Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

MSI Z87I

MSI’s Z87I puts Gigabyte in a tight spot by providing a nearly identical feature set and price. Using the same 802.11n wireless card from Intel as its competition, MSI adds teaming support to its dual GbE ports by leaning on a matched pair of less expensive controllers.

MSI adds DisplayPort to facilitate higher resolutions from the board’s second video output than Gigabyte enables, but joins the Z87N-WiFi in leaving out the rarely-needed DVI-to-VGA adapter block. We even find four USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panels of both boards.

You get six analog audio outputs from the Z87I, compared to Gigabyte's five. This is achieved by relocating the Z87I’s optical audio output. MSI also finds room for two easy-access buttons on its I/O panel: CLR_CMOS and the firm’s aptly-named “Go2BIOS”.

Similarities between competing models don’t end at the I/O panel. The Z87I also has the same CPU-to-graphics slot crowding issue, and is even limited to two fan headers. I'd like to offer the same tip about offset measurements from Eight Low-Profile CPU Coolers For Your Compact PC, Reviewed, though the Z87I does have slightly more room between its CPU interface and ATX12V connector.

We're pointing out an awful lot of similarities here, but also like Gigabyte's board, MSI only exposes four internal SATA 6Gb/s ports, highlighting a lack of eSATA on the Z87I. Both platforms go so far as to use the same ALC892 audio codec, so we’re left to check overclocking and efficiency before we can choose a leader.

You only get two SATA cables with the Z87I, an I/O shield, and a pair of Wi-Fi antennas to complete the installation. Aside from antenna style, this is an almost exact match to its closest competitor.

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28 comments
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  • Here is another MSI ITX board
    1
  • 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.
    9
  • lp231 said:
    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
    174374 said:
    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.
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  • 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.
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  • Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
    1
  • xkm1948 said:
    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.
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  • 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.
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  • I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.
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  • 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?
    1
  • Nice review and boards, conclusion is all good buy's depending on what features you want except the EVGA.
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  • 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
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  • lp231 said:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Now that looks interesting.
    0
  • 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.
    -2
  • 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.
    -1
  • 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.
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  • unipablo said:
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.


    nukemaster said:
    lp231 said:
    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/
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  • I can't wait to see the new MSI Z87i GAMING mini-itx with the 760 ITX VGA for review!
    0
  • 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.
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  • unipablo said:
    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
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  • I'm just glad to see more ITX attention/information.
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