EXPERT INSIGHT & TRUSTED REVIEWS

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The 12 Best Motherboard CPU Combos of 2020

Deciding what order to buy your gaming PC parts in is hard.

One of the worst offenders is choosing which CPU & motherboard you should pair.

With countless variations, the whole process is unnecessarily confusing.

Which is why we’ve collated the best CPU motherboard combinations available for all different sizes, purposes & budgets.

This is a long feature – we recommend scrolling to the headings you’re actually interested in instead of reading it top-to-bottom.

 Table of Contents
 

AMD vs Intel CPUs/Motherboards

No feature on this topic would be complete without a say on the “is AMD better than Intel?” battle.

We’ll keep it short as there’s already a lot of good info on this topic.

For this generation of CPUs, both flagship models from each manufacturer give great performance for gaming and other build purposes.

But if looking at the numerous benchmarks available for games/production for both brands with price in mind: AMD tends to have an edge.

Many of the current-gen Intel CPUs are fantastic.

But on average, you’re usually paying a little more for the performance you can get from the AMD alternative.

A lot of credit is given to Intel for its integrated graphics processors on many of their CPUs.

But really, we find this a borderline moot point.

Anybody seriously building for gaming/production/streaming is going to want a standalone graphics card.

For motherboards, the AMD versions tend to be cheaper also (with the exception of Mini-ITX).

Short answer: We’d push you towards an AMD build to get the highest value CPU motherboard combos.

But we do understand some people are just more comfortable with Intel.

Don’t fret – know that the Intel motherboard combos we’ve recommended below are still great for their respective price-points.

With that said, let’s get into it:

Overall Best AMD Motherboard CPU Combo:

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X with ASUS ROG Strix B450-F

To start off our list, we’ve chosen what we think is the best gaming CPU motherboard combo available for an “all-round”/mid-range build.

The AMD Ryzen 7 3700X is a fantastic accomplishment in CPU engineering.

Offering 8 threads and 16 cores with a max frequency of 4.4GHZ, this AMD processor packs an incredible punch for its competitive price.

Its utility will hit the sweet spot for what most gamers need.

You have a great basis here for a powerful gaming build that will accompany some intensive GPUs (including multi-crossfire builds).

Tied with some decent VGA hardware, this CPU is more than capable of running a 1440p/4k gaming PC.

The included stock cooler also performs decently and looks great with its color-controllable LED lighting.

Outside of games, the 3700x is very capable of general multi-purpose PC tasks (benchmarking well in tasks across the board, not just gaming fps tests).

Meaning it’s a great CPU for streaming, video editing, production, and more.

If this is the budget you have for a processor, we really can’t recommend it more.

The ASUS ROG Strix B450-F is a popular motherboard for a reason.

With its ATX form factor and B450 chipset, the ASUS mobo has pretty much everything we expect a majority of gamers to need.

You’ve got:

  • 3 PCI-e slots for a multi-GPU build (or integrated sound/network cards as required)
  • 4 x DDR4 RAM slots
  • Dual NVMe M.2 storage options
  • Great onboard sound
  • Gorgeous RGB lighting and 2 headers for a great RGB build.
  • Stylish and well-equipped I/O panel

It’s a great motherboard for overclocking, with lots of good onboard features as well as a great, user-friendly BIOs.

For the price, we really think the Strix B450-F hits the sweet spot between offering features without reaching “diminishing returns”.

If we had to choose one CPU/motherboard combo to recommend for the majority of gamer computers (and other production needs), this is it.

Overall Best Intel Motherboard CPU Combo:

Intel Core i7-9700K with MSI Z390-A PRO

Our top Intel picks are also a great hardware pairing.

They perform a tad better but cost a fair chunk more as we discuss below.

The i7-9700K is, with performance-per-$ in mind, the best Intel CPU for gaming today.

The processor packs 8 cores/threads and the very impressive capability to overclock up to 4.9Ghz.

It performs excellently across gaming tests and tied with a good GPU (or 3), will grant you excellent performance for games and other tasks.

Certainly more than capable of being the basis of a powerful 1440p/4k gaming build.

i7-9700K vs Ryzen 7 3700X

These frontline CPUs have faced off in loads of benchmarking tests.

The short answer?

They come out very close.

The i7-9700K performs slightly better in most gaming FPS tests, but not enough to be decisive.

The Ryzen 3700X tends to perform marginally better at other computational tasks (anything from unzipping files, to compression, to multi-tasking).

Because of this, we would certainly recommend the R3700X if you’re interested in also building a PC for streaming, video editing, and/or production work.

Now, you may think that makes the Intel CPU the best choice for gaming.

We’d agree if you happen to see them at the same price.

But nearly always, the 3700X (and accompanying motherboard) work out significantly cheaper.

That saved budget would be much better spent on buying a more expensive GPU, the AMD CPU will still be able to work with a very intensive VGA demand.

The MSI Z390-A PRO is one of the best value Intel motherboards on the market.

An ATX form factor mobo, it has excellent overclocking facilities (with some nice bells and whistles like an extended onboard heatsink).

The main features include:

  • 2 x PCI-e ports (1 with reinforcement to reduce GPU sag, though don’t read into this as a huge deal)
  • 4 x DDR4 / DIMM slots
  • NVMe support
  • Good onboard sound
  • I/O panel that includes USB 3.1 type C output

You’ll note it has 1 less PCI-e port than our top AMD offering.

While this would be a nice addition, we doubt many of you looking at a mid-range build will require more than 2 (if you do and want to stick to Intel, check out our high-end pick below).

It has everything you’d expect in a decent mid-range Z390 motherboard and works great alongside the 9700K.

Best Budget AMD Motherboard CPU Combo:

AMD Ryzen 5 3600 With ASUS TUF B450M-Plus Gaming

As far as cheap AMD CPUs/motherboards go, the below pair is the best value combo for gaming.

You can go cheaper, but these next AMD/Intel combos are the lowest we’d recommend for most gamer needs.

If however you just want a PC for general use/light gaming, see our “cheapest” picks further below.

The Ryzen 5 3600, as far as cheap gaming processors go, is our favorite.

Providing great performance for a 1080p/1440p gaming build, you’re still able to run some decent graphics hardware alongside this CPU.

Offering an impressive 6 cores, 12 threads, and max 4.2 GHz, it’s got an impressive spec for a budget processor.

The included Wraith Stealth cooler is not the best on the market but will get the job done for a budget gaming build if you don’t want to buy standalone.

You still have enough power in this processor to stream and perform other intensive tasks (respecting that they, of course, won’t be quite as fast as the more expensive builds).

Overall what you get for the price in this CPU is fantastic.

If it’s as far as your budget can stretch, you’re still going to be able to create a great PC for gaming.

The Asus TUF B450M-Plus Gaming is a great cheap AMD motherboard option that still offers everything you need for most games.

It’s a Micro ATX form factor, which is more cost-effective than their ATX counterparts (including cheaper cases).

The board includes:

On top of it still having reasonable overclocking capability, features like NVMe M.2 / RGB inclusions are really impressive for the low price point.

You’ll likely just be buying 1 GPU for a budget gaming build, but it’s nice to have the option to expand with the second PCI-e slot later on.

Overall, this cheap CPU motherboard combo still has everything you need to play the latest games at reasonable settings.

Best Budget Intel Motherboard CPU Combo:

Intel Core i5-9400F With Asus Prime Z370-P II

Our budget Intel combo is also worth your consideration, especially if they happen to be cheaper/on a deal whenever you’re browsing.

Note: it seems that manufacturers are fading out the Z370 chipset motherboards. 

We’ve included the best value one below but if made unavailable, your best bet will be to tie the i5-9400F with our best overall motherboard: The MSI Z390-A PRO

If you’re looking for a cheap Intel gaming CPU, The Core i5-9400F is the best option.

We’re specifically recommending the non-graphics integrated version because even in a budget gaming build, you want a standalone card.

With a clock speed of up to 4.1GHZ and 6 cores/threads, this Intel offering still packs a punch and can be paired with a decent GPU.

i5-9400F vs Ryzen 5 3600

At the time of writing this, the two budget CPU options are around the same price.

Originally the Ryzen 5 3600 was a more “premium” option, and it shows in the benchmarks.

The card tends to perform 10-20% better across the board, from games to general PC tasks.

If the Intel option happens to be significantly lower price at the time you’re looking, then, by all means, go for it.

But if the prices are what we expect, then the 3600 is the best value CPU for gaming available.

But the 9400-F will still get a lot done in a production/gaming/streaming build should you want to stick to Intel.

The Asus Prime Z370-P II is the best cheap gaming Intel motherboard available on the market today.

It may soon be discontinued as manufacturers move towards focussing on the Z390 chipset.

If you can’t get this motherboard, go for the MSI Z390-A PRO.

This ASUS offering is an ATX motherboard. It’s great that it retains the good value at this form factor, offering:

  • 2 x PCI-e slots
  • 4 x DIMM/DDR4 RAM slots
  • Dual NVMe M.2 Storage option

It won’t have as many bells and whistles as our mid-range picks (RGB headers, reduced overclocking facilities, no USB 3.1 type C, etc).

But as far as the utility you need from a budget gaming build?  This Asus motherboard has everything you need.

Cheapest AMD Motherboard CPU Combo:

AMD Ryzen 3 3200G With Asus Prime B450M-A

Let’s be clear:

If you’re serious about building a gaming PC, or one capable of decent production/streaming output, then the budget picks above should be the minimum.

That being said…

What if you’re happy with a PC that’s just for lightweight gaming (e.g. Fortnite on fairly low settings/older games) and general web browsing/Netflix etc?

We’ve included the cheapest CPU motherboard combos we’d recommend if this fits what you’re after.

For its low price point, the AMD Ryzen 3 3200G manages to pack an impressive amount and is the cheapest AMD CPU for gaming we’d recommend.

Still packing 4 cores/threads, max frequency of 4.0GHZ, and an included wraith stealth cooler (enough for a cheap setup).

With your budget in mind, AMD has included integrated graphics into this CPU.

But know for games, the performance will be pretty poor, you’d be playing games on low at best.

Therefore even if your budget is tight, try to stretch to a standalone card.

That being said, don’t be put off if you can’t afford some of the better picks on this list.

You can still play plenty of great modern games with this AM4 CPU when combined with a fair GPU (just not at crazy settings/resolutions!).

The Asus Prime B450M-A is definitely the cheapest AM4 motherboard we’d recommend.

At its Micro ATX form factor, you’re getting:

  • 1 x PCI-e slot
  • 4 x DDR4 compatible outputs
  • Surprisingly, an RGB header should you ever need
  • An NVMe M.2 storage option

As far as overclocking goes, you’ll be limited on this board.

But in a budget build, you’ll not want to spend lots on cooling anyway.

Put simply: this mobo and CPU combo is excellent for someone looking at the minimum for supporting a gaming PC.

Cheapest Intel Motherboard CPU Combo:

Intel Core i3-9100F With MSI H310M PRO-M2 Plus

When considering i3-9100F vs Ryzen 3 3200G, the performance in this category is actually quite comparable.

So if you’re looking for the cheapest Intel CPU motherboard combo, rest assured that this option is as good as AMD’s offering.

With that said, if you don’t have a brand allegiance, we’d recommend you just pick whichever of the two pairs happens to be cheaper at the time you’re looking.

The Intel Core i3-9100F is as cheap as you can get for an Intel gaming CPU.

With similar specs to the AMD offering, you’re looking at 4 cores/threads and clocks up to 4.2GHZ.

A basic cooler is included (all you’d want for a very low budget PC).

Integrated graphics are not included, but as always, you want to fork out for a standalone card if you’re interested in gaming anyway.

One of the cheapest Coffee Lake CPUs available, this offering isn’t really designed for gaming as you can expect from the price.

But if you’re happy with lower settings on less demanding games (or just want a PC for general purposes) this can still manage your needs just fine.

The MSI H310M PRO-M2 Plus, to put it simply, is the cheapest Coffee Lake motherboard that won’t bottleneck a basic gaming build.

Another mATX mobo (as expected for the budget), you have:

  • 1 x PCI-e slot
  • 2 x DDR4 compatible outputs
  • NVMe M.2 support
  • Acceptable onboard sound

Of course, at this very cheap price point, you’re not getting much more than the minimum.

But really in a budget build, you only need 1 PCI-e slot and 2 x RAM slots anyway.

Coming in at an exceptionally low price-point, this Intel CPU motherboard combo is perfect for anyone who really needs to make every $ count.

Best High-End AMD Motherboard CPU combo:

AMD Ryzen 9 3900X With Asus Prime X570-Pro

If price is not a concern, the next pair is the best CPU motherboard combination on the list.

Of course, at these prices, this is for a very powerful gaming build or someone after a high-end production/video editing/streaming PC.

For the average gaming PC, you’ll do well with the top picks above.

But if you’re more interested in power than budget, keep reading!

The AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is an incredible piece of hardware.

With a monstrous 12 cores, 24 threads, and overclockable up to 4.6GHZ, despite its high price-point, it still somehow manages to feel impressively valuable with all this included.

The processor will be more than capable of running a high-intensity multi-GPU build.

As far as gaming goes, provided you have the high-end VGAs to match, you can consider yourself future-proofed, 

This Ryzen 9 CPU will be capable of working alongside top-end graphics cards to act as a 4k gaming PC (with decent settings/fps to boot).

This AMD offering also performs excellently across benchmarks for pretty much all other major computational task tests.

Meaning its a perfect CPU for production, video editing, and the best streaming processors for absolute top quality/multi-tasking.

The processor also comes with a good quality LED cooler, good for the basis of an RGB build.

This cooler won’t compete with standalone heatsinks or CPU water coolers (that we expect most high-end builders to go for) but it’s a nice inclusion nonetheless.

It’s hard not to rave about the 3900X and its superb feature set, it’s one of the best CPUs for overclocking and if you’re looking for a top-quality gaming build, start here.

Ryzen 9 3900X vs 3950X

Some of you may be wondering why we chose the 3900x over its more powerful brother for our top-end pick.

With an additional 8 threads and higher overclocking potential, the 3950X is indisputably better.

But for around 50% extra cost, there are pretty huge diminishing returns.

If you also need your build to be state of the art for production purposes or want to ensure you can max out games like RDR 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 (when it comes out) at a very high resolution/FPS, then definitely go for the 3950X.

But otherwise, even for your high-demand gaming needs, we think the 3900X will match what you need (spend the delta on better GPUs).

The Asus Prime X570-Pro Ryzen 3 is one of the best AM4 motherboards available today.

With the X570 chipset, you’ll have access to not only the best processor power draw around today (to max out that expensive CPU), but also PCI-e 4.0.

The main utility here is for GPUs and NVMe storage performing at faster speeds.

This is great for top-end builds, and while you may not see the full capability of PCI-e 4.0 for another few years, it means you’re investing in a future-proof motherboard.

In terms of other features, oh boy, the list is plentiful and we won’t cover it all in the summary, but for the highlights:

  • ATX form factor with 3 x PCI-e slots
  • 4 x DDR4 slots
  • Dual NVMe M.2 support
  • Fantastic onboard sound (Realtek 8.1 S1220A)
  • Beautiful onboard RGB lighting, 2 addressable headers, and 1 standard RGB header, perfect for an RGB build.
  • Numerous other onboard BIOs features for overclocking & optimization

Yes, the board is expensive.

But for enthusiasts, the quality of life features you get for overclocking amongst all the points mentioned above really make it a gem.

You can go a lot more expensive with motherboards, but we’d say this is the sweet spot even for the most avid of power builders.

If we had to pick just one: this is the best gaming motherboard CPU combo we’d recommend in the entire list.

Best High-End Intel Motherboard CPU combo:

Intel Core i9-9900K With MSI MEG Z390 ACE

Our most expensive Intel CPU motherboard combo is a worthy competitor to AMD’s offering.

The Intel Core i9-9900K is one of the most popular CPUs of the current generation, and for good reasons!

With 8 cores, 16 threads, and up to 5.0GHZ clock speed, you can get amazing speeds out of this processor for a gaming computer.

As far as other tasks go, the CPU always perform excellently, benchmarking very well for the needs of a production or streaming PC

i9-9900K vs Ryzen 9 3900X

A battle of titans.

Both of these are amazing CPUs for gaming.

With that said, in all the benchmarking done for these 2, there is a slight edge to 3900X.

That is across lots of different factors, from gaming to various general PC task tests.

It isn’t completely unanimous, with the i9 recording some slightly better fps peaks in some 1080p tests.

But it’s clear that the Ryzen CPU tends to take the victory if we had to choose.

We also like that the AMD CPU comes with PCI-e express support, which future-proofs your next gaming setup when combined with our recommended motherboard.

If however, when you were browsing, the i9 CPU motherboard combo was >10% cheaper, it would likely be worth the savings as they are still close in performance.

One final thing to bear in mind: the 3900X includes a nice LED RGB cooler and the 9900K doesn’t include even a basic stock cooler.

Though we expect most of you will be going for a standalone option anyway.

Intel i9 9900K vs Intel 10900x
If you keep up with PC news, you’ll know the 10900x is the “new guy” in town.

The CPU is currently very hard to get hold of and quite pricey.

Although the architecture behind it is very impressive (as you’d expect from the next-gen comet lake CPUs), in real-world performance terms, it’s a tad underwhelming.

Benchmarks vs existing CPUs show only marginal improvements.

Even for enthusiast builds, we would stick with the 9900 or comparable AMD offerings for the time being.

The MSI MEG Z390 ACE is one of the best Z390 motherboards around if your wallet is thick.

Let’s start with the design.

We don’t often focus on style for motherboards…

But tied with a nice visible PC case, the Z390 AC will look fantastic with its slick RGB lighting and steel fixtures (on PCI-e slots, etc).

It’s an ATX motherboard which like our top AM4 motherboard, has too many features to list.

Including:

  • 3 x PCI-e slots
  • 4 x DDR4 slots
  • 3 x M.2 support (with 1 x integrated M.2 heatsink)
  • Very good integrated sound (Realtek 8.1 S1220A)
  • Excellent rear I/O panel including a USB type C port.
  • Also (rather uncommonly) includes potential inputs for 2 x USB type C ports for the front I/ O panel
  • Beautiful onboard RGB lighting and addressable headers for an RGB build.
  • Locks of overclocking utility within the BIOs/onboard heatsinks

If you’re looking for an Intel gaming motherboard CPU combo in the era of Coffee Lake/Z390 and you have the money, this is the pair you want.

Best Micro ATX AMD Motherboard CPU Combo:

AMD Ryzen 7 3700X With ASUS Prime B450M-A

For those of you looking for a Micro ATX AMD Gaming PC we’ve combined our best gaming CPU pick from the top of this list with a great, affordable mATX motherboard.

We’ve already been over the AMD Ryzen 7 3700X at the top of our list (where it belongs).

It has returned because it’s easily the best Ryzen CPU for gaming when considering a “mid-range” user.

The 3700X is a great choice for an mATX CPU Motherboard combo too because you’re still going to be looking for good processor power in a mini-tower gaming PC.

With its 8 cores / 16 threads, it will be very effective for single/dual GPU setup (2 is the most you’ll do with a Micro ATX mobo).

What else is there to say that we haven’t already?

This is the best value gaming CPU on the market today. If it fits into your budget, pick it up.

The Asus Prime B450M-A has an impressively dense feature-set for its mATX form factor and low price.

You’ll be getting:

  • 1 x PCI-e slots
  • 4 x DDR4 RAM slots
  • NVMe support

And solid onboard features/BIOs to enable customization/good performance.

We’ve recommended a board with 1 x PCI-e slots as imagine many of you looking at building a Micro ATX gamer computer will be focussing on single-GPU builds.

If you want a crossfire gaming PC (or the potential for one later), you can fork out more on the Gigabyte B450M DS3H (still compatible with the Ryzen 3700X).

You’ll note that there are some cheaper 2 x PCI-e AMD mobos floating around.

But some other features you lose out on (limited SATA availability/other power draw concerns around the board) are not worth it unless you’re sticking to a very cheap build.

Overall, this motherboard, combined with the most popular AMD gaming CPU on the market will make your setup a powerhouse when combined with a good GFX card.