Remember a couple of weeks ago when ASRock announced that it would be showing off a Mini-ITX board with the X99 chipset at CeBIT? Well, CeBIT has now passed and ASRock did show it there, but now the company has slapped a price tag on it and unveiled all of the juicy specifications.
The X99E-ITX/ac is a one-of-a-kind motherboard, as no other motherboard vendor currently has a Mini-ITX X99 offering. The reason for this is quite simple – putting X99 on a Mini-ITX board doesn't entirely make sense, as it doesn't have the expansion slots to fully use all the PCI-Express lanes that Haswell-E CPUs have, and you won't be able to actually run quad-channel memory due to the board physically only having room for two DDR4 memory slots.
Further, the LGA2011-3 socket is huge, and that doesn't necessarily leave much room on the board for all the I/O, audio hardware, VRM circuitry, and more.
One thing worth noting about the board is that it does come with the smaller, narrow ILM-type LGA2011-3 socket, which is not compatible with most standard LGA2011-3 compatible coolers. What ASRock did to facilitate making your building process easier is to include a server-type CPU cooler that fits on the socket, along with a water cooling mounting plate. The latter is a metal bracket that you can install on Cooler Master Seidon 120V (Plus) CPU coolers.
The board is so small, in fact, that it doesn't actually have any front USB 2.0 headers. Instead, ASRock included an adapter, which turns the USB 3.0 header into a USB 2.0 header in case you're using this board in an older case that doesn't have any front USB 3.0 ports.
Despite its small form factor, however, the X99E-ITX/ac is not just a pile of sacrifices. It still comes with USB 3.1 connectivity, eSATA, six SATA3 (6 Gb/s) ports, expandability for SATA-Express, and an Ultra M.2 socket that can harvest four of the PCI-Express 3.0 lanes straight from the CPU. It also comes with dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet.
To call this board "sensible" is a long stretch. In fact, if anything, it's as far from sensible as you'll probably get. That's not what the X99E-ITX/ac is about though – it's about packing as much power as possible into the smallest form factor. It's certainly a niche market that ASRock is targeting, but we're fairly confident that this market does in fact exist, and we're impressed that ASRock is willing to find out whether we're right.
ASRock priced the board at $249.99, which if you think about it, isn't really all that bad. Now, who wants to put an 18-core Intel Xeon processor in here? (Yes, it's compatible). The board should be on shelves somewhere over the coming weeks.