|ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe/WD mini-ITX Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by David Ramsey|
|Wednesday, 14 November 2012|
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P8Z77-I Deluxe/WD Proprietary Features
The vertical "DIGI+ VRM for ITX" board is the first thing that catches your eye. For overclocking, you need robust, multi-phase power, and ASUS' DIGI+ digital power supplies have brightened overclocker's days for some years now. There's no space for the components such a power supply needs on a mini ITX board, so ASUS went vertical, moving the extra power supply circuitry to a riser board. This board gives you a full 10-phase power supply (8 phases for the CPU cores and 2 phases for the integrated Intel HD4000 GPU), which should be enough for anyone short of the LN2 crowd. One downside of this board is that it restricts the CPU coolers you can use: in some cases the cooler will physically interfere with the board, while in other cases the board blocks access to the two closest cooler mounting points. This P8Z77-I is an idea candidate for a 120mm sealed water cooling system...of course this will depend on which case you use.
The wonders of miniaturization allows ASUS to cram both Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band 802.11n WiFi radios onto a mini-PCIE card. The USB 2.0 and 3.0 headers cluster around it. If you're an overclocker, you'll be glad to know that ASUS supports up to DDR3-2400 memory on this board. Of course pushing your memory beyond the speed it can handle can result in a non-booting system, but ASUS has you covered: pressing this "MemOK!" button visible at the upper right of this image will reset the memory configuration in your BIOS to a bootable state so you can get going again.
The TPU switch is at the front edge of the board, just to the left of the 8-pin power connector. Flipping this switch enables a small automatic overclock, but you can do a lot better in the BIOS or using ASUS' own Turbo V Evo software, which is included with the board. The TPU chip also handles ASUS' USB BIOS Flashback feature, which allows you to reflash the onboard BIOS at any time, even without a GPU, processor or memory installed.
There's not much room to cram custom chips onto this board, but there's a Nuvotron voltage/monitor chip, ASUS' own TPU chip, and an ASMedia ASM 1042 USB 3.0 controller visible in this image. Just off the side of this image is an ASM 1442 video controller to support the various video outputs, and an Intel 82579V Ethernet controller.
Then there are the features that you can't easily see, like the 8-layer PCB, which (among other things) allows for optimizing the traces to the DIMM slots, or the "5K" capacitors (visible at the right of the above image), rated to run at 105 degrees Celsius. Most other mini ITX board use lower-rated 2K capacitors; ASUS claims that 5K caps will provide better life and reliability in the typically tighter, hotter environment of a mini ITX case.
Let's check out the UEFI BIOS in the next section.