Final Words

When I first saw this board at Computex, I thought it would be a good one to have in for review. It's a mini-ITX, with plenty of bells and whistles, all on the Z68 platform. If Zotac could do it within a reasonable price envelope, it was going to be a winner. After having the board in and working with it, I have found it a very good board at stock settings for $170. Unfortunately, there are a couple of areas that let it down.

On board, we've got a mini-PCIe which can act like an mSATA port (with the relevant BIOS option enabled), but comes with a wifi n card preinstalled. One thing we never really expect on a mini-ITX board are power and reset buttons along with a debug LED, but Zotac have managed to fit them on. There are also a pair of SATA 6 Gbps, a pair of SATA 3 Gbps, and USB 2.0/3.0 headers on board - less than full size boards, but plenty on a board this size. On the back panel are plenty of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, but we also have two antenna, dual gigabit Ethernet, a PS/2 port, dual HDMI 1.4a and a mini-DisplayPort connection.

The package itself is also impressive - a mini-DP to DP adaptor, an 8-pin 12V extension cable (to negate the awkward placing of the 8-pin power connector onboard), four locking SATA cables and a USB 3.0 rear bracket are surprising to see in a mini-ITX for $170. The Zotac board comes with a two year warranty on purchase, which extends to five years by registering with Zotac if you are the original purchaser.

It's hard to see exactly which market this board is aimed at - it offers a variety of features but fails on a couple to really hit a specific niche. It's a board I would suggest that people consider if they're wanting a small Z68 platform - a gamer could stick in a non-K CPU, replace the wifi with an mSATA SSD (for the caching) and add a good single GPU. The lack of the free space around the CPU limits serious coolers, however due to the lack of overclocking, a stock cooler (or an all-in-one water cooler) should be adequate.

For $170, it's hard not to consider the Zotac Z68ITX-A-E if you're going down the mini-ITX Z68 route (as much as a narrow path that is). However, with the poor OC options, H67 beckons if you don't need the smart caching and you could spend the extra money on a bigger SSD.

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  • dac7nco - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    I think at this point Zotac has proven that they either don't care about proper MB design, or they just don't care. ASRock has a cheap mITX Z68 board... what was the problem in reviewing that? The fact that a reputable place like Anandtech goes anywhere near Zotac's boards makes me wonder.

    Daimon
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    I agree, Zotac boards are overrated and overpriced. They care more about how their specs look on paper. Not a brand I'd recommend or read about in a review =P, unless they seriously step things up in regards to their BIOS and reliability. Reply
  • Ananke - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    I completely understand that this is a great, feature full board. However, in my sole opinion, it is too expensive for the targeted market. Why would somebody use this plus at least a $100 processor for a HTPC, when the same can be done with $300-$400 budget laptop /which comes with the Win OS btw/, or less than $100 AMD E-350 setup?

    Good for the consumer, since it offers a choice. I guess the same type of people who buy BMW Mini - an expensive pretend-to-be sport car, would buy this too.
    Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    The target is a small-form-factor _gaming_ PC not a simple HTPC -- for a HTPC you don't need Z68 to allow overclocking am i5-2500K. For pure HTPC use a H61/H67 motherboard and possibly nothing more than a socket 1155 Pentium CPU is enough.

    I wouldn't buy one that always runs my CPU out of spec though.
    Reply
  • Ananke - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    Dave, small form factor gaming PC is an oxymoron. Where are you going to put a high end GPU card on this board? Playing WoW on integrated graphics is not "gaming" for God's sake. Hence my thought, for $170 this board is worthless. It might be interesting if it costs $70 or less. Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    People build plenty of small form factor gaming PCs. Get yourself a Silverstone Sugo 5 or 7 case and you can put any dual slot card you want in it. Reply
  • Breathless - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    You don't know what you are talking about. I have this very board in a Lian Li PC-Q08B with an Asus GTX 580 Direct CUii, 2600k, 8GB's of ram and several SSD's. It is fully acceptable to say I have a small form factor gaming PC. Reply
  • DaveSimmons - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    As they said, Silverstone and Lian-li both make SFF gaming cases for mini-ITX, and you can put a GTX 560 ti or AMD 6870 in all of them, or even a higher-end card in a couple of them.

    You can even buy prebuilt gaming systems from CyberPowerPC in the SG07 case (LAN Party EVO Mini).

    Times change, your SFF knowledge is a little out of date.
    Reply
  • Rick83 - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    Gigabyte has been doing something similar on their Cougar Point boards all summer (now the first BIOS versions fixing this are finally coming out)
    There, once you enabled XMP, the CPU was automatically overclocked and overvolted using, afaik, the same turbo-tweak as on this Zotac.

    Not sure what they've been thinking.
    Reply
  • TrackSmart - Thursday, September 22, 2011 - link

    I understand the need to have comparable test conditions for testing the performance of motherboards. That being said, it would be interesting to many of us to see what you can realistically get away with (in terms of a gaming PC) using this form factor and a small form factor case to match... Running at stock speeds, when gaming, would a decent SFF case be able to keep up with the heat of a Z68 processor plus a mid-range GPU? What about an overclocked Z68 plus whatever the most powerful GPU that would fit the case? Is this a viable platform for that kind of computing power to begin with? If not, then the overclocking results aren't very relevant to your testing.

    Keep up the good work on the motherboard reviews. And if it seems feasible, maybe you could cover some of the questions above in a "SFF/Mini-ITX gaming system" article. The key question being whether a SFF gaming rig is an oxymoron.
    Reply

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