Mini Socket Technology Extended (Mini-STX), also called the 5x5 form factor, was introduced earlier this year as a concept. In the past few months, most major motherboard vendors have come up with custom designs, but the first design I have seen in a final product is ASRock's DeskMini 110. The DeskMini 110 is designed to fill the gap between Mini-ITX and Pico-ITX, and it's only slightly larger than most NUCs. The real advantage of the DeskMini 110 is its ability to utilize desktop "Skylake-S" series CPUs such as the i7-6700, or in our case the i5-6500. Many NUCs and other devices use "Skylake-U" series CPUs such as the popular i7-6500U, but a desktop class i3-6100 is capable of matching the i7-6500U as ASRock shows in its marketing materials and what we have seen in our own benchmarks.
In fact, the performance difference between "Skylake-U" and "Skylake-S" series processors is staggering. My own testing shows roughly double the score in CPU bound benchmarks such as CINEBENCH when comparing an i7-6500U and a desktop i5-6500. The power constraints of the "Skylake-U" processors affect their performance, the benefit being that they produce less heat and thus smaller and quieter devices. The mini-STX form factor aims to mash together a desktop class Skylake CPU with mobile bound memory and storage technologies that utilize little space, providing the best of both worlds. Today I take a look at our first mini-STX based system, the ASRock DeskMini 110.
The DeskMini 110 comes as a barebones system with a motherboard, case, and external PSU. Our configuration uses some Kingston HyperX DDR4 SO-DIMMs and an i5-6500. The DeskMini 110 carries a desktop class LGA1151 socket with standard Intel Box Fan mounting holes (and slim-ILM mounting). The motherboard in use is ASRock's H110M-STX, the 5x5/MiniSTX motherboard. There is no PCI-E slot for graphics expansion so you will be using Intel HD graphics. The unit has a wired LAN port and an M.2 slot for a Wi-Fi module.
There is a full sized M.2 slot for storage, and unlike many Z170 motherboards, the M.2 slot is wired to the CPU's PCI-E lanes for better performance. There are two SATA3 (6Gb/s) headers on the backside of the motherboard, which require a special cable that supplies data and power to a standard SATA device. There is room to mount two 2.5-inch SATA devices on the underside of the motherboard tray.
ASRock has informed us that the DeskMini will come with two SATA cables, and in some regions a Wi-Fi module will be included. The MSRP for the barebones without Wi-Fi is $130, and with Wi-Fi it is $140.
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