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Five Z87 Motherboards For Your Mini-ITX Build, Reviewed

EVGA Z87 Stinger

While most of its competitors scrambled to find room to retain all of the Z87 Express PCH's natively-supported features using a mini-ITX form factor, EVGA made space for power and reset buttons, plus a dual-digit system status display. Dedicated to gamers, and by extension to overclockers, the company got there by focusing on the unique needs of the mini-ITX-based gaming system market.

The first thing we noticed was that the board has only four internal SATA 6Gb/s ports, which makes sense when most small cases have no more than four drive bays anyway. A tiny heat sink serves a similarly downsized four-phase voltage regulator, which also works for us since Haswell’s heat issues normally prevent it from capitalizing on the additional capacity of larger regulators. EVGA also gets rid of rarely-used connections like legacy communications ports and the TPM.

That’s not to say the board is stripped. We still find, for example, the full range of front-panel headers, including USB 3.0, USB 2.0, and analog audio I/O. In fact, front-panel audio is a significant addition to the Z87 Stinger, since EVGA neglected to include it on the company's Z77-based predecessor. Also, one of the missing SATA 6Gb/s ports gets re-routed to eSATA.

EVGA even includes a decorative cover so you don't have to look at parts of the board that don't add anything aesthetically. In fact, Wi-Fi is the only feature notably missing from the Z87 Stinger compared to competing products.

The Z87 Stinger has a mini-PCIe slot into which you can drop your choice of wireless networking controller or other compatible device. EVGA even includes a place on the board's I/O shield for mounting antenna leads. On the other hand, if the company wanted to provide its customers with added configuration flexibility, it should have bundled the break-out cables that aren’t included with most mini-PCIe-based wireless modules.

The Z87 Stinger's manual is universal, and based on EVGA's other products. You'll need to rely on its additional configuration sheet to determine the location and function of various connectors, and know to dismiss anything listed in the manual but not found on the board.

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