I always love to see interesting deviations to the norm when it comes to motherboards, and something such as a mini-ITX based extreme system has been at the top of my list for many years. We never saw a mini-ITX X79 system (the nearest was an extended mini-ITX from Shuttle) but now ASRock has gone head first into the X99 plus mini-ITX arena, showing their first model at CeBIT later this month.

The reason for mini-ITX on the extreme platform is usually for density, though there are a couple of compromises that have to be made. The socket is large, and supporting quad channel memory can be a challenge with SATA ports and 40 PCIe lanes in tow. As a result, ASRock’s X99E-ITX/ac only uses dual channel memory, and we get a single PCIe 3.0 x16 slot for add-in cards.

There is bundled dual-stream 802.11ac wifi, along with dual Intel network controllers and SATA Express. USB 3.1 is also supported through two Type-A ports, presumably using the ASMedia controller we previously tested on other motherboards. The box also mentions Ultra M.2, which means PCIe 3.0 x4 lanes for an M.2 slot and looking at the board it seems to be located between the socket and the SATA Express ports. With all those PCIe lanes to spare, it makes sense to use them in this fashion.

In order to save space, ASRock has used the narrow version of the LGA2011-3 socket (many thanks to liu_d for the spot), which we saw in the our MD60-SC0 review. This narrow socket is incompatible with regular LGA2011-3 coolers, and the number of narrow-ILM CPU coolers on the market is usually limited to servers or OEMs. It would also seem that ASRock is bundling a CPU cooler with the board in order to ensure this is not an issue for the user – this looks like a 2U server cooler, but should be sufficient for 140W CPUs as long as no serious overclocking takes place. These coolers can be loud, but ASRock’s software package comes with fan controller tools both in the BIOS and in software.

Pricing and release dates are not yet announced, but we will get one in for review as soon as we can. The dual channel memory restriction hopefully does not become too severe for performance, but we will run a full range of real world tests to confirm this.

Source: ASRock

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  • bunnyfubbles - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    unless you're wanting to transcode video and stream to a dozen+ devices, its overkill as a home server. An equally overkill, but much better option for a homserver/router would be an ITX board based on Intel Avoton either a 4 or 8 core option; some boards can have 4 DIMM slots (even 4x full size ones, not just SO-DIMM), 2-4 LAN ports (some where all 4 are Intel) + 1 IPMI LAN ports, 6-10+ SATA ports...

    this product, on the other hand, is perfect for portable gaming or workstation builds where a DTR wouldn't cut it
    Reply
  • edzieba - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    4-5 months ago, this would have fallen straight into Shut Up And Take My Money territory. But now, with Broadwell and (possibly) Skylake on the horizon, I'd rather wait and see how they fare. It hasn't yet been worth moving away from LGA1155 (only a tiny performance bump from Ivy Bridge to Haswell). Reply
  • Samus - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    I still have a number of friends on 1366 ;) The IPC improvement from Nehalem to Haswell is apx 25% clock for clock, and a lot of them are overclocking Bloomfield (not even Lynnfield) cores upward of 3.8GHz. I never got more than 3.5GHz out of my i7-950, and couldn't even crack 3.3GHz with my i7-920.

    But amusingly, even today, LGA1366 is entirely relevant in the performance computing circles, especially the 6-core i7 and Xeon models. Many of the boards came with SAS, the memory bandwidth was enormous and it (X58) was undoubtedly the most stable platform since the 440BX.
    Reply
  • Hairs_ - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    "We're releasing an x99 itx board!"

    "Oh great, 4 channel memory in a sff box!"

    "Sorry we cut that."

    "Oh well, multi GPU setups, excellent!"

    "Sorry, only one PCI slot. Space, you know!"

    "Well, I know I'll be over clocking!"

    "Sorry, we're using an odd socket so you can only use tiny server coolers on it."

    "Oh.... Umm... so there's no useful difference between this and a z97 board then?"

    "Well the parts are twice as expensive. If not more! And actually it'll be noisier and hotter."

    "Who wants this board again?"

    "Ian from anandtech and.,. ummmm... Well I don't know really."

    I guess this answers the question of whether anandtech is worth visiting for motherboard reviews from now on.
    Reply
  • TeXWiller - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    But it's a fun creature, and the two channels should do up to eight, lower clocked cores with a big cache and compute oriented workload. E5 series has some fitting 4-8 core models for this curiosity, price considerations ignored of course. Maybe somebody should put this to the Lian-Li's train case for fun. Reply
  • IntoxicatedPuma - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    I guess Asrock should send a representative over here to apologize to everyone for trying something unique and different. They should have known better - I'm sure you're right, nobody will be able to find anything to use this for.

    Seriously though, their are plenty of dual GPU cards out there, so you can get dual GPU's on this board. Also, not everyone cares about overclocking anymore and you can easily get around the heat issue with a good ITX gaming case. There are some of us who do value portability - I have only built ITX in the last 2 years because I need a small desktop. I would love to have an 8 core on my computer for photo and video editing, this would actually really really save me a ton of time when rending videos. Plus I could put this in a case that will fit in a backpack.
    Reply
  • edzieba - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    "Sorry, we're using an odd socket so you can only use tiny server coolers on it."
    Or, with fairly minimal effort (a mounting plate with the correct hole spacing, already available for Swiftech blocks), closed-loop watercoolers.
    Reply
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    That's a bit unfair. Yes, the dual channel memory is disappointing, and yes the odd cooler is going to be a hassle, but all of the other jabs you took at the board are things people have already come to terms with if they're building an ITX box. There's never been a multi-GPU ITX board, there usually isn't a hell of a lot of overclocking room in a case the size of a shoebox and you already pay a premium for ITX compatible components. However, if anyone out there needs more then a quad core, this is the only board that satisfies that. It's really quite exciting for what it is. Reply
  • TomWomack - Saturday, March 14, 2015 - link

    If you need more than a quad-core, Avoton has been around for more than a year and gets you eight cores, and Xeon-D is round the corner. Reply
  • LukaP - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    Avoton is slow Silvermont cores. Xeon D will be embedded afaik, and since its a Xeon, you wont get any interesting things you get with consumer boards Reply

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