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

Tight Spaces: The Motherboard Installation

Wanted: Nimble Fingers

Again, installing the motherboard really isn't difficult, so long as you do it before putting the drive cage back in.

As always, remember to snap in the bundled I/O shield before screwing the motherboard down. That’s probably obvious to the average Tom’s Hardware reader, but still important to mention. We've even been caught up in a fancy build and missed this little detail.

The I/O panel snaps right into its designated opening. Sadly, this deserves mention because such a good fit doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

Fasten the motherboard to the tray using four pre-installed spacers.

Packing everything that needs to go into the case makes for an extremely tight fit. The optical drive’s slimline-to-SATA adapter does push into the CPU fan, but as we mentioned, the cooler's retention brackets are flexible enough to keep this from being a problem.

Before we move on to the graphics card, we have a couple more pieces of advice regarding the motherboard installation.

First, plugging in the front-panel connectors can be tricky, so we recommend connecting them to the motherboard before placing it inside the case. Otherwise, breaking out tweezers is going to be your only realistic option.

And while cable routing usually comes down to personal preference, we had to compromise a clean-looking build for secure connections when it came to dealing with components like the optical drive's adapter and the HD Audio cable. It probably goes without saying in a mini-ITX PC, but there's really not a lot of empty space left inside the case at this point.