GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI ITX Motherboard Review
Every time we review a Mini-ITX motherboard we know that we are going to encounter something cool or unusual. The PCB space constraints combined with the obvious desire to outdo the competition means that engineers are always finding clever ways of cramming more and more features into an area that is less than 7" x 7". Most recently, we were very impressed by the ASUS STRIX Z270-I and the derivative STRIX X370-I since those models had been outfitted with two M.2 slots, which is something that we had never seen or even expected on such tiny motherboards. Another standout model was the ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac, which had triple video outputs and support for multiple 4K 60Hz displays.
The GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI that we are reviewing today has both of those aforementioned features on one motherboard, and a fair bit more than that too. In fact, this $150 USD / $200 CAD model has almost every single capability that we would expect from a full-sized ATX motherboard. So what exactly do you get for you money? Well for starters, this model has a 6-phase CPU VRM, two DDR4 memory slots that can handle speeds of up to DDR4-4400, four SATA 6Gb/s ports, two full-speed M.2 slots, and one reinforced PCI-E x16 slot. The USB connectivity is also quite good with six USB 3.0 Type-A ports, one USB 3.0 Type-C port, one USB 3.0 header, and one USB 3.1 Gen2 header. Alas, USB 3.1 Gen2 is nowhere to be found, which is the only noteworthy connectivity snafu.
When it comes to networking, there is not one but two Intel-powered gigabit LAN ports and onboard Wi-Fi in the form of a dual-band Intel 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.2 solution mated to a 2x2 external antenna. Those who plan on utilizing their processor's integrated GPU have a trifecta of options since the rear I/O panel has a HDM 1.4 port, a highly sought after HDMI 2.0 port, and a DisplayPort 1.2 video output. These last two both support 4K at up to 60Hz, so this model seems ideal for an HTPC or a serious multi-monitor workstation.
The onboard audio solution is based on the familiar Realtek ALC1220 ten-channel codec, Nippon Chemi-Con audio-grade capacitors, three analog audio jacks, a digital S/PDIF header, and a tiny little PCB-level isolation line that should help keep some noise out of the audio signal. If and when you listen to music, you will able to be able to make the onboard RGB LED lighting dance to the beat. Don't expect a spectacular light show though, since there are only four RGB LEDs mounted on this model, and they are all on the backside of the motherboard. Thankfully, GIGABYTE has included two light strip headers for those who want to create a more eye-catching experience.
At first glance, the GIGABYTE Z370N WIFI has a lot going for it. The capabilities are pretty much class-leading, and it is also a fair bit cheaper than competing models as well. However, obviously it is the implementation that matters most, so we will be checking out the UEFI BIOS, playing with the numerous utilities, testing the numerous overclocking features, and just generally giving this motherboard a thorough peak under the hood. Let's see if we come away impressed.
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