After five years of puttering along on a 2011 MacBook Pro (the last two of which I'd given up on gaming on it) I was finally ready to bite the bullet and build a gaming PC from scratch. I'd previously taken many kinds of computers apart before, but this would be my first one built directly from parts.
My first constraint was that I wanted a smaller machine that what was typically built as a gaming PC, with a second that I wanted to spend less than $1000 USD. Finally I wanted something that was generally quiet-ish as this machine would be in my bedroom (and I generally don't like noisy computers). I'd looked at Mini-ITX boards before, and with some further research settled on the Silverstone ML08. I also had considered the Fractal Design Node 202, but the layout of the ML08 seemed easier to use and keep cool. I don't care for windows, especially the ones offered by Silverstone for this case, and the standard dust filters were cheaper. The handle surprised me though. I didn't care either way if I had it when I was ordering it, but now that I have it installed I like the look it has on the case.
I did not consider overclocking as necessary (or even really wanted), so I did not require an unlocked CPU or a motherboard/chipset that supported overclocking. I also required on-board WiFi and wanted Bluetooth. The i5-6500 hit a sweet spot of performance and cost, and the GA-H170N-WIFI offered what I needed and had good reviews. I was also able to get them at a discount at a Microcenter near my house. I also went with a Noctua low-profile cooler to have something quieter than the stock cooler. I was also concerned with the clearances of the other components, and the Noctua cooler's strict adherence to the cooler footprint area appealed to me as I had no idea what kind of clearances I was going to have for a larger cooler.
For the GPU I settled on a GTX 1060, and eventually went with the only one with a blower-style fan that seemed available. This was out of a concern for the cooling in the smaller case. In retrospect, I probably could've gone with a more common cooler; the isolation between the compartments and outside ventilation is better than I expected. This might've resulted in a cheaper card, as well as a quieter fan. As it stands now, the GPU fan is the predominant noise you can hear from it as it is always running.
For storage I went with a SATA-based M.2 SSD to conserve the limited 2.5" bays in the case and because current PCIe-based ones were significantly more expensive. In the future, I might consider buying a PCIe-based M.2 and moving the current one to the area set aside for the optical drive as I don't plan on using one for this machine. I also added a 750GB HDD that I already had for additional storage.
I went with 8GB RAM instead of 16GB as I do not expect to need the additional memory for just playing games. I have 16GB on my MBP, and I rarely use more than 10GB on that, and that's with multiple browsers with many tabs each, a VM or two and assorted other applications kept open all the time.
I went with a Corsair SFX power supply instead of a Silverstone one as a few reviews mentioned that Corsair seemed to have a more natural power plug placement with this case (for the extension cable thingy). 450W was more than enough for the components I had, so I didn't need to bump up to the 600W version they have.
The build was generally easy, the only hiccough being that I was unable to figure out at first how to enter the firmware setup screen as it flashed by too quickly after the screen I was using for testing during build was slow to start up. It was also a little awkward installing the heat sink, but that was probably more down to my own inexperience. Cable routing was generally easy, with the PCIe riser offering a nice channel for routing the front panel USB and audio plugs behind. Speaking of the front panel USB ports, the header on this motherboard was right up against the heat sink, which was a little annoying (and at first nerve-wracking as it was moderately difficult) to remove to reroute it. The front panel buttons and lights were also a little difficult to install due to the tight tolerances. If I was doing it again, I'd get all of those cables onto the header before I plugged the 24 pin power cable in. There was also just enough room behind the tray to route the CPU power and the SATA power cables behind it.
Some future improvements I'm considering are the previously mentioned PCIe M.2 SSD once prices come down, upgrading the 10mm deep fan on the CPU cooler to a 20mm deep one as there's plenty of vertical clearance, and finding a different antenna that I can conceal inside the case handle. The included antenna is nice enough, but there's a small channel along the length of the handle that seems to be the perfect size for an antenna, and I think it would look cleaner.
Very quiet and effective cooler. Also nicely packaged and came included with a few thoughtful accessories (like nice thermal paste and longer screws if you're using a 20mm deep fan).
Nice features and—for the most part—a nice layout made it easy to assemble. The included antenna has a magnetic base, so it can stick to the side of your case. The placement of almost all the connectors is adequate, with the exception of the USB3 header, which is right up against the CPU cooler footprint which can cause issues if you're using a cooler that fills that entire area.
It's no-frills RAM. It works, and is cheap.
If I could do a 4 and a half stars, I would. The only bad thing I have to say about this card is the fan is louder than I expected, and always runs. Other than that it's very nice, with good performance and cooling.
Nice Mini-ITX case with a thoughtful arrangement and a pleasant exterior. The handle is nicer than I expected as well.
The only complaint I have is that the SATA cable is kind of short. Other than that, it's nice and quiet.