How we tested
With so many features integrated onto CPUs today, it's inevitable that motherboard performance has converged, and that's exactly what our test results show. Where there is a difference, it's often down to the setting used for Intel's Turbo feature. Some motherboard makers stick strictly to the rules, while others crank Turbo up a bit.
However, that's typically something you can tweak in the BIOS, so shouldn't be treated as a deal breaker. It's therefore overclocking that separates the best boards from the duffers. Most have auto-overclocking features and results can vary wildly. Many use settings that have the CPU boot at a very high frequency only to downclock under load. Your best bet, therefore, is to set the frequency by hand.
As our results show, pretty much all boards give reasonable results, but some offer a little more headroom than others. Oh, and for the record, our main testing is done at optimised defaults for each motherboard as provided in the BIOS. That's why the memory bandwidth results are sub20GB/ s. However, it's worth noting that even at these settings, memory bandwidth isn't a bottleneck for CPU performance.
And the winner is… MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
Does this motherboard groupie represent the end of an era? It certainly contains one of the very last Intel mobos we'll ever see. More to the point, it feels as though a lot of the things we hold dear will soon either be on lockdown or disappear entirely. There's even talk of soldering CPUs onto motherboards. Oh, the very humanity of it all.
So let's enjoy what freedom remains while we still can. There are some really super boards among this bunch. But not, sadly, the Gigabyte Z87-D3HP. It comes arse last. It was recalcitrant in testing, it screams cost-cutting from every trace line and its overclocking functionality is a bit borked. If there were no other Z87 alternatives available at this price point, it might be worth a look. But there are. So it isn't.
Intel's DZ87KLT-75K isn't a serious prospect either. It's fairly expensive, has a slightly annoying specification and isn't a particularly fancy overclocker. Next!
Actually, next is a bit of a problem as from here on in things get awfully tight. You can make an argument for each of the remaining seven boards. In fact, for six of them it's a dead heat. If money's no object, for instance, go and get yourself an MSI Z87 XPower. It's an absolute beast of a board. But money is an object and £350 for a motherboard based on the mainstream LGA1150 socket is ultimately idiotic.
Then there's Asus's Sabertooth Z87. It was the pre-test favourite based on our love for the Sabertooth Z77 and we love the new Z87 model almost as much, but ultimately it can't justify its £200 price tag. It would make a lot more sense and have a real shot at victory if it was priced around £160. Over to you, Asus.
The Asrock Z87 Extreme3 is certainly a tempter. It's the cheapest board here to offer a full-house multi-GPU spec thanks to support for both AMD Crossfire and Nvidia SLI. It's a good performer too, and a great choice if you're on a tight budget.
The same goes for the MSI Z87-GD43. It's low on frills and fancy features. There's no SLI support, but for £95 it does a good impression of a mainstream mobo rather than a budget board.
Next up we have a pair of £160 boards - the Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5 and the Asus Z87-Pro. We're confident you'd be happy with either. It's ultimately a toss up between the snazzier Gigabyte and the more conventional and capacious Asus. Either way, you'll get a great board.
But you'll get an even better board - if only marginally - if you go with MSI's Z87-GD65 Gaming. There's not a lot in it. But as an overall package, it pulls just a few more of our triggers than the rest. In fact, the best compliment we can give it is that if we were to design a board to specifically nail PCF's gaming-centric requirements, it would look an awful lot like the GD65. Kudos to MSI.