The overall aim of this work was to evaluate the potential for improving in vivo small animal microCT through the use of an energy resolved photon-counting detector. To this end, we developed and evaluated a prototype microCT system based on a second-generation photon-counting x-ray detector which simultaneously counted photons with energies above six energy thresholds. First, we developed a threshold tuning procedure to reduce the dependence of detector uniformity and to reduce ring artifacts. Next, we evaluated the system in terms of the contrast-to-noise ratio in different energy windows for different target materials. These differences provided the possibility to weight the data acquired in different windows in order to optimize the contrast-to-noise ratio. We also explored the ability of the system to use data from different energy windows to aid in distinguishing various materials. We found that the energy discrimination capability provided the possibility for improved contrast-to-noise ratios and allowed separation of more than two materials, e.g., bone, soft-tissue and one or more contrast materials having K-absorption edges in the energy ranges of interest.