Zotac has carved out a niche for itself in the world of mini-ITX motherboards, which is largely due to the fact that it’s one of the only companies to produce them with any regularity. We’ve seen examples for nearly every available socket over the past few years, and even some boards aimed at overclockers.
Therefore, we weren’t particularly surprised when Zotac asked if we’d like to see a dinky board based on AMD’s new FM1 socket – our response was an immediate 'yes' and we rubbed our hands with glee at the idea of building a tiny media PC.
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How Zotac manages to cram so much tech wizardry into the tiny mini-ITX form factor is a constant source of amazement at bit-tech. The A75-ITX WiFi packs in many of the features you’d expect to see on a full-sized ATX motherboard. It boasts dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, six rear USB 3 ports, an additional on-board USB 3 header for the case’s front-panel ports and a CMOS clear button.
Also squeezed onto the board is a tiny wireless b/g/n card, which is becoming customary on Zotac motherboards. This connects to a pair of rear-I/O-mounted aerials and is handy, especially if you plan to hide the A75-ITX WiFi away as a discreet media PC and don’t want an Ethernet cable trailing to it.
Using this built-in wireless card also frees up the single 16x PCI-E slot, which gives you the option of slotting in a discrete graphics card and building a dinky gaming rig. However, we suggest that anyone who wants to go down this route opts for the marginally more expensive Zotac Z68 Mini-ITX WiFi, as it’s based on the Z68 chipset, and can therefore accommodate Intel’s excellent range of Core i5 and Core i7 processors.
More interesting would be the option of using the slot for a sound card or TV card, and relying on the on-board GPU of the FM1 processor for a video output. This would form the basis of a small but powerful media PC – we’ve established that the on-board Radeon HD 6550D GPU inside the AMD A8-3850 APU is a reasonable performer at 1,680 x 1,050 if you want to indulge in some light gaming.
Cramming so much onto a PCB that’s smaller than an A5 sheet of paper necessitates some compromises, though. One of these is the awkward location of the 4-pin ATX12V power socket between the VRM heatsink, the wireless aerials and part of the rear I/O. This makes it a pain to reach and even more of a pain when removing cables from it.
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The VRM circuitry is also slimmed down, with only four phases smoothing out the power delivered to the APU. These phases are only covered by a dinky heatsink, so they’re unlikely to react well to having too much voltage shoved through them. Interestingly, Zotac has also crammed these four phases onto the board by mounting the capacitors that are part of the VRM circuitry on the back of the board.
These are flat, lozenge-style capacitors, so they won’t clash with your motherboard tray. However, they’ll dump their waste heat between the motherboard and the motherboard tray; an area that isn’t likely to receive much airflow in a standard case.
Chipset AMD A75
CPU support FM1 A-series APUs
Memory support 2 slots: max 8GB DDR3 (1,866MHz)
Expansion slots 16x PCI-E 2.0 slot
Sound 8-channel HD Audio via Realtek ALC892
Networking 2 x Realtek RTL8112 Gigabit Ethernet
Overclocking CPU Multiplier 16-56, max voltages CPU +0.5V. RAM +0.7V
Ports 4 x SATA 6Gbps, 2 x SATA 6Gbps, PS/2, 8 x USB 3, 2 x USB 2, 2 x LAN, 4 x surround audio out, line in, mic, optical S/PDIF out, DVI, HDMI