Some might say an ITX board for such a high-grade enthusiast platform is pointless; I really beg to disagree. Everything is better small, well not everything but you get the idea; small form factor geeks have probably already made their mind up about this particular motherboard, but from a purely technical point of view, have ASRock hit the jackpot with the X99E-ITX/ac ITX motherboard? I mean it is the ONLY X99 ITX motherboard in the world and it’s probably one of the most feature packed ITX boards on the planet; is this enough to sway your interest and perhaps build the ultimate performance ITX rig?
I think the main question on everybody’s mind is; does the dual channel memory as opposed to quad channel DDR4 have a massive impact on performance? The short answer is, NO. The long answer is, if you buy components off synthetic testing such as AIDA64/SiS Sandra, you will notice that the memory bandwidth and overall memory performance is down; that is to be expected. The pickle is does it have an effect on every day performance? Nope and as you can see in the performance testing, the ASRock X99E-ITX/ac even comes out top in a few tests and more importantly, gaming results. That pretty much sums the performance up really although if you were looking to have an insane amount of memory, the 2 x DIMM slot sacrifice over an ATX version with 8 x DIMM slots will surely play a key factor whether this board is the right one for you.
Speaking of the ITX form factor, if one was planning on installing an air cooler onto this board, you might want to re-think your plans as this ASRock board features the narrower ILM LGA2011-3 socket which is thinner and longer than the regular socket; the CPU’s will still fit, but any cooler using the standard mount will certainly not fit. ASRock have helped this on by including a free Dynatron U2 Socket 2011 cooler which is designed for demanding and high performance servers; not a suitable choice for those wanting to apply overclocks to their expensive and monstrous enthusiast grade chips, but more than suitable for Xeons which are supported by this board. Another accessory included is a water cooling mounting plate which is technically designed for the Cooler Master Seidon 120V Plus/120V AIO CPU coolers; not much options for choice of coolers here and I’m afraid it’s a pretty large black mark on the X99E-ITX/ac’s resume here. One thing which might solve this would be a special bundle deal with the aforementioned coolers included but again, you might already have another brand that you want to use so unless ASRock come out with a further confirmed compatibility list to enhance the cooling support for this board, I decline to comment further.
Moving onto the design, it’s an ITX board; it is small, compact and of course sacrifices were made to fit as many useable and quality components onto the board as possible. One thing I was a little confused about was the 24-pin ATX and 12v 8-pin array; this means that given the design of a couple of small form factor cases, the cables might have problems fitting in properly as the 24-pin ATX motherboard cable on most power supplies is a lot thicker than the 8-pin CPU power; it might require more careful planning than thought when purchasing this board. The main colour theme of the board is a typical ASRock metallic blue and black with a compliment of gold Nichicon capacitors which do look slightly out of place; however I prefer function over looks in most cases so I can actually agree with ASRock including what I consider to be great quality Japanese caps with this board. Nothing worse than sacrificing key features and then scrimping on important components such as audio; this is powered by the ALC1150 audio chip with 5 x Nichicon capacitors.
Another huge feature is of course the inclusion of the latest version of USB, USB 3.1 Type A. This is powered by the ASMedia ASM1142 controller which is, of course, new and powers the 10GB/s capable ports which feature on the rear I/O of the motherboard; a motherboard which has future proof written all over it, aside from only have 1 x PCI-e x16 lane, but it is ITX after all! Built-in Wi-Fi in the way of the half height PCI 802.11ac 2.4/5GHz dual band adapter which is inclusive of an antenna on the rear I/O for maximum signal coverage. Add the dual LAN ports into the equation, this allows the X99E-ITX/ac to be used for more than a regular system, it also doubles up a super small server based option for those who own a Socket LGA2011-3 XEON or intend to purchase one over the regular core I7’s currently available on the market.
Coming in at a price of £245 in the UK is surely going to turn a few heads; the ITX and small form factor premium strikes again. One must look deeper into it however and see that this is targeted at a small niche of consumers; those wanting the absolute best and with that being said, if you are looking for probably the most powerful ITX motherboard on the planet today, well you have found it. With only dual channel DDR4 supported, it has no real world bearing on the final results and for £245, I was a little shocked as I expected this to come in at around £220 tops but obviously prices do come down; I expect it to come down due to the cooling support predicament.
Overall the ASRock X99E-ITX/ac is the best ITX motherboard and ASRock know it; An ITX board with an Intel Core i7 5960x, DDR4 memory and a NVIDIA Titan X in a small form factor case will probably have the most potent single slot, single card setup you can currently get; all thanks to ASRock having the cahonies to put all they could onto such a small PCB. One must applaud ASRock for this accomplishment and I actually hope it sets a trend with manufacturers which may also produce ITX versions of enthusiast boards, but today, ASRock reign supreme of small form factor performance!
Huge thanks to ASRock for sending the X99E-ITX/ac motherboard in for review and I look forward to seeing more epic innovations in the near future.
- Gold Award – The best ITX motherboard on the planet in my opinion deserves nothing less than gold and if it wasn’t for the slightly awkward ILM LGA 2011-3 socket, it would be touching on for our platinum award; this is just how good the ASRock X99 ITX motherboard is!
- SFF Award – Small form factor award, ITX, X99, you do the math! If you are looking to build a monstrous small form factor system with say a Titan X, Core i7 5960x 8 core and DDR4 memory, this is LITERALLTY the only choice you currently have; not a bad thing, as ASRock have done a great job in my opinion!
– The most powerful ITX motherboard on the market (at time of review)
– Looks pretty good
– Supports Haswell-E CPUs as well as Xeons; the server counterparts
– Features the new USB 3.1 Type A ports
– Built in Wi-Fi capability as standard
– Doesn’t sacrifice on quality of the components despite the small size
– Comes with a free server grade ILM cooler
– Handles overclock like any other ATX X99 motherboard
– ILM LGA 2011-3 socket is very awkward for those with planned cooling methods in mind
– Power connector placements may cause incompatibility in some small form factor cases
– A little on the pricey size
– Only supports DDR4 in dual channel (not a big deal though in real world performance)
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