Its no secret here on NAG Online that I go gaga over anything related to the mini-ITX platform. Its such a neat little form factor that I can’t help but love it, and I think its the way that the consumer desktop market will go in the next ten years. Apparently ASRock thinks so too, as they’ve done the crazy thing and shoehorned the Intel X99 platform into the tiny, tiny 17 x 17cm form factor. Its called the X99E-ITX/AC and it is astonishing what they’ve been able to cram in there.
The board is exactly on the 17cm limit for the length and width of the motherboard, which is interesting because manufacturers like Dell, HP and Lenovo have managed to make boards that were 17cm wide before, but added on 3-5cm to the length to fit on extra I/O and components. The X99E-ITX first chops out Haswell-E’s most impressive feature – quad-channel memory – and leaves us with only two DIMM slots for inserting DDR4 modules. It also drops the number of CPU phases down to just a 4+2 arrangement, so if you’re thinking of sending a Core i7-5960X into this baby and overclocking it, you might want to reconsider your options.
What is left, though, is awesome. You get two Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports, full 7:1 surround sound with optical out, two USB 3.1 ports, four USB 3.0 ports and eSATA 6Gb/s on the rear panel. There’s a miniPCI-E slot for the included Intel Wireless 802.11ac network card on the motherboard, a full-length PCI-Express 3.0 spot, four SATA 6GB/s ports, one 10GB/s SATA Express port, and quite possibly front-panel USB 3.0. There’s also one Ultra M.2 slot for M.2 SSDs above the PCI-Express slot, if you feel that you don’t have fast enough storage through SATA Express already.
It is quite a crammed design and I’m under no illusion that this will be approaching anything near to an affordable price point. There is one caveat though – because of the constraints of the mini-ITX standard, the socket mounting is much smaller than regular LGA 2011-3 sockets, as it is lifted off the server platform which uses smaller, slimmer mounts. Because of this, ASRock bundles in a cooler to use on the board, but it might be worth your while to wait for a proper waterblock mounting if you’re interested in this sort of thing.
ASRock didn’t announce pricing or availability and if you have to ask, its probably not the product for you anyway. This will be the first-ever mini-ITX motherboard for Intel’s HEDT platform, as the previous iterations (X58 and X79) couldn’t do without a lot of the circuitry that was necessary to make things work properly. I do wonder now if there’s a big enough market for this sort of thing to take off.