We got our first look at Intel's new mini-STX standard last April in the form of the MSI Cubi 2 Plus. This slick small form factor barebone system sported Intel’s low power Skylake desktop processors along with a high-speed M.2 NVMe SSD.
At a tiny capacity of just 1.42L, the Cubi 2 Plus was the smallest computer to support LGA1151 processors, giving it impressive performance that blew all other mini PCs out of the water. There were a few shortcomings, too, so can Asrock do better with their new mini-STX form factor PC, the DeskMini?
It's looking good for them right off the bat - the DeskMini can take almost any Skylake desktop processor, thanks to support for the standard Intel box fan. The M.2 throughput, too, should be greatly improved, since Asrock links this slot directly to the CPU. They have also included a Type-A USB 3.0 port at the front.
An Industrial Look
The Asrock DeskMini certainly has an industrial look about it, and it looks a bit drab sitting next to the Cubi 2 Plus. What it lacks in aesthetics, however, it makes up for in ease of installation and flexibility, thanks to those very same design choices - but we'll be getting to that a bit later.
For now, let’s have a look at the dimensions. It measures 155mm wide, 155mm deep and 80mm high, giving it a 1.92L capacity. This makes the DeskMini some 35% larger than the Cubi 2 Plus by volume - which sounds like a lot, but given how small both these systems are, we are only talking about a 20mm difference in height.
While the Cubi 2 Plus is designed to lay flat, the DeskMini can be stood on its side, allowing it to take up even less desk space.
On the front, we find a plastic façade dominated by diagonal vents. In the top right corner is a small square power button which lights up blue when active. At the opposite end, we find the I/O panel which - happily - features a USB 3.0 port along with a Type-C USB 3.1 port and two audio jacks.
If you were to lay the DeskMini flat, the top panel features a large ventilated section above the CPU socket, allowing the CPU cooler to draw in cool air. The panel also features cut-outs for additional USB ports which weren’t included in our package.
The right side features another large ventilated section, while the opposite (left) panel is solid. The bottom panel is also solid, but does feature VESA mounting points. Both the bottom and left side solid panels also have four small indentations for optional feet.
Around the back, the DeskMini is again heavily ventilated. This is where the motherboard's I/O panel is located, featuring the DC power input, DisplayPort, HDMI port, VGA port, USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port and a Gigabit Ethernet connection. This is a similar configuration to what we found on the Cubi 2 Plus, though MSI’s ommited legacy VGA support for older monitors, a decision we can mostly agree with. Asrock has also included mounting locations for an optional COM port and Wi-Fi antennas.
Overall, the Asrock DeskMini's design is simple and reminiscent of a traditional ATX case in that it is a rectangular box featuring a single-piece steel cover that is removable via four screws, giving access into the box. Let's now take a look inside.
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