Motherboards have a vast price range, not only for gaming PCs using Z-series chipsets but also for the various B and H processors. The prices can be hundreds of dollars apart based on your shortlisted brands and specific motherboards. So, are expensive motherboards worth it?
Expensive motherboards are worth it if you need advanced features like multi-GPU support, maximum overclocking, better thermal design, more efficient power usage, etc. Premium motherboards can make PCs more customizable, durable, and upgradeable.
That said, whether or not expensive motherboards are worth it will depend on your computing or gaming requirements. A reasonably priced motherboard may be adequate if you don’t need fancy features. The following in-depth analysis should help you make an informed decision.
Why Expensive Motherboards Are Worth It
Generally, a costlier motherboard will have better specs and more features than an inexpensive one.
Aside from the extra quality that comes with premium motherboards, people pay more for motherboards because of the use cases they are dealing with. For example, if you have an unlocked processor, you will likely want to get a Z-series motherboard, irrespective of the brand and price.
Below are some of the reasons that make expensive motherboards worth the extra cost.
Expensive Motherboards Enable the Use of Multi-GPU Builds
While all contemporary motherboards support both integrated graphics and a GPU, inexpensive motherboards don’t have multi-GPU compatibility, which lowers their gaming utility. Many gamers use Nvidia’s SLI (Scalable Link Interface) and AMD’s CrossFire, features that only work with an expensive motherboard.
Consider this example of the MSI Pro H610M-G DDR4 Motherboard. It has the following graphics capabilities:
- A maximum resolution of 4K at 60 Hz through its only HDMI 2.1 with HDR port.
- A maximum resolution of 4K at 60 Hz through its only DisplayPort 1.4 port.
- A maximum 2048 x 1536 resolution at 50 Hz through its sole VGA port.
The price of the Pro H610M-G is not even a quarter of the MSI MEG Z590 ACE Motherboard, which is expensive but supports both SLI and CrossFire:
If you want to use either SLI or CrossFire, or both, you need an expensive motherboard for gaming with advanced features, perhaps one in the following MSI series:
Now, let me compare this MSI MEG Z590 ACE with a similar gaming motherboard of a different brand. The Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4 is an ATX motherboard with an LGA 1200 socket, exactly like the MSI MEG ACE. But the Asrock motherboard’s multi-GPU support isn’t the same.
The Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4 supports the following:
- AMD Quad-GPU CrossFire Technology
- 2-Way AMD CrossFire Technology
The Asrock Phantom Gaming 4 doesn’t support Nvidia’s SLI, so it is a lot cheaper than the MSI MEG Z590 ACE. The Asrock’s price is at times less than a third of the MSI. In addition to SLI support, the higher price of the MEG ACE comes with additional advanced features.
Premium Motherboards Optimize Memory or RAM Overclocking
The MSI MEG Z590 ACE motherboard can facilitate the following overclocking frequencies for your PC’s random access memory (RAM):
- Max speed of 5600 MHz with 1DPC 1R
- Max speed of 4800+ MHz with 1DPC 2R
- Max speed of 4400+ MHz with 2DPC 1R
- Max speed of 4000+ MHz with 2DPC 2R
Now consider the MSI MPG Z590 Gaming Plus motherboard, which costs around half the price of the MEG ACE and serves similar PCs or builds as the MEG ACE with the following features:
- ATX form factor and LGA 1200 socket
- Intel Z590 chipset for 10th or 11th Gen processors
- 4x DDR4 memory slots with up to 128 GB support
Compared to the more expensive MEG ACE, the MSI MPG Gaming Plus motherboard’s overclocking frequencies max out at lower speeds:
- Max speed of 5333 MHz with 1DPC 1R
- Max speed of 4700+ MHz with 1DPC 2R
While expensive motherboards generally give you more overclocking flexibility, there are factors other than price that come into play. For example, if your build uses the Intel Z690 chipset, you need DDR5 RAM to unleash its full potential. And since DDR5 motherboard variants are costlier than DDR4, you’ll spend more.
Consider the example of the MSI MPG Z690 Edge Wi-Fi DDR5. Costlier than the MPG Z690 EDGE Wi-Fi DDR4, the DDR5 variant has the following overclocking frequencies:
- Max speed of 6400+ MHz with 1DPC 1R
- Max speed of 6000+ MHz with 1DPC 2R
- Max speed of 6000+ MHz with 2DPC 1R
- Max speed of 5600+ MHz with 2DPC 2R
If you can spend a bit more for a DDR5 motherboard, you will get even faster speeds with a PC using the Intel Z690 chipset.
This DDR5 variant, the MSI MPG Z690 Carbon Wi-Fi for gaming, has a maximum overclocking frequency or speed of 6666+ MHz with 1DPC 1R.
The more expensive MSI MPG Z790 Carbon Wi-Fi delivers even greater speeds, such as the following:
- Max speed of 7600+ MHz with 1DPC 2R
- Max speed of 6600+ MHz with 1DPC 2R
- Max speed of 6400+ MHz with 2DPC 1R
- Max speed of 5600+ MHz with 2DPC 2R
So, if you have an Intel Z790 chipset, you should consider getting the compatible Carbon Wi-Fi motherboard to unleash the true power of such a build. But the decisive factor will probably be whether you need such overclocking speeds for your computing or gaming requirements.
The other important factor is individual preference. Some gamers don’t always feel a significant difference between slightly higher and lower overclocking frequencies. Hence, a substantially more expensive motherboard may not be worthwhile for everyone.
High-End Motherboards’ VRMs May Have More Power Phases
All motherboards have a voltage regulator module (VRM). Generally, a motherboard VRM has a few typical components, such as the following:
- Drivers or doublers
- Mosfets (high and low)
- Phases and controllers
The VRMs of entry-level motherboards have fewer phases and are typically less efficient. Any high-end motherboard is likely to have a better VRM owing to one or more of the following specifications:
- Better chokes
- Digital controllers
- Solid capacitors
As a result, the VRM in an expensive motherboard ensures steady power and uniform distribution as per the requirements of the following PC components:
Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable motherboards use all-solid capacitors in their VRMs, which makes them expensive but also affords the user greater reliability. Another example of high-end motherboards is the MEG Z590 ACE, which uses titanium chokes and has 16 + 2 + 1 phases.
Traditionally, the VRMs in motherboards have offered fewer phase options, like the following:
- 4 + 1
- 6 + 2
- 8 + 2
The first set of phases, i.e., 4, 6, 8, etc is set aside for the CPU. The second set of phases is traditionally set aside for the RAM, i.e., 1, 2, etc. In the case of MSI’s MEG Z590 ACE, there are 16 phases for the CPU and 2 for the RAM. Plus, there is 1 phase for the GPU or its PCI slot.
These additional phases have worthwhile benefits, especially if you are building a high-performance gaming PC:
- A larger number of phases is more effective at regulating the power supply to different parts of a CPU, which allows better support for dynamic power requirements.
- Better voltage regulation leads to consistent and steady power while maintaining utmost efficiency.
- Dedicating a phase in the VRM for the GPU or multiple graphics processors makes your build more reliable, especially when the system is under enormous stress.
- Smart voltage regulator modules (VRMs) improve energy efficiency and significantly help with cooling or heat management, subject to the other motherboard and PC attributes.
Expensive Motherboards Have Faster USB Ports and More Slots
Generally, many essential features of motherboards are directly proportional to their price tags, including but not limited to the following:
- Expansion slots
- M.2 slots
- USB ports
The relatively affordable Gigabyte Z590 UD AC Motherboard has the following expansion slots:
- 1 PCI Express (PCIe) x16 slot, running at x16
- 1 PCIe x16 slot, running at x4
- 2 PCIe x1 slots
A bit costlier, the Asrock Z590 Phantom Gaming 4 has more expansion slots:
- 1 PCIe x16 slot at x16
- 1 PCIe x16 slot at x4
- 3 PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
The more expensive MSI MEG Z590 ACE is the best among these three with the following slots:
- 1 PCIe x16 slot, running at x16
- 1 PCIe x16 slot, running at x8
- 1 PCIe x16 slot, running at x4
- 2 PCIe 3.0 x1 slots
MSI’s ACE has 4 M.2 slots, whereas Gigabyte’s UD has 3. Likewise, expensive motherboards typically have faster and more USB ports, including but not limited to the following:
- USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
- USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type C
- USB 3.2 Gen 1
- USB 2.0
You might find as many as half a dozen more USB ports in expensive motherboards compared to the cheaper ones for the same chipsets and processors. Also, the costliest motherboards in any configuration are usually the first to include the most advanced connectors and ports.
High-Performance Motherboards Facilitate Excellent Cooling
High-performance processors and other PC components tend to overheat and require more effective and efficient cooling, which you can achieve conveniently with an expensive board.
The MSI MEG Z590 ACE gaming motherboard has the following features:
- All aluminum designs, including the backplate and cover
- Dedicated thermal pads for chokes and other critical parts
- Enlarged heatsink for the chipset to prevent overheating
- Heat pipe design and heavy plated heat sink for the VRM
- M.2 Frozr shield for better cooling of these crucial sockets
Most expensive motherboards are made of thicker PCBs with more space for the circuits to mitigate or entirely prevent electrical interference, which can easily cause overheating.
Heatsinks on costly motherboards are also likely to be larger than on cheaper motherboards and have a better fin design for faster cooling.
Furthermore, expensive motherboards have more fan connectors than cheaper variants. MSI’s MEG Z590 ACE has the following:
- 1 4-pin CPU fan connector
- 1 4-pin water-pump fan connector
- 6 4-pin connectors for system fans
This means you can use more coolers and fans, including:
- A CPU cooler
- A front system fan
- A rear system fan
- A top system fan
- A waterblock cooler
Expensive Motherboards Can Be More Durable and Reliable
Expensive motherboards are designed and built to endure enormous stress. Consider any VRM using solid capacitors. These can last 6 times as long as liquid capacitors. Liquid capacitors are, in any case, unsuitable for high-performance computing or stressed gaming systems.
The efficient power management of the smart VRMs found in expensive motherboards reduces the stress on a PC’s key components, especially the CPU. Thus, your build will probably be more durable and reliable than a PC with a cheaper motherboard.
While one can never be certain about the longevity of electric components, everything used in a premium motherboard, from the chokes to MOSFETs, is likely to outlast the components on cheaper boards.
Premium Motherboards Have More User-Configurable Options
Expensive motherboards can be worth it solely for the gamut of configurable options if you need such liberty. For instance, you can change the PL1 and PL2 limits using the BIOS setup of most costly boards.
Many premium motherboards also have a few special features, like the following:
- Dual BIOS
- Reinforced slots
- More headers
- More I/O ports
- Audio amplifier
- Better diagnostics
- Latest Bluetooth
- Latest Wi-Fi standard
The high-end specs of expensive motherboards make them compatible with advanced games and demanding software applications. The interactive lags that come with most of the cheaper motherboards can make an expensive one necessary.
Advanced Motherboards Are More Compatible With Upgrades
Expensive motherboards make hardware upgrades a lot easier. Suppose you have a processor that can work with both DDR4 and DDR5 RAM. If you buy a DDR4 motherboard, upgrading to a DDR5 system is a non-starter unless you get a compatible board.
Something as simple as adding another system fan requires your motherboard to have a spare connector. If you consider every such upgradeability factor, advanced motherboards are almost the default option. Any motherboard built to spec is unlikely to become obsolete in the near future.
Why Expensive Motherboards May Not Be Worth It
Expensive motherboards are not worth it if you don’t need advanced features. You may not be into overclocking or running demanding applications and games. Also, you might not require the superfast ports or as many connectors as you will get in a premium motherboard.
Suppose you don’t need a motherboard with USB Type C, or you are not a gamer who uses Nvidia’s SLI and AMD’s CrossFire. The costlier motherboards are not worthwhile if you aren’t going to make good use of at least a few features.
Should you decide to buy an expensive motherboard, compare two or more options with almost identical or similar specs. Suppose a barely different spec or its implication for performance isn’t noticeable while using your PC. In such a case, a cheaper motherboard may save you hundreds.