Asrock DeskMini Z370 GTX 1060 Overview

Today we're looking at Asrock's latest DeskMini PC, a name that may ring if you read our previous coverage of the original entry on this compact computer. The latest version we have today looks exactly like the last DeskMini and has the same name as the two previous DeskMinis.

The first DeskMini – the DeskMini 110 – was released in 2016 and had a tiny 1.92-liter case with an H110-based Micro-STX motherboard with support for 6th and 7th generation core processors. However, the DeskMini 110 was so small that it could not process a discrete graphics card. So basically it was an office PC.

This situation changed last year when the series was updated with the DeskMini GTX / RX, which provides support for a discrete MXM mobile GPU that can be installed thanks to a more powerful B250 or Z270-based Micro-STX motherboard, which the case capacity was increased to 2.7 L but was still made for a very compact unit.

Now we have another new DeskMini GTX / RX, this time based on Intel's 8th generation core series. To avoid this confusion, retailers have included the chipset in the product title so that buyers can more easily find out which system they are actually buying.

The latest DeskMini Z370 is equipped with either a GTX 1060 or a GTX 1080 in the pre-installed MXM form factor. Alternatively, you can buy the Asrock system without a discrete graphics card. However, keep in mind that backing up new MXM GPUs later is almost impossible since they are not retailed, as you can generally only get them from salvaged laptops.

At the moment there don't seem to be any DeskMini Z370 models, but according to Asrock the MSRP for the GTX 1060 model is $ 850. The previous generation B250 DeskMinis are up for sale, and the GTX 1060 version costs a cool $ 800. The GTX 1080 model costs $ 1,500. While the new Z370 models aren't much more expensive, this little PC is going to be $ 850 more expensive, and we're excited to see what it still offers over the previous versions.

The scope of delivery includes the tiny 2.7-liter housing and an external 220-W power supply module, which, at 0.7 liters or 26% of the overall size of the DeskMini, represents a fairly large volume. Along with the case and power supply, you also get a custom Z370M-STX MXM motherboard that is 2 inches longer than your typical Micro-STX motherboard. This additional area was used to indent an MXM slot that supports up to Type B + cards 113 mm long. Since we have the GTX 1060 DeskMini, ours was naturally delivered with a pre-installed GTX 1060 MXM graphics card.

To be ready for use, you need to bring your own Coffee Lake CPU and DDR4 SO-DIMM memory and memory. Assuming you chose a Core i5-8400 ($ 180), 16GB DDR4-2400 ($ 170), and a Samsung 960 Pro ($ 300) 512GB, you would add that too Throw in an additional $ 650 for the DeskMini for $ 850. The total bill for the GTX 1060 model is at least $ 1,450.

That's probably not a bad thing if you can expect to pay around $ 400 for a GTX 1060 alone, but we'll discuss the prices in more detail at the end of the test. Let's look at the device first before checking the hardware inside.

On the outside, the completely black housing has a brushed aluminum front with clear lines. The circular power button fits well into the front I / O, which contains two 3.5mm audio jacks and a USB 3.1 Gen1 type A and type C connector.

There are four USB 3.1 Type-A ports on the back, an HDMI output and a Gigabit LAN connection, while a DisplayPort, a Mini Displayport and an HDMI output are connected to the GTX 1060. Depending on how you align the case, there are two additional USB ports on the side and although these are older 2.0 ports, they are still practical for things like keyboard and mouse.

Removing the top control panel gives you access to the CPU socket, which is located next to the pre-installed MXM graphics card. The motherboard compartment is pulled out of the housing. Once you have removed the front I / O cables, you can completely remove the tray and install your storage devices. Here you will find the CMOS battery together with the Z370 chipset, which is cooled using a small silver heat sink.

Note that the three M.2 Ultra connectors are all PCIe 3.0 x4 capable and support 2260 or 2280 cards. There's also an M.2 WiFi connection, and you can use a pair of 2.5-inch SATA 6Gbps drives as well, if you can believe that.

On the front we get a Realtek ALC233 codec and an Intel i219V Gigabit Ethernet controller. The CPU is powered by a 5 + 1-phase VRM, which is surprisingly powerful, although Asrock supports processors with a TDP power of 65 W only to a limited extent. The VRM heatsinks are tiny, but do a surprisingly good job, as I've found in my tests, even if they work well above specifications.

For testing, we installed a Core i7-8700 processor, a pair of DDR4-2400 8 GB modules from the Team Group and two ADATA XPG GAMMIX S10 NVMe SSDs. Unfortunately, I only had the 128 GB models on hand, which I do not recommend you buy, since the models with 256 GB and more have a much better value.

The installation of all the hardware was relatively quick and easy. By default, you have to use the Intel box cooler, which is a shame, but with limited headroom, there really aren't many options here. The Cryorig C7 could be the way to go for $ 30.

I've done most of the testing with the Core i7-8700, but I've also tried the Core i5-8400, and frankly, this would be a better pairing for most users. It runs cooler and therefore quieter with the box offer and you can also get the best out of the CPU.

Although it still runs within the Intel specification, the 8700 enjoys a decent performance boost with a better cooler. At first, I thought it was a power problem, but it turns out that even a Core i7-8700K with an aftermarket cooler installed works fine. The cooler doesn't fit with the top installed, but I just wanted to see if we're thermal or performance limited here.

By default, the DeskMini is configured with a maximum sustained Turbo Boost power consumption of only 65 watts and a 1-second Turbo Boost short-time peak of 81 watts. Asrock didn't do this to save their tiny VRM, but to limit heat output so the Intel box cooler doesn't sound like a jet engine.

This limitation means that the 8700 can only achieve a Cinebench R15 score of 1125 points, which is about 20% below what you would expect from a desktop system with a $ 10 aftermarket cooler. If you're not interested in the operating volume, you can increase these limits, although this only increased the Cinebench R15 score by about 5%, while the operating volume increased significantly as the fan speed increased from 2100 rpm to 3200 rpm under load rise.

After a one-hour stress test, the 8700 held a clock frequency of 3.5 GHz, while the 8400 was able to maintain an operating frequency of 3.8 GHz with the same box cooler. We therefore recommend again to use the 8400 compared to the 8700 in DeskMini.

When it came to games, I compared half a dozen titles, but before we get to the graphics, here's a quick look at gameplay with on-screen statistics.

The DeskMini's GTX 1060 was in stock between 1550 and 1600 MHz and reached a maximum of 72 degrees. The CPU was not heavily used in this test, so that it could maintain an operating frequency of 4.3 GHz, although the temperatures were often very high and sometimes reached up to 82 degrees.

The GPU cores were overclocked, removing the CPU limits and overclocking the GPU core and memory. They were often around 1.7 GHz, while the memory was now suitable for 8.8 Gbit / s of 8 Gbit / s. The CPU temporarily reached 82 degrees, but mostly sat around 70 degrees, as did the GPU. As expected, the DeskMini was quite loud when overclocking and was probably not worth the 5% increase in performance that was found in this stress test.

Benchmarks

First we have Battlefield 1 and here the DeskMini had no problems delivering high playable performance at 1080p using the highest quality preset. As expected, it was a little slower than a desktop PC with the Founders Edition model …

The low 1% was 12% lower, while the average frame rate was only 4% lower. The reason for this is the lower clocked DDR4-2400 memory, while the desktop system uses the Core i7-8700K, which is clocked at 5 GHz and DDR4-3200 memory.

Against this background, the DeskMini is doing very well and, with a little optimization, can roughly match the desktop rig. Of course, a custom board partner model like the Gigabyte Aorus GTX 1060 6G 9 Gbit / s is a bit faster again, but the DeskMini lasts overall.

The performance of the system in Dirt 4 is very similar. Again, combining the DeskMini with the faster DDR4 memory really helped boost the low 1%, and with a little more tinkering, we were able to take full advantage of a desktop gaming PC.

Here we see when testing with Ghost Recon Wildlands that the standard DeskMini is 12% slower than the GTX 1060 FE card in our test system. However, faster storage and a little tweaking of the settings reduced this scope to only 5%.

Mass Effect Andromeda saw the DeskMini trail with a small lead, even if it was overclocked, or rather optimized with faster memory and a more aggressive performance profile.

Similarly, when testing with Prey, it was difficult to complain about the results with well over 60 frames per second and the highest quality settings at 1080p.

After unpacking, the DeskMini looked pretty weak in Titanfall 2, and I know that the memory speed is really helpful with this title, so the DDR4-2400 memory would have limited performance here. As a result, when switching from 2400 or 3200 storage, we noticed a fairly high 12% increase for the low 1% result.

A big advantage of the Asrock DeskMini is the power consumption. The low power of the system enables a very low consumption when idling, actually only 30 watts. The power consumption increased under load and was not far from the maximum power of the Power Brick of 220 W. That said, it consumed 20% less power than our test system, which was equipped with the 1060 Founders Edition.

Wrap up

We took a close look at the new Asrock DeskMini GTX 1060 and can safely say that the machine should be quite capable of performing tasks outside of the game, depending on what CPU you're using (anything slower than the Core i5) 8400 would be a bad choice considering how much this barebone kit costs. Judging by the few titles that we tested, the new DeskMini can also handle some moderate PC games. However, if you ask us, the system appears to be more suitable for content creators looking for a super compact editing device.

The Core i7-8700 offers a lot of performance, but to get the most out of it you need to upgrade the cooler and your options here are limited. For most, the difference between the Core i5-8400 and the Core i7-8700 in DeskMini will be minimal, so we recommend using the cheaper Core i5 model.

According to Asrock, the package with its updated DeskMini is aimed at LAN party visitors, esport gamers and content creators. The tiny capacity of 2.7 liters in conjunction with the GTX 1060 certainly makes the package ideal for gamers on the go, although this is probably a very niche market these days. Esports games are obviously popular, but generally competitive players are looking for maximum value for money, making DeskMini a difficult sale for that amount compared to a more professional market.

The only real problem we see is the price of the machine at $ 850. Granted, the GPU prices are ridiculous at the moment, but you can still grab a GTX 1060 6 GB for around $ 400. Then a Mini-ITX Z370 card costs around $ 140, high-quality Mini-ITX cases that support full-size graphics cards start at $ 50, and SFX power supplies also start at around $ 50. In other words, you'll pay around $ 200 more for the DeskMini's ultra-compact design.

That's a significant bonus, but the Z370 DeskMini GTX 1060 is still an impressive little computer that can do just about any typical computing task. It's just that it only really makes sense if you want the smallest possible PC with a discrete graphics card, and yet GTX 1060-capable laptops with a quad-core i7-7700HQ processor start at around $ 1,000 , and that makes more sense to me, since you're basically getting a 15.6-inch screen and a free battery, keep that in mind.

Advantages: Great looks, good performance. Super compact (2.7 l). Supports desktop CPUs and MXM GPUs, including the GTX 1060 and 1080.

Disadvantage: Expensive. Expect a ~ $ 200 bonus to build this barebone kit instead of actually building it yourself (though it would be less compact).

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