MSI Z87 Motherboard Roundup: Rockin Haswell

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The MSI Z87I is the resident small form factor motherboard in MSI’s Z87 lineup, the mini-ITX board sports an all-black PCB with black and dark silver trimmings for a chilled-out look. MSI managed to fit a satisfactory array of components on this tiny motherboard. There’s nothing at all immediately adjacent to the CPU socket, although there is a small passive heatsink over some of the power array and one over the southbridge. It’s worth noting that there is a secondary power input on this board, but instead of the 8-pin connector that you so often see, the Z87I requires just a 4-pin connector.

Specifications & Features


Onboard Graphics:

Expansion Slots:


Form Factor:
4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processors for LGA 1150 socket
Intel Z87 Express Chipset
Supports two DDR3 DIMMs 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000* (*OC) MHz,
   up to 16GB Max
Supports Dual-Channel mode; non-ECC, un-buffered memory; Intel XMP
1 x DisplayPort with max. resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz, 24bpp/ 3840x2160@60Hz, 24bpp
1 x HDMI port with max. resolution up to 4096x2160@24Hz, 24bpp/2560x1600@60Hz,
   24bpp/1920x1080@60Hz, 36bpp
1 x DVI-I port with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
Realtek ALC892 Codec (7.1-Channel High Definition Audio)
2 x Realtek 8111G Gigabit LAN controller
1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot
1 x Half-size mini-PCIe slot
Supports four SATAIII ports (SATA1~4) by Z87, up to 6Gb/s transfer speed
6x USB 3.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
4x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connectors)
About $129.99

There are two DIMM slots on the PCB which support up to 16GB of DDR3-3000 (OC) memory. The board has just one PCIe 3.0 x16 slot, although there’s also a half-size mini-PCIe slot, as well; the Z87I ships with an Intel Centrion Wireless-N 2230 WiFi/Bluetooth card installed in that slot, but you can always yank that out if you’d rather connect something else. The WiFi card offers dual-band 802.11b/g/n, Intel WiDi, and Bluetooth 4.

The Z87I has four 6Gbps SATA ports that support RAID 0/1/5/10, and the board supports up to 10 USB ports (6 USB 3.0, 4 USB 2.0); all of the above is provided by the chipset. For audio, the Z87I has 7.1 surround sound via a Realtek chip, as well as Sound Blaster Cinema software that lets you select presets (based on use cases and situations such as movie-watching or video chatting) or customize your own surround setup.

Other than a Clear CMOS button and a handy Go2BIOS button on the rear I/O panel, there are no physical buttons on the Z87I, which isn’t much of a surprise given its size. The back panel, though, has a decent array of ports. MSI included a PS/2 port, which is a nice touch, as well as two USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports, S/PDIF, six audio jacks, the two antenna connectors for the WiFi module, and dual LAN ports.

MSI gave you options for built-on graphics, too, by including DVI-D as well as DisplayPort and HDMI. The latter two both support 4K displays, and you can use any two of the onboard graphics ports for dual-display functionality.

In the box, you’ll find driver and utilities discs, a compact user manual, quick start guide, WiFi module antennae, two SATA cables, and the I/O shield.


With respect to the fact that a mini-ITX motherboard doesn’t give you much room to work with, we found there to be some layout issues with the Z87I. For one thing, the wires from the WiFi module to the WiFi antenna mounts on the I/O panel drape all the way across one side of the board, and they’re completely in the way--especially when you’re trying to connect to the adjacent pin headers. In fact, the headers most occluded by the WiFi module wires are the ones for the power and reset switches and one of the two fan headers.

This is further inconvenient because the headers for power, reset, etc. are not labelled on the PCB at all, so you have to pull out the manual to make sure you’re connecting to the right ones; worse, the headers are tucked in between the CPU socket, the WiFi module, and the south bridge, so if you have any sort of CPU heatsink, it’s pretty tough to reach them. Finally, due to the lack of fan headers in general, in addition to the fact that our CPU fans didn’t fit because the graphics card was in the way, we had to leave our CPU with a passive heatsink and connect two case fans instead.

In summation, the Z87I has some solid features, but the layout of the board is pretty tight in spots and you are going to want to double-check your complementary components for compatibility.

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realneil one year ago

I have the Z87-G45 Gaming on the shelf with a i5-4670K to go into it.

I'm looking forward to getting the build done.

Dave_HH one year ago

That's a solid, reasonably priced board, Neil. Good luck!

realneil one year ago

[quote user="Dave_HH"]That's a solid, reasonably priced board, Neil. Good luck![/quote]

I got the board on sale at Newegg. It and the CPU were not too expensive. An XSPC 750 Raystorm 360 Water cooling kit will cool the CPU.


NelsonLee one year ago

I already have the Z87-G45 gaming w/ i5 - 4670k installed, it works perfectly without a hitch and I was able to OC it to 4k easily

Dave_HH one year ago

Nice, Nelson. Standard air cooling?

MarioColon one year ago

so is this motherboard future proof with gaming??

realneil one year ago

[quote user="MarioColon"]

so is this motherboard future proof with gaming??


I think so. One of the things that I liked about it, (and why I bought it) is that it has mSATA slot on the motherboard. I have a friend with a 240GB mSATA drive for sale and I'm saving to get it.

I'll have it on the board when I do my build.


mrgoodwr3nch 9 months ago

im looking into a msi z87-g45 with a 4670k. does anyone run this setup? and how reliable is it? im not looking to go crazy with overclocking

hope i posted in the right place

realneil 8 months ago

[quote user="mrgoodwr3nch"]im looking into a msi z87-g45 with a 4670k. does anyone run this setup? [/quote]


I bought both of these, but haven't built the system yet. My friends tell me that the performance is great. Reliability is usually good with MSI boards.

Andrymgs18 9 months ago

This or TUF series by Asus??

rsmit339 8 months ago

I was wondering this to...

AlbertoGarcaAlcolea 9 months ago

Great guide, I really struggle to find a place where you explain these applications well, I'm afraid to change the settings because it is easy to make a mistake

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