Two New Z77 mITX Announced

by Ian Cutress on 8/23/2012 7:17 AM EST


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  • HaydenOscar - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I'm looking for manufacturers to swap the chipset and the processor socket around! I hate how limited my choices are if I don't want to use a water cooler.
    Here's hoping that you have some boards with the layout I'm after coming up for review. :)
  • GeorgeH - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I also want to see the CPU socket positioned towards the center of the board so larger air coolers may be used. Using laptop RAM (flat to the backside of the board might work well) to save space is perfectly acceptable. Routing the traces might be very difficult, but it would be awesome to see four laptop RAM sockets in the space taken up by two desktop ones. mPCIE and antenna headers are a huge plus. Don't skimp on the audio or ethernet. Any cable management help would be fantastic - that MSI board looks like a spaghetti recipe, the Gigabyte doesn't look too bad. Reply
  • Guspaz - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    While the mini-ITX and microATX standards (mITX is defined as a modification of microATX rather than a complete standard itself) don't specify processor location, the location has become standardized through convention. Moving the CPU would break compatibility with many existing cases, including any that integrate the CPU cooling system with the case itself, as mine does. If the CPU isn't where expected, the cold plate and heat pipes won't be on the CPU.

    The need for four RAM sockets is pretty minimal these days. Since 2x8GB costs the same or less than 4x4GB, the only people who need more than two slots are those who need 32GB of RAM in a SFF case, and that's a pretty small demographic; 16GB is a pretty good chunk of RAM for now and the next few years. By the time any significant number of people need that much RAM, 16GB DIMMs should be cheap enough to keep 2 sockets as sufficient.

    What I would like to see is more mITX boards with dual gigabit, and I'd like to see more USB 3.0 ports (Z77 supports four, which gives two rear and two front, so why not just throw an external USB 3.0 controller onboard and make all the sockets USB 3.0?).

    In terms of the boards shown here, what the heck is up with the MSI's complete lack of appropriate video connections? These days most monitors are DVI or DisplayPort, and this board has neither. Instead, you get VGA and HDMI, neither of which is appropriate for driving a modern 27" display.
  • RyanArr - Monday, August 27, 2012 - link

    [Since] the mini-ITX and microATX standards don't specify processor location, [motherboard manufacturers use greatly varying CPU placement (compare P8Z77-I DELUXE to the above boards)]. Moving the CPU would break compatibility with [some] existing cases, [oh well].

    The need for four RAM sockets is pretty [significant] these days. 16GB is [enough for the OP, but 32GB is needed for heavy media work a virtualization]. By the time [the OP] need[s] that much RAM, 16GB DIMMs should be cheap enough, [and then 64GB will happily live in my motherboard].

    What I would like to see is more mITX boards with [a bazzilion USB 3 ports, and that's fine. Other folks don't need that and just want more RAM and a giant heatsink.]

    [Yeah, VGA is dead, and HDMI isn't for monitors, I'll second that.]
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    This has been the practice since the first iX cpu's. Specified by intel of course. This should hardly be surprising anymore, let alone the reviewer. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    What's more surprising actually, is that heatsink manufacturers aren't making more compatible heatsinks. Heatsinks should be designed for the sockets, not the sockets around the heatsinks lol. Reply
  • JezzaW - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    Did I mention lots of RAM capability is actually really importnat to me, and RAM must be made cheaper. Low power, and RAm equals virtual machines, and teh dual NICs is nice especially for say WAN/LAN setups Reply
  • theNiZer - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link


    I really want to be able to control my fans - even on mini ITX boards, and by fan control I mean to be able to control both 4 pins (RPM control) AND 3 pins fans (voltage control), and MORE than just on fan (the cpu fan), at least two controllable fan headers but preferably 3.

    I build systems for gaming and love the form factor.
  • theNiZer - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    ou - one big review with all boards would be great for me, comparing the boards are easier that way. Reply
  • pattycake0147 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Seconded. One review would be best. Reply
  • crazzyeddie - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Third-ed. One review is better. Reply
  • EnzoFX - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Same, but make it thorough =P. I'd like to see temps in typically small cases. Alongside a features rundown. In this market segment, I think that what differentiates winners from losers is how much they're able to pack in terms of features. Seeing as ITX is pretty much all about integration. Even for seemingly trivial features as fan control and wake from sleep. Can't think of others atm. Reply
  • ddrum2000 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    one big review with all five boards. Maybe also compare the H77 mini-itx boards too in an HTPC shootout. Reply
  • eezip - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I like them as one big review as well. That, to me, makes it easier to compare them in my mind as I read the article. And if I was in the market for one of these boards, I'd ultimately want to know the tradeoffs between each board presented as saliently as possible so I can pick the right board. Reply
  • michaelheath - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I honestly don't really care whether the ITX boards you have are presented in a single review or separately - either will do so long as a reasonable comparison can be made. I've been eyeballing the form factor for a while now since I'm overdue for an upgrade, so the fact there's more competition today is exciting.

    What I'm more interested in is seeing what air coolers work with the form factor. One in particular has caught my eye due to it's almost L-shaped top-down cooling design: the Cooler Master Geminii S524. It *looks* like it fits, but I can't be for certain. This is almost more important to me than who makes the board itself, considering how, as others have mentioned, you're either stuck with stock cooling or some way-expensive all-in-one water cooling.
  • Tegeril - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Looks like the P8Z77-I Deluxe is still the only ITX board in this generation that has the cpu socket not making love to the PCI-E slot. It's frustrating to need to pay for a, by all accounts, premium 'overclocking' board when all I want is the socket to move 1 inch.

    Really unfortunate :(
  • Cygni - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I just purchased a mini-ITX board for media center use, specifically with a Ceton CableCard tuner. The board is just OK, and I wish I would have had a mini-ITX round up sooner!

    Some things I'm looking for: fanspeed controls, UNDERclocking tools, intelligent header placement considering the tiny case enviornment (my boards poor header placement leads to cables stretching over the CPU fan. They have even jammed the fan in the past), and goodies... specifically mSATA for boot SSD use, good gigabit performance for network tuner sharing and streaming, eSATA for expansion.

    Heat/noise is a big issue for HTPC use in general, so anything the board can do to mitigate that is a plus.
  • floobit - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I'm also trying to make a decision between the H77 and Z77 boards. To me, the biggest draw of the Z77 boards is the potential to OC. In a case like the bitfenix prodigy or the FT03S-mini and no watercooling, is significant OC possible with these boards? I'm also a bit confused about OC on the H77 boards. Everything I've read here says H77 doesn't permit OC, but the P8H77-I available on newegg mentions supporting OCed memory speeds. Reply
  • Omoronovo - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Regarding OC memory speeds, that basically means the bios will allow you to set a higher than standard ratio for the memory - this is standard practice among all (most) motherboards, since even Ivy Bridge only "officially" supports DDR3-1600, yet the chipset (IMC) is fully capable of running 2133 and higher.

    You can change the ram ratio to enable running memory at basically any speed. Classing it as an overclock simply means Intel doesn't need to validate that it works and you're technically not entitled to any support any problems arise.This, saves money for Intel on validation, whilst allowing OEM's the flexibility to support higher memory speeds themselves.

    Therefore, you are right. H77 doesn't allow any proper overclocking, namely the changing of CPU multiplier or BCLK (though this should rarely/never be increased anyway). The only modification is the ram strap.

    Hopefully that was a relatively coherent explanation.
  • flubby - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    For me power consumption is always a big factor... Can low voltage memory be used?
    And fan control of course is too, would be interesting to see a mITX board with more than one fan connector.

    I think a single review is better than doing the boards apart.
  • AmdInside - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Although I probably wouldn't buy it since I just bought a Gigabyte Sniper Z77 micro-atx mobo but I'd like a z77 mobo with Intel ethernet, Creative hardware audio, killer wifi built in, no dual ethernet (still don' t understand who this is for), blue theme mobo (not sure why red is so popular since red makes me think of heat). Reply
  • jontech - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Would really reduce the footprint

    Overall great layout!
  • BravoHotel - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Personally, I've been using the mITX form factor as a high capacity server build and therefore I'd like to see a Z77 board with 6 SATA ports and a couple USB3.0 on the backpanel. If I can be really picky, I'd even like to see an integrated Thunderbolt port for possible further expansion in the future as Thunderbolt accessories become more prevalent. Reply
  • BravoHotel - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Oh, and Intel ethernet! Reply
  • aluser - Friday, September 14, 2012 - link

    And you are not using a server mobo because? Reply
  • bsd228 - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Ian - key test to me would be if the onboard NICs are supported by ESX or other hypervisors, and minimal testing on the performance. With a single PCIx slot, you have a choice of a discrete gfx card or a supported NIC, should the onboard not get the job done. Reply
  • fr500 - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    This board is perfect for ESXi
  • Dug - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    I think doing one or two at a time would be a good idea.
    BUT include the other boards you will be reviewing along with specs so we can see the differences.

    For me, I don't need a high end video card, but absolutely need display port for the higher resolution.
    I see the Gigabyte doesn't have one, so that will be out.
  • Dug - Thursday, August 23, 2012 - link

    Looks like the MSI doesn't have display port either. Reply
  • uibo - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I'm looking forward to:
    fan control, undervolting, underclocking, 23.976 fps status, scheduled waking from hibernation and standy, htpc usage.
  • MadAd - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I would like ITX hardware to include
    - displayport
    - DTS Connect
    - full fan control (all headers)
    - eSATA

    In a review I would like to see the performance of:
    - closed Loop coolers (cool-it, H80 etc) doing double duty as cpu cooler and case fan
    - native multi monitor ability
    - 2400 compatibility tested
    - integrated graphics test (incl temps and noise)
    - power consumption, thermals and noise at 0%, 50% and 100% load

    In Anandtech forum:
    - a forum dedicated to SFF/ITX, currently its pointless posting because its instantly drowned out by 100 posts a day asking what gaming laptop is best or what kind of battery life X laptop should have.
  • Simon42 - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Well I've been waiting for that review for months. I finally pulled the trigger on the pricey Asus board and I would have liked to read about it... but I'm sure I won't be disappointed. I couldn't bring myself to buy another board with inferior BIOS options and general capabilities. It's going inside a sub-10L custom case and I can't wait.

    What I would like to learn about in a review is how the fans behave, what kind of support we have inside Windows (with the manufacturer's software suite and with generic tools like SpeedFan - some boards offer 0 control) and what the fans do outside of Windows. A Linux compatibility report would be nice too, because some exotic or cheap solutions are not gonna work there (I'll have to do the OS X testing myself, but Linux/XMBC behaviour would be interesting).

    Another thing I want to find out about is the 35W and 45W modes the Asus board seems to be able to run under - that should make it all quiet and cold when needed.
  • theNiZer - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I just want to second the SpeedFan test for fan control, even though the ASUS boards are only controllable by the asus fan xpert software (which is okay since it is the most advanced fan software made by a mobo maker - other programs suck IMHO).

    For testing: please use a small gaming case like the SilverStone Sugo SG05 or the BitFenix Prodigy with a discrete top performing (heating) graphics card, and make noise measurements: this way the effect of the fan control can be tested .
  • Simon42 - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Well that's exactly why I'm asking! This board size is ideal and most likely to be used to run XBMC or make a turbo Mac Mini equivalent - but if the fans become loud and uncontrollable outside of Windows, well it's kind of a waste. Equivalents to SpeedFan exist under Linux and Mac OS and they rely on the same connections to control the fans. If Asus' amazing fan control makes them broken in other OSes, it sucks. I'd love to know what kind of fan tuning the different UEFI/BIOSes allow and how much one can rely one it when the manufacturer's app can't be used. Reply
  • nicolasitx - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Aspects that count most in my choice of a mini-ITX motherboard are:

    * the sound quality of the integrated sound device. With only one pci express extension port, users should probably choose between a discrete graphical card (game setup or media center) or an HBA like the LSI SAS 9207 (file server setup). Can a PCIe sound card be used in a mini-ITX setup ? If the integrated sound device will remain for this setup, it should be good !

    * connectivity (usb, sata, TH). Devices not integrated on the motherboard may be added thought usb or thunderbolt connections. A dedicated board with additional ports would take the only PCIe slot. Minimun for mini-ITX is 3x sata, 1x eSata, 8x usb (2.0 or 3.0). TH would be the most promising.

    * under-clocking: My target build is full-featured of connectivity and integrated options, with everything kept cool by running the unlocked cpu at a lower frequency, like some i5-S or i5-T. For this I need some under-clocking option to run my 3570K like a 3570T.

    * over-clocking: in the BIOS, may I change the frequency and Turbo boost, up or down, with Z77 or H77 chipset. This be depend how each motherboard implement that option.

    * under-clocking and over-clocking must be compatible with Sandy Bridge cpu (locked, unlocked ?)

    * cpu cooling and socket placement: can I attache a Noctua NH-L12 or a Scythe Big Shuriken2 revB on top of the CPU ? I favor silence over speed. For various socket placement, what cooling configuration can be the most efficient for the noise. Blocking the PCIe port is not an option, I need my dGPU or HBA extension card.

    * RAM compatibility: can you test at least two brands of memory, with various 16Go setup

    * water-cooling: Are some kits of water-cooling small enough to fit in mini-itx configurations ?

    * Dual monitor setup must be easy when you only use iGPU.

    * Precise automatic fan control : at least 2 (one for cpu, one for case)
    * No noise
  • Arnulf - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Who cares about the sea of x86 based ITX boards which all require substantial cooling and are an overkill for the media PC niche where said format is most often used. What I want to see are affordable something-ITX boards based on APQ8064 and similar chips, offering more than enough performance for desktop work in a lower thermal profile than that of an Atom or Brazos based system. Reply
  • mgrier - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    I would gladly pay a premium for a board with an Intel NIC rather than Realtek. Reply
  • spynoodle - Saturday, August 25, 2012 - link

    For me, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth is a major feature. This isn't something that I would particularly require if I were to build my own Mini-ITX rig, but as a perspective system-builder, it makes things a lot easier to configure. Reply
  • yor1001 - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    I'd love to see onboard raid performance vs discrete raid performance. (Been wanting to set up a backup server with one of these boards).
    Also I think its best to review all boards at once, in which case it would make it a lot easier for comparison.
  • Chufft - Friday, September 07, 2012 - link

    I'm looking to build a small, efficient, quiet and powerful DAW. I hope you'll test latency. A round-up sounds like a great way to discuss the form factor in terms of how it's evolving and how various makers view its potential.

    (BTW new here. Made my living with Macs in the '90s, back into computing now that I've got the DAW bug. Terrific site & user community -- congratulations!)
  • JezzaW - Thursday, September 13, 2012 - link

    The main reason in my opinion that you would chose mini-ITX over say a micro or full mainboard, is simply take advantage of smaller size 2.take advantage of the chipset to get lowest possible TDP.
    With the advancement of controlled power management of the PCI-E GPU now, this makes the total system draw even more power efficient than ever. Combine that with a S or T based CPU for lowest CPU TDP's and you can achieve alot with very low power requirements.
    Single reviews are fine. An educated person will make teh comparisons and analysis themselves based on ones requirements. Oh and Wake-On-Lan is a must these days incase you ever need to recover from a power outage, why else would you go low power if you were not going to leave it on 24/7.
  • jtmturner - Thursday, October 25, 2012 - link

    Any update on when we can expect the mItx review(s)?

    Really looking forward to hearing how the gigabyte boards measure up against Asus's P8's
  • dingetje - Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - link

    same here....would really like to see the review soon so i can pull some triggers Reply

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