6 Best Motherboard CPU Combos for Gaming

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. The best course of action is buying a processor that’s just right for your 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. Because, you know, budget CPUs are more powerful than you think. And then there are the motherboards.

A quality motherboard doesn’t mean a high price and every single feature you can get. You have excellent boards, especially for Ryzen CPUs, that are quite affordable and provide superb bang for the buck. The end result, getting the best CPU and board for your needs, may seem tricky but it isn’t. And today we will show you it isn’t by listing the best CPUs and boards to pair them with. Check out the 6 best CPUs (for gaming and productivity) and 6 best boards (along with alternatives), for both Intel and AMD processors.

Best Motherboard CPU Combos – Our Picks

Best Motherboard CPU Combos – Our Picks
AwardCPU Motherboard Combo 
Best Budget Gaming Motherboard CPU ComboRyzen 3 3300X + MSI B450 Tomahawk Amd Ryzen 3 Msi B450 Tomahawk Max 1
Best Value Motherboard CPU ComboRyzen 5 3600 + MSI B450 Tomahawk Amd Ryzen 5 3600 Msi B450 Tomahawk Max 1
Best All-Around Motherboard CPU ComboRyzen 7 3700X + MSI B450 Tomahawk Amd Ryzen 7 3700X 2 Msi B450 Tomahawk Max 1
Best Productivity Motherboard CPU ComboRyzen 9 3900X + MSI MAG X570 Tomahawk Amd Ryzen 9 3900X 1 Msi Mag X570 Tomahawk 1
Best Motherboard CPU Combo for GamingCore i5-10600K + MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk Intel Core I5 10600K Msi Mag Z490 Tomahawk 1
Best Motherboard CPU Combo for OverclockingCore i9-10900K + ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Intel Core I9 10900K 1 Asus Rog Strix Z490 E Gaming 1

Best CPUs You Can Get Right Now

Best budget gaming CPU

Ryzen 3 3300X
Cores4
Threads8
Base Frequency3.8 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.3 GHz
TDP65 W

The Ryzen 3 3300X brings the 7700K performance for a budget price. While used i7s are selling for insane amounts of money on eBay, you can get a new CPU for much less with the same gaming performance and better productivity performance. But we wouldn’t recommend this CPU for those who need a workhorse CPU for productivity tasks. For that, you want at least 6 cores.

Gaming needs, though, can be completely fulfilled by this tiny powerhouse. 4 cores and 8 threads provide impressive performance and will stay competitive for at least a couple of years. The switch to next-gen gaming platforms won’t happen overnight. And when it does, you will be able to upgrade to a much more powerful CPU thanks to the versatility of AMD’s current chipsets.

Remember, both the B450 and X570 will support upcoming Ryzen 4000 CPUs and both chipsets have boards that will be able to take any Ryzen 4000 CPU you throw at them. So, getting the 3300X for cheap and then upgrading down the line, once you have the cash, is an excellent move. You’ll have plenty of power for today and the next year or two and after that, you can replace it with some beast and have a competitive CPU for the next decade.

Best budget all-around CPU

Ryzen 5 3600
Cores6
Threads12
Base Frequency3.6 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.2 GHz
TDP65 W

For users who want something better than the 3300X when it comes to productivity, the Ryzen 5 3600 is the best budget CPU to get. 6 cores and 12 threads make this one highly competitive even against Intel’s 10th gen CPUs. Yes, it’s slower in games but not that much and it’s on par when it comes to using the PC to get some work done.

The area where the 3600 really shines is the price for the whole package. First of all, this CPU is noticeably cheaper than the Core i5 10600K, its direct competitor from Intel (no, the 10400 isn’t a direct competitor thanks to the performance hit it receives when using slower memory, the only option for B460 boards). Next, you have excellent B450 boards that can be bought for about half the price of a quality Z490 board. And finally, you don’t need an aftermarket cooler to pair the CPU with. The final price is much lower while the performance is in the ballpark of the 10600K.

And when the 3600 becomes too weak for heavy loads, just slap a Ryzen 4000 CPU on the same board and keep on rolling.

Best all-around CPU for most users

Ryzen 7 3700X
Cores8
Threads16
Base Frequency3.6 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.4 GHz
TDP65 W

No matter whether you need a CPU for gaming or productivity the Ryzen 7 3700X is the sweet choice for most users. When it comes to gaming, 8 cores and 16 threads reflect specs of both next-gen consoles. This means that your CPU will be just right for next-gen games. And when it comes to productivity workloads, 8 cores provide excellent results no matter the type of work.

And let’s not forget that the 3700X is also great for those who want to game and stream. This is the perfect all-around processor for most users. It isn’t expensive, can work perfectly fine with the box cooler, and will unleash its full potential even on a relatively affordable B450 board. And yes, again, it can be swapped down the line without changing the board. Perfect for those who need more cores but don’t want to enter the high-end CPU market.

Best CPU for productivity

Ryzen 9 3900X
Cores12
Threads24
Base Frequency3.8 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.6 GHz
TDP105 W

The Ryzen 9 3900X is the best productivity CPU you can get unless you’re ready to spend a fortune on the 3950X or need a workstation level CPU in the form of a Threadripper. Pricewise, the 3900X delivers a lot more power than every other CPU on the market. Its price became even more competitive after the latest price cut (AMD’s response to the new CPU line from Intel) and its performance is still better than every other mainstream CPU.

You get tons of power for every type of work and also get superb gaming experience in case you want to let go of some steam after workhours. And again, the price for the full package is much lower than with Intel CPUs. You get a decent box cooler (although, we would get an aftermarket cooler for a CPU like this one) and you can slap it on a B450 board if you don’t care about multiple M.2 slots of PCIe 4.0 support.

Best gaming CPU for most users

Intel Core i5-10600K
Cores6
Threads12
Base Frequency4.1 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency4.8 GHz
TDP125 W

The latest 6 cores and 12 threads CPU from Intel is a tiny gaming beast. The Core i5-10600K is very easy to overclock and once it gets above 5GHz it offers virtually the same performance as the 10900K for a much lower price. For those saying that a 6 core CPU won’t matter with next-gen titles, well, the next-gen switch won’t happen overnight. The 10600K is and will stay competitive for at least a couple of years.

And once it gets behind the pack, you’ll be able to slap an 11th gen Intel CPU on the same board. That’s the good thing about the Z490 chipset – it’ll support 11th gen Intel CPUs that will include flagship models powerful enough for any upcoming next-gen game.

Best overall gaming CPU

Intel Core i9-10900K
Cores10
Threads20
Base Frequency3.7 GHz
Max Turbo Frequency5.3 GHz
TDP125 W

The Core i9-10900K doesn’t offer the best productivity performance or the best price-to-performance ratio. But it is the best gaming CPU you can get right now, period. 10 cores and 20 threads combined with fast clocks results in impressive gaming performance. Every other CPU is behind the 10900K and that’s the way it goes right now.

If you want the best CPU for gaming no matter the price, get this one. You’ll get the highest framerate and you’ll get a future proof CPU that won’t have any trouble running next-gen titles once those start coming out. Sure, the price is high, as is the thirst for power and cooling requirements, but if you want the best, be ready to pay the price.

The 10900K isn’t slacking when it comes to productivity loads but it is behind Ryzen 9 CPUs. Our advice is that, if you want the best framerates in games and a CPU suited for occasional heavy work, get this one. But if you’re using your computer mostly for work and gaming during weekends and the occasional hour or two during the workweek, something like the Ryzen 9 3900X is a better choice.

Best AMD Motherboards You Can Get Right Now

Best AMD motherboard for most users

MSI B450 Tomahawk Max
ChipsetAMD B450
Memory4 × DDR4 DIMM, max. 128 GB
Storage1 × M.2, 6 × SATAIII
Multi GPU SupportAMD Crossfire
Expansion Slots2 × PCIe x16, 3 × PCIe x1
Back Panel Ports1 × PS/2 Combo
1 × DVI-D, 1× HDMI
1 × USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A
1 × USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C
2 × USB 3.2 Gen1
2 × USB 2.0
1 × LAN
HD Audio Connectors
Flash BIOS Button
Wi-FiNo

Here’s why the MSI B450 Tomahawk Max might not be the best choice for you. You need multiple M.2 slots and PCIe 4.0 support. You want the highest number of USB, SATA III, PCIe x1, or internal ports you can get on a motherboard. You need SLI and support for the fastest memory available or Wi-Fi connectivity. If you need those features, get an X570 board such as the X570 Aorus Pro (or Master, if you got the cash), ASUS X570 TUF Gaming, or the MSI X570 Tomahawk. For everyone else, the MSI B450 Tomahawk is the best choice on the market right now.

Superb VRM that can handle overclocked 3950X without issues. Plenty of features for the price point. Support for fast memory, lots of SATA III ports, and a back panel filled with USB ports and pretty good audio section. And support for Ryzen 4000 CPUs. When it comes to the newly released B550 chipset, there are quality B550 boards but they are pretty expensive.

Nevertheless, if you want a B550 board because you don’t like the active chipset cooling that comes with all X570 models, or if you need PCIe 4.0 support but not advanced features such as SLI support, there are a couple of interesting models. Both the MSI B550 Tomahawk and Gigabyte B550 Aorus Pro include excellent VRMs as well as a wide collection of features. Just remember that they have noticeably higher price over any B450 board.

Best mATX board for Ryzen CPUs

MSI MAG B550M Mortar Wi-Fi
ChipsetAMD B550
Memory4 × DDR4 DIMM, max. 128 GB
Storage2 × M.2, 6 × SATAIII
Multi GPU SupportAMD Crossfire
Expansion Slots2 × PCIe x16, 2 × PCIe x1
Back Panel Ports1 × Flash BIOS Button
1 × PS/2
1 × DisplayPort
1 × HDMI
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2
2 × USB 3.2 Gen 1
2 × USB 2.0
1 × 2.5G LAN
2 × SMA
1 × Optical S/PDIF OUT
5 × audio jacks
Wi-FiYes

Up until the arrival of the B550 chipset, the selection of mATX boards for Ryzen CPUs was pretty poor. But now, we have a couple of excellent products. The MSI MAG B550M Mortar Wi-Fi is probably the best of the bunch. It comes with 4 DIMMs and support for 4400MHz DDR4 memory. You also get two M.2 slots, one of which is PCIe 4.0 compatible. 2 M.2 slots is a really great to see on an mATX board. There’s also lots of SATA ports along with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity. Finally, the board comes with an excellent VRM section that can host any current Ryzen CPU.

When it comes to the alternatives, the ASUS TUF Gaming B550M-Plus Wi-Fi is your best bet. It has almost the same list of features found on the MSI models along with an equally good VRM. If you want something more affordable take a look at the MSI B450M Gaming Plus or the ASRock B450 Steel Legend. The only good X570 mATX board is the ASRock X570M Pro4. Just make sure to not pair it with anything more powerful than the 3700X.

Best Mini-ITX board for Ryzen CPUs

Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro Wi-Fi
SocketAM4
ChipsetAMD X570
Memory2 x DIMM, DDR4, max. 64 GB
Storage2 x M.2, 4 x SATA
Multi-GPU SupportNone
Expansion Slots1 x PCIe 4.0 x16
USB Ports2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 6 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 2 x USB 2.0
Wi-FiYes

There are some capable M-ITX boards for Ryzen CPUs out there. If you don’t care about having every feature and only care about quality VRM, check out the MSI B450I Gaming Plus AC. But if you want a wide array of features in a small package along with a nice design and a capable VRM you should get the Gigabyte X570 I Aorus Pro.

The board sports a pretty solid price (during regular times) for what it offers. It looks nice and packs wireless connectivity along with a dedicated M.2 slot for a Wi-Fi card, so you can replace it in the future for something faster. You also get two M.2 slots, which is always nice to see on a Mini-ITX board. If you want to build a PC housed inside a Mini-ITX case, this is the board to get.

Best Intel Motherboards For 10th Gen Intel CPUs

Best Intel CPU motherboard for most users

MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk
ChipsetIntel Z490
Memory4 × DDR4 DIMM, max. 128 GB
Storage2 × M.2, 6 × SATAIII
Multi GPU SupportAMD CrossFire
Expansion Slots2 × PCIe x16, 2 × PCIe x1
Back Panel Ports1 × PS/2
1 × DisplayPort
1 × HDMI
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2
4 × USB 3.2 Gen 1
2 × USB 2.0
1 × 2.5G LAN
1 × 1G LAN
1 × optical S/PDIF Out
5 × HD Audio Connectors
Wi-FiNo

The MSI MAG Z490 Tomahawk sports an excellent price and comes with an excellent VRM. It can handle any LGA 1200 CPU, even the overclocked i9 10900K. When it comes to other features, this board’s pretty capable.

You get dual gigabit LAN (1Gb + 2.5Gb LAN ports), multiple M.2 slots, lots of SATA ports. The board also has an excellent back panel filled with fast USB 3.2 ports and a pretty solid audio section. It also supports up to 4800MHz DDR4. The design is excellent. Minimalistic, with huge heatsinks that do their job pretty good and with just a bit RGB effects.

Alternatives include the GIGABYTE Z490 Gaming X, which is a cheaper option good enough for the 10600K and 10700K. Just don’t try mounting the 10900K without having top of the line airflow inside your case. A Wi-Fi alternative could be a slightly more expensive Z490 Gaming Edge from MSI. Those looking for form along with the function should check the Gigabyte Z490 Vision G. It’s not only pretty (seriously, this board looks amazing), it also packs excellent VRM and a nice set of features.

Those looking to push their CPUs to their limits should check more expensive models. The ASUS ROG Strix Z490-E Gaming is one of those boards. Superb VRM but also a nice set of features, such as Wi-Fi 6, packed rear panel, support for fast memory, lots of M.2, and PCIe x16 slots. It also has OC-focused features such as POST code, powerful passive cooling, troubleshooting LEDs, BIOS flashback, and more.

Next in line is the MSI Z490 Unify, another excellent board for overclocking the 10900K. Lots of features, excellent VRM, and a bit aggressive design. Finally, if you want the ultimate package, get the ROG Maximus XII Extreme from ASUS or the MEG Z490 Godlike from MSI. Just be ready to pay an insanely high price for these two boards.

Finally, the budget section features two solid models. The MSI Z490-A Pro and ASUS Prime Z490-P. They are cheaper than the Z490 Tomahawk but can run 10600K with all-out overclock or lightly overclocked 10900K without issues. Both boards have similar VRMs and features. Lightly populated rear panel with just a few fast USB ports. 2 M.2 slots with six SATA III ports along with 2.5Gb LAN on the MSI model and 1Gb LAN on the ASUS board, and a solid audio section. Their price is the same.

Best mATX Z490 motherboard

ASUS ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming Wi-Fi
ChipsetIntel Z490
Memory4 × DDR4 DIMM, max. 128 GB
Storage2 × M.2, 6 × SATAIII
Multi GPU SupportAMD CrossFire
Expansion Slots2 × PCIe x16, 1 × PCIe x1
Back Panel Ports1 × USB BIOS FlashBack
1 × DisplayPort
1 × HDMI
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 Type-C
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2
4 × USB 3.2 Gen 1
2 × USB 2.0
1 × 2.5G LAN
2 × SMA
1 × optical S/PDIF Out
5 × audio jacks
Wi-FiYes

The ASUS ROG Strix Z490-G Gaming is an excellent mATX board, packed with features and with an excellent VRM. And that isn’t seen quite often in the mATX board market. It also supports fast memory (up to 4800MHz DDR4) and comes with a Wi-Fi 6 chip, which is great. Read panel is teeming with ports. Lots of USB ports, excellent audio section, and 2.5 gigabit LAN are the highlights.

You also get two PCIe x16 slots, two M.2 slots, and six SATA III ports. Then there’s Wi-Fi 6 chip along with Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity. Finally, you get 2.5Gb LAN from Intel. The board has excellent design, with large but functional heatsinks, black PCB, and slick ROG branding on the rear panel armor. If you want an alternative, get this board but without the Wi-Fi functionality.

Best Mini-ITX Z490 board for most users

ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming
ChipsetIntel Z490
Memory2 × DDR4 DIMM, max. 64 GB
Storage2 × M.2, 4 × SATAIII
Multi GPU SupportNone
Expansion Slots1 × PCIe x16
Back Panel Ports1 × USB BIOS FlashBack
1 × DisplayPort
1 × HDMI
1 × USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
3 × USB 3.2 Gen 2
2 × USB 3.2 Gen 1
2 × USB 2.0
1 × 2.5G LAN
2 × SMA
3 × audio jacks
Wi-FiYes

The ASUS ROG Strix Z490-I Gaming is an excellent Mini-ITX board that comes with solid VRM and lots of features. You can pair it with the 10900K just make sure your airflow is good. As for what you get aside from solid VRM, the board supports memory up to 4800MHz DDR4 and packs 2 M.2 slots along with four SATA III ports. You get one PCIe x16 slot (the usual deal with ITX boards) and Intel’s 2.5Gb LAN, which is pretty nice.

The rear panel includes a solid number of fast USB ports along with one Type C port. The board has an excellent audio department and it also has a Wi-Fi 6 chip, which we always like to see. As for the alternatives, you can get the MSI Z490I Unify (when it comes out) or the GIGABYTE Z490I AORUS Ultra. Both boards have excellent feature sets, with the Gigabyte model having better-equipped rear I/O panel. Also, both the MSI and Gigabyte boards pack slightly better VRM units than the ASUS model.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do motherboards come with 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 really 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 to push your CPU to its absolute limit.

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Goran Damnjanovic
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran is Levvvel's senior hardware writer. He studied psychology but found that video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. Over the years he's developed expertise in everything gaming tech related.
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran Damnjanovic
Goran is Levvvel's senior hardware writer. He studied psychology but found that video games and PC hardware were much more interesting. Over the years he's developed expertise in everything gaming tech related.

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