Zotac Z68-ITX WiFi review
LGA1155, Mini-ITX, Intel Z68 Express chipset, supports: 2nd gen Core i3, Core i5, Core i7
Zotac's Z68-ITX WiFi is a strange beast. It's an expensive mini-ITX motherboard with Intel's enthusiast Z68 chipset and a packed specification. We think it's best-suited as a basis for a small overclockable LAN party PC, as an alternative to a powerful laptop.
Zotac has managed to pack a large number of goodies onto the board's 195x195mm surface. The rear panel has four USB2 and two USB3 ports, twin gigabit Ethernet ports and 7.1 surround sound audio jacks as well as an optical S/PDIF output. There are also two USB2 headers to add another four USB2 ports if you buy the brackets, and a USB3 header and a USB3 bracket in the box to let you add another couple of USB3 sockets. You also get a pair of wireless sockets for the built-in 802.11n wireless adaptor's antennae. There's a single PCI Express x16 slot for a graphics card or other PCI Express expansion card - PCI-E x1 and x4 cards will both work in a x16 slot.
Unlike Intel's H67 Express chipset, the Z68 Express chipset lets you overclock your processor's multiplier as well as use its integrated graphics, so you can have a powerful overclocked mini-ITX PC without needing to use a dedicated graphics card. You're well covered for display outputs, with twin HDMI and a Mini DisplayPort sockets, and a Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort adaptor in the box. If you have DVI screens you'd rather use, you can buy HDMI to DVI adaptors for around £6 and active DisplayPort to DVI adaptors for around £17, or just fit an inexpensive low-profile graphics card with VGA and DVI outputs, such as a £30 Sapphire Radeon HD 6450.
The BIOS is a normal text-based version rather than a fancy UEFI, but it still lets you jack up your processor multiplier for a decent overclock. The other main feature of Z68 chipsets is hard disk caching. This uses up to 64GB of an SSD as a cache, which drastically speeds up boot times and data read speeds, but doesn't affect writes. In our tests, with our normal 7200RPM hard disk coupled with a Patriot Pyro SE, our boot time measured with the free BootRacer utility decreased from 45 seconds to 10. We also measured disk data transfer speeds with CrystalDiskMark, and saw a three-fold increase in read speeds, but, as expected, no difference to writes.
Zotac's Z68-ITX WiFi may be expensive, but this tiny board has the specification of a high-end enthusiast motherboard and the performance to match. It's a niche product, but if you hanker after a powerful tiny PC it could be for you.