We measured system power consumption, sans monitor and speakers, at the wall outlet using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Readings were taken at idle and under a load consisting of a Cinebench 11.5 render alongside the rthdribl HDR lighting demo. We tested with Windows 7's High Performance and Balanced power plans.
All the boards ship with power-saving features that can be enabled via the BIOS or Windows software. We tested each with these features enabled and disabled. The results with parentheses (which contain the name of each mobo maker's power-saving mojo) refer to the configurations optimized for energy efficiency.
The Z68-ITX manages the lowest power consumption of the bunch. Most of the power savings come under load, where the pint-sized wonder asks for 46W less at the socket than the next-closest competitor. Even the best small-form-factor enclosures have substantially less airflow than ATX mid-towers, making low power consumption (and, in turn, having less heat to dissipate) an essential characteristic for any serious Mini-ITX contender.
These days, most new motherboards can be overclocked in numerous ways. Auto-pilot engage via BIOS options, onboard buttons, or Windows software provided by the mobo maker. Mobo makers also provide apps that offer manual overclocking and tweaking controls in Windows. Then there's the BIOS or UEFI, where such settings can be changed more directly. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices, the Z68-ITX makes things much simpler. The only way to push this puppy beyond stock speeds is to get your hands dirty in the UEFI.
After increasing the Turbo power and current limits, we managed to get the Z68-ITX into Windows with a 45X multiplier, yielding a clock speed just shy of 4.5GHz. That speed wasn't stable while running our stress test, an eight-way Prime 95 load alongside the rthdribl HDR lighting demo, until we added a smidgen more voltage for the CPU—100 millivolts, to be exact. However, no amount of extra voltage could coax the CPU into Windows.
Two of the other three Z68 boards we've tested hit 4.7GHz with the very same CPU, but the third only did 4.5GHz. The Z68-ITX isn't quite as good an overclocker as some full-sized ATX boards, then. You won't find a Mini-ITX enclosure that's nearly as good at cooling an overclocked CPU (or accommodating aftermarket coolers) as the average desktop case, either.
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