When it comes to small form factor mini ITX motherboards, there are a lot of different options available. Some of these are undoubetely better than others. Therefore it’s important that before you buy any of these that you read into which one’s are the best on the market.
Asus Strix Z390-I Gaming Motherboard- Best for Gaming
Asus are well known for providing excellent hardware and this mini ITX motherboard is no exception to the rule. It is a gaming board which supports up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. As you would expect for a gaming motherboard, there is the option on the UEFI bios to overclock the speed of the RAM. The Z390 chipset also allows users that have unlocked CPU to to overclock it, with this working on 8th and 9th generation Intel CPUs.
There are two, M.2 SSD slots on the board allowing two of these SSDs to be mounted.
Asus designed this motherboard with gaming in mind, especially with respect to online games. There is Intel Gigabit Ethernet on board in addition to the excellent Intel AC9560 wireless module. This allows the best possible speeds when coupled with a capable router so that you always have the edge in online gaming.
Cooling is paramount in any small PC case. Asus have therefore ensured that cooling was at the forefront of the motherboard design. There is full support for an All in One water cooler, as well as a case fan. Both of these are PWM, so it can be regulated depending on your needs. The prescence of sensor on the motherboard allows a change in fan speed to counteract higher temperatures, such as when gaming. Additionally, the VRM and M.2 slots have their own heatsinks. This ensures that they are kept cool, thereby prolonging their lifespan.
The IO shield on the board has already been installed by Asus. It can be extremely tricky in a small case to get the motherboard into the IO shield. This board is slightly pricier than the others on this list, but the price is definitely worth it.
Gigabyte Aorus Pro WiFi Mini ITX Motherboard- Best for Budget Builds
Aorus are well known for their high quality components at a modest price point. Much like the Asus board listed above, 8th and 9th Generation Intel CPUs are supported.
With respect to M.2 slots, there are two available on Pro WiFi, in addition to the SATA ports on the board.
Cooling is taken care of by way of 5 sensors on the board which are constantly monitoring temperature levels. Coupled to this are 3 fan headers which can be operated by PWM to ensure that the fan speed is corrected to match the heat levels in the case.
A key point of the Aorus link of motherboards is that the pins are reinforced as well as the connector for the GPU. Additionally, the DIMM slots are also extremely durable and therefore able to withstand heavier ram (with heatsinks) being inserted into it.
MSI Performance AMD Motherbord-Best For Ryzen CPUs
Another excellent supplier of computer hardware is MSI. This motherboard in particular is based on the AMD Ryzen CPU family. It supports generation 1 and 2.
The maximum amount of RAM supported is half of the Asus board listed above. However, it does support memory overclocking in the UEFI bios.
Storage solutions are by way of the M.2 SSD port located on the underside of the board as well as the SATA ports on the motherboard. This will allow you to connect SSDs and HDDs via the SATA ports.
Cooling is also taken care of by way of two fan headers on the board. These headers utilise PWM and therefore there is complete control over the speed of them.
The sound system on this motherboard is also exceptional, and by using high quality capacitors, it ensures that you experience the best quality sound. When it comes to gaming, this is a great way to add to the overall immersion.
Mini ITX Motherboard Buyers Guide
Since a Mini ITX board is a lot smaller than an ATX equivalent, there’s a few points that should be noted which I have included in this buyers guide.
Since cooling can be an issue inside a smaller case, it would be advantageous to pick a board that does contain temperature sensors on them. All of the products listed above do have this option included in them. This can give real time feedback on the ongoing temperatures within the system.
Delving deeper into cooling, it would always be advisable to opt for a board that contains at least one Pulse Width Modulation fan header. This will allow the temperature to be greater regulated based on the feedback from the sensors since it will speed up or slow down the fan based on the parameters that have set for it.
In addition to this, if the system is going to be used for gaming, then All in One water cooler support is highly advisable. The Asus Strix option above is a great example of a board being able to support this functionality. The case being used would need to be able to support this size of radiator, though.
Storage options also need to be factored into any build. Every PC needs at least one hard drive attached for it’s operating system. It is also common to have additional drives as well. Generally speaking now, an SSD will be used to store the operating system, and a HDD will be used to store other files such as games etc. The amount of drives that are used is dependent on the number of SATA ports on the motherboard. However, this is also based on the number of drive slots found within a chosen case.
A feature that is becoming more common is to have a SSD installed directly on the motherboard, be it NVMe or M.2. For builds that are extremely small, a motherboard with this function should be strongly considered. With the drop in prices for these SSDs as well as their faster read and write speeds, they are becoming a hot favourite for all types of PC.
Of course, due to these motherboards being used in systems which can be used as a home theatre PC, it would be normal for the storage to be expanded via external hard drives. This would need to be done via USB. This is something which should be considered when purchasing one of these ITX products. The reason for this is that two ports will already be used by the keyboard and mouse. Therefore, it is recommended that if external drives are going to be used, the option with the most USB ports should be considered.
It used to be the argument that Mini ITX builds weren’t as versatile as their full sized options due to there only being two DIMM slots available. Despite there still only being two slots available on them, they are now able to support up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. Again, the Asus Strix option listed above is a great example of this.
Depending on the application involved, such as gaming, it is also recommended that there is high quality Ethernet available. Preferably, this will be an Intel Gigabit connection. However, it is also advisable that high quality WiFi is also present on the unit. This means that regardless of the way the PC is connected to the internet that the speeds will be the best they can possibly be.
There are a wide variety of these motherboards available on the market. It is important though that you pick one that fits your needs. Hopefully the three listed above will be suitable for you to start your PC building journey.
Last update on 2021-10-21 As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.