Introduction and Specific Part Sourcing
Mini-ITX motherboard are some of the most exciting in the enthusiast market, and for the past few generations only one brand has been making Intel high-end desktop (HEDT) mini-ITX motherboards; ASRock. Last generation (X99), ASRock came out with a motherboard that supported all X99 CPUs, two DDR4 DIMMs, one x16 PCI-E 3.0 slot, and one M.2 slot. The issue is that Intel's X99 platform offered much more in the way of memory support and storage support, so ASRock made sure to change things for the X299 platform.
ASRock's X299E-ITX/ac is a special little beast. It provides the ability to run quad channel DDR4, albeit in the form of SO-DIMMs, so it doesn't bottleneck the CPU's memory capabilities. It still provides a single x16 slot, but you can run a riser card that splits the x16 into x8/x8 or even x4/x4/x4/x4 through PCI-E bifurcation, but that still leaves x12 or x28 PCI-E 3.0 lanes from a 28-lane or 44-lane CPU. ASRock decided to take x8 of the remaining PCI-E 3.0 lanes and slap them on two x4 PCI-E M.2 slots on the back of the motherboard, and since Intel added the ability to RAID CPU-connected M.2 slots with a dongle (for pay of course), you could technically RAID the two rear M.2 slots with the PCH-connected x4 PCI-E 3.0 M.2 slot on a daughterboard on the topside of the motherboard. We will cover how everything works when we cover the motherboard on the next page.
Now that we know we have one choice for the motherboard let's talk about how we have many choices for SO-DIMMs, and since ASRock added great OC capabilities to the memory DIMMs, G.Skill decided to up the ante and sent over their unreleased 3800MHz quad channel SO-DIMM kit. While some notebooks have four SO-DIMM slots and support memory overclocking, ASRock's motherboard only supports CPUs that can support up to quad channel, so the kit is basically designed for the motherboard. Intel's X299 CPUs can run 3800MHz, at least most of them can, and this guide will go getting the memory up to speed and even tweaking it a little bit. It's an amazing kit, to say the least, and it should launch later this year.
ASRock decided to up the ante with cooling as well. We all know that one issue with mini-ITX motherboards can be the VRM, and with the high amount of heat Intel's new i9 series CPUs put out, one might imagine overclocking such power-hungry CPUs would be next to impossible on the new platform. That's where Bitspower and their Taiwan-made liquid cooling solutions come in. ASRock worked hand in hand with Bitspower to develop a special custom designed monoblock for the motherboard that would not only cools the CPU and the power packed 6-phase VRM but also integrate with the daughterboard near it and support it.
With all the patents around Asetek's all-in-one liquid coolers, Bitspower has taken a different approach and created an all-in-one that you put together, and it's super effective. You get a 240mm radiator with an attached reservoir and pump as well as two fairly long tubes with compression fittings already installed. All you have to do is screw in the block to the motherboard, install the radiator, screw in the tubes and fill in the water. The best part is that it offers better performance in some cases than an AIO, and it also offers easily upgradability. We decided to go with some baby blue liquid to match our TweakTown logo.
PRICING: You can find the product discussed for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link below to see real-time pricing for the best deal:United States: The ASRock MB X299E-ITX AC X-Series X299 DDR4 64GB PCIE SATA USB 3.1 2T2R mITX RTL (X299E-ITX/AC) retails for $699.00 at Amazon.United Kingdom: The ASRock MB X299E-ITX AC X-Series X299 DDR4 64GB PCIE SATA USB 3.1 2T2R mITX RTL (X299E-ITX/AC) retails for £508.00 at Amazon UK.Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at the Amazon Canada website.