The year of 2016 is drawing to a close, and with new technology looming around the corner in Q1 of 2017, it only feels appropriate to give you my personal top five for the year. It has been a tough choice, and I will detail my reasoning below each of the motherboards. I will be taking motherboard from both the Intel X99 and Z170 platforms. I’m sorry to you AMD enthusiasts. There are two reasons: 1) I have not had any boards in, and 2) they are typically much older than from this year, with a few exceptions. So without any further ado, let’s get into what I would consider to be the top five motherboards from the year of 2016!
One final thing to remember is that it is very important to understand that these views may not necessarily reflect those of others, whether they’re on the team or on another website. I am doing this based on two things: personal experience(s) with the products and what I personally feel about them. Yes, the results are therefore going to be slightly subjective as to what I think of them, but that is my job at the end of the day. I have to give you my opinions as a tech journalist. Alright, here we go…
Number 5: ASUS Z170I PRO GAMING – Intel Z170 ITX With 2280 M.2 Support & Lots of Phases
In our number 5 position is the ASUS Z170I Pro Gaming, and there are a few reasons for this. It has great overclocking potential with its phase count and it also offers a host of other things such as Wi-Fi, great sound, fast RAM compatibility and perhaps most importantly: a 2280 sized M.2 slot! Even the top of the line ASUS Maximus VIII Impact does not feature this – a great shame, and one that actually stopped me from building an ITX rig that was based around the Impact as there was nowhere for my M.2 drive. It’s a solid board which offers something for everyone looking at the ITX world that is becoming more and more popular by the month.
Number 4: ASRock X99E-ITX/ac – The Miniature X99 Workhorse
Some would say that this is a weird one that takes the number 4 slot on my list – the ASRock X99E-ITX/ac. No one has ever built an X99 motherboard for mainstream (although still high-end desktop) usage that comes in an ITX form factor, and ASRock thought they could do it, so they did. I actually have one of these chugging along in my personal rig now and I have to commend it for its features. It’s expensive, yes, but it is also a very unique board in its own right. It’s currently retailing at around £270 ($290) which is not cheap given that you can get so much for that price on the market, but it is unique and I can’t foresee me changing anytime soon. Oh, for those wondering, it also supports the highest of Xeon CPUs, so you can have a 24 core/48 thread monster. Oh yes, beast mode does come to ITX! There’s Wi-Fi, M.2 2280 support, dual gigabit Ethernet, and a whole lot more.
Number 3: GIGABYTE X99 Ultra Gaming RGB – X99 In Style With LEDs & On A Budget
Coming in for a budget board that still offers massive amounts of features, and LEDs, is a board from GIGABYTE. It’s the X99-Ultra Gaming, and it is currently retailing at around £240 ($250) which is a great entry-level price for X99 motherboards. It offers support for all of the latest connectivity options as well as the latest Broadwell-E processors. It performs well, and it also looks the part – arguably most important in today’s PC society. You have full control over the LEDs, in terms of what they do and what colour they glow, which adds that unique flare to the board which all manufacturers seem to be going for at the moment.
Number 2: ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly – The Most Expensive Mainstream Board Ever
The ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly claims number 2 in my list of the top five boards from 2016. It is without a doubt the most insane motherboard I have had the chance to look at on a mainstream platform, period. Is it worthy of its £500+ (at the time I reviewed it) price tag? Well, actually, yes! The fact that you receive at least £150 to £200 worth of additional extras (which I originally forgot to factor in when I cast my judgement, sorry ASUS!) makes the board a much more attractive proposition. It comes with literally every single connectivity option you can think of, as well as 10GbE (!) as well. Add rock solid stability, crazy fast performance and its awesome looks into the equation, and you’re pretty much onto a winner right there. It’s extremely expensive, but what a board it is! So why isn’t it number 1? Well, that spot is reserved for something very special in its own right … check it out next.
Number 1: MSI X99A XPOWER GAMING TITANIUM – Silvery Gorgeousness Matched With Wicked Performance
Number 1 is my personal favourite of the year – the MSI X99 XPOWER Gaming Titanium. I mentioned in my review that MSI should get rid of the Gaming branding on this one. It becomes a little too much of a mouthful when saying it. It’s not important though,. Just look at it. It’s simply stunning, so much so that the pictures do not do it justice. The performance which it offers is significant as well, which is something that I was very pleased with when I reviewed it. If I wasn’t moving country, I would be using it in my daily rig, simply because of the way that it looks and the way that it performs. MSI took a step away from LEDs with this one besides a light in the ICH heatsink which glows white to illuminate the dragon. That was a good move, as I think the LEDs would have ruined its striking silver looks.
That rounds up my personal top five for the year. What do you think? Are any of these five on your personal list? Feel free to get in touch with me and give me your opinions, I’d love to hear them!