There are times when you see trends begin and, of course, times when you don't. When we first saw the Mini-ITX form factor we thought it was a neat idea, but not one that would go anywhere. However, that was before CES 2010; at the show we saw a rather large amount of products that were either in the design stage or already in production and waiting for release. We asked about this and found that there was a growing demand for small, light, green and yet powerful systems.
Now, I know what you are thinking; the Micro ATX form factor can handle that. That is what we thought too; that is until we got the chance to play with the GIGABYTE H55N-USB3. This one little board opened our eyes in a way that we simply did not expect. It has caused something of an addiction here. We have gone out of our way to find these tiny little systems and to put them through the wringer to see what they can do with the right hardware. Of course, the only one we have been able to tinker with was an Intel based product. But AMD is not out of the market; in fact, we have two new 8 series chipset based Mini-ITX boards sitting in the lab waiting for our attention.
The problem is that we have not been able to get them up on the bench yet. Still, we do want to show you some of the differences in design choices and features that two very different companies have used to build this new platform. So let's introduce you to the ASUS M4A88T-I Deluxe and the JWL MINIX 890GX-USB3.
But before we get in too deep here, we need to qualify first; this is not a head to head review, but more of a look at the two available design philosophies for the AMD chipset and the Mini-ITX platform. The two products are aimed at very different segments inside this emerging market.