Ultimate Gaming PC Project: The Motherboard Most Wanted List!

June 13, 2022

The Intel 12th-generation Alder Lake CPUs are the best gaming processors you can buy, so it stands to reason that the best motherboard for gaming in 2022 is a Z690 board like the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard that lets you play with all that new-gen power. This means a premium set of features and specifications, giving you plenty of room for expansive storage, the fastest PCIExpress ports for maximum GPU performance and some impressive VRMs should you wish to dabble with overclocking.

Though motherboard manufacturers don’t create their own chipsets, they make countless decisions involving manufacturing, aesthetics, and layout, as well as cooling, BIOS features, Windows motherboard software, and premium features. While the range of these features is too wide to fully cover, common additions fall into a few general categories.

Overclocking

High-end motherboards often provide automated testing and tuning to overclock your CPU, GPU, and memory, providing an easy-to-use alternative to manual adjustment of frequency and voltage numbers in the UEFI environment. They may also feature an onboard clock generator for fine control of CPU speed, an enhanced VRM (Voltage Regulator Module), extra thermal sensors near overclocked components, and even physical buttons on the motherboard to start and stop overclocking. On the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard, ROG AI Overclocking is an intelligent utility that helps you get the most out of your build by automatically profiling your CPU and cooling system to predict optimal voltage and frequency settings.  Accessible via the AI Suite software in Windows or directly through the UEFI, the intuitive AI Overclocking user interface enables users of all levels. A range of customizable settings are available for seasoned overclockers, and an auto-tuning option is available for beginners.

At the heart of AI Overclocking is a proprietary algorithm developed by ROG R&D engineers who worked with world-renowned overclockers to create a tool for users of all levels.  An algorithm analyzes your CPU and cooling system, then it leverages that data to intelligently predict optimal settings. Custom-tailored frequencies and voltages are automatically applied to perfect the clock-speed optimization process.

Cooling

Motherboard components such as the PCH and VRM generate significant heat. To keep them at safe operating temperatures and prevent performance throttling, motherboard manufacturers install a variety of cooling solutions. These range from the passive cooling provided by heatsinks to active solutions, such as small fans or integrated water cooling. ASUS AI Cooling technology on the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi  motherboard automatically manages and controls motherboard-connected fans to ensure optimal settings based on current system load and temperature. AI Cooling detects CPU temperatures and uses a proprietary algorithm to calculate the lowest fan speed required to effectively cool the system and keep fan noise down. Under stable system loads, the software then automatically lowers fan speed to the optimal setting, decreasing fan noise without compromising performance.

Software

Motherboard software suites make it easier to manage your motherboard within Windows. Feature sets vary between manufacturers, but the software may scan for outdated drivers, automatically monitor temperatures, safely update the motherboard BIOS, allow easy adjustment of fan speeds, offer more in-depth power-saving profiles than Windows 10, or even track network traffic. On the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard, the proprietary ROG GameFirst VI utility is designed to help all users — beginners, experts, and everyone in between — optimize network settings to ensure smooth online gameplay. New to this generation, GameFirst VI features AI-enhanced identification and boost technologies to ensure faster and smarter network optimization. GameFirst VI analyzes usage patterns and the digital signatures of your applications and compares them to a database of over 200,000 apps. GameFirst VI intelligently switches application priority and adjusts bandwidth, depending on the situation. When gaming, it accelerates and prioritizes game packets to give you supersmooth online gameplay ― even when you’re streaming high-quality video or transferring large files.

Audio

Advanced audio codecs, built-in amplifiers, and enhanced capacitors can improve the output of onboard audio systems. Different audio channels may also be separated in different layers of the PCB to avoid signal interference. Let’s take Two-way AI Noise Cancelation on the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard. This powerful ASUS-exclusive utility leverages a massive 500M deep-learning database to reduce background noise from the microphone and incoming audio while preserving voices. Distracting keyboard clatter, mouse clicks and other ambient noises are removed, so you can hear and be heard with perfect clarity while gaming or during calls.

Construction

Many manufacturers advertise PCB construction techniques said to help isolate memory circuits and improve signal integrity. Some motherboards also add extra steel plating on top of the PCB to protect connectors or support the graphics card (usually secured with a simple latch). Take the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard, and 18+1 power stages combine high side and low side MOSFETS and drivers into a single package, delivering power and efficiency that the latest Intel processors can take full advantage of. Asus ProCool II connectors are built to tight specifications to ensure full contact with power supply cable wiring, while the Digi+ voltage regulator module [VRM] on the ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard is one of the finest in the industry, ensuring ultrasmooth and clean power supply to the CPU.

RGB Lighting

High-end motherboards often provide RGB headers to power an array of LED lights with customizable colors and effects. Non-addressable RGB headers power LED strips that display a single color at a time (with varying intensities and effects). Addressable RGB headers power LEDs with multiple color channels, allowing them to display several hues at once. The ASUS ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming WiFi motherboard features built-in ASUS Aura technology that enables full RGB lighting control and a variety of presets for embedded RGB LEDs and third-party lighting strips that can connect to onboard RGB headers. In addition, all lighting can be easily synced with an ever-growing portfolio of Aura-capable ASUS hardware.

Whether you’re planning your next build or upgrading your current gaming PC, understanding the components of your gaming motherboard is crucial. Once you know what everything does, you’ll know how to choose a gaming motherboard that suits your build.

You need a socket that matches your CPU, a chipset that maximizes the potential of your hardware, and finally a feature set that matches your computing needs. Take the time to list out several compatible motherboards and compare their key advantages before making a decision, and you should find exactly what you are looking for.

Our recommendation? The Asus ROG Strix Z690-E Gaming Wi-Fi motherboard puts 12th Gen Intel Core processors at center stage, with beefed-up power delivery, cooling, cutting-edge connectivity options, and a range of accoutrements that effortlessly propel builds to maximum performance. This series flagship is your ticket to next-level gaming!

by Anil George
Avid follower of all things tech. In between his quest for the ultimate gizmo, Anil fiddles with light meters, collects rare books and feeds his fetish for Jap horror movies. As Managing Editor of T3 Middle East for the GCC, Anil oversees content direction across print and digital. He was a CES 2020 Innovation Awards Judge, reprising his role as an Innovation Awards Judge at CES 2018, CES 2017, 2016 and 2015. Anil is also the Middle East's first Brand Ambassador for Ashdown Engineering. Reach him at: editor@t3me.com.