When a company like Asus slaps the 'Deluxe' moniker on a motherboard you can be fairly confident in it being feature-heavy. When it use such a badge on a mini-ITX board though you've got to wonder where exactly it thinks it's going to jam all of those features.
Well, some nifty engineering and impressive design decisions have made for an awesome li'l board with all the features - and more - of its beefy bigger brothers in the motherboard world.
This here is a full Z77 board, with all the goodness that entails. And that includes some serious overclocking potential, but we'll come to that later. The P8Z77-I boasts USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps, a full-length x16 PCIe 3.0 slot, a dual-band wireless card, all the graphical outputs you could want and a really smart solution to the lack of space on the board for serious power componentry.
The Digi+ VRM ITX riser board sticks out at a right angle, carrying all the necessary gubbins to ensure a solid, stable flow of juice to your thirsty PC parts.
This ITX board is the epitome of the 'no compromise' miniature aesthetic. It has everything the bigger boards come with. All you're actually missing out on is a couple of SATA ports and a pair of DIMM slots.
Well, that and a few extra PCIe/PCI slots, but all the important stuff is covered here for the PC gamer. The full-spec PCIe 3.0 connector, coupled with the power capabilities of this board to support serious CPU performance and overclocking, makes this an incredibly able base for a gaming PC.
And I don't just mean in terms of small-form factor PCs - this could stand toe-to-toe with most desktop builds.
Thanks to that Digi+ VRM riser board we were able to push our i7 3770K up to 4.64GHz. Hell, the board itself, with Asus's Auto OC function, pushed the CPU to 4.22GHz at the click of a mouse in the always lovely UEFI BIOS.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11: Index score: Higher is better
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe: 7.90
Asus Sabertooth Z77: 7.91
Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H: 7.98
Video encoding performance
X264 v4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe: 43.6
Asus Sabertooth Z77: 43.7
Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H: 43.8
Max OC: Gigahertz: Higher is better
Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe: 4.6
Asus Sabertooth Z77: 4.7
Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H: 4.8
But even at stock speeds the P8Z77-I is able to keep pace with the big boys, staying within touching distance of both the Sabertooth Z77 and Maximus V Formula boards from Asus. So long as your mini-ITX chassis has enough space for a decent CPU cooler in it you should have no trouble getting top-end overclocking performance out of this advanced li'l slab of PCB.
It's more than capable when it comes to pushing your graphics cards to their limits too. We had a GTX 680 doing the pixel-pushing duties and you're not going to be missing out just because you've opted for a little light space-saving in the motherboard department.
What GPU you attach to this board depends entirely on the chassis you screw it into, but choose the right one, like the BitFenix Prodigy, and you'll have no problem hitting top gaming performance.
The only niggle we have is, at £155, it's at the higher end of Z77 motherboard pricing. However, with the combination of an incredible feature set and dinky proportions the P8Z77-I can easily justify its price tag.