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Four Z77-Based Mini-ITX Motherboards, Reviewed

Overclocking Compared

BIOS Frequency and Voltage settings (for overclocking)
ASRock Z77E-ITXAsus P8Z77-I DeluxeEVGA Z77 StingerMSI Z77IA-E53
Reference Clock95-150 MHz (0.1 MHz)80-300 MHz (0.1 MHz)80-130 MHz (~0.1 MHz)0-655 MHz (0.1 MHz)
CPU Multiplier14-63x (1x)16-63x (1x)16-80x (1x)16-63x (1x)
DRAM Data Rates1066-3000 (200, 266)800-3200 (200, 266)1066-2133 (200, 266)800-3200 (200, 266)
CPU Vcore0.60-1.70 V (50 mV)0.80-1.99 V (5 mV)0.90-1.92 V (1 mV)0.81-2.16 V (5 mV)
CPU VTT0.98-1.56 V (~6.5 mV)N/A0.90-1.53 V (1 mV)0.95-1.55 V (20 mV)
VCCSA0.93-1.21 V (~18 mV)0.61-1.56 V (5 mV)N/A0.94-1.58 V (20 mV)
DRAM Voltage1.17-1.80 V (5 mV)1.20-2.135 V (5 mV)0.90-1.99 V (1 mV)1.11-2.47 V (7.5 mV)
CAS Latency4-15 Cycles1-15 Cycles4-15 Cycles5-15 Cycles
tRCD3-15 Cycles1-15 Cycles4-99 Cycles4-15 Cycles
tRP3-15 Cycles1-15 Cycles4-99 Cycles4-15 Cycles
tRAS9-63 Cycles1-255 Cycles10-63 Cycles10-40 Cycles

Though the broadness of each setting varies with each motherboard, all four are capable of exceeding safe and sane voltage levels, or, if you’d prefer, moderate underclocking for reduced energy use. We did encounter one fairly large surprise however.

We've learned to expect 4.6 to 4.7 GHz from this specific Core i7-3770K sample, but that was under Windows 7. With Windows 8, we encountered errors in some services at clock rates greater than 4.5 GHz. The fourth board, EVGA’s Z77 Stinger appears to need a firmware re-work.

Our expected 110 or 111 MHz base clocks are also gone, with the P8Z77-I Deluxe getting closest to our Windows 7 highs under Windows 8. We’ve heard of Windows 8-optimized firmware, but have not, until now, seen any evidence that those optimizations might affect overclocking.

The board with the big voltage regulator, Asus’ P8Z77-I Deluxe also has the highest stable memory data rate. On the other hand, the Z77IA-E53’s third-place memory finish was still good enough to reach our memory’s rated DDR3-2666.

EVGA’s Z77 Stinger reached its top ratio limit, corresponding to DDR3-2133, with less than 1% base clock flexibility, giving it an extra 3 MHz.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.