What motherboard / CPU combo do I need to build an Intel Coffee Lake or AMD Ryzen PC?

Motherboard CPU combo

When it comes to building your own PC, there are some bits of the upgrade process that are easier to work out than others. Picking the best graphics card for your system is pretty easy, as is deciding which CPU you want to go for. The hard part is finding the right motherboard for everything you’ve just bought.

We’re here to help. Below, you’ll find an in-depth guide of which motherboards are compatible with which CPUs, as well as everything you need to know about all the different types of chipsets and sockets you’ll see when buying a new motherboard. If you’re thinking about making the jump to Intel’s 8th Gen Coffee Lake processors, or fancy one of AMD’s Ryzen+ chips but don’t know which motherboard you should get, read on.

First, the socket…

Take a quick glance at any CPU and you’ll probably see it’s got a heck of a lot of pins on the bottom. These are the connection points that slot into your motherboard’s CPU socket, so you’ll need to buy one with the correct socket to make sure it fits. If you try and stuff one into the wrong kind of socket, all you’re going to end up with is a load of bent pins and a very broken processor.

There are two main types of socket that we need to concern ourselves with for building a gaming PC: LGA 1151 for Intel-based systems and AM4 for AMD users. You may also see TR4 sockets for AMD’s workstation-grade Threadripper processors or LGA 2066 socket boards for Intel’s high-performance Core i9 processors, but unless you’ve been squirreling away several thousands of pounds / dollars, these will likely be beyond the remit of your typical PC build.

LGA 1151 supports three different types of Intel processor: 6th Gen Skylake chips, 7th Gen Kaby Lake chips, and 8th Gen Coffee Lake chips. However, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, anyone looking to build an Intel system now should really only be considering an 8th Gen Coffee Lake chip. With that in mind, here’s a list of all the Intel Coffee Lake processors you can currently buy that support the LGA 1151 socket.

Core i3 Core i5 Core i7
Intel Core i3-8100 Intel Core i5-8400 Intel Core i7-8700
Intel Core i3-8300 Intel Core i5-8500 Intel Core i7-8700K
Intel Core i3-8350K Intel Core i5-8600 Intel Core i7-8086K
Intel Core i5-8600K

 

LGA 1151 motherboard socket

An LGA 1151 motherboard socket for an Intel processor

AM4, on the other hand, is for AMD’s Ryzen processors. This includes both AMD’s first generation of Ryzen 3, Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 chips – also known as the Ryzen 1000-series – as well as the new second generation, known as Ryzen+ or the Ryzen 2000-series.

AM4 will likely form the basis of AMD’s eventual third generation of Ryzen processors as well, as AMD have confirmed they’ll be supporting their AM4 platform until at least the year 2020. This is good news for anyone building a new PC now, as it means you probably won’t have to buy another new motherboard when it comes to upgrading your CPU. Again, the table below details all the Ryzen chips you can buy today that are compatible with the AM4 socket.

Ryzen 3 Ryzen 5 Ryzen 7
Ryzen 3 1200 Ryzen 5 1400 Ryzen 7 1700
Ryzen 3 1300X Ryzen 5 1500X Ryzen 7 1700X
Ryzen 3 2200G Ryzen 5 1600 Ryzen 7 1800X
Ryzen 5 1600X Ryzen 7 2700
Ryzen 5 2400G Ryzen 7 2700X
Ryzen 5 2600
Ryzen 5 2600X

 

AM4 motherboard socket

An AM4 motherboard socket for an AMD processor

Second, the chipset…

So we’ve narrowed it down to the type of motherboard socket you need. The next thing is deciding which chipset to go for. This is the circuitry inside the motherboard itself. Without getting into too much technical detail, a motherboard’s chipset essentially determines what kind of features it has, including the types of ports and display outputs it comes with. They’re also usually designed to work with a particular family of processors in mind.

This is where things get tricky – at least if you’re going down the Intel route. You see, despite their new 8th Gen Coffee Lake processors using the same LGA 1151 socket connection as their previous families of Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, Coffee Lake processors will only work with a particular type of chipset – the 300-series chipset, to be precise.

MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC ports

This means that existing Skylake and Kaby Lake owners with a 100- or 200-series chipset on their LGA 1151 motherboard still have to buy a new one if they want to upgrade to Coffee Lake, even though technically it still fits into their existing board. A bit of a bum deal, if you ask me.

If you’ve chosen an AMD Ryzen processor, on the other hand, things are a lot simpler. Sort of. Regardless of whether you’ve got a first gen Ryzen or a second gen Ryzen, they’re all compatible with every single chipset supported by the AM4 socket. Some AM4 motherboards still require you to update the BIOS before you can start using it with your shiny new second gen Ryzen (which may require an older AM4-compatible processor to get working if you don’t already have one), but to all intents and purposes, it’s a lot less confusing than the situation over at the Intel camp.

How do I pick the right chipset?

Going back to the “let’s assume you’re building an Intel-based Coffee Lake system” idea for a minute, you currently have four (soon to be six) different LGA 1151 chispet options for your potential motherboard, which is a heck of a lot better than the single, rather expensive option you might have had if you’d been upgrading your PC last October, when Coffee Lake first launched.

Ordered from entry-level budget chipsets at the top to high-end enthusiast ones at the bottom, these are the letter and number combinations you should be looking out for and a rough guide to the sort of prices you can expect to go with them (note that all of these have a 300 number in their model name, hence the 300-series):

Sometimes motherboard manufacturers make it easy and include said chipsets in the name of the product. Other times, it’s less obvious, so you may have to check the box or online specifications to check it falls into one of those six chispets.

Sometimes the motherboard's name will have the chipset already in it, but it's worth checking the other logos at the bottom to double check you're picking the right one...

Motherboard names are the actual worst, but sometimes the name of the chipset will be hidden away inside them, making it easier to identify what kind of board it is. If you’re ever in doubt, check the other logos on the front of the box to make sure you’re picking the right one…

In terms of picking the right one for you, it’s important to think about what you want from your PC once it’s finished. If you’re building a powerful Core i7 system, for instance, you’ll probably want a high-end Z370 or Z390 chipset motherboard to make the most of it – especially when these are the only two chipsets that actually support CPU, GPU and RAM overclocking.

For those building a more modest Core i3 PC, on the other hand, it’s probably best to look toward the H310 or B360 end of the spectrum – unless, that is, you have an Intel Core i3-8350K, which does support overclocking by virtue of that K on the end of it, in which case you’ll probably still want a Z370 board.

The H310, for instance, is pretty basic. It comes with just 2 DIMM slots for your RAM, which limits the amount you can put in it (all the rest have four), and only supports a maximum of 10 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports. The B360, by comparison, supports 12 USB 2.0 ports as well as up to six USB 3.1 Gen 1 and four USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, while the rest can handle up to 14 USB 2.0 and even higher combinations of USB 3.1 generations.

Some chipsets will also have integrated 802.11ac Wi-Fi options if your PC isn’t going to be anywhere near an available Ethernet port (handy, if you’d rather not clog up one of your PCIe slots with a network card), while others have RAID support for combining your storage devices into one single, giant drive. It all rather depends on what your needs are and whether you want to leave yourself any wiggle-room in the future for further tinkering.

If you’re building an AMD Ryzen system, on the other hand, you’ve mainly got a choice of four (soon to be five) chipsets, which are again ordered below from lowest to highest in terms of overall cost and features:

There are a few intricacies worth pointing out here. While AMD’s second gen Ryzen CPUs will theoretically work with all of the above chipsets, those looking to maximize their performance should consider the new X470 boards. For starters, every X470 chipset has built-in Ryzen+ support from the off (the others will require a BIOS update unless it states otherwise on the box), and they’ve been designed with Ryzen+ in mind, allowing you to get more out of them for gaming and daily computing.

The upcoming X300 chipset boards, on the other hand, are being specifically designed for small form-factor PCs, so you’ll probably want to concentrate on the A320 and above chipsets if you’re building a regular tower PC.

Some chipsets dictate the size of the motherboard as well, so make sure you get the right one for your case.

Every chipset is available in a range of motherboard sizes as well, so make sure you get one that’s the appropriate size for your case.

Much like the Intel chipsets, the lower-end AMD chipsets don’t have quite as many features as ones further up the scale. The A320 and B350, for example, don’t support AMD Crossfire and Nvidia SLI which let you use two graphics cards at once, so those considering a multi-GPU system should really be looking at X370 or X470 boards only.

The A320 doesn’t support CPU overclocking, either, and only comes with four SATA ports and one SATA Express connection for your storage devices. B350, X370 and X470 chipsets, meanwhile, do support overclocking and come with six SATA ports and two SATA Express. All of them, however, have some sort of RAID support.

Anything else I should know?

From there, it’s pretty much up to you what kind of extra features you go for. Some motherboards like the Asus ROG Crosshair VII Hero (Wi-Fi) have additional overclocking tools such as an LED troubleshooting display, boost buttons and extra controls for open-case builds right there on the board, while others like the Asus ROG Strix X470F-Gaming have pre-mounted I/O boards for a neater finish round the back of your PC.

It probably goes without saying that you should also pick a motherboard that actually fits inside your intended case. There’s no point buying an ATX-sized motherboard when you’ve got a small form-factor or mini-tower case, nor is there much sense in buying a jumbo full tower case for a tiddly mini-ITX motherboard.

Personally, I’d recommend going for either a B360 or Z370 if you’re looking for an Intel motherboard, or a B350 or X470 if you’re going with AMD, depending on how much cash you’ve got to throw around. The MSI X470 Gaming M7 AC is currently my top pick out of the X470 boards I’ve tested, but I’ll be getting more Intel ones in for testing very soon to help balance things out.

I’ll also be talking more about how to build an actual, honest to goodness PC over the coming weeks, taking you through everything step-by-step in easily digestible chunks. Hopefully by the end of it we’ll have a range of suggestions on offer, starting from the best components for a budget build PC right through to mid-range and high-performance systems. Until then, have a gander at our best gaming SSD listings, our top picks for best DDR4 RAM and best gaming monitor, as well as our best gaming keyboard and best gaming headset articles to help you get (almost) everything you need to build your next gaming PC.

40 Comments

  1. Don Reba says:

    AM4 will likely form the basis of AMD’s eventual third generation of Ryzen processors as well, as AMD have confirmed they’ll be supporting their AM4 platform until at least the year 2020. This is good news for anyone building a new PC now, as it means you probably won’t have to buy another new motherboard when it comes to upgrading your CPU.

    It’s even better for TR4 owners, since those motherboards are expensive!

  2. dangermouse76 says:

    Firstly please stop logging me into my f’ing profile page when I log in to reply to a comment !

    Second this guide is great, cheers, very handy.

  3. Scurra says:

    It probably goes without saying that you should also pick a motherboard that actually fits inside your intended case.

    No, it absolutely doesn’t. I’ve managed to get that wrong on both of my previous builds and I felt really, really silly the second time around…

  4. cafeoh says:

    Great timing, I really need a CPU upgrade!

    It’s a lovely article, thanks a lot for that, very digestible and to the point!

    You said “However, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, anyone looking to build an Intel system now should really only be considering an 8th Gen Coffee Lake chip”, but I can’t find where you actually got into why a Coffee Lake chip is the best choice at the moment, am I missing something?

    Also are you planning on doing a guide on how to buy a CPU any time soon? Do you have a good pointers, maybe to previous or other articles written on the subject?

    Thanks a lot Katharine!

    • Mezelf says:

      Yeah, it’s not very clear to me either why the writer thinks I should only buy Coffee Lake.

    • brucethemoose says:

      You see, despite their new 8th Gen Coffee Lake processors using the same LGA 1151 socket connection as their previous families of Skylake and Kaby Lake CPUs, Coffee Lake processors will only work with a particular type of chipset – the 300-series chipset, to be precise…

      It’s stated in a rather indirect way, but anything not coffee lake is an old product. So you shouldnt look at Kaby Lake because it’s not supposed to be in stock anyway, it’s just mentioned because it uses the same socket.

      • cafeoh says:

        Right, but she already mentions that Coffee lake is the last generation right before that statement, so it’s not in reference to that fact.

        She says explicitly that the best thing to do is to buy an 8th gen chip (and I’m not saying that’s wrong of course, I’ve no idea), so you’d think it’s either a better performance/price deal or has some feature that are worth going for, but she doesn’t explain the reasoning. :/

        • brucethemoose says:

          Oh, do you mean the article is implying Coffee Lake is better than Ryzen?

          There’s this mindset in the PC community of deciding whether you’re doing an “AMD” or “Intel” build, as if they’re seperate types of computers. Basically Katherine was saying: “If you’re dead set on getting an Intel CPU, among Intel CPUs, coffee lake is best for you”. Which is what alot of people do.

          But that’s a flawed way of thinking IMO. A: it causes the exact kind of confusion you’re having now, and B: dividing builds into 2 “camps” is kinda arbitrary, and not helpful. I think it’s best to ignore the brands and compare all CPUs for what they are.

          • cafeoh says:

            “If you’re dead set on getting an Intel CPU, among Intel CPUs, coffee lake is best for you”

            Yes, I realize that, there’s no confusion on that front since it’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning. The question I was asking is why is coffee lake the best for you? You can get 7th gen CPU and MB from significantly cheaper, so why is 8th gen at this point and time the best choice?

    • Katharine Castle says:

      Hello! Sorry that wasn’t clear. I meant you should buy Coffee Lake as opposed to a Kaby Lake or Skylake chip because you’ll only have to buy another motherboard again when you next come to upgrade. Intel may well, of course, impose another new chipset for their next batch of Coffee Lake successors, or even an entirely new socket, in which case buying Coffee Lake wouldn’t be any better. But it’s more likely there will be at least *some* element of backwards compatibility after Coffee Lake, in which case you’d be better off going with that rather than something older. I hope that’s a bit clearer! :)

  5. wackazoa says:

    My biggest issue with AMD motherboards right now is the support for new CPU’s. Im wanting to do a ITX build with a 2200G CPU, soz I can play games on the sly at my work. But trying to find a ITX mobo that SAYS it supports the new CPU’s is tough. I have found a couple only for some comments/reviews to say that they didnt. So Im not certain who to believe. I thought we were gonna get some new B450 boards with the release of the Ryzen 5’s and 7’s but so far no. So I either have to take a chance, I dont have a PC components store within 8 hours of me, and buy one or wait. :(

  6. Sarfrin says:

    I just upgraded recently and would have loved an article like this to set all the options out clearly for me. An updated one every few months would be great.

  7. Someoldguy says:

    Really looking forward to the suite of articles to come. maybe I’ll finally have the confidence to self-build instead of hand picking components and paying for assembly.

    One thing I do ask though is please, do consider noise as one of the things to discuss. It’s going to be a major factor in my choice of next rig components and most articles that talk about the choices they make don’t even mention it.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Wouldn’t noise reduction be more about choosing the right case and cooling methods rather than about motherboards, though?

      • Someoldguy says:

        Hence being relevant to the suite of articles to come, not this one.

      • brucethemoose says:

        The GPU has more to do with it than anything. It’s easily the biggest noisemaker in a modern gaming PC.

        • mitrovarr says:

          I think it’s more of a weakest link issue. My CPU fan (stock Ryzen 2700x cooler) is much louder than my GPU. You can get an idea of processor activity by listening to the fan, it’s that bad.

          • brucethemoose says:

            Yeah, stock coolers can be pretty bad.

            But with the way turbo works (particularly on 2nd Gen Ryzen), investing in a $20 aftermarket cooler is almost always worth it. Even if you don’t overclock, not only will it be quieter, but it’ll turbo to higher frequencies for longer periods of time.

    • hungrycookpot says:

      Biggest noise reduction I’ve ever made to a PC is going from the stock cooler to one of the corsair self-contained liquid coolers. I grew up in the age of custom machined liquid cooler dies and homemade pump assemblies, so being able to buy a liquid cooler off the shelf for less than a bill is basically living in the future.

  8. fish99 says:

    Nice article.

    I’ve got an I5-8600K sat here in its box waiting for my next build which I’ll be doing next weekend. Will probably go for the cheapest Z370 board (from Gigabyte). Ram is harder to figure out though, from what I’ve read there’s barely any difference between 2400 and 3200+ MHz in terms of game framerates with intel builds, so I might just look out for some used 2400 MHz Corsair Vengence (I’ve had Corsair ram since like …. forever).

    • brucethemoose says:

      That’s a half truth. RAM latency (which is tied to speed) does help some games run faster, but the 8600k is already fast enough to where it often doesn’t matter.

      If you play lots of EA or poorly optimized titles, fast RAM is an absolute must. It helps emulation too, IIRC.

      • fish99 says:

        Thanks. Well I do play VR titles (and some early access) which often aren’t well optimized. Trouble is fast ram is so pricey.

        What’s the minimum you would pair up with the 8600K?

        • brucethemoose says:

          Depends where you buy from, how much your budget is, how much the markup is and so on.

          In the US, for example, I’d point you to PCPartpicker, to a list sorted something like this:

          link to pcpartpicker.com

          And find bang/$ that stands out, like that 3200 CAS 16 set for $160. Any significant bump in speed is like another $100, which is definitely past the point of diminishing returns.

          Prices might be wildly different if you’re buying in the UK, for example. But generally, paying a couple of bucks for the jump from bog standard 2400 to 2800+ is probably worth it.

        • brucethemoose says:

          Oh, and one more thing, which so many people forget to do.

          Even if you don’t overclock, to get the faster RAM, you have to enable XMP in the BIOS. I’ve seen way too many rigs run eye-wateringly expensive RAM, only to see it running at stock 2133 or 1333 speeds.

          Katharine should absolutely mention that in the next RAM article.

          • fish99 says:

            Thanks :)

          • Sakkura says:

            Very good point.

            If you go on a site like userbenchmark.com and look at RAM scores, you’ll see most kits having two distinct piles of performance – that’s the people who enabled XMP, and the ones who did not.

            (main exception is those kits that are rated at the default speed of its memory generation, such as DDR4-2133)

    • brucethemoose says:

      Oh, and another thing. RAM is a commodity, and the brand you buy it from isn’t who actually manufactured it. And it doesn’t wear out over time.

      In other words, brand doesn’t really matter. You just want the best listed speed (following the frequency/CAS latency forumula, the higher that number is the better) and the lowest price, as well as enough positive reviews to know you aren’t getting a mislabed pack or awful QC. Nothing else matters.

  9. jerseyBastion says:

    I always enjoy the hardware articles. Keep ‘em coming!

  10. jezcentral says:

    Thank you for this article. I’ve just started looking at a new build (which means I will probably buy something some time next year) and I was struck by, a) how little I know about current CPU/mobo combinations, and b) how much there is to know (I mean, crikey, look how long this article is!).

  11. mastax says:

    Note that not all AMD motherboards can be updated to support Zen+ link to anandtech.com

  12. hungrycookpot says:

    Important tack-on to this information: Coffee-lake processors only have full support for WINDOWS 10. If, like me, you were still running Windows 7 on your gaming PC and you upgrade, you will not have full chipset support for it on your new Coffee Lake. It’s possible to hack it to work, but you’ll be missing features and it will be annoying overall. So factor this into your build price.

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