First of all thanks to Toms and the community for an a great resource over the years. This may sound like a slightly odd topic but I could not find much information on what high-perfomance components can and cannot fit inside a mATX case and also on what girls might like in a PC. My wife had a Dell Studio XPS (13") which she liked for the form factor but, as it turns out, cannot run games to save its outsourced and overpriced life so, after she kept borrowing my PC to play games, we decided to build her one that would suit her tastes but also play modern games and be upgradable. Tomshardware has helped me with every build I have made so, in the spirit of giving something back I think this is an under-done topic.
What is important to girls? This depends on the girl of course, my wife is into RPGs and FPS games, loved WoW and AoC and currently plays a lot of Borderlands, she also likes games like Sims3 and Monkey Island, so,to run everything, this PC needed to be powerful. But never mind the games themselves, the looks are all important - nice screen (but needs to be "pretty") and a small form factor were the pre-requisites, she hates my huge Coolermaster HAF and will probably never understand why having a spoiler on top and red lights makes the PC better. But she plays games and was willing to try building her own rig so all is forgiven.
All the parts were bought in the computer centres of Hong Kong so the prices came out about mid-way between UK and US prices (5% or so more expensive than Newegg). As an aside, anyone visiting HK is encouraged to go through the Golden Shopping Arcade or the Wanchai Computer Centres, it's like being a kid in a candy shop.
A note on mATX - not all cases can fit full-length cards, I had to shop around a bit first, I really like the look of the In-Win cases like the Dragon Slayer ( http://www.inwin-style.com/website/pd/pd_detail.php?iw_... ) but they are sadly not available here. Additionally, not all cases can fit an ATX PSU and the mATX ones are all a bit puny, so you need to do homework on the case almost above anything else. Airflow is obviously more important than with the full towers as well. I have put in some pictures below so you can see how tight it is, if I ever do have to add a second GPU things may get ugly (and hot - not a good combination in any context).
Components as follows (linked to Newegg out of interest purely, as I said, all purchased in HK):
Sapphire ViperX HD 5870 1GB - same as in my full ATX tower PC for X-Fire in down the line when the 6000 line comes out for the mATX PC (seems safer from a space and heat point of view than X-fire in a mATX case although it is possible and would fit. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Intel 160GB X25M G2 SSD - I have two 80Gb drives in RAID 0 in my main rig, 80Gb just wasn't enough so I had to buy another 80Gb as I have a number of programs and my Steam install on the C Drive (probably should move Steam to be honest). http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Coolersmaster fans X2 - I started off without these but it was getting a bit hot, the Mobo does a nice job of fan control with the ASUS software keeping them quiet most of the time (except games). Sneaked some LED fans in too while Stella wasn't watching. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
Card reader - girls like to put SD cards and things in to upload to Facebook.
Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium OEM
Price: a little under $2000
Fitting it in:
The case (PSU installed)
The first screw...
We had to install everything this twice (Stella not impressed) because I forgot the CPU cooler has a strut to be fitted on the bottom of the Mobo but it all fitted better the second time. I'd recommend installing extra fans in this case, it only comes with one at the back (sucking out), so we installed one more at the front (sucking in) and one on the side (sucking out) I'm by no means a master of case airflow but the temperatures are good - tested CPU 50, Mobo 34, GPU 55 at load.
Mobo is lovely
We installed the PSU first of course, a word of advice is to work out what power cords you need and put them in first too unless you have small fingers. Then stick in the Hard Drives, DVD drives etc. as there is not going to me much room once the Mobo and RAM are in. Install the RAM, CPU and CPU cooler before installing the Mobo, it just fits better and there's less fiddling. Next put the various case USB cords etc, SATA connecters and power cords for HDD/DVD, best to tie these all together to keep them out of the way. Finally install the wireless and the GPU, once the GPU is in it's not going to be easy to make changes so ensure everything else is done, hook up the GPU and system power and it's time to see if it works. Oh and the side fan was a pain because the power cord was only just long enough to attach to the Mobo leaving some room to maneuver the case.
Everything inside with room for X-fire if really necessary
And a happy wife
It runs like a charm and Stella's a happy girl. It definitely runs hotter than my main rig and the fans are far more noticeable but, unless you need lots of components in your PC then the mATX form factor is great and I would recommend it, no complaints and it's easy to cart around too. And yes, I have no wire management skills. Comments/Questions welcome.
that's why i hate micro atx cases they're small but very bad cable management inside =( but i guess if you don't care about that kinda stuff they're great. I love my full tower atx cases because of their cable management and air flow and they're easy to work with on the inside. i guess i am just picky about the inside of my case lol. good read tho
few things i would of changed myself would be changed to a p55 mobo, and an i5/i7. i know a couple micro atx motherboard with 2pci express slots and use the money you saved p55 setup (mobo, cpu, ram) and get two 460 gtx 1gb instead. I don't think it's worth getting a x58 system unless you plan on using 3-4 video cards. other small things i might of done differently might of got a different cpu cooler, different ram( i love corsair and use them myself but gskill has some better timing ones for just as cheap) and maybe a different ssd and case. I love the the following cases:
+1 for full tower cases. For things like LAN parties and the likes, a full tower ATX (think HAF 932) would king of get in the way. I guess for things like that, a small mATX case will make sense. Imo, a mid tower would have been a better choice.
Great photos! I didn't happen to notice if there was any hardware shown, but no matter . . .
I stuffed an i3 530, itx, SSD, into a CoolerMaster Elite 100 because my wife wanted the "tower" behind the monitor, too. She need small, "pretty", but isn't a gamer . . . the tiny case runs amazingly cool . . . she's happy so I am at peace . . . no surprise the larger CoolerMaster served the same ends for a gamer.
As others have said, an i5 750 might have been a "cooler" choice. And if you go 5870 xfire you might need a thicker cable to connect it to that 22" monitor lol. I'd have been satisfied with a 460.
But its a cool . . . er, neat little system, and thanks for sharing the story.