Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

ASRock Z87E-ITX

ASRock fills the mini-PCIe slot of its high-end Z87E-ITX with Broadcom’s dual-band BCM4352 controller card, adding 802.11ac Wi-Fi with a peak data rate of 867 Mb/s and Bluetooth, in addition to Intel’s reputable gigabit Ethernet PHY for networking. The full set of six SATA ports is also available internally, though two of those ports are shared with other connectors.

One shared connection shows up on the I/O panel as eSATA, alongside DisplayPort and HDMI display outputs. DVI-I allows ASRock to get rid of the ancient VGA connector, while retaining compatibility through an included adapter block. The space that might have once been dedicated to VGA is now occupied by the wireless controller's antenna bracket.

The rear I/O panel also provides a CLR_CMOS button, four of the chipset’s six USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, five analog audio jacks, and optical audio ouput. ASRock expands multi-channel digital audio functionality to live streams by licensing DTS Connect capability for its Realtek ALC1150 codec.

The Z87E-ITX hides an mSATA interface under the circuit board to save space and confuse spectators. Could that system really be running with no visible hard drive or SSD? Crazy! That connector does steal one of the top-side SATA 6Gb/s ports when it's occupied, lowering the total number of unshared internal ports to four. Several competing boards are limited to four ports, period, with no other interfaces. So, ASRock can count this as a win.

As with SATA connectivity, the Z87 chipset is packed with more USB 2.0 ports than most manufacturers can fit onto such a small form factor. ASRock again does one better than most of its competitors by offering two internal headers, for a total of four front-panel USB 2.0 ports, in addition to the Z87E-ITX’s dual-port USB 3.0 header.

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.

Larger coolers might also overlap the last two SATA ports. Knowing that some folks won't be able to reach them, ASRock picked those ports to share with the mSATA and eSATA interfaces.

Four SATA cables, a DVI-I-to-VGA adapter, an I/O shield, and a dual-band antenna complete the Z87E-ITX hardware list.

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28 comments
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  • lp231
    Here is another MSI ITX board
    1
  • PEJUman
    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
  • Crashman
    Anonymous 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
    Anonymous 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.
    0
  • nukemaster
    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.
    0
  • xkm1948
    Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
    1
  • Crashman
    Anonymous 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.
    0
  • KrazyKap
    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
  • unipablo
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.
    0
  • vertexx
    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
  • rolli59
    Nice review and boards, conclusion is all good buy's depending on what features you want except the EVGA.
    0
  • rwpritchett
    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
  • nukemaster
    Anonymous said:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Now that looks interesting.
    0
  • Half Life
    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
  • clonazepam
    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
  • Christopher Shaffer
    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
  • lp231
    Anonymous said:
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.


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