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Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound

Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound

AMD AM3 Mini-ITX boards from J&W and Asus were on show and offer the highest performing multi-threaded PCs in the smallest form factor yet.

We love a bit of mini-ITX micro-madness here at bit-tech, and we recently spotted a couple of gems at Computex 2010. We've followed up to get some more info, and here's what we found.

Firstly, from Asus, the socket AM3 M4A88T-I uses the AMD 880G chipset. To save space and power, it uses DDR3 SoDIMM memory but it does have a PCI-Express 16x graphics slot, three SATA ports, and a passively cooled Northbridge and Southbridge. The SB710 Southbridge doesn't include the RAID 5 or SATA 6Gbps support the more recent SB850 offers, but it can still unlock CPU cores easily.

The board is very clearly designed for the HTPC enthusiast, with DTS audio, plus HDMI and DVI outputs, coaxial and optical S/PDIF, 802.11n Wireless, Bluebooth, USB 3, eSATA, Gigabit Ethernet but only six channel audio output via 3.5mm jacks (there's not enough space for more).

Asus is claiming 6-core unlocking support on the label, although an exact TDP wasn't stated and given what we know about other mini-ITX boards, we feel safe in saying that's for 95W TDP chips, not the full-fat Black Edition, because there's just not enough space for the requisite power hardware.

Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound 6-core mini-ITX motherboard marvels spotted
Click to enlarge

Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound 6-core mini-ITX motherboard marvels spotted
Click to enlarge

Asus aren't the only company looking at this market. J&W also has an AM3 board, turning it up a notch by opting for the 890GX chipset and SB850 Southbridge on its MINIX 890GX-USB3, making it the smallest board with full SATA 6Gbps support.

It also packs DDR3 SoDIMM slots and a 16x lane PCI-Express slot, along with a larger chipset heatsink a tasty predominantly black colour scheme. The downside compared to the Asus is that there's not the breadth of outputs offered on the rear I/O, but there is dual Gigabit Ethernet should you want to use it as a mini-server too. While awkward to find in retail, J&W throws in a mini-PCI-Express card on the back of the board for additional expansion too.

On its Computex booth, J&W demonstrated the system running a 95W TDP six-core CPU, although like the Asus above we were advised against trying a 1090T Black Edition. J&W stated that it had developed its own core unlocking technique to keep competitive with the likes of Asus, Gigabyte and MSI.

Fancy building a six-core mini-ITX multi-threaded monster? Let us know your thoughts, in the forums.

Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound 6-core mini-ITX motherboard marvels spotted
Click to enlarge

Six-core mini-ITX motherboards inbound 6-core mini-ITX motherboard marvels spotted
Click to enlarge

29 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
jrs77 14th June 2010, 11:47 Quote
Yeah I saw those and the first thing that came to mind was.... "meh, f*kin SoDIMMs!"

But it's a step into the right direction.

The J&W-board coupled with a low-power CPU like the AMD Athlon II X2 240e and the option to slap in a miniPCIe DVB-T card makes it a real nice media-box.
Mork 14th June 2010, 11:48 Quote
Now give us the 125W CPU support. thank you.

The way I see it, there's two main issues keeping me from buying on of those boards:
1. no 125W CPU support
2. SO-DIMM?? - aren't those ridiculously expensive compared to their desktop counterparts?

I'd still love a mini-ITX gaming rig, but I just don't see it as a dream to come true before we either get a dedicated gaming mini-ITX board or if we get 125W CPU support.
Bakes 14th June 2010, 11:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mork
Now give us the 125W CPU support. thank you.

The way I see it, there's two main issues keeping me from buying on of those boards:
1. no 125W CPU support
2. SO-DIMM?? - aren't those ridiculously expensive compared to their desktop counterparts?

I'd still love a mini-ITX gaming rig, but I just don't see it as a dream to come true before we either get a dedicated gaming mini-ITX board or if we get 125W CPU support.

The DFI P55-T36 has room for full fat memory modules as well as support for the Lynnfield processors. Whether it will handle them is another story entirely.
Bindibadgi 14th June 2010, 11:59 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
Yeah I saw those and the first thing that came to mind was.... "meh, f*kin SoDIMMs!"

But it's a step into the right direction.

The J&W-board coupled with a low-power CPU like the AMD Athlon II X2 240e and the option to slap in a miniPCIe DVB-T card makes it a real nice media-box.

http://alanisgood.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/1236664538680-300x273.jpg

DFI P55-T36 - it can and it does, we've tested it. Whether you'll get support if your board blows up though.. well, your guess is as good as mine.

RE: So-DIMMs. Kingston is the only company to make 1600MHz parts because it can afford to use the expensive Elpida Hiper ICs. Otherwise you're setup with using 1333MHz. It's not meant for super-duper-benchmark winning performance anyway.
Bakes 14th June 2010, 16:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
http://alanisgood.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/1236664538680-300x273.jpg

DFI P55-T36 - it can and it does, we've tested it. Whether you'll get support if your board blows up though.. well, your guess is as good as mine.

RE: So-DIMMs. Kingston is the only company to make 1600MHz parts because it can afford to use the expensive Elpida Hiper ICs. Otherwise you're setup with using 1333MHz. It's not meant for super-duper-benchmark winning performance anyway.

Isn't there also the Zotac H55 one?

To me at least, it seems as though the Intel components are much more suited to running in a small package, all the Intel Mini-ITX ones I've seen have managed full DIMMs.

Again, power is an issue, but Zotac doesn't seem as if they're going out of business in the near future...
javaman 14th June 2010, 16:04 Quote
ITX has huge potential for LAN party systems. A small light system that is semi-portable but beats a laptop in performance is what I would like to see. Not to mention small is sexy :)
Bakes 14th June 2010, 16:08 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by javaman
ITX has huge potential for LAN party systems. A small light system that is semi-portable but beats a laptop in performance is what I would like to see. Not to mention small is sexy :)

Yes, I'm looking at making myself a Crossfire Mini-ITX rig (I know what you're thinking, but there are ways of managing the fact it only has one slot) and I've worked out that the smallest it could possibly be without ripping apart the PSU would be 31cmx33cmx10cm
javaman 14th June 2010, 16:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
Yes, I'm looking at making myself a Crossfire Mini-ITX rig (I know what you're thinking, but there are ways of managing the fact it only has one slot) and I've worked out that the smallest it could possibly be without ripping apart the PSU would be 31cmx33cmx10cm

I can think of one method to get around the one slot problem.......Something like that?
Bindibadgi 14th June 2010, 16:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
Isn't there also the Zotac H55 one?

To me at least, it seems as though the Intel components are much more suited to running in a small package, all the Intel Mini-ITX ones I've seen have managed full DIMMs.

Again, power is an issue, but Zotac doesn't seem as if they're going out of business in the near future...

Check back tomorrow for our Gigabyte H55 mini-ITX review ;)

Yes Zotac and ECS also do H55 mini-itx boards (both reviewed on bit too :D) but they don't recommend lynnfield CPUs, only clarkdale, whereas DFI's P55 has inbuilt overclocking profiles for moderate Core i5 750 and i7 860 overclocks.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
Yes, I'm looking at making myself a Crossfire Mini-ITX rig (I know what you're thinking, but there are ways of managing the fact it only has one slot) and I've worked out that the smallest it could possibly be without ripping apart the PSU would be 31cmx33cmx10cm

You've no chance of CrossFire really. Why bother making hassle for yourself trying to hack something it was never meant to support? ;) Buy a better single card. Look at micro ATX - but even then they will be few and far between, because a second x16 slot will often be an x4 only. Does Asus make a P55-based Rampage III Gene?
Bakes 14th June 2010, 16:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Check back tomorrow for our Gigabyte H55 mini-ITX review ;)

Yes Zotac and ECS also do H55 mini-itx boards (both reviewed on bit too :D) but they don't recommend lynnfield CPUs, only clarkdale, whereas DFI's P55 has inbuilt overclocking profiles for moderate Core i5 750 and i7 860 overclocks.

Do Gigabyte recommend Lynnfield chips?
Bindibadgi 14th June 2010, 16:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
Do Gigabyte recommend Lynnfield chips?

Yes and no. All H55 boards are geared towards Clarkdale more or less. The physical hardware on the board generally cannot cope with the demands of Lynnfield CPUs: 3 phases can only offer so much. Most mini-ITX H55 boards have a 75-95W recommended TDP limit for consistent use. Some people have put 1.5+V through a 655K at >5GHz on XS recently though, but that was for short term benchmarking.

http://www.bit-tech.net/blog/2010/05/27/will-mini-itx-will-lead-to-disappointment/
bobisgod 15th June 2010, 00:13 Quote
The guy also oced a 875k on the gigabyte mobo to over 4 ghz stable
Bindibadgi 15th June 2010, 03:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by bobisgod
The guy also oced a 875k on the gigabyte mobo to over 4 ghz stable

But for how long? A Gigabyte engineer told me the FETs can handle at most 95W, so an 875K will push them harder shortening their life.
alpha0ne23 15th June 2010, 09:03 Quote
The Giga miniITX H55N USB3 has been benched @ over 5.0GHz by dinos22 and youngpro, check it out @ XS
Bakes 15th June 2010, 09:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha0ne23
The Giga miniITX H55N USB3 has been benched @ over 5.0GHz by dinos22 and youngpro, check it out @ XS

From what Bit-Tech has been saying, the board can't handle the power and will likely pop at some point.

Let's face it, under the covers it's just a desktop motherboard where it might not be routine but it wouldn't be amazing. The difference is it's got less hardware attached so it's less suited to overclocking.
Primoz 15th June 2010, 16:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
You've no chance of CrossFire really. Why bother making hassle for yourself trying to hack something it was never meant to support? ;) Buy a better single card. Look at micro ATX - but even then they will be few and far between, because a second x16 slot will often be an x4 only. Does Asus make a P55-based Rampage III Gene?

Yes. http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/news/cpu/asus-maximus-iii-gene-p55-matx-crowd/

EDIT: not to mention Gigabyte's P55M-UD4 has x8/x8 support and EVGA even has some SLI certified mATX boards. http://www.evga.com/products/moreInfo.asp?pn=121-LF-E652-KR&family=Motherboard%20Family&series=Intel%20P55%20Series%20Family
Bakes 15th June 2010, 16:57 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
You've no chance of CrossFire really. Why bother making hassle for yourself trying to hack something it was never meant to support? ;) Buy a better single card. Look at micro ATX - but even then they will be few and far between, because a second x16 slot will often be an x4 only. Does Asus make a P55-based Rampage III Gene?

I only read this part of your post today. What I'm planning to do is not particularly revolutionary, because it's only a slightly less technical advanced version of the Asus Xpander.

The below image is a Supermicro riser card - it converts an electrically x16 slot into two electrically x8 slots. This is no different to a normal P55 motherboard's setup.

http://www.supermicro.com/a_images/products/Accessories/RSC-R2UT-2E8R.jpg

As you can see, an extra power plug is necessary to provide the 75w that can be provided through the slot.

Using two other PCIe flexi risers, it's possible to connect two cards up. Based on what I know about how Crossfire works, because there's no manufacturer validation Crossfire will work on any Intel chipset, even if there's no physical second slot by default.
javaman 16th June 2010, 01:21 Quote
does it actually work?? Im interested simply from a tech point of view
Bakes 16th June 2010, 14:47 Quote
I have absolutely no idea xD

All I'd say is that in my opinion the theory is sound (Asus use a similar idea, with more bells and whistles for their Xpander), whilst SuperMicro is a big server company - I doubt they'd make products that didn't work. Speed wise, I'm not sure, but that would be something to test before committing
Bindibadgi 16th June 2010, 15:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes
I only read this part of your post today. What I'm planning to do is not particularly revolutionary, because it's only a slightly less technical advanced version of the Asus Xpander.

The below image is a Supermicro riser card - it converts an electrically x16 slot into two electrically x8 slots. This is no different to a normal P55 motherboard's setup.

http://www.supermicro.com/a_images/products/Accessories/RSC-R2UT-2E8R.jpg

As you can see, an extra power plug is necessary to provide the 75w that can be provided through the slot.

Using two other PCIe flexi risers, it's possible to connect two cards up. Based on what I know about how Crossfire works, because there's no manufacturer validation Crossfire will work on any Intel chipset, even if there's no physical second slot by default.

That's, uh, inventive! But the fact you have to use two single slot cards means you are limited in their performance - you could get a single, dual slot card and have more choice and better performance. Im not sure if it will work without the appropriate BIOS support either.
Bakes 16th June 2010, 15:33 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
That's, uh, inventive! But the fact you have to use two single slot cards means you are limited in their performance - you could get a single, dual slot card and have more choice and better performance. Im not sure if it will work without the appropriate BIOS support either.

I'd thought of that as well. Flexible pcie extension cables can be used to place the cards where they would be needed. You are correct about the BIOS support, again it would be something that would need to be tested.

http://www2.multithread.co.uk/mtcshop/images/linitx.com/products/PCI_Express_X16_Dual_Flexi_Riser_-_7cm_Cable_main.jpg

If I were to do this, it would not be something I could beat easily with a single card setup. The only requirement would be a powerful mini-itx motherboard (one that supports a quad core, that will get support if it pops).
alpha0ne23 17th June 2010, 06:13 Quote
The thought of using a PCIe splitter to get two x8 speed sockets defeats the whole purpose of using an itx board

Why would you and what itx case could you possibly use, you would be better off just going M-ATX
Bindibadgi 17th June 2010, 06:26 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha0ne23
The thought of using a PCIe splitter to get two x8 speed sockets defeats the whole purpose of using an itx board

Why would you and what itx case could you possibly use, you would be better off just going M-ATX

This! (+rep btw)

By the time you've committed the size to the extra graphics card, you might as well have gone mATX and had the full-ATX spec power as default.

I admire your effort, Bake, really (!!) but I don't think it's worth it for what mini-ITX is designed for.
Bakes 17th June 2010, 09:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
This! (+rep btw)

By the time you've committed the size to the extra graphics card, you might as well have gone mATX and had the full-ATX spec power as default.

I admire your effort, Bake, really (!!) but I don't think it's worth it for what mini-ITX is designed for.

Mini-ITX allows you to get a really powerful computer in a really small space (it would be a custom case by the way).

I did you a mockup in Autodesk Inventor, it's below. The graphics cards in this case are HD 5970s (because they're the biggest I know of), and they, along with all the other hardware, fit in a space of just 33x30x10 (all sizes in cm).

http://i49.tinypic.com/51ssya.png

Now, Micro-ATX boards are usually 24x24cm, a full 7cm larger than Mini-ITX in either direction. A Micro-ATX case would be, at minimum four cm taller, the same depth and 3 cm wider.
Alternatively, it could be 6cm narrower, 4cm taller and 7cm deeper.
That's not including improvements made from potentially stripping down hardware, like removing the backplates of the graphics cards and whatnow, allowing them to be pushed closer to the motherboard, or taking the top off the power supply (dangerous, but could allow the height of the case to be pushed down a bit).

But is that so much of a challenge?
alpha0ne23 18th June 2010, 04:51 Quote
^ Its a great challenge and even though I personally would go the m-atx route (I have m-itx, m-atx and atx builds) if I was thinking of doing Crossfire/SLI, your idea is a real challenge and I applaud your determination and inventiveness

As long as you isolate the PSU there is no reason why you cannot get rid of the psu case completely and even re-route the power plug/outlets if needed

[looks at Via m-itx I built 4 years ago with ATX 'skinless PSU' inside an 26cm Deep x 16.5high x19wide case ]
Bindibadgi 18th June 2010, 06:11 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bakes

http://i49.tinypic.com/51ssya.png

Now, Micro-ATX boards are usually 24x24cm, a full 7cm larger than Mini-ITX in either direction. A Micro-ATX case would be, at minimum four cm taller, the same depth and 3 cm wider.
Alternatively, it could be 6cm narrower, 4cm taller and 7cm deeper.
That's not including improvements made from potentially stripping down hardware, like removing the backplates of the graphics cards and whatnow, allowing them to be pushed closer to the motherboard, or taking the top off the power supply (dangerous, but could allow the height of the case to be pushed down a bit).

But is that so much of a challenge?

Go for it! :D:D

If you build a pimp (and I mean, pimp) mini-ITX case with space for two HD 5970s I'll do my best to get you a pair. You might have to get them back, but it'll be worth it for photos.
Bakes 18th June 2010, 07:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Go for it! :D:D

If you build a pimp (and I mean, pimp) mini-ITX case with space for two HD 5970s I'll do my best to get you a pair. You might have to get them back, but it'll be worth it for photos.

Sounds good :D

I'm waiting on a fast motherboard that can handle either Lynnfield or Thuban to be honest, because I'm hoping that this'll be a proper, ultimate gaming rig, on a performance scale relatively close to the Dream PCs when they aren't overclocked, and I wouldn't want to let it all down by sticking in a weedy little Clarkdale.
javaman 18th June 2010, 11:30 Quote
I vote for this to feature in CPC mod of the month when ready =D if ready lol.
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