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GIGABYTE Z77N-WiFi Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Features, Layout, and Bundled Accessories

Features

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

  • GIGABYTE 3D BIOS (Dual UEFI)
  • Supports Intel WiFi/ WIDI technology
  • Integrated Bluetooth 4.0 and Intel Wi-Fi module
  • All new design of Ultra Durable 4 classic
  • Supports 3rd and 2nd Gen. Intel® Core™ CPUs (LGA1155 socket)
  • Dual LAN for networking flexibility
  • PCI Express Gen 3.0 support
  • Industry's Leading All Japanese Solid Capacitor Design
  • GIGABYTE 333™ Onboard Acceleration (USB 3.0, SATA 3.0 & 3x USB Power)
  • DVI and Dual HDMI interface for smoother HD video playback
  • GIGABYTE On/Off Charge™ for USB devices

Motherboard Layout

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From the initial unpacking of the board, you could see that GIGABYTE put some thought into the Z77N-WiFi motherboard's layout and design. GIGABYTE shifted the position of the CPU socket to the left of the board, placing all the components normally on the left or bottom of the board to the right side. This shift opened up some space on the board, and give better access to some of the components including the CMOS battery. GIGABTYE also included an Intel Centrino mPCIe wireless adapter supporting both 802.11n and Bluetooth wireless protocols.

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The back of the board is free of components in the vicinity of the CPU socket. Some of the power components, including the VRMs, the ITE chipset controlling the serial port, and the secondary BIOS were relocated to the back of the board to save on space.

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The Z77N-WiFi includes the following ports in its rear panel: a keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, 4 USB 2.0 ports controlled by the Z77 chipset, 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset, 2 Realtek GigE NIC ports, an HDMI video port, a DisplayPort video port, a DVI-D video port, 2 wireless antennae ports, an optical digital audio output port, and 5 analogue audio ports.

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GIGABYTE integrated a single PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot into the Z77Z-WiFi's design. The slot is capable of the full x16 bandwidth with a card seated.

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To the upper right of the PCI-Express x16 slot are the front panel audio header and the CPU_FAN header.

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By moving the CPU socket directly to the right of the PCI-Express x16 slot, GIGABTYE freed up space on the board for components. However, this leaves the CPU socket with crowding issues with a video card to its left and memory to its bottom if one of the larger CPU coolers is used for cooling like the Noctua NH-D14 cooler. This does not become a problem when onboard video is used. Additionally, GIGABYTE integrated a 4+1 phased power circuit into the board for the CPU with low profile components use around the socket.

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As you can see from the pictures, using a larger CPU cooler like the Noctua NH-D14 with the Z77N-WiFi can pose serious space issues between the cooler, the DIMM slots, and the PCI-Express x16 slot. The cooler does not interfere with the rear panel, but you may have some spacing issues with the back panel of the case. With this large cooler, the PCI-Express x16 slot is unusable, forcing use of onboard video only. The DIMM slots can be used as long as the memory modules do not have extended coolers on them. If you wanted to use an add-on video card for this configuration, you would have to find a smaller cooler.

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The integrated DDR3 memory slots are located along the bottom edge of the board. Dual Channel memory mode becomes enabled with modules populating both slots.

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The right side of the Z77N-WiFi houses the ports, devices, headers and chipsets normally found along the left side or bottom of the board.

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In the lower right corner of the board are the CMOS battery, 24-pin ATX power connector, mPCIe slot, serial port header, and CMOS clear jumper. The mPCIe slot cannot accommodate an mSATA device because of interference with the serial port header and the chipset cooler just above it. GIGABYTE chose to include an Intel Centrino wireless adapter seated in the mPCIe slot. The wireless adapter supports 802.11n Wi-Fi, Intel WIDI, and Bluetooth wireless protocols and comes with pre-wired connections to the antennae ports integrated into the rear panel.

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Just above the mPCIe port are 2 USB 2.0 headers, the front panel header, 4 Intel Z77-controlled SATA ports, the Intel Z77 chipset, and a USB 3.0 header. The Intel Z77 chipset is covered by a lower profile aluminum heat sink. The black colored SATA ports are SATA 2 3GB/s ports, while the white colored ports are SATA 3 6GB/s ports.

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To the upper left of Intel Z77 chipset are an onboard fan header and the 4-port ATX12V power connector. The use of a 2-port ATX12v connector rather than the normal 8-port connector did not seem to inhibit board performance.

Included Accessories

GIGABYTE included the bare essentials with the Z77N-WiFi, just enough to get the board up and running.

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The bundled user manual and installation DVDs provide plenty of information to get the board up and running, as well as more in-depth information for the advanced user.

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The rear panel shield is a base black color with all device ports color-coded and marked for easy identification.

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GIGABYTE included a total of two locking SATA cables with both straight and 90 degree connectors.

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Their are a total of two Wi-Fi antennas included that can be plugged into the ports on the rear panel to get better reception to your Wi-Fi hot spot. The antennas have a felt covered base to better grip the surface you place them on.

April 22, 2013 | 09:03 AM - Posted by Justin 150 (not verified)

A decent board but has some layout issues.

Would prefer msata - put it on back of board like ASRock.

Would prefer sata sockets to be stacked at right angles not straight up (easier for cable management)

4pin ATX is in awkward place but can live with that.

Would like to see if some of the low profile coolers (fan downward) coolers would fit - would certainly improve cooling for power components, but looks to clash with pcie slot

April 22, 2013 | 06:24 PM - Posted by Noah Swint (not verified)

I've been using this for a little over a month. The dual realtek nic and Wireless-N 2230 cards work out the box using Linux distros running 3.2.38 and higher. They don't work on freebsd.

Performance with the Wireless-N 2230 with the included antennas in AP mode isn't really stable beyond 12 - 15 feet direclty in the line of sight.

The smallest low profile cpu heatsink/fan combos fit but run into the power supplies and cables in your Mini-ITX cases.

April 23, 2013 | 09:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why does Easy Tune Processor Name say i-3 in 2 different windows but other fields conform to an i-5 3570K?

April 23, 2013 | 09:45 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Mostly likely a hardware id glitch with the version of easytune 6 installed for testing.  The CPU used for testing (and while these screencaps where taken) was an i5-3570K.

Thanks for pointing this out.

May 4, 2013 | 08:55 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The biggest issue is that it does not have Wake on LAN. For this kind of board a no-go in my eyes!

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