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Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

Which Mini-ITX Motherboard Would We Buy For Haswell?

Who has the best mini-ITX-based motherboard? And which board offers the best value? Can those two competing concepts be tied together in a single product?

Gigabyte and MSI present significantly similar platforms, which offer features and faults that largely mirror each other. Naturally, they sell for almost identical prices, too. The Z87N-WiFi had a tough time pushing memory data rates beyond 2400 MT/s, while the Z87I was over 50 MHz down on CPU core overclocking. Recent memory tests indicate that CPU core frequency is the more important variable, though anyone who disagrees will want to see these motherboards achieve a value tie. Our Smart Buy recognition doesn't have to be exclusive in a round-up, so they both receive our recognition.

At the other end of the pricing scale, EVGA’s Z87 Stinger includes fewer features and sells at a higher price. This leaves Asus and ASRock competing for best-of-the-best status.

Both boards are also equipped similarly, with Broadcom’s 867 Mb/s 802.11ac controller topping their feature sets. The Z87I-Deluxe adds an overkill voltage regulator suitable to processors twice this size, but the Z87E-ITX has a hidden mSATA slot that some builders will love (in addition to its adequately-oversized voltage regulator).

The Z87I-Deluxe’s beefier power circuitry costs more than ASRock’s alternative sneakily-placed SATA connector, and probably justifies its $30 price difference. Then again, Asus would tell us that the hardware needed to enable its USB BIOS Flashback feature is also worth a chunk of that difference, even if most of us won't have occasion to use it. The Z87E-ITX comes out on top of a practical features-to-price comparison, while Asus’s more-expensive extras finish first in a cost-versus-price analysis.

When Tom's Hardware looks to crown a product the best in a category, however, price gets limited weighting. Asus' features are probably more valuable than ASRock’s, even though we're asked to pay more for them. Nevertheless, the Asus Z87I-Deluxe receives our coveted Tom's Hardware Elite award.

On the other hand, the flexibility of eSATA and mSATA connectors on ASRock's Z87E-ITX truly does make it difficult to crown another board unquestionably superior. So, competing closely for top-value and top-features, many of us would rightly consider the ASRock platform as a stunning offering as well. The only award we have left to bestow on the Z87E-ITX is Tom's Hardware Approved, which is recognition from our editor of a job well done.

  • lp231
    Here is another MSI ITX board
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12025866 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
    12025873 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.

    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • xkm1948
    Since most of them has built in Wi-Fi. Will it be better to include a Wi-Fi test column?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    12025986 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.

    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • unipablo
    I think that the Pro version comes with wifi-N instead of wifi-AC.
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • rolli59
    Nice review and boards, conclusion is all good buy's depending on what features you want except the EVGA.
    Reply