Mini-ITX motherboard based on Intel Z87: a comparative review and testing

Mini-ITX motherboard based on Intel Z87: a comparative review and testing

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    Leading motherboard manufacturers began to produce compact motherboard, almost not inferior to its full-sized. In support of this, we tested six flagship LGA1150-boards, suitable for assembling a compact gaming or overclocking system: ASRock Z87E-ITX, ASUS Z87I-Pro, ASUS Maximus VI Impact, Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI, MSI Z87I and MSI Z87I Gaming AC

    Take a look inside your system unit. Most likely your computer consists of a motherboard with processor and two memory modules, one card, one or two drives and is not provided with any more additional expansion cards. This means that large and bulky body it completely useless. Approximately the same performance and functionality of the system can be easily assembled in a compact form factor that provides a number of advantages. Thus, small systems save space and less gathering dust, placed on the desktop and not on the floor. Usually they are more energy efficient and, moreover, fits well into modern interiors.

    The most attractive compact form factor to date stands format Mini-ITX, determines the size of the motherboard 17 to 17 cm On the one hand, it gives a distinct advantage in size computers, and on the other – is not going to make unpleasant compromises with in terms of performance and expansion capabilities. And if earlier Mini-ITX-platform associated with low productivity and inability to disperse, but today it is a thing of the past representation. Commercially available Mini-ITX-platform ensure easy use flagship graphics card and the fastest processors. Not excluded and acceleration that many compact board in this respect almost as good a full-size model. In other words, getting ready to make another upgrade their computer, it is reasonable to consider as possible options and solutions in the format of Mini-ITX.

    Output chipset Intel Z87, who embodied all available for LGA1150-platform capabilities on a single chip, as well as the efforts of Intel, developed the reference design miniature motherboards for processors Haswell, led to what appeared on the market a substantial amount Motherboard Mini- ITX, which in its facilities to satisfy even the most demanding users of enthusiasts. And it is not about any individual motherboards, and that the market Mini-ITX-making is on the rise and such platforms are ready to offer all self-respecting manufacturers.

    To confirm this, we have prepared this material, which compared the commercially available Mini-ITX motherboard with socket LGA1150, suitable to create an advanced gaming system with the ability to overclock the processor, of which, surprisingly, turned out to be a lot. Of course, collecting compact and powerful gaming computer, and have to find the appropriate Mini-ITX-body with a powerful enough power supply and allows to organize adequate cooling, but at the moment it – not too much trouble. A key element of the system as it continues to be the motherboard, and we will try to find the best option among the available on store shelves proposals from companies ASRock, ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI.

    Comparative characteristics of tested motherboards

    Motherboard form factor Mini-ITX, based on the Z-series chipsets in recent years, gradually developed a kind of unspoken standard. Partly assist this very Intel, which began to provide developers with the standard version of circuitry boards for such a compact product. Partly, this is due and limitations of the form factor. On a piece of PCB size 17 by 17 cm especially not clear, especially since there are a number of requirements that can not be neglected. Fortunately, modern chipsets for LGA1150-processors, in particular Intel Z87, not only have a compact single-chip design, but also offer practical implementation of all the required interfaces. In fact, in addition to the chip Intel Z87, modern motherboard for the Haswell dokomplektatsii requires a gigabit network controller and audio codec.

    Flowchart chipset Intel Z87

    Obviously, any of the motherboard form factor Mini-ITX, Intel Z87-based and focused on creating high-performance systems, must have a minimum slot PCI Express x16 3.0 discrete graphics accelerator and two DDR3 DIMM slots for dual-channel memory subsystem . And for the DDR3 SDRAM is desirable full-size slots as productive modules DDR3-oriented work at high frequencies, in the SO-DIMM-performance are not available. Also any compact LGA1150-board must be completed and the Monitor’s own conclusions, admitting if necessary use the built-in graphics processor.

    In choosing a power supply circuit processor manufacturers appeared certain freedom. Due to the fact that the processors Haswell got integrated inverter voltage from the motherboard requires the formation of a common base input voltage of 1.8 V. Moreover, the requirements for the “purity” of this tension quite soft, which allows limited power converters on the boards with a small number of channels . However, if the board is focused on serious overclocking, such a converter power supply should be and it is based on the quality must electronic elements. It is important to the efficiency of the power scheme was high enough to prevent overheating circuit boards, which in the case of the form factor Mini-ITX often used in cramped and poorly ventilated buildings.

    As a consequence, producers have to think specifically about the organization cooling basking sites of their products. Itself Intel Z87 chipset has heat at 4 watts, so it is quite able to do only a small radiator. But here is the power scheme in most cases release significantly more heat, so ignore it by setting quality radiator it is not accepted. To connect a fan on Mini-ITX-boards upper level should be at least two connector – CPU and system.

    Some general properties of the Mini-ITX-boards from different manufacturers stems from features chipset Intel Z87. So, all the boards from the survey have at least a four-port SATA 6 Gb / s, six USB 3.0 ports and multiple USB 2.0. But at the same time, designers Mini-ITX-motherboard remains and many freedoms. They are free to choose any network controllers for the implementation and sound. They can install any additional controllers and put on their boards additional SATA ports and USB.

    But somehow it turned out that in the modern Mini-ITX-boards based on Intel Z87 chipset was not customary to use external controllers SATA or USB. But all manufacturers agree on need for placing their products at least one additional expansion slot mini-PCIe. Moreover, in all cases without exception, this slot is filled fully complete Wi-Fi-modules, which each particular manufacturer may have their own characteristics. Frankly, it is quite relevant to the Mini-ITX-boards would be the appearance of connectors for installing compact mSATA SSDs or M.2, but currently offer this functionality only selected products.

    These factors is sufficient to get a wide variety in the characteristics of motherboards. Therefore, for the convenience of further discussion, we decided to start with, that brought together all the basic specifications that participated in the tests Mini-ITX-products based on chipset Intel Z87.

    ASRock Z87E-ITX ASUS Z87I-Pro ASUS Maximus VI Impact Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI MSI Z87I MSI Z87I Gaming AC
    Socket LGA1150 LGA1150 LGA1150 LGA1155 LGA1150 LGA1150
    Chipset Intel Z87 Intel Z87 Intel Z87 Intel Z87 Intel Z87 Intel Z87
    Memory slots 2 x DDR3 DIMM 2 x DDR3 DIMM 2 x DDR3 DIMM 2 x DDR3 DIMM 2 x DDR3 DIMM 2 x DDR3 DIMM
    Memory support
    Up to DDR3-2933 Up to DDR3-3000 Up to DDR3-3000 Up to DDR3-2400 Up to DDR3-3000 Up to DDR3-3000
    Slot PCIe x16 3.0 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Slot mini-PCIe x1 Two, one busy Yes, busy Yes, busy Yes, busy Yes, busy Yes, busy
    Slot mSATA 6 GB/s Yes, combined with mini-PCIe No No No No No
    Slot M.2 (NGFF) No No Yes No No No
    Audio codec Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC1150
    Gigabit Ethernet Controller Intel I217V Intel I217V Intel I217V Intel I217V
    Atheros AR8161
    2 x Realtek RTL8111E Killer E2205
    Additional ATA-controller No No No No No No
    Additional Controller USB 3.0 No ASMedia ASM1042 No No No No
    Wi-Fi Broadcom BCM94352
    802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2,4/5 GHz
    Atheros AR5B22
    802.11a/b/g/n, 2,4/5 GHz
    Broadcom BCM94352
    802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2,4/5 GHz
    Intel Wireless-N 2230
    802.11 b/g/n, 2,4 GHz
    Intel Wireless-N 2230
    802.11 b/g/n, 2,4 GHz
    Intel Wireless-AC 7260
    802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2,4/5 GHz
    Bluetooth Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    Other POST-controller
    Form Factor Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm Mini-ITX, 17×17 cm
    Internal Ports
    USB 2.0 4 2 2 2 2 2
    USB 3.0 2 2 2 2 2 2
    Serial Port No No No Yes Yes No
    SATA 6 GB/s 6 6 4 4 4 5
    External Ports
    USB 2.0 2 4 4 2 2 2
    USB 3.0 4 6 4 4 4 4
    Gigabit Network 1 1 1 2 2 1
    eSATA 6 GB/s 1 No 1 No No 1
    Analog audio
    6 3 3 5 6 6
    S/PDIF-output Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
    PS/2 1 No No 1 1 1
    Video DVI-I,
    HDMI,
    DisplayPort
    DVI-I,
    HDMI,
    DisplayPort
    HDMI,
    DisplayPort
    DVI-I,
    2 x HDMI
    DVI-I,
    HDMI,
    DisplayPort
    DVI-I,
    HDMI,
    DisplayPort
    Price $130 (See here) $206 (See here) $220 (See here) $200 (Find all offers) $140 (See here) $190 (See here)

    ASRock Z87E-ITX

    Ideology motherboard manufacturers offering products in Z87-Mini-ITX-format, a total of about one and the same. Such fees are usually targeting the audience of enthusiasts, and therefore not only have the support overclocking, but also equipped with a rich peripheral features, which ultimately affects their price. However, ASRock decided to pave a slightly different way to the hearts of consumers. The company was able to design a relatively inexpensive Mini-ITX-fee, which would, nevertheless, got a good list of features.

    As a result, ASRock Z87E-ITX motherboards worth at other manufacturers, it is noticeably inferior in features, and especially in terms of connecting storage devices. However, the secret is simple enough ASRock product. Engineers did not stuff a compact motherboard with additional controllers, which in the case of Mini-ITX-format turns into a non-trivial task, and simply relied on the features offered by Intel’s chipset Z87, trying to use them to the maximum. Second original design approach, which has found a place in the design of ASRock Z87E-ITX, – adding to the board the maximum number of slots for inserting external expansion cards. Of course, the format of the Mini-ITX can not expect much, but in addition to the usual for boards based on Z87 graphics slot PCI Express x16 3.0, Z87E-ITX offers slots for two mini-PCIe.

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    One of these slots is centered board, it is calculated on a half-size card and standard expansion card is already full – Wi-Fi-and Bluetooth-controller Broadcom. It should be noted that this controller is pretty good: he dual-band, with support for 802.11ac. With support for antenna pair (they are included with the card), the maximum wireless signal rate reaches 867 Mbit / s. Present on the market Mini-ITX board so generous functionality of the wireless interfaces offer very rare.

    The second mini-PCIe slot on the front side of the card does not fit as expected, so ASRock engineers cleverly moved it to the back surface of the board. And such an arrangement will make it even compatible with full-size cards mini-PCIe. In addition, this same slot supports SSDs format mSATA.

    Naturally, the board has a pair of slots and immutable DDR3 DIMM – it’s standard for Mini-ITX. On ASRock Z87E-ITX these slots have unilateral latch, so change memory already assembled system installed graphics card will not be too difficult. Supports a maximum memory – 16 GB.

    On the board and were able to fit two connectors for ports USB 2.0, as well as needle connector for port pair USB 3.0. If we sum these ports with those that are located on the rear panel, it turns out that a total of ASRock Z87E-ITX supports six USB 2.0 and six USB 3.0. This is not a record, but that is indeed commendable, as is the availability of a complete set of on-board chipset of six SATA 6 Gb / s. However, one of these ports are shared with the slot mSATA, and another – with the existing connector on the rear panel eSATA. Nevertheless, the possibility of ASRock Z87E-ITX connection drives obviously richer than most competing products of the same form factor.

    Of course, the accommodation on board format 17 by 17 centimeters large number of slots and connectors could not affect the design. Do ASRock Z87E-ITX it turned tight and not too comfortable. Suffered and the processor socket LGA1150, which had to be moved to the upper edge of the board. On the one hand, it gives a certain freedom when using massive video cards, but on the other – creates problems when using large CPU coolers. In fact, after installing ASRock Z87E-ITX in a typical Mini-ITX-body subset breaks CPU coolers will be limited to models with no more than 92-mm fans. However, in large buildings or in the open stand on this board can plant a much larger cooling system – with the card they will not interfere.

    Even more serious criticism is the location of Eight-power connector. It huddled in the center of the space between the processing recess and the rear panel, which means that the assembled system accessed likely overlaps.

    Itself the power scheme has six-channel design. It is based on assemblies DrMOS and coils with an iron core, usually used in server boards. This gives grounds to speak about ASRock high reliability of its scheme, despite the fact that the full-size boards are commonly used electronic components, high-current. Semiconductor components supply circuit closed small radiator with rigid mounting screws. During operation, this card can be heated radiator, but in comparison with how pyshut heat power converters on other boards, it is – utter nonsense.

    Fan connectors on the ASRock Z87E-ITX has only two four-terminal connector, which means that after the CPU cooler to the motherboard will only connect one fan. The fan speed is adjusted only when FOUR connecting through PWM.

    The rear panel carries a two-port USB 2.0, four-port USB 3.0, eSATA port and socket PS / 2, or working with a mouse or keyboard. To connect the monitor to the built-in graphics processor has three ports: HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI. Analog monitors can be connected to DVI-I is available through the supplied adapter, and HDMI and DisplayPort support have screens with 4K-resolution. Also on the rear panel made ​​five analog audio and optical S / PDIF, which is responsible for the work of eight-codec Realtek ALC1150 and power TI NE5532, enabling the use of headphones with an internal resistance of 600 ohms. Here is also a connector gigabit wired network, implemented through the chip Intel I217V, and two connectors for connecting WiFi-antennas. Among all this abundance could squeeze small and unobtrusive button Clear CMOS.

    Besides the already mentioned two antennas and WiFi-adapter with a DVI-I to D-Sub supplied ASRock Z87E-ITX includes only the most necessary things: SATA-cables, CD with drivers, manual and a plug for the back panel (I/O Shield).

    Motherboard BIOS ASRock Z87E-ITX is typical for this manufacturer. It has the usual set of options for fine tuning the system and acceleration characteristic of the full-size boards. No cuts or simplifications made ​​especially in Mini-ITX-modification, fortunately, is not visible.

    The procedure for overclocking the board ASRock Z87E-ITX is very simple. Only need to modify the CPU multiplier and voltage – all other necessary parameters of the Turbo charge will vary independently. The situation is similar with overclocking memory – when installing high frequency DDR3 SDRAM we did not encounter any problems.

    In other words, despite its modest size, Z87E-ITX – it’s a good overclocker platform. Not only. Electrical design allows you to collect on its basis and very efficient system. At the same time, and expandability offered ASRock Z87E-ITX, one of the best in its class. Considering the reasonable price, ASRock offer could be considered unique, but, unfortunately, the arrangement has disappointed.

    ASUS Z87I-PRO

    The range of ASUS – as much as two motherboards based on chipset Intel Z87, in a compact form factor Mini-ITX. First – gamer, it refers to a series of ROG, but the second, which will be discussed further, Z87I-PRO, – is not quite simple. And this can be seen not only at a price which at Z87I-PRO approaching 200-dollar mark, but also on the capabilities and external execution.

    When you take your hands Z87I-PRO, the first thing that catches your eye – not even her poignant black and yellow color scheme, and the fact that ASUS engineers have been able to figure out where you can take the extra space components. Fee is not confined to a square 17×17 cm, top it continues in the perpendicular plane. Opened additional space takes CPU power converter, which is formed as a subsidiary (but permanent) board size 120×44 mm.

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    It should be noted that the power converter on ASUS Z87I-PRO difficult even for full-size boards. He collected on a digital circuit and has 12 (!) Channels, which in theory allows this miniature board boldest overclocking experiments. However, in this case, a complex power scheme – minus rather than a plus. Motherboard Mini-ITX must be economical, and multichannel converter high efficiency at light loads can not boast. Its ineffectiveness immediately clear: on the one hand, the power board closed rather big size radiator, and on the other – a metal plate. While warming up this design very seriously, while working on it quite possible to get burned.

    But by shifting the main power converter board area, ASUS engineers have been able to make room for free placement of the remaining components. However, besides the graphics slot PCI Express x16 3.0 with large and comfortable and a pair of locking slots for DDR3 DIMM, no other expansion slots Z87I-PRO no. Instead of Mini-PCIe and mSATA the board just added an extra USB 3.0 controller of Asmedia and integrated module Bluetooth/Wi-Fi.

    On the properties of this wireless module is necessary to dwell. It is built directly into the rear panel without taking utility area, and thus boasts a modern, but not a record, set of features. Having at its core chip Broadcom, the module supports dual-band 2.4 and 5 GHz and a set of standards Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n. “TWIN” antenna to connect to this module is supplied.

    With that said, it is clear that the design of ASUS Z87I-PRO gives the main space under the board connectors, sockets, and the processor socket. It is not surprising that an elaborate arrangement of the LGA1150 – one of the main advantages by ASUS. It is located almost in the center, and hence limits on the size of the CPU cooler will be minimal. Actually on ASUS Z87I-PRO can be installed even under tower 140-mm fan, more importantly, to the bottom of the cooler was not a massive pro-mounting socket or fins.

    Besides, deserves special praise Stock considered Mini-ITX-board as many as four connectors for connecting fans. All four-terminal connectors, but a three-pronged connection is also supported, can adjust the speed of rotation is maintained. However, all huddled fan slot immediately behind the rear panel of the board. This means that dolezt to them in the assembled system is not that simple. However, throughout the design convenient Mini-ITX-board – it’s something out of science fiction. Well at least that on ASUS Z87I-PRO both sockets for power handed to the slots DIMM – so the power supply cables will be easier to connect and they will be less bothersome.

    Thoughtful looks and location on board SATA 6 Gb / s. Them available to the maximum number of Intel Z87 – six of them – but they are somewhat spaced relative to each other, allowing unimpeded even use SATA-cables with clips on the plugs. In addition to SATA-ports on the motherboard can be found one needle connector USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0. The bulk of USB-ports moved manufacturer immediately to the rear panel.

    It is still a four-port USB 2.0 port, and six USB 3.0, increasing the total number of supported board USB-ports of various types to six and eight, respectively. It should be noted that one of the USB 3.0 ports has technology support BIOS Flashback, which allows to update the firmware of the motherboard without full assembly platform. Also on the rear panel connector can detect gigabit network that runs through the controller Intel I217V, and two connectors for Wi-Fi-antennas. Connecting Monitors possible through all types of connectors: DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Analog monitors can be used via an adapter DVI-I → D-Sub, but it will have to buy separately, the package does not include it.

    Audio channel on ASUS Z87I-PRO implemented eight-codec Realtek ALC1150, but the rear panel displayed only three analog audio jacks. Therefore, to connect multi-channel audio will either have to use the existing adjacent S / PDIF-out, or to use the front panel audio connectors.

    Additional convenience ASUS Z87I-PRO configuration is provided in the three available on this motherboard hardware buttons. Besides the already mentioned BIOS Flashback on the back cover taken out and the button Clear CMOS. The third button – MemOk!, Is on the board of the fan headers – is intended to reset the memory, which in some cases allows you to run properly tuned system. Like most other motherboard Mini-ITX, even expensive ASUS Z87I-PRO lacks indicator POST-codes. Instead, ASUS offers a system of five LEDs POST State Led, as that can be estimated to determine at what stage in the loading platform having problems.

    Components of this motherboard is relatively uneventful. Also Wi-Fi-antenna box you will find six SATA-cables, the bar for the rear panel (I / O Shield), printed guide and CD with drivers and software. However, the listed accessories ASUS still added his trademark Q-Cable splitter for connecting hull buttons and indicators.

    BIOS from ASUS Z87I-PRO is quite standard. Flexible configuration is not worse than the full-size boards. Means for acceleration or deceleration processor present in its entirety. The most interesting option for enthusiasts gathered under Ai Tweaker.

    But setting that allows the processor to include energy-saving technologies in the BIOS, in the ASUS Z87I-PRO hidden too deep. They are in the section Advanced \ CPU Configuration \ CPU Power Management Configuration.

    It should be noted that in fact the motherboard ASUS Z87I-PRO is not too economical. Unfortunately, even the activation of all states with energy-efficient proprietary technology asusovskoy EPU Power Saving does this most economical cost rivals idle. But under high load board power is unexpectedly good level.

    As for overclocking, the ASUS Z87I-PRO has established itself with a good hand. XMP profiles are supported without problems, and to increase the CPU frequency above the nominal values ​​only required to specify the desired multiplier and add voltage. Related parameters of the turbo as the CPU power consumption limits are adjusted automatically and does not require user intervention.

    All this makes the ASUS Z87I-PRO excellent platform for experiments performed in a compact form factor. Well suited for this purpose and its rich settings, and unique design allows you to place an effective cooling system.

    ASUS Maximus VI Impact

    Motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Impact – the most expensive member of this review. This is not surprising. With the advent of LGA1150-processor, ASUS has decided to significantly expand its range of Republic of Gamers and add to it including the Mini-ITX-model. Maximus VI Impact just became a representative of the new formation, and its high cost – it’s not so much a quality indicator of wealth or opportunities as a reflection rooted in her characteristic series ROG.

    However, its characteristics and Maximus VI Impact looks quite impressive. We must start with the fact that this board, as well as in the ASUS Z87I-PRO, the application is submitted to found a charge converter CPU power. And in this case, engineers have not stinted on the most powerful (in terms of electrical power) element base commonly used in the premium price segment boards. Among the unique features of Maximus VI Impact should also include audio codec, transferred to a separate daughter board SupremeFX, provides the necessary space to accommodate quality filters and DACs, which ultimately allows for signal-to-noise level of 115 dB. Originally resolved the issue of the placement of 802.11ac WiFi-controller. He also submitted a separate daughter card mPCIe Combo II, where it is combined with a slot for SSDs promising format M.2 or NGFF. Specifications ASUS Maximus VI Impact also include gigabit network controller Intel I217V, four SATA 6 Gb / s port eSATA, six USB 2.0 ports and USB 3.0, four fan headers, POST-controller technology and ROG Connect USB BIOS Flashback , the hardware power button, reboot, MemOk! And ClearCMOS and more. In other words, the board will receive a unique, and its high cost performance is adequate.

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    Thus, the main feature of the design ASUS Maximus VI Impact, performed in an attractive red and black color scheme, is that a significant number of its functional units on a separate daughter cards, which are located perpendicular to the main board area. With this ASUS engineers successfully make the placement of components is significantly more spacious than it is on Mini-ITX-boards generally. On board the plane moved controller CPU power, audio channel, mini-PCIe-Slot WiFi-controller buttons and numerous POST-controller (which is the usual Mini-ITX motherboards does not fit at all). Benefited from this first processor socket LGA 1150. Maximus VI Impact on he not only located in the center of the board, but also removed a sufficient distance from all other components. This ensures compatibility of a compact motherboard with a wide range of CPU coolers, including even some efficient models Thermalright, Noctua, Prolimatech or Scythe, designed for fans with impeller diameter of 140 mm.

    Fan connectors ASUS Maximus VI Impact offers a full four FOUR connector. Three connectors located at the far corner of the board near the power converter and the rear panel, and one – on the front edge. All connectors are compatible with three-pin fans, speed control is possible via PWM and voltage change. It should be noted that as the rich possibilities for connecting cooling devices Mini-ITX boards typically do not possess.

    Daughter board to the power circuit is located at the top of Maximus VI Impact. This fee, of course, not removable. Such constructions have become the standard solution for ASUS used in Mini-ITX solutions. Uniqueness of the power converter specifically on this board is that it is based uses powerful 60-voltage coil and highly reliable capacitors 10 uF. ASUS assures us that the resulting eight-channel digital circuit is highly efficient, but in practice it turns the other way around. In fact, the power converter on ASUS Maximus VI Impact strongly heated and shows disappointingly low efficiency.

    On this board taken two slots DDR3 DIMM, which together support up to 16 GB of memory. These slots are equipped with latches on the one hand – from the slot PCI Express x16. This makes working with them not very comfortable, but the other choice of ASUS engineers were not – on the other side of the DIMM slots are backed by the power converter. But the placement of components before these slots causes only positive emotions. ASUS engineers have been able to make the most comfortable place to enable both socket ATX-power, and next to them is a hardware and power and reset buttons. Next door you will notice the needle connector for USB 3.0 ports, a fan and front panel. On the other hand there are four DIMM slots chipset SATA 6Gb / s ports. Of course, they are located not too well, as they will be assembled system sandwiched between memory and the chipset heatsink, but no other suitable places for them on the board is not visible.

    Radom installed in the PCI Express x16 slot graphics card will daughterboard mPCIe Combo II. It is a combination of mini-PCIe slot half-size slot and M.2. The first of them is already installed 802.11ac dual band WiFi card (with support for Bluetooth), based on the chip Broadcom. It is curious that the antenna connectors while not withdrawn to the rear panel, which, theoretically, there is free access, and inside the card. It is assumed that the user himself will bring them back in the assembly system. Second slot, M.2/NGFF, suitable for installation promising drives in the new format, it can be inserted up to the board of 110 mm.

    Here is a third daughter card – sound card SupremeFX. Its capabilities are similar to those that provide similar solutions to the full-size series motherboards ROG. Namely, using eight-channel codec Realtek ALC1150, quality electronic components, electromagnetic protection analog portion of the original scheme and filtering of signals, it ensures high sound quality and low noise. And it placed on operational amplifier Texas Instruments LM4562 allows you to connect headphones with an internal resistance of 600 ohms.

    Next to the card slots and SupremeFX mPCIe Combo II on the board is installed in the “crib” replacement chip BIOS, internal connector USB 2.0, connector for optional ROG-panel, battery and connector to enable TPM-module.

    Rear panel ASUS Maximus VI Impact atypical that, given the originality of the board itself, naturally. However, the story of the ports located on it should start with two jumpers to the left of monitor connectors. This – LN2 mode and switches FastBoot, the dates for extreme overclocking experiments and accelerate boot respectively. As for the ability to use the built-in graphics processor, the Maximus VI Impact offers only two monitor ports: HDMI and DisplayPort. DVI is a big, not realized, perhaps correctly: users of such fees will not be interested in weak graphics cores Intel. Video ports placed on the optical S / PDIF output.

    Next on the back cover removed another daughter card – Impact Control, on which the hardware buttons ROG Connect (for acceleration control from another system), USB BIOS Flashback (to flash BIOS without CPU, memory and graphics card), MemOk! (to start the system if improperly installed memory) and DirectKey (for a direct hit in the BIOS or acceleration), and an indicator of the POST-codes. In Impact Control nothing unique, to enable it to typically implemented in conventional motherboards ASUS. However, in the case of Mini-ITX engineers had to come up with buttons and display a special place. As a result, the ability to pay all the typical ASUS, including a series of ROG, by Maximus VI Impact reserved. Of course, the location POST-indicator on the rear panel is not as convenient, but on other boards this format it is not at all. By the way, this indicator is not only useful during debugging, but also during its operation: it can display the current CPU temperature.

    Otherwise, the rear panel displayed the typical array of ports, including four USB 2.0, one eSATA, four USB 3.0, Gigabit LAN connector and analog outputs with SupremeFX card in the amount of three pieces.

    Supplied Maximus VI Impact looks very rich. However, the feeling is composed primarily due to the fact that the daughter cards and SupremeFX mPCIe Combo II supplied separately, in unedited form. Besides them, the box with the card can detect WiFi-antenna, two SATA-cable, manual and CD with software, as well as a cap for the rear panel (I / O Shield). There are also a couple of pleasant things: Q-Cable splitter for easy installation of hull indicators and buttons, as well as a set of labels for labeling cables.

    Motherboard BIOS ASUS Maximus VI Impact differs from BIOS ASUS Z87I-PRO, and often not for the better. Yes, it has more features, but for Mini-ITX-system is clearly excessive, and the structure of BIOS is far from obvious.

    Basic overclocking settings in a profile Extreme Tweaker, which in this case is also starting. Summarized here are options to change the CPU frequency, Uncore and memory, as well as the corresponding voltage.

    Options to change the memory timings in a separate section. The peculiarity of this subsection is that there a large number of proposed prefabricated presets for memory modules, built on various common chips.

    Manage same processor technology for energy saving asusovskoy tradition is hidden as far as possible. Options shown in the following illustration, are in sub-Advanced \ CPU Configuration \ CPU Power Management Configuration.

    This is not surprising. Energy efficiency as a whole – big miscalculation engineers made ​​in the design of ASUS Maximus VI Impact. This board uses a lot more peers, not optimally adjusts the energy savings and, therefore, is strongly heated and needs its own cooling. Branded as EPU Power Saving technology in this case is entirely formal.

    However, even more during testing we upset practical work BIOS. Despite the huge number of settings that seem flexibility, optimum acceleration on ASUS Maximus VI Impact perform very hard. Settings are linked by some indirect connections, and all this generally leads to problems. For example, the processor voltage really only works when enabling Fully Manual Mode, but in this case charge forcibly disables the most energy-efficient technologies. For overclocking experiments in the open stand, it might not be scary. But for continuous operation in the Mini-ITX case, this approach is unacceptable, because it does not allow to build high-performance, while energy-efficient system.

    In other words, ASUS Maximus VI Impact inherits all the advantages of the ROG, associated with status, wealth of features and performance. But she has not acquired the necessary for Mini-ITX board efficiency, so that the resulting product – a concept rather than something suitable for use in a real compact system, and not on the bench.

    Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI

    By now you probably already noticed that the Mini-ITX motherboard, built on chipset Intel Z87, strongly resemble each other in their specifications. That’s from the Mini-ITX motherboard of Gigabyte, we expect that it will be about the same as other compact board. But GA-Z87N-WIFI could surprise us. On the one hand this fee developers gave some unique opportunities in, but on the other – in real-world use, it has presented some nasty surprises. However, first things first.

    Similarity specifications most miniature motherboards based on chipset Intel Z87 is because such cards installed on any whatsoever additional controllers is very difficult – not corny enough space. Therefore, to enhance the capacity of the chipset designers select only the most important, in their opinion, the components with which a 100 percent probability are wireless LAN controllers and sometimes additional USB 3.0-ports. However, Gigabyte decided differently, and GA-Z87N-WIFI capabilities are complemented by Intel Z87 Hub WiFi-controller and two wired gigabit network controllers. As a result, this board can serve as a basis not only for compact PCs, but also used as a platform for home mini-server that performs the role of a router and NAS – for this it has everything you need.

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    However, given such atypical inclinations, Gigabyte engineers might well reflect on the implementation of all six on board chipset SATA-ports. But no, GA-Z87N-WIFI is provided with only four SATA ports with a throughput of 6Gb / s. All of them are connected to the built-in controller chipset on the board and are arranged in its upper part. Besides, the board has one connector for needle USB 2.0 ports and one connector for USB 3.0. To this minimum set of pin-attached Serial port connector, Kojima in 2014 boasts a very rare motherboard.

    Not possess originality and a set of retired rear panel ports. Besides the two Gigabit Ethernet sockets, which are responsible for the work of controllers from Intel and Atheros, nothing unusual is not here. To connect external devices offered two ports USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 (USB ports are all implemented via chipset), as well as universal PS / 2 connector, able to work with both the mouse and the keyboard. Note eSATA ports, Gigabyte not at all, that is, of the six chipset SATA-ports two remain unused. Built-in processor graphics engine can be operated by a pair of HDMI or DVI-I connector. Despite the lack of port DisplayPort, 4K resolution for the integrated graphics in the GA-Z87N-WIFI supported: they are available through the corresponding port HDMI Specification Version 1.4a. Built-in sound, which is responsible for the work of a simple eight-channel codec Realtek ALC892, launched five analog audio jacks and optical SPDIF-out.

    In addition to all listed on the back cover made ​​and two connectors for connecting WiFi-antennas. The very same wireless controller is implemented as a subsidiary module installed in slot available on the motherboard mini-PCIe. Gigabyte chose for your product wireless card Intel Wireless-N 2230, working in a standard 802.11 b / g / n at 2.4 GHz and provides data transfer speed up to 300 Mbit / s. This card also supports passing and Bluetooth 4.0. But the most important feature that distinguishes it from many other options for manufacturers, it is – technology support Intel Wireless Display (WiDi). As a result, GA-Z87N-WIFI has interesting additional functionality: it can be HDMI-connected device on the wireless channel.

    It should be noted that in the near future in the sale should be a new motherboard revision Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI, which will be equipped with a new wireless adapter, Intel Wireless-AC 7260. Such modification will be supported by the standard 802.11ac and data rates up to 867 Mbit / s.

    The delivery of this motherboard in addition to leadership and the CD is to be expected include two-way WiFi-antenna, two SATA-cable and plug for the rear panel (I / O Shield). No additional accessories in the box with no fee.

    Nevertheless, in terms of capabilities GA-Z87N-WIFI looks very tempting, especially given the fact that it – the cheapest Mini-ITX board using chipset Intel Z87. However, as is usually the case, flawlessly while rarely inexpensive. We considered motherboard has a lot of disadvantages, one of which – its layout. So far in the most convenient places are connectors for power supply and connectors related to the front panel, for some reason generally relegated to the board to its rear edge. If you do not want to get into something like housing assembly over the cabling have pretty work. In addition, this mainboard and Gigabyte offers a very unfortunate location for LGA 1150, which is against the slot PCI Express x16. In the upper area of ​​the printed circuit board is at this chip chipset. This makes it impossible to install the CPU cooler productive developed under a 120-mm or thicker fans. Holders of Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI will have to settle or something similar boxed cooler or tower under 80 – or 92-mm fan.

    Problems with overclocking on Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI may arise for another reason – because of flimsy CPU power circuit. Not only that, it is powered by four-contact connector and has a weak four-design, much worse, that it does not cover any radiator. Although the power converter and used quite good FETs with low channel resistance, in their neighborhood board greatly overheated: during testing, we fixed frightening temperatures exceeding 100 degrees.

    Not too much money offers GA-Z87N-WIFI and air flows. The motherboard has only two FOUR fan connector, and control the speed with a three-pin connection, they can not.

    However, overclocking on Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI still possible. At least, BIOS of this motherboard has all the necessary options: its structure and appearance is almost indistinguishable from the full-size boards of BIOS. All necessary to change the frequency and voltage options submitted for three main pages section Performance.

    It should be noted that the BIOS of the motherboard Gigabyte not only has the original interface, but can be easily modified in accordance with the wishes of the user. In this regard, it is very convenient: all settings easily extended to the start screen and thus save yourself from having to walk in the partition structure.

    However, as practice shows, BIOS Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI has significant internal flaws. So, it will always default to include a built-in processor graphics engine, and for some reason it is extremely negative impact on the consumption of the board, which at rest is beyond all reasonable limits. Disconnection of integrated graphics in the BIOS, even if the system has a discrete video card, leads to some strange consequences: in particular, the board reduces the frequency of the Uncore, which entails a drop in performance.

    Not too simple was on GA-Z87N-WIFI and overclocking. Rectilinear increase in frequency and voltage did not lead to the desired result: the system was unstable. As it turned out in the course of experiments, any increase in the internal stress on the processor cores on this board requires a symmetric increase in the input voltage supplied to the CPU power converter: CPU VRIN. Given that on other boards is nothing like not required, it can be assumed that as a weakness manifested power converter motherboard issued which squander much stress load increases.

    Thus, Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI impressed typical budget product, designed with a clear objective of minimizing costs. As a result, the resulting product is endowed with a whole host of different problems, forgive proposed with reference to the price tag. Only a valuable opportunity this board – two NICs – is not unique. Can offer similar functionality and Mini-ITX motherboard from another manufacturer, which will be discussed below.

    MSI Z87I

    When you first look at the motherboard MSI Z87I there is a strong feeling that the developers copied the design MSI Gigabyte. This card uses a chipset Intel Z87, has two Gigabit LAN controllers and support for 802.11n WiFi just as well as the Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI. Very similar and the layout of these cards. However, a deeper familiarity with MSI Z87I reveals significant differences that justify a slightly higher value of the product MSI.

    Almost everyone involved in this review, Mini-ITX motherboards have a minimal set of graphics slot PCI Express x16 3.0, two DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 16 GB of total memory slots and mini-PCIe, which is activated for WiFi-module. Such a set of slots there and MSI Z87I, with no additional mSATA connector like this motherboard is not provided. Slot mini-PCIe, allowing the installation of a half-size cards, the default busy wireless card Intel Wireless-N 2230, operating in the 2.4 GHz band and supports standard 802.11 b / g / n. At the moment it – a bit obsolete solution: it provides a speed up to 300 Mbit / s. But this card supports WiDi technology and Bluetooth 4.0.

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    MSI Z87I has four ports SATA 6Gb / c, for their work meets the chipset. In theory, the hub Intel Z87 allows for up to six channels of SATA, but MSI engineers artificially reduced their number, even refusing to implement port eSATA. Generally, the layout of the product MSI noticeably freer than ASRock motherboard or ASUS. For example, on Z87I stay one needle connector USB 2.0 and USB 3.0. That is, the board allows you to connect only two extra USB-port of each type. But the location is even such a small number of connectors to name the best unlikely. All of them, including the connector to enable the hull buttons and indicators are at the rear panel, that is, for optimal cable management can not count.

    However, the biggest drawback of the design – is the chosen location processor socket LGA 1150, which, as well as on the Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI, strongly pushed against the graphics slot. As a result, systems with discrete graphics processor cooler size will be limited. In fact, the cooler designed for fans with a diameter of 120 mm or more, the MSI Z87I not fit. At the same time for the fans to MSI Z87I provided only two four-terminal connector: one processor and one system. When connected with a three-board control the fan speed can not.

    There is no delight and engineers selected MSI placement ATX-supply outlets. Particularly frustrating connector for CPU power converter: it is in the center of the board to the rear panel. Connecting thereto in the assembly of the cable to the housing would cause serious inconveniences anyway.

    I must say that she and the power scheme does not look particularly outstanding. First, MSI was limited to only four-power connector is usually used in low-end systems. Secondly, the voltage converter includes a total of four channels. However, it found the use of high quality and reliable components (as claimed by MSI, military), and this is partly compensates for a simple circuit. Heating of the converter during operation is strong, but not terrible: heating element mounted on the radiator with a sturdy screw bad reduces internal heat.

    On the rear panel MSI Z87I made ​​two USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0, they are all connected to the chipset Intel Z87. Ibid located and monitor connectors for use in the integrated graphics core processor. Supports all types of digital connections: HDMI, DisplayPort and DVI-I. Analog monitors can be connected to the DVI-I port with an adapter, but it is a complete fee is not included. Also, this mainboard has PS / 2 port for keyboard or mouse. Present on the rear panel and sound analog jacks in the amount of six pieces. For their work meets the eight-codec average Realtek ALC892. You can use the digital connection and speakers – the neighborhood has an optical connector S / PDIF.

    But the main feature of MSI Z87I – advanced networking capabilities. This is clearly seen on the rear panel, there has two jacks for WiFi-antenna (supplied) and two RJ-45 socket for a wired network. Accordingly, the MSI board has a pair of Gigabit Ethernet controllers, in this case Realtek 8111G. Unfortunately, these controllers only work separately and do not support teaming, but to use as a basis Z87I home server that did not hurt.

    And the last element that is present on the rear panel MSI Z87I, – two micro-buttons: Go2BIOS, allows to get into the BIOS on the next reboot, and ClearCMOS.

    Supplied entirely typical, it includes a manual, CD with software, SATA-cables, a plug for the rear panel (I / O Shield) and two WiFi-antenna.

    As well as in other motherboards MSI, constructed based on chipset Intel Z87, a compact board considered a proprietary Click BIOS 4. This shell has a somewhat peculiar appearance, but in terms of functionality does not cause any complaints. Configuring the system frequency is done through section OC.

    It has an almost complete set of tools required. The only limitation that we encountered during practical experiments, this – the upper limit processor voltage is only 1.3 V. However, in most cases, higher voltages for real Mini-ITX systems are not needed.

    Interestingly, in the BIOS of this motherboard does not have separate items allowing to include energy-saving processor state C6 and C7. We hope that the available option Intel C-State still activates them, but hard to say for sure.

    In general, the practical operation of the BIOS on the MSI Z87I have no gripes. Board makes it easy to overclock the CPU, it is enough just to adjust the multiplier and raise its supply voltage. Energy-saving technology to disperse its efficiency remain. XMP profiles are supported, and the high frequency DDR3 SDRAM are achievable and do not cause problems with stability.

    Thus, in the face of MSI Z87I we got cheap, but quite acceptable for a compact PC platform, stand-out among competing options for the presence of two network controllers. Of course, upsets are not optimal board design, as well as having all four ports SATA, but to work in the nominal Z87I and disperse no special claims.

    MSI Z87I Gaming AC

    Despite the overall drop in sales of personal computers, game high-performance systems continue to rise in popularity. Therefore, many motherboard manufacturers began to offer specialized platforms to build gaming systems. Exactly in the range, a series of MSI Gaming, ideologically similar to asusovskuyu series ROG. However, the approach is slightly different yet MSI: game board of this company can not be considered an uncompromising amalgam offering the maximum possible. MSI Gaming Series weighed more, the board included in it, rational from a practical standpoint. Most representatives of this series represent an easy alteration of conventional motherboard MSI, supplemented with qualitative network controller and improved sound circuit. However, MSI Z87I Gaming AC – it’s not a clone of MSI Z87I. This Mini-ITX motherboard has a much improved design and therefore very interesting in itself. In fact, it is not only the engineers at MSI added gamer opportunities, but also tried to eliminate the major design flaws MSI Z87I, bringing Z87I Gaming AC has become a very attractive offer with a cost lower than the ASUS Maximus VI Impact.

    However, the declared characteristics MSI Z87I Gaming AC is not an ultimatum. In fact, this board offers the standard set of interfaces and slots, which can be found on most other participating products in this review. In addition to the chipset Intel Z87, on Z87I Gaming AC is used only Gigabit Ethernet Controller family Killer NIC and quality audio codec Realtek ALC1150. Not allocated salaries and recruitment slots. To install the memory it has two slots DDR3 DIMM, supports up to 16 GB of memory. Expansion slot is present graphic PCI Express x16 3.0 slot and an extra mini-PCIe, calculated on a half-size card and pre-occupied WiFi-module. It should be noted that for the convenience of assembly system memory slots are shifted to the very edge of the board and provided with a lock on one side only.

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    As for the regular WiFi, then MSI Z87I Gaming AC we found the wireless module Intel Wireless-AC 7260. Suppose he does not fit the board in color, but in terms of features – it is the best option available from Intel. It can operate in the 2.4 and 5 GHz, supports all relevant standards 802.11 ac / a / b / g / n, and by receiving and transmitting data according to the scheme 2×2 capable of speeds up to 867 Mbit / s. Naturally, this WiFi-module is forgotten support Intel Wireless Display Technology and Intel Smart Connect. There is in it, and Bluetooth-functionality.

    Obviously, the development of MSI Z87I Gaming AC, great attention was paid to how this board looks. Even green WiFi-module fails to spoil the impression that produces matt black finish with black-and-red radiators. But, unfortunately, taking care of appearance, MSI engineers did not make adjustments to the overall design of motherboard. In general, Z87I Gaming AC similar to Z87I, which means that the CPU socket on this board just as pushed up close to the graphics slot. Remaining gap allows to use MSI Z87I Gaming AC only coolers equipped with 92-mm fans, but no more. Therefore, it is possible that a good yield in the system with this card is to use a compact water cooling system.

    But CPU power converter gaming compact board has been redone, and he has become much better than it was on the MSI Z87I. He purchased a full six-channel design based on the use of semiconductor assemblies DrMOS. All other electronic items have increased reliability and improved performance, as certified including for military use. Removal of heat from this power supply circuit is done by the radiator, which is articulated 6mm heatpipe chipset with radiator. All this had a positive effect on the temperature regime of power converter circuits – its heat very low.

    Changed and a connector for the CPU power – he became a full-fledged and Eight-. In other words, the power scheme now looks not truncated, but as a normal boards. Despite its compact placement on the motherboard, it is very similar to the large supply circuit boards, for example, the same MSI Z87-G43. However, the location of the connectors for the power supply for MSI Z87I Gaming AC remained very uncomfortable. Connecting to the power supply board in the body can become quite serious test.

    Not too suitable location on the board is selected for all other connectors. Needle connector for a couple of additional ports USB 2.0, USB 3.0 connector and a connector for connecting the front panel are in the upper left corner, that is, the cables running to them, will run through the entire body. But the number of SATA 6 Gb / s from MSI Z87I Gaming AC increased to five. All of them work through the chipset, and the sixth port on the rear panel to eSATA-form.

    Unfortunately, the improvements carried out in the design of MSI Z87I Gaming AC, did not affect the hardware monitoring. To board can connect only two fans, and when you connect with a three-speed control their rotation is not possible.

    Rear panel MSI Z87I Gaming AC contains working through Intel Z87 chipset two ports USB 2.0, four USB 3.0 ports and port eSATA. In addition to this there is a set of socket and PS / 2, which will be especially pleased to see gamers prefer gaming mouse with a high sampling rate. Conclusions monitor integrated graphics core into the processor are presented in the form of a standard set of DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort.

    Network RJ-45 socket on Z87I Gaming AC only one, but for her work meets the advanced controller Killer E2200 company Qualcomm Atheros, which is able to intelligently prioritize network traffic. For the disclosure of the same WiFi-functionality has two antenna connectors. By the way, the wires going to it from the module Intel Wireless-AC 7260, stretched across the entire board, and a little disturbing when assembling a system that can also be attributed to miscalculations in the design.

    Audio connectors are presented optical S / PDIF and six gold-plated analog jacks. MSI engineers tried to implement a high quality audio path, it uses shielded eight-codec ALC 1150 signal to noise ratio of 115 dB, high-quality capacitors and linear amplifier TI OPA1652, which allows the use of professional headphones with an impedance of 600 ohms.

    The package includes two SATA-cable, two WiFi-antenna, a plug for the rear panel (I / O Shield), manual and CD with drivers and software. As a “game” additions to this game set in a box with a sticker on board the PC case and label, hang on the exterior door handle of the room gamer.

    The BIOS interface MSI Z87I Gaming AC discussed above is similar to BIOS MSI Z87I. Noticeable differences between them is only in the starting image and color scheme. Basic settings of CPU and memory, including the frequency and voltage to be concentrated in a single section of OC.

    It should be noted that no artificial restrictions on the supply voltage of the processor cores (and other system components) MSI Z87I Gaming AC does not enter.

    CPU overclocking on MSI Z87I Gaming AC passes as easily and effectively as the board MSI Z87I. For stable operation of the system at high frequencies are sufficient increasing base multiplier and voltage on the CPU. Energy-saving technologies while retaining its activity. Memory accelerates too without any problems, XMP-profiles for overclocking DDR3 SDRAM modules operate flawlessly.

    As a result, MSI Z87I Gaming AC deserved reputation Flawless Mini-ITX platform with a typical set of features and smooth functioning. The specifications of this board has no kinks, all embedded solutions are justified. As a result, Z87I Gaming AC pleases not only stability, good performance and overclocking features, but also its efficiency. Of course, we would like to get it all at a lower price, but considering the charge – the status model, and Gaming consoles justifies a small increase to the cost. In conclusion, I want to ask MSI engineers to alter their uncomfortable base Mini-ITX layout, and that’s when the resulting product we would be able to give even an ideal.

    Description of test systems

    The focus of this testing were Mini-ITX motherboards, which pretend to be a substitute for a full-size platforms, so no special indulgences when tested we did. This means that the test system used overclocking processor family Core i5 – Core i5 4670K, and applied performance of discrete graphics card GeForce GTX 780 Ti. Moreover, in the testing process much attention has been paid to the practical aspects of overclocking.

    However, one significant assumption still had to do. Unfortunately, many Mini-ITX motherboards impose restrictions on the size of the used CPU cooler. So instead of our usual tower under 140-mm fan Noctua NH-U14S we had to use a much smaller size cooler DeepCool IceEdge 400XT. This cooler is based on four 6 mm heatpipes tower under 92-mm fan, and such solutions are ideally suited to advanced compact system.

    As a result, a set of test equipment acquired as follows:

    Processor:

    • Intel Core i5-4670K (Haswell, 4 cores, 3.4-3.8 GHz, 4×256 KB L2, 6MB L3).

    CPU cooler:

    • DeepCool IceEdge 400XT.

    Motherboard:

    • ASRock Z87E-ITX (LGA 1150, Intel Z87, version BIOS 2.30);
    • ASUS Z87I-Pro (LGA 1150, Intel Z87, BIOS version 0903);
    • ASUS Maximus VI Impact (LGA 1.15 thousand, Intel Z87, BIOS version 1402);
    • Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI (LGA 1150, Intel Z87, version BIOS F5);
    • MSI Z87I (LGA 1150, Intel Z87, version BIOS 1.6);
    • MSI Z87I Gaming AC (LGA 1150, Intel Z87, version BIOS 1.2).

    Memory:

    • 2×8 GB DDR3-2400 SDRAM, 10-12-12-31 (G.Skill [TridentX] F3-2400C10D-16GTX).

    Video Card:

    Disk Subsystem:

    • Intel SSD 520 240 GB (SSDSC2CW240A3K5).

    PSU:

    • Corsair AX760i (80 Plus Platinum, 760 W).

    Testing was performed in the operating system Microsoft Windows 8.1 Enterprise x64 using the following set of drivers:

    • Intel Chipset Driver 9.4.0.1027;
    • Intel Management Engine Driver 9.0.2.1345;
    • Intel Rapid Storage Technology 12.9.0.1001;
    • NVIDIA GeForce Driver 335.23.

    Methods of testing performance

    To measure the performance of motherboards used the following tools:

    Benchmarks:

    • Futuremark 3DMark Professional Edition 1.2.362 – testing stages Cloud Gate and Fire Strike.

    Applications:

    • Adobe Photoshop CC – performance testing at processing graphics. Measured the average execution time of the test script, which is a creatively redesigned Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed ​​Test, which includes typical processing four 24-megapixel image from a digital camera.
    • Adobe Premiere Pro CC – performance testing with a nonlinear video editing. Measured the rendering format H.264 Blu-Ray project containing HDV 1080p25 video series overlay different effects.
    • Maxon Cinebench R15 – measuring performance photorealistic three-dimensional rendering of the animation package CINEMA 4D. Used in the benchmark scene contains about 2 thousand objects and consists of 300 000 polygons.
    • WinRAR 5.0 – Backup speed testing. Measured the time required for compression archiver directory with different files totaling 1.7 GB. Maximum degree of compression used.
    • x264 r2389 – speed test video transcoding format H.264/AVC. To evaluate the performance uses the original 1080p @ 50fps AVC-video of the test x246 FHD Benchmark 1.0.1, having a bit rate of about 30 Mbit/s.

    Games:

    • Metro: Last Light. Settings for 1280×800 resolution: DirectX 11, High Quality, Texture Filtering = AF 16X, Motion Blur = Normal, SSAA = Off, Tesselation = Off, Advanced PhysX = Off. Settings for resolution 1920×1080: DirectX 11, High Quality, Texture Filtering = AF 16X, Motion Blur = Normal, SSAA = On, Tesselation = On, Advanced PhysX = On. When testing is used scene D6.
    • Hitman: Absolution. Settings for 1280×800 resolution: Ultra Quality, MSAA = Off, High Texture Quality, 16x Texture Aniso, Ultra Shadows, High SSAO, Global Illumination = On, High Reflections, FXAA = On, Ultra Level of Detail, High Depth of Field, Tesselation = On, Normal Bloom. Settings for resolution 1920×1080: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, High Texture Quality, 16x Texture Aniso, Ultra Shadows, High SSAO, Global Illumination = On, High Reflections, FXAA = On, Ultra Level of Detail, High Depth of Field, Tesselation = On , Normal Bloom.
    • Thief. Settings for 1280×800 resolution: Texture Quality = Very High, Shadow Quality = Very High, Defth of Field Quality = High, Texture Filtering Quality = 8x Anisotropic, SSAA = Off, Screenspace Reflections = On, Parallax Occlusion Mapping = On, FXAA = Off, Constant Hardening Shadows = On, Tessellation = On, Image-based Reflection = On. Settings for resolution of 1920×1080: Texture Quality = Very High, Shadow Quality = Very High, Defth of Field Quality = High, Texture Filtering Quality = 8x Anisotropic, SSAA = High, Screenspace Reflections = On, Parallax Occlusion Mapping = On, FXAA = On, Constant Hardening Shadows = On, Tessellation = On, Image-based Reflection = On.

    Performance in a nominal mode

    Testing the performance of boards in the nominal mode is interesting because it shows how they successfully work with the default settings. Accordingly, this part of the test we did not spend any fine tuning of parameters BIOS, but simply loaded optimized default settings. This approach simulates the behavior of a significant part of users who do not pay close attention to the selection of optimal parameters, and to trust that what the system configuration option laid developers.

    It should be noted that in this situation, most motherboards sets the memory subsystem timings taken from the SPD, instead of XMP. Processor is usually configured to operate in its normal mode, but with technology enabled Turbo Boost. This means that the results shown in the charts below were obtained when using Core i5-4670K at 3.6GHz with avtorazgona at low load to 3.8 GHz, and working memory in DDR3-1333 mode with delays 9-9 – 9-24-1T.

    There is, however, one exception unpleasant – motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Impact, BIOS which has some kind of idea of ​​what it looks like normal operation Core i5-4670K. Here, without any user intervention force increases processor speed to 3.8 GHz and Turbo Boost technology is disabled. In other words, even when using the default settings, the processor on the ASUS Maximus VI Impact operates in a slightly overclocked, which naturally affects the test results.

    If you close your eyes to better performance ASUS Maximus VI Impact in counting applications, which is achieved by “cheat” by then we can say that all boards show very similar results. Slightly behind the main group only Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI, which is revealed when tested in Photoshop.

    However, in games the situation is not so uniform. Between the performance of different boards there is some difference, which can reach up to 5 percent. And, interestingly, the board ASUS Maximus VI Impact with overclocked gaming eliminated from among the leaders, and begin to show the best performance Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI and ASRock Z87E-ITX.

    Power consumption and temperature in the nominal mode

    Performance of similar systems using different motherboards, but the same sets of other components, differs slightly. Another thing – power. Food patterns in different motherboards have heterogeneous design, manufacturers use different approaches to cooling, and as a result, when measuring the temperature and power consumption between the Mini-ITX motherboards revealed a significant difference. Moreover, these differences – a very important consideration when choosing a platform. Insufficient economical and highly basking charge, locked in close Mini-ITX case, not only cause excessive costs of electricity, but in the best case will require the use of more noisy cooling system, and at worst – may even fail prematurely.

    To get a complete picture of the level of power consumption and heat all Mini-ITX motherboards based on chipset Intel Z87, we had a special testing. The graphs below show the full power draw systems (without monitor) measured at the outlet of the outlet, which is connected to the power supply test system, and is the total power consumption of all components in it. In summary indicator automatically turns on and the efficiency of the power supply, but given that we use the model PSU, Corsair AX760i, has certified 80 Plus Platinum, its impact should be minimal. During the measurements, the load on the test platform running the 64-bit version of the utility LinX 0.6.5 with support AVX2 instructions.

    In idle best result show the board that at default settings correctly activated processor power-saving technologies, and in addition are effective at low loads design conversion circuit voltage processor. Such models include the ASRock Z87E-ITX, MSI Z87I and MSI Z87I Gaming AC.

    Under high load factor becomes more important good efficiency power supply circuit. Here the best result show ASUS Z87I-PRO, equipped with an exclusive 12-channel power converter, and ASRock Z87E-ITX with six-channel scheme. Note gamer card ASUS Maximus VI Impact shows the worst in terms of efficiency results, which clearly shows that the development of its engineers did not care about energy efficiency. The product is similar to MSI’s gaming focus, in contrast, can be attributed to a number of well-designed with this in terms of decisions.

    Let us now estimate the temperature control board, observed at the maximum load on the test system. Change indices were in the open stand, but additional blowing basking sites motherboard was not performed.

    The first striking temperature recorded on the board Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI. Power converter on it devoid of any cooling, and on the chipset is a modest-sized radiator. As a result, the heating of the board at work is daunting. As for good examples, the excellent thermal design stands MSI Z87I Gaming AC. This – the only Mini-ITX motherboard with a heat pipe in the cooling circuit and the temperature of its hottest sites are markedly lower than in all other boards. Average manifests itself ASRock Z87E-ITX. Six-power converter design of this card is very effective and does not cause excessive heating, which, as we have seen, both converted and relatively low power consumption under load.

    Overclocking

    All we tested motherboard Mini-ITX motherboard potentially have about the same overclocking capabilities of the system, which can be considered exhaustive without any reservations. All cards in your BIOS have the means to change the CPU multiplier, the frequency of its integrated graphics core, Uncore, and memory. All cards are available and options to increase the voltage on the individual nodes of the system, including nuclei CPU. In other words, some fundamental differences in the dispersal Haswell on conventional full-size and Mini-ITX-boards do not exist.

    However, even with the theoretical positions, not all of the material covered in this motherboard is equally well suited for use with overclocked processors. The main limiting factor here is the format of Mini-ITX. For example, not all compact boards allow productive use air CPU coolers, limiting their size of its layout. From this position, the best choice for overclockers can become ASUS Z87I-Pro and ASUS Maximus VI Impact – the only cards that allow the CPU to set the super-cooler with 120mm or 140mm fan. Naturally, the maximum acceleration is only possible cooling performance, and all other options do not allow you to take a cooler with a fan diameter of more than 92 mm. Of course, the specific yield in this situation is to use a compact water cooling system, but this approach is very popular among the users do not use.

    Can not be recommended for use in miniaturized systems and overclocking motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI or MSI Z87I. First bad at fragility CPU power circuit, which includes only four channels and is devoid of any cooling. The second is able to change the CPU voltage only to a limited extent, not allowing to raise it above 1.3 V.

    However, in our practical experiments overclocking, in which we tested performance LGA 1150 system with a processor Core i5-4670K 4.2 GHz frequency memory DDR3-2400 SDRAM, all boards have coped with the task. Test platform based on each of the six tested motherboards worked in this mode flawlessly, and in all six cases to achieve stability, we needed only to increase the CPU voltage to 1.25 V. To functioning memory at 2400 MHz with timings 12/12/10 -31-2T also no claims arise – our performance kit G.Skill in all cases, it provides an increase in the supply voltage to 1.65 V.

    Of course, overclocking to 4.2 GHz – not too impressive feat even for Haswell, not particularly famous for good frequency potential. However, we had to limit it so frequently used in the tests because of the cooler DeepCool IceEdge 400XT. Unfortunately, this tower is under 92-mm fan can not cope with heat under a stronger increase of the voltage and frequency. And even when testing the stability of the system with a 4.2-gigahertz processor, its temperature reached 90 degrees (any board).

    As for performance, overclocking board showed the following results.

    Acceleration somewhat changed the balance of forces. ASUS Maximus VI Impact no longer lead, the result is not too high. Best performance in the same computing tasks show both the boards and the MSI motherboard Gigabyte.

    In games MSI Z87I and MSI Z87I Gaming AC are also in the forefront, but here the leaders added and ASUS Maximus VI Impact.

    If to summarize the performance tests shown in the data, we can conclude that the best performance on average has a motherboard ASUS Maximus VI Impact. In nominal mode, it puts forth a “cheating”, but when overclocking it still shows a decent gaming performance and without any questionable gimmicks. Decent performance and allocated MSI Z87I – this board works in all modes as standard, but its performance in many situations a little above average. You can also select and refine the motherboard MSI Z87I Gaming AC, which in performance in various modes is practically never encountered obvious failures. However, once again it is worth recalling that the difference in performance LGA 1150 motherboards built on the same chipset, is minimal.

    Another thing: power consumption and heat. Move on to test them.

    Power consumption and temperature control during acceleration

    The fact that the ASUS Maximus VI Impact is good only as a basis testbed, we have already spoken. Graphic above – another proof. Because this board disables Intel’s power-saving technologies while increasing the CPU voltage, consumption built on her system idle goes beyond all bounds of decency. Does not possess the economy alone and the second board ASUS.

    Boast as good CPU efficiency power converter and the entire platform as a whole may again ASRock Z87E-ITX and MSI Z87I Gaming AC. And, commendable results demonstrate how these cards idle and under full load, which means optimizing quality of these products and their suitability in the compact based on overclocked systems.

    Let’s now look at the maximum temperature of boards that were noted during the stability test.

    From the viewpoint of the temperature in the unequivocal leaders knocked MSI Z87I Gaming AC. The power supply circuit of this board has six-weighted design, well suited for a small LGA 1150 systems, and cooling it copes with his mission. Not very hot during operation and platforms such as ASRock Z87E-ITX and ASUS Z87I-Pro. Fee same Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI in similar conditions, appears close to disaster. Her four-power converter, devoid of any radiator heats up so much that we are inclined to attribute this to the board the number of solutions that are alien to overclocking.

    Conclusions

    Very pleased that we were not mistaken, arguing that Mini-ITX platform can replace a full-fledged personal computer with the usual ATX-dimensions. Testing has shown that the current LGA 1150 Motherboard in Mini-ITX form factor have the usual set of features for enthusiasts. Therefore, based on them can collect high-performance computers with high-level gaming graphics and even overclock the CPU. Limitation for Mini-ITX remains except the impossibility of creating configurations with multiple graphics cards or equipped with some specific additional controllers, but this need not occur so often. So in general, compact systems have every chance to press their full-sized counterparts.

    In this range on the market Mini-ITX motherboards based on Intel’s older chipset Intel Z87, is quite wide. In fact, these products offer all the leading manufacturers, and some of them even deliver a pair of models. From the standpoint of formal specifications all such boards seem much alike, however, as demonstrated by today’s test, actually hidden differences can be more than substantial. It is therefore not surprising that the cost of overclocking Mini-ITX motherboards Haswell can range from $ 130 to $ 220.

    What are the platform on the market options, we can recommend to our readers?

    [easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00DLYECD8″ cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”gadgethelp-20″]First of all we would like to note the motherboard ASUS Z87I-Pro, which won our sympathy because of its unique design and sophisticated layout. This board – one of the few options that are compatible with large CPU coolers, and, moreover, it can boast of high quality twelve-power converter, which will not create any obstacles for any, even the most audacious overclocking. While ASUS Z87I-Pro not only allows the connection of a large number of fans and has interesting proprietary technologies like USB BIOS Flashback, but also shows a decent performance and a good economy. In other words, if this motherboard is not ranked among the most expensive Mini-ITX LGA 1150 boards, it could be recommended in all cases without exception. However, we can not say that the price of ASUS Z87I-Pro unduly inflated, but because this board gets our award “Editor’s Choice”.

    [easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00DPOHIK8″ cloaking=”default” layout=”left” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”gadgethelp-20″]The second board is undoubtedly worthwhile, it – ASRock Z87E-ITX. It is interesting primarily for specifications. ASRock engineers were able to fit into your product on one mini-PCIe slot more than there is on other similar boards, but because expansion options ASRock Z87E-ITX wider than the other cards. The same slot can be used to install mSATA-drives. Besides, the board ASRock “out of the box” support the latest standards WiFi. By overclocking potential ASRock Z87E-ITX and its economy have nothing to complain about. The price of this model is at a low level, so ASRock motherboard gets the award for “Best Buy”.

    [easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B00HPQ0KCA” cloaking=”default” layout=”left” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”gadgethelp-20″]The same users who classify themselves as gamers, and you want something special, we can recommend a MSI Z87I Gaming AC. On the one hand it has a smart electrical and thermal design and is very economical, and on the other – just beautiful and secure. While its capabilities a bit more interesting than the other Mini-ITX motherboards, since it uses an advanced network controller Killer NIC and dual band WiFi-module with support for 802.11ac. From the combination of these qualities we award MSI Z87I Gaming AC our award for innovation and design.

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