Small form-factor machines have emerged as a very significant chunk of the PC market. Building on the success of the UCFF NUCs, Intel introduced the mini-STX platform in 2015. We have seen multiple mSTX PCs from vendors such as ASRock (DeskMini 110), ECS (LIVA One), and MSI (Cubi 2 Plus). ASRock took things a bit further by introducing the micro-STX form factor in early 2017. Compared to the 5.4" x 5.8" mini-STX board, ASRock's micro-STX comes in at 7.4" x 5.8". The extra width (2") allows for a MXM GPU slot and two additional M.2 slots. The DeskMini Z270 was introduced last year, and the Z370 version with support for Coffee Lake was announced at CES 2018.

Introduction and Product Impressions

Gaming PCs have maintained growth despite a significant slowdown in the general PC market. Small form-factor machines have also seen a lot of success. Many vendors have tried to combine the two, but space constraints and power concerns have ended up as performance-limiting factors. ASRock was an early player in this market with the NVIDIA-based Vision 3D and AMD-based Vision X mini-PCs that combined a mobile CPU and a discrete mobile GPU in a compact system. However, in the last three years, ASRock started focusing on the UCFF form-factor with the Beebox lineup. The micro-STX form-factor brings ASRock back into the SFF gaming PC market.

The DeskMini Z370 systems address some of the usual complaints that users have when comparing an off-the-shelf compact gaming PC to a custom build with a mini-ITX board. Unlike pre-built machines like the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS series or the Intel Hades Canyon NUC, the DeskMini Z370 comes with a LGA 1151 socket, allowing the system builder to choose the CPU best suited for his/her needs. Display outputs are available from the discrete GPU as well as the integrated GPU in the LGA 1151 processor. On the flip side, the supplied chassis is utilitarian. The hardware components (the WLAN module's antennae and the SODIMMs) are somewhat difficult to install, compared to the gaming mini-PCs from other vendors.

ASRock sent over the DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 with a pre-installed Intel Core i7-8700 and a GTX 1060 MXM card. The review kit also came with DDR4 SODIMMs and a M.2 NVMe SSD from the Team Group. The barebones version comes with the MXM card and the WLAN module. The CPU, SODIMMs, and the M.2 SSDs need to be sourced by the end-user to complete the build. The specifications of our ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 review configuration are summarized in the table below.

ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-8700
Coffee Lake-S, 6C/12T, 3.2 GHz (Turbo 4.6 GHz), 14nm++, 12 MB L2, 65W TDP
Memory Team Group TED48G2400C16 DDR4 SODIMM
16-16-16-39 @ 2400 MHz
2x8 GB
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5)
Disk Drive(s) Team Group Cardea Zero TM8FP2240G0C111
(240 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
1x Intel I219V Gigabit LAN
Audio 3.5mm Headphone Jack
Capable of 5.1/7.1 digital output with HD audio bitstreaming (HDMI)
Miscellaneous I/O Ports 2x USB 2.0
5x USB 3.0 (Type-A)
1x USB 3.0 (Type-C)
Operating System Retail unit is barebones, but we installed Windows 10 Pro x64
Pricing (As configured) $1350
Full Specifications ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 Specifications

The ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 kit doesn't come with any pre-installed OS, but does come with a CD and a read-only USB key containing the drivers. In any case, we ended up installing the latest drivers downloaded off ASRock's product support page. In addition to the main unit, the other components of the package include a 220 W (19V @ 11.57A) power adapter, a US power cord, the WLAN module and associated pigtail connection wires, a couple of 2.4 GHz / 5 GHz antenna for the Wi-Fi feature, a driver CD, SATA cables, user's manual and a quick-start guide.

The gallery below takes us around the chassis and I/O features in the unit.

The components need to be installed after sliding out the top cover. The gallery below shows the internals of the system.

The BIOS of the system is a joy to use. In terms of overall appeal, th Intel VIsual BIOS is hard to beat. However, the ASRock GUI comes a close second. In terms of available features, only the NUCs have more flexibility. The BIOS allows graphical setting of the fan curves, control over the integrated graphics for enabling headless displays etc.

In the table below, we have an overview of the various systems that we are comparing the ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 against. Note that they may not belong to the same market segment. The relevant configuration details of the machines are provided so that readers have an understanding of why some benchmark numbers are skewed for or against the ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060 when we come to those sections.

Comparative PC Configurations
Aspect ASRock DeskMini Z370 GTX1060
CPU Intel Core i7-8700 Intel Core i7-8700
GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB) NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6 GB)
RAM Team Group TED48G2400C16 DDR4 SODIMM
16-16-16-39 @ 2400 MHz
2x8 GB
Team Group TED48G2400C16 DDR4 SODIMM
16-16-16-39 @ 2400 MHz
2x8 GB
Storage Team Group Cardea Zero TM8FP2240G0C111
(240 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Team Group Cardea Zero TM8FP2240G0C111
(240 GB; M.2 Type 2280 PCIe 3.0 x4 NVMe; Toshiba 15nm; MLC)
Wi-Fi Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3165
(1x1 802.11ac - 433 Mbps)
Price (in USD, when built) $800 (barebones)
$1350 (as configured, No OS)
$800 (barebones)
$1350 (as configured, No OS)
Performance Metrics - I
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  • DanNeely - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    sadly the fly in the ointment for something like this is that MXM cards are still really hard to find and sold at major markups vs standard desktop cards.

    Great idea in the abstract, but unless part availability ever improves still only barely upgradable in the real world.
  • Samus - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    I couldn’t agree more. If ASRock could commit to end user upgradability with MXM’s for the next gen GPU’s, this would be attractive, but as it is, this is a mostly disposable gaming PC in 3 years when it will be 2 generations behind in the GPU world and no longer able to run the then-current games at decent quality. A tough sell for a $1300 PC, even tougher when you consider a laptop (which naturally includes a screen) sells for the same price at the same spec as this machine...
  • milkod2001 - Monday, June 18, 2018 - link

    Good point with laptop at the same price.
  • stuffwhy - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    New to this aspect of HTPC. The protected AV path for UltraHD playback - it's striking me as rare. Is there currently a particularly limited availability of capable PC hardware? or is it up to some manufacturer, such as GPU maker, to just implement and they don't?
  • ganeshts - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    You can find additional details about the 'Advanced Protected Audio/Video Path' here:
  • milkywayer - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    Too expensive anyway. There are many cheaper ways to build an SFF machine without paying a premium. Get a Louqe Ghost or Dan Case A4 off of ebay and buy the cpu + MoBo bundle off of micro center for $30 off. Get a Sf600 sfx psu and you're all set for 70% the price with much better looking cases.
  • Samus - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    It’s true, you could totally build a similar spec PC with an upgradable 10.5” PCIe GPU for a bit less, albeit adding some volume. It would still be less than a cu really negligible when you consider the PSU (SFX) would be integrated...
  • linkman10 - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    One can almost always save a substantial amount of money by building their own PC. These are targeted at those that don't want the hassle of planning, sourcing, and assembling on their own (or don't know how -- which is the majority of the population) and then troubleshooting any build problems.
  • cosmotic - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    Where are the Zotac EN970, EN1070K and EN1060K?
  • eva02langley - Tuesday, June 12, 2018 - link

    The problem with MXM cards is that every one of them is a custom design made for a specific PCB. I wanted to switch my ATI radeon HD 5850 mobile with a 1050 GTX mobile on MXM format. The TDP was the same and I was expecting this to be a fairly easy swap. Until I made some further research on the matter, I understood it was quite the opposite, if not impossible to do so. The only thing I had to change on my laptop was the GPU, however you cannot do it with laptops.

    So, for me, MXM cards, is something I don`t really back. Unless the industry is making it a standard and work toward a possible upgrade path for users, I don`t see this becoming relevant.

    Sure the form factor is great, but everything else is horrible.

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