A motherboard is simply a skeleton or channel of communication that holds all the pieces of a PC together.
As far as the question “does motherboard matter for gaming” goes, a motherboard DOES NOT directly influence the performance of any game or the CPU that goes on it.
In other words, whether you were to use a stock Intel Core i7-11700K on a premium Z590 motherboard or a budget H570 motherboard, the performance that you get from the CPU will not differ.
However, indirectly speaking, a motherboard can have a great influence over your overall gaming rig.
The things that you can install, the expandibility and the overclocking capability are some of the important functions that are determined by your choice of motherboard.
In the following text we will talk about how a motherboard can matter for a gaming PC.
1. A Motherboard Chipset Determines the Amount of PCIe Lanes it Would Have
One of the prime function that distinguishes a budget motherboard chipset from a premium motherboard chipset is the amount of PCIe lanes that it can offer.
The higher the PCIe lanes your PC has, the more expandability in the form of PCIe slots, SATA slots or M.2 slots your motherboard would offer.
The overall number of PCIe lanes your PC has is determined by both the CPU as well as motherboard chipset.
In addition to the CPU PCIe lanes, the motherboard chipset also offer PCIe lanes of their own. The following table shows the amount of PCIe lanes different Chipsets offer.
Note for Intel motherboards, not all the lanes mentioned in the table are user accessible in the form of slots, most are used internally by the system
|B460||16||Mid Range /
|B560||12||Mid Range /
The point to note is that the more premium a motherboard chipset is, the more PCIe lanes it would offer and the more devices you would be able to install on your gaming rig.
Also Read: 10 Things That Can Plugged into PCIe Slot
Primer on PCIe Lanes:
2. More Premium Motherobard Have Better VRMs = Higher Overclocking
Another very important characteristic of a motherboard that can actually have a direct influence on gaming IF YOU ARE AN OVERCLOCKER is the quality of VRMs and its Phase Power Design.
VRMs, or voltage regulator modules are small, but very important, electrical components that have the important job of providing stable, clean and consistent power to the CPU.
This component is of particular interest to overclockers because as you increase the voltage of the CPU for increasing its clockspeed, you have to make sure that your VRMs are powerful enough to stabilize the higher level of voltage.
More premium motherboards not only have larger and more powerful VRMs but also a higher number of them.
The amount of VRMs a motherboard has is specified as Phase Design Power in the spechsheet and is provided in the form of 6+1, 8+2, 14+2 etc where the first number relates to the amount of VRMs the CPU has and the second number relates to the amount of VRMs the RAM has.
Again premium motherboards designed particularly for overclockers have a robust phase power design such as the ASUS ROG Strix Z590-A shown above with its 14+2 phase power design.
Also Read in Detail: What are Motherboard Power Phases and VRMs?
3. Motherboards Determines the PCIe Version of the PCIe Lanes
A motherboard chipset essentially determines the PCIe version of your PC. This can actually have both a direct or an indirect influence over your gaming depending upon what GPU you have.
The PCIe version of your system is a very important characteristic as with every newer generation, the throughput rate (speed) of each PCIe lane doubles.
The following tables shows the PCIe Version and their corresponding throughput rate for different number of lane count.
This has a direct impact on the devices that you can install on your PC. For instance, if your motherboard conforms to the newer PCIe v4.0 standard, then you can install the faster Gen 4 NVMe SSDs that can reach speeds of 5000 MB/s (compared to 3500 MB/s on Gen 3 SSDs).
But the real benefit for gamers is that a newer PCIe version can directly impact the performance of the graphics card, ESPECIALLY if you have a high end GPU that generates a lot of data.
PudgetSystem.com actually performed a study for DaVinci Resolve whereby they used two high end GPUs namely NVIDIA RTX 3090 (PCIe v4.0 device) and NVIDIA Titan RTX (PCIe 3.0 device) on motherboard slots conforming to PCIe v1.0, v2.0, v3.0 and v4.0.
The results clearly indicated a positive correlation between a newer PCIe version and a better GPU performance.
In fact, the difference the newer PCIe v4.0 makes for GPU performance will only get more profound with the release of newer and more powerful graphics cards in the near future.
So the bottom line is that a motherboard and its PCIe version can actually impact the gaming performance particularly for high end GPUs. The impact wouldn’t be too profound on mid to mid-high graphics card though as they do not generate enough data to saturate even the PCIe 3.0 slots.
Currently, only the latest motherboards offer support for PCIe v4.0. For AMD this includes: AMD X570 and AMD B550 chipsets. For Intel, Z590, B560 and H570 chipsets offer support for PCIe v4.0.
The PCIe version can also have an indirect influence on your gaming rig as it can make it future proof for newer graphics cards and devices.
4. Determines Whether SLI or Crossfire Support is Possible
If you are particularly interested in building a gaming PC with an SLI or a Crossfire multi-GPU setup, then a motherboard does matter.
Certain motherboard chipsets simply do not have support for multi-GPU.
The budget motherboard chipsets such as the AMD A series chipsets and Intel H and B series chipsets simply do not support multi-GPUs.
Hence, if you are trying to leverage the power of dual GPUs for enhancing your gaming, then you will need to look into either B and X series chipset for AMD and Z series chipset for Intel.
So Does Motherboard Matter for Gaming?
The answer to this question is two folds:
1. Stock Performance is NOT Affected by the Motherboard
The first part of the answer revolves around stock performance of the CPU and the GPU.
If you are only interested in the stock performance of a CPU and most GPUs out there, then no, a motherboard does not really matter much for gaming.
You would get the same performance from a Ryzen 7 processor on a high end X570 motherboard as you would get on an entry level A520 motherboard.
2. With Overclocking, a Motherboard Does Matter
The second part of this answer appeals to those who want more than just the stock performance from the CPUs and the GPU.
If you are an overclocker, then the more premium motherboard you have, the higher would be its overclocking capability.
Overclocking can have a direct, an often times a significant, impact on gaming.
Plus, low end motherboard chipsets simply do not support overclocking at all.
Also Read: How to Check if CPU is Overclocked?
In the end it all depends upon what you want to achieve with your gaming build.