When Intel released the Core i9 9900K a year ago, it took the market by storm with the prowess of 8 Cores and unprecedented clock speeds which easily eclipse its competitor, Ryzen 2700X. This wasn’t the first time Intel had a high core count, however, it was the first time this was happening in a consumer-grade processor.
With significant improvements over its predecessor 8700K such as stable 5GHz clock speeds over all cores and the soldered IHS to the dye which accords a superior temperature control sustaining at 80-degree Celsius even at overclocked speeds, the i9 9900K didn’t take long to find itself in some of the most demanding processors. However, i9 9900K is a very expensive processor. And after investing so much in this, who would want to have a motherboard that bottlenecks their processor and stops them from harnessing the mighty i9 9900K’s full potential?
Now, the million-dollar question arises. Which motherboard is truly worthy of pandering all the demands of the strongest processor in the world? All your questions will be answered by our blow-by-blow list of 5 best motherboards you must add in your shortlist for your dream system.
1. ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula
Our Rating: 9.7/10
- Aura Sync RGB lighting
- Reliable thermal control with a 8+4 phase VRM
- Temperature spikes stay within optimum range when overclocked
- Overtightened screwing at either of M.2 slots
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z390 | Graphics Output: HDMI/VGA | Audio: SupremeFX S1220 | Wireless: Intel® Wireless-AC 9560 Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac | Form Factor: ATX
One cannot simply overstate the firm hold of ASUS on the market when it comes to motherboards. This time they are set out to ignite their flamboyant spark in the Z390 chipset range with their ASUS ROG MAXIMUS Formula XI, the name alone makes you want to get a piece of this. And right out of the box, the Formula XI’s mirror chrome tubing or matte black colouring will radiate awesomeness and be the baddest boy in the room.
It comes with three PCIe slots and dual M.2 ports. Point of importance here is that one of the M.2 drive screws comes over-tightened from ASUS’s assembly line, so, make sure to loosen them carefully with proper screwing tools beforehand. Make sure to ground yourself while handling the board as it doesn’t come with an anti-static bag. Now let’s get to the critical aspect, the VRM. It has a magnificent 4 phase design using Vishay Silicon X 50A dual-stage MOSFETs. It showed a stellar performance at overclocked speeds by expending less power and drawing remarkable water and air overclock speeds.
It has 8 + 4 pins for adequate supply which should be more than sufficient for any overclocking needs. It is no overkill, but we’ve found that the 8+4 phase design is quite ideal. Moreover, it has a clear CMOS button and dual BIOS button respectively. Impressively, the thermal finesse of VRM allowed it to sustain optimum levels of heat in the range of 40-50 degrees Celsius at overclocked speeds with great power efficiencies. You want the temperature to stay within the 50-60 degrees Celsius range so that there is still enough tolerance for when the environment is hot. It features DDR4 memory clocks supporting up to 4400MHz.
Now let’s talk about its audio and cooling systems. It employs supreme FX audio solution which displayed amazing test results rooting from observations of frequency response curves. Proper noise suppression of the mics will play a substantive role for gamers, assisting them in hearing the voices of teammates with clarity. Of note, if you’re getting the motherboard for audio, make sure to keep the volume below 90 in the settings. It has 8 PWM fan headers which are easily configurable via Fan Xpert 4 or the UEFI BIOS. Each header can be set to monitor and react to three user-configurable thermal sensors, for workload based cooling.
Speaking of BIOS, ASUS has all the wanted features for overclocking, LLC levels, a well preset overclocks for memory and overclocking to 5GHz or higher. Of course, it has also implemented a power button and a Dr Debug LED light for LN2 overclockers. On top of these, all the ASUS-only features like Optimem 2 and Supreme FX only goes on to fuel the excellence of this board.
The ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula does not come cheap at all. But, if you truly want nothing short of the best, then you just can not go wrong with this board. The easy to navigate and understand BIOS, 8 PWM fan headers, the effective VRM design allowing it to help keep the temperatures to acceptable levels and much more. You can only harness the ASUS ROG Maximus XI Formula’s ultimate power if you know exactly what you’re looking for in the overclocking department. Therefore, if you don’t have a lot of bucks to spare then and are not really bothered with not having the best of the best, you should look into some cheaper options.
MSI MEG Z390 is the ultimate home for your new 9900K, this behemoth of a motherboard is the highway to the ultimate gaming experience. I mean, you only live once, so, the price should be no object for you when you are chasing your passion! With “Godlike” in its title, the MSI MEG Godlike Z390 had set itself up to very high standards especially with all the competition in the motherboard market. Plus, the MEG is among MSI’s most advanced lineup of motherboards so there’s that as well. But how good is this motherboard that we granted it the 2nd best rank in our lineup? Read on to find out.
It will remain a mystery as to why MSI didn’t add PLX chips to the board. We’ve got three onboard M.2 (NVMe, SATA and, PCIe supported) with a name, “Shield Frozer”. The secret behind this title is the newly introduced thermal pads on both sides of M.2. Furthermore, it has a Turbo U.2 SSD slot which truly is “godlike” with their tremendous transfer speeds. This board has a postcode, so that’s a solid plus. It supports two way SLI but you can run 4-way crossfire on this as crossfire is not hindered by the bandwidth. Furthermore, the board has a BIOS switch which means you can enjoy dual BIOS on it. If you break one, you still have the other BIOS to unbreak the first. There is a pack of many more useful OC functionalities at the bottom of the board.
The brightest spot you’ll notice on the motherboard is its array of 16 phase Vcore VRM, which is beefy enough to keep up with the 9th gen processors. This was crafted really efficiently by MSI and it boasts the level of performance which can actually be comparable to GPU VRMs. We all know how the GPU VRMs are much better than motherboard VRMs. Remarkably, it features a fine LN2 system for your extreme overclocking which comes into complete agreement with its VRM. There are four shielded DDR4 supported memory slots for which will support up to 64 GB and 4600 MHz when overclocked.
Do you turn your head away from overclocking because you find it too complicated? No worries, MSI has provided an overclocking dial/knob for you to adjust different settings in the BIOS enabling you to adjust overclocking speeds/performance levels (within safe perimeters) without having to go in there manually. When it comes to aesthetics, it looks drop-dead cool with its “mystic light infinity” having 16.8 million colours and 27 effects. You know the drill, connect an RGB or rainbow LED strips with addressable headers to create a radiating RGB gaming PC. Its cooling system isn’t falling behind either, it has 6 fans header, all stationed at the top which is a good thing, as it can give access to things like AIO coolers and fans.
This motherboard is of an e-ATX form factor, therefore you should look into your casing first before you decide to invest in this. With the MSI Godlike Z390’s Turbo U.2 SSD slots, additional PCI-E x16 slots and an amazing audio chip, it rounds up to be quite an amazing piece of board to have. Despite the price tag being a bit too high, this board’s amazing overclocking performance and LN2 cooling system should convince you of its prowess.
3. GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS Ultra
Our Rating: 9.1/10
- Very stable VRM
- Direct touch heat pipes on chipset
- Primitive BIOS
- Retention Clip of some PCI-E slots seem to have quality issues
- VRM Coil Whine
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z390 | Graphics Output: HDMI | Audio: ALC 1220-VB | Wireless: Intel CNVi 2x2 802.11ac | Form Factor: ATX
With all the heating up competition, GIGABYTE jumps into the fray as well. For the past few chipset generations, GIGABYTE seemed to be falling behind in the race for the best motherboards mainly due to their basic BIOS which was bodied by other manufacturers. This time around they took up arms to turn the tables around with their AORUS Z390 series with their emboldening VRM design of 12 plus phases. For this list, we chose the middle-of-the-road and most balanced board out of the series, Z390 AORUS Ultra.
It provides fins for its VRM heatsink and is the only board to do that. Moreover, it provides better thermal contact between the board and the backplate with thermal pads due to more surface area being in contact. This board has a high-quality VRM, 12 phase, 6 with doublers, and includes all the features of all the other boards. And if that’s not enough, real-world testing shows the best thermals, with a normal price-tag for the quality of the motherboard.
So, have GIGABYTE caught up? That would be a strong yes. Triple ultra-fast NVMe PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 with triple thermal guards are further enhancing the experience like never before. Also getting 2 Mb/s more on WiFi download speeds with 50 Mb/s connection speed by using the onboard antenna.
It uses a digital CPU power design which includes both digital PWM Controller and DrMOS. These 100% digital controller and additional 8+4 Solid-pin CPU power connectors offer incredible precision in delivering power to the motherboard’s most power-hungry and energy-sensitive components enabling the hungry enthusiasts to such as much power as they need for their 9900K. It provides proper compatibility to DDR4 at 4266MHz.
It has a dexterous audio system which aptly detects the impedance of your head-worn audio device and prevents issues such as low volume and distortion. In terms of cooling, it comes with Smart Fan which allows the users to interchange their fan headers to reflect different thermal sensors at different locations on the motherboard and gives users up-to-the-second details on flow rate and temperatures.
As far as the BIOS is concerned, Gigabyte’s UEFI BIOS UI. It looks outdated but quality control is great! Yet there is a significant room for improvement for the BIOS to actually be able to go toe-to-toe with BIOS of other boards on this list. Last but not least, the aesthetics have taken a significant u-turn with their new neutral looks with RGB lighting allowing the boar to blend into any type of system with its subtle yet appealing visuals.
The bottom line is, if you’re not avidly engaged in the BIOS configuration and have no major issues with the BIOS, then this board has so much more to give you in the form of, arguably, one of the best VRM systems in this list and, to top it off, a heartening investment from a price per performance standpoint.
4. ASRock Phantom Gaming 9
Our Rating: 8.7/10
- LAN ports with 2.5 Gbps interface
- Additional x1 PCIe Slots
- High price tag
- Temperatures can go a bit high
- High power consumption in overclocked mode
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z390 | Graphics Output: HDMI/DP | Audio: Realtek ALC1220 Audio Codec | Wireless: Intel 802.11ac WiFi Module | Form Factor: ATX
ASRock’s Fatal1ty range of boards is knocked out of the picture by their brand new Phantom Gaming series which has evoked some serious rumblings in the land of motherboards. ASRock has come a long way with their motherboards and this time around they’ve arrived at the scene with their Phantom 9 stationing a constellation of features which really outmatch MSI Godlike (the most expensive in our list) in terms of price to performance ratio. Performance and price-wise, it definitely cannot be looped under “cheap”.
It comes with three PCIe slots which support two-way SLI along with additional x1 PCIe slots to place longer graphics cards in them, so, that is a neat feature. It has two M.2 slots which are trimmed up to their NVMe only and does not support SATA, however, there are additional SATA compatible M.2 slots spread under the heat sink. It has a beefy VRM cooling system with 12 phases maintaining VRM temperatures of 67-degrees.
Furthermore, it is a powerhouse when it comes to harnessing graphics cards, it supports AMD Quad CrossFireX, 3-Way CrossFireX, CrossFireX, and NVIDIA Quad SLI, SLI technology. Moreover, it has high-tier memory support and DDR4-4200 is just a fraction of what’s possible.
The board also features an LED debug and offers a total of 6 (4-pin) fan headers. It is one of the only boards which has three LAN ports of 2.5 Gbps interface instead of conventional 1 Gbps Ethernet LAN switch on other boards at the time of launch among consumer-grade boards.
We performed various performance test on this board like 3D mark time spy test, 3D mark fire strike, Blender, Cinebench R15, Handbrake, etc and compared it with other Z390 boards. The results were a little concerning. At times, the temperature would go up to 70 degrees and the NVMe slots showed less than ideal read/write speeds. While the ASRock Phantom Gaming 9 is packed with a lot of features, the benchmark results were a little disappointing especially considering the price tag.
The complete feature set for this motherboard such as Realtek ALC1220 audio codec, a ton of USB 3.1 (Gen 1 / Gen 2) ports, dual M.2 ports and one with an M.2 heatsink is all a user would ever need. In a nutshell, ASRock wanted to land a motherboard with high-tier features and a reasonable price point in order to fill the empty slot for “ASRock’s exclusive gaming board”, and their aim has clearly hit the bull’s eye.
The ASRock Phantom Gaming 9 loses some marks in its overclocking and benchmarking results however, the extra features you get can be a plus for those that require them. Additional network interface cards (NICs), a plethora of connectivity ports and extensive SSD slots are a step in the right direction. However, it takes a few hits in the performance department so that leaves us with the ASRock Phantom Gaming 9 sort of being like a double-edged sword.
5. EVGA Z390 Dark
Our Rating: 8.5/10
- Heavy VRM design
- Overclocking-centric layout
- CMOS battery quality control issues
- High voltages in stock settings run it quite hot
- Lacks the RGB flair despite being so costly
Socket: 1151 | Chipset: Z390 | Graphics Output: 1x mDP | Audio: Creative Core3D Quad-Core Audio | Wireless: N/A | Form Factor: E-ATX
The Dark lineup of motherboards by EVGA has been in the vanguard of EVGA’s top motherboards. The Z390, holding true to its name, comes in black with slight gold accents here and there. However, its aesthetics are restricted to just that, a black PCB. EVGA had intended for the Z390 motherboard to be oriented towards performance rather than looks. Unfortunately, the Z390 Dark takes its fair share of hits despite being a very pricey motherboard.
EVGA’s classy looking black beauty means business when it comes to rich output and high-end overclocking. You’ll understand what we mean when you’ll take a look at the specifications comprising seven USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (five type-A, one type-C, one type-C header), two M.2 key-M 110 mm up to 32 Gbps and, lastly, three PCIe (16x,4x,16x). slots. Not to mention, its a boss when it comes to heavy lifting to cope with multi-cored 9th gen Intel processors. It has a very bulky 17 phase VRM cooled under a passive heat sink, which might be overkill for some, but you got what you need to bolster through any game on earth with. This board features a 24-pin power connector and an 8-pin CPU power connector beside it.
There are only two dual-channel DIMM slots on the board which can house up to 32GB of RAM running as high as 4600+ Mhz. The reasoning behind this is that for overclocking, a higher number of DIMM slots will put more stress on your memory control which will end up hindering your overclocking capacity. So you miss out on having 64 Gigs of RAM by having stable overclocked results.
well there is a fair reason behind this, for overclocking, higher of DIMM slots will put more stress on your memory control which will end up hindering your overclocking capacity. There are plenty of PWM fan headers on the board for you to dress it up with fans as much as your heart desires. To permit more sublime and passive cooling, it is designed to allow chassis air-current to pass over the board unimpeded over the CPU and memory, power connectors, and through the rear-panel heatsink. You can switch between three BIOS installed into the system each for overclocking, benching, and 24/7 use via a select switch, toggle between these and try out what’s best for you.
The glaring list of bells and whistles are far from ending yet, they have included many other useful features like PCIe disable switches, external BCLK/ clock generators, 150% higher gold content in CPU sockets, 10-layer PCB design, SW slow mode switch, Probeit connectors, Safe boot button and many more. Moreover, its audio set up consists of Creative Core3D Audio, it is a Creative 5.1 channel audio coming with output amplifiers available through the front panel header for stable audio power and quality for stereo headphones or speakers.
To conclude, it is a pretty good weapon of choice for overclocking enthusiasts seeking out highest of the highs. However, you can find much better performing if not same motherboards with almost half the price. Moreover, not only will you find the BIOS navigation a drag, you will need to change the stock settings as well. That’s because we found this board heating up even in stock settings and that certainly raises alarms. If it weren’t for the less than ideal design, it could easily be at a more greater rank in this roundup.
Appuals.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, and we get a commission on purchases made through our links.