Intel disappointed PC builders yet again with their Kaby Lake generation. Their monopoly over the market stagnated CPU development while maintaining prices unjustifiably high. Intel did, however, do something incredibly weird to their Kaby Lake Pentium line up. When I watched in disbelief that Intel had a strange flash of generosity to gift budget builders a 2 core/4 thread Pentium G4560 at around $60 with virtually identical performance to i3's, I knew I had to jump on it as soon as I could.
This CPU lived up to the hype. It keeps up with every basic Windows tasks effortlessly. I've yet to install open world online multiplayer games like BF1 to see how this CPU keeps up, but Bioshock Infinite and Doom on 1080p and Ultra settings are easily running at 100+ fps.
The G4560 proves that Intel can be less greedy when it wants to. The G4560 is basically an i3 but at $50-$110 less. This CPU made not only the entire i3 line up obsolete but also made the $120 gap to the i5's difficult to justify for budget gamers. With the release of AMD's Ryzen R5 CPUs later this year, I expect the i3's and i5's to become even more obsolete if Intel doesn't do some major price cuts.
Incredibly quiet and powerful CPU cooler that costs $8 less than the ITX Noctua cooler I was eyeing.
Cheapest ITX motherboard I could find. I had to buy a Skylake CPU, flash this mobo's BIOS, and return the CPU to make the H110M compatible to my Pentium G4560. Was a bit of a hassle but it was definitely worth saving $50 that I would've spent if I went for the H270M, the cheapest Kaby Lake ITX motherboard that was out at the time.
I didn't like how the antenna cables need to be attached to the WiFi card on the board. It took me a good half hour to do so because of my fat fingers and fear of breaking anything. The antennas are very hard to screw in and they still stay a little loose just outside of the IO shield.
Other than the hassle to flash the BIOS with another CPU and the awkward installation of the cables and antennas to the WiFi card, this is a great motherboard and the cheapest for ITX builds.
I found this to be the cheapest 8GB 2133MHz RAM stick I could find. 16GB is currently overkill for 1080p gaming and basic Windows multitasking. I've never gone over 70% memory usage and it usually hovers around 40-50% with several applications running.
I've used only SSDs on my computers for the last 5 years and I simply cannot go back to legacy HDDs. This was the cheapest SSD I found at the time. Although 240GB might not seem like much, the speed trade off is worth it for me. Windows boots in a few seconds and any application loads instantly.
I am more than impressed with this card. I was considering spending $30 more and going for the MSI RX 480 but I wanted this ITX build to be as cheap as possible. I chose AMD for its price/performance ratio, to use FreeSync on my monitor, and because I dislike Nvidia's business practices.
The MSI RX 470 4GB Gaming X undervolts like a champ and becomes much more efficient using stock frequencies, greatly reducing the required fan speed to maintain 70C under 100% load. I'm using 2000 RPM as target fan speed and the temperature remains stable at 70C. At stock settings without undervolting, I had to use 2400 RPM to maintain the same temperature. This GPU is silent when idle and fans only start spinning at 60C. Because of the small case and the lack of case fans in the GPU chamber, I find the ~58-59C idle temperatures to be higher than I want them to be, sometimes forcing the fans to come on and off repeatedly. I plan on installing two static pressure fans in the GPU chamber to improve idle/load temperatures and play around with overclocking.
[edit: Ditched Wattman for Afterburner, created a better fan curve, and lowered my monitor's refresh rate from 144 to 120Hz for the GPU's memory clock to scale its voltage/frequency according to load as opposed to being locked at 1650MHz. Now at idle I'm at 35C / 0.700V / 1000 RPM and 60-68C / 0.981V / 1600-1800 RPM under load. Installing case fans feels unnecessary now.]
Overall, this is a quiet, powerful, and so far an undervolting beast of a GPU that runs all games I've thrown at it at very high frame rates. Hard to believe I can get this performance for $157. If I had used the MIR, the total cost would've been $137.
Benchmarks (1080p - Ultra - averages):
Rise of the Tomb Raider: 60fps
Resident Evil 7: 100fps
Fallout 4: 70fps
Bioshock Infinite: 160fps
League of Legends: 220fps
I love this case. This is my first PC build and I knew I wanted to build an ITX rig. It took me some time to figure out how to manage the cables correctly and remove the small triangular support in the GPU chamber that wasn't allowing me to install my GPU. Once I figured everything out I can say this case fit my needs perfectly. Though I feel that it is maybe $20 more expensive than it should be.
One thing I disliked was the PSU that came with it. It is much noisier than expected. While my CPU and GPU fans are inaudible when system is idle, the PSU makes an audible buzz that drives me a little crazy. Even though the Node 202 + PSU combo did save me some money and build time, if I had to get the parts again I would get the case and PSU separately and put more money into a quieter PSU.