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MSI Z87I (Intel Z87) ITX Motherboard Review

MSI Z87I (Intel Z87) ITX Motherboard Review

Our second ITX based Intel Z87 motherboard arrives. This time it comes from the folks from MSI in the form of the Z87I. Let's check it out.

@ShawnBakerTW
Published Tue, Jul 16 2013 11:08 PM CDT   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:31 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Package

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When I opened up the latest package from MSI and found myself staring at a new ITX based motherboard, I instantly found myself filled with joy. Thinking about it for a minute, though, I realized as much as I love the ITX form factor, I've never personally used it myself. It feels like a big part of that, though, is due to my very slow rebuild cycle when it comes to my own computer.

While the ITX form factor has been around for ages, the honest truth is that it's probably only really gained a massive amount of momentum in the last 18 - 24 months, thanks to quality ITX based chassis from companies such as BitFenix.

First we'll start with the package and then follow on from there. So with haste let's get stuck into the MSI Z87I to see just what MSI are offering us in this tiny form factor motherboard today.

Package

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Checking out the front of the box, you can see the main push is for the Military Class 4 feature. You can also see a couple of the other main features across the bottom including USB 3.0 SATA III and PCIe 3.0. Turning the box over you can see we get a larger explanation with what's going on when it comes to the Military Class 4 components.

Looking on the right side you can see we've got Hi-c CAP, SFC and Solid Caps to bring higher quality power. Along with that we've also got Humidity, ESD, EMI and High Temperature protection. On the left you can see the main specifications along with a look at the I/O panel.

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Moving inside the box, you can see the bundle is pretty small. You can see we've got a User Guide along with a Quick Installation Guide and a pair of driver and utility CDs. You can see the rear I/O back plate, two SATA cables, along with two wireless antennas.

MSI Z87I Motherboard

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Whenever it comes to ITX boards, it feels like we could just about work off this single picture above and cover everything. Let's move in a little closer, though, and cover everything in detail.

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You can see a single PCIe x16 slot. Of course being the only expansion slot, it will run your video card at x16 speed, due to the fact that the likes of SLI aren't an option here.

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Moving over to the memory slots, you can see we've just got the typical two DIMM slots present that support up to 16GB of DDR3 memory ranging from 1066MHz DDR to 3000MHz DDR via overclocking.

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Turning the corner again and looking across the top, you can see the main 24-pin ATX power connector. Next to that we've got a USB 3.0 header and a total of four SATA III ports that run of the Intel Z87 chip. You can also see to the left side we've got a mini PCIe wireless card - it's the Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 module with 2230BNHMW model number. This particular model supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Intel's Wireless Display technology.

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Heading above the SATA ports you can see the main front panel connectors, which are split into two sections. You can also see the CPU power connector which is 4-pin, instead of the normal 8-pin option, which we see on larger boards.

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Looking at the CPU area you can see there's not a whole lot to look at thanks to the board of course being quite small. As hard as you think it may be to install some heat sinks, we didn't run into any issues. You can see we've got a small little heat sink to the left side, bolted down. With limited room, though, you can't get anything too crazy going on.

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Finishing our look up at the motherboard you can see we've got two USB 2.0 ports, along with a combo PS2 port on the left. Next to this you can see two little grey buttons, the bottom one is for the clear CMOS, while the top one is the GO2BIOS button.

Next we've got a DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI-I port for video out options and above that we've got an optical out port to go with the six auxiliary ports, which run off the Realtek ALC892 audio codec. We can see four USB 3.0 ports and two gigabit networking ports to round things off - both LAN ports run off the Realtek 8111G controller.

BIOS

Heading into the BIOS you can see we've got the new Click BIOS 4 setup. It's not too different to the previous versions of the Click BIOS we've seen before.

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If you're heading into the BIOS, you'll probably be in the OC section. While a small board, you can see above we've still got all the normal features you'd expect when it comes to overclocking. And because of that, we're hoping that we still manage to get some strong performance out of it.

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Heading through the rest of the BIOS, you can see all the normal options, including the new Board Explorer, which is really cool. You can head over the highlighted areas of the board and see what components are installed. Above you can see on one of the SATA ports we've got a Corsair Force GT SSD drive plugged in.

Benchmarks - Test System Setup and Overclocking

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We would like to thank the following companies for supplying and supporting us with our test system hardware and equipment: Intel, ASUS, MSI, Western Digital, MemoRight and Corsair.

One of the main boards we want to compare the MSI Z87I against is the ITX based ASRock offer we looked at just after Haswell launched. The ASRock Z87E-ITX did a good job of impressing us and it will be interesting to see how the MSI offering performs against it. Along with this MSI board that we'll be running at both stock and overclocked speeds today, we've also got a couple of other boards in our line up.

Staying with the Z87 offerings, we've got the ASRock Z87 OC Formula and GIGABYTE Z87X-OC. Along with those options we've also included the MSI Z77Z-GD65 Gaming and GIGABYTE X79S-UP5-Wi-Fi for good measure.

Before we get into the performance side of things, we want to cover overclocking. Heading into the BIOS, we adjusted the CPU voltage up to 1.3v, which is normally where we like to sit - somewhere between 1.3 and 1.35v depending on our overclock. When we moved to 1.3v, though, the text in the BIOS went to red, letting us know that the board really didn't recommend it.

So, we moved the voltage back slightly to 1.275v. We of course knew at this level we wouldn't be able to achieve the same overclock as we've attained on larger Z87 ATX boards which we've looked at recently. With that said, though, we fired up the 49x multiplier to get an even 4.9GHz to see if we could get the system up and running.

We got into Windows with no problems and started our MediaEspresso encode. Everything was looking fine, but with a high level of skepticism in my mind, I knew that a freeze or a BSOD was really just around the corner. After about 9 minutes into the encode, we eventually got that BSOD and rebooted the machine.

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We headed back into the BIOS and proceeded to move the multiplier down to 48x, giving us a 4.8GHz clock. We got into Windows and completed a MediaEspresso encode with no issue. With that looking good we went back into the BIOS one more time to see if we could get anything else out of our CPU today.

After messing around with the voltages a little more, along with the BCLK, we unfortunately couldn't get anything else out of our i7 4770K on this board. While we could get fairly far through our MediaEspresso encode with a slightly elevated BCLK, we couldn't complete 100%. We always require the system to be 100% stable and because of that we settled on an even 4800MHz or 4.8GHz, as illustrated in our graphs today.

CPU Benchmarks

HyperPi 0.99

Version and / or Patch Used: 0.99

Developer Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Product Homepage: www.virgilioborges.com.br

Download It Here

HyperPi is a front end for SuperPi that allows for multiple concurrent instances of SuperPi to be run on each core recognized by the system. It is very dependent on CPU to memory to HDD speed. The faster these components, the faster it is able to figure out the number Pi to the selected length.

For our testing we use the 32M run. This means that each of the four physical and four logical cores for the i7 and the four physical cores of the i5 is trying to calculate the number Pi out to 32 million decimal places. Each "run" is a comparative to ensure accuracy and any stability or performance issues in the loop mentioned above will cause errors in calculation.

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AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Out of the box the MSI Z87I offers some pretty good performance with it sitting towards the middle of the pack when it comes to comparing it to the other Z87 boards.

While not the highest overclock we've received, you can see that performance increases under both HyperPi and AIDA64 are attractive.

System Benchmarks

PCMark 7

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04

Developer Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.pcmark.com

Buy It Here

PCMark 7 includes a range of tests that give different views of your system's performance. In the Advanced Edition you can choose which tests to run. The common use and hardware component tests are unavailable in the Basic Edition.

Overall system performance is measured by the PCMark test. This is the only test that returns an official PCMark score. The Lightweight test measures the system capabilities of entry-level systems and mobility platforms unable to run the PCMark test, but it does not generate a PCMark score. Common use performance is measured by the scenario tests - Entertainment, Creativity and Production - each of which results in a scenario score. Hardware component performance is measured by the hardware tests - Computation and Storage - each of which results in a hardware score.

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MediaEspresso

Version and / or Patch Used: 6.5

Developer Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/

Product Homepage: http://www.cyberlink.com/products/mediaespresso/overview_en_AU.html?fileName=overview&r=1

Buy It Here

MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos, photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones, portable media players and even game consoles. With technologies like Smart Detect, Direct Sync and CyberLink's TrueTheater video enhancements, you can not only forget about complicated format, resolution and output settings, but your converted file will come out the other side looking better than when it went in!

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Looking at PCMark 7 and MediaEspresso numbers, you can see that again the MSI Z87I sits in the middle of the pack. It's a little faster than the ASRock offerings out of the box, while sitting slightly behind the GIGABYTE Z87X-OC.

When overclocked, we again see some great performance gains, with our MediaEspresso encode gaining almost 3 minutes off the time.

USB 2.0 and 3.0 Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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Looking above you can see that the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 performance is exactly what you'd expect with all boards performing very close to each other and little separating them.

SSD Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.70.1400

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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HD Tune Pro

Version and / or Patch Used: 4.61

Developer Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Product Homepage: http://www.hdtune.com

Buy It Here

HD Tune Pro gives us accurate read, write and access time results and for the last couple of years has been gaining popularity amongst reviewers. It is now considered a must have application for storage device testing.

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Looking at SSD performance under AIDA64, you can see the MSI Z87I does sit towards the back of the pack slightly, but not by much.

Moving over to HD Tune Pro, you can see that the minimum is a decent chunk behind the next closest, but the maximum and average are mostly in line with the other boards.

Memory Benchmarks

AIDA64

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.00.1035BETA

Developer Homepage: http://www.aida64.com

Product Homepage: http://www.AIDA64.com

Buy It Here

Replacing Everest in our labs is AIDA64. This new testing suite is from the core development team from Lavalys and continues that tradition. The guys have thrown in better support for multithreaded CPUs as well as full 64 bit support. We use this to test memory and HDDs for now, but may find ourselves opening this up to other areas of the motherboard.

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For the most part, you can see the memory performance of the MSI Z87I lines up with the other Z87 boards, with as usual, no extra performance being seen when we overclock our CPU.

You can see the ASRock ITX offering didn't enjoy the same kind of memory performance, with it falling behind.

Gaming Benchmarks

3DMark 11

Version and / or Patch Used: 1.0

Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com

Product Homepage: http://www.3dmark.com/3dmark11/

Buy It Here

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world's most popular benchmark. Designed to measure your PC's gaming performance 3DMark 11 makes extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to consistently and reliably test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.

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Metro 2033

Version and / or Patch Used: Latest Steam Update

Timedemo or Level Used: Built in Benchmark

Developer Homepage: http://www.4a-games.com//

Product Homepage: http://www.thqnordic.com/

Metro 2033 is an action-oriented video game with a combination of survival horror and first-person shooter elements. The game is based on the novel Metro 2033 by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky. It was developed by 4A Games in Ukraine and released in March 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Xbox 360.[3] In March 2006, 4A Games announced a partnership with Glukhovsky to collaborate on the game.[4] The game was announced at the 2009 Games Convention in Leipzig;[5] a first trailer came along with the announcement.[6] A sequel was announced, currently titled Metro: Last Light.

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While small, we continue to see these ITX boards offer great gaming performance compared to their big brothers, as we don't deal with a CPU limitation.

Overclocking brings a slight boost to the 3DMark 11 Performance preset and the low resolution Metro 2033 testing, but apart from that, you can see all setups run quite close to each other.

Temperature and Power

Power Consumption

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Out of the box, the power draw on the MSI Z87I is fantastic, with an idle number that sits lower than all other boards we've tested. Considering the size of the board, we would expect the power draw to be lower, as there's just simply less to it.

When it comes to load, though, you can see that we're sitting in line with the other boards. Overclocking of course moves both numbers up, but with 85 watts at idle and 318 watts at load, these aren't exactly worrying numbers.

Core Temperature

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Checking out the CPU temperature, you can see we're sitting low and in line with the GIGABTYE Z87X-OC. Overclocked we see the load number jump up by a decent amount to 85c.

It's not quite as brutal as the 100c we've seen from some of our other boards recently, due to the fact that the overclock is both not as high and we're not pumping as much voltage through the CPU.

Pricing, Availability and Final Thoughts

Heading over to Newegg to see how much the new MSI Z87I is going to set you back saw us greeted with no results. This motherboard is actually brand new and hasn't quite hit the retail channel yet. I have to be honest, though, when the package from MSI arrived and I saw a new ITX motherboard staring at me, I just had to have a play with it right away.

Pricing we would expect to be around the mid-$100 mark. For comparisons sake, the ITX base GIGABYTE GA-Z87N-WIFI carries a price tag of $134.99, while the ASROCK Z87E-ITX will set you back a little more at $164.99. It's fairly safe to assume that the MSI Z87I would fall somewhere around this mark, but we can't confirm that with any guarantee right now.

The bundle is pretty small, but the inclusion of the mini PCIe wireless card and the extra antennas are a nice addition. Feature wise, the board is about as strong as you would expect it to be for its size. We're dealing with only a limited amount of room, which means that it's not going to be packed full of features, especially when compared to larger ATX counterparts.

The ITX platform continues to be one that gains more and more momentum with companies putting serious time and effort into it. MSI have created a good looking board here with its all black setup and performance of the board is strong out of the box.

Overclocking isn't as strong as some of the Z87 boards we've looked at recently, but with less room to play on the voltage side of things and with a heat sink that isn't nearly as large as what we see on ATX boards, you can't expect the same kind of clocks. Saying that, though, the 4.8GHz clock we managed was nice and the heat numbers weren't nearly as scary as we've seen with our CPU at 4.9 - 4.95GHz. This is a big deal considering you'll likely be installing this board into a smaller case.

If you're in the market for an ITX board, MSI's Z87I is another option worth considering. All we need to do now is wait for it to hit the market, which shouldn't be too long from now.

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Shawn takes care of all of our video card reviews. From 2009, Shawn is also taking care of our memory reviews, and from May 2011, Shawn also takes care of our CPU, chipset and motherboard reviews. As of December 2011, Shawn is based out of Taipei, Taiwan.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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