ASRock’s Z87E-ITX Mini-ITX motherboard reviewed

This isn’t the ASRock motherboard review I thought I’d be writing. We were intent on checking out one of the company’s ATX boards as part of our rolling coverage of Z87-based Haswell motherboards. Thus far, we’ve looked at trio of full-sized desktop offerings: Asus’ Z87-PRO, Gigabyte’s Z87X-UD3H, and MSI’s Z87-GD65 Gaming. Something comparable from ASRock was supposed to complete the set, but a Mini-ITX mobo arrived instead.

Normally, the imperfect match would upset my OCD tendency toward apples-to-apples comparisons. After reviewing three ATX boards in a row, though, I could use a change of pace. Yeah, I know—#FirstWorldHardwareReviewerProblems.

Besides, it’s not like the Z87E-ITX is outmatched. Despite fighting in a lighter weight class, it packs a heavy punch. The tiny circuit board boasts wicked-fast Wi-Fi, amplified audio, and extra expansion capacity. Overclocking options abound, and the firmware has the best fan speed controls we’ve ever seen. The question may not be whether this petite puppy can keep up with the big dogs, but why you’d ever want anything larger.

As its name implies, the Z87E-ITX is based on Intel’s flagship 8-series platform for Haswell CPUs. The Z87 platform controller hub chip handles all of the board’s I/O, along with the RAID and SSD caching support. It also unlocks the overclocking options available in K-series Haswell processors, including the CPU multiplier, base clock, and BCLK strap. Intel incorporates provisions for multi-card graphics configurations as part of the Z87 platform, as well, but the Z87E-ITX doesn’t have enough expansion slots to take advantage.

The single PCIe x16 slot is complemented by full-sized DIMM slots, allowing the Z87E-ITX to work with common desktop components. Getting desktop parts to cooperate with each other inside smaller Mini-ITX chassis can be trying, though. Since we can’t test every possible combination of parts, we’ve taken a handful of key measurements to give you a sense of where the socket sits relative to important landmarks.

Far too many Mini-ITX motherboards put the PCI Express slot right next to the CPU socket, making it difficult to combine expansion cards with larger, aftermarket coolers. That’s not an issue on the Z87E-ITX, whose socket is about as far away from the PCIe slot as possible.

The DIMM slots are relatively close to the socket, just like on every other Intel board we’ve seen over the past few years. Be careful when pairing taller memory modules with wider CPU coolers.

Clearance for memory modules and chassis scaffolding will probably be your biggest concerns when using larger CPU heatsinks. The only other onboard components around the socket are too short to get in the way.

Moving to Mini-ITX necessarily entails some sacrifices. There are only two DIMM slots rather than four, for example. PCI Express expansion is also limited to a single slot, at least on this side of the board. The Z87E-ITX hides a Mini-PCIe slot on the other side of the PCB. This secondary slot can be used for tiny PCIe devices or mSATA SSDs.

Six internal SATA ports add to the Z87E-ITX’s diverse array of storage options. There’s even an eSATA connector in the rear panel. The Z87 chipset only supports six 6Gbps SATA devices at a time, though.

On the USB front, the Z87 serves up six SuperSpeed connectors. Two of these are accessible via an internal header, while the remainder populates the I/O cluster.

The Z87E-ITX has a fairly standard array of peripheral connectors. Buried among them is something we don’t see all the time: a CMOS reset button. Hitting this external switch is much more convenient than popping open the system to access an internal jumper, especially within the shoebox-like confines of typical Mini-ITX cases.

Another nice touch is the S/PDIF audio output, which passes pristine digital bitstreams to compatible speakers and receivers. ASRock goes the extra mile by adding DTS Interactive support. The DTS tech encodes 5.1-channel audio in real time, allowing surround sound from games to be piped through the digital output. If you’re stuck with only two speakers, DTS Neo:PC software provides surround sound virtualization. You could also opt for the virtual surround algorithm embedded in the Realtek audio drivers.

The onboard codec is Realtek’s latest: the ALC1150. This chip boasts a higher SNR than Realtek’s 800-series codecs, and it’s paired with a Texas Instruments NE5532 amplifier powerful enough to drive headphones rated up to 600 O.

ASRock has loaded up on networking options, too. The Z87E-ITX’s wired Gigabit connection is handled by an Intel chip, while 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are supplied by an AzureWave Mini PCIe card. Built-in support for the latest Wi-Fi standard is a nice bonus given the board’s limited expansion capacity—and given its suitability for home-theater PCs that may not have an RJ45 jack within reach. The antenna is reasonably discreet, and it has a long enough leash to be positioned for maximum signal strength.

Old-school firmware learns new tricks

With a brown circuit board and gold accents, the Z87E-ITX gives off a bit of a retro vibe. The firmware has an old-school feel, too. It’s arranged much like a traditional BIOS, just with slightly improved graphics and mouse support.

This may not be the prettiest firmware interface, but it gets the job done. The mouse tracking is smooth, the menu transitions are quick, and navigating is a breeze. The only break in fluidity appears in the background image, whose flickering star animation stutters visibly. A static backdrop would have been a better choice.

As on all the other Z87 boards we’ve tested, the firmware is bursting with overclocking and tweaking controls. You’ll probably only ever touch a small fraction of them. Everything is laid out logically, and most values can be entered directly using the keyboard. Mouse-centric UI elements are few and far between, though.

We can add ASRock to the list of motherboard makers sneakily increasing Turbo multipliers, but an asterisk is warranted. The Z87E-ITX shipped to us with firmware revision 1.21a, whose defaults effectively overclocked the CPU by 200MHz. Instead of observing the Core i7-4770K’s prescribed Turbo speeds, which call for 3.9GHz with one- and two-core loads, 3.8GHz with three-core loads, and 3.7GHz with all-core loads, the firmware kicked the CPU up to 3.9GHz regardless of the number of active cores. This configuration is out of spec, according to Intel, and it’ll void your CPU warranty.

Before putting the board through its paces, we discovered that a newer 1.4 firmware had been released online. That revision backs off on the illicit Turbo boosting, disabling the multi-core “enhancement” feature by default. We’re happy to see that ASRock has changed its tune, but we wish the board came that way in the first place.

I’ve been trumpeting the importance of firmware-based fan speed controls for what seems like an eternity, and perhaps someone at ASRock has been listening. The Z87E-ITX’s fan speed controls are the best I’ve seen incorporated into motherboard firmware.

The CPU and system fan each offer multiple presets in addition to a configurable profile—nothing we haven’t seen already. What’s new here is the degree of control over the custom profiles. Most motherboards let users adjust the high and low fan speed and temperature thresholds for custom profiles. On the Z87E-ITX, temperature and speed values can be set for four points along the fan profile. Make that 4.5 points; users also have control over the “critical” temperature at which the fan kicks up to full speed. The profile’s minimum speed can be dropped to 0%, too, allowing the fans to spin down completely if temperatures are sufficiently low. To my knowledge, this is the first time such granular fan controls have been available outside a Windows-based utility.

Unlike the Windows-based software we’ve used, the firmware’s fan profiles can’t be manipulated by dragging points with the mouse. The values for each point are entered manually, and the illustration in the sidebar doesn’t reflect your settings. At least the values available for each point change to ensure that the curve maintains an upward trajectory. The foundation is excellent, but the interface could use some work.

ASRock loads the firmware with a few other goodies, including a visual system browser that displays details on connected components. There’s a guided tour that steps users through various functions, as well. I couldn’t bring myself to sit through the whole thing, but the few minutes I watched conveyed valuable information for newbies. The interface isn’t the most intuitive overall, so it makes sense to provide a little hand-holding for the uninitiated.

The integrated BIOS flashing utility is something that both newbies and experts alike should appreciate. As with most modern motherboards, new firmware can be loaded from USB-attached storage. On the Z87E-ITX, it can also be downloaded directly from ASRock’s servers without even leaving the firmware. A working Internet connection is required, of course, but that’s it. Firmware flashing doesn’t get any easier.

The firmware’s Internet connection is also used by a tech-support function that allows users to send configuration details directly to ASRock. Amusingly, the firmware makes a Ghostbusters reference when describing the feature. ASRock is apparently not without a sense of humor.

Tweaking in Windows

If you’d rather not poke around in the firmware, the Z87E-ITX ships with tuning software for Windows. The A-Tuning app is new, as far as I can tell, and it could use a little polish.

The interface is nice and clean, but the overclocking options are a little limited. There’s no way to adjust Turbo multipliers for different loads, for example; only an all-core option is provided. The app doesn’t support changing the BCLK strap, either. Sliders are available for the base clock and integrated graphics frequencies, though, and there’s no shortage of voltage options.

The Z87E-ITX offers both adaptive and override voltages. We’d recommend that most folks use the former, which applies extra juice only when the CPU kicks into Turbo mode. That should reduce unnecessary power consumption under load.

When running in adaptive mode, the CPU can request additional voltage on top of what’s set in the firmware. Motherboard makers tell us this power grab occurs only with stress testing loads like those found in Prime95. The only way to set a hard limit on the CPU voltage is to use the override mode, which is recommended for extreme overclocking.

ASRock’s software fan controls are even better than those in the firmware. They provide the same degree of granular control but add mouse-friendly graphs to the equation. Points on the curve can be dragged and dropped with ease.

As has become fashionable for the latest round of mobo tweaking software, the A-Tuning app also includes a fan calibrator. This function maps out the actual rotational speed, providing insight on how different spinners behave.

The system monitor built into A-Tuning software is pretty basic. All the essential variables are tracked in real time, but you only get a current snapshot. We’d rather see values graphed over time, preferably with a logging function that outputs standard CSV files.

We’ve seen RAM disk software bundled with a few different motherboards lately, and the Z87E-ITX is the latest one to join the club. I guess that’s cool, but I just don’t get the appeal. You’ll pay about $60 for 8GB of decent DDR3 these days. That works out to $7.50 per gigabyte, which is about eight times the per-gig price of the fastest SSDs. A RAM disk will technically be faster, but it will also be a lot smaller. Besides, modern SSDs are pretty quick already.

If you go the RAM disk route, the A-Tuning app provides a few handy features. Simple switches control whether the RAM disk is used for various cache and temporary files. There’s also an integrated backup routine that can preserve the contents of the drive through a reboot.

Overclocking

The Z87E-ITX can be overclocked several different ways, and we tried a few of them. For newbies, the most tempting method is invoking the auto-OC feature built into the A-Tuning software. This iterative auto-tuner steps up the CPU clock speed and tests stability along the way. It didn’t get very far with our Core i7-4770K, though. The system hard-locked at 4.1GHz, requiring a manual reboot. After that, it locked at 4GHz and then again at 3.9GHz. In the end, the auto-tuner settled on a disappointing 3.8GHz all-core speed, just 100MHz above stock.

Next, we turned our attention to the firmware, which features a collection of pre-baked overclocking profiles in 200MHz increments. Our system booted into Windows with the 4.8GHz preset, but it immediately started throttling under load. Even with our dual-fan Corsair H80 water cooler drawing heat away from the CPU, temperatures still spiked up to 95°C, causing the CPU to reduce its clock speed.

The 4.8GHz profile called for a CPU voltage of 1.42V, which is quite high for Haswell. The 4.6GHz preset demanded only 1.32V, and it cut CPU temperatures by 11°C. That was enough to keep throttling at bay and give us our highest stable speed.

Manual overclocking proved more difficult. On the Z87 motherboards we’ve tested from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI, the CPU can be overclocked by doing little more than changing the Turbo multiplier and adjusting a few voltages. All the other settings can be left at their “auto” defaults, allowing the firmware to make adjustments as it sees fit.

On the Z87E-ITX, the auto settings don’t react particularly well to overclocking. We couldn’t even get the board to boot at a lowly 4GHz without setting the CPU voltage manually. 4.2GHz required flipping a bunch of separate switches, some related to power management and the CPU’s integrated VRM. We basically copied the changes made by the auto-OC presets. Those tweaks got us up to 4.6GHz before things went sideways again.

Surprisingly, our manually tuned 4.6GHz config wasn’t as stable as the preset one. We played with everything from power limits to load-line calibration, but we couldn’t get the manual setup to survive our stress test without throttling or spitting out a BSOD. We must have missed one of changes made by the auto preset.

We’ve hit similar speeds on other Z87 boards with much less fiddling, making the experience on the Z87E-ITX somewhat frustrating. Unless you really enjoy tweaking obscure firmware settings, you’re better off sticking with the presets.

Performance highlights

Comparative performance testing is a big part of what we do here at TR. However, it’s been a while since motherboards have had a substantial impact on system performance. These days, application and gaming performance tends to be bottlenecked by the CPU and GPU. Adding an SSD can improve overall system responsiveness, and faster memory can provide a boost in some scenarios, but that’s about it. Thanks to increased platform integration, even peripheral performance is largely consistent from one mobo model to the next—and between different form factors.

There are rare exceptions to this general rule, and the only way to find them is to test motherboards exhaustively. We did so with the Z87E-ITX and full-sized Z87 boards from Asus, Gigabyte, and MSI. We also threw an Ivy Bridge-based Z77 board into the mix. We didn’t encounter any big surprises, though. The highlights of our findings are summarized below.

The first test we ran was Stream memory bandwidth. Right off the bat, the Z87E-ITX stumbled. Despite using the same Corsair DIMMs, DRAM frequency, and memory timings as the competition, the ASRock board pulled up a few GB/s short here. This result persisted after multiple reboots and even after re-imaging the system. However, it didn’t seem to affect performance in our other tests.

Despite its bandwidth disadvantage, the Z87E-ITX had no trouble keeping up in our application and gaming tests. The biggest differences here are between the Haswell boards and our lone Ivy Bridge representative.

Our peripheral performance tests make frequent use of a PCIe SSD, which required some juggling on the Z87E-ITX. Since the board has only one full-sized expansion slot, we had to remove the graphics card to make room for our RevoDrive 3 X2 SSD. All the peripheral testing for the Z87E-ITX was conducted with the RevoDrive installed and the integrated graphics powering the display.

Switching to the integrated graphics didn’t slow down the board at all. The Z87E-ITX had no problem matching the peripheral performance of its peers, as this smattering of results nicely illustrates.

If you’re running Windows 8 and have UASP-compliant USB gear, don’t bother with ASRock’s XFast USB software. It didn’t improve the performance of our UASP-enabled BlacX drive dock. The XFast app is meant for Windows 7, which lacks native UASP support, and for older USB devices that don’t support the SCSI-like protocol.

We tend to see somewhat wider performance differences between motherboards in our boot tests. Here, we test boards with and without their fast-boot options enabled.

The Z87E-ITX booted into Windows 8 quicker than any other motherboard we’ve tested—and by a couple of seconds at that. Mini-ITX mobos typically have fewer devices to initiate than their ATX counterparts, and I suspect that’s worth a second or two. We’ll have to test some other Mini-ITX Haswell boards to get a better sense of where the ASRock sits versus more direct competitors.

Power consumption

There’s usually some variance in power consumption between different mobos, especially when you’re dealing with different form factors. We measured power draw at the wall socket with our test system at idle, playing a 1080p YouTube video, and under a full load combining Cinebench rendering with the Unigine Valley demo.

When idling and playing YouTube video, our Z87E-ITX config drew about 10W less than the Asus and Gigabyte Z87 systems. The Asus was slightly more power-efficient when crunching our full system load, however.

Compared to its larger rivals, the Z87E-ITX has relatively low-key power circuitry feeding the CPU. The efficiency of that power delivery system appears to suffer under heavy loads.

That’s it for our performance highlights. If you’ve seen enough test results, feel free to skip ahead to the conclusion for our final thoughts on the Z87E-ITX. Otherwise, flip to the next page for the full motherboard specs, details on our system configuration, and all of our benchmark data.

Detailed specifications

Most of the essentials have been covered already, but here’s a complete list of the Z87E-ITX’s hardware specifications and vital firmware options.

Platform Intel Z87 Express, socket LGA1150
DIMM slots 2 DDR3, 16GB max
Expansion slots 1 PCIe 3.0 x16 via CPU

1 Mini PCIe/mSATA via Z87

Storage I/O 6 SATA RAID 6Gbps via Z87
Audio 8-channel HD via Realtek ALC1150

Texas Instruments TI-NE5532 headphone amp

Wireless Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi via AzureWave AW-CE123H

Bluetooth 4.0 via AzureWave AW-CE123H

Ports 1 DVI

1 HDMI

1 DisplayPort

1 PS/2 keyboard

4 USB 3.0 via Z87
2 USB 3.0 internal headers via Z87

2 USB 2.0 via Z87
4 USB 2.0 via internal headers via Z87

1 eSATA via Z87
1 Gigabit Ethernet via Intel I217-V

1 analog front out

1 analog center out

1 analog rear out
1 analog line in

1 analog mic in

1 digital S/PDIF output

Overclocking All-core Turbo multiplier: 37-120X

Per-core Turbo multiplier: 8-120X

CPU cache multiplier: 1-120X

BCLK ratio: 1, 1.25, 1.67, 2.5
Base clock: 90-300MHz
DRAM clock: 800-4000MHz

CPU voltage: 0.8-2.0V

CPU offset voltage: 0.1-1.0V
CPU cache voltage: 0.8-2.0V
CPU cache offset voltage: 0.1-1.0V
System agent offset voltage: 0.1-1.0V
Analog I/O offset voltage: 0.1-1.0V
Digital I/O offset voltage: 0.1-1.0V
Vcore external offset voltage: 0-0.4V
DRAM voltage: 1.165-1.8V

PCH 1.05 voltage: 0.997-1.322V
PCH 1.5 voltage: 1.369-1.699V

Fan control CPU, SYS: Silent, standard, performance, full-speed profiles

CPU, SYS: Four-point speed/temp profile

CPU, SYS: Full-speed temp threshold

All that’s squeezed into a Mini-ITX motherboard. Not bad, eh?

As a little bonus for everyone who didn’t skip ahead to the conclusion, here’s a shot of our test system. The Z87E-ITX looks almost comically small next to the graphics card, PSU, and water cooler.

Our testing methods

We used the following system configurations for testing.

Processor Intel Core i7-3700K 3.5GHz Intel Core i7-4770K 3.5GHz
CPU cooler Corsair H80
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-V Asus Z87-PRO ASRock Z87E-ITX Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
Bios revision 1908 1007 1.4 F6B 1.3B2
Platform hub Intel Z77 Express Intel Z87 Express Intel Z87 Express Intel Z87 Express Intel Z87 Express
Chipset drivers Chipset: 9.4.0.1017

RST: 12.5.0.1066

Chipset: 9.4.0.1017

RST: 12.5.0.1066

Chipset: 9.4.0.1017

RST: 12.5.0.1066

Chipset: 9.4.0.1017

RST: 12.5.0.1066

Chipset: 9.4.0.1017

RST: 12.5.0.1066

Audio Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC898 Realtek ALC1150
Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance Pro Series DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II with 320.18 drivers
Hard drive Corsair Force Series GT 120GB

Samsung 830 Series 256GB

OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 240GB

Power Supply Corsair AX850 850W
OS Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise x64

Thanks to Intel, Corsair, Samsung, OCZ, and Asus for providing the hardware used in our test systems. We should also thank the motherboard makers for providing their products for review.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • All testing was conducted with motherboard power-saving options enabled. These features can sometimes lead to slightly slower performance, particularly in peripheral tests that don’t cause the CPU to kick into high gear. We’d rather get a sense of motherboard performance with real-world configurations, though; we’re not as interested in comparing contrived setups with popular features disabled.
  • DiRT Showdown was tested with ultra detail settings, 4X MSAA, and a 1920×1200 display resolution. We used Fraps to log a 60-second snippet of gameplay from the demo’s first race. To offset the fact that our gameplay sequence can’t be repeated exactly, we ran this test five times on each system.
  • Power consumption was measured at the wall socket for the complete system, sans monitor and speakers, using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Our video playback load used this 1080p YouTube trailer for the movie Looper. The full-load test combined AIDA64’s CPU stress test with the Unigine Valley DirectX 11 demo running in a 1280×720 window.
  • The Force GT 120GB SSD was used as the system drive for all tests. The Samsung 830 Series 256GB was connected as secondary storage to test Serial ATA and USB performance, the latter through a UASP-compatible Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. With RoboBench, we used the Samsung SSD as the source drive and the OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 240GB as the destination for the read speed tests. Those roles were reversed for RoboBench’s write speed tests.
    The Samsung/OCZ tag team also powered our Ethernet transfer tests. The RevoDrive served as the source and destination on the host system, while the 830 Series SSD performed those duties on the remote machine. That remote rig was based on an Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel 82579 Gigabit Ethernet controller. The two systems were connected via a single Cat 6 Ethernet cable.

    The Samsung and OCZ SSDs were secure-erased before each test that involved them. The Corsair drive was also wiped before we loaded our system image.

  • Analog audio signal quality was tested using RMAA’s “loopback” test, which pipes front-channel output through the board’s line input. We tested with the boards idling and with a combined load consisting of Cinebench’s multithreaded rendering test, the Unigine Valley demo, and a CrystalDiskMark 4KB random I/O test running on the Samsung SSD attached via USB 3.0.

The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. All tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of those results. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Memory bandwidth

All our systems used Corsair DIMMs running at 1600MHz with identical timings.

Productivity

Kraken JavaScript performance

We tested the latest Kraken release, version 1.1, in Chrome 27.

TrueCrypt disk encryption

TrueCrypt’s AES algorithm benefits from acceleration via Intel’s AES-NI instructions, which are supported by our Ivy Bridge and Haswell CPUs. We’ve also included results for another algorithm, Twofish, that isn’t accelerated via dedicated instructions.

7-Zip file compression and decompression

The figures below were extracted from 7-Zip’s built-in benchmark.

Video encoding

x264 video encoding

We’ve devised a new x264 test, which involves one of the latest builds of the encoder with AVX2 support. To test, we encoded a one-minute, 1080p .m2ts video using the following options:

–profile high –preset medium –crf 18 –video-filter resize:1280,720 –force-cfr

The source video was obtained from a repository of stock videos on this website. We used the Samsung Earth from Above clip.

Gaming

DiRT Showdown

We busted out our Inside the second methods to testing gaming performance. While we aren’t showing all of our fancy latency graphs, we have included results for FPS and the 99th percentile frame time.

Boot time

Here, we measured the boot time after a full system shutdown. We used a stopwatch to time each test and stopped the clock when “Start” first appeared on the Windows 8 Start screen. Each board was tested with and without its fast-boot options enabled, and we took full advantage of Win8-specific features when in fast-boot mode.

Remember what I said about motherboards not really affecting system performance? Yeah. Their biggest impact is on boot time, and even then, you’re only going to save a few seconds.

Serial ATA performance

CrystalDiskMark

TR RoboBench

TR developer extraordinaire Bruno “morphine” Ferreira created RoboBench, a scripted file copy benchmark that relies on Windows’ built-in robocopy command to execute eight parallel file transfer threads. The movie file set contains eight similarly sized files totaling 5.6GB, while the mixed set has a diverse collection of 14,000 files that adds up to 10.6GB.

The Z87E-ITX doesn’t have enough real estate for an auxiliary SATA controller, and that doesn’t bother us one bit. Note how the ASMedia and Marvell chips on the other boards are all slower than the Z87’s native Serial ATA implementation.

USB performance

CrystalDiskMark

TR RoboBench

Apart from a few outliers, all the USB 3.0 results are fairly close. The Z87E-ITX is just as fast as the ATX alternatives.

PCI Express performance

CrystalDiskMark

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Ethernet performance

NTttcp

TR RoboBench

The Z87E-ITX handled our networking tests with aplomb. We’d like to test wireless networking performance, but it’s difficult to get consistent results. We may have to look into setting up something special for future motherboard reviews. Wi-Fi is certainly appearing on more and more models.

Analog audio signal quality

RightMark Audio Analyzer grades analog signal quality on a scale between “very poor” and “excellent.” We’ve translated those values to a numerical scale that starts at low of one and peaks at six. Higher values are better.

Our first set of results was gathered with the systems idling (apart from the RMAA app, of course). The second batch is based on tests conducted with the system under a combined CPU, GPU, and USB load.

RightMark Audio Analyzer audio quality at idle: 24-bit/192kHz
Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD THD + Noise IMD + Noise Stereo Crosstalk IMD at 10kHz Overall score
Asus P8Z77-V 6 4 4 5 4 5 6 5 5
Asus Z87-PRO 6 5 5 5 4 4 5 5 5
ASRock Z87E-ITX 6 5 5 5 4 5 6 6 5
Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H 6 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming 6 4 4 5 3 4 5 5 4
RightMark Audio Analyzer audio quality under load: 24-bit/192kHz
Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD THD + Noise IMD + Noise Stereo Crosstalk IMD at 10kHz Overall score
Asus P8Z77-V 6 4 4 5 4 5 6 5 5
Asus Z87-PRO 6 5 5 5 4 4 5 5 5
ASRock Z87E-ITX 6 5 5 5 4 5 6 6 5
Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H 6 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming 6 4 4 5 3 4 5 5 4

The Z87E-ITX’s integrated audio has strong analog signal quality regardless of whether the system is idling or under load. Its performance in RMAA’s tests is comparable to that of ATX desktop boards, which is impressive given the cramped nature of the Mini-ITX form factor. The closer together everything is on the PCB, the greater the chance of interference.

If you’re really serious about audio quality, we’d recommend using the digital outputs or a USB audio device. You’ll probably want to run a graphics card in the Z87E-ITX’s only full-sized PCI Express slot, leaving no room for a discrete sound card.

Conclusions

The Z87E-ITX makes a pretty good case for ditching full-sized ATX motherboards in favor of smaller Mini-ITX models. You don’t give up any performance, and there’s plenty of expansion capacity onboard: six 6Gbps SATA ports and six USB 3.0 ports should be enough for just about anyone these days. Having only two memory slots won’t be a serious limitation for most folks, leaving PCIe connectivity as the only potential sticking point.

ASRock addresses that unavoidable limitation in two ways. First, it gives the Z87E-ITX an open Mini PCIe slot to accept smaller expansion cards and tiny SSDs. Second, it beefs up the integrated peripherals to make up for the fact that you’re pretty much stuck with them. The Gigabit Ethernet uses an Intel chip, the Wi-Fi is the latest 802.11ac revision, and the audio has an integrated headphone amp and a bunch of DTS tech.

You pay for those extras: the Z87E-ITX sells for $165, which is a good $25-30 more than Z87 Mini-ITX boards from Gigabyte and MSI. Those alternatives aren’t as well equipped, though. They can’t match the Z87E-ITX’s excellent firmware-based fan controls, either.

In addition to great fan options, the firmware has a slick auto-update feature and a snappy UI. That said, it has a few rough edges here and there. ASRock’s tweaking utility also feels unpolished next to the software bundled with rival boards.

The somewhat finicky nature of ASRock’s software and firmware make me hesitant to recommend the Z87E-ITX to newbies—the overall experience isn’t what I’d call user-friendly. However, the mix of hardware and features is spot-on for an enthusiast-grade Mini-ITX board. And, if you know what you’re doing, the firmware is powerful enough for serious system tuning. For discerning PC fans, this looks like the Mini-ITX Haswell board to beat.

Comments closed
    • megame
    • 6 years ago

    I just built a machine with the B85 chipset version B85M-ITX and I can confirm it has the same great Bios fan controls.
    (Which is just as well because the A-tuner windows app is horrible!)

    I Haven’t tried different fan types, but it can control do voltage control (3 pin) at least from the chassis fan header.

    • jennychapell17
    • 6 years ago
    • MonicaWhite03
    • 6 years ago
    • JuliaOfeefe4
    • 6 years ago
    • LucileBentz03
    • 6 years ago
    • gamerguy23099
    • 6 years ago
    • gamerguy23099
    • 6 years ago
    • SOUK
    • 6 years ago

    Thanks for the good overview of this board. I’ve just ordered one to pair up with an all white BitFenix Prodigy Mini-ITX case, I got this in a sale today too..result!

    I would of gone for a ASUS ROG Maximus VI Impact Mini-ITX Motherboard if it had been released, but I’m pretty sure it will be a hell of allot more expensive than what I paid for this today. Plus this has got pretty much everything I want or need on it. This my first step away from the ATX motherboards … Fingers crossed!

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      The mini-ITX BitFenix Prodigy is bigger on the outside than some micro-ATX cases.

        • internetsandman
        • 6 years ago

        Can those mATX cases cool a high end rig as effectively?

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 6 years ago

          In all probability, yes.

          P.S.: Check out the Silverstone SUGO SG10, for example.
          [url<]https://techreport.com/news/24179/silverstone-sg10-case-accepts-microatx-mobos-full-sized-components[/url<] The 32.6 liter mini-ITX Prodigy takes up 142% of the space of the 23 liter micro-ATX SG10 and provides just 25% of the PCIe slots.

    • mutarasector
    • 6 years ago

    Still no mITX mobos with Thunderbolt…

    I can’t figure out why Intel can roll out a second iteration of its NUC series with TB, yet no mobo makers can manage to include a TB port on their $150+ mobo…

      • internetsandman
      • 6 years ago

      Perhaps because Intel doesn’t have to pay the licensing fees to use it? I’m not sure what the deal is when it comes to TB being used on non intel devices

        • mutarasector
        • 6 years ago

        I can understand that (to a degree) as far as AMD based systems, but not Intel based mITX mobos. What strikes me odd is if there was a mobo form factor that just begs for TB connectivity, it would be mITX, yet still none exist. I mean, mITX boards have only one PCIe expansion as it is. While some may have mini PCIe for internal expansion, seems to me that the pcb real estate would be better utilized for integration of a TB controller, and give up PS2 ports, a mini PCIe port (many have two of these these days), and/or wireless networking.

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    It’s kinda funny how board makers often include a VGA D-sub port but rarely include Wi-Fi, which must be the single most widely used external data connection method used after USB. eSATA, Firewire and HDMI are also often thrown in but I can imagine much fewer people really needing them as well.

    As for VGA, I’m not trying to sound mean, but it may perhaps be appropriate only for low end boards where those who buy it are still chugging along with old 17″ CRT displays, or boards that are targeted at industrial applications. Given how affordable LCD panels are these days I can’t imagine anyone still using an old CRT especially if he/she can afford a Z87 board + Haswell.

    My previous board had eSATA and Firewire, plus 6 USB ports at the back. Never used the eSATA and Firewire ports and I can’t say I regret not having them now that my current board doesn’t have them and instead has 10 USB (8 x 2.0, 2 x 3.0) ports on the back panel I/O cluster. A much more useful setup, I think.

      • Calico
      • 6 years ago

      The VGA D-sub is rarely there for CRTs anymore, although the low-end seems to have hung onto the connector for LCDs. The main reason it exists is for the ability to connect to legacy projection systems that frequently have a wall jack for a VGA d-sub, and in-wall wiring that’s expensive to replace. DVI is not the solution for this market either given the length of cable that’s often necessary, and the wide variety of components that must operate together. HDMI could work, but Display Port is probably what would be best, and maybe when display port becomes ubiquitous, we’ll see meeting rooms and class rooms wired with that.

    • Shoki
    • 6 years ago

    What is the smallest case this thing will fit in?

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      With a top-of-the-line graphics card installed in the single PCIe slot? How about the [url=http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=317<]Silverstone SUGO SG08[/url<]? Without a graphics card? Would the InWin K1 case + monitor stand work?

        • Beelzebubba9
        • 6 years ago

        I just built a PC around the Asrock Z87E-ITX and the SG08. It’s a nice case!

      • internetsandman
      • 6 years ago

      If you’re ok with mid-range graphics, the FT03 Mini from Silverstone can accommodate a slim all in one water cooling setup and is smaller than the SG08

      • blaziecat1103
      • 6 years ago

      If you don’t need an expansion slot, probably the Antec ISK 110. If you do need a discrete graphics card, a FT03 Mini is probably your best bet.

    • kumori
    • 6 years ago

    I’m looking forward to the Haswell version of the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe. This will most likely be the motherboard to beat in this form factor.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      The only announced Asus mini-ITX LGA1150 motherboard is the [url=http://www.asus.com/us/Motherboards/H87IPLUS/<]H87I-Plus[/url<].

        • internetsandman
        • 6 years ago

        Is the ROG Impact not coming to market?

        • Bauxite
        • 6 years ago

        Impact is on the rog site, Anandtech put up some shots of the Z87-i they have. They’re coming.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 6 years ago

          Apparently, there was an engineering sample and press conference at Computex that I missed.
          [url<]http://rog.asus.com/tag/maximus-vi-impact/[/url<] [url<]http://www.anandtech.com/show/7023/asus-rog-press-conference-rog-maximus-vi-formula-and-impact[/url<] It hasn't appeared on the Asus product page nor on vendors' shelves. [url<]http://www.asus.com/us/Motherboards/Intel_Platform_Products/[/url<]

    • pedro
    • 6 years ago

    Thanks for this Jeffrey.

    • albundy
    • 6 years ago

    “The Z87E-ITX booted into Windows 8 quicker than any other motherboard we’ve tested—and by a couple of seconds at that. Mini-ITX mobos typically have fewer devices to initiate than their ATX counterparts”

    such as? i would think it would have more to initiate like BT, WiFi, and mSATA along with eSATA.

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    Perhaps it’s just me, but I’d trade four of those SATA ports for two extra dimm slots.

    ASrock is starting to look better and better. They’re shaping up to be a fine opponent for Asus, just give their boards a couple more generations and they should be exactly on par or better then Asus boards. In my short run with the ASrock board I had, the integrated firmware update is god send. It should have been included 10 years ago. You could even go so far as to have the firmware check for new stuff on boot and auto-update it (other devices do it all the time, why not motherboards?).

    Really there should be a cohesive spec for firmware checks on boot. Say for all the devices and then updating all of them if new firmware is available (a option to disable it could be added to). So other manufacturers have the option of tweaking their firmware after release for things like graphics cards, network adapters, raid cards, sound cards… I can’t say there has really been a reason to update most of those, but that may change if the process was easily available.

    Other then that, it’d be nice if they started adding 10GigE to these boards. “But Bensam there aren’t 10GigE devices available for consumers!”, it’ll eventually get there… especially if boards have it by default. Most people aren’t going to have a 802.11ac router, but they still added it and it works perfectly fine with old infrastructure. The same can be said about 10Gb.

      • Airmantharp
      • 6 years ago

      I’m actually wondering why 10GbE hasn’t started to proliferate the enthusiast sector; I think I can blame Intel, though. They drug their feet putting in a CPU <-> chipset link that could handle USB3, hard to expect them to be willing to put in enough bandwidth to support another higher bandwidth connection, on their consumer parts, at least.

        • Bensam123
        • 6 years ago

        Even putting aside Intel or AMD taking up 10Gb, why don’t we see chips from other makers getting embedded? Killer Nic should’ve been among the first.

        I’m not sure about Intel being against bandwidth usage by peripherals… I mean they’re pushing Tbolt and the main draw of that is bandwidth. One PCIE gen 3 lane could handle all the bandwidth requirements of 10Gb.

          • Airmantharp
          • 6 years ago

          They took forever to get there though. They were at least- at the very effing least- five years behind on USB3. And they had led the way up until that point.

          The hard part about it is, 1GbE is too slow for modern storage solutions; even spinners are exceeding the effective transfer rate, and those are going out of style real fast. It doesn’t take much effort to get 1GB/s+ out of a few SSDs, and it’s not prohibitively expensive either. It’s not unreasonable to want to be able to push that across wired networks, at least, given that the protocols and interface mediums are already well defined.

            • chuckula
            • 6 years ago

            I can’t see how it’s possible for Intel to be 5 years behind on USB 3 when the standard only came into existence in November of 2008 and Linux, which was the first major operating system with built-in support for the full USB 3 stack, didn’t even have software support until September of 2009 (written by Intel employees BTW, which made AMD’s life much easier when their first USB 3 chipsets hit the market). Intel’s first built-in USB 3 motherboards came out about 10 months after AMD’s, and it’s probably just different product introduction cadences that we have to blame for the discrepency.

            As for 10GB ethernet, you forget one vital thing: While any system from the last 4 years or so can support a 10GB card, you need to have a full end-to-end 10Gbit network to really take advantage of those speeds. In an enterprise environment you can have such a setup, but is it really Intel’s fault that there are zero 10Gbit home-routers available anywhere? Then you have to consider that a huge proportion of network traffic is going out over the Internet where a 10GBit does exactly zero good for 99.9% of users, and maybe (*maybe*) has a marginal speedup for Google Fiber users under absolute best-case operating conditions.

            People always complain that PCIe 3 is worthless, but then they also complain that they don’t have 10Gbit ethernet. Well… if it’s that vital, then make those worthless PCIe 3 lanes do something by getting a 10GBit network card. I’m sorry they’re expensive, and believe me I’d like 10Gbit ethernet too, but it’s silly to blame Intel/AMD/Marvell/Broadcomm/Ralink/etc./etc. for the fact that 10Gbit ethernet has relatively little utility in small-scale networks right now.

            • Airmantharp
            • 6 years ago

            Intel and AMD were both behind when it came to getting USB3 on their chipsets- and they shouldn’t have been, especially not Intel. I may have been exaggerating by saying that they were 5 years behind, but I’m not exaggerating by much. Motherboards have been shipping with USB3 for a very long time.

            10GbE has the same adoption problem anything else does, especially since it’s ahead of it’s time (my way of summarizing your response). Chicken and the egg sort of thing. I had hoped that it would follow the same adoption pattern as 1GbE, where we had controllers on motherboards before supporting switches were ever within a consumer’s reach. And that’s where the disappointment stems from; until they get the controllers on the boards, the switch makers have very little reason to innovate and compete on price. Further adding to the frustration is that 10GbE is really a simple thing, from Intel’s and AMD’s and Realtek’s and Broadcom’s perspectives’. Adding it would take very little effort.

            And I didn’t say anything about PCIe 3.0 being worthless! But I know you’re not talking about me, specifically.

        • Bauxite
        • 6 years ago

        They do discount the hell out of their latest x540 dual port 10Gb chip, but only when bought with E5 xeon chipsets.

        I’m not sure how they bundle it exactly, but [url=http://www.superbiiz.com/detail.php?name=MB-X9SRTFB<]this motherboard@$480[/url<] is a great example, also comes with a SAS chip that is easily $300 on a standalone card. I really wish I had an excuse to build a system around it... For reference, even new server pull x540-T2 are $400 on ebay, and [url=http://ark.intel.com/products/58954/Intel-Ethernet-Converged-Network-Adapter-X540-T2<]MSRP is $500[/url<]. A good part of it not showing up embedded on LGA115x boards is it does expect x8 2.1 pci-e lanes to feed it. (and no, you can't cheat with x4 3.0 lanes unless both ends support it)

          • Airmantharp
          • 6 years ago

          Thanks for the examples; I’d bet that adapting 4x PCIe 3.0 to 8x PCIe 2.0 is fairly straightforward and inexpensive if sourced from PLX in bulk. And enthusiasts don’t need two of them of them yet :).

          I’d bet that it’s still just a matter of projected return on investment not being high enough to justify developing larger economy of scale for such products. Of course, the other side is the cost of switching equipment, which Intel makes look absolutely cheap in comparison.

      • Beelzebubba9
      • 6 years ago

      10Gbe switching and cabling is still far too costly for most consumer applications and there’s really not much need otherwise. As nerds, there’s a lot of stuff that’s ‘nice’ to have, but the only uses I can think of for 10Gbe involve IP based storage or densely provisioned VM hosts; neither of which have much place in the home.

        • Airmantharp
        • 6 years ago

        For VM’s? No, I don’t think we need faster interconnects in the home. I’d agree that such work is still the purview of enterprises (which you could run out of your home, I guess).

        But storage is another matter. I can saturate 1GbE with an old spinning disk- newer ones are marching (slowly) towards doubling that rate. In that vane, I can saturate a 10GbE link with a pair of SSD’s in RAID0, as can any consumer.

        And I can use that bandwidth too; try browsing collections in Lightroom. I know that’s a specific example that doesn’t apply to most here, but it’s painful even with a Vertex II (Sandforce 1) dedicated to the task. The reality of content creation with 20MP stills and 1080p (and soon 4k) videos is that you need all of the storage throughput you can get, and you just might want it in more than one place.

    • SuperSpy
    • 6 years ago

    I’m loving the component measurements. If I was building a system out of this (sadly, I’m not) those figures would be a godsend.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      Definitely. I haven’t seen another site that does that with such nice pictures.

    • DPete27
    • 6 years ago

    You’re going to knock the AsRock ITX board for drawing 3W more under load than the Asus Z87-Pro with almost [b<]twice as many power phases?[/b<] I think AsRock did a pretty good job in that comparison.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 6 years ago

    Great review. It’s nice to see an ITX board that incorporates a full compliment of chipset SATA ports. Moving the socket away from the PCIe slot is great too, but I now realize that introduces another potential problem – large coolers may just bump up against the side of a case if exhausting toward the I/O panel. Oh well, it’s better than a guaranteed problem with expansion cards. I suppose it won’t be until the southbridge is fully integrated into the CPU before we’ll see a socket dead center to avoid both of these problems.

    Regarding fan controls…I’m glad you’re obsessed with them and give detailed overviews but I’ve got something else for you to check: whether a fan header can control both 4-pin PWM fans and 3-pin voltage-only fans. Some motherboards can control both types from PWM headers, while others will control PWM fans but can only run voltage-only fans at full speed. The former is obviously better and opens up fan choices for the noise-obsessed.

    p.s. – page 4, 4th paragraph (after DiRT Showdown chart) should say Ivy Bridge instead of Sandy Bridge I think, according to ‘testing methods’ you used a ‘3700K’…uuh, I guess that should be fixed too 😉

      • Airmantharp
      • 6 years ago

      Every time I look at these boards, I basically realize that to get away with using one I’ll either have to use a stock HSF, an HSF that’s very close to the stock one, an integrated water-cooler, or that I’ll have to start doing some serious research concerning available high-performance air coolers, fans, and their relationship to the enclosure I’d want to put this board in as it is affected by the location of the CPU socket.

      Generally, I just stop at using the stock HSF, or an integrated water-cooler for overclocking/silence. IWCs are likely easier to put in most ITX enclosures as well, since they can be inserted into the existing airflow scheme.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 6 years ago

        If a tall tower cooler will fit, you can always mount it parallel to the PCIe slot too…it’s just probably not ideal for airflow. Then there are top-down coolers which may be offset from the socket, or simply small enough. The simplest option is the stock cooler though, they are pretty quiet these days even at max speed, they just aren’t good for meaningful overclocks.

        • Bauxite
        • 6 years ago

        AXP 100

        • MarkG509
        • 6 years ago

        Actually, I built a system around this board 2 weeks ago. I’m using Noctua NH-L12 (top-down) CPU cooler. It fit well, though I can’t confirm whether or not it interferes with the mSATA connector on the underside of the board.

        With an i7-4770S at stock, the hottest temps I’ve seen are 68C with only 2 x 120mm fans (rear case exhaust and the top fan on the NH-L12).

      • hbarnwheeler
      • 6 years ago

      I was about to suggest the same. It’s not always a straightforward yes/no thing, either. Some boards can control 3-pin chassis fans but not 3-pin CPU fans. If you have fewer chassis fans than you do headers, then this isn’t a problem. Still, it would be nice if these reviews were to investigate the fan control capabilities.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 6 years ago

        Yeah, and sometimes different headers on the same board have different capabilities. Testing is needed! Plus, it’s pretty easy, just hot-plug the fans.

    • internetsandman
    • 6 years ago

    Any news on the release date for the Asus ROG Impact board? I don’t expect that to fall within the same price bracket but for an ITX board it should certainly put up a good showing, I can’t wait to see a review of that one

    • Airmantharp
    • 6 years ago

    Thanks for the excellent review!

    I’m kind of surprised that there haven’t been more comments, but I am a little early; still, this is the kind of board I’m actually interested in.

    Building smaller, quieter and hopefully more efficient top-end computing systems remains a priority for me, and I’m glad you were able to put this ASRock board through it’s paces and highlight the features that are of definite advantage to all systems, but especially those that seek to cram the maximum performance available in this relatively restrictive form factor.

    That said, I’ll start a discussion of the various points that I noted as specification weaknesses:

    1. Set me on fire, but I hope that there is a version coming with Thunderbolt.*
    2. Non-Intel WiFi, and not a 3×3 adapter, but obviously rectifiable given the design, and hardly a disadvantage given the aggressive MSRP and the impressive feature-set of the included Broadcom-based adapter.
    3. No separate controller for additional SATA ports/eSATA port. I’d want to burn a SATA3 channel for the mSATA slot, but otherwise, having all six dedicated to the PCH while still being able to use eSATA could be important to those trying to use one of these as a base for an NAS box.
    4. Obviously the overclocking tools could be improved/refined a little, but that’s not as big of a deal given that the reviewer showed the board pushing their CPU into the high side of it’s known range with some finessing.

    *I’m not a fan of Thunderbolt; for most situations it comes across as a solution without a problem, and a costly one at that. However, as I’ve started to get into photography, I can really see the need for having a large, fast external storage array available, and Thunderbolt is probably the best way to attach such an array, though there are other options.

      • NeelyCam
      • 6 years ago

      Wow, you’re totally dominating this board

      • Bauxite
      • 6 years ago

      This is the bang for buck board, sounds like you should wait for one of the two asus boards coming out, but they will cost more.

      1) Thunderbolt is a overpriced feature add-on of dubious value*, even asus struck it from their two upcoming itx boards from the pictures I’ve seen (maximus intense and z87i deluxe)

      2) Price wise it would be about the same for the equivalent intel card, but to have this board ready for haswell launch they had no choice (microcenter had it on day 1 here)

      3) Literally all third party sata chips suck, you do not want. (SAS, another story) An ITX case with more than 6 drives is probably a uATX case by volume, hint hint 😉

      4) I suspect most people will be held back by cooling long before the motherboard gets in the way

      *The best way to attach a fast array of drives is by means of a SAS cable or 10Gb ethernet, so far all the thunderbolt enclosures are overpriced by far ($/TB and $/performance ratios SUCK) and none are in the league of higher end server class arrays. Fits well with their apple-oriented market though 😉

        • Airmantharp
        • 6 years ago

        Very good rebuttal-

        1. Thunderbolt is still definitely overpriced, and it is (as you mentioned at the end of your post) very Apple-centric for now, with cables and enclosures both being very expensive compared to competing implementations. I’d personally probably go for 10Gb Ethernet instead, or just settle on USB3 if I were using spinning disks for capacity over performance, as it’d take more than eight of those to really overwhelm USB3 after parity checks and so forth.

        2. Yes- they got it out the door with 802.11ac, and that’s a plus. Even the Macbook Airs recently released didn’t have Intel branded WiFi, but they had 802.11ac.

        3. I agree here too- to a point. For mSATA, you’re really just shrinking SATA, so you want the proper Intel implementation that actually gets you full speed on the interface, but I don’t think eSATA is as nearly as important, but I agree that it could be. I just don’t see it used much, which is weird given how useful it is.

        4. Very true. And most people would likely be waiting for the Asus design that has a power-plane accessory for substantial overclocking and overclocked stability; especially with the article going into detail about how difficult it was to get the board stable at reasonable speeds, and the part about having to rely on the ‘automatic’ mode, which would likely turn a few enthusiasts off.

          • MadManOriginal
          • 6 years ago

          I think the power daughterboard is overrated with Haswell. Except for sub-zero, heat from increased voltage seems to be the issue with overclocking long before power delivery, plus the power delivery for Haswell is much simplified because of on-chip VRMs.

            • Airmantharp
            • 6 years ago

            I agree that it is ‘excess’, but when you’re trying to get whatever overclock you can and you’re trying to keep it stable, it’s the right kind of excess. But that’s just my opinion; it’s more expensive, and that extra investment may not actually get you anything in return.

    • Airmantharp
    • 6 years ago

    With respect to the AzureWave 802.11ac adapter, thanks for listing the model number. I’m personally very suspicious of any WiFi adapter that is not Intel, and I’ve never heard of AzureWave before. Apparently, it is a Broadcom BCM94352HMB, [url=http://certifications.wi-fi.org/pdf_certificate.php?cid=WFA17041<]WiFi Interoperability Certificate here.[/url<] It's a 2x2 WiFi modem for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz and supports 40MHz channels on both.

      • MadManOriginal
      • 6 years ago

      If it’s 802.11ac it ought to support 80MHz channels on 5GHz for -ac operation. I don’t feel like opening the pdf though. 🙂

      • Bauxite
      • 6 years ago

      Its a real shame they didn’t use the intel 7260 2×2 AC+BT minicard instead, but it just came out and the drivers are lagging behind. You can get one for under $30 shipped though.

      I think asus actually might be waiting on those to come out before releasing their ITX boards, it would also fit with the wait for the fixed PCH usb bug revision.

      Azurewave is a very common oem of wifi cards based on either broadcom or atheros chipsets, they have been on most of the mini-itx motherboards so far. I see them a lot in laptop vendors that don’t make their own part numbers, e.g. non-dell/hp/lenovo.

        • Airmantharp
        • 6 years ago

        Cool- I just haven’t encountered Azurewave yet, as I made sure that both of my laptops had Intel dual-band cards in them, one with the 3×3 card, specifically.

        And I’d like to see a shakedown review and benchmark between the Intel 2×2 and the Broadcom 2×2; I don’t believe for a minute that the Broadcom won’t deliver the bandwidth, rather it’s the reliability of the drivers and the stability of the wireless connection in stressful circumstances, which is where I’ve had other controllers fail like clockwork.

        My best example was trying to find a reliable desktop WiFi card in my last apartment; Intel wasn’t really available when I was searching, and for the life of me I couldn’t get anything running at 2.4GHz to be reliable that wasn’t running on Intel (and even that was iffy with the 2×2 card). I finally settled on a dual-band 3×3 TP-Link PCIe card and router, and ran everything important off of 5GHz (except the printer…). That actually worked well, but I would have preferred to have had Intel on the desktop too, and now that boards are shipping with Mini-PCIe WiFi cards, I’d honestly like to stick with Intel wherever possible.

    • Airmantharp
    • 6 years ago

    When looking at the specifications page, and this applies broadly, I see a ’16GB Max’ listing for RAM. I have to wonder if this is a hard limitation, a soft one imparted by the current UEFI release, or is it just a ‘dumbing down’ of the actual capabilities of the hardware to reflect the current maximum capacity of compatible DIMMs currently available on the market?

    Should we expect this board to support 16GB DDR3 DIMMs for 32GB of total RAM when those inevitably become available on the market?

      • Mr. Eco
      • 6 years ago

      Good question, and valid in general. Can TR test if 32 GB RAM is supported?

      I know recently this has not been a problem, and even when not listed specifically, 16GB DIMMs are supported (read about it on Lenovo laptop forums), but still – TR has the board and is able to easily confirm.

      • Bauxite
      • 6 years ago

      I’m going to go with ‘dumbing down based on available dimms in the market’, pretty sure as long as the dimms use the same bank configuration then higher density chips are not a problem. (nobody makes double or quad banked non-server dimms anymore)

      Been through this a few times, x58 boards from 2008 that listed 12 or 24GB have no problems running 48.

    • Airmantharp
    • 6 years ago

    -Issue addressed-

      • Dissonance
      • 6 years ago

      Fixed. Thanks.

        • Airmantharp
        • 6 years ago

        No problem- I do have one question, though: I put that here because it’s what I’ve seen done and seen responded to by editors, but I don’t like putting it out in the open (we all make mistakes, etc.). Is there a better/preferred way to do this? I’m now regretting putting it here instead of sending an email. Also, can you delete this (or should I)? Thanks!

          • MadManOriginal
          • 6 years ago

          First, TR writers never have a problem with typo correction posts. Second, I think they put them in on purpose for the eagle-eyed anal retentives among us…it’s like a TR easter egg hunt!

            • Airmantharp
            • 6 years ago

            I will say that an email exchange involving a single character’s capitalization on a graph was very pleasant, and I think I’ll keep such things in email. One of those ‘as you would like to be treated’ things for me.

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