If you’re a consumer looking to build a top of the line high-end machine, chances are that you’re going to want a CPU from Intel’s i7 line, and there’s no better processor for the general market than the i7 7700k. But aspiring computer builders learn quick that you can’t just buy a quick CPU and hope for it to work to your standards. A quality machine has balanced specs around the board, and there are few pieces of hardware as important as the motherboard. If you’re looking to find a motherboard for i7 7700k, here’s everything you need to know to make the right choice.

The Basics

Before you start looking for a motherboard, you need to understand exactly what the i7 7700k can do. The operating frequency of this CPU clocks in at 4.2GHz, but that can be ramped up to 4.5GHz due to Turbo Boost technology built in. But that’s just out of the box. This is an unlocked CPU, and that means that it can be overclocked well past the 5GHz barrier. That means that you’re going to need a pretty hefty motherboard to really make the most of what the i7 7700k has to offer. Investing in a motherboard with the Z270 chipset is a practical necessity. Beyond that, there’s some flexibility in the motherboard features you want. We’ll outline them below.

ASUS Maximus IX Hero – Great Overall Balance

ASUS is well regarded for the quality of their products, and that’s true with the Maximus IX Hero as well. It’s a great all-around board available at an eminently reasonable price. The inclusion of six SATA ports and two M.2 slots provide for a sensible amount of storage, and the SupremeFX 8-channel audio chip supports some robust sound quality. But the real selling point here may be how easy it makes the overclocking process. Overclocking is something that should be approached with caution, but the ASUS Dual Intelligent 5-Way Optimization feature that the Hero sports allows even technical amateurs readily optimize their rig.

ASUS Maximus IX Apex – Maximum Overclock

If your ultimate goal is to get as much juice as possible out of your it 7700k CPU, the Apex is a phenomenal option. While it falls behind its Hero brother in terms of its diversity of features, it’s built from the ground up to provide the best overclocking around. Between the presence of two 8pin connectors and an incredibly functional cooling system, the Apex can push your machine to a truly stunning 7383MHz without risk of burnout or overheating.

Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 – Loaded With Features

The Gigabyte GA-Z270X-Gaming 9 is a handsome looking motherboard, but that’s just scratching the surface of what this hardware has to offer. The hybrid cooler performs well over expectations and can leave you feeling comfortable pushing overclocking to the limit, and there’s a variety of smart overclocking controls built right into the motherboard so you can customize your experience to your unique preferences. If you’re looking to pack multiple CPUs into your machine, the PEX8747 chip can comfortably accommodate as many as four. Combine that with the exceptional ZxRi sound chip, two hardware amplifiers, and exceptional storage, and you have a motherboard that does everything and does it all well.

ASRock B250M-HDV – A Cheap Alternative

When you’re talking about a motherboard that can properly accommodate such a thoroughly powerful processor, cheap is bound to be a relative term, but the ASRock B250M-HDV offers the most budget option around without crippling the capabilities of this workhorse GPU. It’s available for less than $70, and it manages this cheap price due to the fact that it uses a B250M rather than Z270 chipset. That means that the power you’d otherwise get out of the i7 7700k is held back a bit, but it does hold a decent amount of memory. Just keep in mind that overclocking is not supported, so you’ll likely only want to use the B250M-HDV as a placeholder until you can spring for a more appropriate option.

MSI Z270-A PRO – Strong Performance For Pricing

The more powerful a motherboard gets, the more of a premium you’re likely going to pay for it. But in terms of raw value, there’s no better motherboard around than the Z270-A PRO. For a price tag just over a hundred bucks, you get a strongly balanced motherboard that’s a little light on its diversity of features. The six SATA ports and single M.2 port are respectable but not exactly leading in its class, and the components are certified to MSI Military Class 5 standards. Unlike the B250M-HDV, it supports overclocking, but it’s not going to be able to reach the heights of something like either of the listed Maximus IX boards. It performs below almost all of the boards on our list, but it’s pricing is hard to beat, and it packs in a lot more juice than the dirt cheap B250M-HDV for a relatively fractional price bump.