Gaming PC's - Do motherboards really matter?

My PC is slowly dying so I need a new one. I understand for the most part the impact of CPU’s, RAM and GPU’s but motherboards are mystery. I’ve googled and opinions seem to be all over the place though most of what I have read seems to say that any performance increase is marginal between “normal” motherboards and the high end ones. I’m looking at a Digital Storm and two potential motherboards:

Asus Prime Z590-P
Asus Maximus XIII Hero

The latter is about $390 more. Is it worth it? I play mix of strategy games like Civ/Xcom and RPG/FPS like Fallout, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex and Cyberpunk 2070. Any insight would be appreciated.

Those aren’t the same chipset. Did you mean Maximus XIII hero?

I’ve bought pricey motherboards before, but 500 dollars is bonkers.

Yes, sorry, corrected original. I’m guessing your answer is “no”? :)

PS, they had another one that was $893 more expensive but that was never on the table :)

My build earlier this year was a ROG Strix B550-I, which many people would consider extravagant at $230

If I were building, I might want some things that Prime board doesn’t have, like bios flashback. That may not matter to you.

I guess my big question is, why Z590 chipset? Do they offer any B550 options? Would you be losing anything important by going that route? I have to think it would be more economical.

But the direct answer is: that seems like an awful lot extra to me. If there’s something you just have to have, perhaps there’s an easier way to get it. But I like Asus boards a lot and think any of them is likely to do the job just fine. There’s no need to go premium simply to get a good product, if that’s the concern.

IMO, from building my own ‘gaming’ PC’s for 25 years, paying a premium for the really expensive motherboards is a complete waste of money - or rather, money better spent on another aspect of your build (better CPU/GPU, more memory, etc). By all means shop for the features you need/want, but there is no point paying more than necessary for them, presuming you are sticking to a reputable brand you trust.

The only caveat I will add to that is I never bother with overclocking. If that’s your bag, I’ll defer to someone else’s experience.

Caveat 2 - if you’re an audiophile and need analogue out from your mobo, there are probably advantages to more expensive options with better onboard options. Though if you’re an audiophile, I’d suggest, again, that money is better spent on a decent external USB DAC of some sort, for which there are plenty of options without breaking the bank. If your routing your audio out digitally, it really doesn’t matter.

That’s their baseline motherboard for the PC model I’m looking at.

Thanks for the other info.

Thanks for the advice, no overclocking, no audiophile, just gaming :)

Isn’t B550 a chipset for AMD, and Z590 for Intel?

Yeah, duh, sorry.

Motherboards matter for non-overclocked PCs, but not THAT much. Connectivity, expansion options and cooling will vary. Also, driver and BIOS support can make a difference, and will vary from one manufacturer to another (and sometimes between models). If someone was overclocking and had some money to burn, that’s where the motherboard becomes significantly more important.

I just built a new PC, probably the 6th one in the last 20 years. I’m very much of the mind that most premium PC equipment is a waste unless you’re overclocking, want water cooling, or enjoy having your forum sig show the world just how big your membrum virile is.

That doesn’t stop me from agonizing over the various models and sub-models of MBs, memory sticks, GPU and even the case. From experience, this all goes away about a minute after booting it up.

Motherboards don’t really matter for performance, but they do for featuresets. If you want a great onboard audio codec (you don’t, get USB speakers), or extra M.2 ports, or SATA ports, etc. On the intel side some chipsets can’t overclock.

The features matter. How many USB ports your computer have. Does have 1 G vs 2.5G versus 10G versus dual 10G network cards. Does it have Wifi? How many PCIE slots and how fast is each slot. Can you use 3 NVME SSDs at full speed? At the high end features like Thunderbolt show up, which is the kind of thing you probably know if you need it.

Audio quality varies a lot for sure, and I do spend a bit extra for it myself after having USB audio stability issues that made me wish my onboard stuff had been better.

VRM quality matters only for very beefy processors like a 5900x or a 5950x. Memory trace quality matters if you want to overclock very fast ram, or if you want to use 64G and especially 128G of memory at more than 2400 mhz.

Generally there’s not much reason to spend more than about $220 on a motherboard even for a 5950x. And for less than that about $150. The only reason I can really think you might spend 300+ is if you have to have SLI support, or if the system is going to cost $3,000 anyway so why not get a nicer motherboard.

I also tend to pay a premium for any parts that are the most work to replace. Motherboard and CPU, mainly. It’s just not fun to have one of those fail or need to be returned.

My main concern for my recent MB was having one ship with a BIOS that supported newer processors - 5x00s. Other than that I wanted a second m2 slot so if I need to add to the existing 1TB m2 drive, I can just slot another one in someday. I even remembered to put the current one on the back of the MB, so I can get any new one in without pain :)

Not necessary, AMD motherboards all come with BIOS flashback these days so you can update even without a CPU.

True, though flashback is only easy once you’ve done it at least once.

No, high-end mobos aren’t required. I got like the cheapest, most barebone x570 ASUS board a couple years ago, and it’s served me well.

It sort helped that I already had a Soundblaster Z so I could avoid the crummy onboard audio (at the low-end you get a higher risk for interference due to all the cheap components), but I’ve got 64GB of DDR4 and NVMe drives plugged in.

A higher board might help with overclocking, but the thing with Ryzen is that they are really difficult to overclock because AMD is already pushing each core to the limit.

I’m a hobbyist builder of my own systems, and I always try to get a little more than I need right now, within the overall budget of the system, and with the thought that my primary computer will last me about 5-6 years with only a video card update (or 2) in that period.

My current system (built within the last month) has an Asus ROG Strix Z590-E Gaming WiFi mobo. It wasn’t top-of-the-line, but it has a load of features that, even if I don’t need/use them right now, are ‘nice to have’.

My advice: never go top-of-the-line/priciest models of mobos unless you have the money to burn. My mobo sits somewhere in the middle of those two that you mention, and perhaps that’s the sweet spot for what you need, too. Too bad that those are your choices, as you’re really paying a premium to jump up from the Prime.