Introduction - FULL REVIEW NOW AVAILABLE HERE
ITX PCs are rapidly becoming more and more popular, as consumers are no longer limited in terms of hardware by opting for a smaller size. A few years ago, going with an ITX PC meant you were limited to Intel Atom processors, and although they were great for streaming and media purposes, they lacked any ability to game.
Since Intel’s P67 chipset (although ITX P67 motherboards were very rare then), the ITX market has grown at a rapid rate, and by the Z77 line last year, we had overclocking friendly motherboards, able to support anything up to and i7, with ultra fast RAM and the most powerful of graphics cards available. The rapid expansion in ITX motherboards has been aided by spacious mini cases such as the Bitfenix Prodigy.
Intel’s Z77 range saw multiple overclocking friendly motherboards, such as the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe, The Gigabyte GA-Z77N, and the MSI Z77IA-E53. These boards significantly changed the small form-factor market and enabled users to build high end, mini systems at a reasonable cost too!
Now the Z87 line is upon us, and all of the Z77 boards now have their updated models to support the new 1150 socket. Today we’re looking at one of MSI’s versions; the MSI Z87I Gaming AC.
CPU (Max Support)
FSB / Hyper Transport Bus
Intel® Z87 Express
DDR3 1066-3000*(*OC) MHz
Max Memory (GB)
1x Killer™ Gb ethernet
USB 3.0 ports (Rear)
USB 2.0 ports (Rear)
Audio ports (Rear)
VGA Max Share Memory (MB)
We really like the direction the ITX market is heading at the moment, and it’s great to see the three major motherboard manufacturers (MSI, Asus and Gigabyte) all competing to deliver high end ITX boards. Not only is it good to now have a the option for a high powered small system, but to have a nice range of choices within that is superb, and we’re sure it will only get better in the future!
The MSI Z87I Gaming AC is a great looking board. The PCB itself is matte black with the red ‘dragon’ branding as we’ve become accustomed to with MSI’s gaming series. The designing is very sleek, and coupled with black RAM and an MSI Gaming Series graphics card, you’ll have an awesome looking red and black system.
Not only does the Z87I Gaming AC look great, but it’s also packed with features. It has a dedicated Killer E2205 network chip which helps to deliver lag-less gaming. This is a great thing to see on ITX boards, as a lot of users will be taking their compact systems to LAN events, where the Killer NIC should really show its colours.
The Z87I Gaming also comes with a dedicated audio chip. This is a great thing to see on ITX boards since if you’re planning on having a graphics card installed, then the chances are you aren’t going to have enough room for a dedicated sound card. This means you’ll be able to get a good quality audio solution without having to worry about purchasing an additional card.
MSI have also put an 8pin CPU power connector on their Gaming board, as opposed to the standard Z87I which only has a 4pin connector. This means you should be able to overclock and attain a little more performance from your system. Although due to the parametres of the VRMs on the small size board you shouldn’t be expecting much, it still does make this a good addition over competing boards as you may be able to achieve slightly higher performance from the Z87I Gaming AC.
The Z87I Gaming AC looks really promising overall. MSI have packed it with features, and if it’s anything like the rest of the Gaming range, which we are hoping it is, the price should be more than reasonable too!
Thank you to MSI for providing the motherboard. You can discuss your thoughts over on the OC3D forums.