Small form-factor gaming systems are quite popular these days, and motherboard manufacturers are trying to blur the line between capabilities of Mini-ITX and ATX motherboards. With its upcoming ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi platform, Asus has opted for a sandwich-like design.
Installing advanced controllers for Wi-Fi or audio on a Mini-ITX motherboard is relatively easy. Installing additional slots for add-in cards or modules is not. In a bid to install two M.2-2280 slots for high-performance SSDs and ensure their proper cooling to avoid throttling under high loads, Asus has opted for a multi-layer sandwich-like construction located near the backside of a graphics card, pictures published by VideoCardz reveal.
While the setup does’t look elegant, it ensures proper cooling for high-performance M.2-2280 SSDs that need a radiator and allows to replace SSDs easily. Some Mini-ITX motherboards feature M.2 slots on the backside, which makes it hard to replace a drive if it fails. Furthermore, it is not always possible to cool it down properly. Asustek’s ‘sandwich’ solves the problem. Meanwhile, the construction of the ‘new’ multi-layer PCB assembly on the ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi seems to be a bit taller, so perhaps Asus intends to offer something more with the new one, or just ensure better cooling.
Two M.2-2280 SSDs with proper cooling bring Asus’ Mini-ITX motherboards closer to desktops in terms of performance and expandability. Yet, based on the photos published by VideoCardz , the company reduced the number of SATA ports on its Z690 Mini-ITX mainboard from four to two, which reduces maximum bulk storage capacity of the platform from 54 TB in RAID 5 mode or 72 TB in JBOD mode on the previous generation to 36 TB in RAID 0 mode on the new generation (when using 18TB HDDs). Furthermore, it is no longer possible to use four SATA drives in RAID 5 mode for performance and reliability.
Asustek’s ROG-branded Mini-ITX motherboards have been among the most feature rich SFF platforms on the market for years, so it is not surprising that the company is preparing a high-end ROG Strix-branded mainboard for Intel’s 12th Generation Core ‘Alder Lake’ processors in LGA1700 packaging. The motherboard will feature a sophisticated voltage regulating module (VRM) to feed the CPU, two slots for DDR5 memory, a PCIe 5.0 x16 slot for graphics cards, a Wi-Fi 6E module, a sophisticated audio subsystem (for motherboards) and everything else that you come to expect from a high-end 2021 platform.
Asus is expected to start sales of its Intel Z690-based motherboards for Intel’s Alder Lake processors in early November, when the new CPUs are set to hit the market.
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