EXPERT INSIGHT & TRUSTED REVIEWS

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!).