The Mini-ITX mother boards represent the next step for small-sized high-end computers. Thanks to models like these, you can now enjoy powerful machines in a reduced space.
Recently, we’ve been able to test one of the most powerful and latest mother boards. The model we’ll analyze today can be considered one of them, except, perhaps for their limited number of components you can install. This is a very small high-end mother board that will let us take advantage of the latest components while using minimal space.
This small (100x100mm) motherboard features the Z87, the latest and most powerful chipset from the company, which supports 4th generation Intel Haswell Core from the K series to enjoy the best performance but with a small computer.
Like we said, the board is designed with the use of Intel processors in mind, specifically the current K series models. These processors can adjust the frequency not only by modifying the buses, but also with the internal multiplier so you can get high frequencies, usually higher than similar models. We tested this mother board with a Core i7-4770k processor, the most powerful of this series.
The board features four 6gbps SATA ports with raid modes, which come with the chipset. The two remaining connectors are used in a different way, but we’ll talk about that later. Two DDR3 high-frequency memory modules will allow us to have high speed memory with many over cocking possibilities (up to 16GB, more than enough for a model like this one).
The board also features a 16x PEG PCI Express 3.0 slot and a vast array of rear and frontal ports. Many ports for sound and video connectivity can be found on the rear, like HDMI 1.4 and Displayport 1.2 ports, which we can use to connect multiple monitors to it at the same time. There are also four very well placed USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one 6gbps eSATA connector in the inside, and one Intel Ethernet Gigabit port. Meanwhile, on the front we have Two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, both in a 19-pin connector. But the specs of the chipset aren’t everything this mother board is about; its small size is an achievement in itself.
Unique specs for its size
ASUS has designed this small mother board without the common problems a board this size brings with it: Not being able to install a modern cooling system –like liquid ones-, and a power supply unit powerful enough to experience the same over clocking possibilities a bigger computer can offer.
To solve these two problems, ASUS has designed a vertical power supply unit. If you have little space in 2D, go 3D. This is what ASUS has done, and it’s not the first time they do it, to enhance the power supply of this small mother board, which makes room for more components and improves the performance of the processor with a digital power supply system and quadruple control chip, like the ones we can find in the ROG series models.
Also, ASUS has eliminated the components in the lower part of the board so you can install attachment brackets or clamping kits for heat sinks. The location and size of the vertical components are designed according to the ITX size to make room for the latest generation of heat sinks. These measures will surely translate into a great success no matter what cooling system you prefer.
The distribution of the board is a bit cluttered but it works for its size. The power supply unit is on the rightmost part of the board, next to the memory slots, which is not a common position so you must take this into consideration, and you can’t change it.
The rest of the components are well placed, you won’t have any difficulty getting used to it. The LEDS and power buttons may feel uncomfortable at times because of the position, but ASUS added an extender to solve this issue.
The UEFI BIOS of this board is excellent, not unlike even the latest high-end ASUS mother boards. The same visual ROG design of this series with defined over clocking profiles, unique panel with dozens of over clocking pre-configurations and optimization, as well as some new features like profiles, BIOS notes, favorites, etc. This is one of the best BIOS on the market and you this board will include it. The following video showcases the options this BIOS features.
The board without a doubt is powerful, has great BIOS, and it can take full advantage of the latest components on the market; it also has many not too well known features that are worth checking out.
ASUS has opted for a vertical, 3D design to make room for every component. Its connector module gives us two connectors, one MiniPCIe with a dual-channel Wi-Fi AC controller capable of reaching speeds of up to 1300mbps. We could reach 30MB/s of real bandwidth in our tests so this is the very first Wi-Fi connection capable of actually transferring big files and streaming high quality video.
This module also has an M2 port (NGFF, the latest of its kind that will substitute MiniPCIe and mSATA. This connector will be almost useless to most users since as of today is not easy to find SSD disks of this format that aren’t already installed in a device with this kind of connector. This port uses the sixth SATA connector the chipset has so you can boot from it and even share RAID modes with the rest of the connectors.
Its vertical design also includes high-end quality sound capabilities. This mother board makes it a necessity to fully use the latest components; the sound card uses a latest generation DSP Texas Instruments (LM4562) with a noise ratio of 115dB SNR and EMI isolation to give you the best audio quality. It has dedicated amplifiers and it can even work while the PC is turned off from the microphone port. Without a doubt the best sound capabilities you can find in a Mini-ITX mother board.
The characteristic ROG features are also present, like the Secure Erase system for SSD disks, integrated in BIOS, the RAM disk utility capable of using up to 80 % of the total RAM, and the Gamefirst prioritization technology to give our ping the priority it deserves while we’re gaming.
While we don’t think over clocking is something this model excels at, it can be done, but it’s far from being what a bigger model can offer, like the latest and most powerful ASUS models. However, the vertical design and power supply unit of this board make over clocking much easier, compared to previous similar models. With a water dissipater, we got the same over clocking performance bigger models can offer, with stable frequencies and low voltages, at 4.4GHz.
The mother boards have some interesting features for over lockers. Power button in the board, rear POST display and the habitual ROG buttons like BIOS configuration, ASUS ROG Connect and the MEM Ok Button to start a memory compatibility mode that rarely fails. All of it in a rear panel that is always accessible to you. The PORT display also displays the temperature of each one of your components in real time.
We tested the Geforce GTX 780 with this mother board, which speaks for itself: this board can take full advantage of the latest components, no matter if it’s a GPU, memory or processors.
Analysis and conclusion
Thing gets smaller with time, that’s a trend that will probably not die out soon. We’ve tested many Mini-ITX boards in recent years so we’ve seen increasingly powerful boards get smaller and smaller.
This mother board is an excellent component capable of delivering high-quality sound, with many and simple over clocking options, supports the latest components and technologies, like the latest Wi-Fi standards, it has many over clocking features for those who like this, and overall is a top-notch component. It’s without a doubt the best Mini-ITX board right now, and its price (200 Dollars on Amazon) makes everything even better.