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Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed


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.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.