7-series chipsets go Mini-ITX

Big motherboard makers weren’t the only ones with 7-series motherboards on display at CES. While visiting Zotac’s suite at the show, we came across three mobos with Mini-ITX form factors, 7-series chipsets under their heatsinks, and LGA1155 sockets ready to accommodate Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processors.

The flagship sports a Z77 chipset, a POST code display, eight-phase power circuitry, and relatively beefy chipset and VRM cooling (for a mini-ITX board).

Zotac has two lower-end designs in the pipeline, too. If I recall correctly, those have "H" chipsets—so, no support for multiplier overclocking. (Right now, Intel only allows multiplier overclocking on mobos with P, Z, and X chipsets.) Nevertheless, all three of Zotac’s upcoming 7-series offerings have mSATA slots, 6Gbps Serial ATA and USB 3.0 ports, plus built-in Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi.

We asked the company if it had any full-size ATX motherboards in the works and were told that wouldn’t happen until Zotac’s UEFI is up to scratch. The UEFIs we’ve encountered on Zotac’s 6-series motherboards have been a little lacking compared to the snazzy graphical offerings of Asus, MSI, and recent Gigabyte mobos. Zotac’s response does leave the door open for future ATX designs, though.

Comments closed
    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    My only problem is… I would always shell out the other $200 for a premium case and premium ATX mobo for the applications where this is most likely useful (HTPC & what not), because the two things I think this form factor suffers are:

    1. Noise
    2. Heat

    They are not mutually exclusive either. Because the form factor you are putting this into is likely really small, the fans have to work harder and hence you get more noise.

    Now it is possible to overcome this… but I haven’t seen a case that offers the same kind of parts as a premium one would. If case manufacturers offered something that could take this level of heat generation and performance and make it have sufficient cooling and noise dampening then I would be ALL OVER this board from Zotac.

    So… I like what Zotac have done, but I need to have a case offered to me to use this board.

      • CampinCarl
      • 8 years ago

      There are multiple media center-style cases that feature only 120mm fans. For instance, [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811163158[/url<]

      • Deanjo
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]1. Noise 2. Heat[/quote<] Easily solved by under volting and under clocking. My htpc's all run passive by doing this and rely on a cheap passive video card to handle the h264 decoding.

      • sschaem
      • 8 years ago

      Are you planning to overlock and overvolt the S* out of your ivy bridge APU ?

      If not, no what you say is not true, specially about fan noise.

      Check an A8-3500M laptop: Fanless power suply ZERO noise.
      And the single fan for the super cramp ‘case’ is barely audible even when the laptop is totaly maxed out gaming.
      Its barely spinning when doing media playback.

      Any gaming GPU card in a big massive PC makes more noise… Your theory of big case == low noise is busted.

      An Ivy Bridge 3470T slightly underclocked can run fanless, and you dont need much airflow to replace the air in a small case.
      In advanced cooling design one goal is to actually restrict air flow to the component that need cooling.
      You want fresh air to go right over what need to be cooled, not fill a big empty space. Hence, smaller space == better cooling if you dont have ducks.

      what you might have faced is : overloaded power supply (tiny fan running at high RPM) , and high TDP components.

      I guess its time for you to order one if the only thing stopping you if fan noise…
      [url<]http://store.antec.com/Product/enclosure-itx/isk310-150/0-761345-15160-3.aspx[/url<]

      • deruberhanyok
      • 8 years ago

      Neither of those have been a problem in Mini ITX enclosures for years, since the 45nm Core 2 Duos for sure – possibly the 65nm ones as well, though I didn’t have any first-hand experience with those.

      To give you an example, I have a system running in an Antec ISK-300 65 (65W power supply, $70 case) with a Core i3-530, 4GB DDR3 and Intel DH57JG motherboard. I can barely hear it when it’s on and there are only two fans in the case: one Antec 80mm fan and the stock Intel heatsink.

      The current Sandy Bridge i3 processors use even less power – and I’m not even talking about the special “low power” desktop versions. Ivy Bridge will be even better about power use.

      A slightly bigger case (like a Silverstone SG05 with a 300W power supply) would be able to accommodate a mid-range video card (GTX 560, or Radeon 6800 series) and still wouldn’t have issues with noise or heat (well, unless you bought a noisy video card).

    • colinstu
    • 8 years ago

    Very impressive to see Z77 to be squashed into a mini-ITX board! Wonder how well it will be able to overclock.

    I’d really like to see the whole industry move into smaller form factors. The days of populating every expansion slot ended over 10 years ago, yet all the motherboard makers continue to max out the number of slots. Sure cf and sli need multiple slots-keep that open for enthusiasts, but for anyone who’s only going to run one video card and maybe another card… no need for all the extra stuff.

    In the end, if this Z77 board could push a i7-3770k to 4.5GHz, throw in a Radeon 7970, 2x8GB of ram and an SSD… have one hell of a rocking tiny system!

    • StuG
    • 8 years ago

    “While visiting Zotac’s suite at the show, we came across three mobos with Mini-ITX form factors, 7-series chipsets under their heatsinks, and LGA1155 sockets ready to accommodate Intel’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processors.”

    Ivy Bridge is socket LGA1155? I thought it was LGA2011 socket?

      • StuG
      • 8 years ago

      So I got -1’d for asking a legitimate question, but that same person choose not to give me an explanation?

      From what I have gathered its going to be Ivy Bridge-E that will dump into LGA2011, with the regular Ivy Bridge going into LGA1155. Not sure how I didn’t pick this up before, but now I know. I figured I would actually supply the answer, unlike Mr. -1. -_________-

        • Goty
        • 8 years ago

        Maybe it was your grammar?

          • Bensam123
          • 8 years ago

          Maybe peeplz are soopids.

            • Goty
            • 8 years ago

            A more likely explanation, for certain.

        • Duck
        • 8 years ago

        -1 because it would have taken a lot less time to google for the answer than it would have been to make that post?

      • colinstu
      • 8 years ago

      *Ivy Bridge & Sandy Bridge use socket LGA1155
      *Ivy Bridge-E & Sandy Bridge-E & Haswell”-E” (and possibly Broadwell) use socket LGA2011.

      Only one iteration of chips left for LGA1155, LGA2011 is going to be around for a couple years yet.

      No one knows that the next socket for the “non-enthusiast level” is going to be.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Do it Zotac!

    I really do appreciate their commitment to mini-itx over the years. It’s very commendable, where other companies simply offer ‘good enough’ offerings to this tiny form factor. They really should consider showing demo models to show off the capabilities of such a tiny system for lan party enthusiasts or HTPC watchers, like ads showing how such a small sleek design can be awesome. So many people still think you have to make huge compromises by going tiny, but you don’t

    To that end I really wish TR would highlight this specific niche like they used to with the Shuttle systems. The niche is definitely more mature now.

    • dpaus
    • 8 years ago

    With the improved graphics in IB, and that slot available for a decent tuner card, I can see one of these as an all-in-one HTPC/light gaming system.

      • Goty
      • 8 years ago

      Why wait when you can do the same now with Llano and get arguably better IQ?

        • dpaus
        • 8 years ago

        True, true. Also going to look at Trinity when it’s available.

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        IB has a faster CPU and runs cooler = quieter.

          • Goty
          • 8 years ago

          Mind sending me some of those engineering samples you’ve got stashed away? Also, the loudest thing in my HTPC is my WD Caviar Green, and I run a 95W Phenom II X3 at full speed. I doubt noise is really an issue in the first place with either chip, let alone whatever miniscule differences might arise. As for raw speed, that’s also clearly not an issue for most HTPCers, otherwise you wouldn’t see such a preponderance of Atom and Brazos-based HTPCs.

            • Farting Bob
            • 8 years ago

            Quietness of your cooling depends alot on your case, especially with a small, short HTPC system. Most tower coolers are out of the question and blow down coolers arent as good for high TDP chips.

            Personally i agree with you, these sort of chips shouldnt be hard to cool quietly, although power consumption will be significantly lower in the IB chips than anything AMD has out in the same performance bracket.

            My HTPC is a E-350 system. It doesnt game but then i have a gaming computer for that. I can watch high bitrate 1080p video on it just fine.

          • nicktg
          • 8 years ago

          It shouldn`t be too hard to quietly cool a Llano cpu in a typical μ-atx HTPC case but I can see Ivy Bridge having an edge in the mini-itx FF. Hopefully, Trinity will compare more favorably in this regard.

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