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Test Hardware And Benchmark Settings

Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed
Test System Configuration
CPUIntel Core i7-4770K (Haswell): 3.5-3.9 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache, LGA 1150
CPU CoolerThermalright MUX-120 w/Zalman ZM-STG1 Paste
RAMG.Skill F3-17600CL9D-8GBXLD (8 GB) at DDR3-1600 C9 Defaults
G.Skill F3-3000C12D-8GTXDG (8 GB) at XMP-3000 C12 Timings
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970 3 GB: 925 MHz GPU, GDDR5-5500
Hard DriveSamsung 840 Series MZ-7PD256, 256 GB SSD
SoundIntegrated HD Audio
NetworkIntegrated Gigabit Networking
PowerCorsair AX860i: ATX12V v2.3, EPS12V, 80 PLUS Platinum
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Professional RTM x64
GraphicsAMD Catalyst 13.4
ChipsetIntel INF

Thermalright’s classic MUX-120 remains competitive with our recent review of high-end heat sinks, even when using its original clip-on mounting system. It’s that easy-to-mount mechanism that wins me over in motherboard round-ups, and the good performance points to a good design.

Alternatively, we can point to problems with the Core i7's heat spreader as a reason why larger coolers couldn’t give us significantly better thermal performance in that review.

G.Skill’s F3-17600CL9D-8GBXLD is the only memory kit in our lab that defaults to our DDR3-1600 CAS 9 test standard. Faster RAM always uses slower defaults, and slower RAM requires XMP to get there. The problem is that some boards automatically enable other overclocking features when XMP is enabled. Consistency rules these tests.

We replaced the slower memory with G.Skill’s DDR3-3000 kit for our overclocking stability tests.

Corsair sent its 80 PLUS Plantinum-rated AX860i for our benchmark needs, citing enhanced support of Haswell's C7 state.

Benchmark Settings
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version x64: Create Video which includes Three Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
HandBrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds
Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCode Studio 2.5Version: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, Two-Channel, 16-Bit, 224 Kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
ABBYY FineReaderVersion Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat 11Version Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2012Version 14.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.67b, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version:, Benchmark Only
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware SandraVersion Version 2013.01.19.11, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
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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
    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 
    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
    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:
    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:
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , November 25, 2013 8:56 AM
    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
    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
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.

    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.

    Not ITX but worth sharing too

  • 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
    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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