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

A Reasonable Price: CPU And Motherboard

Mini-ITX and Intel: When The Price Is Right

We decided to build this rig using an Intel Ivy Bridge-based CPU. Keeping cost in mind, a 3.2 GHz dual-core Pentium G2120 emerged as our only real option.

As long as two cores are enough, the Pentium offers great performance. And while AMD sells quad-core parts for about the same price, they don't fare as well when it comes to cooling and power consumption, both of which are important considerations in such a compact space. This time around, it just had to be the little 55 W Ivy Bridge-based Pentium.

The Right Motherboard: MSI B75IA-E33

MSI’s B75-based B75IA-E33 is a newer board that offers everything we could want from a mini-ITX platform in this price range. Although the form factor limits any motherboard's available features quite a bit, MSI manages to give its B75IA-E33 a logical and usable layout. Even the UEFI menus are arranged nicely. We found this to be a perfect fit for both the build and budget we had in mind.

While there aren't many bundled accessories to speak of, MSI's B75IA-E33 includes all the essentials. The unexpectedly large manual is easy to navigate, though the text labels in the schematics could have been larger.

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MSI B75IA-E33 Technical Specifications
Processor InterfaceLGA 1155
ChipsetIntel B75 Express
DDR3 Memory Support1066/1333/1600/1800/2000/2200/2400 MT/s (DDR3-1800 and up are overclocked settings; Ivy Bridge-based CPU required)
Memory ChannelsDual
DIMM Slots2
Maximum Memory (GB)16
PCIe x161 x PCIe 3.0
SATA 6Gb/s1
SATA 3Gb/s3
USB 3.0 (Back)2
USB 2.0 (Back)4
Audio Connectors (Back)3
Form FactorMini-ITX
Approximate Street Price$110
  • xkm1948
    What about putting in an APU instead?
    That case almost looks like a Wii.
  • zooted
    Would be nice if they included benchmarks, but overall a nice review.
  • A Bad Day
    We have Mini-ITX gaming mobos that support OCing and 120mm closed loop water cooling...

    I demand a proper Mini-ITX case from the manufacturers!
  • FormatC
    I have a "Zero dB PC" as one of the next projects, complete based on a AMD APU (A10 5700). We should stay a little parity, all last Mini-PCs were AMDs ;)

    The performance of a HD 7750 is wellknown and this little card is in the most cases the slower part. This is from the other project:
  • sempifi99
    If I did not already have more desktops than I am currently using I would definitely consider building something like this...
  • Hando567
    Wish you would have done a bitfenix Prodigy build with an i7 and GTX690, mini ITX machine that can play anything? Yes please!

    I would like to know why there is no real SFF love in the AMD camp for non APU's, I really want a new mATX mobo with 3 PCI-e slots, so I can do a tri-fire setup with LC in my mini P180, 2x7970's just are not enough. I also want to replace my aging 890gxm-g65 so I can OC my FX8350, this board has known issues with its power circuitry beyond stock (I would know, I have cooked 3 of them, 2 from trying to OC, and one from a long gaming session)
  • itzsnypah
    It always seems like Toms put's out recommendation builds right after new hardware comes out. Also I think you failed to research enough, mITX H77 boards have been cheaper than mITX B75 boards for months while having better features.
  • photonboy
    Laptop instead?

    At the $500 price range, I've seen many laptops that perform similarly to builds like this.

    The laptops also have the advantage of:
    - screen (don't have to use)
    - battery (for power outage)
    - size

    One disadvantage with gaming laptops is that under load the little fan tends to be annoying. It would be really cool if you could easily plug in an external cooling unit that bypasses that fan.

    INTERESTING BUILD, though I would strongly disagree with the "good enough for an HDTV" comment about the graphics card. It's a gaming PC. Just because it's hooked up to an HDTV instead of a monitor doesn't make it "good enough"; Far Cry 3 still won't run great.

    I'd like to see a little more CPU and GPU processing power while keeping noise in check. Let's see what can be done with $700?
  • bak0n
    That was my basic setup until recently when I upgraded the cpu from a i3 2100 to an i5 3570k. The GPU from the 7750 to a 7870 and the case to a prodigy which supports larger cooling fans and dual slot GPU's. The lower frame rates or settings turned down wasn't cutting it for games like borderlands 2. But if you are into games like LoL the recommend build will be more than enough.