I didn't believe the H81M-ITX merited an award because of its lower-priced competition. Tiny, pre-built PCs are available from companies like Dell and HP offering similar features, plus an operating system. They also include a warranty, and cost what you'd spend building the machine yourself. Your only advantage would be that you'd likely use a more robust PSU that could power a decent graphics card later. The H81M-ITX isn't a bad board by any stretch, but there's nothing about it that makes it better.
The H97M-ITX/ac is a different story. Even if you can find a small pre-built box that has all of the features this board offers, checking off all of those add-in boxes will quickly run up its price. You'll build a better PC yourself, likely for the same or less money, and you won't need the warranty. In fact, I'll probably build a machine using this board very soon. There is simply nothing missing, so our Recommended Award is inescapable.
The B85N Phoenix-WiFi is not easy to rate. A lack of RAID support will undoubtedly affect certain power users. But everything else is there. This platform handles more drives than go into a typical tower-based PC, and its wireless subsystem offers amazing performance. It does use a little more power, but not enough to be a significant concern. For an intended audience that includes HTPC builders, we can't help but recognize the B85N Phoenix-WiFi.
I started out hoping to establish whether one of these mainstream mini-ITX boards would be sufficiently complete for a typical builder, and the answer has to be "Yes." From the sparse, business-oriented H81M-ITX to the feature-rich H97M-ITX/ac, there aren't too many scenarios in which one of these boards won't work. Unless you need specific expansion options that cannot be met by such a compact form factor (like multiple graphics cards or more than 16GB of DDR3), mini-ITX is certainly an attractive option. As much as some people enjoy tweaking, these boards' limited overclocking, at least in my opinion, should not be a deal-breaker.
I expect to hear about it in the comments if I've left out anything vital, and I'd also like to know if there are specific angles you'd like covered in the future. Some readers may have wanted a little more overclocking detail. However, I suspect I lost the silicon lottery on my Pentium. I could hit 4.2GHz in some tests, but never got Prime95 stable, even if I tried settings bracketed around those a colleague used on his sample. In any event, these aren't Z boards and cannot overclock the K-series chips favored by tweakers. If you're building a small system on a budget, though, one of these boards is very likely to have all of the features you need, and that's what I wanted to show.