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Build It Yourself: A Mini-ITX Gaming System For Just Over $500

Small Package, Reasonable Price, And Good Performance

It was fun building this svelte system worth around $500, and it performs really well given our space and cost restrictions. Chieftec's FI-01W proved to be a great little enclosure priced Europe. Here in the U.S., Winsis' WI-02 does the job just as nicely. Around $45 for a respectable-looking case and a decent power supply should spark some interest.

Looks like a little game console, right?

We really like the quick-release mechanism for the drives, and appreciate the ease of working with a removable drive cage. Six liters of internal volume aren’t a lot compared to the ATX enclosures most of us are accustomed to. But that's all we needed to attach cables, connectors, and drives securely (and without skinning any of our fingers). Heavy-duty build quality is also nice; there’s no bending the Chieftec chassis out of shape. Really, the only low point for us is the front-panel audio connector, which should have been a couple of inches longer. Any other critique is simply endemic of the mini-ITX form factor, or the result of paring-back that needs to be done on a product in this price range.

Compared to some of the quad-core chips from AMD, Intel's Ivy Bridge-based dual-core Pentium seems a bit expensive. But it combines low power consumption with consistently fast performance, and we needed both of those. MSI's B75IA-E33 motherboard similarly lends modest power use and an incredibly efficient layout.

If this story has you thinking about building a similar system, we can’t blame you. The finished product performs really well.

Want to go for it? Really? Well, here's a list of the components we used in today's project. For a few bucks more, you could even swap out the 1 TB hard drive for a fast 128 GB SSD, upgrade the cooling, or incorporate Blu-ray playback.

CPUIntel Pentium G 2120$100
CoolerIncluded Cooler-Xigmatek Praeton$33
Memory8 GB DDR3-1333 1.5 V$40
MotherboardMSI B75IA-E33$110
Slim DVD BurnerSamsung SN-208BB + Slimline-to-SATA Adapter$30Upgrade to Blu-ray$30
Hard DriveHitachi Deskstar 7K1000.C 1 TB$90
SSD-Crucial m4 128 GB$120
Graphics CardSapphire HD 7750 Low Profile$115
Case + PSUChieftec FI-01W (Winsis WI-02)$45
Total Cost$530$623