The ASRock DeskMini 310
A Mini PC Barebone Supporting Intel CPUs
ASRock’s DeskMini 310 is an Intel-based mini PC barebone kit that includes a mini-STX Intel H310 motherboard with external power supply and a case the size of a small ATX PSU at 155 × 155 × 80 mm. How much of a system can you build within something that has a total volume of under 2 liters? Quite a powerful one, it turns out.
The DeskMini 310 supports Intel CPUs up to 65W, with 8th and now 9th-generation Intel CPUs compatible with its LGA1151 socket. Higher core counts are certainly possible within that TDP, and it is also “the world’s first Mini-STX build that supports standard Intel box fans,” according to ASRock, as just about any 47 mm or lower CPU cooler should work.
Storage is another strong point of this design, with the board’s M.2 slot providing a full PCIe Gen x4 connection for NVMe drives and pair of 2.5-inch bays (with two SATA data/power cables included) also available for larger storage options. How did it all come together and perform? We’ll put together a quick Core i3 build to find out.
- CPU Support: Intel 9th/8th Gen LGA1151 Processors (Max. TDP 65W)
- Cooler Support: Intel LGA115x CPU Cooler (Max. Height ≦ 46mm)
- Memory Support: 2 x SO-DIMM DDR4-2666MHz, Max. 32GB (non-ECC)
- Chipset: Intel H310
- Graphics: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
- Graphics Output (Supports up to 2 displays simultaneously):
- 1 x HDMI (4K@30Hz)
- 1 x DisplayPort (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x D-Sub
- Audio: Realtek ALC233, 1 x Headset Jack, 1 x Mic-In
- Front USB: 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A
- Rear USB: 1 x USB 3.1 Gen1 Type-A, 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
- M.2_1: Type 2280 PCIe Gen3 x4 & SATA 6Gb
- 2 x SATA 6Gb 2.5-inch 7mm/9.5mm Hard Drive
- 1 x Micro SD Card Reader
- LAN: Intel Gigabit I219V
- 1 x M.2 (key E 2230) Slot for Wi-Fi + BT Module
- Support Intel CNVi module, PCIe
- Motherboard Connectors:
- 2 x USB 2.0 Headers, 1 x Front Panel Header
- 2 x 4-Pin fan connectors (CPU, SYS)
- 1 x DC-In Jack (Supports 19V Power Adapters)
- 1 x Internal Speaker Header (4-Pin)
- 1 x Chassis Intrusion Header (2-Pin)
- Power Unit: 120W/19V Adapter
- Operation Temperature: 0-35°C
- Accessory: 2 x SATA Data with Power Cable, 1 x Screws Pack
- Motherboard: 5.8″ x 5.4″ (Mini-STX)
- Barebones: 155 x 155 x 80 mm (1.92L)
- Security: Kensington Lock, Key Lock
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 64-bit compliant
- Certification: CE, FCC
- Remark: TPM Software
“DeskMini 310 supports the latest Intel 9th Generation Core series 65-watt LGA1151 processors. ASRock DeskMini 310 adopts with Intel H310 chipset, supports up to 32GB DDR4-2666MHz memory, dual 2.5-inch hard drive and one M.2 (2280) PCIe Gen3 x4 NVMe SSD. ASRock provides various optional accessories of DeskMini 310, includes USB 2.0 cable, VESA mount kit, and Wi-Fi ac kit. With comprehensive accessories, DeskMini 310 can satisfy diverse demands from all users.”
Design and Internals
The DeskMini 310 is a very compact size for its capabilities, and while we have seen smaller mini-STX enclosures this design offers the additional height necessary to use Intel box coolers – which also helps lower the overall build cost if you buy retail CPUs.
It stands 80 mm tall with a square footprint measuring 155 x 155 mm, for a total volume of 1.92L. Front I/O includes a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports – Type A and C – and a pair of 3.5 mm audio jacks for headset and mic input. These are not labeled on the case, curiously enough.
Around back we have the expected I/O selection from a mini-STX motherboard, which primarily differs from mini-ITX in its smaller compliment of available connections due to space constraints – though in this case much of the available room is taken up by ventilation. There are triple display outputs, with a full-size HDMI (1.4), DisplayPort, and VGA output, a pair of USB Type A ports (2.0 and 3.0), Gigabit LAN (Intel I219V), along with the power input and a Kingston lock opening.
The DeskMini 310 is designed to be mounted in three different ways: either horizontally or vertically using the supplied rubber feet, or on the back of a display using the available VESA mounting kit. However you choose to deploy it the process of opening the chassis is the same – as it simply slides open from the rear after removing four screws (there is also the mount for a lock if you wish to add one).
Once inside there is full access to all expansion on the mini-STX board, and the motherboard tray doubles as a dual 2.5-inch drive mount on the underside.
Since we were sent the optional wireless kit I used this in my build, and it includes the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3168 card, a simple 1×1 solution with the 433 Mbps max speed that goes with that spec. The punch-outs on the rear of the case allow for the installation of the wireless kit’s antennae, and the result is a solid connection just about anywhere – and with these installed a vertical orientation makes the most sense.
Performance is a highly subjective topic when discussing a barebone kit, but the core attributes of the DeskMini 310 are solid. The case is sturdy and and opens easily, offering expansion options with punch-outs for additional USB ports and Wi-Fi antennae from the optional wireless kit. Internals are intelligently designed with cutouts on bottom of the motherboard tray for access to the SATA ports, and in general the DeskMini 310 was very easy to upgrade and use.
Processor performance is not limited by the board in my testing with a low-power CPU such as the Intel Core i3-8100, and the case is ventilated enough to keep the processor well under thermal limits with a stock Intel cooler. Internal storage is another standout aspect, as you don’t have to compromise compared to a larger desktop with full throughput from even the fastest current NVMe drives such as the WD SN750 I installed, which hit its 3400+ MB/s capabilities.
Now for the drawbacks:
First, the DeskMini 310’s USB interface is limited to USB 3.1 Gen 1, meaning it can only provide up to 5 Gbps of bandwidth – even from the Type-C port on the front of the system. If you don’t need compatibility with ultra-fast external devices that can make use of the extra bandwidth from USB 3.1 Gen 2 (including 10 Gbps Type-C devices such as M.2 NVMe enclosures) then this won’t be a huge factor, but it’s worth noting.
Second, HDMI output is limited to 4K @ 30 Hz, meaning you would have to connect to a UHD display with DisplayPort to reach the full 60 Hz. This is disappointing for anyone hoping to use this with a 4K TV via HDMI, but it’s the reality of HDMI 1.4 graphics solutions from processors like the Core i3-8100 I was using (ASRock also lists the max 4K refresh at 30 Hz).
While Intel box cooler support is used as a selling point, I tested the fit of another low-profile option, the recently-reviewed SilverStone AR11 cooler. This bigger cooler just fit, though navigating the short Wi-Fi antenna cables from the optional wireless kit around anything larger than the stock Intel heatsink can be tricky depending on the model. Naturally lower-profile coolers such as the ever-popular Noctua NH-L9i would free up vertical space and make such cable routing easier.
Since the DeskMini 310 offers a standard LGA socket users have control of the final experience, with anything from a dual-core to a powerful 8-core system possible without exceeding the 65-watt TDP recommendations. Combine an 8th or 9th-gen Core processor with an NVMe boot drive and up to two additional 2.5-inch storage drives, and you have more than enough PC for just about anyone who doesn’t need internal expansion card support – within the constraints of Intel’s H310 chipset, of course.
Granted, this system will not be much of a 3D gaming option beyond older or more casual titles, and for those interested ASRock has an AMD version with the DeskMini A300 providing Ryzen APU support. But for just about anything else the DeskMini 310 offers an experience that doesn’t really compromise based on its small size.
Mini-STX is a great solution for a small but powerful system, and if you just need a productivity machine or a small server or HTPC this makes a great alternative to something like a Mac mini (which in its most recent iteration has become a $799 Core i3 computer with a paltry 128 GB of storage). The processor socket alone makes this a compelling alternative to smaller mini PCs with soldered CPUs, and at $169.99 this kit can be the basis of a pretty affordable – and capable – system.