The most resounding question asked at CES 2017 after showing AM4 motherboards before launch is “Where are the ITX motherboards?”. That is really all you need to know about how popular ITX options are these days. Especially since it was not possible on AMD’s AM3+ platform with FX CPUs and definitely not going to be possible with AMD TR4 Threadripper motherboards. It is not just about the small size, but the power too. That is why there wasn’t as much demand for mini-ITX FM2+ compared to AM4, because the new Ryzen platform actually has competitive crunching power vs Intel’s offerings.
For their part, Gigabyte now has the AB350N-Gaming WIFI ITX motherboard for Ryzen. It uses a B350 chipset instead of the ITX-specific A320 chipset to give builders better headroom when it comes to performance through overclockability. The B350 chipset also provides all the necessary modern storage connectivity including PCIe x4 NVMe M.2 and USB 3.1 Gen 2 support. Coupled with Gigabyte’s custom audio implementation and RGB LED features, the AB350N-Gaming WIFI packs a lot on a tiny package and a sensible $115 price tag.[sc:sponsor sponsor=”Gigabyte” product_link=”https://www.gigabyte.com/Motherboard/GA-AB350N-Gaming-WIFI-rev-10″ product_name=”GA-AB350-Gaming 3″ product_price=”$114.99″ ]
The AB350N-Gaming WIFI is a compact motherboard, so it only makes sense that its packaging is equally compact. Its packaging style is similar to its full-ATX sized siblings however, having full glossy graphics on the front and back. Most of the back is entirely dedicated to showing off the AB350N-Gaming WIFI’s features.
The contents inside the box are stored in two compartments. The top area contains the motherboard housed inside an anti-static bag and has foam padding surrounding it while underneath all the accessories are individually packed and stored.
Aside from two essential drive disc (one for the WiFi drivers, and one for regular drivers/software), the accessories include two SATA cables, a Gigabyte sticker, an IO shield, and an antenna for the WiFi card. For the documentation, a manual and an installation guide is also included.
There are some concessions here with the accessories bundled in comparison to the larger, more expensive Gigabyte AM4 motherboards. Most notably is the lack of RGB cable extension and Gigabyte G-connector for the front IO. Such accessories would come in really handy on a compact mini-ITX form factor where installation can often be challenging due to the limited space.
Form Factor and Chipset
The Gigabyte GA-AB350N-Gaming WIFI motherboard measures 170 x 170mm and uses a mini-ITX form factor on a 6-layer PCB. There really isn’t any strict layout rules for mini-ITX mainboards so it is up to the manufacturer where to place certain connectors. The only clearance issue they really have to abide by is the CPU socket keep-out zone in order to get the AMD sticker printed on the packaging.
The GA-AB350N’s layout changes the position of the chipset and the power supply. Since the pair of DIMM slots occupy the entire right side edge, the 24-pin power connector is located at the top, while the 8-pin CPU power is located in the middle, directly beside the CPU VRM and CPU socket. The chipset is located on the top left corner where the 8-pin CPU power header usually is.
The SATA ports, USB 3.0 header and front panel headers are all on the top edge as well. The rest of the other headers are closer to the bottom edge. To make room for the WiFi card, it is installed on a vertical slot beside the 8-pin CPU power connector. The battery for the BIOS is also mounted vertically. The m.2 slot is located at the back, which is a typical layout solution for ITX motherboards.