Do you want the best Lga 1151 socket motherboard?
Or the best Z170 chipset motherboard for overclocking your CPU?
Then you must know that with the release of Intel 6th/7th generation Intel processors like Core i3 6100, i5 6600k/7600k and others the future proofing of PC now can be done easily. These processors are worth your money and deliver rock solid performance. Apart from getting the best gaming graphics card for your build, you shouldn’t be ignoring the motherboards totally as they have the power to unlock your components potential.
Now the Intel Skylake/Kabylake processors can be used only in Intel LGA 1151 socket motherboards and fortunately there are plenty of motherboards right there in the market for all budgets. If you build a Skylake/Kabylake gaming PC, you can get these motherboards as cheap as under $100 or for more than $300.
Depending upon your needs and budget you can buy any one of the motherboards listed below and you will be able to build your PC even if you are on a tight budget. With these motherboards, you will have to upgrade your memory from ddr3 to ddr4 as they don’t support ddr3 memories but it’s an advantage actually as ddr4 memories are faster and require less power i.e., 1.25V as compared to 1.5V that is ddr3 memories standard power consumption.
Understanding the Chipsets first(Important before you go forward)
Before proceeding to the list, I want to clear the basic concept of the Chipsets of Intel LGA 1151 motherboards. You will find a total of 9 chipsets namely: H110, B150, B250, Q150, H170, H270, Q170, Z170 and Z270.
Each chipset has a different specification and different features. The first 7 chipsets as mentioned above are limited to overclocking. It means you cannot overclock your processor and memory much even if you have an unlocked processor. Only the Z170/Z270 chipset has this feature.
Z170/Z270 chipset motherboards are the way to go when you are building a high end or at least a mid-end PC on which you can use an overclockable CPU like Core i5 7600K or Core i7 7700K. Buying other chipsets will not help much. The other chipsets are good with processors like Core i3 6100, core i5 6500 etc.
The features of each chipset are also different. The H110 chipset motherboards are very basic motherboards good for low budget builds as they have only a few ports and slots for components. They have a maximum of 2 Dimm slots and a maximum of 6/4 USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports respectively.
Moving to chipsets like B150/B250, Q150, H170/H270 and Q170, you will get more USB 2.0/USB 3.0 and Sata ports. The Dimm slots and PCI slots also increase in number. Motherboards with chipsets B150, Q150 and Q170 are useful for business and security purposes and those with H and Z are good for basic and gaming computers.
Only the Z170/Z270 chipset motherboards have the maximum amount of USB 3.0, SATA 3 ports and PCI-E slots used for graphics cards, sound and wifi cards. But they too are present in different price ranges depending upon your needs. The motherboard with 4 PCI-E x 16 slots will cost more than the motherboard has only 2. And further goes the same concept when it comes to features like durability, capacitors, cooling etc.
Gigabyte Micro ATX H110M-S2H GSM
For budget builds, this motherboard with chipset h110 is the cheapest of all and has 2 DIMM slots that support up to 32Gb of memory. This is very basic and you will get only one PCI-E x 16 slots for the graphics card, a few USB ports and 4 SATA ports. But what features it has will make you buy it for the price it’s offered.
First of all, when we see the memory compatibility we see that it can support ddr4 memories clocked up to 2133Mhz, which is the starting point for ddr4 memories. So don’t go for highly clocked memories. Well, 2133Mhz ram is all you want for gaming and its frequency won’t increase the fps.
As this is a very cheap motherboard, it’s perfect for a gaming build that will cost you $400-$600 in total. However, if you want to build a gaming rig or even a simple workstation build, you can combine it with an i7 6700 non-K CPU.
When we see what’s present on this board, there isn’t a lot available. There is a single 4 pin system fan port for powering a single rear/front case fan and only the CPU fan port for powering the CPU cooler fan to start. There is no extra port for powering radiator fans. It means you are also limited to air cooling but not to forget that it’s the cheapest motherboard for the SKYLAKE platform and also supports all the processors from Pentium to i7’s.
But there are several other good things we find in it. This motherboard can support 8 pin CPU power connector which is a great deal for overclocking some unlocked processors by supplying more power. Sure the overclocking will be limited on the unlocked processors too but at least you will be able to take some advantage. As compared to the equivalent Haswell motherboards like MSI H81M p33, this feature really makes it good for building even high-end pcs.
The second good feature is the presence of two USB front header ports and a single USB 3.0 front header port at the middle right side of the motherboard. The second USB header can come in handy any time and the USB 3.0 header port is a good feature which you can use if you have a case that has front panel USB 3.0 ports.
Overall the motherboard is small and has all the basic features you would need in order to build a budget gaming PC that will not empty your pocket.
Specs and Features:-
- CPU: LGA1151; Chipset: Intel H110 Express
- Memory: 2x DDR4-2133 DIMM Slots, Dual Channel, ECC, Non-ECC, Unbuffered, Max Capacity of 32GB
- Slots: 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slot, 2x PCI-Express 2.0 x1 Slots
- SATA: 4x SATA3 Ports
- Ports: 4x USB 3.0/2.0 Ports (2 rear, 2 via header), 8x USB 2.0/1.1 Ports (4 rear, 4 via headers), 1 x PS/2 Mouse Port, 1x PS/2 Keyboard Port, 1x VGA Port, 1x DVI-D Port, 1x HDMI Port, 1x RJ45 LAN Port, Audio I/O Jacks
- Form Factor: MicroATX
Gigabyte ATX GA-Z170XP-SLI
Going above 80 dollars, you will either find motherboards with chipset H170 or Z170. As I have not included the B170 and the Q170 motherboards because they are not made solely for gaming, I will only consider the H and the Z chipsets. Now after searching for H170 chipset motherboards, I found only 1-2 motherboards that cost $80 or less having the same or even some lesser features than the Gigabyte H110M motherboard stated above which made me exclude them totally from this list.
Of course, the H170 chipset motherboards have a greater capability of overclocking processors but if you can get a Z170 chipset motherboard for the same price with better specs, then there is no reason I see to buy an H170 motherboard.
Now for above 100 dollars, you can easily find several Z170 motherboards which have pretty good features But for a few more bucks this motherboard namely Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI is really a good deal. Along with having the features of a simple Z170 motherboard it has three PCIE X 16 slots for graphics cards that support up to 2 way Nvidia SLI and up to 3 way AMD CrossfireX.
If you buy a motherboard like ASRock Z170 PRO4S which is lower in price, you are also limited to only 2 Way AMD CrossfireX with NO SLI compatibility. So having a good eye here is very important to choose a better motherboard.
On this motherboard, you can do a lot of overclocking and you should buy unlocked i5 or i7 processors only. The best processors will be i5 6600K and i7 6700K if you want to take full advantage of the overclocking. The motherboard has an eight pin CPU power port on the top left side which will allow you to draw power up to 91 watts. But to use that much power and to overclock your processor up to 4.5Ghz or more, you must use a liquid CPU cooler which fortunately this motherboard supports as it has a total of 3 system fan ports.
Looking at the motherboard we see a lot of PCI Express slots, PCI-X 1 slots and PCIE X 16 slots which increase the components compatibility drastically when compared to a simple Micro ATX motherboard like the Gigabyte H110M. You can use these slots for sound cards, wifi cards as well as SSD’s which will remove the bottlenecks completely and work at several times faster speed than a traditional SATA SSD.
Along with these PCIe slots, the motherboard comes with SATA Express ports which are a better interface than standard SATA 3.0 and provide faster speeds for SSD’s although there isn’t any SSD compatible to it right now based on my research. But if you want to gain more bandwidth and faster speed than the SATA 3.0 interface, then, fortunately, there is one M.2 connector present right below the CPU socket.
The Sata 3.0 ports, as well as the SATA Express ports, are placed at 90 degrees to make an easier connection. But be sure to use an enough wide case to route the cables through the grommets. This will eliminate the bend of the cables and the build will look cleaner.
There are some more good features like presence of USB 3.1 port and all the three basic output display ports like HDMI, VGA and DVI but to make the description short I want to end up right here concluding it to be one of the best budget Z170 chipset motherboard present on the market.
Specs and Features:-
- CPU: Support for Intel Core i7 processors/Intel Core i5 processors/Intel Core i3 processors/Intel Pentium processors/Intel Celeron processors in the LGA1151 package
- Memory: 4x DDR4, Dual Channel, Non-ECC, Max Capacity of 64GB
- Slots: 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots, 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x8, 1x PCI-Express 3.0 x4, 2x PCI-Express 3.0 x1, 2x PCI Slots
- SATA: 6x SATA3 Ports
- USB: 1 USB 3.1 (A+C) ports; 7 USB 3.0 ports; 6 USB 2.0 ports
- Onboard Graphics: 1 x D-Sub port,1 x DVI-D port, 1 x HDMI port
- ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 22.5cm
Z270 Alternative: Gigabyte LGA1151 GA-Z270XP-SLI: Check Price on Amazon
ASUS Z170-A ATX
If you ask me about which brand makes the best motherboards, then the answer will be ASUS. Let me elaborate the features of this motherboard which separates it from the Gigabyte GA-Z170XP-SLI. Along with the features like overclocking and two-way Nvidia SLI, this motherboard has several onboard features such as a two-phase U switch which helps you overclocking your cpu without going into bios.
Or you can simple open the AI Suite 3 utility software when the windows boots up completely from the taskbar. The process is very simple. You choose how many cores you want to overclock, increase the slider and click apply. Without any further delay, the selected number of cores will be overclocked according to the capacity of the processor to be overclocked at a fixed voltage. This is very easy but you have to save a profile if you don’t want to do it every time when the windows start.
The other great thing about this motherboard is the presence of several system fans port. There are around 4 system fan ports as well as two extra ports, one for Radiator fans and one for a pump. So, it’s fully compatible with an AIO cooler or a custom liquid loop. Combining all these facilities, it is the best motherboard for your system’s cooling also.
I wanted to buy it myself but due to the unavailability of this motherboard in India, I had to go with different motherboard. This one not only looks great but will match any coloured themed build especially a white/black themed build perfectly.
But if you look for the USB 3.0 front header port, there is only one port present at the right middle. Gigabyte GA-Z170XP SLI has two but it only comes in use very often. At the bottom of the motherboard below the last PCIE X 16 slot, there is an onboard power switch provided for easy troubleshooting.
The motherboard also has two M.2 slots for SSD as compared to the one present in the Gigabyte GA-Z170XP SLI and a Display port is also included at the I/O. For only $15-$20 more you are getting some more premium features. That’s why Asus is considered as the best maker of motherboards.
Specs and Features:-
- 4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133(O.C.) MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
- Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology, Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
- Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology, Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
- 1 x SATA Express port, , Compatible with 2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s ports, 6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
- 5-Way Optimisation: One click to optimise your entire system; plus a dedicated onboard water-pump header
Z270 Alternative: ASUS PRIME Z270-A: Check Price on Amazon
ASUS ROG MAXIMUS VIII HERO Z170 ATX
This is an enthusiast high-end motherboard that supports ddr4 memories overclocked up to a massive 3733Ghz. It is made up of good quality materials especially the capacitors which are NexFET MOSFET 10K Black Metallic capacitors for more reliability. This is completely a premium one and close to a no compromise motherboard.
The cooling and all round energy efficiency of this motherboard is kinda great when compared to the previous ones. All the features like multi-GPU support and several USB 3.0 ports are available. The motherboard is provided with supSupreme technology for the best headphone sound quality.
But one thing that really blew me is the presence of “8” Sata 3.0 ports. That’s several SATA ports out of which 4 SaSATAorts can be used for Sata Express connections. You can store tons of data through connecting a lot of hard drives or SSD’s in this one. Not only there are a lot of Sata ports but there are 3 M.2 NVME SSD slotsbelow the Sata express ports. The location of all the storage device connectors are at one place, so you can manage all the SSD’s or Hard drives at one place.
The heatsink and the presentation of this motherboard is far better than any of the previous motherboards including a RGB LED lit Asus ROG logo. The heatsink at the top covers the cpu power port and the Cpu fan, Radiator fans, Water pump power ports also which will give a neater look to the build.
For cooling it’s definitely having several fan connectors including the 6(2+4) pin connector just above the PCIE X 1 slot and a fan extension header at the right bottom for adding more custom fans to your case. And yes all of these can be controlled using softwares and bios. So you literally have unlimited options for cooling from simple 120/140mm fans to custom water loop.
At the bottom of the case we see there is one more button provided for reset which is very important if you want to troubleshoot it out of your case as Power button can only either start your system or switch it off completely. At it’s right side there is CLR_CMOS button which makes troubleshooting even more easy. You can just Clear Up your custom set up Bios if your system doesn’t show any display after some bios tweaks. There is no need to touch the the two CMOS pins with jumper to reset it and you are good to go again.
Taking a look at the Bios, it’s the best Bios I have ever used. It’s not easy first time if you never used Asus Bios. But there are a ton options to tweak everything from easy XMP overclocking to Fan Xpert for defining your preferred fans speed. You can also create your own custom fan profile for all of your fans and cpu fans if you wish. I myself used it for a while but then you can’t use the AI Suite 3 utility’s pre-defined fan profiles. And if you do, you will lose your fan graph which you set up in the bios. But there are 4 profiles:- Silent, Standard, Turbo and Full speed depending upon what you want to do.
There are a couple of more features on this board, but I listed the most important ones for you to easily understand it’s functionality and why you should buy it.
Specs and Features:-
- LGA1151 socket for 6th-gen Intel® Core™ desktop processors.
- Dual DDR4 3733 (OC) support.
- Best gaming performance – 5-Way Optimisation with Auto-Tuning, 2nd-generation T-Topology and OC design
- Best gaming audio – reinvented SupremeFX 2015 with intuitive Sonic Studio II.
- Best gaming networking – best-in-class Intel® Gigabit Ethernet, LANGuard and GameFirst technology.
- Best gaming protection – carefully-selected premium components to ensure maximum durability.
- ROG gives you more – more gaming-oriented utilities, all free!
Z270 Alternative: ASUS ROG STRIX Z270E GAMING: Check Price on Amazon
MSI Enthusiastic Gaming Intel Z170A Xpower titanium Edition
This one is badass. I know looking at it the first time will make you fall in love with it. The silver colour looks so gorgeous and covers the whole PCB with some black accents on heatsinks and slots. It’s an enthusiast motherboard and has overwhelming additional features for easy operation. Although you will not gain fps boost in games there are some easy overclocking operations present in it.
First of all the motherboards supports 2 Way Nvidia SLI and 4 Way Amd CrossfireX. It also supports Quad Nvidia SLI and Quad Amd CrossfireX. Nonetheless, the quad SLI is not worth the money, So the multi-gpu support is just like a Normal Z170 Chipset motherboard.
However MSI tried to make it as attractive as possible by not only making it whole silver/black but also putting some XMP LED circuit lines between the memory slots and the cpu socket. These lines glow Red in colour and tell you how much the memory has been overclocked and if it’s stable or not. It’s just for beautifying the motherboard and not really a “Real” and Practical feature.
The practical feature is however present considering the overclocking section this motherboard provides you. At the right bottom of the motherboard, there are power/reset buttons and the RED dial is for Overclocking. Just turn it clockwise for required overclocking. Along with this basic feature the motherboard also has a OC dashboard which you can see at the right top corner, can be used for advanced overclocking. It includes different buttons like Easy button 3, Direct OC, Multi-bios II, V-check points 2 for decreasing clock speeds, overclocking, switching bios, monitoring and maintaining stable clock speeds.
For powering CPU it features 8+2 pin power ports that is more than enough for powering even an i7 6700K where you just need 4+4 pin power connectors for overclocking. But that’s only an additional thing. Now for SSD it has two Sata Express and a total of 4 M.2 slots: 2 in front of the first PCIE X 1 slot and 2 in the front of the third PCIE X 1 slot. But adding a NVME SSD will be difficult after you install a graphics card. You will need to remove the gpu before installing these NAND SSD’s. It would have been easy if like the previous motherboards, these M.2 Slots are placed somewhere near the Sata slots.
Consider this motherboard if you are building a gaming pc or a workstation for $1500 or more. Otherwise you can buy it anyway to add a more attractive look to your pc.
Specs and Features:-
- LGA1151, Supports 6th Generation Intel Core Trade i7/ i5/ i3/ Pentium/ Celeron Processors
- Chipset: Intel Z170 Express
- Memory: 4x DDR4-3600(OC)/ 3200(OC)/ 3000(OC)/ 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400/ 2133 MHz DIMM Slots, Dual Channel, ECC, Unbuffered, Max Capacity of 64GB
- Slots: 4x PCI-Express 3.0 x16 Slots (run at x16/x0/x0/x4 or x8/x0/x8/x4 or x8/x4/x4/x4), 3x PCI-Express 3.0 x1 Slots
- Multi-Graphics: Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX and NVIDIA 2-Way SLI Technology
- SATA: 8x SATA3 Ports, Support RAID 0, 1, 5, 10; 2x SATA Express Ports (PCI-Express 3.0 x2)
- Audio: Realtek ALC1150 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC, Supports S/PDIF Output