Some seasoned PC builders don’t have to put much thought into the type of motherboard they need in their latest build. But for the rest of us, choosing a motherboard can be one of the most frustrating experiences when building or updating our PC. You could end up buying a board with features that you will never use, or purchase a board that simply isn’t compatible with the processor you are using. One of the most important rules when it comes to PC building is- never choose the motherboard first. In fact, you choose the motherboard based on the type of processor you plan to use, how much RAM you need, and the number of graphics cards you will run.
Unlike the motherboards from 2 decades ago where you actually had to worry about your motherboard bus speed being too slow for the CPU or RAM, nowadays everything is usually standardized, and a lot of the memory and storage controls have been shifted from the mainboard to within the CPU itself.
So does that mean you should just buy the cheapest possible motherboard that is compatible with your CPU, and instead spend the money you saved on the graphics card and RAM? Not exactly, since a motherboard determines how upgradeable your system is and how much you can expand the storage and memory in the future. Cheaper motherboards usually don’t support overclocking- a feature that headlines Intel processors such as the i7 7700k and 8700k. If you are buying an Intel “k” type processor and pair it with a motherboard that uses a “B” or “H” chipset, you can’t overclock the CPU and that just means you wasted money and potential performance. Only “Z” series chipsets support overclocking so make sure to buy Z270 motherboards for the i7 7700k and Z370 boards for the i7 8700k. Why can’t you just use the same board for both processors? The answer to that question is in our FAQ section.
Without further ado, here are our contenders for best gaming motherboard for i7 8700k or for i7 7700k.
They called it the Apex for a reason. It packs all the connectivity and overclocking features a gamer could ever need, and has customizable RGB lighting. With AURA SYNC, you can connect all your RGB fans and pumps with the motherboard and synchronize the lighting.
If you want an amazing overclocking motherboard for a relatively affordable price- get the AORUS Gaming 7 from Gigabyte. And prepare to be greeted by a miniature lightshow within your computer case when you power on the system, and all the RGB LEDs come to life.
Whether you are familiar with the ASUS ROG brand or not, you are surely going to be impressed by the tough looks and catchy name of this motherboard. And the price tag too, that tells you this is no ordinary gaming motherboard. If you plan to build the ultimate Core i7 8700k gaming machine, this motherboard needs to be on your parts list.
Don’t want to spend over 300 dollars just on the motherboard? Well no problem, get the MSI Z270 Gaming Plus and use the cash you saved to buy yourself a better graphics card. The Z270 Gaming Plus is our budget champion and we recommend it for gamers who plan to build a Core i5 7600k or Core i7 7700k gaming PC.
Frequently Asked Questions-
What is the difference between Intel 7th and 8th generation processors?
Back in early 2017, Intel released their 7th generation of Core i series processors, codenamed “KabyLake”. These were based on 14nm architecture just like the previous 6th generation “SkyLake” CPUs, but Intel called it 14nm+ to emphasize the more optimized microarchitecture. Essentially, KabyLake was just a refresh of SkyLake with slightly higher clock speeds and improved power delivery for better overclocking. But with the release of AMDs Ryzen architecture, consumers could now get 6C/12T and 8C/16T chips for extremely affordable prices. Intel’s Core i5 and i7 lineup were losing market share to Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7. So they had to come up with a response, which was the Intel 8th generation processor lineup, codenamed “Coffee Lake”. Now that’s a whole lot of lakes, but what you need to know is that Coffee Lake introduced hexacore CPUs into the mainstream lineup of Intel. Previously, all Intel mainstream processors for gaming including the i5 and i7 series were limited to 4 physical cores. AMD upped the ante with 6 and 8 core chips, so Intel responded by releasing 6-core i5’s and i7’s. The Core i5 8600k has 6 physical cores with no hyperthreading, while the i7 8700k has 6 physical cores with hyperthreading (6C/12T). So the 8700k can be considered as a 7700k with 2 extra cores and 4 more threads. It is also more expensive compared to the 7700k and requires a new chipset, the Z370. So if you were the proud owner of a Core i7 7700k, said to be the fastest gaming CPU in the world at one point in time, that joy lasted for all of 10 months.
Now the fastest gaming CPU you can buy is the Core i7 8700k (not counting specialized stuff like intel’s 28 core processor), and it requires a new motherboard too since your old Z270 board cannot run this chip. If you are the type of person who absolutely needs 144+ fps average in all AAA games and you use a GTX 1080ti, this is the CPU for you. But if you are a gamer who also does video editing, streaming, and encoding, the AMD Ryzen 7 2700X is a much better investment from a price to performance standpoint. You are paying nearly 65 dollars less than you would for an i7 8700k, but are getting 2 more physical cores and 4 extra threads. Granted, the gaming performance is slightly less but if you can get within 85 to 90 percent gaming performance of the worlds best gaming CPU at a lower price, AND beat it in productivity based workloads why not just spend your money on a Ryzen 7 2700X?
And let’s not forget the fact that Intel will always make its previous generation owners buy a new motherboard when they release a new architecture, even if it uses the exact same 1151 socket as before (Z170, Z270, and Z370 all use the LGA1151 socket). AMD has stated that they will not change their socket anytime soon, so if you bought a Ryzen first gen chip in 2017, and want to upgrade to the Ryzen 2nd gen processors, you just buy a new processor- no need to buy a new motherboard. And all Ryzen CPUs are unlocked from the factory. On top of that, you get a cool little RGB stealth CPU cooler free from AMD with each purchase of the Ryzen 7 2700X. If you are a pro gamer, or are practicing to become a pro and need that 144+ or 240 fps in Dota 2 and CS GO, that is when you get the Intel Core i7 8700k.
What features should I look for in a motherboard?
On motherboards designed for gaming, you want to look for the following-
- Good built-in audio
- Adequate PCIe slots for multi GPU setups
- Four RAM slots in dual channel
- 2 slots for M.2 SSDs
- 8 phase or higher power delivery for overclocking
- If it is an Intel CPU, you need a Z-series chipset for overclocking, paired with a “k” series CPU
- Extra 4-pin fan and water pump headers on the board for liquid cooling
- BIOS reset switch or Dual BIOS selection for PC enthusiasts and overclockers (premium boards only)
- High quality capacitors, backplates to protect the board from flexing, etc.
- Ample SATA III ports and SATA express ports
- USB 3.1 and Type C ports
- Thunderbolt ports to connect external GPUs, extra displays, and high speed external storage (only found on premium motherboards)
- Built-in RGB lighting and 4-pin PWM headers for syncing the RGB lighting in your case to the motherboard
- ERROR code readout
- Onboard reset and power buttons if you are going to use the motherboard on a test bench
Note that many of these features will not be used by the average gamer, who doesn’t test PC hardware for a living or do serious stuff like Liquid Nitrogen overclocking. The average gamer just wants mild overclocking and some good on-board audio so they don’t need to spend money on a PCIe sound card or external DAC. If you are building a PC with a transparent side panel, the aesthetics of the motherboard will matter so choose something that matches the rest of your components.
Why can’t the same motherboard be used for the i7 7700k and i7 8700k?
Coffee Lake CPUs will not run on Kaby Lake motherboards, and this should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following Intel’s hardware releases since the last decade or so. They usually make it so that their new processors require a new chipset to go along with them, even though the socket is the same and gains in real life performance is minimal. Intel has been using their 14nm architecture since 2016, and each generation since then has featured a mild bump in clock speeds with some improvements to cache. But with Coffee Lake it is the first time in forever that Intel has released 6-core CPUs for the mainstream. Even the bottom of the line desktop i3’s are quad core, albeit with no hyperthreading. The Z370 chipset supports superior power delivery to the CPU compared to the older Z270 chipset, along with DDR4 2666 MHz memory routing support out of the box even though any decent gaming motherboard will allow you to run DDR4 RAM at 2800Mhz and higher.
The main reason for lack of backwards compatibility according to Intel, is the fact that they were forced to use a new power delivery subsystem which is crucial in order to manage the extra cores on Coffee Lake. These chips need more power compared to the older ones, and also tend to run hotter with some overclocking. The out of the box TDP for Coffee Lake chips is 95W, compared to 91W for Kaby Lake. And the actual amount of power consumed and heat produced is much higher than what those marketing numbers indicate, as is proven through testing by several hardware review sites. Intel also expanded the memory multipliers to support up to 8400 MT/s and added real- time memory latency control.
Which One Should You Buy?
This is a two- part answer, since we are dealing with two different CPUs here- one is the i7 7700k and the other is the i7 8700k. While it is hard to pick a specific motherboard and label it as the best since different gamers have varying hardware configurations that may or may not use all the features provided in the board, we can say with certainty that there are some motherboards which provide the absolute best in whatever it is that you desire- whether it is expandability, overclocking, or aesthetics.
For the Core i7 7700k Sky Lake processor, we recommend the MSI Z270 Gaming Plus. It contains all the stuff that your average 1080p, 60fps gamer needs and should have enough SATA slots to support a bunch of SSDs and hard drives for future storage needs. It even supports AMD Crossfire technology, so you can hook up two RX 580’s or RX Vega cards. It even has Intel Optane memory support, along with a M.2 slot. There are 6 SATA III ports, so you can connect all the storage you want for your games and movies. Despite its affordable price, this MSI gaming motherboard supports some rather high RAM speeds through overclocking, and has decent enough power delivery so you can OC the i7 7700k to around 4.7 GHz without trouble.
If you are planning to build an i7 8700k based gaming PC, there is no better motherboard than the ASUS ROG Maximus X CODE. Yeah, it is somewhat pricy and looks quite intimidating but is also loaded with everything you need in order to build the ultimate gaming PC that will last you at least 4 to 5 years. And we all know that you plan to go crazy with RGB lighting if you are building a super expensive gaming PC, so ASUS was kind enough to include headers for RGB strips (both standard as well as addressed ones). It even features ASUS Aura Sync RGB lighting, which fits in really well with the black and red tone of the board. Ordinary gaming motherboards have M.2 slots, while the Maximus X CODE has dedicated heatsinks for the M.2 slots so your M.2 drive can chill and perform at optimal speeds. The board is made with military grade components, the PCIe slots are steel reinforced, and there is built-in dual band 802.11 ac WIFI. You even have USB Type C ports, along with USB 3.1 Gen 2. The onboard audio is one of the best in the market, thanks to SupremeFX and Sonic Studio III. The overclocking possibilities in this ASUS board are amazing, thanks to a dedicated base clock generator and incredible DIGI+ VRM module.
So hopefully you’re well on your way to your ultimate PC build. But don’t forget the peripherals! Check out some of our articles on the best gaming accessories below to make sure your peripherals are just as effective as your new desktop deserves!