[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The ASRock Q2900M is a microATX motherboard that comes with a Pentium J2900 “Bay Trail-D” quad-core CPU soldered on it. It has one USB 3.0 and two SATA-300 ports, but its highlights are actually its low power consumption and low cost.

The Pentium J2900 is an SoC (System on a Chip), meaning it has the CPU, GPU, memory controller, and chipset in the same chip. Even with all these components, the chip dissipates only 10 W. Despite its name, the Pentium J2900 is an Atom CPU targeted to desktop computers. It runs at 2.41 GHz (2.66 GHz boost clock) and has 2 MiB of L2 memory cache.

The Bay Trail-D family also has other quad-core (Celeron J1850 and J1900, and Pentium J2850) and dual-core (Celeron J1750 and J1800) models, all of them with a TDP of only 10 W, so you can find similar motherboards based on those other processors too.

You can see the ASRock Q2900M motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the microATX form factor, measuring 8.9” x 7.2” (226 x 183 mm).

ASRock Q2900MFigure 1: ASRock Q2900M motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ASRock Q2900M comes with one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (which actually runs at x1 speed) and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots. This means that the speed of an add-on video card will be limited by the low communication speed of the CPU.

We missed an M.2 (or even an mSATA) slot that would allow us to install an SSD module on the motherboard, and also a Mini PCI Express slot for installing a Wi-Fi card based on this form factor.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 2: slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

The Pentium J2900 CPU can access DDR3L (low voltage) memory up to 1,333 MHz, in dual-channel mode. According to ASRock, the Q2900M supports memories up to 1,333 MHz.

The motherboard has two memory sockets, compatible with both low voltage (1.35 V) and standard (1.5 V) DIMM (desktop) memory modules.

You can install up to 16 GiB on this motherboard if you use two 8 GiB modules.

Obviously, you have to install two memory modules in order to enable dual-channel access, which is recommended if you want to achieve the best performance possible.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 3: memory sockets; install two modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The Pentium J2900 CPU supports two SATA-300 ports, and the ASRock Q2900M motherboard brings only those two ports, as shown in Figure 4.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 4: SATA ports

The Pentium J2900 CPU supports six USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. The ASRock Q2900M offers six USB 2.0 ports, three at the rear panel and three available through two headers located on the motherboard, and one USB 3.0 port at the rear panel.

The motherboard does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports. It has, however, legacy serial an parallel ports, but you need to buy adapters in order to use those ports.

The motherboard supports 5.1 audio format, generated by the processor with the aid of a Realtek ALC662 codec, which offers a signal/noise ratio (SNR) of 98 dB for the analog outputs and 90 dB SNR for the analog inputs, with 24 bit resolution and up to 96 kHz sampling rate. These specifications are reasonable for the market this motherboard is targeted.

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111GR chip.

In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with two PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse, VGA output, DVI-D output, three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI output, one USB 3.0 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, and the shared 5.1 analog audio jacks.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 5: motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”CPU and Voltage Regulator”]

In Figure 6, you can see the voltage regulator of the ASRock Q2900M, which uses only two phases. Since the TDP of the CPU is only 10 W and there are no overclocking options, the voltage regulator circuit is not really critical on this motherboard.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 6: voltage regulator circuit

Figure 7 shows the Pentium J2900 chip without its passive cooler.

ASRock Q2900MFigure 7: CPU

The ASRock Q2900M uses only solid capacitors, and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASRock Q2900M include:

  • Socket: FCBGA1170 (Pentium J2900 2.41 GHz quad-core CPU soldered on the motherboard)
  • Chipset: embedded in the CPU
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6776D
  • Parallel ATA: none
  • Serial ATA: two SATA-300 ports controlled by the CPU
  • External SATA: none
  • USB 2.0: six USB 2.0 ports, three at the rear panel and three available through two headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: one USB 3.0 port, on the motherboard rear panel
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
  • Thunderbolt: none
  • On-board video: Intel HD, embedded in the CPU; one VGA, one DVI-D, and one HDMI connectors
  • On-board audio: produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC662 codec (5.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 96 kHz sampling rate, 98 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs)
  • On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Realtek RTL8111GR chip
  • Buzzer: no
  • Infrared interface: no
  • Power supply required: ATX
  • Slots: one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x1), and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots
  • Memory: two DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1333, 16 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: one three-pin connector for the CPU cooler, and one three-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
  • Extra features: legacy serial and parallel ports
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
  • Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
  • More Information: https://www.asrock.com/
  • Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 104.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The ASRock Q2900M is targeted at users who want to build a quad-core, low-consumption desktop computer, spending as little money as possible. The motherboard has only the already few features of the Pentium J2900 chip: two SATA-300 ports and one USB 3.0 port. It is a lot less than most entry-level motherboards, but it is what you will actually need to build a super-inexpensive desktop computer with one hard disk drive. The lone USB 3.0 port allows you to use a high-speed external drive and also external devices such as digital cameras, tablets, and smartphones.

The CPU TDP of only 10 W is a highlight, since it allows you to save money on the power supply, cooling, and your energy bill.

The only features we actually missed were one M.2 (or even mSATA) slot and a Mini PCI Express slot to install a Wi-Fi card.