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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  • jjj - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    6 months after launch and AT is yet to review a single Ryzen mobo. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    You should buy some and send them to AT. Reply
  • sonny73n - Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - link

    "You should buy some and send them to AT."

    Without AT's permission or agreement to do a review? Or are you just being a foul mouth?
    Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Monday, September 25, 2017 - link

    How about buying Asrock one of its 170 boards so it can fix the BIOS for it with the code Intel gave them in April.

    But, hey — who needs to worry about random crash bugs from a hyperthreading flaw?
    Reply
  • Gavin Bonshor - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    You can expect a wave of them coming very soon :) Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    We've had zero dedicated motherboard reviewers at AT for most of the year, as I'm spending all my time on CPU testing (or perhaps you'd want me to forgo the CPU tests?). I've been building a team in the interim to take care of MB review duties. Should be in full swing from about this point on. Reply
  • jjj - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Interesting attitude and misleading statement.

    You had 4 mobo reviews after the Ryzen launch , staff or no staff and it's statistically significant that none is for a Ryzen mobo. If you add context like interest in the product, value offered, it becomes more than odd.
    What's the cause, that's for you to figure out and adjust but that seems unlikely given your attitude. - "or perhaps you'd want me to forgo the CPU tests?)"

    In the end, you lose money by not serving the market.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    All by a single reviewer - who also does all the case, PSU, and keyboard reviews too and thus has limited free time available - and on a single platform. The latter is because as a distributed team Anandtech doesn't have a single office to store all their stuff. Each reviewer needs his/her own set of parts to test with; and for consistency the same parts (particularly the CPU for OCing) need to be the same for everything done on the platform. To avoid spending large amounts on shipping and customs fees that means any part time mobo reviewers are probably only going to have a single platform. E. Fylladitakis is doing Z270. One or more of the newbies is working on Ryzen.

    There was a tweet a few days ago (don't recall if from Ian or Ryan) about having gotten 5 submissions from the new mobo reviewers that need edited. Since we haven't seen anything except the x399 overview article on the subject from a newish Author (Joe Shields started in July) they're presumably all still being revised to site standards. I'd imagine at least some of the Ryzen mobo reviews you're looking for are coming soon.
    Reply
  • Gothmoth - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    since anand is gone it´s spiraling down the drain Reply
  • realistz - Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - link

    Forum is a mess too. It's run by pro-AMD mods. Reply

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