DIY PC builds are enjoying massive growth in popularity. They offer gamers, content creators, and tech enthusiasts unmatchable performance, flexibility, and customization options. At the heart of every system is the motherboard. Often overlooked for flashier PC components like powerful graphic cards or robust multi-core processors, the motherboard plays a crucial part in the functionality, performance, and ease of use of a PC build.
Lately, every PC component manufacturer offers a motherboard with Wi-Fi capability. Wireless networks have become a standard for most households and workplaces, offering better flexibility and connectivity for multiple devices.
Choosing the right motherboard for your PC build should be high on your priority list. Before jumping into browsing motherboard models and manufacturers, you should take your time and evaluate the following things:
Choose the Platform to Build On
The choice of the platform you will build on will affect the selection of the motherboards you have at your disposal. There are only two relevant platforms for building a PC in 2021, and they are Intel and AMD. Each of the platforms uses motherboards with different chipsets and processor sockets. Once you decide on a platform, make sure that you consider only motherboards compatible with your platform of choice.
AMD Ryzen processors require AM4 socket motherboards that come with various chipsets from the entry-level A-series to midrange B-series and X-series performance chipsets. Intel’s situation is a bit more complicated since they are retailing processors using two different types of sockets. Intel’s 9th generation processors use LGA 1151 socket motherboards, while the latest 10th generation requires an LGA 1200 socket motherboard.
Know Your Needs
If you hope to get the best motherboard for your build, you have to understand your needs. Are you building the ultimate gaming machine? Or perhaps you need a productivity monster that can handle any task you can throw at it. The type of PC build you choose will shift your focus on motherboards that provide features and support for your needs.
Whether it is superior connectivity, overclocking for performance, or support for RGB lighting, choose the motherboard that will excel at the tasks that are your primary need.
Future-Proofing and Upgradeability
With the evolution of technology, that expensive build you put together today will get crushed by a mid-range one in just a few years. Alternatively, you had to cut a few corners in the original build due to budget constraints. In both cases, a motherboard that will allow for an upgrade of components down the line will improve the longevity of your build and cut down the costs of having top-of-the-line performance.
Why Choose a Motherboard with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth?
The inclusion of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies on desktop PC motherboards is a relatively new thing. While laptops, tablets, and smartphones are using the technologies for the better part of the decade, desktop PCs are just getting around to the advantages of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
Other devices have to rely on Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for connectivity, but desktop PCs have the choice of wired LAN connections, which offer higher network speeds and improved stability. Still, there are features and advantages that a wired connection provide:
- Wi-Fi is the easiest and most convenient way to connect to the internet – There is no need to install cables throughout your home, and you can easily move your PC to a different spot without rewiring everything.
- Advancements in Wi-Fi technology, such as the Wi-Fi 6 protocol, have narrowed the performance gap between wireless networks and their wired counterparts. You can enjoy the quick download speeds and low latency reserved for wired connections.
- With Bluetooth, you can connect all your wireless devices and accessories to your PC, such as the keyboard, mouse, headphones, etc. without cables. A must for those looking for a clean, minimalist desktop setup.
Best Motherboards with Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
To make up our mind on which motherboards are the cream-of-the-crop in 2021, we tested a large selection of boards from the most reputable manufacturers. Rather than focusing on a single product, we tried to select several, to be precise 6, motherboards that deserve mention. Each board has something unique to offer compared to the competition, whether it is performance, build quality, format, or value.
1. ASUS ROG Maximus XII Formula Z490 – Top Choice ATX Board for Intel 10th Gen Processors
When it comes to the ultimate motherboard with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for Intel’s latest 10th Gen processors, we found that ASUS ROG Maximus XII Formula Z490 was the easy choice. This mammoth ATX gaming motherboard with Wi-Fi comes with the premium build quality that ROG Maximus Formula series boards are known for and that mesmerizing blackout color theme.
The first thing that caught our attention on the board is the massive aluminum heatsinks placed over crucial components for better heat dissipation. Underneath the largest one is The CrossChill EK III VMR power block with the capacity to handle up to 70amps. This makes the ROG Maximus XII Formula Z490 an absolute monster in the overclocking department, along with the powerful Z490 chipset.
ASUS made sure that there is plenty of room for storage that modern gamers need by including 3 M.2 slots that support PCI Express 3.0 and the ultra-quick NVMe SSD hard drives. Additionally, there are 4 DIMM slots with support for up to 128 GB of DDR4 RAM overclockable up to 4,800 MHz. Those who like to customize their build with RGB lights will love this board, as it has ASUS’s Aura Sync RGB lighting system with two 4-pin RGB headers and two Gen 2 addressable RGB headers.
Finally, network connectivity is an absolute blast with ROG Maximus XII Formula. Top of the line Intel’s Wi-FI 6 network adapter allows wireless connectivity without sacrificing performance and latency. A dual ethernet option with both 2.5Gb and 10 Gb ethernet support for lightning-quick transfer speeds for content creators. The cherry on the top is Bluetooth 5.1 support, enabling fast and reliable wireless connectivity for all your peripherals and accessories.
- ATX Format
- Support for 10th Gen Intel Processors
- Up to 128 GB DDR4 RAM
- CrossChill EK III VMR power block with top-of-the-line overclocking support
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 included
- Massive storage expansion potential with 3 M.2 PCIe 3.0 slots and 6 SATA ports
It is hard not to be impressed with the ASUS ROG Maximus XII Formula motherboard. It cuts no corners and provides the absolute best in terms of connectivity, performance, and overclocking that an Intel motherboard can deliver in 2021. Enthusiast gamers and professional content creators that want the absolute best should not look further.
2. Asus ROG Strix X570-E Gaming – Top Choice for AMD Ryzen Processors
It is no surprise that ASUS’s ROG series of boards makes another appearance on this list, this time for an AMD platform. The ASUS ROG Strix X570-E Gaming motherboard unleashes the AMDs Ryzen platform’s potential with support for Zen 1, Zen 2, and Zen 3 (with a BIOS update) processors. We felt that no other board close to the combination of performance, value, connectivity, and aesthetics.
The heart of the motherboard is the ProCool II power block with 12 + 4 power stages that have the power to support AMD’s Ryzen processors with up to 16 cores. All Ryzen processors are unlocked, so the X570 chipset and the power block on the board should deliver top-of-the-line overclocking.
Similar to ROG Maximus XII Formula for Intel, the ROG Strix X570-E Gaming is a product-focused on gamers with the same ASUS’s Aura Sync RGB lighting system. The storage solution is solid with 2 M.2 slots and additional 6 SATA ports for expansion. Support for up to 128 GB of DDR 4 RAM and overclockable to 4,400 MHz is there, as well.
Where this board plays a bit of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are the PCIe support and connectivity. It bests the Intel-based motherboards with PCIe 4.0 support, which is the future for GPUs and storage devices. Connectivity is solid with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5, but the 10Gb ethernet is not there, something content creators will sorely miss.
- ATX Format
- Support for AMD Ryzen Zen 1, Zen 2, and Zen 3 processors
- RAM Memory expandable up to 128 GB of DDR 4 RAM
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 support included
- PCIe 4.0 for super speedy storage and GPUs
- PowerCool II power block and X570 chipset for top-of-the-line overclocking
ASUS’s ROG Stryx X570-E Gaming offers a fantastic combination of ultimate performance and value at a nearly half-the-price of its Intel counterpart. Everything a gamer or a content creator needs is there, from excellent overclocking support to connectivity options and storage expansion. This fantastic board is about to get even better with Ryzen 5000 series processors around the corner.
3/ MSI MPG Z490M Gaming Edge Wi-Fi – Top Choice Micro ATX Board for Intel 10th Gen Processors
We included the micro ATX board format alternatives on our list to offer more flexibility in potential PC builds. If you are looking to build a smaller factor PC, but you are not willing to sacrifice performance, then MSI’s MPG Z490M Gaming Edge Wi-Fi is our board of choice. The micro ATX format will bring smaller Mid-Tower and Mini-Tower cases into play for those who do not have space or prefer this aesthetic.
It has the same support for Intel’s 10th Gen processors like the ASUS ROG Maximus XII Formula, and overclocking is a breeze with a 12+1+1 power block solution. It even bested the big brother in memory overclocking, with DDR4 RAM modules hitting up to 5,000 MHz.
Unfortunately, MSI did have to cut corners to make everything fit on a Micro ATX board, which is apparent in the board’s connectivity. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth are there, but 10Gb ethernet is missing in action.
Otherwise, the two M.2 slots for storage and support for up to 128 GB of DDR4 RAM should please even the most demanding gamers and content creators.
- Micro ATX Format
- Support for Intel’s 10th Gen processors
- Up to 128GB DDR4 RAM
- Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 support
- Memory and CPU overclocking with
MSI delivered a fantastic board in a smaller micro ATX format. The lack of 10Gb ethernet and some storage expansion capacity is not an issue since most content creators that require it will not opt-in for a smaller factor. The gaming performance and memory overclocking are fantastic, making it an easy choice for gamers who want to experiment with smaller factor builds.
4. GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO Wi-Fi – Value Pick ATX Board for Intel 9th Gen Processors
Not all gamers and content creators can afford the top-of-the-line hardware but, instead, look for value products that deliver great performance on a more affordable budget. We believe that the value for Intel-based systems is in the 9th generation processors and accompanying motherboards. They use a different socket than 10th generation processors (LGA 1151 instead of LGA 1200), but the performance gap is minuscule, and motherboards that support LGA 1151 are more affordable.
Our value picks for large format ATX board is GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO Wi-Fi. GIGABYTE’s AORUS line of motherboards has been a value-performance giant for several years now. The Z390 AORUS PRO Wi-FI is no different. There is no compromise in build quality and performance, and most of the missing features will affect only a small number of users.
The board supports overclocking 9th and 8th Generation Intel processors, but the 12+1 Phase Digital VRM power block can only handle moderate overclocking. Gamers can rejoice with RGB Fusion support and PCIe 3.0 4X support for latest generation GPUs, as well as 4 slots of dual-channel DDR4 RAM.
GIGABYTE made the board affordable by excluding the Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity and replaced them with 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.2. Storage is also limited to two M.2 slots for NVMe SSDs.
- ATX Format
- Support for Intel 9th Gen and 8th Gen Processors
- 4 Slots of up to 128GB Dual-Channel DDR4 RAM
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 support
- 12+1 Phase Digital VRM power block
GIGABYTE sure knows how to hit a sweet spot when it comes to 90% of PC users. Z390 AORUS Pro Wi-Fi excels at everything its more expensive counterparts do but to save costs excludes the features that only a small percentage of users need. If you are looking to build a great all-around mid-range gaming or content creation PC, this should be an easy choice.
5. MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC – Value Pick Micro ATX Board for Intel 9th Gen Processors
As is the case with their premium cousins, value motherboards need to offer flexibility in terms of the build’s size. For our micro ATX value pick for Intel builds, we have once again chosen an MSI board. MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC does not lag behind the GIGABYTE AORUS PRO Wi-Fi in terms of performance and even bests it in DDR4 memory overclocking support up to 4,500 MHz. Once again, the micro ATX choice only cuts corners on the connectivity. MSI decided to exclude fast ethernet and wireless support and only opted for a Gigabit LAN and Wi-Fi 5 support. Bluetooth 5.0 there, once again besting its bigger cousin.
The compromises in connectivity do not degrade the value of the board, though. Mystic Light RGB support for gamers is here, as are two M.2 slots for SSD storage. It is an excellent choice for smaller factor builds on a budget.
- Micro ATX Format
- Support for Intel 9th and 8th Gen processors
- 4 Slots of up to 128 GB DDR4 RAM
- Wi-FI 802.11ac and Bluetooth 5.0 support
- AUDIO BOOST 4 with NAHIMIC 3
MSI always delivers when it comes to micro ATX boards. Once again, with MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC, they managed to cram the performance and overclocking matches their premium boards while still making the board affordable. The cuts on connectivity and build quality are not a deal-breaker for a vast majority of gamers, but content creators might want to look elsewhere.
6. GIGABYTE B450 AORUS PRO Wi-Fi – Value Pick for AMD Ryzen Processors
The final entry on our list is our value pick for AMD-based builds. The B450 chipset has become a legend in its short lifespan due to its performance and reliability on a budget. Our value choice, GIGABYTE B450 AORUS PRO Wi-Fi, is in millions of AMD builds worldwide and a bestseller.
Compatibility with AMD’s Zen 1, Zen 2, and Zen 3 Ryzen processors makes this board a fantastic choice for both entry-level and professional-grade builds. Support for up to 128GB dual-channel DDR4 memory is there, as well. Ryzen processors come unclocked out of the box, and the Hybrid Digital PWM power block offers excellent overclocking support.
Gamers are safe with RGB Fusion 2.0 support, as well as the dual M.2 slots for super-fast NVMe SSD storage. Various connectivity options are there, with Wi-Fi 802.11ac support, Bluetooth 4.2, and Gigabit LAN. Faster ethernet support would be nice, but at this price point seems unrealistic.
What floored us was the price of this board. We marvel at GIGABYTE’s ability to cram this much performance and features into a board that costs one-third or one-quarter of some of the premiums offerings on the market. Paired with an AMD Ryzen processor, this board is the absolute value king in our review.
- ATX Format
- Support for AMD’s Ryzen 1000, 2000, 3000, and upcoming 5000 (with a BIOS update) series processors.
- 4 slots of up to 128GB DDR4 RAM
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity
- RGB Fusion 2.0 support for customization
No wonder this board is one of the best sellers on the market. GIGABYTE has managed to produce a board with a solid build quality, robust power block for overclocking, and plenty of features and connectivity options at an extremely affordable price point. It is a fantastic choice for everyone looking to squeeze the most performance on a budget.
Do all motherboards have Wi-Fi built-in?
Unfortunately, no. Wi-Fi used to be a feature found only on premium motherboards, but the trend has expanded to mid-range options, as well. Budget motherboards are price-limited and cannot afford a Wi-Fi module, so do not expect to find any there. Motherboards aimed at gamers and content creators tend to have Wi-Fi built-in.
Does every motherboard have Bluetooth?
Similar to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth was an option mostly on premium motherboards aimed at gamers. That is no longer the case, as more affordable boards include it as well. Boards aimed at gamers and enthusiasts that like clean, wireless setups and peripherals always have Bluetooth built-in.
How do I know if my motherboard has Wi-Fi?
It takes just a few seconds to check. Look at the back panel of your motherboard and look for a connector for a Wi-Fi antenna. Most computer cases are made of metal, and including an antenna on the actual board will diminish the signal and affect the Wi-Fi’s performance. Therefore, Wi-Fi antennas always connect to the back panel of the board. The same applies to Bluetooth.
We had so much fun testing all these motherboards and trying to find the best options for all gamers, DIY build enthusiasts, and content creators. It was a challenge to select only a few products, but we feel that the best products ended up on the list.
We feel that ASUS’s ROG Maximus XII Formula is the best of the best in building quality, performance, and connectivity, but it is only for Intel-based systems. Fans of the AMD Ryzen platform should opt for Asus ROG Strix X570-E Gaming.
We see a reversal with Gigabyte B450M PRO Wi-Fi for AMD-based systems offering an unmatched ratio of performance and price in the value segment. Intel enthusiasts looking to build a more affordable PC should seek out either GIGABYTE Z390 AORUS PRO Wi-Fi or MSI MPG Z390M Gaming Edge AC.