Sunday, 16 November 2014

AS Rock Z97E-ITX/ac

ASRock Z97E-ITX/ac

The Z97E-ITX/ac is one of the cheapest boards on test, so it’s no surprise that its heatsinks are small and plain without a connecting heatpipe. There are no on-board buttons either, and the area around the CPU socket is sparse, although that also makes it easier to attach coolers to the board.

However, the 8-pin CPU power connector is awkwardly located next to a heatsink, while the four SATA 6Gbps connectors and SATA Express port are crammed between the memory slots and Wi-Fi chip. Meanwhile, the CPU fan connector is in the top-right corner, which is fairly sensible, but the other fan connector is in the bottom-left corner, beyond the memory slots, and there's no third fan header.

Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

Gigabyte F2A88XN-WIFI

Gigabyte's F2A88XN-WIFI is one of a few FM2+ mini-ITX boards available, matching the low cost of AMD's APUs with a highly affordable price of £75, making it over £25 cheaper than the cheapest Intel-based boards on test.

That saving immediately makes this board a contender for cheaper builds based on AMD's integrated CPU for modest work and play, rather than small, powerful gaming machines. In some areas, though, the F2A88XN-WIFI's specification matches - or beats - its Intel-based rivals. Its 64GB maximum memory is four times the capacity offered by most mini-ITX boards (although you'll need 32CB DIMMs), and it also sports Gigabit Ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi, like most affordable Intel boards.