The assembly of a compact desktop always begins with the choice of the motherboard that determines the size and capabilities of the future system. Finding a model of the Mini-ITX format is much more difficult than determining the device for more common standards. Looking for a motherboard for a miniature system with processors of the Intel Coffee Lake family, you will have to choose from only a dozen or so different devices, and for the Socket AM4 from AMD, the choice is even more modest. A meager assortment only increases attention to each specific device. Today we have on our review the ASRock H370M-ITX / ac motherboard for current and future Intel chips for the LGA1151-v2 connector.
Fee is offered in a compact cardboard box with a discreet exterior design.
The user manual, driver and software CD, two SATA cables, a rear panel cover, two antennas and a screw for fixing the M.2-drive.
Design and layout
Motherboard with standard dimensions of 170 × 170 mm in dark colors. Black textolite base has a glossy finish. The manufacturer calls such a surface Sapphire Black. The gray radiators of the cooling system, the steel shells of the interface connectors and the PCI Express x16 slot, as well as the interspersing of the yellow from the specialized Nichicon capacities in the audio subsystem, stand out against the general background.
It's easy to guess by the name of the model that the device is based on the Intel H370 chipset. The model is ready to work with any processors with Intel Core 8-th generation architecture. ASRock H370M-ITX / ac is also guaranteed to work with the expected Core 9xxx chips. The manufacturer's website already has a BIOS version that adds support for the corresponding CPU. Judging by the specifications, the future 8-core Intel processors will remain within the thermal package of 95 W, so the VRM of the board will surely cope with such a load.
The ASRock H370M-ITX / ac uses a 6-phase power subsystem (4 + 2) s Controller Intersil ISL95866. Expected for a Mini-ITX format board, power packs are lined up in one line. For cooling VRM elements, an additional aluminum radiator is used. Chokes with maximum operating currents up to 60A and Nichicon 12K Black Caps (FP12K) are also used in the circuit.
The stability subsystem is sufficient for processors with TDP up to 95W. For the nominal CPU operating modes, the motherboard does not need anything supernatural, but 6/8-core Hyper-Threading chips can still create a good load, so the additional cooler will not hurt here.
Like most Mini-ITX motherboards, the ASRock H370M-ITX / ac offers two memory slots. Chipset Intel H370 assumes regular operating conditions of RAM, and therefore the boundary modes will determine the used processors. For the Core i5 / i7 is DDR4-2666, for Core i3 / Pentium Gold / Celeron is DDR4-2400.
Two slot slots for DIMM allow up to 32 GB of memory. The connectors have a one-way locking mechanism, which is convenient when assembling the system in a compact package.
Mini-ITX boards are limited to one expansion slot. In this case it is a full-format PCI Express x16.
An additional metal casing that increases the mechanical strength of the connector – an unambiguous hint that the ASRock H370M-ITX / ac can be used not only for office systems, but will cope with the role of a platform for a compact gaming system equipped with a massive video card. There are no restrictions here – you can use any graphics adapter and get the appropriate performance.
The processor connector is slightly offset to the top edge of the PCB. This feature should be taken into account using overall CPU coolers. A wide radiator block can interfere with the installation of the board in a compact package.
The sweeping Thermalright Archon Rev.A markedly extended beyond the upper edge of the PCB. Such a construction is not always permissible. This is rather a special case, because this cooler has an extremely wide radiator block – 155 mm.
Regardless of the CO used, the cooler certainly will not interfere with the installation of the video card. The distance from the center of the processor socket to the axis of the PCI Express x16 slot is very large. Even after installing the Thermalright Archon Rev.A, there was a lot of free space between the radiator unit and the printed video card.
Three 4-pin connectors are provided for configuring the cooling system. A good set for a compact model. One of the connectors is nominally intended for an air processor cooler. A pair of hulls have independent control channels. For one of the connectors there are additional options for tuning the operation of the pump of the liquid cooling system – another feature uncharacteristic for only office platforms.
However, the ASRock H370M-ITX / ac also can not be referred to the category of devices for enthusiasts. There are no additional controls or indicators on the plan. Moreover, there is no additional illumination and the ability to connect external RGB tapes. This can be sad news for fans of illumination, but for those who are indifferent to such decorations it is an opportunity not to pay for unclaimed options.
For connection of drives the board offers six SATA ports. A rare case for Mini-ITX format devices. More often than not, developers leave four corresponding ports, regardless of the number of PCHs supported by the chip. Here, all the features of the Intel H370 are used, including the creation of RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. This is one of the advantages of the older chipset over the Intel H310 / B350.
There is no need to talk about the ergonomics of the connectors. Almost the entire area of the PCB is occupied by the elements, because there is no talk of some convenience in connecting the interface cables. When assembling it is important to follow the sequence of stages, in this case there will be no complications.
There was a place on the board for the universal port M.2. The platform is located between the chipset radiator and the full-size expansion slot. ASRock H370M-ITX / ac allows you to use drives up to 80 mm in length. It can be either a high-speed SSD with a PCI-E interface (x4, NVMe), or a SATA device of the appropriate format. In the latter case, one of the six available SATA ports (SATA3_1) is disabled. The board also supports Intel Optane Memory Accelerators.
Native additional cooling for M.2 drives is not provided, but if necessary, the SSD can be equipped with a compact heatsink.
The ASRock H370M-ITX / ac also offers a good set of interfaces. The model has 4 high-speed USB 3.1 Gen2 ports (10 Gb / s) and a whole set of connectors of previous standards. On PCB there is one internal USB 3.0 connector and USB 2.0 for outputting the corresponding ports to the external wall of the case.
Recall that Intel H370 / B350 chipsets that appeared later than the top Intel Z370 already have an integrated USB 3.1 Gen2 controller, initially offering more wide functionality. In this case, the chipset resources are used to implement the high-speed interface.
The board is equipped with two Gigabit Ethernet controllers. One of the chips – Intel i219-V – reveals the communication capabilities of the chipset, and the additional Intel i211-AT chip is a full-featured controller with a PCI-Express connection. A couple of well-tested network controllers expand the capabilities of a compact platform. When using the Windows 10 RS2 operating system, the Teaming function is supported.
The board functionality also extends the controller to work with wireless networks. It uses a dual-band (2.4 / 5 GHz, 1 × 1) Intel Wireless-AC 3168 module. The controller is in M.2 2230 format and is fixed in the interface panel area. The unit works with Wi-Fi 802.11ac networks at a maximum data transfer rate of up to 433 MB / s, and also supports Bluetooth 4.2.
Two external antennas are provided for gaining / transmitting signals
The Wireless Network Access Controller is a very useful accessory for compact systems that are limited in the expansion board of functionality, but it is not always a demanded option that affects the price of the motherboard. ASRock is confident that such a controller will most certainly be useful to the owner of a compact platform – all models of the manufacturer of the Mini-ITX format for LGA1151-v2 are initially equipped with WiFi / Bluetooth modules.
The audio subsystem of the board is based on the 8-channel Realtek codec ALC892. The chain also uses specialized containers. Some revelations in this case should not be expected from this "inbuilt". The sound quality is typical for a platform of this class. The absence of a presenter is worth considering if you want to connect headphones with a high input impedance. Note also that to configure multi-channel acoustics you will need to use the ports that are output to the wall of the case.
Additional program settings minimum. Only basic features from Realtek are available here.
The ASRock H370M-ITX / ac received an interesting mix of connectors on the interface panel. Here is a combined PS / 2, two USB 2.0 ports, a pair of USB 3.1 Gen1 (USB 3.0) and four USB 3.1 Gen2 with a bandwidth of up to 10 GB / s. Here, an additional explanation is required. The fact is that two of the four high-speed ports can easily be distinguished by the characteristic turquoise color of the inner insert. Another pair of connectors (over HDMI) have blue plastic clips, typical for USB 3.1 Gen1 (USB 3.0) ports. Nevertheless, judging by the specification, this is the most that neither is USB 3.1 Gen2.
On the panel you can also see a pair of sockets for connecting a wired Ethernet network. It's nice to note the presence of three digital video outputs. These are two full-format HDMI (up to 4096 × 2160 @ 30 Hz) and one DisplayPort (up to 4096 × 2304 @ 60 Hz). When using integrated graphics, the board can simultaneously connect three screens. The presence of three independent video sources is determined by the processor, but not all compact models offer such a number of video outputs.
We have already noted the presence of a wireless module on the panel of connectors for connecting external amplifying antennas, as well as three audio ports for acoustics connection.
On the reverse side of the printed circuit board, a massive metal plate – part of the mounting structure of the CPU connector – is drawn to itself. Surface mounted components minimum.
The compact radiator of the chipset is fixed by spring-loaded plastic bushes, while the cooler of the power assemblies is fastened with large screws. Translucent segments in the audio subsystem are an attempt by the manufacturer to at least partially isolate the audio track. In the compact format with a limited PCB space, this is still the task.
The familiar UEFI graphic is used for the ASRock H370M-ITX / ac. The shell has two modes.
Start – EZ Mode – allows you to make basic settings. Here you can set the priority of the boot drives, select the profile of the cooling system and quickly estimate the operating temperatures of the key elements.
For more, you need to go to Advanced Mode. Here you can find the usual set of options, although of course the number of available parameters is noticeably inferior to that for dimensional enthusiast models.
Experiments with overclocking here are not in principle provided here. The Intel H370 chipset does not allow changing the processor multiplier and adjusting the frequencies, therefore the manufacturer basically removed these options from the BIOS settings.
RAM is limited to DDR4-2666, and when using Core i3 and less productive processors – DDR4-2400. Of course, you can use higher speed kits with the board, but they will work on the specified modes. The owner here is only available to experiment with timings.
HyperX Fury test kit HX432C18FW2k2 / 16 (2 × 8 GB, DDR4-3200) worked on the boundary DDR4-2666. In two-channel mode, the memory bandwidth was about 37-38 GB / s.
The possibilities for adjusting the supply voltages are also minimal. The voltage on the memory modules varies within the limits of 1.2-1.55 V in steps of 0.05 V. On the chipset chip instead of the regular 1.05 V can be fed up to 1.2 V.
However, the shell allows you not only to choose , but also to adjust the algorithm for the operation of the connected fans. Parameters for adjusting the pump are also available.
The manufacturer proposes the proprietary A-Tuning application for software configuration of the platform. In the OC Tweaker section, you can change the voltages already mentioned. The present overclocking option for the graphics core is just an element of the decor – the actual frequency of the integrated GPU does not change.
The System Info tab contains information on the current system parameters – supply voltages, temperatures, frequencies and fan speeds. For accurate monitoring, it is better to use third-party applications (for example, HWINFO64), since A-Tuning has a low sampling rate (1-2 s).
Fan-Tastic Tuning allows for primary alignment of the connected fans and independently adjust the modes by determining the dependence of the rotation speed on the temperature (processor / motherboard).
The dimensions of the motherboard, of course, do not affect the overall performance of the system. The processor under high load operates at specified frequencies, providing the expected results.
After an hour of testing by a stress test from the AIDA64 package, we measured the temperatures of the main radiators. The cooler on MOSFET assemblies after a long load session warmed up to 62C. The temperature of the chipset radiator increased to 46 degrees. The indicators are quite normal, especially given that the test used the most productive 6-core model of the family Coffee Lake – Core i7-8700K. And the fan of the tower type does not contribute to the cooling of the radiators near the processor socket.
Connoisseurs of miniature forms probably know that compact motherboards are definitely not a way to save money. Models of the Mini-ITX format often cost more than full-size models.
ASRock H370M-ITX / ac is offered in our market for about $ 135. Of course I would like to see a lower cost, but if you take into account the form factor and equipping the device, and compare it with competitors in the same class, the price does not look excessive. Interestingly, ASRock H370M-ITX / ac turned out to be one of the most popular models on hotline.ua among all boards based on the Intel H370 chipset.