Finding the best i7 motherboard match to your processor is an important aspect of building a computer. Whether you have a Kaby Lake, Skylake, or Haswell Refresh Core i7, or another Intel i7 processor, this guide is here to help you pick the perfect motherboard for your CPU, organized by processor generation.
Intel CORE Processors
Prior to 2006, the top desktop processor fielded by Intel was the Intel Pentium processor. In August of 2006, Intel released the first of its CORE processors – Intel CORE 2 Duo. This new line of processors offset the existing Intel lineup.
The prior top-end model line, Pentium, was dropped to a more entry-level status, and by extension the Celeron series was also displaced, becoming the low-end processor series. The CORE series is purported to have had a 40% performance increase over the existing Pentium model, with 40% less power consumption.
In 2007, Intel continued to push the envelope with its first quad-core processor – the CORE 2 Quad. Since then, Intel’s CORE series has been released based on a three-type convention – CORE i3, i5, and i7.
The i3 is the entry-level CORE processor, a dual-core processor featuring decent performance for general purpose PCs for a budget price-point. The i5 is a more mid-level processor, featuring quad cores, and passable enough performance for gaming computers. All at a price-point lower than the i7.
The i7, on the other hand, is the top-tier, premium CPU within the line. Appropriate for more processor-intensive tasks like high-performance gaming, video editing or graphic design, the i7 is capable of much faster and higher-quality performance than the i3 or i5. It can also better handle overclocking and muiltitasking.
The 7th Generation: Kaby Lake
Kaby Lake is the 7th generation of Intel’s processors, which released on the 3rd of January, 2017. It shipped in the three standard models: the CORE i7 7700K, CORE i5 7600K, and CORE i3 7350K. The i3 7350K was also the first “unlocked” i3 processor – meaning that, whereas previous i3 models had only two of the four cores shipped with it in use by the processor, the i3 7350K has all four cores set up for use out of the box.
Kaby Lake is largely an evolution of the previous generation processor line, Skylake. Kaby Lake saw the end of Intel’s previous Tick-Tock development model in favor of what is, in essence, a modified Tick-Tock format – the Process-Architecture-Optimization model.
To place it in perspective, Kaby Lake comes in as the “optimization” of the changes made with Skylake – “Architecture”, the implementation of a new socket – and Broadwell – “Process”, the first processor series to use the 14nm process.
The improvements made to the processor lineage with Kaby Lake as compared to Skylake include a faster processor clock and higher maximum. All Kaby Lake processors are compatible with LGA 1151 socket motherboards, and make use of the Z270 chipset, with backwards compatibility with Z170 motherboards.
The 6th Generation: Skylake
Skylake was Inte’s 6th-generation processor line, released August of 2015. It was released in the standard three versions, with the CORE i7 6700K released as the first i7 version, followed by the i7 6700 a month after release.
The Skylake i7 processors were a significant improvement over previous generations. Its release also saw the release of new motherboards to adapt to the new LGA 1151 socket.
The Skylake processors were originally compatible with the Z170 series of motherboards, but as mentioned the newer Z270 series are also backward compatible with Skylake chipsets.
- Asus ROG Maximus VIII Formula – Budget motherboard
- Gigabyte Z170 Gaming 7 – Good board with excellent audio options
- MSI Z170A Gaming M7 – Good for overclocking
- Asus Z170-A ATX – Good mid-range board
- ASRock Fatl1ty – Higher-end motherboard with many features
- MSI Z170A SLI Plus – A good board at a good price
- Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 3 – Another excellent budget board
The Republic of Gamers Maximus VIII Formula is a motherboard designed with gamers, casual and hardcore alike, in mind. With a sleek, uncluttered black and silver aesthetic and fully customizable RGB LED array, it is sure to be a visual pleaser. The LEDs can be controlled via the ROG Aura software.
The Maximus VIII Formula comes equipped with the CrossChill EK cooling block. This is a hybrid cooling system, with support for both liquid and air cooling. Because the system directly cools the voltage regulators, it confers a much greater degree of cooling as compared to systems that only cool the heatpipe.
The 5th Generation: Broadwell
The Broadwell generation of processors were released by Intel in 2015. They were released at around the same time as the more modern Skylake chips, which are much faster, and thus it is likely that this is why there were only two Broadwell processors for desktop use – of which the only i7 version was the CORE i7 5775C.
Broadwell was an evolution of and improvement over the Haswell, conferring a 5% to 10% performance improvement. Thus Broadwell would be a viable improvement over the Haswell for those whose motherboards have the LGA 1150 socket. It should be noted that Broadwell processors are not compatible with 8-series chipsets, and thus require newer Z97 or H97 ones.
The MSI Z97 Gaming 5 is an austere motherboard. It comes equipped with an M.2 slot, six SATA connectors, and six USB 3.0 slots. It also comes with the Audio Boost 2 sound system and Killer E2200 networking port, and thus the motherboard is well-equipped for typical gaming rigs.
With its easy to use BIOS, it permits overclocking of both the CPU and memory, and coupled with Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, makes it a very easy setup to toy with the settings.
Aesthetically it sports a black and red motif, typical of MSI products, with their dragon logo. All these features together make this motherboard a good contender for the best mid-range board on the market.
The 4th Generation: Haswell
Intel’s fourth generation processor line, Haswell, was released in 2013, and with it the LGA 1150 socket and a number of new chipset options, including H87 and Z87. Among these, Intel’s CORE i7 4770K was the higher-end version.
A year later they released Haswell Refresh, the most recent version of these processors. Similar to its initial release, the CORE i7 4790K was the higher-end version of the line.
Like Skylake and Kaby Lake, the chipsets of both the 8-series Haswell and 9-series Haswell Refresh are cross-compatible with the processors and motherboards – with 9-series being directly compatible and 8-series motherboards requiring a BIOS update to be compatible with Haswell Refresh processors.
The Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5 is higher-end Haswell motherboard. This board comes with easy to use, automatic overclocking. It is equipped with an excellent sound system consisting of a Realtek ALC1150 sound chip, the Gigabyte AMP-UP audio system, and the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi MB3 audio suite. On top of that, it comes with the Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 ethernet port for superior online gaming.
Add on to that an M.2 connector SATA Express port, PCIe and USB 3.0 connectors, this board comes in firmly as one of the best gaming-oriented motherboards for Haswell processors.
The Best i7 4790K Motherboard
The Haswell Refresh CORE i7 4790K is a popular choice for PC building. Thus the question of what the best board for this particular processor comes up quite a lot.
These CPUs are directly compatible with any 9-series chipsets on a motherboard with an LGA 1150 socket. Additionally, they are compatible with 8-series chipsets through a BIOS update. However, because the 9-series chipsets and boards were specifically designed for Haswell Refresh processors, these are the most ideal boards to use with the i7 4790K.
The two Z97 motherboards we have already gone over, the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 and Gigabyte Z97X Gaming 5 both make a good pair with the CORE i7 4790K.
Regardless of what generation you are building your PC on, for gaming purposes the CORE i7 processors are the most ideal. This guide is a helpful resource for hammering out the best i7 motherboard match for your individual needs.