Build It: Half-Height Gaming PCs For The Living Room

Conclusion: Half-Height, Full Gaming

We originally set out to see just how tiny we could make a gaming PC outfitted with PowerColor’s half-height Radeon HD 5750. In the end, space and power restrictions prevented us from putting this card in something as small as an Xbox 360 slim.

All was not lost though, and we still managed to build a couple of fairly useful configurations. In-Win’s Wavy case is close to the size of the Xbox 360 slim, and when combined with Asus’ M4A88T-I Deluxe mini-ITX motherboard and a half-height Radeon HD 5570, can handle respectable frame rates at 720p in some fairly demanding titles. This PC might take up a little more space than a nettop, but it’s still a very small package. Thanks to the desktop-class Phenom II X3 705e CPU, 750 GB Western Digital Black hard disk, 4 GB of Mushkin RAM, and Radeon HD 5570 graphics card, it performed much faster than any nettop available.


After a little searching, we were also able to find a suitable home for the half-height PowerColor Radeon HD 5750 in the Moneual MonCaso 312 case, a slick enclosure with a classic home theater appearance and a bundled remote. Equipped with an Athlon II X4 645 CPU and complemented by PowerColor’s half-height Radeon HD 5750, this system handles 1080p gaming, no problem. What more could you ask for from an entertainment-oriented HTPC?

We know that there are far more powerful gaming PCs that make use of the flexible cube form factor, often enabling powerful SLI and CrossFire configurations. But while the cube offers the most powerful mix of diminutive size and gaming performance, half-height systems offer an alternative that are almost certainly a better fit in the living room. As our builds both demonstrate, a half-height form factor can be configured to bring high-definition gaming to your television, in addition to the exceptional HD media playback we already expect from HTPCs.

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64 comments
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  • Poisoner
    This is an interesting article and goes a direction where nVidia has no way to compete.
    -2
  • nevertell
    I'd mod a case and mount my videocard horizontally.
    -1
  • dirtmountain
    Good article and an interesting read. You can get a half height GTS450. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814261078
    0
  • fatkid35
    awesome article. i love small pc's! my silverstone sg05 is modded with a 600 watt psu and 6870 stuffed inside.
    2
  • shovenose
    the antec sp-400 has issues! it has lousy fuhjyyu capactiros that fail even just sitting there. i suggest you find a different psu!
    -1
  • cleeve
    shovenosethe antec sp-400 has issues! it has lousy fuhjyyu capactiros that fail even just sitting there. i suggest you find a different psu!


    I've been using this one in my main HTPC for a couple years now at least. Haven't had any problems.
    0
  • Mr_x
    Typo on Test Systems And Benchmarks
    AMD Phenom II X4 705e isn't it x3???
    1
  • carlhenry
    that's weird, a 160w power supply powering up a 5570? (and you also intended to slap in the 5750 there?) did i miss something?
    1
  • dEAne
    Looking for a case like that is next to impossible - but for a 160W wow I never have though of that, it gives me another idea. thanks tom.
    0
  • Th-z
    Thanks for the article. I have a question, where do you find quality small PSU? If you want to go as small as you can, one would need to use small PSU. But it seems they are scarce in terms of wattage selection and brand, no where comparing to standard ATX PSU.

    Many small mini-ITX cases do include a small PSU, but what if you want to mod the PSU, or the included one breaks down? Falling back to standard ATX PSU would have to use a bigger mini-ITX case.
    0
  • Onus
    Lian Li makes some very nice mini-itx cases that are not limited to half-height cards. I have a GTX460 in my PC-Q08R, using the ECS mobo that Tom's included in a value roundup of LGA1156 boards.
    Too big? The PC-Q07 only has a single slot for the video card, but that would take the single-slot HD5770 that XFX makes: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814150501 . Both cases will take a full sized ATX PSU; I would suggest a modular one, such as the 550W Antec Truepower New I am using in mine.
    1
  • skora
    Forget small and make an aquarium mineral oil HTPC with fake fish and all.
    2
  • ethaniel
    You should try some PCI Express risers next time, see if there's any performance penalty by using them...
    1
  • Onus
    By the way, I found this article very interesting. Anyone can build a tower that is a reasonably competent gamer. "Smaller, quieter, less power" don't get the attention they deserve; these are ways to differentiate a PC.
    4
  • fozzie76
    I wonder if your mini-ITX wavey case has fewer square inches then my Silverstone SG05? Yes the wavey is shorter, but it's also wider and longer, so which really has the smaller footprint?
    0
  • fozzie76
    Tom's really needs a modder on staff. Are you all afraid of dremel's and wiring your own plugs or something? You could have totally shaved down that plug and made it fit! Mini-ITX systems take work and hours of modding. SFF systems take lots of time and love. Link to my baby below.. Mini-ITX SG05 with an i3-530 capable of 4.4ghz (currently at 4.0), a Corsair H50, 4gb of crucial tracer, a HIS IceQ 5770, modded a window and an UV light kit. Had to mod the CD bezel to get the H50 in also. Just give them a little time and don't be afraid to void some warranties!
    Link to by baby
    0
  • K2N hater
    Don, maybe you could get a good video card with passive heatsink and try to build a silent (or really quiet) box? I'm after a new gaming PC but I'm tired of noisy fans and huge cases...
    0
  • wiyosaya
    PoisonerThis is an interesting article and goes a direction where nVidia has no way to compete.

    dirtmountainGood article and an interesting read. You can get a half height GTS450. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6814261078

    There are also plenty of half-height NVidia GT 430s out there http://www.pricewatch.com/gallery/video_cards/geforce_gt_430
    0
  • mister g
    We're talking about how the 450 can somehow fit in an HTPC and still work with the small PSU, of course 430s are available in low-profile form their the lowest 400 series card available.
    0
  • scook9
    Antec has a few great cases for this purpose.....
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129040
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129039

    Personally, I went full height and have my "gaming" htpc in a Fusion 430 Black
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811129054

    That case takes full height cards and full ATX power supplies. I have a 4890 in it with a Corsair HX650 and an Asus P5Q-EM with a Q9550. You could easily get one of the x58/p55 motherboards that supports SLI/CF too to get some considerable power into that footprint
    0