Intel introduced the Z390 chipset in 2018, and the OEMs have started production of motherboards with the Z390 chipset on them. However, what about the computers with smaller form factors? Also referred to as Mini ITX motherboards, these have been designed specifically for the fanless cooling and as niche products. Given the recently launched Z390 chipset, we thought it would be nice to check out the options available for the best Z390 Mini ITX motherboards. In this post, we will attempt checking out a few options available in the genre.
Also Read: Best ITX Cases
A Little Info on the Mini ITX Motherboards
Mini ITX motherboards are designed for the small frame computers measuring about 17 x 17 cm or 6.7 x 6.7 inches. These came into being way back in 2001, thanks to VIA technologies. These are designed as the fanless cooling – low power consumption options.
Related Reading: Best Z390 Motherboards
The mini ITX systems can cater to a wide range of applications and are capable of handling most of the tasks that modern desktop computers are capable of. Primarily designed for the industrial applications and embedded systems, they are typically integrated into a finished product for a single purpose application. One of the major differentiating factors between the regular motherboards and these Mini ITX models would be the longer life cycle available for the Mini ITX systems.
Some of the typical application areas that the Mini ITX motherboards would be useful include supermarket POS systems, powering self-service kiosks, and driving content on digital displays.
Later on, Intel ventured into the arena and introduced its range of mini ITX systems for the Atom CPU. As of now, it is one of the rare firms still involved in the manufacture of Mini ITX mainboard manufacturing.
Also Read: Best Z370 Motherboards
Best Z390 Mini ITX Motherboards
The Z390 motherboards have recently been found being launched or announced. There are over 55 different motherboards currently available that are based on the Z390 chipset. Manufactured by a range of Intel partners like Gigabyte, Asus, MSI and ASRock, there have a few Mini ITX systems as well.
However, it is still the beginning for the Z390 chipset, and we expect more of these Mini ITX systems being launched by early 2019.
1. ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac
The ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac is one of the motherboards launched by ASRock with support for the 9th Gen Intel Core processors. It comes with an all black design and metal heatsinks.
In tune with the features integrated into the Z390 chipset, the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming ITX/ac comes with Intel-based Gigabit LAN (I219V) and 2T2R Wave 2 802.11ac capable wi-fi adapter. You also have access to a Thunderbolt 3Type-C port on the rear panel, making it the only Z390 motherboard to feature the port.
Due to the smaller form factor, the ASRock Z390 Phantom Gaming-ITX/ac has a single ASRock Steel Slot clad full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot with an M.2 slot. Other features and connectivity options include two video outputs consisting of a DVI-D and an HDMI 2.0 output, Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec and five 3.5 mm audio jacks along with a single S/PDIF optical output.
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2. Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming
The Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming packs in a lot of functionality within that small frame. You do not need to compromise in terms of your power features when you opt for the Mini ITX motherboard from Asus. You can even add up RAM if you are not happy with the 32 GB capacity, thanks to the double capacity memory compatibility from Asus.
Designed for the 9th Gen Intel Core processors, the backward compatibility built within the system would help you use it with the 8th Gen processors as well. It does offer you a lot of functionalities including dual M.2, USB 3.1 Gen 2, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and ASUS Opti-MEM II for better DRAM overclocking stability.
The five-way optimized overclocking module should bring the best out of your Z390 chipset. The Do It Yourself compatible design should help you customize and configure your new system to the best of your liking.
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3. Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW
Another excellent option for those looking to build their compact systems, the Supermicro C9Z390-CG-IW should be the best in a small footprint. The motherboard does support two DIMMs of RAM, dual M.2, Intel Optane, Gigabit LAN, 802.11 WiFi, and many more other features.
The motherboard borrows a lot of features and functionality from the ATX sized Supermicro C9Z390-CG. It has a full-length PCIe 3.0 x16 slot along with two PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slots. It also comes with four SATA ports with the straight-angled connectors. Supermicro is using a Realtek ALC1220 HD audio codec to connect with the five 3.5 mm audio jacks and S/PDIF optical output available at the rear side. Other connectivity options on the motherboard include three USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A, one USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-C, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a PS/2 combo port and a couple of display outputs in the form of DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI 2.0 ports.
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Intel recently launched the Z390 chipset with advanced features to work with the 9th generation Intel Core processors. How does it compare with the previous generations of chipsets viz Z270 and Z370? The 8th generation Intel Core processors are still being used and have been one of the most used processors even today. Of course, the Z270 may be around two generations behind as things stand today. Z390 chipset motherboards are making their presence felt in recent times, and the manufacturers are likely to come up with the newer versions by the end of 2018. From that perspective, it is quite natural to find if it is worth to upgrade or you can wait for a few months. We will compare the chipsets and their features and compare them together.
The Z370 Motherboards – An Overview
The Z370 chipset was launched in the fourth quarter of 2017 along with the 8th generation Intel Core processors. Based on the 22 nm manufacturing process, these chipsets were designed to provide support to the Intel’s Coffee lake processors.
Some of the features introduced on the Z370 include PCIe 3.0, SATA6, and USB 3.1 Gen 1. It also introduced advanced features like Intel Optane Memory support, Intel Smart Sound Technology, and Intel Rapid Storage Technology.
You may not find much of a difference between the Z270 and Z370 in most aspects leaving aside the added features that we mentioned above. The socket remains the same but they cannot be used with the earlier generations of devices, a.k.a the 7th Gen CPU’s. The significant differences from the previous generation of chipset would be the provision for the USB 3.1 standard. Though most of us may not understand it right away, the upgrade from USB 3.0 to USB 3.1 translates into double-digit speed increments. The Z270 supports 5 Gbps, while the Z370 will offer you a whopping rate of 10 Gbps of theoretical peak performance.
The Z390 Chipset – A capable Upgrade to the Z370
It was launched exactly one year later than the Z370; the Z390 chipset is an upgrade to the Z370. That would mean both of them would support the 8000 and 9000 series processors. The partner manufacturers like Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and ASRock along with a few obscure manufacturers have launched/announced over 50 different motherboard options, and almost all of them are likely to be available by the end of this year.
One of the additions you would find on the Z390 in comparison to the Z370 would be the introduction of USB 3.1 Gen 2. We would love to know how do the manufacturers tend to mix and match the USB Gen 1, USB Gen 2 and USB 2.0 ports on the rear panel.
The updated features from the Z370 days include Intel wireless networking, native SDXC support, and up to six USB 3.1 Gen. 2 ports integrated, and the new Intel Management Engine (IME) firmware version. An integrated WiFi is yet another addition you would love to find on the chipset.
The Z390 is not a brand new generation of chipsets, but an update to the existing Z370 chipsets. This would make the two almost identical in features and functionality. Like we said, the USB 3.1 Gen 2 and integrated WiFi 802.11ac are the differentiating features. Now that the 9th Gen Intel Core processors can run on the motherboards with the Z370 chipset (**BIOS update necessary), it may not be necessary to upgrade as of now. Though the Z370 chipset does not support USB 3.1 Gen 2 and the integrated WiFi, many of the manufacturers have added it utilizing a separate controller.
Intel Z390, Z370, and Z270 Chipset Comparison
We now are aware of the basic features and functionalities provided by the Intel chipsets Z270, Z370, and Z390. That would bring us to comparing them together so that we can understand whether you need an upgrade. For the sake of a better understanding, we will examine the three chipset in a side by side comparison.
|Features / Particulars||Z270||Z370||Z390|
|Launch||First Quarter of 2017||October 2017||October 2018|
|Socket||LGA 1151||LGA 1151||LGA 1151|
|CPU PCIe Configuration||1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8+2×4||1×16 or 2×8 or 1×8+2×4||1X16 or 2X8 or 1×8+2X4|
|Max Additional PCIe lanes*||24x PCI-E 2.0||24x PCI-E 3.0||24x PCI-E 3.0|
|Max SATA 6Gb/s ports||6||6||6|
|USB 3.1 (10Gbps) Ports Gen 2||0||0||6|
|USB 3.1 (5Gbps) Port||10||10||10|
|Total USB ports||14||14||14|
|Number of memory channels||2||2||2|
|DIMMS per channel||2||2||2|
|Processor overclocking option||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Optane Memory Support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrated 802.11ac WiFi MAC Support||No||No||Yes|
|Intel Smart Sound support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Support for Integrated SDXC (SDA 3.0)||No||No||Yes|
|Intel management Engine version||11||11||12|
|Maximum Memory Capacity||64 GB||64 GB||64 GB|
As you would be able to find clearly from the above comparison, the three chipsets differ by just around one and a half year. While the Z270 does lack a few features, you would find that both Z370 and Z390 come with almost similar features with a few minor differences.
Should You Upgrade?
Well, if you closely followed our comparison, you will come to know that the features remain almost similar to one another among the three chipsets. Though the Z270 chipset is found to lack in a few of the essential elements, the differences between the Z370 and Z390 are observed to be quite minor and minimal. If you see these differences are crucial for you, it would be advisable to go for the upgrade.
However, under standard conditions, we would advise you opting for the Z390 if you are building a new system. If you already have a system that runs on the Z370, you can have access to the additional features provided by Z390 through the use of a separate controller. Take wise call analyzing your exact needs.
The Parting Thoughts
Well, those were the three major and popular Mini ITX motherboards we could lay our eyes upon. Of course, there can be a few more, but we focussed on the reliable and well-known motherboard manufacturers when compiling these options. ASRock has tow Mini ITX motherboards among the ten odd Z390 based motherboards that the company has announced.
Experts suggest opting for the Asus ROG Strix Z390-I Gaming for your Mini ITX requirements – thanks to the robust functionality that it provides. Of course, it can be a little pricey – but you are assured of the best performance.
It is just the beginning, and we expect many more of the Mini ITX motherboards to be made available by the time all the Z390 motherboards announced as of now are made available. And it would not be later than December 2018.