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ASRock M8 Mini-ITX Barebones Gaming PC Review

Inside ASRock's M8 Chassis

The M8’s flashy side is actually the back of its motherboard tray, which is highlighted with an X-shaped red anodized ribbon and M8-logo power cable guide. Eight moderately strong magnets secure its unlocked cover panel.

Flipping around to the “business” side, we see that the Z87-M8 motherboard’s PCH, mini-PCIe slot, and SATA connectors are all moved forward compared to its Z87E-ITX sibling, making room around Creative’s Sound Blaster Core3D processor. Since the SATA ports now cross into the space occupied by the Z87E-ITX’s DIMMs, ASRock substitutes shorter SO-DIMM slots on the Z87-M8.

The 450 W power supply by FSP surprises us with its two 6+2-pin auxiliary power connectors. In theory, that would allow the platform to power a GeForce GTX 690, except that all of that output is carried by only three +12 V leads. ASRock recommends a graphics power limit of 200 W, probably because each of the PSU's two rails has a 216 W limit. Still, that gets you into GeForce GTX 680 territory.

Graphics cards load from the top, and getting there requires you to remove one of the handle brackets along with two bars. A slide-in card holder is found inside.

The top panel features an exhaust fan up front and an intake around back, likely configured to assist cooling of cards that vent from both ends (such as the aforementioned GeForce GTX 690). Bottom-panel fans feature the same configuration.

  • rolli59
    Definitely only reason to purchase is the style.
    Reply
  • lpedraja2002
    The old saying that hot air rises is usually true because it's less dense. To take advantage of this phenomenon, I flipped the bottom exhaust and top intake fans. Both bottom fans were now intakes, both top fans were now exhaust, and all I needed to do was:

    Completely gut the system, since the bottom panel is secured from the inside with four screws.
    And then slice up the wire sleeves, since the guide on each fan frame was farther apart.

    CPU load temperature immediately dropped by roughly 20°, but at the expense of messier cabling.

    Awesome way of thinking Thomas, that's why I love you guys. I am curious however to know if you emailed them to tell them about this solution. Since it made such a dramatic difference they should change the way those fans are positioned.
    Reply
  • second_exodous
    I'm looking into barebones to build a steam box and I'm finding they all have noise/thermal issues. I hope that Valve has a hand in some sort of certification program and hires their own engineers to test these barebone systems before giving the stamp of approval as a system to be used as a steam box. I'm also a Linux user and if they can clear up Linux compatibility for me that would also be great.
    Reply
  • jestersage
    I hope this fans the flames of trend and others follow suit - so innovation goes up and prices go down. I like the M8. And Thomas gives it a very good once-over - including answers to some issues. Good job!
    Reply
  • gadgety
    Thank you for a thorough review.
    Reply
  • razzb3d
    Just remove the plexiglass window and replace it with a nice honeycomb metal mesh. Cooling problem solved.
    Reply
  • Onus
    This case looks like a good idea, that just needs some refinement to make it even more generic. Another 10mm of thickness to allow 80mm fans (and possibly a full-size optical drive) could go a long way.
    Does the added trace length or extra connection required to use a riser card impose any kind of penalty on graphics cards? Please test this, by using one on a typical motherboard just for some measurements.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    11789583 said:
    This case looks like a good idea, that just needs some refinement to make it even more generic. Another 10mm of thickness to allow 80mm fans (and possibly a full-size optical drive) could go a long way.
    Does the added trace length or extra connection required to use a riser card impose any kind of penalty on graphics cards? Please test this, by using one on a typical motherboard just for some measurements.
    It doesn't need extra thickness to support the larger fans, just a minor redesign of the top and bottom panel. But the top panel redesign would include a different locking mechanism, so the tooling cost would be high.

    Reply
  • thespaceduck
    Maybe it is just me, but doing 9 different test for "performance" for a CHASSIS seems redundant and obsolete.
    Reply
  • crenwelge
    I purchased an ASRock mini-ITX HTPC that never worked. It continually blue screened and crashed. I sent it to ASRock 5 times for repair before finally giving up. Its technicians are either incompetent or dishonest . Once they sent it back with parts loose inside the case, another time without the power supply. Every time they claim to have tested it, but every time it came back blue-screening and crashing. Newegg refused to take it back and instead offered me a $100 credit. When I tried to use it, I found Newegg had deactivated my account. ASRock may be a competent motherboard house, but they cannot build and service reliable systems.
    Reply