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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  • liu_d - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    You sort of mentioned it with the CPU cooler, but note that this board uses the narrow-ILM LGA2011-3 socket, rather than the standard square-ILMversion. Compatibility with aftermarket coolers (which generally use the square-ILM) may be compromised.
  • Ian Cutress - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Good catch - it was such an unexpected news post in general it completely passed me by. I'll add it in.
  • agent4678 - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Supermicro makes some decent ones and the Noctua NH-9DX i4/NHU12DX i4 work pretty well also. The latter probably wont fit well in a smaller chassis though.
  • PCTC2 - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Yeah. The Supermicro SNK-P0050AP4 supports both narrow-ILM and square-ILM and is decent and pretty cheap (~$40).
  • The Von Matrices - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Having installed two of those Supermicro tower coolers on a narrow ILM server motherboard, I would not recommend them for this board.

    When using the narrow ILM mount, the heat pipes infringe on the nearest DIMM slot on each side of the processor, rendering them unusable. On the server motherboard with 8 DIMM slots and only 4 DIMMs, it wasn't an issue, but on this board it would limit you to only one DIMM. Thus the reason why ASRock will bundle a cooler with this motherboard.
  • Antronman - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    If it wasn't ASRock I might even buy it.
  • Antronman - Friday, March 20, 2015 - link

    Damnit. Didn't mean to post this as a reply.
  • SeanFL - Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - link

    Astronman, I've had good success with ASRock over the last five years. Asus and ASRock have provided great MB for a dozen workstation builds. What's the issue with them?
  • ToTTenTranz - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    A X99 motherboard that limits the system to dual-channel and a single PCI-Express port.

    What's the point? Getting an 8-core Haswell-E into mini-ITX?
    "Oh I need a $1800-worth 8-core/16 thread server but I only have this tiny little space to put it"?
  • Samus - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    "Oh I need a $1800-worth 8-core/16 thread server but I only have this tiny little space to put it"?

    I hope you are being sarcastic, because yes, that's precisely what this is for. Socket 1155 has some CPU performance limitations (even with "8-core" Xeons) that only the X99 platform, even while using half the memory channels and half the PCIe lanes can offer.

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