Mini-ITX Motherboard Final Thoughts
With motherboard performance being so similar if the motherboards are using the same chipset, vendors must distinguish themselves on features. But the tony 6.7″ square of space allotted for a mini-ITX motherboard doesn’t leave much room for things like extra SATA ports or custom ASICs like the TPU and EPU chips we see on other ASUS motherboards.
One way to look at this is that the size of the motherboard is a feature. This is what enables you to build a tiny HTPC or a desktop system that’s not a giant tower. Strapped onto my Lian Li test bench, outfitted with the Silver Arrow air cooler and a Radeon 6850 video card, the ASUS Z87I-Deluxe is virtually invisible beneath its supporting hardware. Of course, one could use the integrated video and stock Intel cooler, or all-in-one water cooler, and have a much more compact and visible system.
In addition to giving up the features you’d have on a full-sized ATX board, my tests show you’re leaving some performance on the table as well. However, although the performance differential is clear in benchmark charts, you’ll never notice it in day to day use.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, ASUS made some different design and feature decisions on this board compared to the Z77-based P8Z77-I Deluxe from 2012. They’ve eliminated the e-SATA port and one USB 2.0 header, but added two more SATA 6G ports. They’ve also provided two more fan headers and rear panel USB 3.0 ports, which is good. That said, were I building a system around this motherboard, I’d at least add a $19.99 NZXT IU101 internal USB hub (Newegg) to get those ports back.
And remember, that power supply riser board can get really toasty when overclocking.
ASUS Z87I-Deluxe Conclusion
It’s been a while since I built a full-sized ATX machine. Even my gaming PC, equipped with twin GTX770 video cards, is built on a micro-ATX motherboard. Smaller machines just seem to make more sense these days unless you need the space for a bespoke water cooling right or triple graphics cards.
As I mentioned above, with mini-ITX space constraints, deciding what features to include on the motherboard is doubtless something that ASUS spent some time on. There simply isn’t room on a mini-ITX board to have all the USB and SATA ports a Haswell system can support natively, so there’s always going to be something missing that someone wants. Since the universe of mini-ITX boards for enthusiasts is so small, it would behoove you to carefully determine what your needs are before buying this motherboard.
ASUS uses the same black-and-gold color scheme here they use on their other “mainstream” motherboards. However, there are few windowed mini-ITX cases, and as you can see above a large air cooler and graphics card hide most of the board, so its appearance is really not important.
If this board lacks hardware features, it’s made up for to some extent by the broad range of capabilities provided in AI Suite, especially the wifi features, which can do everything from turning your computer into the router for a private wireless network to letting you control the system from an Android phone anywhere in your house. While some of the capabilities seem a bit silly (would I ever really want to do a screen grab from my PC to my phone?), most are wonderfully useful.
The performance of this board is a consistent 5-6% less than that of the ATX-size ASUS Z87 boards I’ve tested. I don’t know why this might be, but it’s quite repeatable. That said, you’ll never notice this deficit in daily use.
As with all ASUS motherboards, the construction quality is excellent.
The ASUS Z87I-Deluxe LGA1150 mini-ITX motherboard sells online for $189.99 at Newegg / Amazon. This is definitely towards the high end of mini-ITX motherboards, but if you’re looking to build that portable gaming rig, this board should be on your short list.
+ Excellent auto-overclocking.
+ More SATA ports and fan headers than most mini-ITX rigs will need
+ Excellent fan control
+ POST status LEDs
+ Flash your munged BIOS without a CPU or RAM
– Minor performance deficit relative to ASUS’ ATX boards
– Only one onboard USB 2.0 header
– Power riser gets really hot
Final Score: 9.10 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Which desktop motherboard form-factor will become the most popular?