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Z87 Stinger Firmware

Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed
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The Z87 Stinger is a formidable competitor in multiplier-based overclocking. But if you're doing any tuning with the BCLK, then beware. A “d6” error code had this sample locked up for hours after setting 104 MHz with integrated graphics disabled.

It turns out that whenever the board experiences overclocking issues on its PCIe bus, it reverts to integrated graphics. If integrated graphics are disabled, it stops. And the CLR_CMOS button does not reset the base clock nor re-enable on-board graphics. Pulling the battery with the power disconnected and allowing it to drain down for several hours didn’t solve the issue, nor did changing the CPU or graphics card. Even EVGA’s own GeForce GTX 760 in our lab didn’t solve this show-stopper.

Forcing configuration errors is my last-ditch approach to sneaking into a board's firmware without replacing its CMOS ROM. In theory, a platform should (and usually does) jump to default settings when major hardware changes take place. The problem is that all of my LGA 1150-based processors are the same model!

I tried booting without memory and then booting with memory, but the UEFI remained stuck at 104 MHz with on-board graphics disabled and a PCIe error to the graphics card. I even tried removing the CPU, starting without the CPU, and then re-installing the CPU. Many of these changes would cause the board to temporarily use default settings, but it would then detect the hardware and reboot with the previous problematic settings before POSTing.

Thank goodness for bad memory, though. After pondering the type of error that would force the Z87 Stinger to remain in default mode until I could enter the UEFI, I remembered that some very old DDR3 modules aren’t properly programmed for newer memory controllers. I reached into my scrap pile, pulled out some discarded memory, and installed it. Viola, the error was detected, the board couldn’t figure out how to re-configure it at previous settings, and I was dropped into the firmware for manual configuration.

Remember that the diagnostics process started with many attempts to CLR_CMOS? Upon entering the UEFI, I found that the 104 MHz setting was still locked and loaded for application upon the next boot. I also found that on-board graphics would still be disabled. Resetting to defaults from inside the firmware got me back up and running.

The Z87 Stinger reached our expected 4.6 GHz at 1.25 V using a motherboard setting of 1.245 V, but couldn’t configure our memory to its XMP-3000 settings. It instead chose a 30x memory multiplier that’s not supported by any LGA 1150 processor. The board was, however, able to reach DDR3-3025 by choosing its DDR3-2933 setting and then increasing BCLK to 103 MHz.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary timings are all configurable from the Z87 Stinger’s memory menu. A 1.635 V setting produced a detected 1.65 volts.

I’ve never used memory training algorithms to search for higher DRAM clocks, but welcome the opinions of advanced memory tweakers in our comments below. The Z87 Stinger provides a lengthy selection of these settings.

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  • 1 Hide
    lp231 , November 24, 2013 10:03 PM
    Here is another MSI ITX board

  • 9 Hide
    PEJUman , November 24, 2013 10:05 PM
    Why would one pay extra for ASUS's power delivery if it didn't yield any additional OC/DRAM stability? In the end, ASRock features & cheaper price should be a better option here.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , November 24, 2013 10:34 PM
    Quote:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Yes, they've sent one for another article. If the site did multiple items per manufacturer the article would take weeks to finish. That wouldn't be a problem if all Tom's Hardware did was motherboards :p 
    Quote:
    Why would one pay extra for ASUS's power delivery if it didn't yield any additional OC/DRAM stability? In the end, ASRock features & cheaper price should be a better option here.
    ASRock's cheaper features also made it a competitor with the cheaper boards for the value award. Since it competed well for both awards, it had to get a different award.

  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , November 24, 2013 10:36 PM
    While some may not like the layout, the Gigabyte and MSI layout should work well in some cases like the SG05 from SilverStone. The top mounted power and sata ports help keep wires out of the air flow path.

    More room between the PCI-E and CPU LGA is nice on the Asus as are all the features.

    I am still running an older H55n usb3 24/7 and it has been quite stable and cool and low on power consumption. Shame that this new gigabyte board has higher power and temperature levels.
  • 1 Hide
    xkm1948 , November 24, 2013 10:37 PM
    Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , November 24, 2013 10:47 PM
    Quote:
    Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
    We formerly had a controller reviewer, and I'd like to see someone take on this task again. A separate article on the controllers (with everything else identical) wouldn't tell you anything about the antennas included with different products, but antennas are cheaply replaceable.

  • 0 Hide
    KrazyKap , November 24, 2013 11:08 PM
    Is the Asus Z87 Pro the same as the Deluxe? Seems to be region specific but I can't find the difference. Help? I've just bought the Pro for myself as it is only slightly more than the MSI or Gigabyte options.
  • 0 Hide
    unipablo , November 25, 2013 3:57 AM
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.
  • 1 Hide
    vertexx , November 25, 2013 5:08 AM
    Let's just roll some dice and toss out some awards, eh? Couldn't help but laugh through the conclusion.

    Overall it's good to see the roundup. Would have liked to see post times. With SSD storage, motherboard post times are now becoming the longer wait in a system boot up.

    Also interested in thoughts on reasons for Z87 mobos for a standard non-overclocking build. For a non-overclocked gaming ITX PC, say with an I3 or low-end I5, are there any compelling reasons to pay the Z87 premium over, say an H81, which can run $100 cheaper?
  • 0 Hide
    rolli59 , November 25, 2013 7:10 AM
    Nice review and boards, conclusion is all good buy's depending on what features you want except the EVGA.
  • 0 Hide
    rwpritchett , November 25, 2013 8:50 AM
    From the article:
    Quote:
    A non K-series processor can still get a 9% overclock from Asus’ Z87I-Deluxe, in addition to the four 100 MHz bins of headroom available to those processors.


    I thought Intel did away with allowing non-k processors to use the four 100 MHz bins with Haswell. It only applies to Sandy and Ivy. At least that was what has been reported:

    http://www.bit-tech.net/news/hardware/2013/06/14/haswell-overclocking/1
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , November 25, 2013 8:56 AM
    Quote:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Now that looks interesting.

  • -2 Hide
    Half Life , November 25, 2013 8:59 AM
    You know I am told that in the west, they give an award to every kid in the kindergarten during an competition so no one feels left out.
  • -1 Hide
    clonazepam , November 25, 2013 11:00 AM
    Add the cost of a LED fan to mask that color scheme of the Asus ;)  Of these, I'd go with the ASRock, but overall, I think I'd go AMD for this form factor.
  • 0 Hide
    Christopher Shaffer , November 25, 2013 11:23 AM
    Quote:
    The Z87E-ITX’s CPU interface is positioned to the far right, putting more space between the CPU cooler and graphics card. Placing it there forced ASRock to move its eight-pin EPS12V connector to the left of the CPU’s input voltage regulator, where it could be unreachable under mid-sized coolers. Builders may be forced to attach this cable before installing a wide, low profile cooler.


    I don't see how this is even a consideration. How many people have the need to plug in the connector AFTER installing the cooler? Or for that matter, BEFORE removing the cooler? The only need to move this at all would be during a PSU swap, which is probably very infrequent for most.
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , November 25, 2013 1:30 PM
    Quote:
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.


    Quote:
    Quote:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Now that looks interesting.




    Yep that does look interesting.
    Some other itx boards, not as cool as that MSI, but worth sharing.
    http://www.asus.com/Commercial_Servers_Workstations/P9DI/
    http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/Q87T/
    http://www.asrock.com/server/overview.asp?Model=E3C226D2I
    http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4463#ov

    Not ITX but worth sharing too
    http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/CSB/
    http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/VANGUARD_B85/



  • 0 Hide
    palitusa , November 25, 2013 3:18 PM
    I can't wait to see the new MSI Z87i GAMING mini-itx with the 760 ITX VGA for review!
  • 0 Hide
    Stevemeister , November 25, 2013 5:00 PM
    Really not that much difference in terms of overall performance between the boards so its a question of what features are most important to you - do you want to game or make a HTPC. For the gamers can we start to lobby Intel to go back to using solder for the thermal interface on their high end processors - most of us would pay the extra $5 or so it probably costs to do this versus using their current solution - then Asus's VR's would start to show some value.
  • 0 Hide
    lp231 , November 25, 2013 7:12 PM
    Quote:
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.


    Yep the Deluxe has Wifi AC and pro has Wifi N
  • 0 Hide
    RobertDiffin , November 25, 2013 7:52 PM
    I'm just glad to see more ITX attention/information.
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