I have to admit I'm an absolute sucker for a good mini-ITX motherboard, and the MSI Z87I is one of the best I've come across. There's something wonderful about pulling a tiny mobo from its packaging knowing that it's capable of forming an immensely powerful gaming rig. There's also something rather gratifying about jamming a massive graphics card into that PCIe slot and seeing it dwarfing the board it's plugged in to.
I've been checking out a number of mini-ITX motherboards recently and have been stunned at just how competitive the MSI Z87I is compared with the likes of Asus Republic of Gamers Maximus VI Impact.
The RoG board is the king of all mini-ITX boards right now. It delivers the fastest performance out of the box and offers a great little package, including WiFi, next-gen NGFF SSD support and a dedicated SupremeFX soundcard. Obviously such a package comes at a cost and you'll find it for around £175/$225. That's a lot when you're also going to have to spend a good chunk on a Haswell CPU to stick inside it. The MSI Z87I though is just £99/$140, which is an absolute bargain considering what you get.
It's not as heavy on the extras as the Asus board, but still packs WiFi out of the box as well as a full complement of SATA 6Gbps ports, a load of USB 3.0 connections and support for seriously high-performance memory too - up to 3,000MHz.
It's also only just shy of the Asus RoG board when it comes to straight-line performance too. The Maximus VI Impact is a better gaming board, offering higher average and minimum frame rates, but not by much. And when you consider this board is a good deal cheaper too you'll see it would actually allow you to drop an Intel i7-4770K into the MSI board for the same price as you'd pay for the Asus and an i5-4670K.