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Reviewed: MSI Z97I Gaming AC & R9 270X Mini ITX - Conclusion Featured

Pricing

MSI Z97I Gaming AC retails for $249 and is appropriately priced. It's worth noting that some cheaper Z97 Mini ITX boards from other manufacturers come with the M.2 SSD slot connectivity but not all of the other bells and whistles. 

MSI R9 270X Gaming Mini ITX hasn't hit the streets in Australia yet but if it is available for around the $279 mark it's certainly worth a look for a HTPC/Gaming PC. 

Final Thoughts

The Z97I AC packs all the essentials of a larger board in a 17x17cm form factor. Killer LAN, rear panel WIFI and awesome onboard sound with AudioBoost 2 makes this a premium offering, the cherry on top is the fact that it overclocks to our i5-4670's known limit that we found on other boards. Although the CPU socket placement had me scratching my head a little, if I was building a mini-ITX rig for myself, I'd be using a 120 or 140mm closed loop water unit anyway so it isn't a big issue. The software package, board features, inclusion of WIFI and thoughtful location of power and SATA ports made this board a pleasure to work with.

I'd use this board in a heartbeat for a LAN rig or HTPC/Steam machine and was genuinely sorry to pack it back in its box and return it to MSI after testing it.

The platform performed really well as a 1080P gaming rig without being too hot or noisy. If your gaming resolution is above 1920x1080 or you want ALL the eye candy on and high frames per second, it would be worth looking for a higher spec graphics card and a case that will take it. Remember that a 'Gaming' series R9 270X graphics card is around the $250 mark so its important not to expect the R9 270X ITX Gaming to perform like something twice the price and twice the size.

As a package, these components work really well together and to see the performance as per the benchmarks in a core system footprint of just 17cmx17cm is almost surreal. The big rig might not be an endagered species but the emerging mini ITX generation is sure to carve out a steadily increasing market share - as long as the manufactuers continue not to skimp on enthusiast features.

MSI Z97I Gaming AC MSI R9 270X Gaming Mini ITX
 msi-z97i gaming ac-product pictures-boxshot-1  five pictures1 3154 20140430113551 g

PROS

Great Audio
Motherboard layout is easy to work with
Intuitive BIOS/UEFI
Killer LAN
Good Software/Utility Bundle
Overclocks like a 'Big Board'
Military Grade Components for longevity
Very Quiet - virtually inaudible
The MSI Afterburner Software 
Power connector is oriented for easy connection/disconnection
Short form factor for confined spaces
Military Grade Components for longevity

CONS

It would have been nice to see a NGFF/M.2 SSD slot
CPU Heatsink & Fan compatibility might be an issue for those not going down the water cooling / closed loop path.

None - for the GPU that it is, the discrete graphics platform has been shrunk to fit without making it hotter, louder or slower. 

Awards

EditorsChoiceAward  

HighlyRecommended

TheSilenceAward

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Last modified onWednesday, 18 June 2014 19:24

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