While we already saw Asus' Maximus VII Impact back at Computex, it isn't until now that the company has officially launched it. The Maximus VII Impact is Asus' highest-end Mini-ITX offering, featuring an LGA1150 socket, the Z97 chipset and a whole mountain of other features. Because Mini-ITX is a rather small form factor, in order to cram all the devices onto the motherboard, Asus has used the help of five daughterboards. (That's a big litter.)
Next to the LGA1150 socket there are two DDR3 memory slots, and below it there's a single PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot. The CPU draws power from the Impact Power II VRM circuitry, which features an 8-phase circuit on the top daughterboarda. Storge connectivity is taken care of by four SATA3 (6 Gb/s) ports, along with a single M.2 slot.
The M.2 slot is built into the mPCIe Combo IV unit and is driven by four PCI-Express 3.0 lanes delivering up to 32 Gb/s of bandwidth. Note that because this slot is wired straight to the CPU, installing an SSD in there will reduce the number of PCI-Express lanes available to the graphics card to eight, although you probably won't notice a performance difference. Also built into the mPCIe Combo IV unit is a Wireless 802.11 ac radio as well as a Bluetooth 4.0 module.
For audio, Asus has equipped the motherboard with the SupremeFX Impact II sound card, which packs solid audio hardware along with a dedicated headphone amplifier. It can drive up to 600 Ohm headphones while maintaining an SNR of 110 dBA.
Compared to its predecessor, the Maximus VII Impact is able to drive two additional fans. These pins are found on the so-called Impact Coolhub, which has two 4-pin fan headers along with an LN2 mode switch. (Yes, this is a Mini-ITX board with support for LN2 overclocking.) Due to the limited space on the motherboard, Asus has also opted to place the Clear CMOS switch, mem-ok switch and more on the rear I/O.
The rear I/O panel consists of a DisplayPort 1.2 interface, an HDMI interface, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a legacy PS/2 port, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, the audio connectors and an optical TOSLINK output.
All in all, if you want the best Mini-ITX Z97 motherboard, this is probably it. There's no word on pricing yet, but expect it to be steep -- there is a price to be paid to get a smaller board that makes almost no sacrifices compared to its bigger brothers. Availability also remains TBA.