Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi review

Intel's top Sandy Bridge chipset shrinks for this mini ITX motherboard

TODO alt text

Zotac z68 itx wi fi

Zotac should be the master of mini-ITX design – its range of this sub-ATX-sized standard is extensive and covers everything from the Intel Atom to this latest Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi motherboard. And it joins a growing number of these micro-sized motherboards.

Despite its size, it does effectively cram in everything you need to create a cutting-edge system.

We're particularly impressed by the two HDMI and single DisplayPort connections.

Coupled with the Intel HD graphics, it's capable of driving three 1080p digital panels, and that's before you've plugged anything into the x16 PCIe slot.

The downside is this does drop a bank of installed USB and eSATA ports, which was, for example, found on the sister Zotac H67-ITX Wi-Fi motherboard.

Board layout in general is nearly perfect. The big issue for us is the positioning of components that will block any cooler backplate. This is a rather critical issue if you're using anything but a standard snap-in cooler.

Adding additional flexibility, an onboard mini-PCIe slot comes populated with an 802.11n wireless card, and two antenna connections are installed on the ATX backplate. Alternatively, the Intel Z68 chipset does support the use of a mini-PCIe SSD to enable the Smart Response Technology, to help boost conventional HDD performance.

System installation is a pretty smooth affair. This isn't helped by the somewhat sparse install disc, though, which doesn't provide any sort of unattended driver installation or any additional extras.

That aside, we can't criticise the supplied hardware extras, including an mSATA mount, mini DP-to-DP adaptor and USB 3.0 backplate.

We liked

Beautiful build quality, solid if unremarkable benchmarks and a neatly packaged product help justify the pricing of this latest Intel Z68-based motherboard.

The balance of ports is just right, and while we may miss a DVI port, adaptors are at hand. The Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi even performed well as an overclocking board.

We disliked

As much as we continue to be impressed by just how much can be crammed onto these tiny ITX motherboards, we have to wonder who is buying them?

That's no slight against Zotac. But beyond a small media centre system or a specialised project, why would you opt for this over a similarly priced but more flexible ATX board?

Final verdict

The Zotac Z68-ITX Wi-Fi is a delightfully accomplished mini-motherboard that packs a lot of technology into a small frame. But it does so at a price, and for little extra performance.