ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

Certainly small form factor motherboards don’t ordinarily get too much attention here at HardOCP. That changed in a "big" way when we were introduced to the ASUS Mini-ITX P8Z77-I Deluxe. The P8Z77-I Deluxe did more than just impress, it proves that not all enthusiast rigs needed to be hulking towers of steel and aluminum.

Introduction

Unless this is the first motherboard review you’ve ever read and you’ve never used a computer before, chances are you’ve heard of ASUS. The company has built more enthusiast motherboards than any company on the planet and it produces motherboards at virtually every price point and for nearly every type of system configuration you can think of. While ASUS also makes graphics cards, monitors, and all types of other PC components, it is motherboards ASUS is most known for.

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I personally have never been one for small form factor boards. I’m not even hugely fond of the micro-ATX form factor. While I’ve always understood the need for smaller form factors, I always had limited interest in these myself. It’s only recently that I started looking at Micro-ATX form factors and even the Mini-ITX offerings; not to replace my main gaming rig, but for other uses around the house. It was fortunate that Kyle sent me the P8Z77-I Deluxe for evaluation. It’s as good a place as any to get my feet wet with the Mini-ITX form factor.

The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe isn’t what we normally look at here. To be perfectly honest there is a small subset of enthusiasts who prefer smaller form factors, but you won’t be going with a 4-Way SLI GTX 680 4GB setup in anything but a giant XL-ATX or ATX form factor based system. Sometimes you need to build a smaller rig with decent power. The P8Z77-I Deluxe has you covered for the smallest of the small. This little powerhouse has a stripped down feature set compared to most of the ASUS boards we review, but it doesn’t need 3 RAID controllers, 3 network solutions, and support for more RAM than you actually need. You won’t find huge storage arrays inside a Mini-ITX box because there isn’t room.

I don’t have the usual laundry list of features to talk about. That being said this little guy is far from stripped down. It features the usual SATA 6Gb/s support, RAID 0, 1, 10, JBOD support, dual band 2.4/5GHz wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, 8-channel audio, and more. ASUS has its own list of features not included with the Z77 Express chipset such as BIOS Flashback, DIGI+VRM, USB 3.0 with UASP, Turbo support, Bluetooth 4.0, and more.

ASUS didn’t stop there. This mini-power house also has 8+2 phase power support and a full range of overclocking settings in the UEFI in order to ensure it has the overclocking capabilities necessary to hang with the big boys.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The board ships in tiny box that resembles the standard motherboard boxes we’ve all been seeing for years. There isn’t much inside. You get the P8Z77-I Deluxe board, cable with front panel connectors on it, user guide, driver disc (not shown), dual antennas for Wi-Fi, a bag of screws, 4 SATA cables, and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

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The P8Z77-I Deluxe doesn’t have a lot of PCB real estate and as a result some concessions are made with the layout; that being said it is fairly well done. Hopefully you would not find yourself inside the case of a Mini-ITX build a lot anyway. ASUS does surprisingly well with positioning ports and connectors given what little space it has to work with.

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There is the usual problem with the LGA1155 CPU socket area being close to the DIMM slots, but again this isn’t ASUS’ fault and in this case the form factor wouldn’t allow for anything else regardless of design. The board’s power phases are moved to a horizontal daughter board attached to the main PCB.

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There are only two DIMM slots and the maximum supported memory configuration is 16GB. You’ll always get dual channel with two modules; simple as that, no color coding needed. Additionally ASUS’ single sided memory retention mechanism doesn’t save you from having to pull the graphics card to install RAM should you be using a discreet board at all.

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The Z77 Express chipset is located between the CPU socket and the PCI-Express x16 slot. It is cooled by a passive heat sink. It has the board’s 4 SATA ports, BIOS ROM, and wireless card for neighbors.

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The expansion slot area is simple as there is only one slot; kind of hard to mess that up.

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The I/O panel is packed with ports. ASUS did well with this configuration. You’ve got 4 USB 2.0 ports and 4 USB 3.0 ports, dual Wi-Fi antenna connections, optical output, 3 Mini-stereo jacks, one RJ-45 LAN port, DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort connections. There are also two buttons found on the back panel as well. These are actually mostly covered by the I/O shield requiring a paper clip end being inserted to depress these. These buttons are for clearing the CMOS and the BIOS flashback feature. I’m not sure I approve of these being mostly blocked, but it isn’t the end of the world and it is alas my only real complaint about the physical design of the board.