Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

Asus Z87I-Deluxe

Asus packs its Z87I-Deluxe I/O panel with six USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports, but loses PS/2 and eSATA compared to ASRock’s competing product. Internal connectors are moved around to make room for a far-larger 12-phase CPU input voltage regulator.

The I/O panel also gains a USB BIOS Flashback button. This Asus-exclusive feature allows builders to flash a new firmware version using nothing more than a power supply and USB thumb drive, and is particularly useful when installing a newer, unsupported CPU on an older board. We shouldn’t need to worry about that for a while, since all of the Haswell-based processors compatible with LGA 1150 are pretty recent.

Analog connectivity on the rear panel drops to three jacks, though DTS Connect technology encodes live audio streams to 5.1-channel surround over a single digital output.

Asus saves space by placing Broadcom’s dual-channel, 867 Mb/s-capable 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth controller on a vertical I/O panel riser. And since the vertical voltage regulator impedes access around the CPU socket, the Z87I-Deluxe’s eight-pin CPU power connector is relocated to the board’s front edge. Large CPU coolers may force builders to connect fan header cables before placing the board into a case.

The USB 3.0 front-panel header is a little close to the CPU socket, which may cause clearance issues with some coolers. Though most large heat sinks can be rotated out of the way, the upright voltage regulator may prevent low-profile models (those with little motherboard clearance) from being rotated. Those factors make cooler offset and vertical clearance equally important, which is why they’re listed on page one of Eight Low-Profile CPU Coolers For Your Compact PC, Reviewed.

Asus surprises us by including all six SATA 6Gb/s internal cables with its six-port board. An I/O shield, Wi-Fi antenna, and front-panel lead extender round out the kit.