I'm looking to build a new computer ($900-950) and I'm trying to decide on a form-factor, I realize that anything out of a standard ATX mid-tower is going to run into a lot more compatibility and fit problems than ATX builds.
I want a small tower that's going to be very easy to move to LAN events/friend's houses. A mid-tower just feels too big for me, so I've looked at the dimensions of example Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX cases on Newegg and tried visualizing the size with a ruler, however it's still hard to get a visual grasp of the size of the different standards, so my questions are:
- Does anyone have a good visual chart/graph of the different sizes, a picture of cases lined up is fine.
- Just how much more prone to fit/size problems are Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX builds compared to ATX?
- How much harder are PSUs/Mobos/Cases to find for Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX?
- What are the advs and disadvs between Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX?
- Any example cases/PSUs that are good?
Cases do not follow any standard when it comes to mini-ITX vs. microATX vs. ATX. Mini-ITX cases range from the larger cases intended for desktops (or portable desktops) like the Bitfenix Prodigy or Lian Li PC-TU200, to tiny little things intended for HTPCs.
MicroATX is pretty much just as easy as an ATX build. Some of the really small Micro cases are challenging if you are trying to SLI/XFire or water cool, but Micro is much more popular and cases and boards are inexpensive and widely available.
When you want something more than an HTPC, the Mini-ITX form factor can be a challenging build. Depending on how small, light, and powerful you want it, every millimeter starts to count. The case often needs a mod of some kind - so I stick with aluminum and that drives up the cost of the case. If you OC the CPU, depending on the case, you may want to go with a sealed water cooling unit since fitting an aftermarket air heatsink in a mini-ITX case can sometimes be impossible given certain dimensions. Power supplies depend on the case - some take full ATX and others use the smaller form factors.
For Mini-ITX you can forget SLI/XFire because you only get one x16 size PCIe slot. But this doesn't mean you can't enjoy the goodness of a GTX 690
Typical mini-ITX boards have not overclocked as well as microATX, though I would contend that the Asus P8Z77-I Deluxe mini-ITX board has come much closer.
My advice: If you are an experienced builder who wants a bit of a challenge building something small but powerful then have some fun with mini-ITX. Start planning by picking a case. They are all a bit different so look around. The Bitfenix Prodigy has a good internal layout - should be a relatively easy build (however it does look a lot like a small-sized Mac Pro). Not sure if it's yet available or not.
Otherwise - microATX is much easier, less expensive and can still be small enough to be portable. You really don't give up much from full-sized ATX. There are some solid, well-known boards in micro that will definitely deliver. For most people I would definitely suggest MicroATX over mini-ITX, but it really depends on you.