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Four Z77-Based Mini-ITX Motherboards, Reviewed

EVGA Z77 Stinger

EVGA loves part numbers, often referring to the Z77 Stinger as its 111-IB-E692-KR or simply the E692. Interestingly, this platform seems to have been designed with bundled Wi-Fi in mind (including a spot for an antenna bracket, two knock-outs in its I/O panel for them, a mini-PCIe slot, and pre-launch photography with the adapter on-board. But there is no Wi-Fi on the version of the board we're testing.

We still find Bluetooth though, and that's a feature missing from one of the other boards in this round-up. Depending on your wireless needs, it might even be considered as valuable as Wi-Fi.

EVGA places a mini-DisplayPort connector next to an HDMI output, forgoing DVI and VGA, and keeping the rear I/O panel clean. We're sure the assumption is that anyone using an EVGA motherboard and Z77 Express-based chipset won't be bothered to use integrated graphics. Whether or not that applies depends on the role your mini-ITX platform is destined to fill.

The Z77 Stinger presented us with several surprises, the first of which was its use of an add-in controller for a pair of eSATA ports, even though two of the PCH's integrated ports went unused. This is also the smallest board we’ve seen with a Port 80 diagnostics display, power, and reset buttons. EVGA even managed to squeeze in a third four-pin fan connector, which didn't seem to be manageable for its competition.

An even bigger surprise came when we began looking for the Z77 Stinger’s front-panel audio header. It’s simply not there, even though we expect front-panel audio connections on any modern case we review. Perhaps the redundant SATA controller consumed its space?

EVGA has the best-looking case badge we’ve seen, complete with faux carbon fiber insert stickers. The company bundles both round and flat SATA cables, just in case you want to change the look inside your chassis. Braided four-drive and basic two-drive SATA power adapters are also included.

  • anxiousinfusion
    Years ago, decent mITX boards were slim pickings.
    Reply
  • where are the dtx mobos for those that want a gaming graphics card as well as a dedicated sound card that isnt onboard crap?
    Reply
  • tarkhein
    Asus maintains a list of other technologies only found on its platform, including the ability to charge smartphones and tablets through its USB ports
    That technology is available from MSI and Asrock (and Gigabyte, but that's irrelevant in this roundup). Look up MSI i-Charger and Asrock App Charger.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    tarkheinAsus maintains a list of other technologies only found on its platform, including the ability to charge smartphones and tablets through its USB portsThat technology is available from MSI and Asrock (and Gigabyte, but that's irrelevant in this roundup). Look up MSI i-Charger and Asrock App Charger.All three companies have similar high-current charging features, but Asus extends them to non-Apple devices. The comment was originally left out due to the similarities and added later due to the differences.

    There was a big discussion between editors over whether or not the P8Z77-I Deluxe should get an award. The only award for "best features" is Tom's Hardware Approved, and that award is reserved for products that are clearly and obviously superior. The P8Z77-I Deluxe was a better board, but we had to look fairly hard to see it (it wasn't clear or obvious).
    Reply
  • amuffin
    So many variations between each board when it comes to OC......
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  • Crashman
    amuffinSo many variations between each board when it comes to OC......LOL, welcome to Windows 8.
    Reply
  • abbadon_34
    "We retained most of the hardware from our previous Z77 motherboard round-ups, but were not able to reach the same CPU clock speeds. A shift over to Windows 8 was our biggest change, and services crashing under that operating system appeared to limit what we could achieve compared to Windows 7."

    CrashmanLOL, welcome to Windows 8.
    How about using Windows 7? Was a reason you HAD to use 8 despite encountering issues? Is there some contractual obligation or monetary incentive to use the lastest version regardless of performance issues? Or at least test them both, it's only 4 motherboards.
    Reply
  • enewmen
    I think Mini-ITX will be the new standard size.
    It's not like the 80s/90s where you needed a full size AT/ATX motherboard with many slots for the ST-506 controller, floppy disk controller, serial port, parallel port, Sound Blaster card, VGA card, token ring card, and an extra cooling fan.

    EDIT:
    I will later get a Mini-ITX later & Silverstone case, stick in a Noctua NH-C12P & Haswell i7, and my Nv 680. That will have very high power density and worthy of being my "main" PC. (and it will OC)
    Reply
  • abbadon_34
    One issue I see is the PCI-E x16 slot is at the very bottom of these boards, and most video cards use two slots, requiring a larger case than one that simply supporting the motherboard based on ITX/mini-ITX dimensions. I'd be interesting in exploring the limitations of such configurations, and whether these boards are effectively limited to single slot video cards (and performance), require larger cases than is assumed, or specific case configurations.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    abbadon_34Was a reason you HAD to use 8 despite encountering issues?Standardization. The thought of having a spare drive on hand simply for testing O/C never even crossed my mind after hearing the "s" word.abbadon_34One issue I see is the PCI-E x16 slot is at the very bottom of these boards, and most video cards use two slots, requiring a larger case than one that simply supporting the motherboard based on ITX/mini-ITX dimensions. I'd be interesting in exploring the limitations of such configurations, and whether these boards are effectively limited to single slot video cards (and performance), require larger cases than is assumed, or specific case configurations.It's called DTX, it's mentioned in the article's FIRST paragraph, and Tom's Hardware even has DTX case reviews. Since most people don't know what DTX is, most case manufacturers have changed the label to read "Mini ITX". Still, there are a bunch of DTX cases out there caring the Mini ITX label.

    Reply