Asrock Z68M-ITX/HT

Being a Mini-ITX board, it's no surprise that the Z68M-ITX/HT is extremely compact, measuring just 6.7 x 6.7 inches (17 x 17cm). Although only very few features are included compared to standard ATX motherboards, all of the essentials are covered thanks to Intel's Z68 chipset.

The board features two DIMM slots, a single PCIe x16 slot, four SATA ports, eSATA, USB 3.0, 8-channel audio, Gigabit LANů and that's about it, except for Z68 features such as Intel's Smart Response Technology. Still, virtually all of its features are standard across Z68 products.

The DDR3 DIMM slots supporting dual-channel memory at 1066/1333/1600MHz, while 1866MHz and 2133MHz are supported when overclocking. Although it's more likely that you'll only want 4GB or 8GB of memory, the board can handle up to 16GB (two 8GB modules) if desired.

Internal storage is limited to four SATA ports which are connected to the Z68 chipset. The white ports offer SATA 6Gb/s performance, while the blue ports only provide 3Gb/s rates.

The majority of Mini-ITX cases only have one or two 3.5" drive bays so there's no need for more than four internal SATA ports. However, the new Lian Li PC-Q25 we used for testing supports seven SATA devices and we expect better-equipped cases to become increasingly available.

The eSATA connector found on the board's I/O panel uses the 3Gb/s specification and is connected to the Z68 chipset. Although the Z68 does support a sixth SATA port, Asrock didn't enable it.

The 8-channel audio is delivered by a rather traditional choice in the Realtek ALC892 codec, which is often used by Asrock, even its higher-end motherboards such as the Z68 Extreme4.

The board's USB 3.0 connectivity is tackled by the ASM1042, a small controller developed by ASMedia, a subsidiary of Asus that has been producing USB 3.0 controllers in competition with NEC since early 2010. The two ports supplied by the ASM1042 are featured on the board's I/O panel.

Whereas Zotac's Z68 Mini-ITX boards boast wireless connectivty, Asrock has limited the Z68M-ITX/HT to one gigabit Ethernet jack. Using another Realtek controller, this time the RTL8111E, the board supports Wake-On-LAN, LAN Cable Detection, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az and PXE.

That Ethernet jack leads a lonely existence, as the Z68M-ITX/HT doesn't support Firewire or Bluetooth either. However, the board will likely appeal to some home theater buffs as Asrock has included an infrared dongle and a Windows Media Center-compatible remote control.

The all-important PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot is situated at the bottom of the Z68M-ITX/HT and provides full x16 bandwidth, meaning it can accept any modern PCIe graphics card.

The Z68 chipset is cooled with a small blue heatsink that has a gray heat shield, purely for aesthetics. Vertically mounted SATA ports are above the chipset heatsink. Opposite them is the 24-pin ATX power connector (the board only uses a 4-pin power connector for CPUs).

The I/O panel has a PS/2 port, dual link DVI, VGA and HDMI-out, eSATA, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, gigabit Ethernet, five audio jacks and an optical SPDIF port.