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The ASRock Z77E-ITX is a Mini-ITX motherboard targeted to the “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). Let’s see what the ASRock Z77E-ITX has to offer.
The Intel Z77 is an upgraded version of the Z68 chipset with the same basic features (Intel Smart Response Technology and Virtu video switching technology), plus native support to four USB 3.0 ports. It also includes the addition of two new technologies: Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode) and Rapid Start (faster boot times).
In addition, the ASRock Z77E-ITX supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.
ASRock has launched 11 different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset. In the table below, we compare their main specifications. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article. The Z77 Professional, the Z77 Professional-M, and the Z77 Performance are part of the “Fatal1ty” series, coming with a special USB port with a higher polling rate for gaming mice.
|Specification||Z77 Professional||Z77 Performance||
|Z77 Extreme6||Z77 Extreme4||Z77 Pro4||Z77 Pro3|
|PCI Express x16||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||2 (x16/x4)||
6 (x16/x16/x0/x16/x0/x4 or x16/x8/x8/x8/x8/x4)
|3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x4)||2 (x16/x4)|
|PCI Express x1||1||1||
|Mini PCI Express||0||0||
|Price||USD 230||USD 160||
|USD 160||USD 130||USD 120||USD 110|
|Specification||Z77 Professional-M||Z77 Extreme4-M||Z77 Pro4-M||Z77E-ITX|
|PCI Express x16||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||3 (x16/x1/x4)||1 (x16)|
|PCI Express x1||1||1||1||0|
|Mini PCI Express||0||0||0||1|
|Price||USD 170||USD 130||USD 110||USD 150|
In Figure 1, you see the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard.
The ASRock Z77E-ITX comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot and two Mini PCI Express slots. The Mini PCI Express slot located on the component side of the motherboard comes with a Wi-Fi card installed. The one located on the solder side of the printed circuit board is actually an mSATA connector, which supports only the installation of SSDs using this form factor. The mSATA slot is connected to one of the SATA-300 ports controlled by the chipset.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz (“Sandy Bridge” CPUs) or up to 1,600 MHz (“Ivy Bridge” CPUs). According to ASRock, the Z77E-ITX supports memories up to 2,800 MHz.
The ASRock Z77E-ITX has two memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 16 GB with this motherboard if you use two 8 GB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two memory modules.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z77 chipset is a single-chip solution that is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard has two SATA-600 ports and two SATA-300 ports. The mSATA connector is controlled by one of the spare SATA-300 ports of the chipset, while the other spare SATA-300 port was routed to the rear panel as an eSATA-300 port.
The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The ASRock Z77E-ITX offers six USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard; and six USB 3.0 ports, four located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard. The two additional USB 3.0 ports are controlled by an ASMedia 1042 chip. (The two ports controlled by this chip are located on the rear panel.)
The ASRock Z77E-ITX doesn’t have FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the new Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.
The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output.
The analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip.
As already shown in Figure 3, this motherboard comes with a Wi-Fi card supporting the IEEE 802.11b/g/n standards.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, four USB 3.0 ports, connectors for the Wi-Fi antenna, DVI-I output, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, clear CMOS button, two USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA-300 port, one Gigabit Ethernet port, one optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The ASRock Z77E-ITX has an infrared interface, making it inexpensive for you to add an infrared sensor to be able to use a remote control or to connect devices using infrared technology (IrDA).
In Figure 8, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASRock Z77E-ITX.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASRock Z77E-ITX has six phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), one for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), and one for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces). Therefore, it uses a “6+1+1” configuration, which is incorrectly advertised by the manufacturer as “6+2.” The voltage regulator is controlled by an ISL6367 integrated circuit, using a hybrid design.
The ASRock Z77E-ITX uses SMD (Surface Mount Device) capacitors, also known as highly-conductive polymerized or simply Hi-c. All coils on this motherboard are solid, ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject. [nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASRock Z77E-ITX has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1.10 BIOS):
- Base clock: From 95 MHz to 150 MHz in 0.1 MHz increments
- CPU core voltage: From -0.300 V to +0.600 V in 0.005 V increments
- Integrated graphics processor (IGPU) voltage: From -0.300 V to +0.600 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory controller (“System Agent,” VCCSA) voltage: From 0.928 V to 1.208 V in 0.009 V increments
- CPU VTT (“I/O”) voltage: From 0.981 V to 1.559 V in 0.007 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.165 V to 1.800 V in 0.005 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASRock Z77E-ITX include:
- Socket: 1155
- Chipset: Intel Z77 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT5573D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Two SATA-300 ports and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: One eSATA-300 port controlled by the chipset
- USB 2.0: Six USB 2.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header on the motherboard (four controlled by the chipset and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip)
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU, DVI-I, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC898 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 110 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Broadcom BCM57781 chip and a Wi-Fi card supporting the IEEE 802.11b/g/n standards
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: Yes
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: One PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one Mini PCI Express slot with the Wi-Fi card, and one mSATA slot (SATA-300)
- Memory: Two DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2800, 16 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and one four-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
- Extra features: None
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asrock.com
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 150.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASRock Z77E-ITX is the perfect product if you want to build an updated small form factor computer. Since it has a PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, you can install a high-end video card, if you want to build a powerful gaming machine.
The highlights of this motherboard include the presence of six USB 3.0 ports, a Wi-Fi card supporting the IEEE 802.11b/g/n standards, an mSATA slot, and a professional-grade audio codec.
On the negative side, the only thing we can complain about is the fact that the mSATA slot is SATA-300, not SATA-600.
We believe that the price of this motherboard is fair for the features it brings.