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 V
Intel Core i5-4670K
3.40 GHz, Four Physical Cores
O/C to 4.30 GHz, 1.25 V
Intel Core i7-3930K
3.20 GHz, Six Physical Cores
O/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 DVDRW Samsung 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 Fan
Corsair 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
Chipset Intel 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.

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

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
This thread is closed for comments
59 comments
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  • rolli59
    Definitely only reason to purchase is the style.
  • lpedraja2002
    Quote:
    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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • gadgety
    Thank you for a thorough review.
  • razzb3d
    Just remove the plexiglass window and replace it with a nice honeycomb metal mesh. Cooling problem solved.
  • 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.
  • Crashman
    47340 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.
  • thespaceduck
    Maybe it is just me, but doing 9 different test for "performance" for a CHASSIS seems redundant and obsolete.
  • 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 [or perhaps both]. 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.
  • Crashman
    931332 said:
    Talk about redundant...
    Yes, you are repeating yourself far too much.

    It's probably obvious to most people that those nine pages of tests were primarily motherboard validation.

    Or is it a power supply review?
  • Onus
    8708 said:
    931332 said:
    Talk about redundant...
    Yes, you are repeating yourself far too much. It's probably obvious to most people that those nine pages of tests were primarily motherboard validation. Or is it a power supply review?

    Not without oscilloscope shots of noise and ripple. I think this particular PSU has been reviewed though, perhaps when HardwareSecrets reviewed one of the Silverstone cases that uses it. I'm not sure; they may have only done the 300W version that way, but I thought I'd seen this one done somewhere too... Anyway, FSP is one of the better PSU OEMs, and I'd be inclined to trust this one.
    I wouldn't expect ASRock to want to re-tool this, but a case manufacturer might readily do so. I really need to post some pics of "Hobo," a build I finished recently (except for the graphics card) using one of those InWin slim cases. I'm waiting for some R7 reviews before deciding what graphics card it gets, which is limited to a low-profile model.
    Incidentally, that build uses an ASRock Z77E-ITX. I got it quite some time ago from HardwareSecrets (it was their review sample), without a warranty, but when it died suddenly (apparent VRM failure), ASRock replaced it for $50. I was happy about that.
  • thespaceduck
    Talk about redundant...
  • cknobman
    Your rig might have won because of the processor but when it comes to gaming Don's creamed yours.

    The reason I would build such a small machine like this is for portability to take and game at friends houses so gaming results matter more than productivity.

    In my perspective you lost.
  • funtasticguy
    I'm curious about the slim ODD. Can you replace the ODD with any standard slim Blu-ray ODD, or is Asrock using a non-standard ODD? Thanks!

    P.S. It's shocking that you figured out a dramatic and easy solution to M8's cooling and noise problem and their engineers couldn't figure that on their own. I wonder if they're going to fix this so that I could wait on the fix, or just buy it now with the i5-4670K CPU and not have to worry so much about it overheating.

    Thanks for this wonderful and thorough review!
  • Crashman
    931332 said:
    Talk about redundant...
    Yes, you are repeating yourself far too much.

    It's probably obvious to most people that those nine pages of tests were primarily motherboard validation.

    1458185 said:
    I'm curious about the slim ODD. Can you replace the ODD with any standard slim Blu-ray ODD, or is Asrock using a non-standard ODD? Thanks!
    It's a "standard" slot-loading drive, so you'd need to find a different slot-loading drive to replace it.


    1458185 said:
    It's shocking that you figured out a dramatic and easy solution to M8's cooling and noise problem and their engineers couldn't figure that on their own. I wonder if they're going to fix this so that I could wait on the fix, or just buy it now with the i5-4670K CPU and not have to worry so much about it overheating.
    The shape of the side panel indicates that its designers might have intended it to be "louvered" rather than simply rippled. If that's true, the slots between the louvers would have probably made this thing work "as-designed".

    1458185 said:
    Thanks for this wonderful and thorough review!
    You're welcome!
  • Onus
    59464 said:
    Your rig might have won because of the processor but when it comes to gaming Don's creamed yours. The reason I would build such a small machine like this is for portability to take and game at friends houses so gaming results matter more than productivity. In my perspective you lost.

    I don't understand this response at all, in particular since it seems to contradict itself.
    If portability is the goal, this machine creamed Don's (to be fair, Don wasn't building for portability). I'd probably say the same even if it used an i3 with the stock cooler. A rig built to provide "show-off" settings is unlikely to be easy to carry around at all. Here is a small, easily portable machine that can play any game on enjoyable settings, and does quite well at a variety of tasks.
  • clonazepam
    The 80mm fans I've used in the past are awesome. I'd get them from the local hobbyist / electronics shop, and do my own wiring. They move tons more air than your typical 140mm fan that's marketed for PC. Sadly, they don't carry these beasts in any larger sizes.
  • cobra5000
    I would love to see a pic of the M8 right next to a Tiki!
  • logainofhades
    I kinda want one. Due to heat issues, I would probably skip the overclocking ability and go with a slightly cooler E3 1230/1240 v3. Would have been nice if they had a bit more wattage on the PSU though. 550w would have been perfect. Essentially being limited to a 760 or 7950 is kind downer.
  • Onus
    You could easily run a HD7970 on it. Back when I mined BTC with mine, I had it overclocked to 1130MHz (I'm sure it could have gone higher; I think I just set it there to maintain 750MHash/s). Running at ~98%, that rig drew only 312W from its UPS.
    Heat might have been an issue in a small case though. I mined on my open testbed.
  • logainofhades
    47340 said:
    You could easily run a HD7970 on it. Back when I mined BTC with mine, I had it overclocked to 1130MHz (I'm sure it could have gone higher; I think I just set it there to maintain 750MHash/s). Running at ~98%, that rig drew only 312W from its UPS. Heat might have been an issue in a small case though. I mined on my open testbed.



    I was going by the recommended TDP rating. The 200w TDP limit, limits you to 7950. Also I am trying to think who had the bright idea of the fan configuration? The way the fans are configured from Asrock is just silly.
  • Onus
    I agree about the fans. It is intuitive to any builder that fans should create flow through a case, not some kind of in-and-out whorl.
    Thomas, I hope you are providing feedback to ASRock on this. They could easily make some cheap changes that would really improve their product.
  • davefromcalgary
    Hi Thomas,

    Great review. System building is my favorite aspect of tomshardware. You mentioned you were using parts you had around the lab. If you were building this system based on buying all of the other required parts new, would you have used something like a 770 for more graphics muscle, and could the PSU have handled a 770? Did your gpu use centrifugal type fan (I think I got the term right, the kind that exhausts out the back)? Would a centrifugal fan be the best bet for this form factor?