With supply issues across the spectrum of PC components, it’s wise to consider all options if you’re on a budget. The intel i CPU has undergone price cuts, whilst AMD’s competitor the Ryzen is in short supply and prices are rising. In this article, we’ll briefly discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of intels offerings, and recommend some Motherboards to form the core of your next system.
The i5 – Mainstream value
The i and 10400F are Intels ‘mainstream’ mid-range CPUs of the Comet lake generation. Using their aging 14nm process, these CPUs have 6 cores with multithreading and have a 65W thermal design power. They ship with a basic but functional CPU cooler and are compatible with the H410, B460, H470, and Z490 series motherboards. They’re also compatible with the new Z560 and Z590 motherboards, using the LGA 1200 socket but they will not allow PCIe 4.0 compatibility – no great loss for a gaming or general-purpose build.
The i5’s strength lies in its value and performance. It’s a good option for a mid-range gaming CPU and with a 4.3GHz boost clock it is equivalent to the Ryzen 3600 in most gaming situations. With the same fundamental 6 core and 12 thread count it has very similar capability in general use and multitasking too.
Importantly, the i has integrated graphics meaning that you can get basic video output even without a dedicated GPU via the motherboards video outputs. The i F lacks this functionality and like a Ryzen 3600, you must have a separate GPU to get any video output at all. If you’d like to get a PC up and running or even just check that parts are working whilst you wait for your opportunity to grab a graphics card, this is an important consideration and the i is the better option. Otherwise the two chips perform identically.
The other area where intel chips differ from AMD’s offerings is in their RAM compatibility. This is actually dictated by the motherboard, and not the CPU although officially the coffee lake i5’s don’t support faster than 2666 MHz RAM.
ChipsetOfficial CPU RAM SpeedMax Recommended RAM SpeedH MHz2666MHzB MHz2666MHzH MHz2666MHzZ MHz3200MHzB MHz3200MHzZ MHz3200MHzWith H410, B460 and H470 chipsets you are limited to applying the pre-defined XMP memory overclocking profile stored on the RAM stick. For that reason it’s advisable to purchase ram with a 2666Mhz rated speed, because a faster RAM profile will not be compatible leaving you at the default 2133MHz speed, and unable to improve RAM performance by manual overlocking.
Z490, B560, and Z590 motherboards all allow manual ram overclocking and will run RAM faster than the official maximum for the i . However, the B560 boards have yet to be released, and Z490 and Z590 boards are overclocking specific and tend to be expensive, negating the value of the i . With these boards it’s best to opt for MHz RAM kits, as faster RAM will be more expensive, may not be stable at XMP settings owing to CPU memory controller limitations, and performance gains are limited after that.
So, if you’ve decided on the i or 10400F for your PC, which motherboard should you choose? Here are our recommendations on the best motherboards for the Intel Core i and 10400F
Best Motherboards for Intel i /10400F
Best Budget Motherboard for Intel Core i /F
To maximize the value of the i /F, the MSI B460M Pro-VDH Wifi is a great choice. It has a good range of features such as two M.2 slots for NVME SSDs, with one supporting SATA m.2 SSDs giving you a number of affordable options for storage alongside the 4 SATA ports. There are 4 memory slots for future expansion and inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to add value and connectivity. The Rear IO is acceptable at the price with 6 USB ports, basic Audio, gigabit Ethernet, and 3 video output options including HDMI, DVI, and VGA which is handy if you need to make use of an older monitor. As it’s a value and work-oriented motherboard it makes do with a basic look but does include RGB headers and 3 fan connectors so you can customize your build and keep it cool. It’s a smaller mATX design so you can keep costs and size down with a smaller mATX format case which tends to be cheaper. Overall this board is a great pairing if you need to make every penny count and it will let you get the most out of the i without costing the earth.
Best All-Rounder Motherboard for Intel Core i /F
Stepping up to a motherboard with a bit more visual flair, the Gigabyte B460 Aorus Pro AC is a great B460 motherboard with plenty to commend it. Firstly, there’s extensive heatsinking and some nice RGB accents to set your build off. Even the dual M.2 slots get their own brushed aluminum heat spreaders, whilst the IO shield is pre installed making the build a little easier. It has a good quality VRM for the i to ensure clean efficient power delivery to the CPU, as well as three PCIe slots, 4 RAM slots, 6 SATA ports and 4 fan headers as well as a water pump connector. For quality of life features, there’s a good quality Realtek ALC1220 audio codec chip, and inbuilt Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The rear I/O is right up to date with HDMI, DisplayPort, high-speed USB, and USB-C – with a total of 8 USB ports. This is an excellent-looking motherboard for the i /F with a great range of features, and it will form the core of a versatile system that you can be proud of.
Best Budget Overclocking Motherboard for Intel Core i /F
Whilst you can’t directly overclock non-K series CPUs, with the right motherboard you can boost performance through tuning your RAM. The key with the i is to keep the costs down so you don’t ruin the value of the CPU. The MSI MPG Z490 Gaming Plus is an excellent Z490 motherboard option with a full feature set at $180. It will allow you to apply XMP profiles above 2666MHz and also manually tweak RAM timings if you’d like to get into the nuts and bolts of memory tuning. Beyond that, this is a solid motherboard with good features, like a strong VRM configuration, two M.2 slots, 2.5Gbps LAN, and a slick ‘MPG’ aesthetic. If you’re planning to overclock your RAM, or perhaps upgrade to a K series CPU in the future, this board is a good option to squeeze the most out of an i /F CPU.
Best High-end Motherboard for Intel Core i /F
The MSI Z490 Gaming Edge Wifi falls in the middle of the MPG line up offering good value and a strong feature set. This Z490 motherboard sports 2 M.2 slots, and more impressively 6 fan headers in addition to a CPU fan and water pump header, for a plethora of cooling options in your customized build. The VRM is strong enough to handle a future upgrade to a K series CPU and even some limited overclocking of a higher tier CPU, meaning your system can stay competitive for longer. Meanwhile, the Z490 Gaming Edge Wifi has a quality audio codec chip, inbuilt Wifi 6, and 2.5Gbps LAN. Aesthetically the low-key black look and integrated heat shield mean it will fit into the theme of most builds. At $220, it’s as much as we’d want to spend on a motherboard to pair with the i .
Best mini-ITX Motherboard for Intel Core i /F
If you’re looking for a compact, cost-efficient small form factor build the ASRock Z490M-ITX/ac is a perfect pairing with the i . This diminutive ITX board sports 2 M.2 slots and 4 SATA ports for storage. Networking is comprehensive for an mITX board with dual LAN and Wifi all inbuilt. There are seven USB ports including one USB-C on the rear I/O. ASRock even claims that their ‘Base Frequency Boost’ can help lift performance on non-K CPUs. Combined with a clean silver aesthetic this motherboard is an excellent pairing with the i .
Best Motherboard for Upgrading – B560 Chipset
Finally, if you’re in the planning stage of a build and looking to use the i as a stop-gap CPU, it might be worth keeping an eye out for the newly released B560 boards. These boards are back-compatible with Intels 10th generation CPUs and allow RAM overclocking. They may be a good pathway to boost performance without stretching the budget to a more expensive Z490 motherboard – but it’s too early to make any recommendations so keep an eye on premiumbuilds.com for our recommendations once all the models are announced.