EVGA Z77 Stinger mini-ITX Motherboard Review
Features, Layout, and Bundled Accessories
Courtesy of EVGA
- USB 3.0 Support
- SATA 6G Support
- HDMI 1.4 connector
- Supports Intel Core i5 and i7 Socket 1155 Processors
- 8 Channel High Definition Audio
- 100% Solid State Capacitors
- EVGA Vdroop Control
- EVGA E-LEET Tuning Support
- Onboard Clear CMOS, Power and Reset Buttons
- Onboard CPU Temperature Monitor
- DisplayPort 1.1a
- PCI Express 3.0 Support
Even with its small footprint, the EVGA Z77 Stinger is not forcibly packed with components with a flat black and red color scheme giving it an appealing appearance. EVGA even included rubberized and labeled port covers for the onboard USB 2.0 and 3.0 headers. Don’t let its size fool you though, EVGA spent time designing in most of the add-ons you would expect in a full sized board, including SATA and eSATA ports, PCI-Express x16 3.0 and mPCIe ports, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports and headers, 2 varieties of onboard networking, and onboard power button, reset button, and diagnostic LED display.
EVGA made up for some of the lost space on the rear side of the board, placing some low profile power circuitry around the critical board areas, as well as the normal soldering points, wire traces, and steel LGA1155 back plate.
The Z77 Stinger’s rear panel layout includes the support for the following: 2 USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports (blue colored ports), 2 eSATA ports, and Intel GigE NIC port, a Bluetooth adapter, a mini DisplayPort port, an HDMI video port, a CMOS reset button, an optical digital audio output port, and 6 analogue audio ports. Directly behind the rear panel assembly are a chassis fan header and the CMOS battery. The CMOS battery was also placed adjacent to the rear panel in an upright position, allowing for easy access to it.
In between the rear panel assembly and the Intel Z77 chipset is the onboard micro PCI-Express port. This port can be used to enhance the board’s capabilities with a micro PCI-Express add-in card, such as a wireless networking adapter. The USB 2.0 and 3.0 headers are also located in this area.
EVGA chose to include 1 PCI-Express 3.0 x16 port in addition to the micro PCI-Express port. While the passively cooled Intel Z77 chipset looks close to the PCI-Express x16 slot, there is enough room for use with video cards with backside coolers. However, the outside SATA II port is a little close for comfort to the PCI-Express x16 slot. Use of this SATA port will require careful planning with cable routing when putting the system together.
In between the onboard DIMM slots and the Intel Z77 chipset are the onboard SATA ports. There are a total of 4 SATA ports, with the red colored ports being the SATA III ports and the black colored ones being the SATA II ports. The 4 onboard ports offer support and RAID 0, 1, and 5. The 2 onboard memory slots are located along the bottom of the board, with dual channel memory mode active with modules seating in both slots. The board offers support for up 16GB of memory with speeds of 2133MHz, 1866MHz, 1600MHz, 1333MHz, and 1066MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. The color-coded front panel header and the 24-pin power connector are below the memory slots along the board’s edge.
In the lower right corner of the board, EVGA placed some enthusiast friendly devices including a 2-digit diagnostic display and onboard power and reset buttons. The diagnostic display codes can be used in conjunction with the table included in the motherboard manual to troubleshoot boot related issues. Note that the LED display shows the CPU temperature once the system has completed initialization.
The 8-pin power connector, as well as an audio output header and several fan headers, are located along the right-most edge of the board.
The included LGA1155 socket is a shiny steel assembly with more than adequate room around it for use with most coolers. The power circuitry just above the CPU socket is covered by a large passive aluminum heat sink. To provide power to the CPU, the board is designed with a 7+1 phase power system with the MOSFETS arranged above and to the right of the CPU socket..
In keeping with the small size of the board, EVGA kept the accessory bundle for the Z77 Stinger small and minimized.
For the onboard SATA ports, EVGA included a total of 4 SATA cables and two power cables. One of the included power cables is a triple ended black-sleeved cable, similar in nature to what you would normally see bundled in with a PSU, while the other power cable is a dual ended un-sleeved cable. The 2 flat SATA cables are rated for 3GB/s operation, while the rounded cables are rated for 6 GB/s use.
The board’s rear panel shield is well labeled in a flat black color-scheme, keeping consistent with the board looks.
The included user manual and install DVD give only the essential information and drivers needed to get the board up and running. The manual was found to be very lacking with no explanation provided for the BIOS screens or the included E-LEET Tuning Utility. However, EVGA did include a very detailed breakdown for the diagnostic display codes shown during board initialization.