ASUS ROG STRIX X370-I GAMING ITX Review
When AMD's highly anticipated AM4 platform launched back in March 2017, one of the most frequently asked questions was where are the Mini-ITX motherboards. While none of the most prominent motherboard manufacturers had an answer to that question, industry veteran Biostar swooped in and not only announced the first Mini-ITX AM4 motherboard, but released it before anyone else had even announced their models. That is a huge accomplishment for a smaller company. At the time that we reviewed it the Biostar X370GTN wasn't the most polished motherboard that had ever come across our desk, but it was still months ahead of the non-existent competition.
Fast forward to today and we are just now reviewing the ASUS ROG STRIX X370-I GAMING. While this Mini-ITX AM4 model was announced back in October 2017, and it just recently hit the retail channel. Thankfully, the AM4 platform still has a lot of life in it so this late introduction shouldn't be viewed as a deal breaker, especially since ASUS appear to be aiming this model at a much higher-end segment than the competition. With a retail price of about $190 USD/$249 CAD, the STRIX X370-I is priced about $30 USD more than the already well-equipped ASRock Fatal1ty X370 Gaming-ITX/ac.
What do you get for you extra money? Well for starters, this model has an 7-phase CPU VRM built with high-quality Infineon parts, two DDR4 memory slots that can handle speeds of up to DDR4-3600, and one strengthened PCI-E x16 slot. Although the four SATA 6Gb/s ports are fairly standard for a tiny motherboard, one of the standout features is that ASUS have managed to shoehorn two full-size M.2 slots on this motherboard, although given the limitations of this platform one is PCI-E x4 3.0 and one is slightly slower at PCI-E x4 2.0. These dual M.2 slots are a capability that no other competing model can boast.
The USB connectivity is acceptable with four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one USB 3.0 header, and one USB 2.0 header. Regrettably, this motherboard does have a USB Type-C port on the rear I/O panel, which is disappointing since even the $110 Biostar has a full-speed USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C port. Also missing is another form of video output, which is a puzzling omission since this motherboard supports AMD's Bristol Ridge APUs. Literally every other competing Mini-ITX AM4 motherboard has at least two video outputs.
When it comes to networking, there is one Intel-powered gigabit LAN port and onboard Wi-Fi in the form of a dual-band Realtek 802.11ac solution with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, and a 2x2 external antenna. As you would expect from an ROG model, the onboard audio duties on this model are handled by a SupremeFX solution that has been built onto a daughterboard that hovers above the actual motherboard. This implementation is obviously based on the familiar Realtek ALC1220A HD audio codec, but also features two dedicated Texas Instruments headphone amplifiers and audio-grade Nichicon capacitors. The audio jacks actually have built-in LEDs that help bolster the overall AURA lighting feature, which is actually quite amazing on this motherboard.
Overall, looking purely at the specs there are some wins and some misses, but let's see what this model reveals to us with a closer look and some hands-on time.
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