Gigabyte GA-H77TN Thin Mini-ITX Motherboard

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Having tested out the Intel DQ77KB and now the Gigabyte GA-H77TN, it looks like Thin Mini-ITX boards are going to be more or less the same. The layouts and feature-sets of the two boards requirements are such that it's difficult to add any features or make other modifications. Another Gigabyte model, the B75TN looks virtually identical, and the only real difference is in the board chip or PCH. They are all equipped with four SATA ports, two SO-DIMM slots, and support one PCI-E 4x, mini PCI-E, and mSATA device. While this standard configuration isn't as functional and versatile as a full-blown desktop, the basics are covered fairly well and the form factor offers the best computing performance for an ultra small/slim PC. Being able to drop in a full fledged desktop processor into something not much thicker than a notebook motherboard is impressive any way you look at it.

Despite all the similarities with the DQ77KB, the H77TN does manage to distinguish itself in a few ways. Energy efficiency is a strong-point for both boards but the H77TN's idle power consumption is truly excellent, though our choice of power adapter may have contributed to this result. The only small system/configuration without a cut-rate CPU that can beat it in this department is the Intel NUC, but its low frequency mobile Core i3 is not much of a match for a Pentium G2120. The fan control system, though rudimentary and lacking customization, actually works (we never could get the DQ77KB's fan controls to respond). The only negative point we found was the laptop-style DC-In port, which really should be mentioned more prominently to prevent would-be buyers from running into compatibility issues. We have a dozens of DC power adapters at our disposal but only two would work with this board: a Dell notebook adapter (model number A90PM111) and a Cooler Master universal laptop power adapter.

To some, the biggest differentiator is the chipset, which means the choice really boils down to how the system is going to be used. The Q77 chipset is more professional in that it includes many of Intel's advanced management and security features. This is useful in a business environment where the IT department has to deploy, maintain, and safeguard a fleet of identical PCs. The H77 is a more mainstream chipset that lacks these extras, making it a better choice for consumer machines, like home theaters, small servers, and kiosks. H77 is also cheaper, affording the Gigabyte H77TN a substantial price advantage over the DQ77KB (US$120 vs. US$150), further adding to its broader appeal.

Our thanks to Gigabyte for the GA-H77TN and Cooler Master for the SNA 90 used in this review.

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Gigabyte GA-H77TN is Recommended by SPCR

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