It may look dull, but this box from ASRock is actually a very good buy

It may look dull, but this box from ASRock is actually a very good buy

Small and smart PC solution gives you just as much processing power as you need.

It's a few years since ASRock began to bet on small computers. Long before we got models like the little Beebox-S, we remember, for example, the ASRock ION 330 - which interestingly has a form reminiscent of today's test object.

But at the same time it is undoubtedly a more versatile matter on the test bench this time. While most small computers have a fixed processor, the ASRock DeskMini 110 is a "barebone" with an ordinary LGA 1151 plinth (Optional) on a Mini-STX motherboard.

A barebone is an unfinished computer that usually comes without certain essential components, so you can choose from the price segment that suits you. Generally, this applies to memory and hard disk / SSD, as well as the processor occasionally.

In the case of DeskMini 110, all of these three things are missing, so you are free to choose what type of Intel Skylake or Kaby Lake processor you put into it. Then we also talk about "full-blown processors" of the same type we usually only find in larger desktop models.

As such, the ASRock DeskMini 110 Series reminds us of Shuttle XH97V, as it is both small in size and lets you choose what components you want in it - including which processor.

So if you are essentially going to use your computer such as browsing and light office applications, you can pick a reasonable Pentium or Core i3 processor. These usually do not have the whole world of power consumption, which means you will avoid less heat and reduced fan noise.

At the same time, DeskMini 110 can also be set up with more aggressive 65-watt Core i5 and i7 processors. According to ASRock, the Kaby Lake top models Core i5-7600K and Core i7-7700K can also be used, although there is no company talking particularly highly about.

Uses the default cooler

Besides selecting a processor, you are free to insert memory as desired and required. The PC has space for two DDR4 SO-DIMMs, that is, the size we usually find in laptops and other small desktops.

The motherboard, which does not unexpectedly have Intel's affordable H110 chipset, also has a PCIe M.2-SSD and M.2 wireless network adapter.

Should you need more storage space, there are also room for two 2.5-inch disks on the back of the motherboard mount.

All of this is done completely without any special solutions, and in particular we have the feeling that it's possible to use Intel's own standard refrigerators - which tend to follow when you buy an Intel processor with 65 watts or Lower TDP.

It will also be possible to use third party coolers if they meet the physical requirements of Intel's standard mount and height / length / width.

Physically speaking

In pure size, ASRock DeskMini 110 is not particularly dominant. It measures 15.5 centimeters in both directions and has an altitude of eight centimeters when we do not count on the small rubber feet.

The body itself is well-ventilated and is made of metal, while the front panel is made of black plastic. The design can hardly be called particularly elegant or exciting, but it is definitely undetected and practical.

As such, DeskMini 110 is not something we had been embarrassed to have standing on the office desk or discreetly placed in the TV bench, but some artwork is definitely not close to being.

The power supply is external and passive, which means that processor fan can actually end up as the only moving part of the computer - as long as you stay away from traditional hard disks.

Of connectors and ports, the computer is equipped with three monitor outputs, two of which can be used simultaneously: VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort. The HDMI port is in version 1.4, which means that 4K resolution is only supported with a screen refresh rate of up to 30 Hz.

However, there is support for 4K resolution and 60Hz through the DisplayPort output.

Otherwise, the back has a gigabit LAN port, power input and two USB ports - one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0. Here, however, we would like to see another USB port or two for even more possibilities.

However, at the front of DeskMini 110, we also find two USB 3.0 ports, one of which is the new and "reversible" USB Type-C. Otherwise, there are mini jacks for headphones and microphone, power button and power and disk activity status lights.

To be a little expensive little machine, DeskMini 110 is upset with a surprisingly good UEFI BIOS. Intel's H110 chipset, as we know, does not support overclocking - and this is not the type of PC for such - but it's a bit of a lack compared to the "regular" motherboard.

One of the good things about the BIOS is the possibility of detailed fan speed control relative to the temperature, which can be a great advantage when it comes to keeping the noise level at an optimal level.

Easy installation

It's very easy to get to the input of the ASRock DeskMini 110 - after removing four regular screws, the entire inside can be pulled out as a drawer. In spite of the scarce size, it is completely unproblematic to get the different components in place.

In addition to a Core i7-6700, we chose to equip our test with 2 x 4 GB of memory, a SATA 2.5-inch SSD and Samsung 950 Pro. Note that the M.2 connector only supports PCIe SSD, not SATA.

All the cables and screws needed are included in the package, while VESA mounting and antenna setup for wireless network adapter are optional.

We had the feeling that the one 2.5-inch space had screw joints on the side, so we did not have to remove the entire motherboard to get it in place. However, should you plan to get two 2.5-inch disks, the motherboard must be loosened first.

Small but airy

As usual, we have not seen the whole point of testing normal performance on a barebone where you choose how strong processor and how fast disk you want to equip it with.

Therefore, we have mainly looked at the temperatures and noise levels during rest and load, then with your computer equipped with the 65-core Intel Core i7-6700 and the standard cooler it came with.

What we soon discovered is that DeskMini 110 has a good and efficient construction. The airy design and modest size of the motherboard make the processor fan able to keep both components and processor cooled - and without spinning up the speed so much.

The standard fan from Intel is designed to pull air straight from above and push it out to all sides over the cooling bins. So the motherboards, RAM chips and M.2 SSDs also notice some of the airflow.

Interestingly, it's actually the space for the 2.5-inch under the motherboard, as it does get the least airing. Therefore, this is also one of the hottest components when the processor relaxes and the fan makes sure to send relatively cool air over the motherboard.

On the other hand, this also means that the 2.5-tomer is well protected against the sudden changes in temperature. We noted temperatures on this SSD that were about 40 to 44 degrees depending on processor load. This is completely within both SSDs and most mechanical disks.

With the "default" BIOS fan management plan, processor fan swirled about 1500 times a minute when the CPU went idle while slowly increasing to about 2100 RPM for heavier and continuous processing jobs, where the processor temperature woke at about 70 degrees.

Then Intel's usual cooler has a little more to go on, as this fan can well reach over 2500 RPM. So if you or your computer should feel the need for more (or less) cooling it should be no problem.

Regarding noise, sit close to the small box to hear the fan under lighter loads. With harder long-term workouts, of course, there will be some noise, but unacceptably, it will definitely not be. And the motherboard BIOS gives you more options when it comes to adjusting speeds and noise levels.

As mentioned, third party cooling solutions are an option, although there should not be so many of them.

Summary and conclusion

With the DeskMini 110 Series, ASRock gives us a small PC that uses the same Intel processors we usually only find in larger computers. Typically, with such a "barebone" it also comes with no RAM, hard disks / SSDs and operating system.

In practice, you get a basic package of motherboards, enclosures and power supplies, so you can decide just how much power, storage space and money you want to spend on your computer.

By making room for Intel's standard cooler, ASRock eliminates the costs of developing and incorporating its own special cooling solution for the DeskMini 110. This reduces costs further - with this computer, you'll probably spend more money on the components you'll put inside it.

We see for ourselves that ASRock DeskMini 110 will fit well as the foundation stone of a building set that can be done at businesses, at home office, in the TV bench or anywhere else where the need lies in appropriate and placement-friendly processing power - not big graphics muscles.

Because, with this solution, the priceless graphics part that is in the processor is not DeskMini, a computer you would normally use for more advanced gaming than you do in the browser. But it can actually be used for less demanding game titles.

All in all, ASRock DeskMini 110 is a very good and space-saving PC solution for those who like to choose their components themselves.

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