When I met with Asus in April to get an early look at its Haswell motherboards, I was briefly pulled into a separate meeting room to see something rather special. I was sworn to secrecy at the time, but Asus has finally let the cat out of the bag. Check out the first Mini-ITX motherboard in the ROG family.
The ROG brand is reserved for high-end models, and the Maximus VI Impact certainly looks the part. It also addresses one of my pet peeves with Mini-ITX mobos: sub-par integrated audio. Mini-ITX dimensions don't allow for multiple expansion slots, which means anyone running a discrete graphics card is stuck with onboard audio. On the Impact, that might not be such a bad thing. The board is equipped with a SupremeFX riser designed to improve analog output quality.
In addition to raising the audio components off the surface of the main circuit board, the riser boasts audio-specific ELNA capacitors and EMI shielding for the codec chip. There's a dedicated headphone amp, too, and Asus claims the complete solution has a 120 dB SNR. We're eager to hear it for ourselves.
There is more to the Impact than fancy integrated audio, of course. The board has a second riser card that contains its beefy 8+2 power delivery circuitry. Asus has also found room for its mPCIe Combo II card, which offers two additional expansion slots: one mini PCIe for wireless cards, and one NGFF.M2 for bite-sized SSDs.
While the Impact doesn't have quite as many SATA and USB ports as its full-sized peers, there should be enough connectivity for most systems. I like how Asus has put the two-digit POST code display and CMOS reset button in the rear cluster, too. Accessing those widgets inside a cramped Mini-ITX enclosure wouldn't be fun.
We don't have pricing or availability information on the Maximus VI Impact, but it probably won't be cheap. I think we might have to get one of these in-house for a closer look.
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