Geeks can be a fussy bunch. We want our hardware to be fast and capable, and we also want it to be as small and convenient as possible. Going small usually means sacrificing a bit of top-end power, but ASRock clearly thinks that's hogwash. The company just announced the X299E-ITX/ac motherboard, which is exactly what you think it is.
Yes, that's a tiny little mini-ITX motherboard with an Intel X299 chipset and a massive LGA 2066 socket on it. The socket alone takes up most of the front of the board. Surprisingly, ASRock claims that every Skylake-X CPU, including the monster Core i9-7980XE, will work in this board without issue. Because space is at a premium, the four DIMM slots only accept SO-DIMMs, and many of the board's peripheral connections have been placed on a small riser. ASRock claims the board will run its memory at up to 4000 MT/s, assuming you can find SO-DIMMs that will put up with such treatment.
Some folks might scoff at the idea of sticking an enormous Core i9 CPU in an ITX board, limiting the utility of Skylake-X CPUs' many PCIe lanes. You still get to enjoy that multi-core math-munching power, though. It's also not as if those PCIe lanes aren't being put to good use, either. ASRock puts a pair of M.2 sockets on the back of the board, and another one up front with the use of a short riser card. All three of those sockets support PCIe 3.0 x4 operation, and they're all available for storage use. ASRock further claims that the pair of M.2 sockets on the back of the board support Intel's Virtual RAID on CPU, or VROC, tech. There's also six SATA 6Gbps ports for traditional storage devices.
You won't lack for network connectivity on the X299E-ITX/ac, either. The board includes a pair of Intel Gigabit Ethernet controllers, as well as Intel-powered 2x2 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Also on the back panel are a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one Type-C), the usual audio ports, and a CMOS reset button for the likely lads willing to overclock an X299 mini-ITX build. The aforementioned audio ports are powered by a Realtek ALC1220 codec.
There's been talk in the past of X299 motherboards being difficult to cool, and Jeff found recently that the problem can even extend to LGA 1151 boards. If overclocking on the X299-ITX/ac is a concern for you, just break out the water hoses. ASRock partnered with the liquid-cooling lovers at Bitspower to create a waterblock just for the X299E-ITX/ac that not only cools the CPU socket, but also the board's power delivery hardware. Best of all, it shouldn't block any of the board's expansion options.
If this is looking like the board for you, keep an eye out for it. ASRock didn't say when it would be available or for how much, but from past experience I can tell you that there probably won't be a whole lot of them to go around.
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