Articles: Mainboards

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Testing Participants Specifications Comparison

If based on the same platform and chipsets, mini-ITX mainboards from different brands tend to have a lot in common, largely due to the restraints of the form-factor itself. There’s not much room on a 17x17cm PCB for an engineer’s imagination to unfold, especially as there are a number of obligatory requirements.

Any mini-ITX LGA1155 mainboard which is based on the Intel Z77 chipset and targeted at high-performance configurations must have at least one PCI Express x16 3.0 slot for a discrete graphics card and two DDR3 SDRAM slots for a dual-channel memory subsystem. It must be full-size memory slots, by the way, because high-speed DDR3 modules are not manufactured in the SO-DIMM form-factor. Every compact LGA1155 mainboard must also be equipped with video outputs to enable a CPU-integrated graphics core.

Some of the common features of the mainboards we’re discussing here stem from the Intel Z77’s capabilities. Every mainboard has two SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, two SATA 3 Gbit/s ports, at least four USB 3.0 ports, and a few USB 2.0 connectors. On the other hand, their developers can flexibly choose any network and audio controllers and can add onboard controllers for more SATA and USB ports. They can install mini-PCIe and mSATA expansion slots or not. And they can also choose if they want to bundle Wi-Fi/Bluetooth controllers with their products or leave that to the user.

Mini-ITX mainboards are quite different in terms of their overclocking capabilities. The compact form-factor doesn't allow to implement a multiphase voltage regulator with advanced cooling, so the developers have to look for compromises of some kind or another. Some of them limit the mainboard's BIOS options while others hope that extreme overclocking will be limited naturally, i.e. by the parameters of the employed CPU cooler. There are mini-ITX products that look very similar to the full-size enthusiast-targeted mainboards and even feature Power and Reset buttons and POST indicators.

Thus, there are wide variations in mainboards' specs. To help you compare the Z77-based mini-ITX products we've included into this review, we've put their basic specs together into a single table.


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