Getting the best processor for your needs is the cornerstone of every PC build. Go too low, and you’ll create a CPU bottleneck. Spend too much on a CPU, and you won’t have enough money for a graphics card that can follow it. Then we have the motherboard, which is a quite important piece of hardware, even in gaming builds. CPUs these days tend to be quite powerful. Even budget models have lots of junk in the trunk for gaming needs.
A high-end CPU won’t do you much if you’re left without enough money for a fast GPU. In that case, it’s better to buy a budget gaming CPU and pair it with a fast graphics card. Also, it’s best to get a quality budget board than to splurge on a MoBo and then have no money for a fast GPU. If you want to find out the best motherboard CPU combos for gaming and save some cash for a faster graphics card, read on. We have a nice assortment of combinations for every budget.
Let’s start with the best entry-level motherboard & CPU combo. This pairing is perfect for playing esports and indie games. You can also play AAA titles with this combo. While this CPU is perfect for multiplayer games, the 10100F will have less than stellar performance when running CPU-intensive titles such as Battlefield V, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, or the current Hitman trilogy.
Overall, the Core i3 10100F is a nice little gaming CPU that you can pair with an entry or mid-range graphics card. Its four cores and eight threads make for an excellent Windows experience. If you’re on a tight budget, you can also use the 10100F for stuff like video editing. Just be ready for long waiting times for stuff to finish.
As for the motherboard, the Gigabyte B460M DS3H V2 is one of the cheapest B460 motherboards that will have no issues running the 10100F. The board’s good enough to be paired with something like the Core i5 10400F down the line, but we wouldn’t recommend it for anything over six cores.
The board has two M.2 slots, six USB ports, it supports dual-channel memory, and 11th gen Intel CPUs after a BIOS update. Overall, a pretty solid choice that won’t break the bank. That BIOS update is a pretty nice extra feature because it allows you to upgrade to the 11400F down the line, which is an excellent gaming CPU.
2. Intel Core i5 10400F & MSI MAG B560M Bazooka: Best budget gaming motherboard CPU combo
Going up a notch, we have the 10400F paired with a budget B560 motherboard as our pick for the best budget CPU & motherboard combo for gaming. The 10400F is a capable gaming CPU. It has six cores with hyper-threading, an all-core boost clock of 4.2GHz, and it can tackle any game you throw at it with ease.
The best thing of all, the 10400F can be paired with any GPU on the market. Note that if you’re limited to 1080p gaming, you shouldn’t get a high-end card. On the other hand, you can freely get this CPU if you plan on pairing it with a high-refresh-rate monitor. If you’re looking for one, read our list of the best 1440p 240Hz monitors.
When picking the motherboard, we realized that a B560 board is the best choice at the moment. The reason is that the price difference compared to value B460 motherboards are almost non-existent while you get support for memory overclocking. This means you can equip this combo with a fast RAM kit (3200 or 3600 MT/s) and get a noticeable performance bump in most games.
The B560M Bazooka is a great motherboard for the price. It will have no issues running the 10400F without power limits and with fast (DDR4-3200 or faster) memory. Just don’t forget to run the memory in dual-channel mode and to turn on XMP.
The B560M Bazooka is also a solid investment for the future. It can run, for instance, the 10700F, 10900F, or the 11700F, giving you nice upgrade options down the line. The board has two M.2 slots, six USB ports, six SATA Ports, and a basic audio section. A tiny downside is that the 10400F doesn’t support PCIe 4.0. With that said, if we’re being honest, chances are you won’t need a PCIe 4.0 SSD for gaming anytime soon.
3. Intel Core i5 10600KF & MSI Z490-A PRO: Best value motherboard CPU combo
If you want to get the best bang for the buck gaming CPU, get the Core i5 10400F. But the Intel Core i5-10600KF isn’t far off. This is a powerful 6-core CPU that will chew through any current AAA title without breaking a sweat. The 10600KF’s stock gaming performance is a bit slower than the Ryzen 5 5600X, which is 50 percent more expensive. And once you overclock the 10600KF to 5GHz, the performance difference melts less than 10%.
And that’s at 1080p. Since we reckon gamers who buy the 10600KF won’t game at 1080p, you can count that these differences stay below 10 percent on average at 1440p. This makes the 10600KF an excellent purchase at the moment. You lose PCIe 4.0 support compared to the 5600X, but you won’t need it anytime soon, not for SSDs or for GPUs.
As for the motherboard, the MSI Z490-A Pro is an affordable Z490 motherboard that can run the [email protected] without issues. It’s comparable in price to B550 boards of the same quality. It packs an excellent VRM section for the price, two M.2 slots, 2.5Gb Lan, six USB ports, and a mid-tier audio section. Overall, this is a great purchase and a perfect pairing for the 10600KF.
Overall, this is the best value CPU and motherboard combo for gaming. You’ll get the almost identical performance to the 5600X for noticeably less cash. When it comes to future upgrades, we don’t recommend counting on those. Intel’s 8-core and 10-core 10th and 11th gen CPUs don’t bring enough of a performance boost, at least in games, to justify the upgrade over the 10600KF. That said, the 10600KF should last you for years for 1440p high refresh rate gaming.
4. AMD Ryzen 9 5950X & MSI Prestige X570 Creation: Best overall motherboard CPU combo
If you want to get the best consumer-grade CPU, there’s only one choice. The Ryzen 9 5950X is a beast of a processor, boasting 16 cores and 32 threads, with a maximum boost clock of over 5GHz. That’s impressive.
When it comes to gaming performance, there’s no better CPU than the 5950X. On top of all that, this 16-core behemoth is incredibly power efficient, being way below the Intel lineup when it comes to the max TDP.
The motherboard we picked to pair with the 5950X is also a behemoth. The Prestige X570 Creation packs everything you might imagine you could find on a consumer-grade motherboard. 12 USB 3.2 ports, Wi-Fi 6, 10Gb LAN, top of the line VRM, server-grade PCB, two M.2 slots with an add-on card that has room for two more. The board also packs a bunch of OC-friendly features, three PCIe x16 slots, a ton of RGB, etc.
Together, these two make for the best all-around CPU & motherboard gaming combo. Get something like the RTX 3080, and you’ll have a great gaming PC that’s ready for 4K gaming. If you need a 4K monitor to complete the build, do visit our guide for the best 4K 144Hz monitors for gaming.
5. AMD Ryzen 9 5900X & Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master: Best value high-end motherboard CPU gaming combo
The Ryzen 9 5900X is just behind the 5950X in terms of gaming and multi-threaded performance. This is a 12-core CPU that can reach almost 5GHz, and that destroys any productivity benchmark like it was made of cardboard. Gaming performance is virtually the same as on its larger cousin, making the 5900X the best choice for people who want the best but don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for the 5950X.
We’ve chosen the Gigabyte X570 Aorus Master as the pairing for the 5900X because this board offers a plethora of features along with one of the best designs we’ve seen, while not being one of the most expensive X570 boards on the market.
You get three M.2 slots, ten USB ports, a 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6, superb VRM section, excellent audio section that features Sabre HiFi DAC, a ton of extra features, and excellent RGB implementation. This is the best value high-end CPU & motherboard combo for gaming. If you want to complete it, we recommend getting at least the RTX 3070.
Finally, while the 5900X is a beast, if you make money with your CPU and if the higher multi-threaded performance of the 5950X can save you time and earn you more money, feel free to get the previous CPU & mobo combo. Time is money, after all, so if you do a ton of rendering or video production and earn a living out of it, you could benefit from the four extra cores found on the flagship CPU.
6. AMD Ryzen 5 5600X & Gigabyte B550M Aorus Pro-P: Best motherboard CPU combo for gaming overall
If you’re a gamer and don’t plan on doing anything other than gaming, watching YouTube, and performing lightweight tasks along with some simple photo and video editing, you don’t need anything more powerful than the Ryzen 5 5600X. This six-core CPU is just a hair below the 5800X, 5900X, and 5950X when it comes to gaming performance while costing way less. Overall, this is the best CPU for users who only use their PC for gaming.
Yes, this is a six-core CPU, but six cores are and will be just fine even for high-end gaming experiences. Those claims saying that an 8-core CPU will age better than a faster six-core part aren’t grounded in reality. The 5600X is perfect both for 1080p and 1440p high refresh rate gaming. You can pair it with any GPU on the market, and the most you will lose is a couple of frames when running undemanding esports titles.
The 5600X is a perfect match for the RTX 3080 (Ti) or the RX 6800 XT. And since this Ryzen part is surprisingly power efficient, you can put it into a budget board, and the CPU will still be fast as hell. With that said, we would recommend getting an aftermarket cooler since the CPU will lose a portion of its performance if you decide to use the box cooler. We have the guide for the best CPU coolers for Ryzen 5 5600X, so check it out to see what’s the best option for your needs.
Our board recommendation is the Gigabyte B550M Aorus Pro-P. This is a budget B550 board that has two M.2 slots, ten USB ports, 2.5Gb LAN, a solid audio section, and a VRM section capable of running even the 5900X or the 5950X (without PBO). Good news in case you plan on upgrading the CPU down the line.
For a gaming build like this one, it’s better to save some money on the motherboard. You can then spend that money on a better GPU or more RAM, both of which are more important for gaming than an expensive board that won’t give you extra frames.
7. Intel Core i9 10900K & MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk: Best motherboard CPU combo for overclocking
Look, the Core i9 10900K isn’t the performance champion anymore. AMD Ryzen CPUs are better both at games and productivity. But the 10900K still is the most fun processor to have if all you care about is pushing it to its limits. This is an overclockers’ dream. If all you care about is playing with the CPU and trying to break new personal records, we recommend getting the 10900K.
11th gen CPUs are already pushed to their breakpoint out-of-the-box. And AMD Ryzen counterparts all have meek overclocking potential. For these reasons, the 10900K is still the best choice for people who want to overclock the hell out of their CPU while still having excellent gaming performance.
The MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk is an excellent Z490 motherboard and one that can follow the 10900K over the magic 5GHz barrier. If you’re want to have fun while gaming and be able to overclock the CPU past the 5GHz mark, this is the best gaming CPU and motherboard combo you can get.
Frequently asked questions
Do motherboards come with a CPU?
No. Motherboards and CPUs are sold separately. Bundling them would severely limit the options a PC builder would have when it comes to building their rig.
How do I know what CPU is compatible with my motherboard?
You’re gonna need to pay attention to a few things. The most obvious is the socket (LGA 1151 and AM4 for example), but you also want to look at the memory (DDR3 and DDR4 for example) and chipset compatibility (Z390 and B450 for example).
How much should I spend on a motherboard?
It depends on your budget. There’s a point of diminishing returns and that’s determined by what you want to do with your build. Higher-end options should typically be chosen only if you want to use multiple graphics cards, need better RAM, or push your CPU to its absolute limit.