After spending some quality time with the Z77E-ITX, it's easy to see why ASRock boards are becoming more popular. This is a good motherboard with a laundry list of features, including a number of thoughtful touches we haven't seen elsewhere. Little things like the Internet-based flashing utility and carefully oriented SATA ports really do make system assembly easier, even if they're not as flashy as the shiny gold capacitors, mSATA slot, and extra USB ports.
The additional USB connectivity is nice, but I'd trade it in a heartbeat for built-in Bluetooth. For most folks, support for wireless peripherals is likely to be more useful than the fifth and sixth USB ports, especially since those extras are no faster than the ones already provided by the Z77 platform. ASRock's XFast software at least offers a speed boost for USB devices, although there are clearly some bugs that need to be squashed.
ASRock's pre-baked overclocking presets could also use a little attention; the 4.8GHz Turbo mode would have worked perfectly with our CPU if the preset applied just a smidgen more voltage. Overall, the Z77E-ITX didn't overclock quite as well as the other Mini-ITX boards we've tested. It's tough to really ding the board for coming up only 100MHz short of its rivals, though. Considering the cooling challenges associated with miniature PCs, Mini-ITX motherboards aren't ideal for pushing overclocking limits.
The Z77E-ITX's $150 asking price seems reasonable given the board's features and capabilities. For a limited time, Newegg will throw in 8GB of DDR3-1600 Crucial Ballistix memory at no extra charge. The RAM is worth $50 on its own, but it's a single DIMM, so you'll want to add another for a dual-channel config.
Even without the memory bundle, the Z77E-ITX is a solid value. I'm even tempted to bust out our TR Recommended award, but it's difficult to give that strong of an endorsement when there are blue-screen-producing software bugs that need to be resolved. The Z77E-ITX will be easier to recommend once those issues are sorted.
39 comments — Last by Slinky at 9:20 PM on 02/14/13
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