A few days back we had a look at a cost-effective Z270-based Mini ITX motherboard from ECS, the Z270H4-I Durathon 2, which we found to be a viable option for typical home users but hardly so for advanced gamers and enthusiasts. In this review we are having a look at a Mini ITX motherboard from ASRock, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac. The concept and the design of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac are antithetical to those of the Z270H4-I Durathon 2, with ASRock trying to load the most and best possible features on the tiny Mini ITX motherboard, the result of which is an impressive list of features. Regardless, the retail price tag of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is peculiarly reasonable for what ASRock claims it can offer.

The ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/AC Overview

After looking at its list of features, we feel as if someone challenged ASRock’s engineers to exhibit their skills on the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac. From Thunderbolt 3 and dual band 802.11ac WiFi to HDMI 2.0 and SATA Express connectors, the sheer number of features that the specifications of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac list is profound for a Mini ITX motherboard. The designers also implemented advanced power circuitry and heatsinks that we normally see on ATX motherboards targeting advanced overclockers.

The audio circuitry of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is interesting, with Realtek providing the advanced and popular ALC1220 CODEC. It supports the Creative Sound Blaster™ Cinema 3 and it has its front panel audio connector supported by an additional Texas Instruments NE5532 headset amplifier. Despite the small size of the ITX board, the sound circuitry is on an isolated part of the PCB. ASRock also implemented a HDMI 2.0 connector, allowing greater flexibility with high resolutions TVs and displays, as well as a versatile Thunderbolt 3 controller (Intel JHL6240).

Intel supplies both the controller (I-219V) of the single Gigabit port and the WiFi/Bluetooth combo chipset (AC 7265). The WiFi controller is dual band (2.4/5 GHz) and also supports Bluetooth 4.0/3.0. There are six SATA connectors on the motherboard, two of which can be combined to a single SATA Express connector. Due to space limitations, the sole M.2 slot is on the back side of the motherboard. It supports 2260/2280 PCIe ×4 or SATA devices. Note that the use of a SATA M.2 device disables one of the SATA 6Gb/s ports.

Overall, the little motherboard is trying to fulfill every desire of advanced gamers, overclockers and HTPC enthusiasts in one package. After going through the list of features, validating its performance and witnessing its overclocking capabilities, it became apparent that the designer of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac was trying to create a motherboard for the “ultimate” living room entertainment system, seeking to satisfy the needs of every advanced user into a single package.

Motherboard Comparison
  ASRock Z270 Gaming ITX/ac
Socket LGA1151 LGA1151
MSRP at Review $159 $140
DRAM 2 x DDR4 4 x DDR4
PCIe Layout x16 x8/x8
BIOS Version Tested 1.11 2.00
MCT Enabled Automatically? No Yes
USB 3.1 (10 Gbps) Intel JHL6240 None
M.2 Slots 1 x PCIe 3.0 x4 2 x PCIe 3.0 x4
U.2 Ports No No
Network Controller 1 x Intel I219-V 1 x Intel I219-V
Audio Controller Realtek ALC1220 Realtek ALC892
HDMI 2.0 Yes No

 

Other AnandTech Reviews for Intel’s 7th Generation CPUs and 200-Series Motherboards

($110The ECS Z270H4-I Durathon 2 Review
($140The ASRock Z270 Killer SLI Review
($140The MSI Z270 SLI PLUS Review
($170The Asus Prime Z270-A
($170The GIGABYTE Z270X-Ultra Gaming

The Intel Core i7-7700K (91W) Review - CPU Review
The Intel Core i5-7600K (91W) Review - CPU Review
The Intel Core i3-7350K (60W) Review - CPU Review
CPU Buyer's Guide: Q2 2017 - Guide

In comparison to the older Z170 boards, the new Z270 board on the base specifications are hardly any different. The Z270 ones have four extra PCIe lanes configurable on the chipset, potentially new audio and new networking controllers, and Intel Optane Technology Support. Although four extra PCIe lanes do sound like a huge difference, it is an important upgrade for the implementation of native M.2 slots (on Z170-based motherboards, this usually meant disabling some other device/port on the motherboard). Also, note that Intel Optane drives should still function on other chipsets as drives; the Z270 only allows them to enable their “smart caching” technology.

The Intel Optane Memory (SSD) Preview: 32GB of Kaby Lake Caching

Individual motherboard manufacturers will be sprinkling on new features onto their Z270 products to aid the transition and provide other tangible benefits over the old platform. To read specifically about the Z170 chip/platform and the specifications therein, our deep dive into what it is can be found at this link.

A Small Note on USB Naming

One thing that we should note is that the advent of the Z270 chipset brought a change on the naming of the USB ports. What we knew as USB 3.0 ports are now being dubbed as “USB 3.1 Gen 1” and the 10 Gbps ports are now called “USB 3.1 Gen 2”. We first encountered this change while reviewing the MSI Z270 SLI Plus a few months ago but it seems that most of the manufacturers are following suit, rewriting their websites and reprinting their manuals. Users need to be extra careful when very high bandwidth connectors are essential. 

Visual Inspection
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  • Dug - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    It's all tweets taking up the right hand side of the web page that gives users absolutely no context on what is being discussed. This really needs to go back to a hardware and news site with real reviews that don't chop up graphs with different products for different benchmarks. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 25, 2017 - link

    Intel released a microcode update in April to fix the Skylake hyperthreading flaw (a crash/data corruption bug) but guess what AsRock's BIOS for the 170 version of this board is at? 2016, dude.

    Just peddle a new board instead of providing the most minimal amount of customer service. We're supposed to just turn off hyperthreading, apparently.

    AsRock should be tarred and feathered by the tech press but, instead, no one wants to talk about practices like this at all. Just push the latest thing. Am I surprised that Anandtech is clearly oblivious about the hyperthreading bug and AsRock's lack of support for the 170 board? Nope.
    Reply
  • zepi - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    "and the 10Mbps ports are now called “USB 3.1 Gen 2”" - I suppose 10Gbps... Reply
  • Der Keyser - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Small correction: I have this board, and it drives my two 4k displays at 60hz without issue (displayport and HDMi 2.0). So your article is wrong on this count.
    It is capable of driving three 4k displays at 60hz if you attach a third monitor to the thunderbolt 3 port (displayport alternate mode). I have found several sources online doing just that.
    Reply
  • Vatharian - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Oh no. They made SATA Express port. Don't tell me it's going to make a comeback now... Reply
  • edzieba - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    They've been standard on every board I've seen for years. It takes up barely more space than the pair of SATA connectors everyone uses it as, and otherwise serves as a handy pair of PCIe lanes for front panel modules. Reply
  • edzieba - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    A shame ASRock dropped a USB port over the previous Z170 Gaming ITX. Though at this point, I'm waiting for Z370 to see how the notional i7-8xxx compares to the i7-7820x on ASRock's X299 ITX board (probably a performance regression for most workloads, but dual m.2 NAND SSDs plus an Optane cache is a tempting option for ITX). Reply
  • jrs77 - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    I'm still waiting for a mITX-board with two M.2 slots, so I can ditch cables alltogether. One small fast M.2 for the OS and one cheaper big one for storage. Add a picoPSU and you got rid of all the cables unnecessary cables. Reply
  • wolfemane - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Then what you are looking for is the Asus z270i Strix board . 1 sata/pcie m.2 slot and 1 pcie m.2 slot. Reply
  • jrs77 - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Get rid of all this fancy stuff noone really needs and bring the price down to a reasonable level doing so and I'm interested. Reply

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