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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  • fingerstuckinceilingfan - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    A tiny server is not really practical because the Haswell-E CPUs have high TDP,and a small heatsink is not going to cool it properly,unless you have a server room and don't care about 10000RPM fans running at full speed.However,if you have a server room,then you have the space...
    It is a paradox.This is basically for ITX cases/case mods,not really for lots of compactness.
  • Samus - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    Why said anything about a server, I'm putting this sucker in my FT03mini workstation and using a closed-loop cooler!
  • fingerstuckinceilingfan - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Well they _could_ have put 4 SODIMMs there,but they chose not to.So yeah...
    Hope Asus come up with a Rampage V Impact with actual quad channel Memory boasting 4 SODIMM Slots.Also would be nice if they add custom PCIe ports that have adapter cables to external PCIe slot.
  • Kevin G - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    I can see the extra PCIe lanes going to additional M.2 slots. Of course such aboard wouldn't be able to put them horizontally, parallel with the motherboard. However they can go perpendicular like a PCIe card.
  • liu_d - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Could go on the underside of the board. They did a similar thing with mSATA ports on their Z77 ITX board.
  • Samus - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    That works, but man, I dread the day I upgrade the M2 SSD on my Asrock H97 that has it on the flipside. Will probably be a 2 hour upgrade because the case, like most cases, has no cutouts on the motherboard tray.
  • Mr Perfect - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    I was thinking the same thing, but there's no DDR4 SODIMMs out. X99 requires DDR4, right? Maybe they'll have a four channel SODIMM version later when DDR4 makes it into the mainstream.
  • Samus - Monday, March 16, 2015 - link

    There are Haswell-E based Xeon's running DDR3 in certain OEM servers. I remember reading about them awhile back but the CPU SKU's are OEM only and Intel doesn't plan to make very many.

    I honestly don't know why they're making them at all...unless it is for precisely what we are talking about (tiny rack/blade servers that need SODIMMs)
  • Dusk_Star - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    To the best of my knowledge, ddr4 So-DIMMs are not yet publicly available, and so unless asroc somehow managed to get ddr3 to work with Haswell-E, that isn't going to happen.
  • liu_d - Friday, March 13, 2015 - link

    Are there DDR4 SODIMMs yet?

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