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Supertest MSI Z87I 2013

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One of our biggest problems with the rise of the mini-ITX motherboard is the price premium that always seems to come with them. In exchange for removing slots and features, manufacturers seem to want to charge you for waste removal, too. If the boards are smaller, with fewer components, doesn’t that make them ultimately cheaper to produce?

We know it’s not that simple, though – the mini-ITX form factor is still comparatively niche compared with the ATX standard, so there aren’t as many boards being made, which in turn helps keep the prices nice and high.


One of our biggest problems with the rise of the mini-ITX motherboard is the price premium that always seems to come with them. In exchange for removing slots and features, manufacturers seem to want to charge you for waste removal, too.

Knowing something and liking it are very different things though, so we’re always very pleased when someone bucks the trend a little. MSI has done that with its Z87I board. This is a $163.62 mobo of the mini-ITX persuasion that somehow retains a very competitive feature set and some impressive metrics, too.

Less is more

When you first pull the Z87I from its simple white box, the basic-looking board layout is what strikes you first. There are none of the RoG’s raised power components here – ie, combi cards or extra shards of audio cards. It’s just a little square of black PCB with a big socket for the chip and seemingly not much else.

But what else do you really need in a small form factor gaming machine? It’s already got a PCIe 3.0 x 16 slots, a pair of DDR3 DIMM slots, full SATA 6Gbps storage capabilities, USB 3.0 ports and Wi-Fi card already fitted into its mini PCIe connection. So yeah, it’s pretty well kitted out already and is still around $124 cheaper than Asus’ masterpiece of a motherboard, mind.

Description: C:\Users\Dante Le\Desktop\Untitled.jpg
When you first pull the Z87I from its simple white box, the basic-looking board layout is what strikes you first.

It’s slower than the RoG board, but not by much – certainly not enough to make you think that $124 extra might be worth it. It will be worth noting the difference between an i5-4670K and i7-4770K isn’t far off that. Just putting it out there and backing away…

The general synthetic performance isn’t too far behind, with the MSI in second place here in everything bar the gaming benchmarks. This is the only real disappointment in testing the Z87I, but you would actually be hard pushed to notice the difference in gaming performance if you didn’t have the FPS numbers to hand. If you’re really looking you can find a reason to give the win to the Asus board, but in reality it’ll be tough to tell.

You would be better off spending the cash differential on a quicker graphics card. That means you could build a very well-priced gaming rig from this motherboard on the Intel platform. Overclocking probably isn’t massively important if you’re going for a small form factor machine either (which will upset the RoG Impact no end), so picking up a non-K series i5 Haswell for around $248 would be a great pairing for this bargain.

We’ve got to give props to MSI for creating a very simple, impressively specced and reasonably powerful mini-ITX motherboard without slapping a massive price premium on it. MSI could have followed EVGA’s lead and released it with a big sticker price, but we’re hoping the fact it’s gone for $163.7 is well rewarded. For such a decent board, it certainly deserves to be.


The general synthetic performance isn’t too far behind, with the MSI in second place here in everything bar the gaming benchmarks.

 

Vital Statistics

 

·         Price: $163.7

·         Manufacture:r MSI

·         Chipset: Intel Z87

·         Socket: LGA 1150

·         Memory: Up to 32GB @ 3,000MHz

·         Memory slots: 2x DDR3 DIMM

·         Storage: 4x SATA 6Gbps

·         Ports: 4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort


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