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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
Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.