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Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed
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Z87 rules the PC enthusiast market by exposing the Haswell architecture's full feature set. We're particularly interested in mini-ITX-based platforms able to integrate Z87 in a compact form factor. Five boards contend for supremacy of compact computing.

Every time we hear about the death of the desktop PC, that conclusion seems to be based on slowing sales from big tier-ones like Dell and HP. But we know from talking to boutique builders that the demand for high-end gaming PCs and workstations continues to increase. It's a good time to be an enthusiast, and games like Battlefield 4 help illustrate why. 

At least some of the excitement comes from high-performance, high efficiency hardware, which is allowing the community to construct faster machines in smaller enclosures. It's no longer necessary to drop a big case next to your desk with two or three 250 W graphics cards for playable frame rates in the latest titles. Now we can get plenty of speed in small machines that look more like living room appliances, but are every bit PCs. 

Up until recently, the mini-ITX form factor was all about compromise. You'd give up most of your motherboard's slots and room for integrated extras to fit into tighter spaces. But as this segment grows, more and more companies are recognizing a desire for premium-class platforms with all of the on-board features expected from a larger ATX board. Drop in a high-end, overclockable processor, one dual-slot graphics card with multiple display outputs, and some solid-state storage. Sounds about as sexy as any monolithic gaming box we've ever seen.

So, which motherboard would we choose to serve as the foundation for a build like that? There are certainly many options on the market, and five of the industry’s top performance-oriented brands sent us a sample to compare.

LGA 1150-Based Mini-ITX Motherboard Features
 ASRock
Z87E-ITX
Asus
Z87I-Deluxe
EVGA
Z87 Stinger
Gigabyte
Z87N-WiFi
MSI
Z87I
PCB Revision1.051.031.11.01.0
ChipsetIntel Z87 ExpressIntel Z87 ExpressIntel Z87 ExpressIntel Z87 ExpressIntel Z87 Express
Voltage RegulatorSix Phases12 PhasesFour PhasesFour PhasesFour Phases
BIOSP2.10 (10/04/2013)0702 (08/30/2013)102 (08/07/2013)F4 (08/03/2013)V1.4 (09/30/2013)
100.0 MHz BCLK100.10 (+0.10%)99.94 (-0.06%)100.12 (+0.12%)99.77 (-0.23%)100.01 (+0.01%)
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 21NoneNone11
USB 3.046444
USB 2.024422
Network11122
CLR_CMOS Button111None1
Digital Audio OutOpticalOpticalOpticalOpticalOptical
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio53556
Video OutDVI-I, DisplayPort, HDMIDVI-I, HDMI, DisplayPortDisplayPort, HDMIDual HDMI, DVI-IHDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I
Other DeviceseSATA, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ModuleUSB BIOS Flashback, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ModuleBluetooth Transceiver
Wi-Fi/Bluetooth ModuleWi-Fi/Bluetooth Module
GO2BIOS button
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x1611111
PCIe 2.0 x16NoneNoneNoneNoneNone
PCIe 2.0 x1Mini-PCIe (filled)NoneMini-PCIeMini-PCIe (filled)Mini-PCIe (filled)
USB 3.01 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)
USB 2.02 (4-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)1 (2-ports)
SATA 6.0 Gb/s6 x (shared with
eSATA, mSATA)
6444
4-Pin Fan24322
3-Pin FanNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
FP-Audio11111
S/PDIF I/ONoneOutput OnlyNoneOutput OnlyNone
Internal ButtonsNoneMemOKPower, ResetNoneNone
Internal SwitchNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Diagnostics PanelNoneNoneNumericNoneNone
Other DevicesNoneNoneNoneSerial COM portSerial COM port
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA6 x SATA 6Gb/s (Total)
Shared w/eSATA, mSATA
6 x SATA 6Gb/s4 x SATA 6Gb/s4 x SATA 6Gb/s4 x SATA 6Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATANoneNoneNoneNoneNone
USB 3.0Integrated-onlyIntegrated-onlyIntegrated-onlyIntegrated-onlyIntegrated-only
Networking
Primary LANWGI217V PHYWGI217V PHYWGI217V PHYWGI217V PHY8111G PCIe
Secondary LANNoneNoneNoneAR8161 PCIe8111G PCIe
Wi-FiBCM4352 PCIe
802.11ac Dual-Band
BCM4352 PCIe
802.11ac Dual-Band
NoneIntel 2230 PCIe
802.11n Single-Band
Intel 2230 PCIe
802.11n Single-Band
BluetoothBy 802.11ac ComboBy 802.11ac ComboAR3011 USBBy 802.11n ComboBy 802.11n Combo
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC1150ALC1150CA0132 (Core3D) PCIeALC892ALC892
DDL/DTS ConnectDTS ConnectDTS ConnectNoneNoneNone
WarrantyThree YearsThree YearsThree YearsThree YearsThree Years
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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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