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Contemplating a mini-itx gaming build

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June 26, 2012 5:44:59 PM

I'm wanting to build something very small and quiet for gaming purposes. I break out the FPS's from time to time and obviously like running them with the best possible settings.

I don't have any desire (and so far I've seen no need) to overclock and can get very acceptable performance out of a select group of core components.

My questions are:

For those who have built mini-itx systems for gaming: Would you do it again?

Any recommendations on motherboards?

And last... if anyone minds sharing their cooling setup in a mini-itx build, I'd greatly appreciate it.
June 26, 2012 6:06:04 PM

I haven't built a mITX gaming PC myself, but I have helped a friend of mine who was interested in a LAN party, and following mITX build logs. From my experience, it was both fun and frustrating. It is really interesting how compact and powerful they can be. However, it can be difficult, as you need to take account of airflow in your mITX case of choice much more significantly vs ATX cases, CPU coolers of compatibility, the backplates of CPU coolers (certain mITX motherboards don't provide a clearance large enough for the backplate), and so on.

Motherboard recommendations depend on occupation. The new Z77 chipset provided new mITX motherboards capable of overclocking and many other features the previous Z68 chipset mITX MoBos failed to implement properly. AsRock and ASUS have such offerings worth looking at:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Cooling depends a lot on your case, and its cooler clearance. BitFenix's Prodigy is a great looking mITX case that allows from multiple fans to be placed, as well as watercooling potential. To accomplish this, the case becomes larger than most mITX cases. However, if you look at the SUGO Series mITX cases from Silverstone, you are going to see a lot of closed loop watercooling systems from Corsair and Antec. There are a few low-profile coolers that can be used as well such as the Prolimatech Samuel 17.

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June 26, 2012 6:21:35 PM

The Prodigy is exactly the case I was looking at. If you're saying it's larger, perhaps it's not the case for me.

I'm really focused on small and quiet. I wish I had a local Microcenter or some place I could physically look at the cases.

Are you able to elaborate on the closed-loop water cooling cases from Corsair and/or Antec? I'll have a look at the SUGO cases though what I've seen thus far hasn't been visually impressive.

Appreciate the feedback!

AbdullahG said:
I haven't built a mITX gaming PC myself, but I have helped a friend of mine who was interested in a LAN party, and following mITX build logs. From my experience, it was both fun and frustrating. It is really interesting how compact and powerful they can be. However, it can be difficult, as you need to take account of airflow in your mITX case of choice much more significantly vs ATX cases, CPU coolers of compatibility, the backplates of CPU coolers (certain mITX motherboards don't provide a clearance large enough for the backplate), and so on.

Motherboard recommendations depend on occupation. The new Z77 chipset provided new mITX motherboards capable of overclocking and many other features the previous Z68 chipset mITX MoBos failed to implement properly. AsRock and ASUS have such offerings worth looking at:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Cooling depends a lot on your case, and its cooler clearance. BitFenix's Prodigy is a great looking mITX case that allows from multiple fans to be placed, as well as watercooling potential. To accomplish this, the case becomes larger than most mITX cases. However, if you look at the SUGO Series mITX cases from Silverstone, you are going to see a lot of closed loop watercooling systems from Corsair and Antec. There are a few low-profile coolers that can be used as well such as the Prolimatech Samuel 17.

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June 26, 2012 6:29:00 PM

Yes I would do it again. But to me, my Mini-ITX machine is a portable desktop, it doesn't really make sense to have a stationary gaming desktop and have it be mini-ITX. My stationary desktop has an older CPU but a better graphics card (for three monitor eyefinity) than my portable desktop. Gaming is however, still a priority on the portable.

If you are considering Mini-ITX for a stationary gaming desktop, then don't bother. Use a nice spacious tower with plenty of places for airflow. Mini-ITX gaming rigs have such little airspace left in the case that the fans (which are often smaller and definitely less numerous) have to spin faster and without careful design this means more noise.

I'm not going to list everything, but if you interested in my build (sorry no pics), click the links and look for my reviews (Larkspur) for additional info. My portable Mini-ITX Desktop:
-A lightly-modded Lian-Li PC-TU200 Mini-ITX Case: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
-Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe (Best mini-ITX board for overclocking): http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
-Intel 3770k @4.5ghz
-Corsair H80 (This was absolutely essential since the case wouldn't fit a decent air cooler. I mounted the radiator at the front of the case with push/pull)
-A lightly modded (for better system cooling) Seasonic M12-II atx 620w
-Radeon 5870 1gb (A leftover from a prior build)

With regards to cooling - it depends on the case entirely and whether you are OCing and how you are cooling the CPU. When using powerful graphics cards in small cases with missing or inadequate exhaust/intake fans then you can mod the case and add some fans for better airflow and/or use the 'blower-type' graphics cards that exhaust all their air out the back slot. Blower-types are usually louder though and usually don't run their chips as cool.
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June 26, 2012 6:32:26 PM

I thought I might add that my current system/case is a Coolermaster Cosmos 1000... which is extremely nice... but huge, and can get loud at times.
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June 26, 2012 6:50:28 PM

newbcakes said:
The Prodigy is exactly the case I was looking at. If you're saying it's larger, perhaps it's not the case for me.

I'm really focused on small and quiet. I wish I had a local Microcenter or some place I could physically look at the cases.

Are you able to elaborate on the closed-loop water cooling cases from Corsair and/or Antec? I'll have a look at the SUGO cases though what I've seen thus far hasn't been visually impressive.

Appreciate the feedback!

The dimensions of the Prodigy are : 250 x 404 x 359mm
The dimensions of the SUGO 8 are: 222 x 190 x 351mm

There is a significant difference in height. Also, I was referring to Antec's and Corsair's watercooling systems, not cases.

Larkspur made a good point on mITX machines being portable desktops; because of their size and capacity to hold high-end hardware, they appeal to those on the move, such as those who attend LAN parties. I think you should consider microATX form factor if you are interested in small and quiet. They offer performance in a compact size without sacrificing much on cooling and performance.
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June 26, 2012 7:02:58 PM

newbcakes said:
I thought I might add that my current system/case is a Coolermaster Cosmos 1000... which is extremely nice... but huge, and can get loud at times.


Well I wouldn't necessarily go smaller to get quieter. Obviously results may vary. My Mini-ITX build when gaming is just slightly louder (it's that 5870 which is right near a vent) than my desktop (Antec P183 with a Asus DCII 6970). If you haven't already, you might try using a fan controller with your Cosmos, or use the motherboard headers and software to better tune your fan speeds for quieter operation. Using high-quality very quiet fans (I mostly use Noctua fans) might also help.

The biggest noise when gaming with your Mini-ITX gaming build will be the graphics card (if you are cooling with air). It's hard to muffle a GPU cooler without restricting it's airflow and making it even louder when its fan spins higher to compensate. So keep that in mind when planning.
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a b 4 Gaming
June 26, 2012 7:06:18 PM

silverstone make mini ITX cases with a 600 watt psu and room for full length double slot graphics cards

SG07 , or SG08
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June 26, 2012 7:10:55 PM

AbdullahG said:
I think you should consider microATX form factor if you are interested in small and quiet.


Yes I totally agree. BTW that Bitfenix Prodigy you guys mentioned looks pretty sweet. Looks a little too much like a smaller version of the Mac Pro, but the lines and layout looks great. If I ever win the lottery, I think I'd just build mini-ITX systems all day!
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June 26, 2012 9:12:57 PM

Thanks everyone.
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July 3, 2012 12:04:39 AM

Best answer selected by newbcakes.
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