Date: Tuesday , October 23, 2018
ASUS ASUS is a company that generally needs no introduction. It is one of the largest and most well-known brands in enthusiast circles. Not only has the company been around for decades, but it has a wide product portfolio with a massive presence in both retail and online outlets. ASUS is one of the most innovative brands in the business with products ranging from motherboards, servers, workstations, routers, laptops, and gaming peripherals to cell phones.
In the last few years, ASUS has expanded its Republic of Gamers brand to include a wider range of products. ROG used to represent only the pinnacle of ASUS’ offerings and technological expertise. Now, the brand has become far more inclusive and price conscious with offerings that still maintain a gaming focus, but, fall into a far more budget friendly price point than the ROG products of old. ASUS has a sort of marketing pyramid that they’ve shown which breaks down how things work. Essentially, ROG is the top of the pile with ROG STRIX covering a mid-range of the gaming spectrum as far as motherboards are concerned.
Such a product is precisely what we will be looking at today. We are big fans of the mini-ITX form factor here. With multi-GPU systems becoming extinct and storage offerings getting cheaper and faster, the need for massive tower chassis is limited to a smaller section of the market.
The ASUS ROG STRIX B360-I GAMING as far as names go is a bit of a mouthful. The ROG STRIX B360-I Gaming is based on Intel’s B360 Express chipset. It uses Intel’s LGA 1151 socket for 8th and 9th generation Core family processors. This is the first time we’ve covered this chipset at all. Given that its part of the 300 series, the processor support is identical to that of the Z370. However, it only supports 12x PCIe lanes at the chipset level, which is down from 24. 12 USB ports are supported compared to Z370’s 14. RAID support is dropped entirely, although Optane support remains.
Generally, mini-ITX based systems have a relatively lean configuration, and therefore the chipset limitations are far less apparent on this platform than on the larger form factors. I’ll cover more of these limitations in each section where applicable. This is far from a feature rich solution, but mini-ITX motherboards can’t really be stripped down entirely as they lack expansion capabilities to offset being too lean. While the chipset is less capable in many areas, you will still find integrated audio, plenty of USB ports, and Intel wired and wireless controllers for connectivity. RGB LED lighting is provided as well for anyone who is interested in that.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The packaging is relatively basic, but that’s not a problem as far as I’m concerned. Inside the box you will find the following items and accessories: User's manual, M.2 2242 mounting kit, 2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s), 2x M.2 Screw Package,1x Supporting DVD,1x ROG Strix stickers, 1x Cable ties pack(s),1x Wi-Fi Antenna(s), 1x Extension cable for Addressable LEDs, and 1x Panel cable. Our sample arrived with all accessories accounted for and without any damage.
The PCB layout is what you would expect from a mini-ITX motherboard. Our PCB sample was marked 1.02. It is the latest version at the time of this writing.
Being a mini-ITX motherboard, the ASUS ROG STRIX B360-I Gaming suffers from the usual layout offenses common to the platform. However, the SATA ports being split in front of and behind the RAM doesn’t have to be the case as we saw recently on another motherboard. As usual, ASUS forces us to drape SATA cables over the RAM if using all the available ports. The CMOS battery isn’t easily accessible, which again is normal for the platform. If you remove the black shroud covering the MOSFET cooling and the I/O panel area, you will find a vertically oriented CMOS battery. There are four 4-pin fan headers, one of which is an AIO pump header. There are also three embedded thermal sensors and one thermal sensor header.
Because there is insufficient space for a POST code LED readout, basic blinking lights akin to dummy lights on some vehicle dashboards are included to decipher POST-code messages. ASUS also employs its "SafeSlot" technology on the expansion card area to prevent PCB warping during graphics card installation. Ordinarily, you would see similar implementations on the DIMM slots as well but not in this instance.
The CPU socket area is clear of any major obstructions. Because this is a budget board, and due to the fact that overclocking isn’t supported, the MOSFET cooling is more modest than what we are used to looking at. You still have to watch it with some air coolers as the DIMM slots are still close to the CPU socket. This is of course, not ASUS’ fault as it’s a limitation of having the memory controller embedded in the CPU.
There are 2x 288-pin DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of DDR4 memory at speeds up to DDR4 2666MHz. Since there are only two slots, color coding each slot doesn’t make any sense. Because of the motherboard’s small stature, ASUS employed single-sided locking tabs for memory module retention.
The chipset is cooled with ASUS’ double decker style heat sink. The chipset cooler sits away from the expansion slot area, so height isn’t too much of a concern. This heat sink has a removable top cover which reveals a hidden M.2 slot. The top cover can then be reinstalled and used as a heat sink for the M.2 drives.
There isn’t much to say about an expansion slot which consists of exactly one PCIe x16 slot. It does use ASUS’ "SafeSlot" reinforcement technology. Essentially, it’s a steel bracket that reinforces the PCB surrounding the expansion slot adding greater strength and resistance to plate bending. On the back of the PCB you’ll find another M.2 slot. Both slots are limited to type 2280 (80mm) long devices. One slot supports PCIe and SATA type devices while the other is for PCIe based devices only.
Thankfully, ASUS opted to use an integrated I/O shield with the ROG STRIX B360-I Gaming. This is welcome on any motherboard regardless of its price point. On the back panel you’ll find a DisplayPort, 1x HDMI port, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 2x USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports, one of which is a Type-C port while the other is a standard type-A port. There are also 2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (red), 5x mini-stereo jacks, 1x optical port, and 1x RJ-45 port. The wireless antenna ports are the larger coaxial style ports. I appreciate these as they are stronger and easier to work with than the other style ports I’ve worked with over the years.