Mini-ITX Motherboard Final Thoughts
You’d think at this point in the game I’d learn not to judge products by how they look. I figured without a chunk of metal over the VRMs the GA-Z87N-WIFI would be a mediocre overclocking board at best (you know, because the shape of the heatsink is more essential than the quality of the MOSFET used, right?). I was clearly wrong.
Couple all that with the included software package and wireless/bluetooth functionality, the GA-Z87N-WIFI ends up being a very compelling option for the price. I would imagine the Z97 version would follow suit. I’d like to see the socket move a bit more to the center if possible to enable the use of cheap tower coolers, but…I just can’t complain about much else. A 4.7 GHz overclock on a Haswell Core i5 was far beyond what I thought I’d be able to achieve on this board – some credit may need to go to the CPU itself of course, but obviously the board wasn’t much of a limiting factor. For those users that don’t need the fancy audio or storage options but still want to overclock, the GA-Z87N-WIFI is an excellent choice and a welcome addition to the performance mini-ITX market. Minor layout issues and some WIFI connection problems with the built-in Intel Centrino 2230 (I didn’t really cover this in the article, as it is most likely a driver issue) keep it from being the absolute best option, but I’m willing to bet the Z97 refresh won’t suffer from any of those issues…
I still can’t quite believe how well this board overclocked for me. Performance of a Z-series motherboard, in my mind, centers entirely around its stability and ability to handle unlocked and overclocked i5/i7s – that’s the point of spending extra for this platform. The GA-Z87N-WIFI didn’t have an issue running a Core i5-4670K at 4.7 GHz with 1.27V. That’s pretty impressive for an ITX board with not a lot of space for power delivery.
While it may not look like much, I’m a definite fan of the grey / matte black color scheme. It goes with everything, which is a huge benefit to someone like me that doesn’t know what their favorite color is. I figure the splash of color is better when it comes from RAM, LED fans or the case – any color scheme would work with this board, or you can keep it understated and stick with a monotone theme. I always feel obligated to match a color scheme, so I’m glad Gigabyte stuck with a monotone appearance for the GA-Z87N-WIFI. Those that are absolutely sold on a favorite color may be a bit disappointed, but I feel the appearance of this board is perfect for its category. Remember, you can always spend up and get the G1 gaming version…
The GA-Z87N-WIFI is constructed well, as it should be when it bears Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable 4 plus” branding. The “2oz Copper” sandwiched between the glass/fabric PCB seems to have really helped keep the board cool, and the Low RDS(on) MOSFETs and solid capacitors seem to be more than capable of handling overclocked voltage loads for the Haswell CPUs. Gold plated CPU sockets. ESD-protected LAN ports and individually fused USB ports fall in this category as well.
Even though it is one of the more barebones Z87 ITX boards, Gigabyte still managed to bring a decent amount of functionality to the platform. Obviously, you get all of the Z chipset goodness (RAID, multiplier overclocking, Intel SRT, etc.) but the added mini-PCIe WIFI/bluetooth combo card and dual gigabit LAN ports makes the GA-Z87N-WIFI able to fulfill a lot of networking roles as well (HTPC, NAS). Some of the features are downgraded a bit (improved audio and Killer NICs belong to the G1 Gaming range anyway), but overall the functionality of this board is right in line with its price and purpose.
The real kicker, in my opinion, is the price. Boards like the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe kicked off the performance ITX board category, finally enabling some real overclocking abilities in the tiny form factor. However, that board and its successors stayed in the $160-$220 range. Previously you had to pay a lot for the privilege of accessing the “Z” chipsets in ITX form – Gigabyte crashes the party at $134.99 (Newegg | Amazon) and potentially less with mail-in rebates. That is very compelling value, and is one of the best selling points of the GA-Z87N-WIFI.
I feel like I could do more than just recommend the GA-Z87N-WIFI. If it weren’t for a few physical layout issues, the overclocking performance alone would have tempted me to throw a Gold Tachometer award at the GA-Z87N-WIFI. As it is, I think waiting for the Z97 refresh would be in the best interest of anyone shopping for a socket 1150 mini-ITX board, but I’d keep my eye on this model. This is one of those products that I’m glad exists – a solid, no-frills overclocking-capable mini-ITX board at an excellent price.
+ Surprisingly good overclock performance
+ Superb value for mini-ITX / Z87 platform
+ Attractive black/grey color scheme works with every system
+ Earns the “Ultra Durable” moniker
+ Dual Gigabit LAN ports
+ Bundled software package has a few unique and useful utilities without much bloat
– Bundled Intel Centrino 2230 WIFI/Bluetooth combo card was a bit flaky, possibly due to drivers (a replacement wireless AC 3160 card worked perfectly)
– Location of CPU 12V connector could be located in a better spot for cable management
– CPU socket close to PCI-E x16 slot