5 Best Motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 in 2021

Last Updated on May 31, 2021

Thunderbolt 3 ports were originally conceived for compact machines like laptops for easy connectivity. However, their stupendously fast transfer rate has made them quite famous among desktop users as well.

The best part about Thunderbolt 3 is that it shares the same form factor as a USB 3.1 Type C therefore, this makes them compatible with almost all of the latest devices that use this port form factor.

At the same time, it provides so much more than a mere USB 3.1 Type C port.

For those of you who value the Thunderbolt 3 port, you will be delighted by our selection of the best motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 here.

These motherboard will generally be appreciated by content creators, editors and professionals. Whether you want high speed transfer rate for connecting fast NVMe external SSDs or want to connect multiple professional monitors to it, a Thunderbolt 3 port is a blessing for creators.

In the FAQ section below we explore this port a bit further.

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Comparison of Top Motherboards with Thunderbolt 3

ProductChipsetSocketSizeTB3
Ports
Built In
WiFi
Check
Price
GIGABYTE DesignareZ390LGA1151ATX2Yes
Buy at
Amazon.com 
ASUS Prime
X299 Deluxe II
X299LGA2066ATX2Yes
Buy at
Amazon.com 
ASRock X570
Phantom Gaming
X570AM4Mini
ITX
1Yes
Buy at
Amazon.com
ASUS ProArt
Z490-CREATOR
Z490LGA1200ATX2No
Buy at
Amazon.com 
MSI MEG
Z490I Unify
Z490LGA1200Mini
ITX
1Yes
Buy at
Amazon.com 

List of Best Motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 in 2021

As mentioned earlier, there aren’t plenty of motherboards with built in Thunderbolt 3 out there. The recommended options available are as follows:

  1. GIGABYTE Designare – LGA1151 – 9th and 8th Gen Intel Core
  2. ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II – LGA2066 – Intel X Series
  3. ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming – AMD AM4
  4. ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR 10G - LGA 1200 Motherboard with TB3
  5. MSI MEG Z490I Unify – LGA1200 Mini ITX TB3 Motherboard

1. GIGABYTE DESIGNARE Z390 – LGA1151 – 9th and 8th Gen Intel Core

Sale
GIGABYTE DESIGNARE Z390

A mid range Intel Based motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.0 port featuring the common LGA1151 socket and Z390 chipset. Great for professional designers and editors.

This is certainly the most famous motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 port out there. If you are building an Intel based system, then there are high chances that this will be your go to choice if you want the Thunderbolt 3.0.

It doesn’t just offer one, but 2 x Thunderbolt 3.0 ports!

Note that this has the LGA1151 socket and hence it is compatible with the older 8th and 9th gen Intel processors.

The first thing that many professionals would love is that unlike most of the MOBOs out there, this does not cater specifically to the gamers. In fact, this is specially marketed toward designers, engineers and creators.

While it does have the accents, the premium design with elegantly designed heatsinks that would mimic a gaming motherboard, this is actually more so intended towards content creators.

As far as the looks are concerned, the colors on this motherboard a bit more neutral and cleaners with black and white accents compared to a gaming motherboard.

Whether you are an audio engineer, video maker, 3D designer etc this is a motherboard for you. This motherboard actively recommends the use of NVIDIA Quadro graphics card that are the equivalent to the NVIDIA GeForce cards but for engineering use case, floating point operation and plethora of other specialized professional applications like rendering and simulation.

Besides the Thunderbolt 3.0 port, this offers plenty of sweet features that set it apart from the rest.

For starters, this isn’t really an expensive motherboard. It costs almost the same as any high quality Gaming ATX Intel Motherboards. Therefore, for those looking to build a workstation, this is certainly among the best motherboards with Thunderbolt 3.

Secondly, and as mentioned earlier, this is perhaps the only motherboard out there with tha LGA 1151 socket that supports Thunderbolt 3 port.

The motherboard offers a 3 x PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots. However due to the limitations of the amount of PCIe lane the supported processor can have, you can only utilize the first port to its maximum x16 bandwidth. Therefore, if you have a single graphics card to install, use the first port.

You can also do 2 way SLI with NVIDIA Card and 3-way Crossfire with AMD cards. However, note that the bandwidth of the PCIe 3.0 slots changes the more cards you install.

For instance, if you occupy the first and the second PCIe x16 slots, they will both clock down to x8/x8 bandwidth each.

Perhaps one of the most facination aspect about this motherboard is that it can switch the PCIe lanes of the bottom x16 slot from the motherboard chipset (PCH) to the CPU lanes. This can come in handy when installing high speed expansion cards.

This motherboard is also a heaven for SSDs and for RAID utility. The motherboard is the first in using a technology that directly attaches the Add in Card (AIC) SSDs to the CPU giving unparalleled performance.

A workstation is incomplete without a robust storage configuration, this motherboard will allow you create a safe, fast and redundant storage environment thanks to the RAID utilize it offers. It also supports 3rd 2 x M.2 slot that can reach speeds of about 3500 MB/s i.e the Samsung EVO 970.

You must also note that this motherboard features a DP 1.4 IN port. This allows you to connect the internal as well as the external graphics cards to the system. Once connected, you can use the Thunderbolt 3.0 ports with multiple devices.

It is also worth noting that the motherboard features higher than usual Voltage Regulator Module (VRMs) with a phase power configuration of 12+1. A higher number of VRMs means better control on the voltage being transferred to the motherboard. This in turn promises stability in your overall system particularly for overclocking.

Read: What is VRM on Motherobard in Detail

This brings us to the point that the motherboard offers the premium Z390 chipset. Compared to the midrange B360 and the budget H310 chipsets, this offers overclocking facility, support for a higher VRM, and have a higher I/O options including more M.2 slots, SATA ports etc.

As far as the performance goes, the stock and the overclocked motherboard offers some excellent speeds thanks to the deafult BIOS settings compared to the rest of the high end motherboards of the same socket.

GIGABYTE DESIGNARE Z390 review 2

 

Image Source: Hothardware.com

All in all, if you are seeking to build a workstation computer for your professional needs based on the older 8th and 9th gen Intel processor that too at a rather reasonable cost, then this is the best motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.

This motherboard, despite costing a reasonable amount, goes toe-to-toe with the top of the line motherboards with the same socket such as the ASUS ROG Maximum X1 Extreme.

Pros

  • Offers DUAL Thunderbolt 3
  • Has 2 x M.2 slots for installing multiple SSDs
  • Has massive VRMs with 12+1 phase power design for facilitating overclocking.
  • Excellent stock and overclocking performance
  • Robust network connectivity including WiFi and 2 x ethernet ports
  • Large heatsinks for VRMs, M.2 slots

Cons

  • Features the older LGA 1151 socket and thus not suitable for the newer 10th and 11th gen Intel processors.
  • Does not offer 10G ethernet

GIGABYTE DESIGNARE Specifications

Essentials

Socket: LGA 1151
Motherboard Chipset: Intel Z390
Form Factor: ATX
CPU Support: 8th and 9th Gen Intel / Pentium Gold and Newer Celeron Processors
Memory Support: DDR 4 (OC), Dual Channel, 128 GB Max, XMP support
DIMM Slots: 4
Audio: 8 channel 7.1

Expandability

PCIe Version: 3.0
*PCIe x16 (X16 mode): 1
*PCIe x16 (X8 mode): 1
PCIe x16 (X4 mode): 1
PCIe X1: 2
SATA 3: 6
M.2 Slot: 2
2 Way SLI / 3 Way Crossfire

Connectivity

WiFi / BT v5.0 / LAN
2 x Thunderbolt 3.0
1 x USB Type-C 3.1 [Gen2] @ 10mbps
2 x USB Type-A 3.1 [Gen2] @ 10mbps
6 x USB Type-A 3.1 [Gen1] @ 5mbps
4 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
1 x DP 1.4 IN
2 x Ethernet RJ-45
1 x Optical S/PDIF out

* Note for single graphics card, use the first X16 slot. When you populate the second PCIe slot, the first and the second both operate at X8. 

2. ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II – LGA2066 – Intel X Series

ASUS Prime X299 Deluxe II

This is a high end premium motherboard for extreme users. Supports Intel X series (extreme series workstation processors) and depending upon the dedicated PCIe lanes available to you, offers 3 x X16 PCIe slots for 3 way full bandwidth SLI or Crossfire configuration.

This is a premium motherboard that is stupendously expensive, offers supreme expandability, and is literally built for extreme functionality.

It does not offer one but two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports with each Thunderbolt 3.0 port having the capacity to daisy chain with upto six devices at a time.

ASUS Prime X299 is built for Intel X series processor primarily found among the Core i9 series processor and generally among those with the LGA2066 processors.

The processor and the motherboard alone would cost you a fortune and therefore, this is not a motherboard for desktop build, but instead for workstation builds.

This motherboard would be highly relevant for artists, film makers, AI designers and for scientific use. Basically, for anything that requires workstation computers.

It supports a maximum of 256 GB of DDR 4 RAM. The maximum depends upon the processor you choose to install. For example, the Intel Core i9-10900X supports the maximum of 256 GB DDR4 RAM whereas, the Intel Core i9-9900X supports only 128 (half as much).

Furthermore, this motherboard supports a whopping 3 x PCIe 3.0 x 16x slots for running a 3 way NVIDIA SLI or a 3 way AMD CrossfireX graphics card setup.

You must note, however, that the PCIe 3.0 configuration depends upon the PCIe Lanes amount supported by the processor you install. Most of the latest Intel X series processor have at least 44 Lane CPU therefore 3 way SLI would easily be possible.

However, on a lower lane CPU i.e 28 Lane CPU, you would only be able to 2 way SLI but still maintain 3-way Crossfire. AMD crossfire can work on 4x mode while NVIDA SLI requires full 8x.

Besides that, it offers a whopping 3 x M.2 slots of SSDs and 8 SATA slots for connecting other components.

In addition to all that, it offers plenty of premium features like reinforced build with plenty of heatsinks to maintain the temperature of your overall motherboard as well as of your SSDs. It also offers built in AI that can help you overclock your installed processor.

For applications that require robust network connectivity, it also offers Aquantia AQC-111C 5G LAN with 5 Gbps transfer as supposed to a mere 1 Gbps on conventional Ethernet ports.

In the end, if you fit into the niche of professional users who want to build a workstation grade computer, then this is the best motherboard with Tunderbolt 3.

ASUS Prime X299 Specifications

Essentials

Socket: LGA 2066
Motherboard Chipset: X299
Form Factor: ATX
CPU Support: Intel Core X Series
Memory Support: DDR 4 (OC), Dual Channel, 256 GB Max, XMP Profile
DIMM Slots: 8
Audio: 8 channel 7.1

Expandability (For 44 PCIe Lane CPU)

PCIe Version: 3.0
PCIe X16: 3
Mode

  • PCIe V3.0 Expansion Cards: x16/x16/x16
  • PCIe V2.0 Expansion Cards: x16/x16/x8

PCIe X1: 2
SATA 3: 8
M.2 Slot: 3
3 Way SLI / 3 Way Crossfire or 2 Way SLI / 3 Way Crossfire*

Connectivity

WiFi / BT v5.0 / LAN
2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x DP In for Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 USB Type C
8 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
4 x USB 2.0 ports
1 x Ethernet RJ-45
1 x AQC-111C 5G LAN
1 x Optical S/PDIF out

*Note for CPUs with lower lanes i.e 28 or 16, the configuration of the PCIe slots changes. Therefore, read the manual.

*Note the configuration also changes depending upon PCIe version of the expansion card. Read the manual.

3. ASRock X570 ITX/TB3 Phantom Gaming – AMD AM4

ASRock X570 ITX/TB3 Phantom Gaming

One of the cheapest motherboards featuring a Thunderbolt 3.0 port for AMD AMD4 based systems. Features mini ITX form factor for limited expandability. Suitable for small designing or gaming desktops.

This has, hands down, one of the most phenomenal value in the market and as far as budget is concerned, this is the cheapest motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.0 in the market.

This motherboard is designed for the AMD AM4 socket and it supports all the processors from the AMD Ryzen 2 and Ryzen 3 series. It does not support Ryzen 1

ASRock X570 ITX/TB3 basically features the AMD X570 chipset that boasts the rare PCIe 4 protocol. Convectional motherboards use the PCI-e 3.0 slots.

A Note on PCIE-4

AMD is the pioneer in introducing the PCIe 4. As such, not only is this compatible with the latest Radeon RX 5000 series graphics cards, but it is also future proof and should support future VGA cards requiring higher bandwidths.

Therefore, the benefit of PCIe 4 is obvious. It provides higher bandwidth. It literally doubles the bandwidth from the previous V3.0 PCIe generation.

The V3.0 X16 offers 16 GB/s of transfer speeds whereas the V4.0 X16 offers 32 GB/s of transfer speeds.

While even the most powerful of graphics cards does not need faster than 16.0 GB/s of transfer speed, a higher PCIe V4.0 means that your motherboard would be future compatible.

Also, with faster speeds you can save up on the total amount of PCIe lanes available to you. An X8 of PCIe v4.0 would have the same transfer speed as the X16 of V3.0.

While to an average user or gamer this wouldn’t matter much at the moment, but those who connect multiple graphics card and other devices to the PCIe slots would find this much needed.

Besides that, it offers plethora of support for connectivity and expansion including 64 GB of max RAM support, M.2 slot for SSD, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0 as well as on board VEGA graphics that has the power to run the built in HDMI 2.0 or Display Port 1.4.

In the end, if you are looking for an affordable option, then to us, this is the best motherboard with thunderbolt 3.

ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming Specifications

Essentials

Socket: AMD AM4
Motherboard Chipset: AMD Premium X570
Form Factor: Mini ITX
CPU Support: AMD Ryzen 2 / Ryzen 3
Memory Support: DDR 4 (OC), Dual Channel, 64 GB Max
DIMM Slots: 2
Audio: 8 channel 7.1

Expandability

PCIe Version: 4.0
PCIe X16: 1
SATA 3: 4
M.2 Slot: 1

Connectivity

WiFi / BT v5.0 / LAN
1 x Thunderbolt 3
3 x USB 3.1 [Gen2] 4 x USB 2.1 [Gen1] 1 x HDMI
1 x DP 1.4
1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard
1 x Ethernet RJ-45
1 x Optical S/PDIF out

4. ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR 10G - LGA 1200 Motherboard with TB3

ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR 10G

A reasonably price Intel motherboard featuring TB and LGA1200 for latest 10th gen processor.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced Full ATX motherboard featuring LGA1200 socket for the latest 10th and 11th gen Intel processors then you can look into this.

This is an ASUS motherboard from the famous ProArt series catered specifically towards creators. You may have seen their astonishing displays for designers and professionals.

This motherboards comes with plenty of optimization software to help you with your work. The CreationFirst software optimizes the system so that the priority apps are allocated more bandwidth. The AI overclocking software helps you monitor the vitals of the system and the AI Cooling helps in optimizing the temperature.

Of course the real hallmark feature of this motherboard is that it can support the latest Intel processor. Also being a full ATX motherboard, it features 3 PCIe X16 slots operating in 16x,0x,4x / 8x,8x,4x mode depending upon how many graphics cards you install.

In short, it can support three way Crossfire or two way SLI. As far as the thunderbolt 3 ports go, this motherboards features 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports with daisy chaining upto 12 thunderbolt devices.

The motherboard also features 2 x M.2 slot and 6 x SATA 3 ports for good measure.

All in all, if you looking for a highly capable large sized option with LGA1200 socket, then this is the best motherboard with Thunderbol 3 ports.

ASUS ProArt Z490-CREATOR 10G Specifications

Essentials

Socket: Intel LGA1200
Motherboard Chipset: Intel Premium Z490
Form Factor: ATX
CPU Support: Intel 10th Gen processors
Memory Support: DDR 4 (OC), Dual Channel, 128GB Max
DIMM Slots: 4
Audio: 8 channel 7.1

Expandability

PCIe Version: 3.0
PCIe X16: 3
PCIe X1: 2
SATA 3: 6
M.2 Slot: 2

Connectivity

2 x Thunderbolt 3
4 x USB 3.2 [Gen2] 4 x USB 3.2 [Gen1] 1 x USB 3.2 [Gen1] Type-C
4 x USB 2.0
1 x HDMI
2 x DP IN for Thunderbolt 3
1 x Ethernet RJ-45
5 x Audio Ports
1 x Optical S/PDIF out

5. MSI MEG Z490I Unify – LGA1200 Mini ITX TB3 Motherboard

MSI MEG Z490I Unify

A mini ITX motherboard with LGA12oo socket featuring Thunberbolt 3.

If you are fan of MINI ITX motherboards but want an option capable of supporting the latest Intel processors then we recommend this motherboard.

This motherboard is similar to the ASRock X570 ITX/TB3 Phantom Gaming seen above in terms of size and qualities, however, while the ASRock X570 ITX/TB3 Phantom Gaming was built for AM4 socket, this motherboards fueature the Intel LGA1200 socket.

Hence you can install the latest 10th and 11th gen Intel processors on this.

This features a single PCIe X16 slot, 2 x DIMM slot for upto 64 GB of RAM, WiFi 6, DP, HDMI, Thunderbolt 3 port, 4 x SATA ports and 2 x M.2 slots.

Hence if you are a compact Intel built with the latest processor, then this is the best motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.

MSI MEG Z490I Unify Specifications

Essentials

Socket: Intel LGA1200
Motherboard Chipset: Intel Premium Z490
Form Factor: Mini ITX
CPU Support: Intel 10th Gen processors
Memory Support: DDR 4 (OC), Dual Channel, 64GB Max
DIMM Slots: 2
Audio: 8 channel 7.1

Expandability

PCIe Version: 3.0
PCIe X16: 1
SATA 3: 4
M.2 Slot: 2

Connectivity

WiFi-6/Bluetooth/LAN
1 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB 3.2 [Gen2] 2 x USB 3.2 [Gen1] 1 x HDMI
1 x Ethernet RJ-45
5 x Audio Ports
1 x Optical S/PDIF out

FAQ

Can You Just Get Thunderbolt 3 Expansion Cards?

ASUS ThunderboltEX 3-TR

A typical high quality TB expansion card for a free PCIe X4 slot.

Yes, you can get find a Thunderbolt 3 PCIe expansion card and slot it into your free PCIe X4 card.

However, there are few important factors to check.

  1. For starters, you need to check if your motherboard provides a Thunderbolt 3 header. 
  2. Next you will need to check if you have a free PCIe X4 slot available.
  3. Different cards connect to different pin headers on motherboard. Some are suitable for 9 pin headers as found on ASUS ThunderboltEX (Amazon Affiliate Link). Others are suitable for 5 pin headers like the Gigabyte GC-Titan Ridge 2.0.
  4. For an expansion card with 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports, you will need 2 x TB3 headers on your motherboard.
  5. Older motherboard chipsets and older processors do not support TB3 expansion cards.

Another important point to note is that most Thunderbolt 3 expansion cards are expensive. Hence you have to gauge the value properly between getting an expansion card or getting a motherboard with built in TB3 port.

Choosing the Right Motherboard with Thunderbolt 3

The first thing you will notice is that motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 ports are rather rare at the moment. While we can be certain that more and more motherboards will be made available in the future, currently, this is quite a niche spec to find on MOBOs.

Why is that so? Well that has mostly to do with the fact that Thunderbolt 3 expansion cards are readily available and most users generally do not seek to have them built in from the get go.

Secondly, the best motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 are slightly more expensive. This is due to two simple reasons. For starters, a Thunderbolt 3 port built into the motherboard charges a premium. Besides that, Thunderbolt 3 ports are generally found only on high end MOBOs built for workstations.

What are the Benefits of Thunderbolt 3.0?

Of course, we cannot understate the benefits of a thunderbolt 3 port. There are so many use cases and applications that this can be utilized for.

1. Lightning Fast Speeds

Best Motherboards with Thunderbolt 3
Despite sharing the same form factor, a Thunderbolt 3 port has far greater transfer speeds. Source: macsales.com

For starters, it has a whopping 40 Gbps transfer speed. Compare this to a mere 5 Gbps transfer speed of a USB 3.0 and 10 Gbps of the famous USB 3.1 (Type A and Type C).

Also Read: Best Motherboard with WiFi

2. Daisy Chain

There are so many different daisy chain configurations that you can create with Thunderbolt 3.0. Simply put, daisy chaining is the process of connecting several computers components together via cables and making them all accessible.

For example, daisy chain allows you to connect your computer to your external hard drive and then from your external hard drive to your monitor in series. They will all operate and be accessible.

3. Carries Video Signal and Power

Consider this an all in one port. On top of daisy chaining and being compatible with USB 3.1 Type C devices, this can even transfer videos signals. As such, you can use it to connect to Thunderbolt 3.0 capable monitor.

Since it also carries power, you can even use it recharge your connected devices, including laptops. In other words, if you have a monitor with Thunderbolt 3.0 port, you can connect your laptop to it for sending video signal as well as for charging the laptop in return.

Unfortunately, the power transferred via a thunderbolt port isn’t high enough to operate a full-fledged desktop. The maximum power transferred is 100-W.

As far as the video signals go, it can carry 2 x 4K signals at 60Hz refresh rate. If you have a single thunderbolt 3 port, you can connect two displays via daisy chaining.

4. PCIe Express 3.0 Support

If all of the above wasn’t enough, thunderbolt 3 also supports PCIe Express 3.0 devices such as external graphics cards mounted inside thunderbolt external video card enclosures/docks.

5. Network Connectivity

The cherry on cake is that the port also supports 10 Gb Ethernet connection directly between two computers.

Difference Between Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Type C

Many people often get confused between Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 Type C port.

The issue of confusion mostly stems from the fact they both share the same form factor. However, the difference between the two is huge.

USB 3.1 Type C has a transfer speed of 10 Gbps as supposed to 40 Gbps on Thunderbolt 3. Furthermore, USB 3.1 Type C only supports up to a single 4k resolution monitor not two.

Moreover, USB 3.1 Type C does not support daisy chaining and does not support the PCIe Express 3.0 protocol for external GPUs.

How to Differentiate a Thunderbolt 3 Port from USB 3.1 Type C?

The simplest way is to look at the logo.

The logo for a Thunderbolt 3 has a distinctive lightening icon next to the port, on the cable, or on the device.

Thunderbolt 3 Lightening Icon
Thunderbolt 3 ports have a distinctive lightening icon next to them

Final Words

There aren’t plenty of motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 out there. Fortunately though, you can find one for all the common processor sockets.

Whether it is LGA 1151 for 9th and 8th gen Intel Core processors, LGA 2066 for Intel Core X series processors, or AM4 for AMD Ryzen 2 and Ryzen 3 processors, you can find one that is suitable for your build.

The best motherboard with Thunderbolt 3 for you at the moment would be quite easy to choose. All you have to do is to decide on the budget or on the processor you want to go for. Then you can choose one of the three motherboards above.

As more motherboards with Thunderbolt 3.0 become available, we will be sure to review them here.

Atif Qazi

Atif Qazi is the founder of PCGearLab. He is a PC enthusiast as well as engineer with a keen interest in PC hardware and all stuff related to tech and games.

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