Blimey! How can something so small harness so much powah! Incredible. Seriously guys, every little aspect of the Z87I from MSI has been done right. The power consumption is at an all-time low, it has all the features you wish for, including a wide array of display connectivity, two Gigabit LAN jacks and then even WIFI and WIDI. Combined with the 4 SATA 6Gbps ports we can hardly understand that a 17x17cm board can be this powerful and feature rich.
Even the baseline performance is at the level of enthusiast class Z87 motherboards, and when tweaking, well as you have been able to see we reached 4800 MHz stable. That's similar results to the Xpower we recently reviewed, that's a 400 USD board my man. Tweaking and overclocking was overall a breeze as well, the newly revised ClickBIOS uEFI interface finally has become mature and I actually start to really like it. It's easy to navigate through with a mouse and a couple of new features like the monitoring pages just kick black booty. So pop a nice liquid cooling kit on the processor and you will get to the 4600 MHz range with a 4770K easily, push a little harder and 4800 will become in range. That will be your absolute maximum though as MSI does limit CPu Voltage to a maximum of 1.3 Volts, but it's enough. Remember Haswell processors, just like Ivy Bridge, are mind numbingly irritating to cool once you increase CPU voltage. For this review we used a dual-fan-dual-radiator D14 from Noctua, we do this on purpose. We do get the question every now and then as to why we do not liquid cool the processor. That's simple, we choose a high-end heatpipe cooler to emulate and replicate the most common OC situations you guys apply at home. See, most of you guys use heatpipe coolers. Albeit the AIO Liquid Cooling kits definitely are getting more popular. But these as well often cool at the very same performance level the Noctua D14 offers. But yeah, even one of the best heatpipe coolers on the globe can not deal with the processor at 4800~4900 MHz.
For this review we did produce all overclocked results at 4800 MHz with 1.300 Volts on the processor, but the temperatures the processor is reaching is far from acceptable whatsoever. Proper liquid cooling is the only way to go once you pass 4700 MHz with a wee bit of extra voltage on the processor (1.30V). The overall baseline performance is really good though, definitely a notch faster than Intel's reference board. Man, this little critter rocks.
Now I don't wanna sound like an idiot abroad, but how can you not like what you see in the photo above? An all black design, and even with the board stuffed to the brim with hardware the PCB remains clean looking. Combined with Military class V design components the Z87I series will offer you a high grade class motherboard with enthusiast options like, USB 3.0, WIFI, four ATA3 ports and sure, the cutest and smallest little mainboard that actually looks real good.
We mentioned it in the first chapter of this conclusion already, but overall non-overclocked performance as stated is above the baseline of the reference Z87 motherboards we tested, with an offset here and there of course. If you have two left hands in terms of overclocking then just use the OC Genie in the BIOS and after a few seconds your motherboard will all of the sudden be mildly overclocked. A performance boost with very little extra power consumption as the CPU will now be throttled to 4200 MHz, which is admittedly a bit low. The tweaking performance of this motherboard is on par with what we expected. We got the 4770K processor rocking stable at 4800 MHz with the memory (XMP enabled) at 2400 very easily, and that's not bad at all. As stated in the introduction, Haswell processors run hotter when overclocked opposed to Sandy Bridge, reaching 4600~4900 MHz might be easy to accomplish with the motherboard, but you'll find yourself needing juice in the 1.300 Volts range of the processor and that requires some serious cooling. So be prepared for processor heat. Proper liquid cooling definitely deserves a recommendation here alright. Or perhaps some delid action?
I really am baffled that something so small can be this good. Honestly, you won't get enthusiast class features like Voltage monitoring, enhanced audio and a KillerNIC. But other than that, everything you need is there, with great build quality and good looks. Even 7.1 channel HD audio as delivered by the Realtek. This 17cm wide Z87I motherboard offers you everything and anything you need from a high-end class Haswell processor platform, in terms of features, USB 3.0, SATA3, PCIe Gen 3.0, ease of tweaking and sure, in the design and component selection EVERYTHING is done right as well. The one thing you can't do is go with multiple GPUs of course, due to the single x16 PCIe gen 3.0 slot. But heck, you could mount a Titan, GTX 780 or Radeon 7990 in there :)
There will be one problem though, if you mount a big heatpipe cooler it can and probably will block your graphics PCIe slot. As such we recommend to go with a nice AIO Liquid Cooling kit, which you probably want to do when you decide to start overclocking anyways. I noticed NewEgg has them in stock right now at a sales price of 139 USD. Here in the EU we spotted them for 115 EUR already. That's a bragain deal as far as I am concerned. Armed with two Gigabit Ethernet jacks, BlueTooth, WIFI and even WIDI as well everything is just present. The MSI Z87I motherboard is a superb little motherboard with a refined tweakable uEFI BIOS that will appeal to the enthusiast PC gaming crowd very much. The MSI Z87I is small, yet big in performance, features and offers plenty of tweakability. Wow, just wow! Well done MSI!
MSI Z87I Gaming AC Mobo & GTX 760 GAMING ITX Review We review, test and benchmark the MSI Z87I Gaming AC motherboard and GTX 760 GAMING ITX. Oh you will need a magnifying glass alright as as this is the smallest fully fetched Z87 motherboard you will e...
MSI Z87I motherboard review We review, test and benchmark the MSI Z87I series motherboard. You better grab a magnifying glass, as this is the smallest fully fetched Z87 motherboard you will ever see. Yep, the Z87I is made on a Mini-ITX form factor.