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ASRock M8 Mini ITX Gaming PC Barebone Review

ASRock M8 Mini ITX Gaming PC Barebone Review

November 28, 2013 2:13 am0 comments

Asrock is known for their compact barebones oriented for multimedia and office, always using the latest generation of processors. Now is time for a gaming barebone.

Introduction

Players are looking for increasingly smaller systems and manufacturers of graphics cards, processors, motherboards and cases know this. Asrock has received support from the design team of BMW Group Designworks USA, a team with lots of experience working with Taiwanese manufacturers like Thermaltake, for example, and took part in the development of the Level 10M mice or the spectacular Level 10 case.

This system not only offers everything you need, but also lets you decide the processor, memory, graphics cards and/or hard drives you want. Let’s take a closer look.

ASRock M8

Barebone

A barebone computer is a partially-assembled platform where only a few components are missing (typically the processor and/or memory). These are the perfect balance between building your own computer from scratch and getting a pre-built unit.

 

ASRock M8

The Asrock M8 fits this description because it offers motherboard, power supply, chassis and an optical drive. We just have to add other components to have a functional system. Some can even be considered mere accessories, since it has been designed for socket 1150 fourth-generation Core processors, and as you all know this platform integrates graphics cards in its processors.

The M8 features a Mini-ITX motherboard, which you can change because for any other compatible one, making it a system with many possibilities for improvement and expansion.

ASRock M8

This board designed exclusively for the M8 is quite conventional, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not well equipped. It takes full advantage of its high quality chipset to provide great connectivity options.

The motherboard is essential for the overall performance of this system, and the truth is that this little motherboard has learned a few tricks before being mounted in this barebone. It features WI-Fi- Bluetooth with 4.0 AC plus a system with integrated antennas (MIMO) to offer superior coverage and speeds of up to 1300mbps.

ASRock M8

Extreme motherboard ASRock M8.

It also features a Creative Core3D sound card and a quad-core processor dedicated solely to sound processing. This not only reduces the usage of CPU resources, but also delivers the best possible sound quality. Asrock has also implemented its own headphone amplifying system for high-end headphones (600ohm).

The motherboard supports up to six SATA 6Gbps drives, thanks mainly to its Z87 chipset. This chipset also allow you to enjoy native USB 3.0 connectivity both in the front and the rear, as well as expanded capabilities especially for over clocking processors. The system supports two SODIMM RAM modules with up to 8GB capacity and speeds of up to 1600MHz. You can therefore have a total of 16GB of RAM.

ASRock M8

The 450-w power supply features SFX format, so the maximum consumption of dedicated GPU stays at the recommended 200w. Not bad for if you want to use a mid-range graphics card, but sadly it means it can’t support more powerful cards like the Geforce GTX 780ti or Titan and AMD’s Radeon 7970/280X. Room is not the problem, but SFX power supply units capable of handling these cards are pretty much non-existent.

ASRock M8

It also features a slot–in DVD drive type. The storage units have an installation area that forces you to choose between a single 3.5-inch disk or up to four 2.5-inch drives. Not much to argue in this regard, though, as four SSD units is clearly the answer to this issue.

ASRock M8

Design, Installation and BIOS

The Asrock M8 is certainly an unconventional machine; it’s aluminum-made and quite wide, although it misses its own cooling system, so you’ll have to either buy one or use the one that comes with the CPU (and not all of them come with one), so noise-wise, it’s up to you.

ASRock M8

It is designed to work in a vertical position and although it may seem a bad idea, it’s actually very stable. It opens with a key system and side panels are fixed in their position thanks to 8 magnets on each side. The right panel has a different design plus a few LEDs. The rear side only hides the PSU’s wires; in general, it’s a beautifully-looking machine.

ASRock M8

Our experience with this barebone assembly has been pretty good –although we had to take a few looks at the manual at some points because removing and installing components does take a while to get used to-. Accessing the processor and memory is easy and without the slightest hassle, but behind the graphics card is the hard disk bay so this is the first thing you should install.

ASRock M8

The drive bay is designed to accommodate a single 3.5-inch disk or up to four 2.5-inch ones. SSD drives are, therefore, the best choice. The board supports RAID modes, so you’ll have no issue using RAID SSD drives.

ASRock M8

M8 disc tray.

The UEFI bios is the one Asrock is known for, and while it may not be the “prettiest” bios out there, it gets the job done. It is one of the best UEFI bios in our opinion, even. The pre-defined over clocking settings work quite well and details like updating the bios automatically are a nice touch.

A-Command. The ASRock M8 has a frontal button that is also a panel that display information about the machine. You can control and adjust several settings like time, control the power mode, take a look at the CPU use in real time and much more.

ASRock M8

This is a very cool feature, but sadly the red OLED display can be slightly difficult to see. This is definitely a good idea but it was implemented poorly.

ASRock M8

Experience

We tested this barebone with a 4670k processor and a Radeon 270 graphics card. The results: excellent –and very silent, despite having four fans- CPU performance reaching 4.2GHz during over clock, without reaching the wattage of the Intel 4670k. With an SSD -we recommend any recent one and at least 240GB- , you can have a great, albeit unconventional-looking gaming machine, which would undoubtedly be more expensive if you got every component separately.

ASRock M8

It’s also worth remembering that, as it is common with barebone computers, you can remove, change and upgrade any of its components. Still, the price is quite high compared to some DIY solutions.

Analysis and Conclusion

The design of the M8 is certainly unconventional and, with the correct components, can be used to build a solid gaming machine. This is certainly the best achievement of the Asrock M8; sadly, it’s not as inexpensive as we would like it to, especially considering Mini-ITX components are getting cheaper.

The OLED display, which is marketed as one of its trademark features, also falls short.

ASRock M8

The motherboard is perhaps the best part, but since it opts for SO-DIMM memory, it limits the use of high-speed memory found in the most common gaming configurations. Still, it features six SATA ports so you will always have room for any kind of HDD and/or SDD.

In short, it performs well, but it’s still not what most gamers would look for in a barebone, as there are other options from manufacturers such as Alienware.

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