Intel’s recent launch of their 10th Gen Comet Lake CPUs has reinforced their place at the peak of the gaming CPU market and has even proved to compete admirably in workstation tasks down to the new Core-i5. While they won’t be able to hold out forever as developers learn how to build games that utilize the higher core and thread counts offered by Zen 2 (and beyond), single-threaded performance and clock speed still reign supreme for game performance. Here we arrive at the Core-i9 10900K, Intel’s new gaming CPU champion.
If you’re in the market for the best of the best in games performance, then look no further. Not only has Intel managed to provide marked improvements over the Core-i9 9900K from last-gen, but (while having 2 fewer cores and 4 fewer threads), they even trade blows in productivity benchmarks with the likes of the 12 core/24 thread Ryzen 9 3900X. Such excellent performance is mostly thanks to their new manufacturing techniques for their 14nm (+∞) process. By shrinking the height of the silicon, increasing the thickness of the IHS, and improving the quality of their materials overall, the K-Series Comet Lake CPUs all have impressive thermal performance. These improvements come at a cost, however, with the TDP for the 10900K quickly reaching 250W+ when unrestricted and overclocked. Thus, if you’ve decided to upgrade to the 10900K, you’re going to need to invest in some robust cooling; at minimum, a high-end dual-tower air cooler or 240mm+ AIO. If you’ve already got a beefy cooling solution, rest assured, the new LGA 1200 socket is compatible with all LGA 115X mounting hardware.
With the introduction of the LGA 1200 socket also comes the new Intel motherboard chipset; the Z490. That’s what we’ll be taking a look at today. Here are the 5 best motherboards you can buy to power your new 10900K!
Best Motherboards for 10900K – Our Recommendations
|Best Entry-Level Z490 for i9-10900K||MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge Wi-Fi||14 Phase (12+1+1)|
|Best Overall Z490 for i9-10900K||MSI MEG Z490 Unify||17 Phase (16+1)|
|Best High-Performance Z490 for i9-10900K||Asus ROG Maximus XII Apex||16 Phase (8+8)|
|Best mATX Z490 for i9-10900K||Asus ROG STRIX Z490-G Gaming (Wi-Fi)||14 Phase (12+2)|
|Best mini-ITX Z490 for i9-10900K||Asus ROG STRIX Z490-I Gaming||10 Phase (4+1 x2)|
Best Entry-Level Motherboard for i9-10900K
If you’re spending over $500 on a CPU, then you don’t want to skimp on your platform, period. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to empty your savings. The MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge Wi-Fi offers an incredible feature-set for the price: 14 Phase (12+1+1) VRM, Intel AX201 Bluetooth 5.1 + Wi-Fi 6, Realtek 2.5G LAN + ALC 1200-VD1 Audio CODEC, 2x M.2 slots, 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (1 is Type-C), an integrated I/O shield, and RGB. You can’t ask for much more from a motherboard at $200. With power delivery this excellent, you’ll have no trouble overclocking to get as much performance as you’d like out of your 10900K. The weakest aspect of the Z490 Gaming Edge is probably its USB support. Another option to consider, especially if you don’t need or care about integrated Wi-Fi support, is the Asus Prime Z490-A. At $230, you’re trading integrated wireless for 2 more USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports, Intel 2.5G LAN, Realtek ALC S1220A Audio CODEC, and Asus’s superior UEFI BIOS interface + proprietary motherboard software. Whichever option you have the budget for, you can’t go wrong either way.
Best Overall Motherboard for i9-10900K
Here we have arguably the most impressive motherboard of the bunch: the MSI MEG Z490 Unify. MSI is providing flagship performance and features at a much lower price than you would expect: $300 flat. Sporting a best-in-class 17 Phase (16+1) VRM, 2x 8-Pin EPS power connections, integrated Intel AX201 Bluetooth 5.1 + Wi-Fi 6, Realtek 2.5G LAN + ALC 1220 Audio CODEC, 3x M.2 slots, 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (1 is Type-C), onboard power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons, and an integrated I/O shield. The Z490 Unify is a bit jaw-dropping and is hands-down the absolute best pick for most people looking to crush performance benchmarks with the 10900K in games and productivity.
Additionally, we have to compliment the overall construction and design of the Unify, as the sleek blacked-out aesthetic is sure to look fantastic in any system!
Best High-Performance Motherboard for i9-10900K
The winner of this category should come as no surprise. The Asus Maximus XII Apex continues its streak from our motherboard roundups for the 10th Gen Core-i5 and Core-i7 as our choice for the best high-performance Z490. Long live the king. While there are arguments to be made for picking up the Apex with its little brothers, this board truly belongs with the Core-i9. The laundry list of extreme overclocking features alone proves that there is no better option on the market for experienced tweakers and prospective newbies alike.
The Apex’s extreme overclocking features include: a teamed 16 Phase (8+8) VRM, 2x 8-Pin EPS power connections, POST code readout, boot status LED indicators, onboard power, reset, safe boot, and clear CMOS buttons, a toggle to enable LN2 features in the BIOS, condensation detection circuitry, a CPU ratio reduction switch, a pause switch for tweaks mid-benchmark, integrated voltage measurement points, a switch to force all connected fans to their max RPM, and a BIOS switch! With the Apex, your tool belt is nearly full before you ever even touch an Ohmmeter or tube of liquid metal.
In terms of practical features, the Apex is no slouch, either. The Apex also offers integrated Intel AX201 Bluetooth 5.1 + Wi-Fi 6, Intel 2.5G LAN, SupremeFX S1220A Audio CODEC, 4x M.2 slots (1 is DIMM.2 with included riser), 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 5x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (1 is Type-C), 5x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an integrated I/O shield, and RGB. The only potential drawback is the limited memory support due to the inclusion of the DIMM.2 slot, which restricts you to 2x DIMM slots and 64Gb of total system memory, but this seems a worthy sacrifice in the name of speed.
Note: cooling and component selection are critical here. You’ll want to ensure you’re looking at the absolute best CPU coolers and memory kits with the highest speed + lowest latency possible. Good luck in 3DMark!
Best mATX Motherboard for i9-10900K
The mATX form factor is best considered by those looking to build pure gaming rigs. You essentially sacrifice some fan headers and expansion slots for roughly the same overall feature-set of full-sized ATX motherboards, only much more compact. When it comes to the Z490 chipset, your best bet is the Asus ROG STRIX Z490-G Gaming (Wi-Fi). Packaged on the Z490-G: integrated Intel AX201 Bluetooth 5.1 + Wi-Fi 6, Intel 2.5G LAN, SupremeFX S1220A Audio CODEC, 2x M.2 slots, 6x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (1 is Type-C), 4x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an integrated I/O shield, and, you guessed it, RGB. When you’ve got the best Intel gaming CPU, you’re going to want the best mATX board to go with it.
If you happen to be looking for a snazzy compact enclosure, check out our guide to the best mATX cases available!
Best mini-ITX Motherboard for i9-10900K
Now, if you want to get absolutely minuscule and still have enough power for the 10900K? We suggest you pick up the Asus ROG STRIX Z490-I Gaming. There aren’t many mini-ITX Z490 options to choose from in the first place, but Asus has a lot of the strongest features here, as well as arguably the best BIOS from all of the major manufacturers. Power delivery on the STRIX Z490-I comes in the form of a teamed 10 Phase (4+1 x2) VRM, which is only slightly worse in thermal performance compared to something like the direct 9 Phase (8+1) VRM on the Gigabyte Z490I Aorus Ultra. It also seems the trade for slightly worse VRM thermals was a much better automatic VCore, and a better internal layout with the addition of a separate PCB module to get your 2nd M.2 drive off of the back of the board like with most other mini-ITXs. Included with the STRIX Z490-I: integrated Intel AX201 Bluetooth 5.1 + Wi-Fi 6, Intel 2.5G LAN, SupremeFX S1220A Audio CODEC, 2x M.2 slots, 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports, 4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports (1 is Type-C), 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an integrated I/O shield, and you won’t believe it… RGB.
This little thing is stunning. Coming in at $300, we have another instance of insane price-to-performance considering how fully-featured the STRIX Z490-I is, especially given the competition in the mini-ITX Z490 market. If you plan on building a high-performance SFF gaming PC with the 10900K, you really can’t go wrong here. Also, be sure to check out our guide to the best mini-ITX cases that accommodate a full-sized GPU!
The Core-i9 10900K may seem unattainable for many users, but those fortunate enough to afford it (or those willing to save) are looking at the top of the proverbial mountain. The 10900K is the ideal gaming CPU. You may not like it, but this is what peak FPS performance looks like… Although it is also what only slightly above average productivity performance looks like.
Best Entry-Level: MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Edge Wi-Fi – A very reasonably priced option to still push high overclocks on the 10900K. Though it slightly lacks in terms of rear I/O, BIOS, and proprietary software compared to the Asus Prime Z490-A, so if you don’t require integrated wireless support, pick that up instead for an additional $30.
Best Overall: MSI MEG Z490 Unify – The motherboard that has the least wordy model name and the best overall feature-set of this bunch. It seriously is the most extraordinary value here and is guaranteed to look awesome in any rig with its super sleek blacked-out design.
Best High-Performance: Asus Maximus XII Apex – Long live the king of extreme overclocking, which gives the Unify a run for its money in terms of value. The Apex has a mind-blowing list of specific extreme overclocking features on top of some excellent practical features also found on other flagship models.
Best mATX: Asus ROG STRIX Z490-G Gaming (Wi-Fi) – If you’re looking to build a more compact machine specifically for gaming that can still handle the 10900K, look no further. The STRIX has excellent power delivery and a well-rounded feature-set overall.
Best mini-ITX: Asus ROG STRIX Z490-I Gaming – An absolute feature powerhouse of a mini-ITX platform that is capable of superb overclocking results with the 10900K in an SFF system. It’s a tough crowd in the ITX Z490 market, but this will make a beautiful home for your new i9.