Intel DQ77KB: A Low Power LGA1155 Motherboard

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Software & Fan Control


Intel Desktop Utility's Hardware Monitor.

For utilities, ASUS has AI Suite, Gigabyte has EasyTune, and Intel has IDU (Intel Desktop Utility) but it's not nearly as powerful or easy to use. The layout itself is rather ugly, littered with small text, and lacking the polish ASUS has implemented over the years. Gigabyte's software is unattractive as well but at least it's functional. IDU depicts sensor information and allows you to dictate warning types and levels but like the UEFI/BIOS, there are no options for overriding the board's fan control.

Furthermore, despite enabling the board's fan controls in the UEFI/BIOS, we weren't able to observe it in action. We put the CPU and GPU and full load and the fans we had connected would not speed up from their minimum settings. We even removed the fan from the CPU heatsink, allowing the CPU to heat up to almost 80°C before it stabilized. Either the controls were malfunctioning or it takes an even higher temperature before they will respond.


SpeedFan screen with correlations noted.

If you're working in a Windows environment, SpeedFan comes to the rescue once again. It has access to the same sensors as IDU, though they are mislabeled, but also includes two working fan controls. To activate fan control, locate the "Nuvoton NCT6776F" chip in the Advanced tab of the configuration menu and change PWM modes 1-2 from "Smart Fan IV" to "Manual." This will unlock complete speed control for both headers though it should be noted that the CPU_FAN header does not support 3-pin fans, running them at full speeds at all times.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Outfitted specifically for business users, the Intel DQ77KB comes with the usual management and security features, plus size and energy efficiency, and the potential for a heavier performance punch than the typically weak mini PC fare, namely machines using Intel Atom chips and AMD's low-end APUs. The dream of a very compact, low power system with real desktop speed is one that is shared by many DIY PC users and the DQ77KB makes that dream a real possibility. It has the distinction of delivering the best performance experience we've had on a sub-60W draw desktop configuration.

The only issue we encountered was with the limited automated fan control system which lacks the ability customize the temperature at which the fans ramp up from their minimum speeds. In fact, we were unable to get them to do so, even under severe thermal duress. This is surprising as the issue it can result in instability, something that is not synonymous with the Intel brand. The software included doesn't do anything to address this either. As for the physical hardware there's not a whole lot to complain about.

If for whatever reason, you prefer discrete graphics, the PCI-E 4x slot is an obstacle to be overcome as the vast majority of video cards use a 16x interface. The bandwidth of PCI-E 4x and the capacity of DC power adapters also limits the class of card that can be used, so any notion of serious gaming should be tossed out the window. The DQ77KB also has many features that will never be taken advantage of by most home users. The various extras provided by the Q77 chipset, the second gigabit ethernet controller, and the onboard display headers are all likely to sit unutilized by the average PC enthusiast.

While you might not get as much value out of it as a mainstream board, it's par for the course when it comes to SFF PCs. Most of the components needed to fill out these types of systems also carry price premiums: low TDP processors, notebook memory, slim optical drives, mSATA drives, mini PCI-E accessories, low profile coolers, etc. The thing is, the DQ77KB isn't just small, it fits a very narrow niche for which many users will be happy to open their wallets.

Our thanks to Intel for the DQ77KB CPU/motherboard sample.

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