Getting an AM4 motherboard is pretty easy; there are tons of quality suggestions online. Getting an AM4 RGB motherboard, on the other hand, that’s where many PC builders will struggle.
Truth of the matter is AMD’s AM4 platform is not in any way new, and there’s a whole selection of AM4 RGB motherboards on the market. You just need to know where to look.
What makes a great AM4 motherboard?
Lights over performance? Never met a PC-head who’d agree to that. A motherboard should be first capable and performant before it’s a cinematic spectacle. So what makes a good AM4 motherboard?
- Ports and connectivity
- Expansion slots
Benchmark tests, and not necessarily specifications, are one of the most objective ways to gauge the performance of an AM4 motherboard. This is true because motherboard specifications – what Chipset and such only define the performance of the motherboard on a component by component basis; benchmarks test the true capability of a motherboard as a sum of all its parts.
Ports and connectivity
Different motherboards come with different ports and connectivity options. At the very least, you want a motherboard with latest-gen USB ports – USB 3.2 at the time of writing this. Additional connectivity options like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth can come integrated into a motherboard or be added in via a connectivity card.
The best motherboards will overall support the latest ports and connectivity options.
Expansion slots determine just how much storage and extra add ons you can integrate into your computer. Expansion slots for storage are usually SATA type or PCIe type. Expansion slots for performance hardware (like a GPU) are usually PCIe type. In shopping for a motherboard, you want the ones with the slots to accommodate the latest-gen tech (GPUs, SSDs) available on the market at the time of purchase.
It’s fairly easy to assess the port situation of a motherboard to see if it’s worth the hassle or not. Use this guide to get started.
Chipsets are the brains onboard a motherboard. Comparable to a CPU, chipsets control information processing and routing happening on the level of a motherboard. That’s a roundabout way of saying they link individual components of your PC – the CPU, GPU, storage and connectivity cards – together so everything functions in sync.
The Chipset a motherboard ships with will determine what kind and the capacity of storage, GPU, RAM and CPU it’ll support. For instance, Intel’s series 600 Chipsets are what you’ll get if you want native support for DDR5 RAM. Other AM4 chipsets only support DDR4 RAM at the time of writing this. Chipsets on a motherboard are identified by the letter number-naming in a motherboard’s name. So for the Asus ROG Maximus Z690 motherboard, the Chipset on board is the Z690.
Now you know what defines a good AM4 motherboard, but you’re here cause you want something with special lighting effects. What defines a great AM4 RGB motherboard?
What makes a great AM4 RGB motherboard?
I talk about RGB motherboards in-depth here, but as far as lightning on a motherboard goes, excellent RGB motherboards are defined by:
- The native RGB lighting on the motherboard itself
- The number of RGB headers
- The presence of addressable or non-addressable RGB headers
- The presence of a native RGB lighting control module
Native RGB lighting
These are the RGB lighting elements on the actual motherboard system. Some manufacturers have perfected the art of stylizing their motherboards with the coolest RGB lighting effects; others, not so much.
RGB headers are ports for extra RGB elements on the motherboard. Just as you have headers for fans – which allow you to connect an external PC fan – an RGB header allows you to connect RGB lighting elements to your PC setup.
Addressable vs non-addressable RGB headers
RGB headers could be either addressable or non-addressable. For a detailed expose on what this means, check out my guide on RGB motherboards. In sum, addressable headers use the 3 header connector and allows for fine-grained control over your PC lighting situation. Non-addressable headers use the 5-pin connector and don’t offer that much in terms of how much control you have over lighting.
RGB control module
Some motherboards come bundled with a native software control suite that recognizes all compatible connected RGB devices. This software suite allows you to affect the fine-grained controls we talked about earlier.
Note, however, that I said ‘compatible.’ Native software control panels are developed by motherboard manufacturers. Often, third party RGB elements are incompatible, although most of these third party elements will ship with their own controllers plugged in via USB.
Now you know what features to look for when shopping for an AM4 RGB motherboard. It is these same features I’ve used to curate the following list of the best AM4 RGB motherboards.
The best AM4 RGB motherboards
Best overall ASUS ROG Strix B550
The ROG Strix B550 is its best characterization of a cyberpunk theme in a motherboard. What you get is a unique blend of visibly ‘punky’ style elements, all exquisitely stylish and fully in sync with the punk aesthetic that’s both bold and homely in a sense.
The former characterization is down to the color profile of the native RGB lighting elements. With Aura sync on board, you get an almost complete display color palette. However, Asus has tuned the RGB elements on this board to pop up a mix of neon themed color displays, again in reference to the overarching punk theme.
The ROG Strix ships with two RGB headers – one addressable; the other non-addressable – for plug-in RGB elements. Addressable headers (3-pin, 5V) provide much more control over your light situation than non-addressable variants (4-pin, 12V), so that’s a huge plus. If you need more info on how this works, check out my RGB motherboards guide. Overall the availability of both an addressable and non-addressable RGB headers allows you to take your lighting customization to the literal next level, and that’s made even easier by the presence of ASUS’s native RGB software control module, Aura sync.
Aura sync provides fine-grained control over your motherboard’s lighting elements and other compatible plugged in RGB elements. Compatibility is standard for RGB elements with the Aura capable branding, and that’s mostly RGB hardware manufactured by ASUS themselves. With Aura sync, you can select from a broad range of preset lighting patterns or go fully custom to tailor your lighting situation to your exact fit.
The B550 is a beast of a motherboard, so as far as performance goes, you shouldn’t be lacking anything important. Onboard you’ve got AMD’s B550 Chipset, and that brings support for DDR4 memory, PCIe gen 4 and what’s currently AMD’s best in class CPU architecture – its fourth-gen Ryzen 5000 processors. You also get support for overclocking.
There are two M.2 PCIe 4.0 ports onboard for storage as well as a PCIe 4.0 x16 and PCIe 3.0 x16 port for a multi GPU stage.
For a VRM, you get ASUS’s DIGI+ VRM with its cascade of 14 MOSFETS for optimum, highly efficient and stable CPU and DRAM power control. The cooling system is also tier one, but I won’t go into too much detail here.
All other barebones features you’d expect from a top tier motherboard, including ASUS’s proprietary AI-backed audio system, are included on this motherboard.
To summarize, the ROG Strix B550 is the perfect all-rounder. It’s certainly not the best, most performant RGB motherboard (it’s not even the most performant RGB motherboard from ASUS), but for the price and the included features, it’s the tell-tale definition of value for more spent.
Money no object – ASUS ROG Strix X570
If your goal is to assemble the ultimate PC build with all the lights and flair to make a DJ jealous, then the ROG Strix X570 is just what the doctor (read: electronics engineer) ordered. The ASUS ROG Strix X570 is an upgrade to the B550. It packs a beefier chipset with a better power stage, more connectivity options and even more RGB lighting interfaces.
Onboard native lighting is a signature blend of cryptic and, again, punky. ASUS calls it quintessential, and it’s all flavors of fun and interesting; definitely something to appeal to your inner gamer spirit if you’re building a gaming rig.
As far as RGB headers go this time, you get four onboard RGB headers – two addressable; two non-addressable. Again, support for addressable lighting elements opens up even more customizability and display options. Paired to ASUS’s Aura sync software module for controlling compatible lighting elements, the ROG Strix is well and truly capable of delivering an intriguing light show.
Performance is as good as it gets for an ATX motherboard and benchmark results reflect that fact fully. The X570 Chipset onboard powers four PCIe 4.0 RAM channels, with support for USB 3.2, SATA, Wi-Fi 6.0, intel’s Gigabit ethernet and a whole other list of impressive add-ons. There are four PCIe 4.0 slots onboard the ROG Strix X570 with support for NVMe SSD RAID technology, eight SATA interfaces, 3 PCIe 4.0 slots for multi-GPU support and four USB 3.2 ports – three being Type A with one Type C.
As I said earlier, this is the motherboard you’d get if you had the money and wanted the best lights and performance from an AM4-type motherboard. There’s a whole other list of proprietary features included in this setup that make it a masterpiece of digital engineering. Feel free to check out the ASUS page for this motherboard if you want to dive right in.
Best budget option – MSI MAG B550 TOMAHAWK
The MAG B550 is an alternative to the ASUS ROG Strix at a cheaper price point. It is comparable in specs to the ROG Strix, with the major difference being that it has just one RGB header supporting both addressable and non-addressable RGB elements. That’s compared to the ROG Strix, which has separate RGB headers for addressable and non-addressable RGB elements.
The native lighting situation is also similar but while the ROG Strix has a lit ROG logo and lettering on the MAG B550, what you get is a sole accent lighting effect. It is certainly less of a lighting spectacle than the ROG Strix, but for what it’s worth, this is still a capable RGB rig. As long as you’re top of your lighting situation, you should still get some rather cool results. Everything will be controlled by MSI’s native RGB control module, what they call Mystic Light.
Performance wise the MAG B550 is also very similar to the ROG Strix B550. Benchmark results are neck in neck with the ROG Strix. As was with the ROG B550, the B550 Chipset on the MAG B550 delivers support for up to 128GB of DDR4 RAM and AMD’s latest-gen RYZEN 5000 CPUs. You also get two PCIe x16 ports for GPU extra RAM plug-in support and two separate M.2 NVME ports for storage expansion. The only notable exclusion is intel’s 2.5 bit ethernet module, which brings support for Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth – both are lacking on this motherboard.
All in all, the MSI MAG B550 is a solid bargain for anyone who wants a capable AM4 RGB motherboard on a budget, but with a few features striped off. It’s essentially ROG Strix B550 without some of the bells and whistles that make that motherboard shine bright. For the almost $50 drop in price that might be a well worthy concession to make for some.
There are a whole lot of AM4 motherboards with RGB functionality out there in the market, but don’t let the seemingly abundant options confuse you. The difference between many available motherboards is ever so slight, which is why in this best AM4 RGB motherboard guide, I’ve been very streamlined to include only what I think are the most standout motherboards money can buy.
If this is your first time building a PC with RGB functionality, feel free to check out my all-round guide on RGB motherboards where I cover everything you need to know about RGB motherboards and then some.