Zotac A75-ITX WiFi Review

tacohunter52 - 2011-11-16 11:48:38 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: tacohunter52   
Reviewed on: December 8, 2011
Price: $139.99

Introduction:

If you're building an HTPC or some other type of streaming media rig, you usually want it to be as small as possible. This will allow you to easily tuck it away out of sight, where it can easily and quietly do its job. One of the best ways to do this is to start off with an ITX form factor motherboard. Zotac, for a while now, has been my all time favorite manufacturer that makes ITX motherboards, so right off the bat I'd recommend using one of its boards. However, you can't just pick up a motherboard and be done with it — you'll need to first decide which CPU you'll use. The ITX form factor comes with a wide range of socket types, as well as some without any socket. For some, an integrated CPU like the Intel Atom or VIA Nano would work fine. Others will want to be able to pick and choose which processor they'll be able to use. If you find yourself fitting into the latter category, I'd recommend using an AMD APU as a great budget option.

Today will be looking at just that — a Zotac A75 ITX motherboard that will be powered by an AMD A8 3850 APU. The Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is priced on Newegg at $139.99, which is almost exactly the cost of the AMD A8 3850 APU. So for about $260 plus the price of some memory and an HDD, you'll be able have a fully functioning HTPC/Streaming media rig. Not only that, but you can bring the cost down by using one of AMD's cheaper APUs. In my opinion, this is a price that's kind of hard to beat. Along with the APU, I'll also be pairing the A75-ITX WiFI up with an HD 6970 and 8GB of Mushkin memory so we can see how the board stacks up to larger A75 and A55 offerings. What is this tiny board capable of? Let's find out!

Closer Look:

The Zotac A75-ITX WiFi arrived in a package that follows a similar color scheme to what we usually see with a Zotac ITX board. The package was orange and black and used a flame design in the center. The top of the box was home to the Zotac logo, while the center was home to the motherboard's name. The bottom of the box specifies that it's an "AMD graphics chipset motherboard". Flipping the box over reveals a a picture of the board, as well as a short description about some of its specifications. Three sides of the box feature the Zotac logo and the A75-ITX WiFi name. The remaining side of the board features some more of the board's specifications in bullet format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as you open the box, you'll be greeted with all the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi's included accessories. These include three individually wrapped SATA cables, two individually wrapped WiFi antennas, an I/O shield, and a DVI to VGA adapter. You will also receive an installation guide and a driver CD. Removing the accessories and the cardboard tray they sit on, will give you your first glimpse of the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi sitting safe and sound in an anti-static bag.

 

 

Now that we've removed the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi from its packaging, let's see what it can do!

Closer Look:

Unfortunately, the first thing I noticed was something I really don't like to see on motherboards — the 4-pin auxiliary power connector was located in between two different parts of the I/O panel. This isn't that big of a deal when it comes to ITX motherboards, because they're so small and have so much stuff crammed into such a small space. That being said, I still would have liked to have seen it located somewhere else, like right next to the 24-pin main power connector. I also would have liked to see the four SATA connectors located on the outside of the DIMM slots as opposed to on the inside, but once again there isn't much you can do with the layout on an ITX board. Flipping the board over gives us a glimpse of the A75-ITX WiFi's backside, a good chunk of which is taken up by the backplate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost an entire side of the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi is taken up by the I/O panel and I was actually pretty impressed with what was stuffed into it. For starters, you'll be able to utilize six USB 3.0 ports, as well as a single PS/2 port. You'll also be able to take advantage of the board's two 10/100/1000Mbps LAN ports or its 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0 wireless adapter. For display purposes, you'll be able to utilize a DVI or an HDMI port, and for audio you'll have access to the standard 8-channel HD audio ports or a single optical S/PDIF port. Last but not least, located underneath the two wireless antennas is a clear CMOS switch, which always comes in handy if you intend to overclock. Moving on to the bottom of the board allows us to see that it is almost completely occupied by a single PCI x16 slot.

 

 

Moving on to the right side of the board, we can see that it's populated by the DIMM slots, as well as the main 24-pin power connector. Also located on this side of the motherboard are the front panel connectors, as well as two 3-pin fan connectors. The top of the board isn't really home to anything, but it does give us a quick glimpse of the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi's DrMOS power phase, which is usually something we see on MSI boards.

 

 

Located almost in the center of the board is the FM1 socket. The socket is located very close to the two DIMM slots, so finned memory will probably keep you from using a larger cooler. Located directly below the FM1 socket is the A75-ITX WiFi's wireless adapter, as well as its four SATA 3 6Gb/s connectors.

 

 

The features that this board has packed into it already make it worth its price tag, but will it perform on par with its competition? Let's take a quick run through the BIOS and then find out!

Closer Look:

The BIOS

The Zotac A75-ITX WiFi utilizes an American Megatrends APTIO BIOS that is based on, and compliant with, UEFI specifications. The lack of a GUI may turn some users away, but for the most part it shouldn't matter. The Main BIOS tab will show you some basic system information, as well as allow you to change the system date and time. Moving on to a more interesting section of the BIOS brings us to the X-Setting tab. Here is where you SHOULD be able to do some overclocking, and may ACTUALLY be able to do some overclocking with a future BIOS update or an unlocked chip. Switching CPU Performance Boost Control to Enabled will give you controls to adjust the CPU Multiplier. This is something that would be useful if you could actually increase the multiplier on current AMD Llano chips. You can however lower the multiplier if for some reason you want to downclock your chip. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with a motherboard allowing you to do this, but the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi will not allow you to increase the BCLK, effectively making it impossible to overclock your CPU. Not only that, but you are unable to change any bus speeds, so I'm really not sure why there is even an overclocking section included in the BIOS. You can, however, adjust memory timings and voltages. I actually thought it was a bit funny that you could increase the CPU voltage even though you couldn't increase the BCLK or the multiplier. Hopefully Zotac will release a BIOS update that allows us to do a bit more when it comes to overclocking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving on to the Advanced settings, here you'll be able to adjust PCI settings, configure onboard devices, and access power savings features. The Advanced tab is followed by the Chipset tab, which will allow you to adjust your display configuration, as well as memory settings. This tab is then followed by both the Boot and Security sections, which will let you adjust boot options, boot device priorities, and set a BIOS password.

 

 

 

The remaining two sections of the BIOS are the PC-Health section and the Save and Exit section. The PC-Health section will allow you to monitor idle voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds. The Save and Exit section will allow you to save user defaults, load user defaults, load optimized defaults, and of course, save and exit.

 

 

Now let's take a quick look at the included programs and then get to the benching!

Closer Look:

Before we can run any benchmarks, we will need to first install all the necessary drivers. Doing this is as simple as inserting the included driver CD and then individually installing each of the four included drivers, the first of which is the AMD chipset driver. Once you select it from the list of available drivers, the familiar CCC install manager will appear. Simply follow the on-screen steps and then move on to the next driver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both the Audio and the Ethernet drivers used the familiar Install Shield. The WLAN/Bluetooth drivers started as a self-extracting file, which then moved to an installer. Unfortunately, Zotac did not include any software with the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi, but that's okay because it means we can get to the benchmarks faster!

 

 

Now let's move on to the benchmarks!

Specifications:

Product Name:
ZOTAC A75-ITX WiFi
Model:
A74ITX-A-E
Manufacturer:
AMD
Chipset:
A75
GPU:
AMD Radeon HD 6000 Series ready
Name:
AMD A8
AMD A6
AMD A4
E2 Series
Socket:
FM1
Bus:
N/A
Memory Type:
DDR3
Memory Speed:
Up to 1866MHz (Varies by APU)
Slots:
2 x 240-pin DIMM
Capacity:
Up to 8GB
CPU and Memory:
See Above
Compatibility List:
See Above
DirectX:
DirectX 11
OpenGL:
OpenGL 3.2
Slots:
1 x PCI Express x16
Ethernet:
2 x 10/100/1000Mbps
WiFi:
802.11n & Bluetooth 3.0
Analog:
8-ch HD
Digital:
Optical S/PDIF & HDMI outputs
DVI:
1 (HDCP)
HDMI:
1
VGA:
1 (with included adapter)
SATA:
4 (SATA 6.0 Gb/s)
eSATA:
N/A
PATA:
N/A
PS/2:
1 (keyboard/mouse)
Serial:
Serial port header
USB Ports:
8 x USB 3.0 (6 on back panel; 2 via pin header)
2 x USB 2.0 (via pin header)
Cooler:
Passive (no fan)
Form Factor:
Mini-ITX
OS Compatibility:
Certified for Windows 7
SLI Supported:
No
Maximum Resolution:
2048x1536
Wake-On Support:
Wake-on USB
Wake-on-LAN
Overclocking features:
N/A
Package Contents:
ZOTAC A75-ITX WiFi motherboard
3 X SATA Cables
1 X DVI-to-VGA Adapter
2 X WiFi antennas
1 X I/O back plate
1 DVI/1 HDMI/ 1 VGA

 

Features:


 

Information on this page courtesy of ZOTAC @ http://www.zotac.com/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage_images-SRW.tpl&product_id=397&category_id=150&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=100270⟨=en&vmcchk=1&Itemid=100270

Testing:

Testing the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi will include running it and comparison products through the OCC test suite of benchmarks that includes both synthetic benchmarks and real world applications to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also include both synthetic benchmarks and actual game play to see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The APU will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition and I've used the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 6970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies — unless otherwise stated.

 

Testing Setup: AMD Socket FM1

 

Comparison Boards:

 

 

Overclocking:

This is where we would go over how well the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi was able to overclock. Unfortunately the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi does not currently allow for overclocking, so we'll just have to skip this for now.

 

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. Bibble 5
  3. WinRAR
  4. Geekbench
  5. Office 2007
  6. POV-Ray 3.7
  7. PCMark Vantage Professional
  8. Sandra XII
  9. ScienceMark 2.02
  10. Cinebench 10
  11. Cinebench 11.5
  12. HD Tune 4.60
  1. Aliens vs. Predator
  2. Batman: Arkham Asylum
  3. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

Lower is Better

 

 

Geekbench:

Geekbench 2.1 is a benchmark that tests CPU and memory performance in an easy to use tool. The measure used for comparison is the total suite average score.

Higher is Better

 

Bibble 5:

This test consists of converting 100 8.2MP RAW images to JPEG format. The file size is 837MB. The measure used for comparison is time to convert the file in seconds.

Lower is Better

 

The Zotac A75-ITX did very well in our first set of benchmarks, coming out as top dog in four of the seven. Keep in mind though, each motherboard performed almost exactly the same, so even in the ones that the Zotac A75-ITX did not do as well in, the performance difference you would see would be negligible.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

POV-Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for quicker completion.

Higher Is Better

 

The Zotac A75-ITX, despite its smaller form factor, was once again able to come out as the top dog in both of our benchmarks. Seeing this really makes me wonder what the tiny motherboard would have been able to do if it could actually overclock!

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

Each motherboard performed almost exactly the same in every single one of our SiSoft Sandra benchmarks.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

Cinebench 10 is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Once again each of the boards performed on par with each other. However, this time around the Zotac A75-ITX wasn't able to pull ahead of the group by its usual miniscule amount.

Testing:

Aliens vs. Predator, developed by Rebellion Developments, is a science fiction first-person shooter and is a remake of its 1999 game. The game is based off the two popular sci fi franchises. In this game, you have the option of playing through the single player campaigns as one of three species. The Alien, the Predator or the Human Colonial Marine. The Game uses Rebellion's Asura game engine that supports Dynamic Lighting, Shader Model 3.0, Soft Particle systems and Physics. To test this game I will be using the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark tool with the settings listed below. All DirectX 11 features are enabled.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

While there is no way humanly possible anyone would be able to notice a difference in frame rates between these motherboards, the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi produced the lowest of the pack.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter rivals, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to become the Dark Knight.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

This time around, the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi performed in the middle of the spectrum — it didn't produce the highest framerates and it didn't give the lowest.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista-based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. "Entry" is 1024 x 768 progressing to "Extreme" at 1920 x 1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher = Better

 

Once again the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi came out as a middle man. With the exception of the High settings, the board was able to come out in second place each time.

Conclusion:

It wouldn't make sense to use an ITX board as the backbone of an expensive gaming rig, but ITX motherboards do have there uses. For example, it would make a lot more sense to use an ITX board in an HTPC build as opposed to a full sized ATX motherboard. Not only that, but using such a small motherboard will allow you to build an HTPC machine that you can neatly tuck out of sight. This is obviously a huge selling point for ITX motherboards, but does the small size come at a cost to performance? As Zotac has just showed us, it doesn't have to. The Zotac A75-ITX WiFi offered up the exact same performance as other A75 boards we've looked at, all while being much smaller. One downside to the board is its $140 price tag. While this isn't a whole lot of money to spend on a motherboard, other A75 boards can be had for cheaper.

While you can get the same performance as the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi for less money, the board's features help to make up for the extra cost. For instance you'll be able to utilize a total of six USB 3.0 ports and each of the board's four SATA connectors are SATA 3 6Gb/s. The board is also equipped with dual 10/100/1000Mbps LAN connectors, as well as integrated IEEE 802.11n WiFi networking. This by itself makes the board an ideal HTPC motherboard because you can easily place it anywhere in your home.

One slight disappointment I found with the Zotac A75-ITX WiFi was its lack of overclocking features. Right out of the gate I wasn't expecting it to have any, but the fact that it had an overclocking section of the BIOS without any overclocking options was a bit of a let down. Hopefully in a future update, Zotac will either remove this portion of the BIOS or give the user the ability to actually change settings needed to overclock. Other than that, it was a great motherboard that I'd recommend to anyone looking for an ITX solution. The board is a bit pricey, but for what it is and does, I'd say it's worth it. Besides, all you really need to do is add memory, an HDD, and a PSU, and you've got yourself a nice little HTPC!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: