ASRock Q2900-ITX & Intel Pentium J2900 review - HTPC package

PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have brought a resurgence of micro-PCs with mini-ITX and micro-ATX MOBOs that support monstrous Titan-like graphic solutions in tiny form-factors. This made me take a look at HTPC machines, check what they offer to folk on a budget (both in space and finance). I'll be doing so with ASRock's Q2900-ITX motherboard fitted with the Intel Quad-Core J2900.

I know, there are more customizable mini-ITX motherboards on the market, some capable of supporting enthusiast grade processors and full-sized graphic cards. However, while there are HTPC machines designed to rival and even crush consoles, there are also cheaper and smaller machines available, these designed for general media-consumption. These silent, small systems that can handle 1080p video-streaming with ease, but not run Witcher 3 on Ultra (or high, or medium, or even low for that matter).

The Q2900-ITX paired with the Intel J2900 is not a powerful build, and it’s not designed to be fitted with a big graphic-card like GTX 980 or AMD’s R9 290X. However, the quad-core processor features integrated graphics, so it might be able to handle some light gaming & media streaming.

 ASRock Q2900 - Mini ITX chassis

The board supports one PCIe 2.0 x1 port, a mini-PCIe port and three video outputs, namely VGA, DVI and HDMI. For storage it uses 2x SATA ports at 3GB/s, and ASMedia's ASM1061 controller adds an additional pair of SATA at 6GB/s. It can hold up to 16GB (1333/1066) of memory on 2xDDR/DDR3L SO-DIMM slots. It also comes with a Gigabit LAN controller, and 7.1HD audio support (granted, it’s provided by Realtek ALC892, but still a nice addition to such a small form-factor)

Other additions, include 2x USB 3.0 ports on the IO panel, alongside an ASMedia ASM1074 controller adding another USB pair via the on-board header. Overall, it seems that ASRock has designed a small system equipped with what most end-users who want a living-room machine would be looking for. Still, the question now is, how much power does it actually pack? Can it handle 1080p media streaming, gaming, application work? Well, let’s take a look.

Before we go on however, here are some relevant specs. 

ASRock Q2900-ITX & Intel Pentium J2900

CPU

Intel Quad-Core Pentium Processor J2900 (2.41 GHz)

Memory

2 x DDR3/DDR3L SO-DIMM Slots (max capacity 16GB)

BIOS

64Mb AMI UEFI Legal BIOS with GUI support

Graphics

Intel HD 7th Generation - DX11 

Audio

7.1 CH HD Audio with Content Protection (Realtek ALC892 Audio Codec)

LAN

Realtek RTL8111GR (PCIE x1 Gigabit LAN 10/100/1000 Mb/s)

Expansion Slots

1 x PCI Express 2.0 x1 Slot

Storage

2 x SATA2 3.0 Gb/s Connectors
2 x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by ASMedia ASM1061

Rear IO

1 x PS/2 Mouse Port
1 x PS/2 Keyboard Port
1 x D-Sub Port
1 x DVI-D Port
1 x HDMI Port
1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
2 x USB 2.0 Ports
2 x USB 3.0 Ports 
1 x RJ-45 LAN Port with LED
Audio Jacks: Rear Speaker / Central / Bass / Line in / Front Speaker / Microphone

 

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