AMDs Ryzen CPUs have taken on Intel, with the latest Zen 3 family of Ryzen chips that match Intel’s per-core, per-clock performance for less money, while offering more cores. However, choosing a motherboard for your Ryzen CPU can be daunting. So which is the best motherboard for your AMD Ryzen CPU?
The main reason this is so difficult is down to AMD’s commitment to a single CPU socket. Specifically, the AM4 CPU socket, which hosts all three generations of Ryzen CPUs. This does not include Threadripper professional CPUs. Despite being Zen-based, just like Ryzen, Threadripper CPUs have their separate socket.
Before we can look at which motherboards are the best option for your Ryzen CPU, there are some crucial aspects of AM4 socket compatibility that you need to know.
A note on chipset and CPU compatibility
All Ryzen CPUs use the AM4 socket and in theory you should be able to use any Ryzen CPU with any AM4 motherboard. In practice, however, the situation looks like this:
- The latest Zen 3 based Ryzen CPUs only work with 500 and select 400 series chipset motherboards. Anything older than that is out.
- Some motherboards require a firmware update before supporting the latest Ryzen CPUs. This creates a chicken-and-egg situation where you have to boot and update them with an older compatible Ryzen CPU. Although some motherboards now support BIOS updates without a CPU present.
There are currently eight chipsets and every current AMD AM4 socket motherboard will be equipped with one of them. Consider this table of Wikipedia†
As you can see, each chipset supports different PCIe, USB and memory speed standards. At the same time, specific Ryzen CPUs also have limited support in these categories. So if you’re using a CPU with faster memory support than the chipset it hosts, you’ll always get the slower of the two speeds. The reverse is also true, so whenever possible you should match a particular chipset to the capabilities of the CPU in question.
We are going to highlight several motherboards that are some of the best choices for each respective generation of Ryzen CPU, but there are some limitations. We won’t include Mini ITX motherboards, but instead limit the selection to regular Micro ATX and ATX motherboards, designed for medium and large desktop tower cases.
The Best Motherboards for Zen 1 & 2 Ryzen CPUs
Here we are going to highlight two motherboards that are best for Zen 1 and 2 Ryzen CPUs. Since the B450 and X470 chipsets are the latest chipsets to support Zen 1 and 2 Ryzen CPUs, we’ll focus on that.
The best budget choice: ASUS Prime B450M-A for $56
The Asus Prime is a lot of board for little money. It’s also one of those rare motherboards that support all three generations of Ryzen. Just make sure you have the latest firmware update. According to the official CPU support site, the B450M-A can even handle the mighty 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X. So if you’re only looking for a Ryzen 1 board for now, rest assured there’s plenty of upgrade headroom for the future.
But an entry-level motherboard like this doesn’t have the power delivery system to overclock high-end CPUs.
It’s best paired with more modest mainstream CPUs, but don’t shy away from a good CPU deal if you come across one. For its price, it’s complete with four RAM slots that support up to 64GB of memory, three PCIe slots, and six SATA 3 ports.
On the other hand, there’s only one M.2 slot and no USB-C, but the B450M-A Prime already offers a lot more than you’d expect at this price.
Yesterday’s flagship: ASUS ROG Crosshair VII Hero for $279.99
X470 motherboards are getting a little harder to find, but offer the best bang for your buck if you’re looking for a powerful system for gaming or other heavy workloads.
While the X570 has replaced the X470, the price difference is significant. For example, this ASUS ROG board is a full $100 cheaper than its X570 replacement.
this board supports up to the Ryzen 9 5950Xso it’s an excellent choice for Zen 3 CPUs, but it doesn’t have the latest features of the X570 chipset.
What you do get is support for up to 128GB of RAM, three full-length PCIe slots, support for Aura Sync RGB lighting, and tons of overclocking and fan control features. There are also two M.2 slots and numerous USB 3 ports and one USB-C port. Even for this relatively high price, this is a lot of board for the enthusiast on a budget.
The Best Motherboards for Zen 3 Ryzen CPUs
If you have the latest generation of Ryzen CPUs, you should first look at the latest generation chipsets like the B550 and X570 chipsets. It allows you to take full advantage of Zen 3 CPUs and cover both the mainstream and enthusiast segment of the market. Let’s take a look at a top example of each.
Middle-class monster: MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK Gaming Motherboard for $164.99
The advantage of the B550 chipset is that it offers PCIe 4.0 compatibility at reasonable prices. That matters, thanks to the new generation of PCIe 4.0 NVME SSDs, which promise blazing-fast 7GB/s and faster transfer speeds. It has the kind of performance we’ve seen in Playstation 5 console, but is only slowly coming to the PC market.
While there are cheaper B550 boards on offer, MSI’s Tomahawk strikes the perfect balance between performance and price in our opinion. If you only want an office computer, you can of course look for a cheaper model. But if you want everything Zen 3 can offer you, this is where the fun starts.
You get support for up to 128 GB 4866 MHz DDR 4, two M.2 slots, support for RGB lighting and extensive additional cooling functions. Unless money is no object, this might just be the ideal choice for Zen 3 gamers and power users alike.
Wallet-buster’s flagship: Gigabyte X570 AORUS Xtreme for $700(!)
Did the price tag on this Gigabyte board take the wind out of your sails? While some gaming boards have hit the $1000 mark in the past, this is still in the stratosphere of high-end gaming and performance motherboards.
We’ll say right off the bat that this motherboard is only for those Zen 3 users who want to run the top-end CPUs like the 5950X, especially if you’re going to overclock it to the limit.
The AORUS Xtreme offers a 16-phase voltage regulation design and advanced cooling technology. This ensures that if something goes wrong during overclocking, it’s not the motherboard itself.
A nice feature of this board is that you can flash the BIOS from a USB stick without booting the system. This means you can use the latest CPU generation without needing an older CPU to boot the system.
Other notable features include three M.2 slots with heatsinks, integrated WiFi 6, and up to 128GB DDR4 5100. The bottom line is that this is as good as it gets. So if the price doesn’t bother you, there’s no need to hesitate!