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Zotac H67ITX

Zotac can be considered one of the main ideologists of the Mini-ITX system concept. This company was one of the first to start aggressively promoting compact platforms and mainboards and up until now remains the leader in this market. For example, Intel H67 based Zotac H67ITX came out way ahead of the competition. But even despite this fact, this mainboard still remains one of the most fully-functional solutions in this class.

The secret behind Zotac H67ITX is in integration of a few additional controllers: a Gigabit network controller, a wireless Wi-Fi controller, an eSATA controller and a USB 3.0 controller. Together with the chipset, they not only make this small Mini-ITX mainboard one of the most loaded participants in our today’s roundup, but also allow it to compete against full-size mainstream products.

Just look at the list of slots and connectors that Zotac H67ITX has. For example, it has two pin-connectors for four additional USB 2.0 ports and a pin-connector for a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the system case panel. No other Mini-ITX LGA1155 mainboards can boast such luxury. Just as they can’t boast having six SATA ports, two of which support 6 Gbps protocol.

Moreover, expansion cards on Zotac H67ITX can be installed not only into a standard PCI Express x16 slot, but also into the additional mini-PCIe x1 slot. In the standard configuration, this slot is allocated for 802.11n Wi-Fi module – Azurewave AW-NE766 based on Ralink RT2790 chip. Of course, this Wi-Fi implementation is not the absolute best, especially, since this module doesn’t support 5 GHz range, but it can be easily replaced if necessary. Zotac H67ITX mainboard supports any mini-PCIe cards.

The back panel also looks cool. It is not completely packed with ports and connectors, but it has enough of external outs for a compact system. There are four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA port, Gigabit network port, connectors for Wi-Fi antennas, PS/2 connector for mouse or keyboard and audio outs – optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks. So, Zotac H67ITX has more SATA (eSATA) and USB 3.0 ports than any other Mini-ITX mainboards, because they used an additional JMicron JMB360 controller and a four-port VIA Labs VL800 USB 3.0 controller. Analogue sound and network are delivered by Realtek chips: eight-channel ALC892 and Gigabit RTL8111E respectively.

As for the monitor outs, there are three of them: DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Analogue monitor should be connected via DVI. And there is a proper adapter for that among the included accessories.

Zotac engineers have definitely done a great job and deserve credit for that. They managed not only to find enough room on the small Mini-ITX mainboard for all additional components, but also to avoid any possible compromises. Namely, the mini-PCIe slot is compatible with full-size cards, and the memory goes into regular 240-pin DIMM slots.

The processor voltage regulator circuitry also didn’t suffer in any way. It has four phases and even has a heatsink. Zotac must be expecting the users to install mostly non-energy-efficient processors with 95 W TDP into their H67ITX mainboard. Another heatsink tops the chipset. It is smaller than the one over the voltage regulator components and is fastened with plastic push-pins with springs instead of screws.

Keeping in mind the remarkably rich functionality of the Zotac H67ITX mainboard, it would be naïve to expect it to have a convenient layout. Nevertheless, the developers were extremely creative and moved some of the components on the back of the PCB. This allowed moving the processor socket 2-3 millimeters away from the PCI Express x16 slot. Therefore, in terms of compatibility with large CPU coolers, the board is not that hopeless. Zotac H67ITX can easily accommodate some coolers larger in size than a boxed one from Intel, even if there is a discrete graphics card in the slot.

The accessories bundle is also very pleasing. It includes not only the absolute necessities such as a user manual, disk with the drivers, SATA cables and I/O Shield for the back panel. The manufacturer also threw in a couple of Wi-Fi antennas, a DVI-to-D-Sub adapter, an extender cable for the four-pin  ATX power and a back panel bracket with two more USB 3.0 ports.

However, despite all these great things, Zotac H67ITX didn’t become an ideal mainboard. BIOS is its ultimate Achilles’ heel. It is based on AMI microcode and uses old-fashioned text interface. But it is not the appearance that ruins it for us: BIOS could use more settings.

For example, the board allows configuring memory sub-system timings, but doesn’t support manual frequency adjustment. Moreover, the supported DIMM voltage range is very small and the board is incompatible with low-voltage DDR3 modules.

 

 

Fan rotation speed adjustment is another problematic aspect. Zotac H67ITX can take two four-pin fans, but only the rotation speed of the CPU fan can be adjusted. The second fan will always work at full speed.

There are no options in the BIOS for overclocking with the base clock generator frequency (BCLK). Proper downclocking is also not possible on Zotac H67ITX. Although you can lower the processor clock frequency multiplier, there is no way to adjust its core voltage.

The only thing you can overclock is the graphics core. You can not only increase its frequency above the nominal value, but also set higher voltage for it.

 
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