We have built countless gaming computers, and the ones that are smaller impress us the most. We appreciate systems that manage to stand up to our benchmarks with full tower systems while still taking up a tiny amount of space. For example, we managed to get an Asrock Z87M Extreme4 motherboard, a Core i5 Haswell processor, a GeForce GTX 760, the 240 GB Vector SSD from OCZ, and a pair of 2 TB WD Red HDDs in Silverstone's 23-liter Sugo SG10 integrate – a case that is small enough could be carried under arm between LAN parties. On top of that, this build cost just under $ 1,400, which is on par with a typical self-made enthusiast machine – because that's what it is, ultimately, just smaller. Unfortunately, things get inflexible and unaffordable very quickly when you want a branded name box, but that doesn't mean the grandeur is never worth it.
The recently launched M8 barebones system by Asrock that we are reviewing today may not be the best value for a micro-ITX machine, but it may be one of the most attractive we've seen in years, and that counts for something .
Even if the M8's style isn't your thing, there's less room to argue that this is a unique barebones kit for gaming PC, and that was enough to deserve our attention. We were impressed with the looks of previous Asrock products – including the mini-PCs – but the M8 was clearly engineered by BMW Group DesignworksUSA, the driving force behind Thermaltake's Level 10 chassis, such an overpriced case it's an icon. The Level 10 put aesthetics and novelty before affordability and practicality, and we could see a repeat with the M8.
"Our goal was to create desirability and iconic differentiation in a small gaming PC," said Sonja Schiefer from BMW. Iconic Differentiation is rarely cheap, especially when BMW is involved. So it's not entirely shocking to see Asrock's new barebone-chassis combo make $ 550. That gives you the company's most expensive Z87 Mini-ITX motherboard ($ 150, a 450W SFX power supply (maybe $ 50 to $ 100), and an optical drive ($ 15?). That suggests you would be paying $ 300 for the M8 housing at the ballpark, maybe more.
Asrock might have a hard time justifying that price tag when cases like the Silverstone Sugo SG10 can get you $ 120 or less, and while enthusiastic support is yet to be seen, we wouldn't be surprised if the M8 was funded by one well The system gets the attention it deserves from builders with a preference for the avant-garde. Let's pull the curtain back and see what Asrock's flagship mini-ITX offering is made up of without drawing too many conclusions.
Asrock M8 barebones features
At the heart of Asrock's M8 is the company's Z87-M8 motherboard, armed to the teeth just by the Intel chipset, but there are plenty of extras too. The Z87 supports half a dozen USB 3.0 ports that are controlled by an xHCI (eXtensible Host Controller Interface), as well as six SATA 6Gb / s ports. This is a dramatic improvement over the two ports supported by the 7-series chipsets.
Asrock hasn't updated the standard storage features of the Z87 with third-party controllers, and we doubt a mini-ITX card would need more than six SATA 6Gbps ports. These ports can also process RAID (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, Intel Rapid Storage Technology 12 and Intel Smart Response Technology), NCQ, AHCI and Hot Plug.
There is a convenient eSATA connector on the I / O control panel. Note, however, that this port is shared with the first built-in SATA port using port multiplier technology. Both ports can be used at the same time. However, this can affect the performance of the drives if they are accessed at the same time.
In addition to the six USB 3.0 ports on the Z87, the board also supports six USB 2.0 ports. The network is provided by the new Intel I217V PHY (Physical Layer Device), a gigabit copper network component for mobile, desktop, workstation and value server designs with critical space and performance restrictions. It supports Intel Remote Wake Technology, Wake-On-LAN, energy-efficient Ethernet 802.3az and PXE.
Thanks to the integrated Mini-PCIe module 2T2R 802.11ac Wi-Fi / Bluetooth 4.0, the M8 also supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as standard. Creative's Core3D audio solution is also available and supports THX TruStudio Pro, CrystalVoice, EAX 5.0 and Blu-ray 2.0 audio. You can also find Asrock's Premium Headset Amplifier (PHA) for high-end headsets up to 600 ohms.
The package also contains a slim slot-in super multi drive, a 4-in-1 card reader (SD3.0 / MMC / MS / MS PRO) and a 450 W power supply with a bronze output of 80 Plus and two 8-pin PCIe power connections, via which discrete graphics cards with a TDP output of up to 200 watts can be installed (note that the Z87-M8 motherboard has DisplayPort and HDMI output via the on-die- Haswell chip GPU).