ASRock DeskMini GTX/RX 1060 Micro-STX build


Case Bender
Original poster
Aug 15, 2019
Last night, I built this very tiny (2.7L) micro-STX Deskmini with GTX 1060 MXM. I'm very happy with it and will likely make it my daily driver.

I'm still not sure how to inline pictures on this forum, so here's a link to the album:

Some general comments...

First off, thanks to ASRock for introducing this form factor. It's much quicker to build than an ITX and I like being able to move the system around my home or elsewhere at my convenience. I really wish MXMs would take off (they won't) because the combination of M.2, MXM, and SO-DIMM enables some very small desktop systems.

I know that it's basically a laptop, but I do like to have a larger monitor in the home. Yeah, I know I can hook my laptop up to the monitor too, but with 3 M.2 slots? And that right there is the reason I went for this machine. I can install an FPGA (like an Aller Artix-7) and an AI module like the Intel Movidius Myriad X (AAeon makes one) in the available M.2 slots and have a very interesting heterogeneous development box about the size of my hand. To do this properly I'd need to replace the NVMe SSD with a M.2 SATA 6 SSD, but that's no big sacrifice. I don't know of any laptop that can do that.

The upgrade potential of the Deskmini is overrated though. For that to be the case, I'd have to be able to replace the motherboard (who sells micro STX?) and the MXM (good luck finding any Pascal or better MXM for under $1000, and then you'd need a BIOS and firmware upgrade). So what we have here is a computing appliance.

I recommend if anyone gets one of these to get the GTX 1060 version and use a "T" class Intel processor (35W parts). I used an i5-7400T and with both fans on "Silent" in the BIOS the case make zero noise. You have to press your ear to the top grill to even detect a faint sound and even that's a stretch. Temperatures are 51C for the CPU, 46C for the M/B and 46C for the MXM. I personally don't see the point of having a tiny system like this that sounds like a helicopter and doubles as a space heater.

I had a few annoyances with this build...

I intended to use the Thermaltake Engine 17 for the cooler. However, once I removed the 5 screws to detach the motherboard, I realized how small and thin the I/O shield was. There was no way I was going to pop out that I/O shield without damaging either the board, the shield, or the chassis. After a few close calls, I gave up and went with the stock Intel cooler, which just snaps on from above in 2 seconds. The Engine 17 required I get under the M/B and attach the back plate. Easier said than done.

There is a tiny orange film over the Wifi M.2 screw socket that you have to notice and peel off with your fingernail. It's almost impossible to see. Do that before you try to put the screw in to save yourself some grief. I don't recall ever encountering this practical joke in past builds.

You must punch two holes out of the case to feed the SMA connectors through for the wifi antennas. But realize you must align the flat surface of the SMA connectors with the flat edge left over after snapping off the metal tabs. The instructions mention it but it's easy to miss when you are in a hurry. You won't get those to fit without careful alignment.

Speaking of the wifi-card, how about those pigtail connectors? Expect to spend at least 20 minutes using your chubby fingers to get those tiny wires attached to the wifi-card connectors. Half of my build time was trying to get those connectors aligned and attached. So yes, you will struggle with both ends of those wifi pigtails. Maybe ASRock can install those at the factory to save users the grief.

Finally, the power cord on the external power supply was a CEE 7/7 (Schuko) plug type. I had plenty of spare US power cords lying around, so that was no big impediment, but I was surprised to notice this just when I went to plug in the system and boot it for the first time.

There is a chassis lock that you can attach, but I didn't bother installing it.

What I really like...

The BIOS looks great especially after you flash the upgrade. I could not get the Internet flash upgrade to work with my wifi network but ethernet does work and you'll definitely need the updates as it include microcode fixes for Kaby Lake. Anyway, you'll have complete control over every aspect of the system from the BIOS and it's all organized very nicely. You'll want to set both internal fans to silent mode while you're there.

The box is tiny. It's hard to appreciate how small this system is until you hold in your hand. It's like 2 cans of beer but with more FLOPS. And it's so quiet you will not be sure that it's actually been turned on. The front LEDs are very subtle. You get a pinpoint blue LED for flash activity and a pinpoint white LED for power. None of this bright blue spotlight nonsense that lights up the entire room (though there is an RGB header if you're into bling).

Three M.2 slots with two supporting PCIe. This will allow you attach various accelerators to expand/upgrade the system. And let's face it, that's all the expandability you're going to get with this machine.

Anyway, I installed Pop_OS! in about 15 minutes. The machine is a fantastic development machine and pound for pound my new favorite "mobile" desktop.

I really hope ASRock keeps this product line alive, even with the problems associated with sourcing MXMs, because I think the form factor blows away ITX. It's what ITX should have been in my opinion.
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