Description

Despite adding a few upgrades along the way, my 10-year old PC was feeling a little slow and I wanted to try building a Mini-ITX gaming machine for some occasional video encoding, streaming, and photo work. Here is the machine I was replacing:

  • AMD Phenom II X4 965 @ 3752 MHz
  • Arctic Cooling Freezer 64 Pro
  • 2x4GB Mushkin Redline Ridgeback DDR3
  • ASUS M4A87TD/USB3
  • EVGA GeForce GTX 570 Rev. 2
  • Seagate Barracuda 7200 250GB
  • SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3 7200 1TB
  • OCZ 600W Power Supply
  • NZXT Apollo (Black)

And some other stuff...

3dMark FireStrike Score 3555

--

My original budget was around $1000. I had originally planned to wait out for some good deals and price drops for the new machine, but ended up finding some reasonable deals on new parts around the same time, so I bought just enough to get a new PC up and running. Without further ado, here's the part list with prices in USD for the Mini Menace:

  • intel Core i7-6700K ($310 @ ebay, no box)
  • Cryorig H7 ($30 @ ebay, mfg. refurb)
  • Gigabyte GA-Z170N-Gaming 5 ($125 @ Jet.com)
  • 2x8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport LT in Red ($51 at Newegg Shell Shocker - bought 2 8GB separately)
  • NZXT Manta White/Black ($120 + 10 shipping at Directron)
  • Samsung 840 Pro 512GB SSD ($120 open box from my place of work)
  • EVGA 650 GQ Gold Semi-Modular PSU ($69.99 - $20 MIR @ Newegg)
  • NZXT Hue+ ($59.99)
  • 2x Silverstone White PCI-E Power Cables ($8.22)
  • Sapphire AMD RX 480 8GB ($240)

Total Price (incl. shipping): $1151.04

3dMark FireStrike Score 10613

--

Thoughts about this build:

  • First, the Manta is a bit larger than I expected, which is not bad, just unexpected for a Mini-ITX case. It's about the same size, and is wider than the NZXT Apollo ATX mid tower I upgraded from.

  • NZXT, I love you guys. You make really cool cases and I love your toolless stuff. But if you're going to go the trouble of making toolless construction cases, please don't torque the thumbscrews so tight you need a hammer drill to unscrew them. The Apollo was much easier on me in that regard.

  • This thing is quiet compared to my last build. The case fans are all powered by a fan hub, which changes fan power based on the PWM input. The PWM input is also fed back into the CPU fan from the fan hub so that is controlled directly via the motherboard.

  • I decided to go with Team Red and use an AMD GPU for the first time ever. So far, I'm liking it. The card is powerful enough to max all my games at 60 fps+ since I only play at 1080p resolution and was in the top 20% of scores on 3dMark the day I got the card. That's a great deal for a $240 card! A big reason for this build was to cut down on heat output (power) and noise of my gaming rig, and the AMD card sips power and creates very little noise for being a reference blower card, especially compared to the GTX 570. At the end of the day, I still would like to try a 10 series GTX card, but right now I can think of a lot of other uses for the $200 I saved by passing on the 1070.

  • Building mITX, even with a large case, was more challenging than I imagined. I had a big issue with getting the USB 3 header on the motherboard since it was situated directly under the heatsink and the cable is not very flexible. Edit: This actually got 100x worse when I installed the GPU, as I had to run the cable behind the cooler and do a 180 degree twist to connect it underneath the cooler on the board. Never again.

--

Future plans:

  • Would like to try a custom water cooling loop - looking at XSPC parts, especially the ion reservoir/pump in white, and the AX 280 radiators in white, since the Manta can support 280MM rads.
  • Will add a large volume hard disk storage shortly for larger video/photo files and projects

--

Updates:

Got into mining a little and managed to find a 1070 Ti Founder's Edition from nVidia for a good price, so I'm on Team Green now for a while. The card is excellent.

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Comments

  • 45 months ago
  • 3 points

Using the manta = +1

  • 45 months ago
  • 1 point

It's quite a unique case!

I finished building this thing at 12AM last night, so I haven't had a chance to update the build log with my experiences, but the case is nearly as big as my NZXT Apollo mid tower, which was unexpected. I do like the features of the Manta, though, especially the fan controller and lighting.

  • 44 months ago
  • 1 point

I love how beautiful this case is. I recently chose the Define S Nano due to cost. I think I may upgrade to this case or do a new build in the Manta at some point. Amazing job with the build!

  • 44 months ago
  • 2 points

Thank you! I am still very happy with it and have to stop and check it out every once in a while since it's my nicest case to date. Hopefully will get to put a worthy GPU in it soon.

Thanks for checking out the build and leaving a comment.

[comment deleted]
  • 45 months ago
  • 1 point

The "Build" was finished a couple hours earlier than that, though last night I added hard disks and GPU from my old PC. I started testbenching a little before 6 PM to get the motherboard assembly completed but had to wait on delivery of the case at around 6:30-7:00. I went to get some dinner, came back and started fitting the case probably around 8 or 8:30, and had Windows and my drivers installed by 12-ish.

[comment deleted]
  • 45 months ago
  • 2 points

+1 Nice build, how is the h7 doing? What temps are you getting.

  • 45 months ago
  • 2 points

I like the H7 a lot so far. It's very quiet when idling/light load and not unbearably loud when fully loaded. I ran a Small FFT 100% load test with Prime95 clocked at 4.3 GHz and my core temps after stabilizing are 64, 63, 59, 60C. Ambient is around 22-23C. Keep in mind, all my case fans included in the Manta are hooked up to the PWM fan hub, so when the CPU load is high all the case fans kick up to 100% as well. Super nice feature.

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/51004958/cam_042916_1.jpg

Edit: Looks like the CPU may be throttling on and off a little bit in the screenshot. I'm not sure how that works on these newer processors, but I ran the test again and I see core clock hovering between 4000-4300 most of the time.

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

If you do not mind me asking, how did you manage to fit the Hue+ in the SSD slot? I heard that the Hue+ would not fit.

  • 42 months ago
  • 2 points

Hi, not at all. I actually provided the same answer to therichiemorris above. I used 3M automotive body tape. My solution was to cram it up against the white beam that you see there, and then plug in the cables. There's barely enough clearance between the actual cable connectors and the plastic shroud of the cables to allow a secure connection while the plastic shroud of the cables sit snugly behind the case's beam. To make it stick, I secured it with 3M automotive body tape.

If I ever pull it down to change my hard drives I might make a how-to, but basically I covered the hard drive tray with the body tape and so far so good.

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you so much! It looks very professionally done, I had no idea it wasn't actually mounted in. I shall attempt to do this with my build. :D

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Hey Dcl2049; I was wondering if you could post a picture of the wires going into your motherboard. I'm a bit of a newb but designed my build based off of yours. I dont entirely know which wires go where; I have somewhat of an idea but i'm afraid ill break something ha. In fact if anyone wants to help, id appreciate it.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Hi,

It's tricky to post pictures of that since everything is tucked underneath the CPU cooler. There are only a few connectors and it's pretty much impossible to plug most of them into the wrong place. You'll want to read up in your motherboard's manual.

Power: CPU Power (2x4-pin) Main motherboard 24-pin ATX power

USB: Smaller pin headers for USB 2.0 and a black plastic connector with pins for USB 3.0

Hard Drive: SATA connectors (L-shaped plastic inside)

CPU Cooler - 4-pin fan connector

Front Panel Connectors - read the motherboard manual on hooking these up, lots of individual connectors

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you so much! I managed to set everything up right based on your pictures and this response. I will say, I have the USB 3.0 wires on the heatsink / resting on my GPU; that shouldn't be a problem right? I find that cable management is a bit of a pain in this but I love the look of the case.

  • 40 months ago
  • 1 point

CPU heatsink won't be a problem, I'd try to keep it off the GPU as much as possible since some spots of that can get much hotter. Shouldn't be too risky though.

  • 32 months ago
  • 1 point

Dude so i basically copied your pc build I was wondering where you placed the Hue lights because i just bought a regular old fry's white light strip and place it on the top and it doesnt look as sexy as yours:/

  • 25 months ago
  • 1 point

Sorry I didn't check back - maybe you will see this lol. I ran one strip along the radiator top mount bracket near the clear edge of the case pointing straight down. I have another at the bottom that is basically just there for a little glow, it doesn't add much.

https://imgur.com/a/6b947

[comment deleted]
  • 45 months ago
  • 2 points

Updated for new pics with NZXT Hue ;)

LIGHT!

  • 45 months ago
  • 1 point

Every other build/video/review I've seen says the Hue+ doesn't fit on the SSD bracket!

Are there any specific steps/alterations you had to perform to get it to fit?

P.S it looks amazing! Good job :)

  • 45 months ago
  • 2 points

Hi,

It's true, it doesn't :) At least, you cannot attach it with screws the way you would an SSD. I attached it with the bracket already in place.

At first I just kinda shoved it into place and the cables had enough bend to them to make it work. This made me cringe however.

My solution was to cram it up against the white beam that you see there, and then plug in the cables. There's barely enough clearance between the actual cable connectors and the plastic shroud of the cables to allow a secure connection while the plastic shroud of the cables sit snugly behind the case's beam. To make it stick, I secured it with 3M automotive body tape, but since I had to reapply it a few times while testing this, it has come loose slightly.

I'm going to try cutting fresh strips of body tape and reapplying it to see if it will stay in place longer.

  • 45 months ago
  • 1 point

Awesome thanks! I'll try something similar then :)

[comment deleted]
  • 45 months ago
  • 1 point

Thank you! It's still in progress (sorta), the lighting in my apartment is the most awful of anywhere I've ever lived, and my camera is a little old and doesn't do low light well. But it's on the to-do list. :)

[comment deleted]
[comment deleted]
  • 41 months ago
  • 1 point

do you have or can you install fans right above the cpu cooler?

You can install them, but I'm not using any. It's a good spot to mount a radiator and fans, but I don't want to move air away from my GPU and CPU coolers.

how loud is the case fan at idle and full load?

Idle might as well be completely silent. If you run any spinning hard drives or a blower style GPU, they will probably be much louder or a hair louder respectively than the case fans at idle. Fans at full load which rarely happens is probably under quiet speaking volume. Based on my apartment's A/C which is probably kinda crappy, it's similar to the sound of airflow from a central A/C unit vent but a little louder.

I'm kinda mad though because you got me to listen closely to my case and now I noticed my power supply is buzzing. It used to be quieter so that's happened recently I think lol. So yeah, it's quiet enough where I can hear a (hopefully) minor problem with my PSU components.

do you think i can fit h5 universal without touching the glass panel?

I have about an inch of clearance probably, but I don't think I'd recommend a cooler larger than 120mm. It looks like the H5 universal is about 15mm taller from the surface of the cpu than the H7 is, so my answer would be "probably."

does the cpu cooler touch the RAM

No, Cryorig did a pretty good job of shifting the cooler back so it doesn't interfere at all. If the RAM were taller though it would probably block part of the fan, but I don't think there would be any actual contact.

do you think there are better alternative for mono [mobo?] since there is connection problem?

I bought this mobo because of features and good reviews, I wanted a single USB type C connector and the wifi is nice to have even though I use gigabit most of the time. The fault is more with the connector than the mobo, you can get a USB 3 extension cable that doesn't have the same issues, though I didn't consider this until just now:

eVGA USB 3.0 Low Profile header extension

The board is overclocking very well for me so I'm happy with the purchase overall.

[comment deleted]