Skip to main content

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

How Low Can You Go?

Tiny nettop HTPCs are great for playing back HD video, but they aren’t able to tackle demanding games at high resolutions because they lean too heavily on integrated graphics. We've always been intrigued by the possibility of a tiny PC that can handle media playback in addition to late-night frag fests, so when PowerColor introduced a half-height flavor of its Radeon HD 5750, we got excited about the possibility of squishing significant graphics power into a tiny PC.

With 700/1150 MHz core/memory speeds, PowerColor's Radeon HD 5750 runs at AMD's full reference specification, despite its half-sized PCB. The only physical feature that betrays its power within is a dual-slot cooler.

We’re well aware of powerful gaming PCs that use the small cube form factor, but we want to see if we can push the size limit even harder. Can we build a machine capable of gaming at 1080p as small and thin as the new, slimmer Xbox 360?

We know that smaller systems require careful planning. Even when we put our System Builder Marathon machines together, we run into compatibility issues--and that's with full-sized ATX platforms. The smaller you go, the more complicated things can get, though. What we didn’t know--until we tried--is that a successful half-height build can be far more involved than you might otherwise imagine.

  • Poisoner
    This is an interesting article and goes a direction where nVidia has no way to compete.
    Reply
  • nevertell
    I'd mod a case and mount my videocard horizontally.
    Reply
  • dirtmountain
    Good article and an interesting read. You can get a half height GTS450. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814261078
    Reply
  • fatkid35
    awesome article. i love small pc's! my silverstone sg05 is modded with a 600 watt psu and 6870 stuffed inside.
    Reply
  • 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!
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Mr_x
    Typo on Test Systems And Benchmarks
    AMD Phenom II X4 705e isn't it x3???
    Reply
  • 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?
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply