By far the coolest Intel 8 series motherboard we have at the moment is the Asrock Z87E-ITX, as this little 17cm x 17cm motherboard not only features the Z87 chipset with support for processors such as the Core i7-4770K, but with a full length PCIe x16 slot it can also handle the latest and greatest GPU’s.
The crazy thing about the Z87E-ITX is that you would expect to miss out on a lot of features due to its tiny size. However that’s not really the case, as the board support six USB 3.0 ports, six SATA 6Gb/s ports, PCIe x16, two full size DDR3 DIMMs, eSATA, DisplayPort and wireless.
Although many of these features are provided by the Z87 chipset, one feature is more unique to the Z87E-ITX. Included is a brand new IEEE 802.11ac wireless adapter which supports high-throughput wireless local area networks on the 5GHz band. This new standard is still backwards compatible with the 802.11n 2.4GHz band.
This specification has expected multi-station WLAN throughput of at least 1 gigabit per second and a single link throughput of at least 500 megabits per second (500 Mbit/s). This is achieved by extending the air interface concepts embraced by 802.11n: wider RF bandwidth (up to 160 MHz), more MIMO spatial streams (up to 8), multi-user MIMO, and high-density modulation (up to 256 QAM).
Again Asrock has used the high-end Realtek ALC1150 audio codec supporting 7.1 channel HD audio with a TI NE5532 Premium Headset Amplifier which supports up to 600ohm headphones. And there's also cap less Direct Drive technology and support for DTS Connect.
Most Mini-ITX boards only offer two SATA ports, some go as far as to include four, but we have never seen six before. While it is true that most Mini-ITX systems cannot even support six SATA devices, it could be possible when using SSD’s, either way the option is nice to have.
However what we really like is the mSATA 6Gb/s connector on the rear of the board that supports full length cards. This means it is possible to install an SSD such as the M4 mSATA 512GB on the rear of this board and receive full 6Gb/s throughput. This in itself is a vital feature for a Mini-ITX board and again models in the past have either only featured mSATA 3Gb/s connections or only used half size connectors.
Around at the I/O panel we have two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, PS/2 port, DVI, Displayport, HDMI, eSATA, LAN, optical audio out and five audio jacks. There are also two wireless antenna connections and a CMOS reset switch.