Awesome Mini PC Solutions

Small form factor (SSF) personal computers are popular as home theatre boxes or as space-saving office computers. But how about a small form factor gaming PC?

When MSI launched the Intel Series 8 platform mini-ATX Z87I Gaming AC Socket 1150 motherboard there were some wows, uhms and ahs but mostly there were oohs. Because this is the smallest full-featured Z87 motherboard out there and it is darn cute too.

Measuring only 17 x 17 centimetre, it gives proper meaning to the saying, “Dynamite comes in small packages.” 


This little beast has already won numerous awards. Amongst, it is eTeknix Editor’s Choice where reviewer Ryan Martin had this to say:

MSI’s Z87I Gaming AC motherboard is a solid choice for any gamer or system builder who wants the features and style of a gaming motherboard, the connectivity options of a prosumer motherboard and the performance and overclocking of an enthusiast motherboard.

On Guru3D they threw a GTX 760 GAMING ITX on it and ran a full performance test. Reviewer Hilbert Hagedoorn introduces the Z871 GAMING as follows –

Oh you will need a magnifying glass alright as as this is the smallest fully fetched Z87 motherboard you will ever see. The Z87I Gaming AC is made on a Mini-ITX form factor, that means you can seat a processor as powerful as the Core i7 4770K onto a motherboard that is 17×17 CM. Amazing really, especially when you will learn it still has a fully fetched PCIe x16 slot, KillerNIC Gigabit Ethernet, WIFI, USB 3.0 and heck even four SATA 6 Gbps ports. To make things even tastier we pair it with a GeForce GTX 760 GAMING ITX graphics card, and the combo… well it’s just awesome.

This is a picture of the Z871 GAMING AC motherboard with the GTX 760 GMING ITX  – and doesn’t it look stunning?! – taken from the mentioned Guru3D review:

MSI Z87I Gaming AC motherboard and GTX 760 GAMING ITX

Hagedoorn concluded, “It is sickening how much performance and features you can squeeze out of something this small, I love this!”

And here are the specs –

MSI Z871 GAMING AC specifications


• 4th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 / Core™ i5 / Core™ i3 / Pentium® / Celeron® processors for LGA 1150 socket
Please refer to CPU Support for compatible CPU; the above description is for reference only.


• Intel® Z87 Express Chipset

Main Memory

• Support two DDR3 1066/1333/1600/1866*/2000*/2133*/2200*/2400*/2600*/2666*/2800*/3000*(*OC) MHz DRAM, 16GB Max
– Dual channel memory architecture
– Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
– Supports non-ECC, un-buffered memory


• 1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot
• 1 x Half-size mini-PCIe slot*
* Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card pre-installed.

On-Board SATA

– 5 x SATA 6Gb/s ports (SATA1-5)
– 1 x eSATA port
– Supports RAID 0, RAID1, RAID 5 and RAID 10
– Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology and Intel® Smart Connect Technology
* Supports Intel Core processors on Windows 7 and Windows 8.


• 6 x USB 3.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connector)
• 4 x USB 2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB connectors)


• Realtek® ALC1150 Codec
– 7.1-Channel High Definition Audio
– Supports S/PDIF output


• 1x Killer E2205 Gigabit LAN controller*
* The Killer Network Manager is only available for Windows 7 and Windows 8 currently. The supported drivers for other operating systems would be available on the website if provided by vendor.

Internal I/O Connectors

– 1 x ATX 24-Pin power connector
– 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
– 5 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
– 1 x USB 2.0 connectors (supports additional 2 USB 2.0 ports)
– 1 x USB 3.0 connectors (supports additional 2 USB 3.0 ports)
– 1 x 4-pin CPU fan connector
– 1 x 4-pin system fan connector
– 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
– 1 x Front Panel Audio connector
– 2 x System panel connectors
– 1 x TPM Module connector
– 1 x Chassis Intrusion connector

Back Panel I/O Ports

– 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port
– 1 x Clear CMOS button
– 2 x USB 2.0 ports
– 4 x USB 3.0 ports
– 1 x Optical S/PDIF OUT connector
– 1 x RJ45 LAN jack
– 2 x Antenne connectors
– 1 x eSATA port
– 6 x OFC audio jacks
– 1 x DVI-I port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
– 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200 @60Hz, 24bpp
– 1 x DisplayPort with max. resolution up to 4096×2304@24Hz, 2560×1600@60Hz, 3840×2160@60Hz,1920×1200@60Hz

This plarform supports dual-display and triple-display function

HDMI+DisplayPort HDMI+DVI DVI+DisplayPort HDMI+DVI+DisplayPort
Extend mode
(Extend the desktop to the second
and third monitor)
Clone mode
(Monitors have the same screen)


• The motherboard BIOS provides “Plug & Play” BIOS which detects the peripheral devices and expansion cards of the board automatically.
• The motherboard provides a Desktop Management Interface(DMI) function which records your motherboard specifications.

Dimensions: 17 cm x 17 cm (Mini-ITX Form Factor)

Official page: MSI Z871 Gaming AC

Price: R2 849

Really, really small computers

There are, of course, much smaller computers available, like the famous credit card-sized Raspberry Pi. After all, even a cell phone basically is a computer. As is the little chip that sings a tune when you open a birthday card. But their functions usually are limited.

If you want a really, really small computer that can also run Windows, then you should cast an eye toward PC-on-a-stick (aka stick PCs) models. These are PCs the size of a flash drive!

We played around with the Proline PC-on-a-Stick and were totally surprised by its capabilities. Quad Core CPU, 2GB RAM, wireless LAN, Bluetooth AND Windows 8.1. How about that for a PC that fits in the palm of your hand?! Just plug in a keyboard and mouse and monitor and you have a full working computer that runs your Windows programmes.

Proline PC On A Stick

The Proline PC-on-a-stick is in the All-in-One PC category of the Essential IT Solutions online shop. Better still, drop in at our shop on 89 George Street, Strand, 7140 and come see how it works.

Date: 06 May 2015