Zotac A75-ITX WiFi
Of course, Zotac Company, a veteran in compact solutions market, couldn’t pass the opportunity to offer their take on a new Socket FM1 Mini-ITX platform. And as it is usually the case with their mainboards, Zotac A75-ITX WiFi (in some price-lists it is referred to as A75ITX-A-E) turned out to be the most feature-rich product in our today’s test session. That is Zotac’s traditional approach: no simple Mini-ITX products. With a total of eight USB 3.0 ports, Zotac A75-ITX WiFi exceeds in functionality even Asus F1A75-I Deluxe, not to mention the other two testing participants. However, the price of this mainboard is not really out of reach: in fact, it is even a little cheaper than the above reviewed Asus board.
Just like other Mini-ITX Socket FM1 mainboards, Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is based on the top chipset in the lineup – AMD A75. This chipset does support contemporary interfaces, like SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0, but can only deliver 4 USB 3.0 ports maximum. So, in order to make their mainboard stand out in the number of USB 3.0 ports, Zotac engineers had to use additional controllers and this time they decided to go with VIA Labs’ ones. Their major peculiarity is that they are capable to “split” the chipset USB 3.0 ports into more physical connectors. As a result, they provide an absolutely “transparent” solution for the operating system that doesn’t require any special drivers.
That said, it is not surprising that there are as many as six USB 3.0 ports on the back panel of Zotac A75-ITX WiFi. Two more ports are laid out as onboard pin-connectors allowing to bring USB 3.0 interface to the system case front panel. as for the USB 2.0 ports, there are only two of them available as an onboard pin-connector.
As for the SATA 6 Gbps ports, there are only four of them on Zotac’s mainboard, just like on the other products reviewed today. Moreover, there is no additional eSATA port on the back panel, as the developers probably believed that USB 3.0 ports would be able to accommodate all data storage devices, even though eSATA could provide higher bandwidth.
As you may have guessed from the name, one of the key features of Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is the wireless interface support. It is implemented in a similar way to Asus’. There is a mini-PCIe slot on the board with a WiFi controller installed in it. However, Zotac decided to go with a combination AzureWave AR5B195 daughter card supporting not only 802.11 b/g/n but also Bluetooth interface. This half-size card is based on Atheros controllers.
Another unique feature of Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is two independent Gigabit network interfaces implemented via two independent Realtek RTL8111E controllers. Therefore, this Zotac mainboard may be used not only for a multimedia center, but also for a home server.
Keeping in mind developers’ strong desire to provide their mainboard with a maximum number of various interfaces, it isn’t surprising that its back panel is pretty tightly packed. Overall, there are six USB 3.0 ports (and no USB 2.0 ports at all), two Gigabit network ports, PS/2 port for keyboard or mouse, five analogue audio-jacks (Realtek ALC892 codec), optical SPDIF, Clear CMOS button and two antenna connectors. At the same time, there are only two monitor outs: HDMI and DVI. Both of them support maximum resolution of 1920x1200, but in this case you can connect analogue monitors to the DVI out using a special adapter.
Despite a large variety of additional onboard controllers, Zotac A75-ITX WiFi has a pretty common layout. Although quite a few component shave been moved to the back side of the PCB, I doubt it will cause any serious problems. However, the processor socket and PCI Express x16 slot are far enough from one another, and the 24-pin ATX power connector, SATA ports and a connector block for the front panel buttons and indicators are all in front of the DDR3 DIMM slots. Overall, we noticed only one serious issue with this layout: very inconvenient place for the four-pin power connector. It has been moved to the back panel and is really hard to reach, especially, when the system is assembled inside the system case.
The cooling of the necessary system knots has been very well thought-through. Aluminum heatsinks with tall fins are installed onto the chipset as well as onto the voltage regulator, which has four phases and uses DrMOS components. Zotac guarantees full compatibility with all AMD A series processors including 65 W as well as 100 W models. The mainboard offers two four-pin fans connectors, only one of which (the processor fan) can have adjustable rotation speed using PWM method.
Zotac A75-ITX WiFi doesn’t come with any unexpected accessories, like a remote control unit, for example. Besides the user manual and a CD disk with the drivers, the box contains only three SATA cables, two WiFi antennas and a DVI→D-Sub adapter.
But the biggest disappointment awaits us in the BIOS Setup. And it is not the fact that this BIOS doesn’t boast the fancy graphics interface. The major problem is that the available settings are really scarce. Of course, there is everything necessary for proper configuring of available controllers and interfaces, but if you have any plans to overclock your processor, then Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is a definite no.
The board doesn’t allow changing the base clock generator frequency, making even minimal overclocking completely impossible. There are no options for lowering the CPU voltages, which have become pretty popular in compact systems. Hardware monitoring options are extremely limited. Zotac A75-ITX WiFi has no thermal diodes, so the only way you can monitor the thermal characteristics of a compact system built on it is with the temperature readings reported by the CPU. So, Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is indeed a mainboard with broad functionality, but not intended for progressive enthusiasts.