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DDR4? DDR5? Wi-Fi? A brief overview of motherboards for Intel’s new Alder Lake CPUs

Enlarge / Gigabyte’s $270 Z690 Aorus Elite AX Z690. Alder Lake motherboards come in all shapes, sizes, and prices, as long as you have at least $200 (and preferably, closer to $300) to spend. (credit: Gigabyte)

Intel’s 12th-generation Core processors for desktops are here, and they’re fast. Codenamed Alder Lake, these processors consume a lot of power to reach the heights that they do and will require expensive high-performance cooling to match. But in exchange, they deliver healthy single-threaded performance boosts over their closest competition from AMD, and they generally come pretty close in multi-threaded performance tests despite the use of lower-performance “efficiency” cores (or E-cores).

As they so often do, this new processor architecture requires new chipsets and processor sockets from Intel—motherboards with 500-series chipsets aren’t compatible. To accompany our Alder Lake review, we’ve looked at the breadth of Z690-based motherboards that are currently available, as well as the state of the nascent DDR5 RAM market (spoiler: it’s not great).

All kinds of boards

Entry-level ATX and Micro ATX motherboards with the Z690 chipset start between $200 and $250. There are a few that dip below that $200 line, but they’re more likely than the other models to be sold out as of this writing. In general, we tried to focus on boards that you can actually buy right this minute; Newegg lists most ASRock and many Asus motherboards as out of stock right now, but you can still find boards to fit most budgets if you need one.

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