ASRock Z77E-ITX SFF Intel Z77 Motherboard

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Review

Not horribly long ago, Nate built himself a system based around a mini-ITX motherboard. We learned then that you could build yourself a pretty wicked system despite using such a small form factor. Since his article, several other companies have brought Intel Z77 mini-ITX motherboards to the market. Small form factor PC's seem to be growing in popularity since you can run all of the latest gear. Today we are going to look at our first Intel Z77 mini-ITX motherboard to come across my bench. The ASRock Z77E-ITX is, as the name suggests an Intel Z77 motherboard which supports the latest Intel 22nm 'Ivy Bridge' processors in the LGA1155 package. The key feature to the ASRock Z77E-ITX is clearly the mini-ITX small form factor. The mini-ITX form factor is extremely small when you are accustomed to ATX and eATX motherboards. The ASRock Z77E-ITX measures only 6.7in x 6.7in or for our friends across the pond 17.0 cm x 17.0 cm. Compare that to a board like the ASRock X79 Extreme9 which is a full ATX motherboard and the Z77E-ITX is dwarfed in comparison.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Review

Despite having a much smaller PCB, the ASRock Z77E-ITX doesn't carry a lower cost. The ASRock Z77E-ITX is currently available for $149.99 + $7.56 shipping over at Newegg.com. Though it is a lower cost than some of the other mini-ITX motherboards.You may be paying a premium for the size, but if you want a small form factor PC it is well worth it. Due to the limited real estate on a 6.7"x 6.7" PCB we do miss out on some of the features available on the larger form factor motherboards. Though not as much as one may expect to miss out on. We will be going over the features and lack there of a little later on, but as a teaser we are missing out on the expansion slots, and two of the typical four DIMM slots. If you're not planning on running AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI that shouldn't be an issue. ASRock did decide to use as much real estate as possible on the Z77E-ITX, even using the back of the PCB for a mSATA slot!

Many of the technologies in the ASRock Z77E-ITX are common to the Intel Z77 chipset. Features like SuperSpeed USB 3.0, SATA III 6Gbps, Intel 22nm 'Ivy Bridge' processor support, and others are all part of the Z77 chipset and can be found on all Z77 motherboards. The ASRock Z77E-ITX does have some features that are exclusive to ASRock and the Z77E-ITX. One of the features that I have come to love on the Intel Z77 chipset is the UEFI BIOS. Most Z77 motherboards have their own implementation of the UEFI BIOS but the ASRock UEFI BIOS is one of my favorite to work with.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Review

ASRock also has their XFast 555 technologies on the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard. The XFast 555 consists of XFast USB, XFast LAN, and XFast RAM. We have never really played with the specific technologies that companies like ASRock implement on their motherboards, so today we are going to start a new chapter in our testing and see what the XFast 555 technologies can do! For now let's take a look at the specifications of the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX Intel Z77 Motherboard.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX Motherboard Specifications

CPU - Supports 3rd and 2nd Generation Intel Core i7 / i5 / i3 in LGA1155 Package
- Digi Power Design
- 6 + 2 Power Phase Design
- Supports Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 Technology
- Supports Intel K-Series unlocked CPU
- Supports Hyper-Threading Technology
Chipset - Intel Z77
- Supports Intel Rapid Start Technology and Smart Connect Technology
Memory - Dual Channel DDR3 memory technology
- 2 x DDR3 DIMM slots
- Supports DDR3 2800+(OC)/2400(OC)/2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1600/1333/1066 non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- Max. capacity of system memory: 16GB
- Supports Intel Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) 1.3 / 1.2
BIOS - 64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support
- Supports "Plug and Play"
- ACPI 1.1 Compliance Wake Up Events
- Supports jumperfree
- SMBIOS 2.3.1 Support
- CPU Core, IGPU, DRAM, VCCSA Voltage Multi-adjustment
Graphics - Supports Intel HD Graphics Built-in Visuals : Intel Quick Sync Video 2.0, Intel InTru 3D, Intel Clear Video HD Technology, Intel Insider, Intel HD Graphics 2500/4000
- Pixel Shader 5.0, DirectX 11 with Intel Ivy Bridge CPU. Pixel Shader 4.1, DirectX 10.1 with Intel Sandy Bridge CPU.
- Max. shared memory 1760MB
- Multi VGA Output options: DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and D-Sub with the bundled DVI-to-D-Sub Converter
- Supports HDMI 1.4a Technology with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution up to 2560x1600 @ 60Hz
- Supports D-Sub with max. resolution up to 2048x1536 @ 75Hz
- Supports Auto Lip Sync, Deep Color (12bpc), xvYCC and HBR (High Bit Rate Audio) with HDMI (Compliant HDMI monitor is required)
- Supports HDCP function with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
- Supports Full HD 1080p Blu-ray (BD) / HD-DVD playback with DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort ports
Audio - 7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC898 Audio Codec)
- Premium Blu-ray audio support
- Supports THX TruStudio
   
LAN - PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s
- Broadcom BCM57781
- Supports Wake-On-LAN
- Supports Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az
- Supports PXE
Wireless LAN WiFi-802.11n module
- 300Mbps IEEE 802.11n / 54Mbps IEEE 802.11g / 11Mbps IEEE 802.11b
- Supports Station mode (Infrastructure mode and Ad-hoc mode)
Slots - 1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot (PCIE1: x16 mode)
- 1 x mini-PCI Express slot: For WiFi module
SATA3 - 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel Rapid Storage and Intel Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
USB 3.0 - 2 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by Intel Z77, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
- 2 x Rear USB 3.0 ports by ASMedia ASM1042, support USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
- 1 x Front USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports) by Intel Z77, supports USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 up to 5Gb/s
Connector - 2 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s connectors, support RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel Rapid Storage and Intel Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug functions
- 1 x mSATA 3.0 Gb/s connector (Solid-State Drive connector), supports RAID (RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, Intel Rapid Storage and Intel Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI functions and Full-size mini-PCI Express modules
- 2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s connectors
- 1 x CIR header
- 1 x CPU Fan connector (1 x 4-pin)
- 1 x Chassis Fan connector (1 x 4-pin)
- 24 pin ATX power connector
- 8 pin 12V power connector
- Front panel audio connector
- 2 x USB 2.0 headers (support 4 USB 2.0 ports)
- 1 x USB 3.0 header (supports 2 USB 3.0 ports)
Rear Panel I/O I/O Panel
- 2 x Antenna Ports
- 1 x PS/2 Mouse/Keyboard Port
- 1 x DVI-I Port
- 1 x HDMI Port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
- 2 x Ready-to-Use USB 2.0 Ports
- 1 x eSATA2 Connector
- 4 x Ready-to-Use USB 3.0 Ports
- 1 x RJ-45 LAN Ports with LED (ACT/LINK LED and SPEED LED)
- 1 x Clear CMOS Switch with LED
- HD Audio Jack: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone
Unique Feature - ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility (AXTU)
- ASRock Instant Boot
- ASRock Instant Flash
- ASRock APP Charger
- ASRock SmartView
- ASRock XFast USB
- ASRock XFast LAN
- ASRock XFast RAM
- ASRock Crashless BIOS
- ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard)
- ASRock Internet Flash
- ASRock Dehumidifier Function
- ASRock No-K OC Technology
- Lucid Virtu Universal MVP
- Hybrid Booster:
- CPU Frequency Stepless Control
- ASRock U-COP
- Boot Failure Guard (B.F.G.)
- Good Night LED
Support CD - Drivers, Utilities, AntiVirus Software (Trial Version), CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 Trial, ASRock MAGIX Multimedia Suite - OEM
Accessories - Quick Installation Guide, Support CD, I/O Shield
- 2 x SATA Data Cables
- 1 x ASRock WiFi 2.4GHz Antenna
- 1 x DVI-to-D-Sub Converter
Hardware Monitor - CPU Temperature Sensing
- Chassis Temperature Sensing
- CPU Fan Tachometer
- Chassis Fan Tachometer
- CPU/Chassis Quiet Fan (Allow Chassis Fan Speed Auto-Adjust by CPU Temperature)
- CPU/Chassis Fan Multi-Speed Control
- Voltage Monitoring: +12V, +5V, +3.3V, CPU Vcore
Form Factor - Mini-ITX Form Factor: 6.7-in x 6.7-in, 17.0 cm x 17.0 cm
- Premium Gold Capacitor design (100% Japan-made high-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors)
OS - Microsoft® Windows® 7 / 7 64-bit / Vista™ / Vista™ 64-bit / XP / XP 64-bit compliant

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

There isn't much about the retail packaging for the ASRock Z77E-ITX that varies from the other ASRock retail packages. On the front ASRock high lights the XFast 555 technology that consists of XFast LAN, XFast USB, and the XFast RAM. Along the bottom edge with can see the Windows 7 certification LOGO, Intel Core logo, and the Intel Z77 chipset logo.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

The back of the retail packaging for the ASRock Z77E-ITX has a lot more information for us to read. It goes into detail about the XFast 555, Lucid Virtu MVP, and board specific features like, Digi Power, ASRock OMG (Online Management Guard), Internet Flash, mSATA Connector Onboard, and the WiFi 802.11 b/g/n support.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Opening up the retail packaging, the bundle for the ASRock Z77E-ITX is right on top for the world to see.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Once we remove the bundle, there is a protective layer of cardboard that separates the bundle from the PCB to prevent damange.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

Pulling the cardboard out of the way, we can catch our first look at the ASRock Z77E-ITX secured in place and protected from ESD in an anti-static bag.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Retail Packaging and Bundle

The bundle that comes with the ASRock Z77E-ITX isn't the largest that we have come across, but it does come with the essentials. ASRock includes paperwork on the XFast technologies, a software Setup guide, quick installation guide, information on the VirtuMVP, driver disc, I/O shield, 2.4GHz antenna and mount, 15pin dSub to DVI adapter, and a pair of SATA cables.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

The overall appearance of the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard is quite nice. It's not overstated or overly flashy, but it is nice looking and will look great in many cases.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

Since this is a mini-ITX motherboard, everything is packed pretty tightly. I mentioned on the front some of the missing features, and above it's plain to see that we only have two DIMM slots. While there are only two DIMM slots, we can still run dual channel DRAM at speeds up to 2800MHz+(OC). Just below the DIMM slots is the typical 24pin motherboard power, and the front panel header for the power/reset switches, HDD LED activity light, and power LED. Next to the lower right corner (covered by the LR watermark) is the only chassis fan header.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

The only PCIe expansion slot on the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard is a PCIe x16 Gen 3.  Immediately in front of the PCIe Gen 3 slot is the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec, and a pair of the Premium Gold Caps.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

Swinging the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard around we can check out most of the internal connectors. Starting on the left side of the photo, to the left of the DIMM slots we can see the 4pin chassis fan header mentioned above, below the DIMM slots we can find the clear CMOS jumper, and the 4pin CPU fan header can be seen to the right of the DIMM slots. Just above the CPU fan header we can see the mini PCIe slot with the WiFi-802.11n module installed. Along the bottom edge of the Z77E-ITX we can find the internal SuperSpeed USB 3.0 header, a pair of internal USB 2.0 headers, a pair of SATA 2 3Gbps ports (black), and a pair of SATA 3 6Gbps ports. To the right of the SATA ports the ASMedia ASM1042 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controller is quietly hiding.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

The I/O panel for the ASRock Z77E-ITX has the typical connections that we find on most boards. On the left we can find a single PS/2 port, a pair of ASMedia SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, DVI-I port, HDMI, DisplayPort, clear CMOS (BIOS Reset), a pair of USB 2.0 ports, eSATA (SATA 2 3Gbps), Gigabit LAN (Broadcom BCM57781), five audio jacks, optical SPDIF out. Just above the DVI-I port is the antenna ports for the Wireless N. The only thing that I would have changed about the layout of the I/O panel is the location of the ASMedia SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports. If you don't have the driver installed, these wont work in Windows. I was surprised to see that they work in the UEFI BIOS, but not in Windows. I would like to see the USB 2.0 ports here, it seems odd not to run my keyboard and mouse in these ports. Perhaps this is just personal preference, but that's what I would like to see.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

We don't run into many motherboards with features on the back of the PCB. Today we did though, on the back of the ASRock Z77E-ITX we can find a mSATA port, this runs at SATA 2 3Gbps speeds and is great if you're looking to run Intel SRT (Smart Response technology).

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout
ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Layout

We did run into a slight clearance issue with the mSATA port though. You can see that when we put the back plate for the Corsair Hydro H100 it was resting on the mSATA port. If we hadn't caught this, we could have crushed the port or caused some other damage. We were able to reposition the bracket enough that we were able to clear the mSATA port, but it is something to watch out for when using the ASRock Z77E-ITX.

The Legit Reviews Test System

Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test systems that were used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.

Intel Z77 System

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Review

                                            Intel Test Rig

 Processor  Intel Core I7 3770K  Live Pricing
 Motherboard  See Above
 Live Pricing
 Memory  8gb Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz  Live Pricing
 Hard Drive  Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD  Live Pricing
 Video Card  XFX Radeon HD 6950  Live Pricing
 CPU cooler  Corsair H100
 Live Pricing
 Chassis  None - Open Bench  
 Power Supply  Corsair TX750   Live Pricing

ASRock Z77E-ITX Intel Z77 System Settings

ASRock Z77E-ITX Intel Z77 System Settings

SiSoftware Sandra 2012 Sp4c Memory Bandwidth

Sisoftware Sandra 2011 SP5

The Sisoftware Sandra 2012 SP3 benchmark utility just came out a few weeks ago and we have started to include it in our benchmarking. Sandra 2012 comes with support for Virtualisation (Virtual PC/Server, Hyper-V, VMware) and GPGPU (OpenCL, DirectX 11 DirectCompute), but today we will be using the program to look at memory and CPU performance!

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Intel Z77 Sandra 2012 SP4c Memory Benchmark Scores

Benchmark Results: The ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard fell right inline with what we have previously seen from the Intel Z77 chipset motherboards.

Futuremark 3DMark 11 DirectX 11 Gaming Benchmark

3DMark 11 Screenshot

3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

3DMark 11 Settings

Since Futuremark is releasing 3DMark11 today we decided to run the benchmark at both performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.

Intel Z77 Sub-$100 Motherboard Round Up 3DMark11 Extreme Preset Benchmark Results

 ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX 3DMark 11 Extreme Benchmark Results

Benchmark Results: The ASRock Z77E-ITX Intel Z77 motherboard was able to edge out the ASRock Z77 Pro3 by 2 points in the Futuremark 3DMark 11 Extreme preset. With an overall score of 2354 3DMarks this mini-ITX motherboard packs a serious punch!

Intel Z77 Sub-$100 Motherboard Round Up 3DMark11 Performance Preset Benchmark Results

 ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX 3DMark 11 Performance Benchmark Results

Benchmark results: The ASRock Z77E-ITX was once again able to place itself on the top of the charts in the performance preset of 3DMark 11. It didn't take the lead over the ASRock Z77 Pro3 by much, only 12 points, but it proves some consistency in the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard.

Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 (BF3) is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. The game was released in North America on October 25, 2011 and in Europe on October 28, 2011. It does not support versions of Windows prior to Windows Vista as the game only supports DirectX 10 and 11. It is a direct sequel to 2005's Battlefield 2, and the eleventh installment in the Battlefield franchise. The game sold 5 million copies in its first week of release and the PC download is exclusive to EA's Origin platform, through which PC users also authenticate when connecting to the game.

Battlefield 3 Screenshot

Battlefield 3 debuts the new Frostbite 2 engine. This updated Frostbite engine can realistically portray the destruction of buildings and scenery to a greater extent than previous versions. Unlike previous iterations, the new version can also support dense urban areas. Battlefield 3 uses a new type of character animation technology called ANT. ANT technology is used in EA Sports games, such as FIFA, but for Battlefield 3 is adapted to create a more realistic soldier, with the ability to transition into cover and turn the head before the body.

This game looks great and we tested with the highest settings possible.  This means we used 'ultra' settings and really punished the cards being tested. We ran FRAPS for two minutes on the single player map called 'Rock and a Hard Place' for benchmarking.

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Battlefield 3 Performance

Benchmark Results:
On the previous page, the ASRock Z77E-ITX was at the top of the charts in 3DMark 11. This time around the tables have turned, and the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard drops to the bottom of the charts. To be fair, there is only .741 frames per second separating the ASRock Z77E-ITX from the top spot which is less than 1%. If we were to sort the chart by 1920x1080, the ASRock Z77E-ITX would slide up a spot into third, but once again there is a very small margin between all of the boards.

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps Performance Testing

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps CrystalDiskMark Performance Benchmark Results

The SATA III 6Gbps performance testing was completed using a Corsair Force GT 240Gb SATA III 6Gbps SSD.

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps CrystalDiskMark Performance

Benchmark Results: The ASRock Z77E-ITX was able to hit 488.8MB/s read and 303.1MB/s write. The read performance is a fuzz behind our other boards, but only by ~.8%-1.7%. The write performance was 303.1MB/s which falls right in with our other boards today.

HD Tune Pro 4.01 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Intel Z77 HD Tune Pro 5.00 Write Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps HD Tune Performance Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 HD Tune Pro 5.00 Read Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps HD Tune Performance Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SATA III 6Gbps HD Tune Performance

Benchmark Results: The performance results in HD Tune 5.0 are almost a mimic of the results in CDM above, The ASRock Z77E-ITX has the slowest average read by a narrow margin, while the average write falls right inline with our other boards.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance Testing

Thermaltake BlackX 5G SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Dock

There are a number of different Super Speed USB 3.0 host controllers out there. In order to know which ones perform the best we run a series of tests that will put the controller through the ringer and see how it comes out on the other side. Each of our motherboards uses a different Super Speed USB 3.0 controller and you can find the below.

CrystalDiskMark is a small benchmark utility for drives and enables rapid measurement of sequential and random read/write speeds. Note that CDM only supports Native Command Queuing (NCQ) with a queue depth of 32 (as noted) for the last listed benchmark score. This can skew some results in favor of controllers that also do not support NCQ.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 CrystalDiskMark Benchmark Results

Testing of the USB3 was done using the "Thermaltake BlacX 5G Hard Drive Docking Station . The drive used was an Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Benchmark Results: Once again there is very little difference in the performance in CrystalDiskMark. The ASRock Z77E-ITX was only .6MB/s behind the top performance in the read test with a sequential read of 249.5MB/s, which coincidentally is a perfect match with the ASRock Z77 Pro3. The sequential write test does show a slightly greater difference in the boards, and the ASRock Z77E-ITX was the lowest scoring performer with a sequential write of 243.9MB/s.

HD Tune Pro 5.00 is an extended version of HD Tune which includes many new features such as write benchmark, secure erasing, AAM setting, folder usage view, disk monitor, command line parameters and file benchmark.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune 4.61 Read Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune 5.00 Write Benchmark Results

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 HD Tune Benchmark Results

Testing of the USB3 was done using the "Thermaltake BlacX 5G Hard Drive Docking Station . The drive used was an Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD.

Intel Z77 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Performance

Benchmark Results: We aren't surprised by the results in HD Tune 5.0, the performance of all of the boards in nearly identical, at least the average read scores are. The ASRock Z77E-ITX average read hit 260.9MB/s while our other boards hit 260.0MB/s, 260.1MB/s and 262.5MB/s. The average write performance of the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard was once again the lowest of the group hitting 233.7MB/s, compared to the GIGABYTE Z77-DS3H which hit 255.4MB/s, there is a pretty significant difference.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Performance

RightMark Audio Analyzer

The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.

RightMark Audio Analyzer Results

Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart

 ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Audio Performance

The ASRock Z77E-ITX Intel Z77 motherboard takes advantage of the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec. This is the first board we have run Rightmark Audio Analyzer in recent months, so we don't have anything to compare to at the moment. It is simple enough to run on your own system if you want to see how it compares. Feel free to post up your results in our forums and let us know your configuration.

ASRock Z77E-ITX System Power Consumption

CPU Power Consumption

Since power consumption is a big deal these days, we ran some simple power consumption tests on our test beds. The systems ran with the power supplies, case fans, video cards and hard drives. To measure idle usage, we ran the system at idle for one hour on the desktop with no screen saver and took the measurement. For load measurements, Prime95's in-place large FFT's were run on all cores to make sure each and every processor was at 100% load for maximum power consumption and heat. Curious about real world scenarios, we decided to drop Furmark and ran 3DMark 11 on the performance preset and took the maximum power consumption during the first GPU test.

Intel Z77 Sub-$100 Motherboard Round Up System Power Consumption

Benchmark Results: While all of our systems are sitting idle, they all draw a comparable amount of power. The ASRock Z77E-ITX was pulling 61 Watts at the wall, while others were pulling 60-61 Watts as well. Once we started putting a load on the system the ASRock Z77E-ITX performance started to pull ahead. Under a CPU load with the AIDA64 system stability test the ASRock Z77E-ITX was pulling only 121 Watts. While gaming in Battlefield 3 the entire system was pulling only 229 Watts. Each of these performances was 6 Watts lower than the next board.

ASRock XFast 555

The ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard can take full advantage of the ASRock XFast 555 technology. The ASRock XFast 555 technology consists of XFast RAM, XFast USB, and XFast LAN. Today we are going to take a look at the XFast 555 technology and performance of the XFast USB and XFast RAM.


ASRock Z77E-ITX XFast USB Technology

ASRock XFast USB

Once we installed the software for the XFast USB, it was simple to use. Simply click it over to Turbo, it will ask you unplug the device and plug it back in. Once that is done, you are ready to rock.

ASRock XFast USB

We tested the XFast USB technology on both of the SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controllers on the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboards. The most significant differences were on the sequential read speeds. The Intel Z77 controller had a sequential read speed of 249.5MB/s before the XFast software was installed, once we installed the software and enable the 'Turbo' mode we saw the sequential read speed increase to 400.9MB/s! That's a gain of 151.4MB/s or 60.7%. The ASMedia controller jumped from 222.4MB/s to 339.1MB/s, a gain of 116.7MB/s or 52.5%! Both of the controllers saw a significant gain in sequential read performance in CrystalDiskMark.

ASRock Z77E-ITX XFast RAM Technology

ASRock Z77E-ITX XFast RAM Technology

We fired up the ASRock AXTU software so we could toy with the ASRock XFast RAM. The ASRock XFast RAM allows you to create a virtual disk from your system memory. Through the AXTU software you can determine what the system does with the virtual drive. The set up of the virtual drive was real easy with the AXTU software, within moments we had set up a 1Gb partition from our Corsair Vengeance memory.

ASRock Z77E-ITX XFast RAM Technology

Needless to say, a virtual disk from our Corsair Vengeance memory was significantly faster than any of our SSD's, our sequential read speed hit 7242MB/s while our sequential write speed hit 6892MB/s! That's 14.8 times faster than our Corsair Force GT 240Gb SSD which hit a sequential read speed of 488.8MB/s!

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

Overclocking greatly varies due to what hardware is being used and who is doing the overclocking. Always remember that no two pieces of hardware will perform the same, so our results will differ from what you might be able to get.

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

The Intel Core i7 3770K utilizes a Bclk of 100MHz, under full load the Intel Core i7 3770K uses a multiplier of x35 to achieve the final clock speed of 3.5GHz. Since we are using a K series processor which has an unlocked multiplier we will be able to increase the default x35 multiplier to achieve our overclock today. The Intel Core i7 3770K has a turbo multiplier of x39 which will cause the system to run at 3900MHz (100MHz x 39) with a lightly threaded application.

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

The ASRock Z77E-ITX UEFI BIOS allows us to load various presets for our Intel Core i7 processor. We can start out up a measly 4.0GHz overclock, or choose more aggressive overclocks. We can increase our overclock by 200MHz up to the maximum overclock of 4.8GHz.

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

By taking advantage of the Optimized CPU OC Settings we were able to hit a rock solid overclock of 4.6GHz. While using the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard we attempted to use the 4.8GHz setting, not surprisingly we weren't able to run at 4.8GHz on our Intel Core i7 3770K.

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

Once we were done with the optimized CPU OC settings, we reset the BIOS and proceeded to see how far we could push our Intel Core i7 3770k. Once again we were able to bring our Intel Core i7 3770K to 4.7GHz. We weren't quite sure what to expect from the ASRock Z77E-ITX when it comes to overclocking, we are definitely pleased with our results today!

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking Settings
ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking Settings

Above we can see the settings that we had to change to bring our 3770K to 4.7GHz. We only needed to tweak three different settings. The CPU multiplier was increased to x47, the CPU voltage was increased by .06 in offset mode, and the CPU Load-Line Calibration was set to Level 1.

Final Thoughts and Conclusion

ASRock Z77E-ITX mITX Motherboard Review

I can honestly say that I wasn't sure what to expect from a mini-ITX motherboard like the ASRock Z77E-ITX. I was afraid that it wouldn't be on par or as capable as a full ATX motherboard. Once all the benchmarking is said and done though, I have to say that I am really happy with the ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard. Sure we are missing a couple of things that are typical to an ATX or Micro-ATX motherboard, but that is more due to available real estate on the PCB than anything else. The things that are lacking aren't a very big deal, especially since the intent of a mini-ITX motherboard is for a SFF (small form factor) PC.

Ultimately there are only a few real differences between the ASRock Z77E-ITX and a full ATX motherboard. The first is obviously the size. The ASRock Z77E-ITX motherboard measures in at only 6.7" x 6.7" while a full ATX motherboard measures 12" x 9.6". Due to this we are missing out on some of the expandability of the ATX motherboard. That leads us into the second difference, expansion slots. The ASRock Z77E-ITX only has room for one PCIe slot, thankfully ASRock equipped the Z77E-ITX motherboard with a PCIe x16 Gen 3 slot for graphics cards. We can run the latest single GPU or Dual GPU graphics card from NVIDIA or AMD depending on your case. We recently popped the ASRock Z77E-ITX into our BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX case with a AMD Radeon HD 7950 with out an issue

BitFenix Prodigy mini-ITX Build Log

The next feature that I hesitate to call lacking was the DIMM slots, the ASRock Z77E-ITX only has two. Of course I would have liked to see the typical four DIMM slots, but it's easy enough to pick up a 16Gb (2x8Gb) kit of memory if you want or need that much memory. Despite only having two DIMM slots we can still run our memory in dual channel for the best performance. On the upside of only having two DIMM slots, we don't have to look at the motherboard manual to figure out which two DIMM slots to put our memory in.

Aside from what I mentioned above, the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard is quite full featured and a great performer. Throughout all of our tests today, the ASRock Z77E-ITX was right on par with what we expected and hoped to see. We were also quite impressed with the overclocking performance. Every time that we have used ambient temperature cooling on our Intel Core i7 3770k we have been limited to 4.7GHz so we know that is the limit of our processor. During our time with the ASRock Z77E-ITX mini-ITX motherboard we were able to hit that limit with ease!

ASRock Z77E-ITX Overclocking

We also took a little time to play with that ASRock XFast technology, we don't often take the time to look at the board specific features like the XFast technology. We are going to start doing that more often though. We were able to create a virtual disk from our DRAM with the ASRock XFast RAM that was nearly 15 times faster than our Corsair Force GT 240GB SSD! While playing with the XFast USB technology we saw performance gains of over 60% in CrystalDiskMark! The ASRock XFast technology definitely makes a difference in the overall system performance.

The ASRock Z77E-ITX currently carries a street price of $149.99 + $7.56 shipping and is backed by a three year warranty in the event of a hardware failure.

ASRock Z77E-ITX Legit Reviews Recommended Award

Legit Bottom Line: The ASRock Z77E-ITXwas able to hold it's own against our other Intel Z77 motherboards today. It may be small, but great things can come in small packages! If you're looking to build an Intel Z77 SFF PC, the ASRock Z77E-ITX is a great choice!