Board Layout and Pictures
The Impact has to be the busiest motherboard I have ever seen. Asus took an already cramped motherboard and just completely packed it full of features. It’s almost like a scene out of a James Bond movie, someone dropped off a Mini-ITX motherboard and then a whole stack of features as requirements then before they left they said oh by the way we want this audio card, this wireless card, and the power circuitry from our ATX board. They did stick with the red and black theme that all ROG boards have giving the board a little style.
The cooling on Mini-ITX boards is typically very minimum. You can see that as well on the Impact, the chipset heatsink above the PCI slot is tiny, just an inch tall. Where the Impact is different from the competition is in its power circuitry though. Most ITX boards will just cut back on power due to the limited space. Asus uses a riser board at the top of the board to avoid having to cut back. The Impact Power II features NexFET MOSFETs and BlackWing Chokes. They also use Japanese made 10k Black Metallic Capacitors. You end up with an 8+2 power design. This isn’t even in the same world as the competition. This means that the Impact will have the stability and overclockability that ROG boards are known for. To keep things cool Asus uses a black powder coated heatsink on the riser card. To give it a little styling they also put a plate overtop with red trim and the ROG logo machined in silver.
Okay let’s take a close look at things starting at the top left corner of the board. Asus didn’t let any space go to waste on the Impact, a great example of this is right behind the rear I/O panel. They slipped in the TPM header as well as the header for the Impact CoolHub that I will cover father down the page. Also in the top left corner is our first four pin PWM fan header, this one is labeled for the CPU fan. The rest of the top left corner is taken up by the large power riser and the CPU socket itself.
The top right is also largely dominated by the CPU socket and the power riser. We do however get our two DDR3 DIMMs in a nice ROG red. I really like that Asus put the 8-pin CPU power here right next to the 24-pin motherboard power. This is a much cleaner look and easier to plug the CPU power in, I would love to see this become popular on larger boards as well.
Down in the bottom right corner we have a little more going on. To the left of the RAM DIMMS we have four SATA 3 ports. Over along the right edge Asus included a nice red power button as well as a small reset button. Below that is our second four pin PWM fan header and then a red USB 3.0 header. Last but not least is the front panel connection. Look at just how close Asus packed everything together here, the gaps between the different headers are almost non-existent.
Down in the bottom left corner under the rear I/O panel we can see the headers for the mPCIe Combo IV and the audio card. Asus also slipped in a small row of ProbeIt Measurement Points for overclockers just under the audio card. This is something we just never see on a Mini-ITX card, they normally never overclock well. There is also a USB 2.0 internal header back behind the rear I/O panel that is shared with the ROG Extension connection.
Down along the bottom edge we get a full PCIe x16 slot. It’s not something you think of when just looking over the Impact but I did run into a slight issue with the placement of the two RAM slots along with the PCIe slot. As you can see the ram locks are tight up against the PCIe lock. This means that with a video card installed you might not be able to replace the RAM and more importantly it is going to be very hard to unlock the video card with or without ram installed. Typically the non-latch locks would do the job here but in order to be able to fit the power riser card they were already used on the top of the DIMMs. I’m not sure there is a better option here so I can’t fault Asus too much, but it is something to keep it mind.
The rear I/O panel on the Impact is an interesting one. Typically most boards have a few USB 2.0 or PS2 ports on the left for keyboard a mouse connections but Asus moved things around slightly and on the left we have a full sized DisplayPort and HDMI along with a SPDIF Out for hooking up to your home audio system or an on desk audio solution. Next to that is yet another riser card, this one is called the Impact Control. Here you have your Q-Code readout for figuring out errors. Having this here is much easier than having to open up your case to see what the problem is. To the right you have a clear CMOS button and below it a ROG Connect button. The two other buttons are Impact specific though. The button directly below the LED panel is the Sonic Soundstage button and below it is the button that turns on Keybot. For Keybot I have included an image below, Asus has integrated a microprocessor that will let you assign macros to your F1-F10 keys, even if your keyboard doesn’t support macros. In addition, you can also use key combos to instantly overclock your CPU, turn on XMP, and even boot directly into the BIOS.
Moving to the right of the Impact Control PCB, we have a total of eight USB connections. That breaks down to four USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 ports. It might seem silly but I like that Asus staggered the connections so you don’t have more than two of each type together, there is a good chance they did this intentionally. What this means is if you have any thick USB devices they won’t block everything. Therefore, you could plug in more than one USB 3.0 flash drive for example while still having your mouse and keyboard hooked up. You also get a single legacy PS2 port. Its surprising to see this included but I welcome it, Model M keyboard fans will be very happy. Lastly, we have the Intel I218-V NIC with Languard. What is Languard? Well Asus build in ESG guards into the NIC to help protect your motherboard from lightning strikes that come in through your Ethernet cable.
With the Impact flipped over we can really see just how much Asus packed into the board. There isn’t an open area on the PCB that doesn’t have something going on. We can also get a better look at the flat black PCB that they went with as well.
The first of the Impacts three removable add in cards is the SupremeFX Impact II audio card. Asus has been known for great audio cards for years now and over the past few years they have been innovating onboard audio options. For the Impact, there just isn’t enough room to include a good audio option on the board at Asus standards. To fix this they have the add in board, this keeps your audio separate from the motherboard for the best audio quality. The board plugs into a header and then attaches with two screws to keep it secure. So what do you get with SupremeFX Impact II? Well for one they have a feature called Sonic Sense Amp that detects your headphone impedance and automatically adjusts the gain of the built-in amp to best suite your headset.
For hardware, you get the same ALC1150 audio card that the original Impact had. Asus still has ELNA premium audio capacitors as well. This time around though you get a hardware EQ. They did add additional features in the software, specifically Sonic Studio. They also built in what they are calling Sonic Soundstage, a hardware based sound surround technology for front panel headphones. You can turn this on using the button on the control panel on the rear I/O panel. Speaking of that, I didn’t have the audio card installed when I took the rear I/O panel picture but you get three rear audio connections. The top one is a line-in, the middle a line-out, and the bottom is a microphone in. On the PCB itself there is also a front panel header as well.
Just next to the PCIe slot Asus included a header to plug their new mPCIe Combo IV into. The combo card has both a Mini PCIe slot and an M.2 slot. They fit both on the card by putting one on each side of the PCB. The mPCIe slot comes filled with wireless card that supports up to wireless AC speeds. Where things get interesting is the M.2 slot, the M.2 slot supports type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices with up to a x4 speed. The original Impact just supported a 2242 type with a x1 speed. If you are looking for the cutting edge in storage speed you can get it on this board.
With both devices plugged in we can see just how tight things are against the PCI slot. It is also interesting to note that the mPCIe Combo IV has two mounting options, you can attach it to your rear I/O panel or to the motherboard. You only get one screw, so you have to pick between the two. I would prefer if they let you do both to keep it more secure. For my situation I wouldn’t have a rear I/O panel for our case so I went with the bottom screw mount but it was obvious right away that the board still flexes around a lot. Using both mount locations would help this or even better having a second screw mount on the left side to keep it stable would be great.
While the other two add on cards are really cool, the original Impact did have variations of both, with left features of course. The one add in board that Asus added this time is the CoolHub. What the CoolHub does at its core is add two additional 4-pin PWM fan headers to the Impact. That gives you a total of 4 when you include the two already on the board. Additionally CoolHub gives you an option to put the board into LN2 mode, turning this on will help the board post at sub-zero temperatures.
When gathering components for our new LAN rig that would be featuring the Impact I decided to stick with the black and red theme of the Impact and also of the In Win D-Frame. When I went looking for RAM I took a peak at what Kingston had to offer and came across a new set that I fell in love with. Their new Savage RAM is available in red with a black PCB. When they came in I just had to feature them along with the Impact because frankly I don’t think you can get a better combination. Just look at how great the kit looks in the board below!