Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI Mini-ITX Motherboard

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For basic users, the Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI fits the bill nicely, particularly as the platform gives you access to Intel's low power dual core Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips which deliver a considerable level of performance while generating a low environmental footprint. The H77N-WIFI's energy efficiency is excellent under light loads so it's a strong candidate for outputting media and server duty. As a server, four SATA ports may be too few, but you could always add a PCI-E controller card to increase its total capacity. What really tips the scales for the H77N-WIFI is the inclusion of Intel's Centrino 2230 Bluetooth 4.0/802.11n adapter, delivering connectivity options that are absent in all boards in the same price range.

The board is less ideal for enthusiasts and gamers, but it's certainly not out of the question, primarily due to the nature of the mini-ITX form factor. Many will bemoan this model simply because it's based on the the H77 chipset which lacks some of the high-end features of Z77. CPU overclocking in particular is a sore-point but it can be argued that mini-ITX cases aren't conducive to that sort of thing in the first place. Gamers, in particular, would have a tough time with this, as their hot, high-end graphics cards would make it difficult to cool the CPU even at stock speeds. Those who encode a lot of video may also lament the lack of access to Intel's Quick Sync encoding engine when using discrete graphics, but if they're serious about video editing, they should really be doing it in a bigger machine, preferably with plenty of RAM and a beefy heatsink.

It's clear that Gigabyte cut some corners to get this board down to the CDN$100 level. Heatsinks on the board are almost nonexistent. There is no VRM heatsink and the PCH cooler is the worst I've seen on any series 7 motherboard. Not only is it small but the heatsink doesn't have much surface area either; its shape doesn't make efficient use of the limited allotted space. While not a critical flaw, this is a concern that would have lingered if I hadn't gone for a 55W dual core processor rather than the 95W quad core used for comparison testing.

Fan control, understandably, has taken a backseat but you would still expect it to work properly. The BIOS/UEFI control for the second fan header didn't work for me, though it was controllable once I hit the Windows desktop and had access to EasyTune and SpeedFan. For me, fan control being limited to 4-pin PWM fans is a bigger problem. Most CPU coolers are equipped with PWM fans these days but almost all the fans included with cases are the old school 3-pin variety, so finding an alternative control method will likely be required to fully take advantage of this feature.

The Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI is not a motherboard with every feature under the sun nor is a stripped down model suitable only for mundane office type use. Gigabyte straddled the line in an attempt to create an affordable motherboard with broad appeal, and for the most part they've succeeded. It's a nice budget board with a little something for everyone at an appetizing price. I spent my own hard-earned money for this board and have no regrets. Coming from someone who reviews hardware on a regular basis, that's solid praise.

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Gigabyte GA-H77N-WIFI is Recommended by SPCR

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