After the initial rush of launch products coinciding with the release of a new CPU/Motherboard platform, we begin to see some of the more quirky or niche designs appear from platform partners. In recent years the fad has very much been for pushing things to be small, allowing new systems to be as discrete and low-power as possible, and ZOTAC have been pretty successful in doing just that. Although best known for their NVIDIA GeForce GPUs, ZOTAC also design and build a range of small form factor motherboards for Intel and AMD CPUs, packing masses of new features onto a diminishingly small motherboard to allow the assembly of a PC which is petite but still fully-featured.
The latest ZOTAC motherboard, announced today, is the H87ITX-A-E. You can read a lot into the product simply from the SKU: that it's designed for Intel's recently released 'Haswell' CPUs, that it will have minimal overclocking capability, and that it's built to the ITX form factor. For a little more detailed information we'll need to delve into the technical specs, but there's a few things we can assume from previous ZOTAC designs: it'll have WiFi, at least dual video-out, and a PCI-Express slot.
Chipset:- H87 Express
GPU:- Intel HD Graphics ready
- 4th Generation Intel Core series Intel Core i3, i5 & i7 4000 series ready
- Memory Type: DDR3
- Memory Speed: 1600 MHz
- Slots: 2 x 240-pin DIMM
- Capacity: Up to 16GB
- 1 x PCI Express x16 1 x Mini-PCI Express (occupied by WiFi card) 1 x mSATA 6.0 Gb/s
- Ethernet: Dual 10/100/1000Mbps
- WiFi: 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0
- Analog 8-ch HD
- Digital S/PDIF output + 8-ch HDMI
- DVI: 1
- HDMI: 1 (HDMI 1.4a)
- DisplayPort: 1
- SATA: 4 (SATA 6.0 Gb/s) (RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5)
- USB Ports: 6 USB 3.0 (4 on back panel, 2 on pin header) 6 USB 2.0 (2 on back panel, 4 on pin header)
- 4 x SATA cables
- 1 x I/O back plate
- 2 x WiFi antennas
- 1 x DVI-to-VGA adapter
- 1 x 4-pin ATX power extension cable
The spec list reads a little more like a fully featured mATX motherboard than mini-ITX. Squeezed into the form factor is support for two DDR3 DIMMS, and the motherboard is rated up to 1600MHz /w 8GB per DIMM (for a total of 16GB). Coupled with support for Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 CPUs it can form the basis for quite a powerful system.
One full-length 16-lane PCI-Express will allow the use of discrete GFX cards including high-powered NVIDIA and AMD products, but if your system has a more modest outlook then you can take advantage of the Intel HD-Graphics of your CPU through the DVI, HDMI or DisplayPort video-out options. 8-channel audio through analogue, SPDIF and HDMI are also possibilities if a media PC is your intended use.
Storage and expansion is catered to by four SATA 6Gbps ports, six USB 3.0 ports and 6 USB 2.0 ports. A slightly smaller section of the market will be interested in the mSATA slot in order to take advantage of the Intel Smart Response caching technology, whilst there's no need to budget for additional WiFi thanks to a mini-PCI-Express slot occupied by a 802.11n/Bluetooth wireless module. Dual-Gigabit Ethernet rounds out the package which really doesn't lack very much.
ZOTAC bill the H87-ITX WiFi (its name for marketing purposes) as a part which can deliver a computing experience that rivals a traditional tower PC. With those sorts of specs it's hard to argue. The only question becomes, what about a case?
For more information you can visit ZOTAC.com.