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ASRock M8 Mini-ITX Barebones Gaming PC Review

Benchmark And Overclocking Configurations

What should we compare to something as unique as a mini-ITX-based barebones configuration filled partly with our own gear? After building ASRock’s $550 barebones setup into a $1535 PC with the parts I had on hand, I picked our most closely-matching System Builder Marathon machines to compare. Overclocking won’t be a fair fight this time, since cooling was an issue for ASRock's compact case, but I’ll simply put a little more emphasis on its stock benchmark results.

Test Hardware Configurations
ASRock M8 Custom BuildSBM $1300 Enthusiast PCSBM $2550 Performance PC
Processor (Overclock)Intel Core i7-4770K 3.2 GHz, Four Physical Cores O/C to 4.10 GHz, 1.08 VIntel Core i5-4670K 3.40 GHz, Four Physical CoresO/C to 4.30 GHz, 1.25 VIntel Core i7-3930K 3.20 GHz, Six Physical CoresO/C to 4.20 GHz, 1.25 V
Graphics (Overclock)GeForce GTX 760: 980-1033 MHz GPU, GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1200 MHz GDDR5-7200GeForce GTX 770: 1037-1089 MHz GPU,GDDR5-7000, O/C to 1239 MHz GDDR5-75003 x GeForce GTX 760: 980-1033 MHz GPU,GDDR5-6008, O/C to 1130 MHz GDDR5-6680
Memory (Overclock)8 GBKingston DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-1600 8-9-8-21, 1.5 V8 GB Corsair DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, O/C to DDR3-1800 CL 9-11-11-28, 1.535 V16 GB Mushkin DDR3-1600 CAS 9-9-9-24, Not Overclockable
Motherboard (Overclock)ASRock Z87-M8: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLKGigabyte Z87X-OC: LGA 1150, Intel Z87 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLKASRock X79 Extreme6: LGA 2011, Intel X79 Express, Stock 100 MHz BCLK
OpticalLite-On DC-8A2SH 8x DVDRWSamsung SH-224: 24x DVD±RPioneer BDR-2208: 15x BD-R
CaseASRock M8 mini-ITX Slim TowerAntec GX 700Lian Li PC-9NA
CPU CoolerXigmatek CAC-EXAI6-U01 With Noctua NF-F12 FanCorsair H50Noctua NH-D14 SE2011
Hard DriveSamsung MZ-7PD256BW: 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSDSamsung 840 MZ-7TD120BW 120 GB SATA 6Gb/s SSDMushkin Chronos Deluxe DX 240 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD
PowerFSP450-60GHS(85)-R: 450 W, SFX, 80 PLUS BronzeCorsair 650TX: 650 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS BronzeCorsair HX850: 850 W Modular, ATX12V v2.3, 80 PLUS Gold
Software
OSMicrosoft Windows 8 Pro x64
GraphicsNvidia GeForce 320.49 WHQLNvidia GeForce 326.80 BetaNvidia GeForce 326.80 Beta
ChipsetIntel INF 9.4.0.1017Intel INF 9.4.0.1017Intel INF 9.3.0.1026

That doesn’t mean I won’t mention overclocking at all, though. Don Woligroski’s $1300 PC faced significant CPU overclocking issues, despite his larger CPU cooler, and 4.3 GHz is barely a step above the 4.1 GHz I achieved.

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His system also topped-out at DDR3-1800 CAS 9. I believe my DDR3-1600 CAS 8 will be a close performance match.

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A single GeForce GTX 760 overclocks far easier in the M8 compared to three GeForce GTX 760s in SLI. ASRock’s M8 now has the GeForce GTX 760/Core i7-4770K configuration previously recommended by one of our readers for the $1300 build.

Though Nvidia's graphics cards also support Surround mode up to 5760x1080, StarTech's MDP2DVID DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter gives us the flexibility of even higher resolutions in the future, without the need to buy new dual-interface monitors. The adapter also enables Surround 3D mode with our current 5760x1080 configuration.

Benchmark Configuration
3D Games
Battlefield 3Campaign Mode, "Going Hunting" 90-Second Fraps Test Set 1: Medium Quality Defaults (No AA, 4x AF) Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Defaults (4x AA, 16x AF)
F1 2012Steam Version, In-Game Test Test Set 1: High Quality Preset, No AA Test Set 2: Ultra Quality Preset, 8x AA
The Elder Scrolls V: SkyrimUpdate 1.5.26, Celedon Aethirborn Level 6, 25-Second Fraps Test Set 1: DX11, High Details No AA, 8x AF, FXAA enabled Test Set 2: DX11, Ultra Details, 8x AA, 16x AF, FXAA enabled
Far Cry 3V. 1.04, DirectX 11, 50-second Fraps "Amanaki Outpost" Test Set 1: High Quality, No AA, Standard ATC., SSAO Test Set 2: Ultra Quality, 4x MSAA, Enhanced ATC, HDAO
Adobe Creative Suite
Adobe After Effects CS6Version 11.0.0.378 x64: Create Video which includes 3 Streams, 210 Frames, Render Multiple Frames Simultaneosly
Adobe Photoshop CS6Version 13 x64: Filter 15.7 MB TIF Image: Radial Blur, Shape Blur, Median, Polar Coordinates
Adobe Premeire Pro CS6Version 6.0.0.0, 6.61 GB MXF Project to H.264 to H.264 Blu-ray, Output 1920x1080, Maximum Quality
Audio/Video Encoding
iTunesVersion 11.0.4.4 x64: Audio CD (Terminator II SE), 53 minutes, default AAC format
LAME MP3Version 3.98.3: Audio CD "Terminator II SE", 53 min, convert WAV to MP3 audio format, Command: -b 160 --nores (160 Kb/s)
Handbrake CLIVersion: 0.99: Video from Canon Eos 7D (1920x1080, 25 FPS) 1 Minutes 22 Seconds Audio: PCM-S16, 48,000 Hz, Two-Channel, to Video: AVC1 Audio: AAC (High Profile)
TotalCodeStudio 2.5Version: 2.5.0.10677: MPEG-2 to H.264, MainConcept H.264/AVC Codec, 28 sec HDTV 1920x1080 (MPEG-2), Audio: MPEG-2 (44.1 kHz, 2 Channel, 16-Bit, 224 kb/s), Codec: H.264 Pro, Mode: PAL 50i (25 FPS), Profile: H.264 BD HDMV
Productivity
ABBYY FineReaderVersion 10.0.102.95: Read PDF save to Doc, Source: Political Economy (J. Broadhurst 1842) 111 Pages
Adobe Acrobat XVersion 11.0.0.379: Print PDF from 115 Page PowerPoint, 128-bit RC4 Encryption
Autodesk 3ds Max 2013Version 15.0 x64: Space Flyby Mentalray, 248 Frames, 1440x1080
BlenderVersion: 2.67b, Cycles Engine, Syntax blender -b thg.blend -f 1, 1920x1080, 8x Anti-Aliasing, Render THG.blend frame 1
Visual Studio 2010Version 10.0, Compile Google Chrome, Scripted
File Compression
WinZipVersion 17.0 Pro: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to ZIP, command line switches "-a -ez -p -r"
WinRARVersion 4.2: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to RAR, command line switches "winrar a -r -m3"
7-ZipVersion 9.28: THG-Workload (1.3 GB) to .7z, command line switches "a -t7z -r -m0=LZMA2 -mx=5"
Synthetic Benchmarks and Settings
3DMark 11Version: 1.0.3, Benchmark Only
PCMark 8Version: 1.0.0 x64, Full Test
SiSoftware Sandra 2013Version 2013.10.19.50, CPU Test = CPU Arithmetic / Cryptography, Memory Test = Bandwidth Benchmark
  • 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