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The P8Z77-I Deluxe is one heck of a motherboard, and not just when compared to the other Mini-ITX options. This puppy is equipped to run with the big dogs. It also overclocks like a boss. Apart from a few PCI Express and memory slots, you really aren't losing out on much when compared to full-sized desktop models. In some respects, the Deluxe actually delivers more features and functionality than enthusiast-oriented ATX models from other manufacturers.

Windows software is the one area where Asus really outclasses its rivals. AI Suite is simply excellent. Indeed, it's good enough that most enthusiasts will have little need to poke around in the firmware interface. Asus has done a good job there, too, but the firmware doesn't stand out as much, perhaps because the competition is starting to get its act together on that front. We've been told by folks in the know that Asus is working on new innovations for its firmware interface, and we're eager to see what's in store. Let's hope there's no more MultiCore Enhancement nonsense.

A quick look at the P8Z77-I Deluxe's spec sheet confirms that it has all the important features you'd want for a Mini-ITX build, including lots of I/O capacity, robust integrated audio, wireless networking and peripheral support, and the ability to accept full-sized graphics cards. Some alternatives boast similar capabilities, but they don't necessarily include the little touches, like the wiring harness that makes front-panel connections a breeze or the easily accessible CMOS reset button that could save you a lot of headache.

The USB Boost software is a nice addition, too—one that conveys a real-world speed advantage over competing solutions. Otherwise, you won't find many performance differences between the Deluxe and other Z77 boards, be they Mini-ITX offerings or boards built on larger form factors.

Mini-ITX motherboards tend to command a bit of a price premium, and the Deluxe is more expensive than most. It rings in at $185 right now, and a near twin that adds Intel Wireless Display support can be had for another $15. Competing Mini-ITX boards based on the same platform sell for $130-165, so the Deluxe certainly isn't a bargain.

You get what you pay for, though. The P8Z77-I Deluxe's combination of thoughtful features, slick software, and easy overclocking is good enough to earn TR Recommended distinction.TR

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