Building A Liquid-Cooled MicroATX Gaming Monster

You don't need a massive case to cram in tons of computing muscle. With a little help from a few manufacturers, our excessively-overclocked GeForce GTX 580 SLI build is small enough to sit atop most desks (and smoke our $2000 SBM machine).

It's not uncommon for PC enthusiasts to gravitate toward enormous cases that sit under their desks. Not only do those enclosures command attention, but they also have the extra space for installing add-ins and keeping them nice and cool.

And yet, our own case comparisons prove that extra space doesn't always translate into better airflow. Moreover, even a majority of enthusiasts don’t add more than a trio of three hard drives to their potent builds.

With that in mind, we're going to try something different today.

Harangued by lovers of multifaceted fascias, bright lights, and big windows, we decided to see how far we could push performance, while keeping our box's footprint as unassuming as possible.

As a frame of reference, we're comparing today's effort to our recent $2000 System Builder Marathon configuration. And like that build, we begin today's tale with a lovingly-chosen shopping list.

Ultimate Performance Mini PC Components
MotherboardAsus Maximus IV Gene-Z: LGA 1155 Intel Z68 Express $170
GraphicsPNY XLR8 VCGGTX580XPB-LC-CPU GeForce GTX 580
PNY XLR8 VCGGTX580XPB-LC GeForce GTX 580 (for SLI)
 $1080
ProcessorIntel Core i7-2600K: 3.4 GHz-3.8 GHz, 8 MB Shared L3 Cache $315
MemoryG.Skill F3-17600CL9D-8GBXLD: DDR3-2200 C9, 4 GB x2 (8 GB) $300
System DriveCrucial CT256M4SSD2CCA 256 GB, SATA 6Gb/s SSD $380
Storage Drive2 x Seagate Momentus ST9750420AS 750 GB, 7200 RPM Hard Drive
 $80
OpticalLG WH12LS30: 12x BD-R 2x BD-RE 16x DVD±R 8x DVD+RW $80
CaseFractal Design Arc Mini $100
PowerSeasonic SS-850HT: 850 W, ATX12V v2.31, 80 PLUS Silver $120
Heat SinkPNY XLR8 / Asetek Integrated Liquid Cooling   
  Total Cost  $2625


Unlike our System Builder Marathon machines, which are all sponsored by Newegg, this build was “off the books.” We pieced it together through some very helpful press contacts and and used a few parts we simply had laying around.

Our test results prove that we still didn’t cut any corners, even if some of the parts we picked aren't for everyone.