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.

MSI B75IA-E33 Technical Specifications
Processor Interface
LGA 1155
Chipset Intel B75 Express
DDR3 Memory Support
1066/1333/1600/1800/2000/2200/2400 MT/s (DDR3-1800 and up are overclocked settings; Ivy Bridge-based CPU required)
Memory Channels
DIMM Slots 2
Maximum Memory (GB) 16
PCIe x16 1 x PCIe 3.0
SATA 6Gb/s
SATA 3Gb/s 3
LAN 10/100/1000
USB 3.0 (Back) 2
USB 2.0 (Back) 4
Audio Connectors (Back) 3
Form Factor Mini-ITX
Approximate Street Price
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    Top Comments
  • zooted
    Would be nice if they included benchmarks, but overall a nice review.
  • 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:
  • xkm1948
    What about putting in an APU instead?
  • Other Comments
  • 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.
  • DjEaZy
    xkm1948What about putting in an APU instead?

    ... my first idea too...
  • jestersage
    Beautiful! Love it! Mini ITX System Builder Marathon, please.
  • jestersage
    I also found this bit thought provoking -

    Overall, you should see good performance right up until the platform reaches its limit. Then performance will fall apart completely.

    Something to keep us readers grounded on reality.
  • palladin9479
    DjEaZy... my first idea too...

    The A10-5800K would be slower then a 7750 GDDR5 even with DDR3-2133 memory, though it would definitely be cheaper.

    What Toms was doing was combining SB/IB's better performance at single player timed games with a very specific dGPU. The dGPU is doing most of the heavy lifting which lets them get away with a weak CPU in single threaded environments. Since the purpose was to create a pseudo "console" then it'll work.
  • grumbledook
    These tfx psus are typically noisy so I seriously doubt you'd hear the stock cooler over it. I sure haven't with my g850 in a similar itx chassis (In-Win bp655) with 2 different ones (got a 300w bequiet tfx psu to replace the overtly noisy one that came with the case. Much better but still audible).
    Why no mention of how loud the gpu is under load?
    Also, "no gaming pc is really complete without an optical drive"..... just no.
  • ta152h
    The case looks like crap. Cheap crap. It doesn't look great.

    You should have gone with the train case, or something that didn't look like such chinsy garbage.
  • seanpull
    There should have been no optical drive, and the stock CPU cooler. Take that saved money to buy a 7770 GHz Edition instead of that not even gaming graphics card.
  • The_Trutherizer
    The A10 6800K should dual nicely with this graphics card. I dare say it will be a better option then.
  • emad_ramlawi
    Good work, can i please know the temps inside the system, like the AMD 7750 on Load and idle and the CPU as well, why no temps page
  • crisan_tiberiu
    photonboyLaptop instead??

    i was thinking on building a htpc /gaming PC and i was thinking to get a laptop aswell...but lets see, the only thing that you win with a laptop is mobility. In a htpc you can upgrade the video card with newer solution, you can upgrade the CPU (you can alwas insert an i3 there when prices are lower), the htpc is silenter, you can add SSD +HDD ... so the HTPC wins by far. The laptop is doomed, you will trow it away in 4 years (@ 500$, you will trow it away in 2 :))), and @ 500$ your best deal in a laptopis the intel HD graphics orthe nvidia gt 610 witchboth are crap...