While other motherboard manufacturers seem to be getting less creative with their designs, Asrock has shown it doesn't mind taking chances with its products and continues to push boundaries. The company currently offers fourteen X99 motherboards and most are extreme in both price and features. For example, the X99 Extreme11 costs $620 and it's not even their most expensive model. That honor goes to the X99 WS-E/10G, an awesome server-grade board that features an Intel X540 controller for dual 10G Base-T support.
If you read our recent article "The Ridiculously Powerful MicroATX PC" you will also know that Asrock has done something few others have by creating a MicroATX board based on the X99 chipset. The Fatal1ty X99M Killer is a great little mATX board and so is the X99M Extreme4.
The MicroATX versions still boast many of the features found on the full-size Extended ATX motherboards such as quad-channel DIMMs, dual Gigabit LAN, 10 SATA storage connectors and so on. What we haven't seen is a Mini-ITX version using the X99 platform and not that long ago I would have deemed it impossible. I've since discovered the Asrock X99E-ITX/ac.
Somehow someone at Asrock got the greenlight to develop an X99 motherboard using the Mini-ITX form factor, and somehow they made it work.
The Asrock X99E-ITX/ac is the world's first and only Mini-ITX X99 motherboard along with being the first ever Mini-ITX motherboard to feature an Intel Extreme-series chipset.
Apart from being nearly impossible to design, there are obvious drawbacks to such a creation. In the case of the X99E-ITX/ac, it's limited to just two DIMM slots, eliminating the quad-channel feature of LGA2011-3 processors.
Still, running a processor such as the Core i7-5960X in dual-channel doesn't exactly kill performance and users can still look forward to features such as Wireless AC, USB 3.1, SATA Express and M.2 support, which opens the possibility of using the X99E-ITX/ac up for an insanely powerful Mini-ITX computer.
Features & Specifications
Most Mini-ITX boards aren't too feature-packed because of their limited space. Most rely heavily on the features provided by the chipset and even then many of the standard features get axed.
The same is true for the Asrock X99E-ITX/ac to an extent. Onboard we find just six of the ten SATA 6Gb/s ports and two DIMM slots.
However Asrock still managed to include a SATA Express connection, an Ultra M.2 slot, a vertical half-size Mini-PCI Express slot for the supplied WiFi/Bluetooth module, dual Gigabit LAN, half a dozen USB 3.0 ports plus two USB 3.1 ports, eSATA and a PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot.
Asrock has also equipped the board with its Super Alloy hardware, including the Premium 60A Power Chokes, Premium Memory Alloy Chokes, Fairchild 60A Dual Cool DrMOS which withstands 60A currents, Nichicon 12k Platinum Capacitors, plus a 6-phase power design and digi power.
That is an impressive list for a full-size desktop motherboard, so we are still a little puzzled as to how Asrock has pulled this off with the Mini-ITX standard.
Despite the limited space, Asrock isn't being gun shy with CPU support, claiming that the X99E-ITX/ac will happily accept the 140w Core i7-5960X or even the Xeon E5-2699v3 (18 Core/36 Thread, 45MB Cache, 2.30 GHz).
The included ILM CPU cooler should be able to handle a 140w processor without much trouble, although those server grade models tend to be loud so we will report on that later in the review.
With just two DIMM slots the board is limited to dual-channel DDR4 memory technology, though we don't expect this to impact performance greatly.
When it comes to storage the X99E-ITX/ac can support more devices than any Mini-ITX case with six SATA 6Gb/s ports and an Ultra M.2 slot -- we can't imagine many users will be asking for more. There is also a SATA Express port though that claims two of the six SATA ports when in use.
The M.2 slot supports both M.2 SATA3 6.0Gb/s modules and M.2 PCI Express modules up to Gen3 x4 (32Gb/s). The slot accommodates a wide range of M.2 sizes which includes 42, 60 and 80mm.
For audio, the X99E-ITX/ac is equipped with the ALC1150 codec, Realtek's premier offering. Complete with content protection, premium Blu-ray audio and DTS support it's about as good as onboard audio gets.
Realtek's chip is accompanied by Asrock's Purity Sound technology, which incorporates a headphone amplifier, a 115dB SNR DAC with a differential amplifier, Direct Drive technology, EMI shielding cover and PCB isolated shielding.
For networking, Asrock has included Intel's I218V PHY and I211AT controllers, which support Wake-On-LAN, Energy Efficient Ethernet 802.3az and PXE while the I217V offers Intel Remote Wake Technology. Together, the pair can also be used for teaming.
The X99E-ITX/ac also offers wireless networking out of the box using a half-size Mini-PCI Express 2T2R 802.11ac WiFi card. The 2.4G/5G WiFi module supports up to 867Mbps wireless networks and Bluetooth v4.0.