The ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac Review

Conclusion

The Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is ASRock’s attempt to deliver a high performance, flexible Mini ITX motherboard, capable of fulfilling the needs of most advanced PC users. In order to achieve that goal, ASRock had to squeeze a huge number of features on the tiny Mini ITX PCB, more than what we usually find on middle range ATX motherboards. The sheer number of supported devices/connectors is outstanding for a Mini ITX motherboard.

Mini ITX motherboards are inherently limited to a single expansion card slot but the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac supports an extensive number of drives, with only one M.2 drive slot but six SATA 6 Gb/s ports, two of which form a SATA Express port for users that want to be on the safe side in case the interface gains market traction. USB device support is very good, with six USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A connectors at the rear I/O panel, plus two internal headers for additional USB 3.1 Gen 1 and two USB 2.0 devices. The Intel Thunderbolt 3 connector supports numerous compatible devices, ranging from NAS drives to monitors, but also doubles as a typical USB 3.1 Gen 2 port. Note that the Intel JHL6240 Thunderbolt 3 chipset only has two PCIe lanes and could become a bandwidth bottleneck with high performance eGPU devices.

ASRock also chose the subsystem controllers of the  Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac very carefully, so as to cover the needs of every advanced user. The Intel I219-V Gigabit LAN controller is a very popular and proven device, allowing enough bandwidth control options for any kind of user. Similarly, sound is important for advanced HTPC users and gamers alike, so ASRock went with one of the best audio controllers currently available, the Realtek ALC1220, and supported it with an excellent audio circuit and an additional front panel audio amplifier from Texas Instruments. The Intel AC 7265 WiFi/Bluetooth card is known to be a very good performer as well, providing stable connections and capable of speeds up to 867 Mbps. We also found the Bluetooth range to be excellent, significantly superior than that of typical USB-based adapters.

The presence of an HDMI 2.0 port onboard is a rare and interesting feature that will please both HTPC users that do not plan to perform any gaming and gamers that want to connect a 4K TV as a secondary monitor. While Intel’s integrated graphics are unable to provide usable 3D performance at such a high resolution, the 2D performance is more than enough, saving HTPC builders from the additional cost of a discrete GPU.

The Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac also has an outstanding power circuitry for a motherboard of this size and class, surpassing in the power output and quality of most mainstream Z270-based motherboards that we have tested recently. As a result, the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is an excellent motherboard for casual overclocking. The range and step of the voltage control settings may not be great but the maximum values are much higher than what any user would ever use for a stable, reliable system. With the use of an advanced liquid-based cooling system and an Intel 7700K processor with a well-attached lid, stable overclocks well above 5 GHz should be easily attainable.

Undoubtedly, the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is one of the most feature-packed Mini ITX motherboards that we have ever seen. The sheer number of features and connectors make the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac a suitable motherboard for any advanced user that needs to build a compact gaming/entertainment system. It could even be easily used as the basis of a rather powerful home server, capable of simultaneously serving as an entertainment system, a NAS/media server, and a surveillance system server/recorder. The current ($159) retail price of the Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac is more than reasonable for a Mini ITX motherboard with such numerous features and quality subsystems, making it the ideal choice for almost any user that wants to build a powerful, yet compact system.


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The ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming ITX/ac

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  • Gothmoth - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    would love anandtech doing a in-depth VRM analysis like some youtube chanels do....

    i can read the specs myself on the manufacturer website.
    spend some of that time on more useful things.
    Reply
  • peterfares - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Why is there a SATA Express? I guess you can use it to connect U.2 drives right? But only at 2 lanes? Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Probably equal parts design inertia, the sockets are cheaper than 2x sata because obsolete, and to support USB3.1g2 front panel devices. The latter needs 2 lanes of PCIe, so 1x slots aren't a good fit like for adding other forms of IO. Reply
  • BrokenCrayons - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    It was sort of a cheap bandaid solution to the problem of SATA 3.0 bottlenecking contemporary SSDs that has never and probably won't ever take off since we now have M.2 interfaces instead. The idea was to quickly and cheaply double SATA 3.0 speeds in a backwards compatiable manner. Wikipedia has a pretty good article on it here if you want to know more:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SATA_Express
    Reply
  • OFelix - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    I have the Z170 and used the feature to submit a support ticket direct from the BIOS.
    I was pleasantly surprised to receive a quick response from tech support.

    On the Z170 I found that one of the fan headers would not allow speed control. Hopefully that has been fixed (review says that all fan headers support PWM).

    Question: What devices could I buy today to use with SATA Express? Is it intended as internal or external expansion?

    I want to build a system with multiple "personalities" by plugging in different external boot drives would thunderbolt or SATAe be suitable/better for this?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 25, 2017 - link

    Good luck getting them to patch the BIOS for that board to fix the hyperthreading crash bug.

    Intel released the code to board makers in April. Here we are with AsRock sitting on its thumb.
    Reply
  • punjabiplaya - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    I've been running this board in my main rig since it launched. i7 7700k and a GTX1080 in a fractal nano. It's great. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Damn, that Thunderbolt chip is literally physically larger than the USB C port it's used for. Intel needs to slim that mofo way down if they want to fit it in the CPUs and/or south bridges, because that's the only way TB is ever gonna gain traction. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    Yup. One of the reasons why really high speed IO is expensive, TB3 wasn't built into chipsets from the start, and why not all chipset USB ports are the fastest possible version is that doing it needs lots of transistors which means a relatively large amount of die size. You can see the same thing with USB3 only cards where the USB controller itself is the same size as the USBC port.

    ex

    https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/ASM1142-C...
    Reply
  • only1jva - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    I've owned this motherboard since March and it has begun to fail on me. After playing games like Civilization 6 and Xcom 2, the PC will completely freeze. After powering it down by holding down the power switch, I am unable to power it back on as the machine will turn on briefly then immediately shut down. It repeats this cycle over and over again. I have to wait half an hour to an hour before it turns back on completely.

    I'm running an i7-7700k AIO watercooler from Corsair, Asus GTX 1080, Corsair case. Not sure what the problem is with this thing but even if I can get into BIOS, it will freeze while in the BIOS screen. I've also tried all the released firmware versions for this board, they all behave the same.

    so yeah, never trusting ASRock again.
    Reply

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