The Best Mini-ITX Motherboards in 2021

Choosing a Mini ITX motherboard comes with compromises. When you’re going for a compact form-factor, you gain mobility and save space, but you lose a lot of those desktop-sized features. The best Mini ITX motherboard is the one that’ll lose the least amount of functionality in the shrinking process. So while you will have to purchase your other components while factoring in some limitations, we’re confident that the right Mini ITX mobo will enable you to build a high-performing, compact gaming rig without you noticing a drop in performance.

In terms of picking out small form-factor components, you’ll have to consider the available PC cases. A lot of the limitations you’re going to be facing will come from there. GPU length and thickness, CPU heatsink height, vertical mounts, PSU size, all of these will ease or increase the difficulty of installing desktop-grade hardware. So, in plainer terms, if you want a small gaming motherboard that’ll squeeze every bit of performance out of your full-sized components, you need a roomy, well-designed Mini ITX case. With that out of the way, it’s time to go through our top five recommendations for the best Mini ITX motherboard spot.

asus rog strix b460-i
  • LGA 1200 socket
  • 2 x DDR4 RAM DIMMs (Max 64 GB DDR4 2933)
  • 4 x SATA ports
  • 2 x M.2 slots
CHECK PRICES

The ROG Strix B460-I from ASUS is an excellent Mini-ITX board for small form factor living room setups or VR rigs, as well as for HTPCs or budget SFF gaming rigs. The B460 chipset is memory limited (max supported memory is DDR4 2933) and it doesn’t support overclocking, but high build quality, Wi-Fi 6, rich rear I/O, and pretty solid VRM make the ROG Strix B460-I a perfect coupling for 10th gen non-K CPUs from Intel.

As for the exact specs, you have four SATA III ports as well as two M.2 slots. The board comes with a single PCIe x16 slot, ROG Supreme HD Audio Codec, and seven USB 3.2 gen1 ports on the back (one of those is USB-C). When it comes to connectivity, the board has a 1Gb LAN port, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5. Overall, a pretty solid board for non-K Intel CPUs.

Pros:
  • Rich Selection Of Ports And Connectivity Options
  • 2 M.2 Slots
  • Perfect For Non-K Intel CPUs
  • Wi-Fi 6
Cons:
  • Memory Limited (DDR4 2933)
  • No Internal USB-C Header

Gigabyte X570 I AORUS Pro WIFI

The Best Mini-ITX Gaming Motherboard

gigabyte x570 i aorus pro wifi
  • AM4 socket (3rd and 2nd Gen Ryzen CPU and APUs)
  • 2 x DDR4 RAM DIMMs (Max 64 GB 4400 Hz O.C.)
  • 6 x SATA ports
  • 1 x PCIe 4.0 x16 slot
  • 2 x M.2 (Socket 3, PCIe 4.0 frontal, PCIe 3.0 on the backplate)
CHECK PRICES

Coming in hot, we have Gigabyte with the X570 AORUS Pro Wifi. I’m not sure why most manufacturers include the “Wifi” in the name since it’s an industry staple with smaller motherboards, but regardless, let’s talk a bit about what this bad boy can do.

For starters, the X570 chipset comes with PCIe 4.0, meaning it’s power-hungry and prone to generate a lot of heat. That’s why you have active cooling options for your PCIe 4.0 Socket 3 M.2 slot. The 8-phase VRM allows you to overclock your multithreaded, multi-core 3rd Gen Ryzen processor and hit stable clockspeeds easily. The overall aesthetic is basic, you have a little bit of RGB, a single addressable RGB header, and a few premium-looking heatsinks.

For a power-hungry setup, including PCIe 4.0 and 3rd Gen Ryzen, the 8-layer PCB ensures an interference-free experience. Bluetooth, Wifi, it’s all there. The same, above-mentioned design issues are present in the X570 I Aorus Pro Wifi. No 90-degree SATA connectors and no vertical 8-pin connector. That being said, the position for the 8-pin connector is a hair better, so you’ll have an easier time routing the cable.

Overall, it’s a solid choice for a high-end Ryzen CPU and has all of the features you’d need for high-end gaming and productivity.

Pros:
  • Great price-performance ratio
  • PCIe 4.0
  • 8-phase VRM
Cons:
  • Pretty bleak design

MSI MEG Z490I Unify Gaming Motherboard

The Best LGA 1200 Mini-ITX Motherboard

msi meg z490i unify gaming motherboard
  • LGA 1200 socket
  • 2 x DDR4 RAM DIMMs (Max 64 GB DDR4 2933)
  • 4 x SATA ports
  • 2 x M.2 slots
CHECK PRICES

The MEG Z490I Unify is a high-end ITX board made for users who want to build an ultimate gaming machine based on powerful 10th gen Intel CPUs. 8-phase VRM design with 90A power stages is good enough to run the 10900K (with limited OC mind you) with other specs being in line with other high-end Mini-ITX boards.

You have four SATA III ports and two M.2 slots. Audio section based on the Realtek ALC12220 Codec. Connection options include a 2.5Gb LAN port, Wi-Fi 6, and Bluetooth 5.1. As for the rear I/O, there’s one Thunderbolt 3 port there but we don’t like the fact the board comes with only five USB ports, two of which are USB 2.0. At least there’s a USB-C Internal header. As for the extra features you have debug LEDs as well as multiple internal RGB headers.

Pros:
  • Excellent VRM
  • Wi-Fi 6
  • Thunderbolt 3 Port On The Rear I/O
Cons:
  • Only Five USB Ports On The Rear I/O
  • Other High-End ITX Boards Have Better Audio Sections

GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX

Excellent Mini-ITX Board For Ryzen 5000 CPUs

gigabyte b550i aorus pro ax
  • LGA 1200 socket
  • 2 x DDR4 RAM DIMMs (Max 64 GB DDR4 5100 O.C)
  • 4 x SATA ports
  • 2 x M.2 slots
CHECK PRICES

The GIGABYTE B550I AORUS PRO AX is an excellent choice for everyone looking to build an SFF rig based around one of the new Ryzen 5000 CPUs. It has an robust 8-phase VRM with 90A power stages, good enough for even the R9 5950X, as long as you don’t overclock it. There are two M.2 slots along with four SATA III ports and support for DDR4 5100 memory.

Connection options include 2.5Gb LAN port, Wi-Fi 6 chip, and Bluetooth 5. The audio section is powered by the Realtek ALC1220-VB Codec. Not perfect but good enough for most users. Finally, the rear I/O includes 2 USB 3.2 gen2 ports (one of those is USB-C), and four USB 3.2 gen1 ports. You also get the BIOS Flash button on the rear I/O but no debug LEDs. Aside from the lack of debug LEDs, the only major downside of this board is the lack of an internal USB-C header.

Pros:
  • Excellent VRM
  • Support For Fast Memory
  • BIOS Flash Button
  • Dual M.2 Slots
Cons:
  • No Debug LEDs
  • Lacks An Internal USB-C Header

GIGABYTE Z490I AORUS Ultra

The Best Mid-Range LGA 1200 ITX Board

gigabyte z490i aorus ultra
  • LGA 1200 socket
  • 2 x DDR4 RAM DIMMs (Max 64 GB DDR4 5000 O.C)
  • 4 x SATA ports
  • 2 x M.2 slots
CHECK PRICES

If you need a quality, mid-range Z490 ITX board for your next build the GIGABYTE Z490I AORUS Ultra should be one of your main candidates. This board has everything most users might need including two M.2 and four SATA III ports, support for DDR4 5000 memory, excellent 8-phase VRM with 90A power stages, and a pretty good audio section powered by the Realtek ALC1220-VB Codec.

On the rear I/O, you can find two USB 3.2 gen2 ports (one is USB-C), four USB 3.2 gen1 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and a BIOS flash button. When it comes to connectivity, you can pick between the 2.5Gb LAN and Wi-Fi 6 and there’s also Bluetooth 5.1 support. The Z490I AORUS Ultra doesn’t come with debug LEDs but it does feature an internal USB-C header.

Pros:
  • Excellent VRM
  • Dual M.2 Slots
  • BIOS Flash Button
  • Internal USB-C Header
Cons:
  • No Debug LEDs

How to Choose a Mini-ITX Board

Choosing a Mini ITX board is, in a lot of ways, the same process as choosing the right ATX motherboard. You think about what features you’ll need and pick a board that matches that, at a price that’s reasonable for your budget.

Be Aware of the Compromises

So, the first thing you’ll be faced with is a compromise. You’ll have limitations in terms of front and rear I/O, although manufacturers have compensated a bit for the lack of options by adding Bluetooth and Wifi as standard features. The only thing you’ll have trouble with is the lack of expansion slots. If you need to use PCIe slots to add things like dedicated sound cards, physics cards, etc, you won’t be able to do that with a Mini-ITX motherboard.

Bad Port Placement = Bad Cable Management

So, cable management is already a bit tricky when you’re working with a small form-factor system. If the motherboard is designed with poor port placement, you’ll have awkward cables, a lot of tension on the PCB and on the plugs. In terms of cable management, Mini-ITX cases are pretty limited. If you want to have an easier time.

Good Power Delivery = Good Overclocking

Overclocking can be a bit hit or miss with Mini-ITX boards. A typical ATX motherboard that’s gaming-designated has this covered, but usually, you can’t really hit high marks using this form factor. Expensive motherboards will allow you to hit solid, high clockspeeds, but you have to dig deep in your pockets to afford that. So, I would argue that a mid-range motherboard is enough if you don’t want to invest in the most expensive CPU and GPU, but if you do want that overkill, compact system, you should pay the premium.

Audio Interference

Because most features are so tightly-packed, you sometimes will get some interference, especially for outgoing audio. Some board fair better, and you usually want one that separates its audio capacitors from the rest of the PCB. Most manufacturers do this, and some do it better. You can experience things like static, crackling, reduced volume output, so if sound quality is very important for you, get a board with a high-layer count PCB.

About The Author

Catalin Tabacu

Catalin is a long-time PC enthusiast and an avid gamer. His love for overclocking is second only to his love for a well-written RPG. Having taken a swing at competitive DOTA2, he has the know-how to give you the best recommendations that will elevate your in-game performance to the next level.

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