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There’s more Mini-ITX goodness in store today thanks to EVGA’s Z87 Stinger. EVGA jumped on the enthusiast Mini-ITX bandwagon last generation with the Z77 Stinger, and they’re riding that wagon into the next generation. They are also touting a brand new UEFI BIOS with their Z87 lineup, which should top off their new motherboards nicely.
Specifications & Features
|EVGA Z87 Stinger Specifications|
|Supported CPUs||Intel Core i3/i5/i7 Socket 1150|
|Socket Type||LGA 1150|
|PCH||Intel Z87 (Revision C2)|
|DIMM Slots||2 x 240-pin|
|Memory Capacity||16 GB (2 x 8 GB)|
|SATA 6Gbps Ports/Controller||4 / Intel Z87|
|e-SATA 3Gbps Ports/Controller||1 / Intel Z87|
|USB 2.0 Ports/Controller||4 / Intel Z87|
|USB 3.0 Ports/Controller||6 / Intel Z87|
|Network Ports/Controller||1 / Intel i217V|
|Network Speed||10/100/1000 Mbps|
|Audio Controller||Creative Sound Core3D Quad-Core Audio Processor|
|PCI-E Slot Arrangement||1 x PCI-E 3.0 @ x16|
|mPCI-E/mSATA Slots||1 / Intel Z87|
|Software||EVGA E-LEET X Tuning Utility|
|Fan Headers||3 x 4-pin PWM|
|Dimensions||6.7″ x 6.7″ (170.18 x 170.18 mm)|
- Brand New GUI BIOS Interface – Focused on functionality
- Onboard CPU Temp Monitor – Monitor CPU temps quickly and easily
- E-LEET X Tuning Utility – Adjust your overclocking in OS
- 6-Phase PWM – Cleanest variable power switching
- Passive Chipset Heatsink – No fans, lower noise, longer lifespan
- Onboard Bluetooth – Wireless data input and data connection
- 10 Layer PCB – Improved overclock stability and PCB cooling
- Higher Gold Content – Lower inductance, better power delivery
Packaging & Accessories
EVGA’s packaging isn’t over-the-top. The front of the box just has the product name/model with a few important features like socket type, chipset, and USB/SATA/PCI-E standards.
After opening the unsuspecting black cardboard box, we have a loose installation guide and disk, the accessories in their own separate anti-static bags, a lone screw for the mSATA/mPCI-E card taped inside the box, and the Z87 Stinger itself protected in an anti-static bubble wrap envelope.
The accessories included with the Z87 Stinger are mostly typical, including the installation guide, driver disk, SATA cables, rear I/O plate, and an aluminum case badge. The oddball would be EVGA’s custom aluminum I/O cover, which hides the top of the I/O stacks when peering into a case from a side panel window. Notice that no manual was included with the board, but it can be downloaded from EVGA’s site, here.
EVGA Z87 Stinger
Here’s the first look at the motherboard, which has an almost entirely black color scheme aside from the red stripe on the Z87 chipset heatsink. Judging by the size of the VRM heatsink, it looks like the board may have a small VRM section, that may or may not affect overclocking.
Here are some angled shots to take you all around the board and provide a better perspective of the board than the perpendicular top-down view.
This last picture has EVGA’s I/O cover installed to hide those unsightly I/O stacks, and it definitely cleaned up the look of the board.
A Closer Look
The first thing that greets you when taking the Z87 Stinger out of its protective anti-static bubble envelope is a couple of warnings.
There isn’t a whole lot going on in the upper left corner of the board. We have the 8-pin CPU power connector in the typical place, although I kind of wish it was on the right edge of the board. We can also see the PWR_FAN header in the upper right of the picture. The 4-pin header beside the PWR_FAN is an internal debug header for EVGA, so it’s of no use to the consumer. There is a USB 2.0 header that supplies two additional ports, and it’s also worth noting that this USB 2.0 header will be covered up when using the EVGA I/O cover.
The lower left is a little more interesting with the USB 3.0 header, audio header, and the mPCI-E/mSATA combo port. The USB 3.0 header is native to the Z87 chipset, and I assume the mPCI-E/mSATA port is as well since there are enough native SATA ports and PCI-E lanes for that.
Moving over to the lower right, we have four SATA III ports that are native to the Z87 chipset. A removable BIOS chip is located above those ports, which make for easy replacement. Along the bottom of the board is the lone PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot. It’s nice to see that there isn’t a locking tab on the PCI-E slot since it can be really hard to get to one of those tabs when removing an expansion card from such a small form factor board. The 24-pin motherboard power connector is on the edge of the board, and having located at the bottom right makes it closer to typical cable management holes of many cases. Just below the 24-pin we have the front panel header for connecting the power switch, reset switch, power LED, and HDD LED. To the left of the front panel header and beside the DIMM slots there are three LEDs: white – system powered on, red – memory slot functional, and yellow – system standby.
In the top right, we see a couple of fan headers at the top of the board: the PWR_FAN mentioned earlier and the CPU_FAN. The onboard power and reset buttons are just to the right of the CPU_FAN header, and I’m glad to see the board includes these switches, they can be so convenient at times. Also, the POST code LED display to the right of the DIMM slots is another great inclusion since nothing is worse to me than having boot problems without a POST code display. Also, once the system is done with POST, the LED display shows the current CPU temperature. Since I mentioned DIMM slots, there are two DDR3 slots that support up to a total of 2 x 8 GB = 16 GB of RAM at speeds up to DDR3-2666+ when overclocking, but of course, the rated speed of the CPU’s memory controller is DDR3-1600. Just below the POST code display is the last of three fan headers, labeled CHA_FAN.
Looking at the I/O area from left to right, we have an integrated Bluetooth receiver and two USB 2.0 ports on the first stack, an e-SATA and two USB 3.0 ports on the next stack, then two more USB 2.0 ports, the RJ-45 and two more USB 3.0 port are on the fourth stack. The HDMI and DisplayPort IGP output is next, then finally the audio jacks. All the USB2.0/3.0 ports are native to the Z87 chipset, as well as the e-SATA port. The RJ-45 port makes use of Intel’s I217-V gigabit network controller, and the audio is powered by Creative’s Sound Core3D quad-core audio processor (CA0132).
Here, we have pictures of Creative’s CA0132 Core3D audio processor and Intel’s I217-V Gb LAN controller.
Now for the heatsink-less shots revealing the 6-phase power section and the Z87 chipset. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to read the the markings on the MOSFETs to search for any available data on them.
By the look of the impressions, the heatsinks made good contact with the chipset and the MOSFETs, but the chokes’ thermal pad was lightly sitting on top of them.
Here’s the first look at EVGA’s new UEFI BIOS. The top third or so of the screen consists of quite a bit of useful information that is displayed at all times. In the Memory part to the left, the circles represent potential DIMM slots (up to 8), and two of them are lit up and displaying the number 2. This means there are two DIMM slots being used and each slot has a 2 GB stick of RAM installed. Just below that shows the total amount of RAM installed (4 GB) and the current speed at which it’s operating (DDR3-1333). All of this info together gives us a 2 x 2 GB DDR3-1333 memory configuration. Further down is where the Voltage section is located, showing the current Vcore and memory voltage. In the center of this top section is where we can find current CPU information such as CPU multiplier, BCLK, overall CPU clock, number of active cores, and Hyper-Threading. The right side almost mirrors the look of the left side, and the OCD side of me realizes that if the left side’s Memory section could be stretched out to the end of the Vcore section, then both the left and right sides would be more symmetrical. Anyways, the right side shows the potential PCI-E slots (up to 7) with the current slot(s) being lit up and displaying their speed (x16) and revision (3.0). Below the PCI-E section are temperature readings for the VRM and CPU.
The first screen we’re greeted with is the screen we’ll be using the most, the Overclock tab. This is where all the CPU overclocking takes place in the form of CPU Multiplier, RING (Cache) Ratio, and BCLK settings. All the different CPU voltages and FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator) settings are also located in this section. Something unique about EVGA’s Overclock section is the CPU core temperatures being displayed under the current CPU/RAM/PCIE frequencies.
The CPU Configuration section is a lot like it’s always been with settings like EIST (Enhanced Intel Speedstep Technology), Turbo, Hyper-Threading, number of active cores, etc. There are also power and current limit settings here and a couple other settings that could be useful: Boot Performance Mode and Multicore Performance. Setting Boot Performance Mode to non-turbo can help avoid boot problems due to overclocking via the CPU multiplier by forcing the CPU to go through the boot process using the 35 multiplier before increasing it to what has been set in the BIOS.
You may notice that C1 and C3 states are missing in this section, but since these screenshots were taken a new BIOS (0.99 dated 10/15/2013) was supplied by EVGA which includes those C-states and also fixes the CPU multiplier being locked above Intel spec when Multicore Performance is set to Intel Default.
The Memory tab has the DIMM voltage, FSB:DRAM ratio (clock multiplier), RAM multiplier (frequency limiter), and three tiers of timings. So, everything you need for RAM settings and overclocking can be found here.
At the bottom of the Memory tab there are two other pages: Memory Training Algorithms and Memory Debug. The contents of those pages are shown below and it’s definitely something I’ve never seen before. According to EVGA these sections allow the user to disable some of the steps in memory configuration/training to aid in overclocking when pushing the limits.
The Advanced tab has twelve sub-sections, most of which the majority of users will never have the need to use. Dark Mode disables the onboard LEDs in the bottom right corner of the board near the front panel headers. Since the POST code display isn’t disabled with Dark Mode, there will still be a significant amount of red light in the case. So, it’s more like a less-light mode rather than a Dark Mode. ERP Mode stands for Energy Related Products, and enabling this feature makes to board use less standby power.
The NB PCIe Configuration tab is full of sub-sections and settings that are all new to me; things I’ve never seen before in a BIOS.
For those wanting to run a RAID array, the SATA tab is where the ports can be set up for that.
The Onboard Device Configuration tab will be useful for those wanting to make use of the Z87 Stinger’s mSATA/mPCI-E slot, since this is where you’ll need to select what interface type you’ll be using with the Mini PCIE Switch setting.
The H/W Monitor Configuration tab shows temperatures of the VRM, System, CPU, and CPU cores. I like that core temperatures are shown in the BIOS instead of only the vague “CPU” temperature. Other than temperatures, there are some voltage readings and fan control options.
The rest of the Advanced tab sub-sections are shown below in the gallery for those that are interested.
The Boot tab is pretty standard, and the only reason most users would need to check this section would be to change the boot order.
Here are the Boot tab sub-sections…
The Save & Exit tab is where profiles and be saved and loaded.
Some of you may have noticed that a couple of things are missing from the new UEFI BIOS: Load-Line Calibration and BIOS flashing. At this time BIOS flashing has to be done either in DOS or Windows, but EVGA has plans to include BIOS flashing from within the BIOS in the future. As for Load-Line Calibration, it’s just not a feature of the Z87 Stinger UEFI BIOS. That means the Vccin will droop when the CPU is loaded, so that’s something to keep an eye on when overclocking.
E-LEET Tuning Utility X (Beta)
EVGA’s E-LEET X software is still in the beta stage and is very limited with the publicly available v0.7.3 and the Z87 Stinger. However, I’ll be using v0.8.0 of E-LEET X to walk through and see what EVGA has in store for its new software. The CPU and Memory tabs pretty much mirror the popular CPU-Z program. In v0.7.3, the CPU speed, BCLK, CPU multiplier, cache speed, and RAM speed show up as 0 MHz. However, v0.8.0 has fixed that issue as seen below.
E-LEET X’s Mainboard tab also mirrors CPU-Z except for a few minor differences which include LPCIO info and different conventions for the southbridge name (Z87 vs Lynx Point) and revision (C2 vs 05). In v0.7.3, the BIOS version only shows as 4.6.5, but it’s displayed as 1.02 within the BIOS and on EVGA’s website when searching for new versions. With the unreleased v0.8.0, EVGA has added the BIOS version number in parenthesis so users actually know what BIOS they are running without having to go into the BIOS. Also note that BIOS 0.99 is displayed below, but it’s actually more recent than the 1.02 BIOS used for testing. This is because I was working with EVGA to get issues fixed between E-LEET and their BIOS and they sent a temporary beta BIOS to verify fixes.
The Monitoring tabs in E-LEET X are very thorough with fan speeds, temperatures, and voltages galore. I’d like to see fan control available down there with the fan speed monitoring. Temperature monitoring consists of CPU, VREG, system, package, and core temperatures. There are plenty of useful voltage readings such as DIMM, CPU input, PCH, and individual core voltages. There are a few voltages lacking in E-LEET X which are located in the grayed-out section in the Monitoring2 tab, and I expect them to be available by the time E-LEET X is out of beta.
As with the CPU and Memory tab, the Overclocking tab has spots for frequencies, but none of them are being displayed at all in E-LEET X v0.7.3 (v0.8.0 fixes that as shown). Under those frequencies is the slider for changing the BCLK, and there are also sliders further down for adjusting the CPU core multipliers and cache/ring multiplier. In v0.7.3 only the multiplier sliders work since the BCLK frequency is not registered (again v0.8.0 fixes that). So, the Overclocking tab turns out to be pretty much useless in v0.7.3, but it’s fixed in v0.8.0.
In v0.7.3, only CPU VIN, DIMM, PCH 1.05, and PCH 1.5 are available, which makes overclocking via E-LEET close to useless. However the new v0.8.0 adds the important voltage adjustment options needed: Vcore, Ring/Cache, System Agent, Analog IO, and Digital IO. So, until v0.8.0 is publicly released, overclocking will need to done within the BIOS for best results.
The last two tabs of v0.7.3, Processes and Options, allow you to set core affinity to specific processes and save/load E-LEET profiles. E-LEET X v0.8.0 adds shortcut hotkeys for affinity and an option for flashing the BIOS.
Possible Improvements to E-LEET X
- Add fan control
- Add the greyed out voltages in the Monitoring2 tab
- Add RAM timing adjustment
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K|
|CPU Cooler||Prolimatech Genesis w/ 2x 109R1212H101|
|Motherboard||EVGA Z87 Stinger|
|RAM||2×2 GB G.Skill ECO DDR3-1600 7-8-7-24|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 780 SuperClocked ACX|
|Hard Drive||50 GB OCZ Vertex 2|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic X750|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Pro x64 SP1|
- Intel XTU
- Cinebench R11.5
- SuperPi 1M/32M
- wPrime 32M/1024M
On my previous two boards, ASRock Z87 Extreme6 and ASUS Z87I-Deluxe, I was able to get up to 4.6 GHz on the CPU and 4.4 GHz on the cache. On the Z87 Stinger, I was able to come up with 4.5 GHz to pass all the benchmarks used for testing and a 20-run, half-RAM LinX test. Still, 4.5 GHz isn’t bad at all for a mini-ITX with 6-phase power section when compared to the other two boards I tested. The other boards had much beefier 12-phase power sections and only managed 100 MHz better.
The BCLK adjustment was a little different. The straps are displayed as 5/5, 5/4, 5/3, and 5/2 ratios which turn into 1.00, 1.25, 1.67, and 2.50 when finishing the division. Once a strap is selected, the BCLK has to be changed to match as well. So, for example, when selecting the 5/4 strap the BCLK needs to be changed to 125 MHz manually.
The first benchmark is Intel’s XTU, which I was able to pass at 4.5 GHz. I tried passing at 4.6 GHz multiple times with multiple settings, but I just couldn’t stop it from giving me BSoD shortly after starting.
I was able to complete the following benchmarks at 4.6 GHz, but I just couldn’t get through XTU at 4.6 GHz.
The EVGA Z87 Stinger is a very good looking board being mostly black with red accents on the chipset heatsink and the rear I/O cover. Speaking of the rear I/O cover, it’s a unique addition that works well at improving the overall look of board and build.
The last EVGA board I used was the P67 FTW, and the Z87 Stinger’s new UEFI BIOS is a huge improvement. It’s very smooth with both the mouse and keyboard, it has a multitude of settings for both the general user and power user, and useful monitoring details displayed at all times.
The Z87 Stinger overclocks well, but 100 MHz shy of the other two boards I’ve tested (ASRock Z87 Extreme6 and ASUS Z87I-Deluxe). However, I can’t be disappointed with a 4.5 GHz CPU and 4.4 GHz cache overclock. The Z87 Stinger was on the verge of getting 4.6 GHz CPU stable, but I just couldn’t pass XTU at that speed. The publicly available E-LEET X v0.7.3 beta overclocking software is almost useless for the Z87 Stinger since only the CPU/Cache multiplier adjustments work. So, overclocking needs to be done via the UEFI BIOS until a newer version of E-LEET X is released (v0.8.0+).
The only real downside to the Z87 Stinger is its MSRP. It’s available directly from EVGA for $230, which is tied with the ASUS Maximus VI Impact for the most expensive Mini-ITX board available. To me, $230 seems a little expensive for the Z87 Stinger when you consider that the ASUS Maximus VI Impact offers a more robust VRM section, built-in WiFi, a discrete sound card, ROG Connect port, and more mature overclocking/monitoring software. I think the Z87 Stinger’s features fit it squarely into the slot for second best ITX board, even if the price may seem a little high.
Before I finish this up, I’d also like to give a huge thanks to Jacob Freeman (a.k.a. EVGA_JacobF) for all the work he put in getting the BIOS and E-LEET X updated. Good support goes a long way in my book, and EVGA is top-notch in that area.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)
P.S. As a bit of a teaser, here’s a picture of a mini-ITX build using EVGA’s Z87 Stinger, Hadron Air, and GTX 780 Superclocked ACX…