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

Pushing Pixels: Sapphire's Radeon HD 7750

Leaving Intel’s HD Graphics In The Dust

We've run plenty of benchmarks that show Intel's HD Graphics engine simply won't cut it for gaming. The Pentium G2120 does its job much better paired to a discrete graphics card.

Chieftec's case makes selecting a graphics card easy, since it only leaves room for one model: a low-profile, single-slot Radeon HD 7750. Sapphire, PowerColor, and Club 3D all sell versions of the card. But since we already have Sapphire's in the lab, our choice is easy yet again.

Because Intel's Pentium G2120 and Sapphire's Radeon HD 7750 are in roughly the same performance class, neither is likely to bottleneck the other, making them a solid combination. Overall, you should see good performance right up until the platform reaches its limit. Then performance will fall apart completely.

The graphics card installation mechanism is simple, but effective: a lever holds the card in place. Not like there's much room for it to move anyway. In fact, the graphics card fan is almost exactly on top of the power supply fan. This is not the most elegant solution we’ve encountered, but it does give the card just enough space to breathe.

We covered the Radeon HD 7750's performance at length in AMD Radeon HD 7770 And 7750 Review: Familiar Speed, Less Power. And while it might not be the very fastest card available, Catalyst driver updates have made it substantially faster. It’s a good alternative to the older Radeon HD 6770, which is still found in many mainstream machines. Indeed, the Radeon HD 7750 is more than enough for gaming on an HDTV, and it sure beats the graphics power offered by today’s gaming consoles.

Now, let's get back to the Chieftec case's included power supply.

  • 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.