i9-9900K. They each have the same strengths and purchase weighing as before. This board will make it easy to overclock these CPUs and since this is a larger form factor it should be easier to provide good airflow to keep them from throttling.
Best Micro ATX Motherboard: MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC
Moving on to a smaller form factor to work with; we will shake things up by recommending the MSI MPG Z390M for our Micro ATX PC. This motherboard is a great all-rounder. It’s great for overclocking RAM, provides a very decent Wi-FI module and it has 2 PCIe slots for using 2 graphics cards in SLI.
We are going to be listing the same processors as we have for the Intel Mini ITX PC. All of these CPUs are going to function well, although since we are working with a larger form factor, a Core i9-9900K is going to be easier to get performing at its full potential; same with the i7-9600K as listed above.
Best Mini ITX Motherboard: ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming
For your small, yet punchy Intel based build the ASUS ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming is packed with ports and features with support for dual-channel ram slots with support up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM, dual M.2 ports, and features for making overclocking easier. You will find that the I/O shield is integrated into the motherboard itself with a total of 7 USB ports.
The aesthetics of this motherboard are also flashy yet pleasing; complete with RGB strips and a clean neutral color it will lend well to your build’s clean looks. It will also make overclocking easy with ASUS’ bios utility.
This motherboard and build in general will work nicely with a Core i5-9600K. This will provide good performance at a price that isn’t too steep. It is also worth noting that depending on how well you are cooling your mini PC this may be the best option. For an i7 and especially i9 the performance gains won’t mean much if your CPU throttles from temperatures being too high.
If you want to go even higher on CPU performance the Core i7-9700K will also work in this build. For CPU heavy games and video editing having this extra edge over the i5 may be worth it if again; you have proper cooling for this small form factor. In the majority of cases and especially in gaming the i7 should be enough and will be easier to keep at full potential in a small case.
There is something for everyone in any case form factor you choose, if you are just looking for a gaming machine that gets the job done nicely and doesn’t break the bank then the AMD Ryzen 5 and Intel Core i5 series CPUs are going to be great; many people use these for both their gaming and productivity and are a standard go-to for both mid-range and mid-high end PCs.
If you need extra performance for future-proofing, better framerates, and smoother productivity without getting too crazy in the price range then the Ryzen 7 and Core i7 CPUs are going to be your ideal chips.
The Ryzen 9 and Core i9 are the enthusiast/professional tier chips and they will certainly plow through anything you’d want to do on a PC and will last for many years to come.
If you are building a PC for being both a gaming and heavy workstation machine then these will be the way to go if you don’t mind the pricing of these behemoths.
Always buy a boxed processor so you’re covered by AMD’s or Intel’s warranty if something goes wrong with the CPU.