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My Mini ITX Makeover

by darklay

3
6 Comments

Details

Date Published

July 7, 2015

CPU Clock Rate

3.2GHz

GPU Core Clock Rate

1.08GHz

GPU Effective Memory Clock Rate

7GHz

Description

I got into custom gaming rigs in 2012. I started with a used rig on eBay that I upgraded slowly over time. I travel a lot for work (often to the middle of nowhere in Alabama, my home state) and frequently have free time in the evenings to enjoy some gaming at the hotel. Up to this point I have carried around an xbox 360 that I have owned since 2006 but I really don't want to invest any more time or effort in an ecosystem that is pushing a decade old. I considered, on multiple occasions, bringing my Desktop but I did not relish carrying a full size desktop through a hotel lobby and the logistical nightmare of packing/transporting the thing. I considered buying an xbox one or Alienware alpha but didn't see the point of maintaining a second system that would be unused while in town. So instead, I began investigating the possibility of converting my existing rig into a mini ITX system. I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to upgrade some components to ensure I would be set for minor upgrades (mostly GPU) for the foreseeable future.

My previous rig had an i5 3570k, GTX 760, Full size motherboard, and 8GB of RAM. Also, my cable management skills have always been lacking at best. My rig typically ended up having cables running all over the place due to the long runs required for a full size rig and near incompetence on my part. I initially wanted to use the 380T for my case but it was surprisingly large for a Mini ITX case and was 2-3 times more expensive than other options that I liked. I also initially intended to keep my 3570k (it is a fantastic processor) but quickly realized that there is a serious shortage of quality LGA 1155 motherboards. I had serious trouble finding one that met all my criteria (internal usb 3 header, SATA 3 ports, semi affordable, well reviewed, etc.). As a result, the only parts that I reused from my old build were the Hard Drives (4 of them), Power Supply, and my license of Windows 8. I was able to sell my old processor, motherboard, RAM, and GPU and help cover a lot of the upgrade.

Overall, I am quite satisfied with how my rig turned out. The core V1 is a fantastic case (the fact that 5 of the 6 sides come off is simply awesome and makes building way easier), the Mini ITX version of the GTX 970 is super powerful despite its size (I could have fit some full sized versions of the card but it was cheaper and easier to install), the i5 4590 is a champ and much more than I currently need, and cable management is actually really good due to the design of the case and the shorter run needed due to the compact size (Although, as you can see from the pictures, I used the cable management to stuff a bunch of cables into the bottom, not a particularly graceful solution). My CPU has yet to run hotter than 50c and airflow is good enough to keep the 970 around 65c at full load despite only having one fan and less heatsink surface area. (Keep in mind that this is in Alabama in the summer and ambient air temp is close to 80f (26c) The liquid cooler is probably overkill since my CPU can’t be overclocked but I wanted to avoid cramming a tall air cooler in the center of the case. As is, it looks much sleeker. Noise is also quite low but the dual 80mm fans in the back are the loudest part. I have considered taking them out but I like having a push/pull to keep air flowing.

Only question I have to put out there is this: Is it bad for this system to sit in the trunk of my car in a suitcase on the first day I am out of town? Air temperature could be around 90f and the car (which is black) would be in the sun. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Part Reviews

CPU

Fantastic CPU, above and beyond anything I need for gaming and more than keeps up with my GTX 970.

CPU Cooler

Quiet, Good temps, easy install, really cleans up my Mini ITX build and makes access easier to the bulk of my components. Still scares the fudge out of me to have liquid running through my build but I am slowly getting over it.

Motherboard

Met all my initial criteria and had a reasonable price. I do wish in hind sight that it had more fan controllers. I used the 2 available for my H75 liquid cooler and had to plug my 3 case fans (1x 200mm and 2x 80mm) directly into the PSU so they just run at a standard speed all the time. Also, the Wifi reception is pretty bad because the antennas are right on the back of the metal case (they are also horribly loose). As a result, I still use my USB antenna on a USB extension cable. Otherwise, great motherboard.

Video Card

Fantastic Powerful GPU in a small package. I have this in my Mini ITX build and love it! Runs a little hotter than a full sized 970 and does not have the same overclock potential but it is a real 970 and has the power to prove it.

Case

Fantastic case! 5 of the 6 sides come off, good airflow for the small size, space for powerful components, great cable management space near PSU, affordable price. Great option for Mini ITX.

Power Supply

I don't have any complaints on this PSU, I can't knock it for not being modular because they also make a modular version. After over a year of use, this has proven to be reliable and versatile.

Operating System

I really have enjoyed windows 8 and look forward to my free upgrade to windows 10 in a few weeks.

Case Fan

These seem to strike a really good balance between airflow and noise for 80mm fans. I use them as exhaust fans for my mini itx build (with a 200mm intake fan) so I do not need them push tons of air, just keep things flowing. I will say, I unplugged them as a test and it noticeably reduced the noise produced by my rig and I have not noticed much of a change in temps.

Comments Sorted by:

tylerfig 2 Builds 1 point 36 months ago

you were able to use both RAM cards in your build without problems? ive been seeing reviews lately that one of the ram slots is messed up

darklay submitter 1 Build 1 point 35 months ago

Probably changes unit by unit. MSI afterburner only shows 8GB of RAM for my system but Windows and task manager show the full 16GB and I haven't seen any indications that I can't use the full 16GB. If you tell me a way to test it out I'll gladly run a test and come back with the results.

LB315 1 point 35 months ago

I've been looking towards building a gaming pc in the Thermaltake Core V1 and was wondering how it fares compared to similar sized cases in aspects as in cable management, and airflow.

darklay submitter 1 Build 1 point 34 months ago

I have only used this one case but I personally find that it does extremely well for both cable management and airflow.

Depending on the size of your PSU, there is a lot of excess space on the bottom half of the case (below the motherboard) to tuck away excess cables and because it is mini ITX, most cable runs are relatively short. You can also rout cables up past the HHD bays to reach that side of the motherboard. However, I don't pretend to be great or even all that good at cable management. I certainly can't hold a candle to a lot of the grand masters on this site ;)

For airflow, the 200mm fan on the front of the case does a great job of moving air through the system. I also have a 120mm liquid cooler on my CPU and use on of the included 120mm fans to pull and the 200mm fan to push. I installed 80mm fans (relatively quiet ones for 80mm) but have actually disconnected them because they were pretty much the only audible part of the whole setup and my temps stayed reasonable without them. I think my 970 runs at about 70c under load and ran a few degrees cooler with the 80mm fans turned on.

Kreuzer 2 Builds 1 point 31 months ago

Nice, I got the same case wrapped in carbon fiber vinyl !

Schoney9 1 point 10 months ago

What screws did you use to screw in the radiator to the front of the case? The stock screws are meant for to include a front fan and stick out too far when I screw them in.