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ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Dec 22, 2015 5:49 pm
TweakTown Rating: 94%Manufacturer: ASRock

Here are key points about the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac.

 

What's Hot

 

Strong Memory and CPU Overclocking: The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac overclocks memory better than most full-sized Z170 motherboards. It's mainly due to the byproduct of only being able to fit two DIMMs on a Mini-ITX board, but not all Mini-ITX boards can run this kit as well as this board does. Both the 3733MHz and 4000MHz kit worked very well with this board. In fact, the 4000MHz kit only works with a few boards, and with the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac, I had the smoothest experience when it came to cold booting the kit. CPU overclocking for 24/7 overclocking is also strong, and most Mini-ITX boards can't sustain the same CPU overclocks due to thermal limitations on the VRM, but that isn't the case with this board.

 

 

High-Quality VRM: The VRM on the Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac is better than most full-sized boards (including those from ASRock). It carried the latest IR digital PWM and provides a true 6 phase CPU VCore voltage regulator using 60A chokes and Texas Instruments NexFETs. ASRock was able to implement a high-performance VRM into this tiny board, and the results in the overclocking and thermal performance sections confirm the effectiveness of the VRM.

 

Full M.2 and SATA Express Support: M.2 and Mini-ITX go together like bread and butter, the small form factor board goes well with a high-performance small form factor SSD. M.2 offers much faster speeds than SATA; the only issue is finding space for the M.2 connector on a Mini-ITX board since it requires clearance for longer M.2 drives. ASRock overcomes this issue by putting the M.2 slot on the back of the PCB, something that some other Mini-ITX boards have, but not all. To top things off, the board has SATA Express as well, positioned apart from four other SATA ports so that it could be fit easily on the board.

 

High Number of features for a Mini-ITX board: Most Mini-ITX boards only have two onboard fan headers, and this board has three. It also has the maximum number of Intel SATA 6Gb/s and a total of eight USB 3.0 directly from the PCH. The board also carried both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 internal headers, the same can't be said for all Mini-ITX boards.

 

What's Not

 

No discrete clock generator: I have to be honest, it was hard to find things I didn't like about the board, but the omission of a discrete clock generator is something this board is lacking. The lack of a discrete solution doesn't mean that the BLCK can't be overclocked, in fact, it can be overclocked over 150MHz. Adding a discrete external clock generator for the BLCK is optional if you want your motherboard to go more easily over 200MHz BLCK, but most people stick with multiplier overclocking with K SKUs.

 

No POST Code: Only a few Mini-ITX boards have a POST Code display, and this board isn't one of them. However, the board tends to boot, and I didn't need to use a POST code with it. That being said, in this price range (below $200), I don't expect a POST code display.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

ASRock's Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac impressed me, and I am not easy to impress. I usually get worked up quite easily, and I am very picky. I have to tone down my dissatisfaction since most people aren't as harsh as I am. In this case, it was hard for me to find something I did not like about the board, and it just came down to hardware the board is missing that is common on other boards.

 

I should mention that discrete clock generators are not common on Mini-ITX boards (but they are not absent either). Even without a discrete clock generator, you can still overclock BLCK, but it is much easier to overclock higher (over 250MHz according to Intel) with a discrete clock generator. Some might be wondering what this means when it comes to non-K SKUs and overclocking since it was recently discovered that non-K SKUs can be overclocked through a BIOS hack. Yesterday, ASRock sent me a non-K SKU OC BIOS for this board, so I would say that the lack of a discrete clock generator for the BLCK doesn't impact non-K OC. I should note that I didn't try the BIOS since I don't have a non-K Skylake SKU yet, but I would assume it works.

 

asrock-fatal1ty-z170-gaming-itx-ac-intel-motherboard-review_96

 

I like the layout of this motherboard; everything is positioned well for small form factor builds. Important headers are located on the edges, and a long video card won't impede your ability to access any headers. You have options for whether you want to use SATA connectors on either side of the DIMMs, and both USB internal headers are located on the edge of the PCB. To top things off, the low profile heat sinks and positioning of the connectors allows for large heat sinks like the Noctua NH-D15 to fit the board without issue.

 

The board also overclocks memory very easily, and CPU overclocking is solid because of the high-quality VRM. Overall, this board is solid, and even though I usually only award the Editor's Choice awards to over the top motherboards, this time, I felt that the Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac deserves it considering its price to features ratio and high-end overclocking performance.

Product Summary Breakdown

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking)95%
Quality including Design and Build94%
General Features97%
Bundle and Packaging93%
Value for Money93%
Overall TweakTown Rating94%

The Bottom Line: ASRock's Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac is a Mini-ITX motherboard with an excellent feature set, solid overclocking performance, great layout, and a useful UEFI with a surprisingly reasonable price tag.

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