Over the past couple of days, two new Z77 mini-ITX motherboards have been seen on the radar.  The first is Gigabyte's Z77N-WiFi model, to be released alongside the H77N-WiFi equivalent.

 

Gigabyte have migrated the Z77 chipset to the top of the board, as seen by the chipset heatsink and the SATA/mPCIe slot.  The power delivery is devoid of cooling - judging by the mounting on the board this is how it will ship.  Oddly enough for a mITX we get dual gigabit Ethernet, both Realtek, combined with a Realtek ALC892 audio chip.  The placement of the USB 3.0 header is a little odd being towards the rear, as well as the SATA ports.  The main criticism may come due to the socket area, where should users wish to pair this board with a beefy GPU, the CPU will be limited in air cooler size.  Looks like All-In-One coolers may be preferential here.  Estimates state that this board will cost around $140 at release.

The other mini-ITX to enter the market comes from MSI in the form of the MSI Z77IA-E53.  We snapped this motherboard back at Computex, but now it comes to full release.

 

In a similar layout to the Gigabyte, we get the Chipset up top, along with the SATA ports and USB 3.0 header.  With the MSI we get a free mSATA port and WiFi/Bluetooth at the rear.  Chipset heatsinks also make an appearance, as well as a full 8-pin CPU power connector.  Though similarly to the Gigabyte, the CPU socket is near the PCIe slot.  No word on release or pricing as of yet.

These two motherboards will join the three Z77 mini-ITX already on the market from Zotac, ASRock and ASUS.  Not to mention that EVGA will also join the mini-ITX party soon with their own board hopefully arriving next month.  Out of these six, I have two in for review and hope to get as many of the others as possible.  Would you prefer them reviewed one-by-one or all at the same time?  What are you looking for in a mini-ITX motherboard?  Let us know in the comments.

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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. :)
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.]
    Reply
  • 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

    Hi,

    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.
    Reply
  • 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

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