ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac Review
The very first Z270 motherboard that we reviewed was an ASRock model, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, to be specific. That model proved to be quite good, with well implemented features, an attractive design, and a very inticing price tag. There were a few early release software niggles, but nothing show stopping, and they couldn't overshadow the good will that was accrued by the inclusion of a $30 SLI HB Bridge in the accessories bundle. Since that first review, we have tested a few Z270 motherboards from the Big Three manufacturers, and thought that it was time to take another peak at what ASRock had in their line-up.
Now for some odd reason, if you want to get the very best out of ASRock's product engineers you have to hand them a tiny 7" x 7" piece of PCB. That is the size of the mini-ITX form factor, and it is where the company does some of their best work. While the most drastic example of this is obviously the X99E-ITX/ac - the world's first and only X99 LGA2011-3 mini-ITX motherboard - they have really strived to make super compact motherboards with no serious compromises since the Z77 LGA1155 days. Thankfully, for this generation they did not have to start from scratch, since they already had the very well-liked Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac to improve upon when designing the brand new Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac, which we will be reviewing today.
At $170 USD, the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac competes in the same price category as many full-size mainstream Z270 motherboards, but few of those models have such distinguishing features as onboard 802.11ac Wi-Fi, HDMI 2.0, and fully-fledged Thunderbolt 3 support. When dealing with space constraints, you can either decide to leave features off or get clever with the design, and we love the fact that has gone the extra mile and actually added two novel features.
Speaking of features, when going over the specs list this motherboard doesn't disappoint anywhere. It has a chunky 8-phase CPU power design, high-quality 12K Japanese capacitors, one steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, an impressive six SATA 6Gb/s ports, and one full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with Intel Optane support. It also has one high-speed USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 capabilities, six USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.0 header, one USB 2.0 header, and three PWM/DC fan headers.
When it comes to networking, there is one Intel-powered gigabit LAN port and the aforementioned onboard Wi-Fi, which is a dual-band Intel 802.11ac solution with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 2x2 external antenna. It even has a legit onboard audio solution, comprised of a Realtek ALC1220 codec, Texas Instruments op-amp, Nichicon audio-grade capacitors, six analog audio jacks and a digital S/PDIF output. Those who plan on utilizing Kaby Lake's integrated GPU will have the option of connecting their display via HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2 or even Thunderbolt 3 through the USB Type-C port. All three of those video outputs support 4K at 60Hz.
The last mini-ITX motherboard that we reviewed was the ASUS Maximus VIII Impact, and it wowed us with its overclocking capabilities. As we have discovered, having two memory slots and short traces between the CPU and the memory is a recipe for success. This Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac model shares those physical attributes, and it has been certified for memory speeds up to DDR4-4000, so that should be a solid indication that it will excel in the memory overclocking department. When it comes to CPU overclocking, hopefully this model is as capable as the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6, since that motherboard was able to hit 5Ghz using just the automatic presets.
At first glance, we really like what we are seeing with the Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac. However, now it is time to see if things are as good in practice as they are on paper.
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