Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

Z87N-WiFi Software

Gigabyte’s APP Center resides under the Windows task bar, popping up when selected to reveal a scrolling menu. The image below shows these menu items pasted side-by-side for a quicker view, and the applet links a variety of handy applications such as USB Blocker for port security and Live Update to poll Gigabyte’s server for new drivers.

Gigabyte @BIOS allows firmware updates within windows, polls from Gigabyte’s server, and includes its “Face Wizard” boot image modification application.

Gigabyte’s EZ Setup provides a simple interface for the functions of Intel’s SATA controller.

Smart Recovery 2 provides file backup and system recovery functions.

Gigabyte Smart TimeLock gives PC owners additional user management options, as described on its info page.

The company's EasyTune hasn’t changed significantly since our previous verbose description, but its tuning options are still governed by each motherboard model's feature set. We find the full range of clock, multiplier, and voltage controls repeated from firmware into this easy Windows-based interface:

Automatic overclocking is also an option, with both pre-defined overclocking profiles and an overclocking algorithm at your fingertips. The top profile (OC Extreme) increases the CPU frequency range to 3.7 through 4.5 GHz, depending on the number of cores in use, at 1.30 volts.

Gigabyte’s Auto Tuning algorithm managed to get our CPU stable at 4.40 GHz with all of its cores loaded. The voltage level for this somewhat-impressive O/C was on the high side at 1.475 V unfortunately, causing near-instant thermal throttling from our Haswell-based Core i7.

This thread is closed for comments
28 comments
    Your comment
  • lp231
    Here is another MSI ITX board
  • 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.
  • Crashman
    52743 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.
  • 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.
  • xkm1948
    Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
  • Crashman
    153421 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.
  • 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.
  • unipablo
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.
  • 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?
  • rolli59
    Nice review and boards, conclusion is all good buy's depending on what features you want except the EVGA.
  • 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
  • nukemaster
    52743 said:
    Here is another MSI ITX board

    Now that looks interesting.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • lp231
    162225 said:
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.


    35532 said:
    52743 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/
  • palitusa
    I can't wait to see the new MSI Z87i GAMING mini-itx with the 760 ITX VGA for review!
  • 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.
  • lp231
    162225 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
  • RobertDiffin
    I'm just glad to see more ITX attention/information.
  • Crashman
    1422483 said:
    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.
    So, you like assembling everything INCLUDING CABLES outside the case? Because many of these cases don't give you access beneath the board to install a cooler support plate, so you do end up installing the cooler before you put it into the case.
  • Lutfij
    Very nice article and a good read. Was on the fence about getting an EVGA board for my client in this form factor until the review indicated EVGA haven't mopped up their spills since the Z77 stinger issue.

    Thanks Thomas!
  • Crashman
    291971 said:
    Very nice article and a good read. Was on the fence about getting an EVGA board for my client in this form factor until the review indicated EVGA haven't mopped up their spills since the Z77 stinger issue. Thanks Thomas!
    No major complaints, just waiting for the price to drop :)
  • Haravikk
    When it comes to the boards with limited clearance for the CPU cooler, I can't recommend the Prolimatech Ultra Sleek Vortex 14 fans enough; I ordered one a while ago that finally arrived, and was a bit dubious that the specs were too good to be true, but it actually performs very close to what is promised; extremely quiet, great airflow and strong static pressure. I do think it isn't as quiet as they claim at the higher end of its speeds, but it's definitely quieter than many bulkier fans.

    Although I'm using mine as a case fan (since nothing deeper would fit) I'm now seriously considering them for use on all future CPU coolers I get, as you can use them to fit larger heatsinks (with or without better clearance if you need it) without sacrificing performance. Or you could even use them with a dual-fan cooler to improve clearance, both to the CPU itself and in height.

    In a well setup case such an arrangement can be pretty sweet; just add a big vent right over the cooler with the fans drawing heat straight out of it from the biggest heatsink you can fit (press the fans right up against the case if you have to, just don't forget some anti-vibration pads if you do). Then add intake vents all around the sides wherever you can, and you have a CPU cooler that's pretty much cooling the entire case.

    Sorry that's a bit off-topic, but all I'm saying is that while some of the motherboards are mentioned as having restricted clearance, I've been finding the ultra sleek vortexes can negate that issue entirely. I'd like to see more slim fans like them to choose between, but even though they're currently the only choice they are *really* good. I'm planning to use them for pretty much everything for the foreseeable future ;)