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Best Motherboards With Thunderbolt

Apart from sheer convenience, Thunderbolt helps enhance your productivity thanks to its performance-oriented features, making it the go-to choice for professionals and home users who need high-performance I/O connectivity.

Its most significant advantage is that it combines power, data, and video signals on a single cable, allowing you to minimize cable clutter on your desktop.

Compared to widely used USB versions such as USB 3.2 Gen 2; Thunderbolt 3 and 4 also support faster data transfer rates, allowing you to transfer voluminous data in a fraction of the time. To quote some numbers, Thunderbolt 4 supports 40 Gbps data transfer speeds compared to USB 3.2 Gen 2’s 10Gbps.

With support for daisy chaining, you can set up a multi-monitor workstation with minimal cables or dedicated video output ports, ensuring a streamlined setup ideal for enhancing productivity.

Sure, USB 4 offers data transfer speeds like the current Thunderbolt standards, but not all USB 4-rated devices are as versatile enough as Thunderbolt.

This is because the USB Implementors Forum (USB-IF) specifies lower minimum specifications for USB 4 compared to the minimum specifications of Thunderbolt 4.

USB-IF does this to give flexibility to device manufacturers who want to minimize their products’ costs while retaining the USB 4 rating. By choosing what specification to implement, device manufacturers can focus on tweaking a USB 4 motherboard to suit a specific use case while offering a pocket-friendly price.

A comparison from the consumer’s point of view is also vital while assessing Thunderbolt and USB 4.

The rigid specifications of Thunderbolt 4-rated devices and their compatibility with previous USB and Thunderbolt versions ensure uniformity in their capabilities. For instance, all Thunderbolt 4 motherboards and laptops will support 40 Gbps data transfer speeds and have 8K video output.

USB 4 has no such uniformity. In the case of USB 4, while the end-user must look into the specifications of the USB 4 implementation, the price is worth the effort, making it ideal for pro-users with a good understanding of specifications and capabilities.

Further, you can use the port for charging and daisy-chaining additional devices, making Thunderbolt ideal for novice users who don’t mind paying a premium for convenience.

The 8 Best Motherboards with Thunderbolt

Our Recommendations: At a Glance

  1. ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Dark Hero – Our top pick for motherboards with Thunderbolt 4 and Wi-Fi 7 ensures you get high-end specifications.
  2. MSI MEG Z790 ACE MAX – With Wi-Fi 7, Thunderbolt 4, and dual 2.5Gb Ethernet ports, this motherboard is ideal for a workstation PC setup.
  3. ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Hero – This gaming motherboard has intelligent controls and plenty of AI-based tech to optimize cooling and networking, and it provides AI support for overclocking to enhance performance.
  4. ASUS ProArt Z790-Creator -The ProArt Z790 Creator is among the few motherboards that offer 10GbE network connectivity, making it ideal for network-intensive collaborations.
  5. GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS Xtreme X – This EATX motherboard provides plenty of room to accommodate full-size GPUs, fans, and AIO coolers.
  6. ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi 6E – The mini-ITX form factor of the Strix Z690-I is ideal for maintaining a small desktop footprint.
  7. ASUS ProArt B550-Creator – Our recommendation for AMD loyalists who want to harness the power of Thunderbolt.
  8. ASROCK Z690 Taichi – A budget motherboard, ideal for users who need tremendous functionality without breaking the bank.

1. ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Dark Hero – Editor’s Pick

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4 provide high-speed wireless network connectivity.
  • The PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot ensures top-notch speeds for storage access.
  • Q-Code gives a two-digit readout of diagnostic errors in case of failures.
  • Plenty of expansion ports provide flexibility for connecting multiple I/O devices.
  • AI Overclocking helps extract a considerable performance boost.
  • The robust thermal design prevents the motherboard from overheating and throttling performance.
  • DIY design includes release latches for PCIe and M.2 slots, making it easy to detach components.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • The LGA 1700 socket may be redundant in less than a year.
  • No 10Gb Ethernet, despite the price.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
6x USB 10 Gbps
5x Type-A

1x Type-C

4x USB 5 Gbps
Type-A
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45
Audio
5x Gold Plated 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF Output

The ASUS ROG Maximum Z790 Dark Hero is a well-rounded motherboard with all the high-tech features you need for top-notch performance.

The Dark Hero has an LGA 1700 socket to accommodate Intel’s 14th-generation processors and features four DIMM slots for up to 192GB dual-channel DDR5 RAM. Further, the motherboard uses PCIe 5.0 data lanes to ensure superior connectivity speed between vital components like the CPU, RAM, and storage.

Regarding storage, the motherboard has one PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot, four additional M.2 (PCIe 4.0) slots, and four SATA slots for conventional storage units. The slots support PCIe RAID and SATA RAID volumes of 0/1/5 and 10 to help secure data by allowing you to create redundancies of your choice.

The motherboard is streamlined to deliver high performance and offers two PCIe 5.0 x16 slots that support x16 or x8/x8 modes. You also get one PCIe 4.0 x4 slot for attaching less demanding add-in cards.

Besides having many connectivity ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, the Z790 Dark Hero has several headers to connect cooler, water pumps, and AIO water pumps. The list of headers includes one for a USB 20 Gbps connector for high-speed device connectivity.

More importantly, the motherboard features Wi-Fi 7 for high-speed wireless connectivity and a 2.5 Gb Ethernet port to connect to a wired network.

Overall, the motherboard has several high-end features for enhancing productivity, making it ideal for the extensive workflow that meets the top-notch performance demands of power users.

2. MSI MEG Z790 ACE MAX

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.4 provide high-speed wireless network connectivity.
  • Two 2.5Gb Ethernet ports provide high-speed LAN connectivity.
  • Realtek® ALC4082 Codec offers excellent audio quality over a 7.1-channel audio system.
  • The PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot ensures top-notch speeds for storage access.
  • There are plenty of connectivity ports and headers for easy expansion.

Cons

  • Price
  • No 10Gb Ethernet.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x USB Type-C
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
7x USB 10 Gbps
7x Type-A
Ethernet
2x 2.5Gb RJ-45
Audio
5x Gold Plated 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF Output

The official release of Wi-Fi 7 is months away, but you can be an early adopter by getting your hands on the MSI MEG Z790 ACE Max motherboard. While Wi-Fi 7 promises to offer higher bandwidth than Wi-Fi 6E, the official specifications are set to be announced by May 2024. Nevertheless, the technology builds upon the base laid by Wi-Fi 6E and promises faster transfer speed courtesy of broader channel bandwidths up to 320MHz.

The Z790 ACE MAX is an Intel-based motherboard that uses the LGA 1700 socket, which supports the latest Intel processors. The motherboard has an E-ATX form factor, giving it ample space to accommodate four DIMM slots that support up to 192GB DDR5 RAM.

The motherboard uses PCIe 5.0 data lanes and offers two PCIe 5.0 and one PCIe 4.0 expansion slot. While the two former slots support x16 and x8 lanes, the latter supports x4, giving you ample flexibility for add-in cards.

MSI’s Z790 ACE MAX offers a similar storage configuration to the Z790 Dark Hero from Asus. This includes five M.2 storage slots with one PCIe 5.0 and four with PCIe 4.0 data lanes. You also get six SATA 6Gbps slots for older storage devices.

Interestingly, apart from the usual mix of USB, Thunderbolt, and Ethernet ports, this motherboard foregoes dedicated HDMI ports and offers a USB Type-C Alt Mode DisplayPort for video output. Of course, this is in addition to the two Thunderbolt 4 ports (that also provide video output).

3. ASUS ROG Maximus Z790 Hero

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • The 20+1+2 Teamed Power stage instantly switches between low and high-power demands.
  • AI Overclocking and AI Cooling tweak performance with minimal user intervention.
  • The PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot ensures top-notch speeds for storage access.
  • There are plenty of connectivity ports and headers for easy expansion.
  • Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 provide high-speed wireless connectivity.

Cons

  • Price
  • No 10Gb Ethernet

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
6x USB 3.2 Gen 2
5x Type-A

1x Type-C

4x USB 3.2 Gen 1
4x Type-A
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45
Audio
5x Gold Plated 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF Output

A robust power design, efficient cooling, and overclocking capabilities are the most vital features of a good motherboard. The Asus ROG Maximum Z790 Hero has all this and more to ensure you enjoy immersive, high-performance gaming.

The Maximus has 20+1+2 Teamed Power stages, each rated to handle 90A to ensure your computer’s processor and memory unit are instantly given power-on-demand when transitioning from power-saving modes to full-throttle gaming.

Asus understands gaming needs well, which is evident when you look at the thermal design of the Z790 Hero. The design includes integrated I/O covers and dedicated heatsinks for the VRM and M.2 modules. The M.2 modules are lined with base plates and thermal heat pads, ensuring efficient heat dissipation for effective cooling.

Further, with AI-based overclocking and cooling, Asus ensures that you extract top-notch CPU performance while it optimizes cooling to prevent performance loss.

Unsurprisingly, the motherboard has an LGA 1700 socket for Intel’s latest 14th-generation CPUs, which Asus allows you to pair with up to 192GB DDR5 RAM using dual-channel DIMM slots. The Maximus Z790 natively uses PCIe 5.0 to provide the internal infrastructure for these high-performance components.

This also means that the motherboard features PCIe 5.0 expansion slots. You get two PCIe 5.0 x16 and one PCIe 4.0 x16 slot for attaching your add-in cards. The storage configuration has the familiar five M.2 (including one PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot) and six SATA 6 Gbps ports that support RAID 0/1/5/10 volumes.

4. ASUS ProArt Z790-Creator

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • The 10Gb Ethernet port provides the fastest network connectivity.
  • PCIe 5.0 expansion slots accommodate the most demanding add-in cards.
  • Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 provide high-speed wireless connectivity.
  • Eight SATA 6Gbps ports and four M.2 slots allow you to set up an extensive storage infrastructure.
  • Realtek S1220A Codec offers excellent audio quality over a 7.1-channel audio system.

Cons

  • No PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot for high-speed NVMe storage.
  • Thunderbolt 4 ports support only 15W Power Delivery.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x DisplayPort
Input only with support for Thunderbolt pass-thru
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
6x USB 3.2 Gen 2
6x USB-A 10Gbps
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45

1x 10Gb RJ-45

Audio
5x 3.5mm Audio Jacks

While Asus has designed the ProArt Z790 Creator, keeping in mind the needs of content creators, this motherboard is versatile enough to suit varied use cases.

The ProArt Z790 has an LGA 1700 socket, used by Intel’s line-up of their latest processors. The ATX motherboard uses PCIe 5.0 data lanes to connect all the vital components of the motherboard, including the memory units and CPUs.

Unfortunately, the PCIe 5.0 connectivity is limited to the primary memory (RAM) and the CPU, as the M.2 storage units rely on PCIe 4.0 data lanes for connectivity. Unlike several Z790 boards, the ProArt Creator has four M.2 storage slots (all PCIe 4.0) but incredibly offers eight SATA 6Gbps ports, provisioning for converting storage medium that supports voluminous data.

Of course, to support the movement of voluminous data, Asus includes several data transfer mediums that support high-speed data transfers. Besides the two Thunderbolt 4 ports, the ProArt Z790 Creator features Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3.

More importantly, besides the widely accepted 2.5Gb Ethernet port, this motherboard also includes a 10Gb Ethernet port for high-speed data transfers over LAN.

For internal expansion, the Asus includes two PCIe 5.0 (x16) slots and one PCIe 4.0 (x16) slot. The motherboard also features many connectors for fans, pumps, and USB headers for convenient expansions. And gamers get plenty of RGB connectors/addressable headers for getting their gaming rig looking sharp.

5. GIGABYTE Z790 AORUS Xtreme X

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.3 provide high-speed wireless network connectivity.
  • The PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot ensures top-notch speeds for storage access.
  • The 10Gb Ethernet port provides the fastest network connectivity.
  • EZ-Latch allows you to attach/detach PCIe and M.2 components conveniently.
  • The robust 24+1+2 power design includes premium capacitors and chokes, which are ideal for gaming.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only two expansion slots greatly limit the expansion capabilities of the motherboard.
  • No HDMI or DisplayPort means you’ll have to use one Thunderbolt port exclusively for video.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 5K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
10x USB 3.2 Gen 2
10x USB-A 10Gbps
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45

1x 10Gb RJ-45

Audio
2x 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF output

Accommodating full-size GPU cards with added fans, an AIO cooler, and whatnot is challenging if you have an ATX motherboard. For this, an E-ATX (or extended ATX) motherboard is ideal as it provides the same functionality with plenty more room, making it easier to set up your desktop.

The Aorus Xtreme X is an E-ATX motherboard that supports Intel’s latest generation of processors. Though expensive, the motherboard is fully equipped to accommodate the newest and most resource-hungry components on the market.

Gigabyte allows you to pair the newest Intel processor with up to 192GB DDR5 RAM over four dual-channel DIMM slots supporting XMP 3.0 profiles. And with native support for PCIe 5.0, the Aorus Xtreme X rounds off the internal infrastructure of the motherboard to facilitate top-notch performance with a PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot.

But the Xtreme X has its share of constraints. For instance, you only get one PCIe 5.0 x16 expansion slot, whereas most Z790 motherboards offer two. Also, instead of a PCIe 4.0 expansion slot, the Xtreme X offers a PCIe 3.0 x16, something which most PC builders will find odd.

Nevertheless, what the Xtreme X lacks in expansions, it makes up in network connectivity. The motherboard is among a handful that offers Wi-Fi 7 and a 10Gb Ethernet port for high-speed networking.

6. ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi 6E

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 provide high-speed wireless connectivity.
  • The mini-ITX form factor helps maximize space at the workstation.
  • AI-based controls manage overclocking, cooling, networking, and noise cancellation for uninterrupted computing.
  • Q-Latch makes it easy to add/remove M.2 storage units.
  • An excellent thermal design manages heat dissipation and prevents overheating.

Cons

  • No PCIe 5.0 M.2 slot for high-speed NVMe storage.
  • No 10Gb Ethernet port.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2
2x USB-A 10Gbps
3x USB 3.2 Gen 1
3x USB-A 5Gbps
2x USB 2.0
2x USB-A 480 Mbps
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45
Audio
3x 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF output

A mini-ITX motherboard gives your desktop computer a small footprint without sacrificing too much processing power. The Asus ROG Strix Z690-I is a mini-ITX motherboard ideal for mid-range gaming, giving you a compact gaming station.

Unlike full-size ATX motherboards, the ROG Strix Z690-I offers only two DIMM slots for up to 96GB DDR5. However, you get an LGA 1700 socket to pair that RAM with Intel’s 14th-generation processors.

The motherboard offers just one PCIe 5.0 x16 expansion slot, and both the M.2 slots for storage use PCIe 4.0. It has four SATA 6 Gbps ports for conventional storage units, giving you just enough to set up a gaming station for mid-to-high-performance gaming.

Asus incorporates a modest 10+2 power stage design with premium alloy chokes and capacitors. It’s ideal for a mini-ITX motherboard with comparatively fewer RAM modules and expansion slots to provide power.

Interestingly, the ROG Strix Z690-I comes with Asus’s suite of AI-powered intelligent tools to manage overclocking and cooling tasking. These also include AI Networking and AI-base two-way noise cancellation for an immersive gaming experience.

Further, the motherboard is DIY-friendly, with a Q-Latch for the M.2 slot, making it convenient to mount storage chips. You also get a BIOS FlashBack and Clr CMOS button to effortlessly wipe the slate clean to update BIOS and tackle boot errors.

7. ASUS ProArt B550-Creator

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • Two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the AMD platform.
  • Q-Latch makes it easy to add/remove M.2 storage units.
  • Two 2.5Gb Ethernet ports for high-speed LAN connections.
  • A dedicated HDMI port means you won’t sacrifice a Thunderbolt port for a display connection.

Cons

  • No Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity for wireless networks.
  • Outdated, with support for older generations of RAM and AMD processors.
  • There needs to be more storage slots.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
4x USB 3.2 Gen 2
4x USB-A 10Gbps
2x USB 2.0
2x USB-A 480 Mbps
1x DisplayPort
Input only for Thunderbolt pass-thru
1x PS/2
For keyboard/mouse
Ethernet
2x 2.5Gb RJ-45
Audio
5x 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF output

Intel designed and developed Thunderbolt technology, leaving AMD users little or no option but to rely on USB for their connectivity needs. A proprietary technology at its inception, Intel had opened Thunderbolt technology on the AMD platform, and AMD has responded by including this versatile connectivity standard.

The Asus ProArt B550 Creator is among the few, if not the only, motherboards offering Thunderbolt 4 on the AMD platform.

Unfortunately, you must make do with an AM4 socket that supports the older AMD Ryzen 5000 series processors. Agreed, the motherboard is a bit dated, and the support for DDR4 RAM and PCIe 4.0 data lanes reinforces this fact despite the launch of DDR5 and PCIe 5.0 standards in 2021.

Despite that, using the ProArt B550 Creator motherboard is the best way for AMD loyalists to use Thunderbolt 4.

The board offers two PCIe 4.0 x16, one PCIe 3.0 x16, and one PCIe 3.0 x1 expansion slot for add-in cards. For storage, you get two M.2 slots and four SATA 6 Gbps ports that support RAID volumes 0/1/10. Undoubtedly, the storage slots offered are modest for power users, but most everyday use cases won’t have a problem accommodating their storage solutions.

The motherboard sports one HDMI 2.1 port for video connectivity that supports 4K@60Hz resolution. It also has a DisplayPort connector, an Input Only port meant for Thunderbolt 4 pass-thru.

The B550 is the only option AMD loyalists have for using Thunderbolt technology. Most other AMD-based boards offer USB 4, which is compatible with Thunderbolt 4 and may provide similar capabilities, but you’ll have to read the specifications to know what to expect.

8. ASROCK Z690 Taichi – Budget Pick

Last Amazon Price Update on 2024-06-03 at 17:57 UTC+3

Pros

  • The robust 20-phase power design features 105A circuits, providing efficient power distribution to vital components.
  • The M.2 Key E slot provides a convenient means to update the Wi-Fi module.
  • Price
  • Native support for Wi-Fi 6E provides high-speed wireless connectivity.
  • Built-in RGB lighting offers eye-catching gaming aesthetics.

Cons

  • More M.2 slots for storage would be better.
  • There are too few USB ports on the rear I/O panel.

Ports

Ports/Spec
Details
1x HDMI 2.1
Supports 4K@60Hz video
2x Thunderbolt 4
Supports 8K@60Hz and 40 Gbps data transfer
2x USB 3.2 Gen 2
2x USB-A 10Gbps
4x USB 3.2 Gen 1
4x USB-A 5 Gbps
Ethernet
1x 2.5Gb RJ-45

1x 1Gb RJ-45

Audio
5x 3.5mm Audio Jacks

1x S/PDIF output

While expensive at its launch in 2021, the ASRock Z690 Taichi’s price is no longer a concern, and it is one of the most affordable Z690 ATX motherboards to feature Thunderbolt 4 ports.

Despite its vintage, the Z690 Taichi offers plenty for the latest PC builds, including support for Intel’s 14th-generation processors and up to 192GB DDR5 RAM. Naturally, this also means it natively uses PCIe 5.0 to provide state-of-the-art internal infrastructure at a pocket-friendly price.

The motherboard has two PCIe 5.0 x16 (support x16 and x8/x8 modes), one PCIe 4.0 x16, and one PCIe 3.0 x1 slot for expansions. While the Z690 Taichi natively offers Wi-Fi 6E, it also has an M.2 (Key E) slot for retrofitting an upgraded Wi-Fi module.

For storage, the Taichi Z690 has three M.2 slots and six SATA 6 Gbps ports. While the M.2 NVMe storage slots support RAID 0/1/5, SATA RAID volume also includes RAID 10 for data redundancies. More M.2 slots for NVMe storage would have been handier, but this is a budget pick, and the motherboard would have to cut corners.

Having said that, the Taichi Z690 has a generous 20-phase 105A power design and an equally effective thermal design that includes thermal pads, a base plate, and plenty of heatsinks over VRM and M.2 components.

Overall, the Taichi Z690 offers several high-end specifications, greatly enhancing its versatility and providing unmatched value for money.

Essential Features to Have on A Thunderbolt Motherboard

Several considerations go into choosing the motherboard that will serve your purpose. From selecting an appropriate platform between Intel and AMD to the selection of ports a motherboard has to offer, there are several crucial decisions you need to make.

For instance, gamers need motherboards with a robust power design, RGB lighting, and efficient heat dissipation, but everyday users require a modest setup with a fast processor, RAM, and storage.

Here are some vital pointers to help you understand and make informed decisions.

Platform

Essentially, you must choose between Intel and AMD-based motherboards. While the latest 14th-generation Intel processors hold a slight edge over their AMD counterparts, there are virtually no Thunderbolt motherboards with an AM5 socket for the latest AMD Ryzen 7000 series processor.

So, if you are an AMD loyalist, you must either settle for USB 4 instead of Thunderbolt or use a motherboard that supports the previous generation of AMD chips.

Network Connectivity

It would be best to choose a motherboard with the fastest data transfer rates, whether wireless or wired.

Ethernet

Most motherboards offer 1Gb or 2.5Gb Ethernet, but power users will prefer a 10Gb Ethernet port. It’ll give you faster data transfers and make collaborating with colleagues convenient in a busy office environment.

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 7 is about four times faster than its predecessor, Wi-Fi 6E. While the older standard offers about 10.8 Gbps bandwidth, Wi-Fi 7 is equipped to offer up to 40 Gbps data transfer speeds.

With the release of Wi-Fi 7 only months away, selecting a motherboard that offers Wi-Fi 6 or 6E makes little sense. The price of Wi-Fi 7 motherboards is similar to those with Wi-Fi 6E, and you get to future-proof your PC and prevent hasty upgrades.

Port Selection

Like most other motherboards, motherboards with Thunderbolt also offer plenty of ports, making it challenging to choose between them. There are several Thunderbolt docking stations you can use to augment port selection, but accommodating these docks on a cramped workstation is challenging. Moreover, they are expensive, often costing over a few hundred dollars.

Here is a reckoner for the ports you should have on the motherboard of your choice.

Video Ports

It’s essential to have a dedicated video port because most motherboards commonly offer two Thunderbolt ports. Without a dedicated video port, such as an HDMI port, you will have to sacrifice one Thunderbolt port to hook up a display unit, leaving you with just one Thunderbolt port for expansion.

While several Thunderbolt motherboards offer HDMI 2.1 ports and support 4K@60Hz video, it is not uncommon to find motherboards without dedicated video connectivity ports.

USB Ports

You’ll require plenty of USB ports for connecting all your peripheral devices. Printers, scanners, flash drives, and most portable devices require a USB port for charging or data transfers.

USB has several versions, and often, it is difficult to distinguish one from the other, leaving you to pay close attention to the device specifications. Even then, you need to have a clear understanding of the capabilities of each USB version. So here is a summary of all USB versions.

USB Version
Data Transfer Speed
Connector
Video Support
USB 2.0
480 Mbps
Type-A
No
USB 3.2 Gen 1
5 Gbps
Type-A
No
USB 3.2 Gen 2
10 Gbps
Type-A
No
USB 3.2 Gen 2×2
20 Gbps
Type-C
Optional. Via Alt Mode DisplayPort
USB 4
40 Gbps
Type-C
Optional. Via Alt Mode DisplayPort

PCIe 5.0: Expansion and M.2 Storage Slots

PCIe data lanes link a computer’s CPU, RAM, and storage, enabling high-speed data transfers between these components.

Besides enabling these components to communicate, motherboards use PCIe data lane to provide expansion slots that you can use to attach add-in cards like discrete GPUs. Naturally, newer PCIe versions offer faster data rates, enabling tremendous data throughput and facilitating speedier computing.

PCIe Version
Data Transfer Rate (x16 Lanes)
PCIe 5.0
64GB/s
PCIe 4.0
32GB/s
PCIe 3.0
16GB/s

Apart from expansion slots, PCIe 5.0 data lanes also connect M.2 NVMe storage units, and many motherboards offer a mix of PCIe 5.0 and PCIe 4.0 M.2 slots. Selecting a motherboard that provides a PCIe M.2 slot for faster read and write operations to storage units is advisable.

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