Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini-ITX Motherboard

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Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini-ITX Motherboard

July 19, 2013 by Lawrence Lee

Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI
LGA1155 mini-ITX Motherboard
Street Price

The goal was a simple one. Build a build a small, stable, cool and quiet Windows desktop for a family member. It didn't have to be flashy or fancy, it just had to do its job and not be noticed. Check email, surf the web, play music and HD video, and not bog down to a crawl when playing mindless Flash based games. That last point was absolutely vital I was told.

Combing through the current landscape of computer hardware, I settled on a relatively low priced Intel build with integrated graphics. While AMD recent APUs have made good strides, its true strengths — discrete-class graphics and affordable quad core processing — simply weren't needed. What I required was snappy single-threaded operation and high energy efficiency to make it easy to cool quietly in a compact enclosure.

The selection of AMD mini-ITX motherboards was also much smaller. I didn't want to settle on a board just because it was the best choice of three. If you ask me for just one piece of advice when it comes to DIY PCs, it would be that the motherboard is the most important component. It defines what you can add to it and what it's capable of — the system's identity is tied to the mainboard. And frankly, it's a pain to replace, so get it right the first time so hopefully you'll never have to.

I found several sub-$100 LGA1155 mini-ITX models during my search but they all were based on the old H61 chipset. I don't prescribe to the notion that everything new is automatically better but these budget boards lacked what I consider basic modern features, namely SATA 6 Gbps and USB 3.0. I didn't really need either, but I wanted some degree of future-proofing or whatever you want to call it — even if it is less than a year. If the time came for the machine to be repurposed for some other use, I wanted some degree of versatility.

For a bit more money, a Gigabyte caught my attention, the GA-H77N-WIFI. It seemed almost too good to be true. A series 7 board, it had everything I wanted and might ever want. SATA 6 Gbps, USB 3.0, gigabit ethernet, HDMI, S/PDIF, and even WiFi and Bluetooth. The few reviews I found were favorable and it was on sale at NCIX for about CDN$100. A few mouse-clicks and keyboard strokes and a day later, it was ready for pickup along with a compatible 55W dual core Ivy Bridge processor.

When Intel's series 7 motherboards launched in anticipation of Ivy Bridge, the H77 chipset took the same role as its predecessor, H67, a budget mainstream model with all the basic necessities for most users. Compared to the top of the line Z77 chipset, H77 is missing a couple of advanced features, though arguably they aren't all that useful on a mini-ITX model.

The big one is CPU overclocking via multiplier, the only way to achieve a good overclock with a modern Intel chip. Without it, one must resort to core frequency adjustment, which results in instability beyond a few MHz. A "Z" series board is also required for Lucid's Virtu application to access features of the integrated graphics chip, namely Intel's Quick Sync video transcoding engine while using a discrete graphics card. Finally, with H77, the CPU's PCI-E lanes cannot be split up into multiple slots (e.g. 8x/8x), an irrelevant omission for the mini-ITX form factor with its single expansion slot.

Gigabyte H77N-WIFI : Specifications
(from the product web page)
CPU Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1155 package
L3 cache varies with CPU
(Some Intel® Core™ processors require a graphic card, please refer "CPU support List" for more information.)
Chipset Intel® H77 Express Chipset
Memory 2 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
* Due to a Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than the size of the physical memory installed.
Dual channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 2200(OC)/1600/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
* To support DDR3 1600 MHz, you must install an Intel 22nm (Ivy Bridge) CPU.
Support for non-ECC memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
(Please refer "Memory Support List" for more information.)
Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor:
1 x DVI-I port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200
2 x HDMI ports, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200
Audio Realtek ALC892 codec
High Definition Audio
Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN 2 x Realtek GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Wireless Communication module Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Supports Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)
Bluetooth 4.0, 3.0+HS, 2.1+EDR
Expansion Slots 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
(The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
* Whether PCI Express 3.0 is supported depends on CPU and graphics card compatibility.
Storage Interface Chipset:
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0/1) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2 2/3) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
* When a RAID set is built across the SATA 6Gb/s and SATA 3Gb/s channels, the system performance of the RAID set may vary depending on the devices being connected.
USB Chipset:
Up to 4 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Up to 6 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Internal I/O Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x serial port header
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 header
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x CPU fan header
1 x system fan header
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
Back Panel Connectors 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
2 x HDMI ports
2 x antenna connectors
1 x DVI-I port
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 x RJ-45 ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
I/O Controller iTE I/O Controller Chip
H/W Monitoring System voltage detection
CPU/System temperature detection
CPU/System fan speed detection
CPU fan speed control
* Whether the CPU fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU cooler you install.
BIOS 2 x 64 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AMI EFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.6, ACPI 2.0a
Unique Features Support for @BIOS
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress Install
Support for EasyTune
* Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
Support for Auto Green
Support for ON/OFF Charge
Support for Q-Share
Support for EZ Setup
Support for Intel Wireless Display (Intel WiDi)
Exclusive Bluetooth 4.0/WiFi module
Bundle Software Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Intel® Rapid Start Technology
Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Intel® Smart Response Technology
Operating System Support for Microsoft® Windows 8/7/XP
Form Factor Mini-ITX Form Factor; 17.0cm x 17.0cm
Remark Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.

Most hardware/software vendors may no longer offer drivers to support Win9X/ME/2000/XP SP1/SP2. If drivers are available from the vendors, we will update them on the GIGABYTE website.

Being a mini-ITX motherboard, it has some limitations compared to the ATX enthusiast boards I am used to working with. Present are four SATA ports (two of which are 3 Gbps), two DIMM slots, and two USB 3.0 connectors at the back, though an internal header is provided. As H77 is a mainstream/budget chipset, most users will end up using integrated graphics which the H77N-WIFI supports via one DVI-I and dual HDMI ports. This setup lacks a DisplayPort, which is required for Ivy Bridge's triple display support.

The real interesting thing about this board are the connectivity options. It's equipped with a pair of Realtek gigabit ethernet connectors which some savvy users with the right hardware use to team a pair of cable/DSL modems to make a single super high speed internet connection out of two cable/DSL lines. A second NIC can also be useful if the PC is to be used as a router/firewall and for other advanced server functions. A regular Joe has no need of this but WiFi and Bluetooth is certainly pertinent. The board has a half-size mini PCI-E slot filled with a WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 adapter. Few mini-ITX boards have wireless connectivity, let alone one at this price point.

The box.

Package contents.

Budget boards aren't loaded with extras and the H77N-WIFI comes with almost the bare minimum. Included is a driver/utility disc tucked inside a manual, I/O shield, two SATA cables, and a pair of external WiFi antennae. The antennae are made of plastic and rubber and have one meter long cables. They're not particularly hefty and don't have magnets on them like the ASUS antennae so it's easy to knock them over.

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