Description

[The case listed is not the one I used. I chose it because the Inwin BP655.FH300TB was not in the parts list. This cost $65 with a 300 watt PS included.]

Planned Build #2

  • Added a new Seagate 1TB 2.5-inch hard drive as a secondary drive for games and multimedia files. ($67.00 off eBay)
  • Added new mounting screw to video card for stability
  • Replaced PS with a 435 watt Bestec ($22.09 off eBay - great deal!)
  • Replaced whacked HDMI cable with 90 degree elbow and flat male-to-female extension cable. ($4.18 off eBay) Now I can plug an HDMI cable into the back like a "real" computer!

It's a little smaller than an Xbox One and fits nicely on the shelf next to it. Next planned step, upgrade video card to a 1060 mini.

Planned Build #1

I wanted to build a Mini-ITX system in a small, Xbox One-sized case that could play Steam games, including DOOM (4) and others at 1080p. I didn't just want to put a mini-ITX board in an HTPC case and use Intel integrated graphics. The problem was, most cases that size don't allow for a decent graphics card, and the ones that do, like the Silverstone Raven series, are too big at 17-inches wide (and long). For me, it had to be smaller, just because!

I shopped around and found the Inwin BP655.FH300TB case - it's size was perfect at 10.5 inches (w) x 12.5 inches (l) x 4 inches (h). It has a removable drive and DVD drive bay - I figured I could fit a mini-ITX-style graphics card in the space where the drives usually were. This would mean using a PCIe extender cable, which cost $10.00 (and should be added to the parts list). I really wanted this to work, because graphics performance was more important than a DVD drive I would only use occasionally.

The parts finally came, and I put it all together. I first just installed the motherboard, RAM, and SSD, and installed Windows 10 using the integrated graphics. Everything worked as expected. Next I added the video card, a mini-ITX MSI GTX 950. This was the tricky part, because with the drive bay removed, I had to figure out how to keep the card in place.

I used PCI case slot covers to create a horizontal platform to mount the card to. I mounted two slot covers - one on each end of the DVD drive bay, and secured them in place with PCI case screws, which turned out to work pretty well. In addition to the screws, I put two-way foam tape on the slot covers and used a couple tie-wraps to keep the card from moving at all. Voila! - the card was in place.

[Note: The tie-wraps were added after running the PC on its side - the video card slid sideways, pushing the PCIe extender cable into the CPU cooler, making a weird grinding sound!]

The first test didn't go as expected. The graphics were skittish, and not working well at all. I thought my video card or extender cable was bad. Another issue was the mouse - both wireless and wired mice were erratic, causing lags and hangups. I thought, "Damn - my idea is NOT going to work!"

After some research, I decided to try to RF-shield the PCIe extender cable. I originally bought a cheap one with no shielding, so I had to address that first. I bought some aluminum tape ($7.65) and some black Gorilla tape ($4.95) and applied it to the cable. The black tape was just to make sure that the cable didn't create a shorting hazard in the case, since aluminum is a conducting metal and I didn't want to trash my new components on power-up.

On the bright side, my next test was a complete success!! Video acted as expected, and the weird mouse problem went away.

After a burn-in, I found the case temps were pretty good with the stock cooler - but not great. CPU at idle was about 40-43 C, and in the 80s under load with Prime95. Video temps maxed out at around 80-85 C also. This was all in a well-air conditioned house.

I also felt the cooler was too loud when the system was under load. I did some more research and bought a Cryorig C7. It brought all the temps down quite a bit. CPU is now at 30-34 C at idle and hasn't passed 64 C under load. It's a little noisier than I expected under load, but not as loud as the stock Intel cooler was. The fan speed doesn't seem to change much - hovering between 1900 and 2100 RPM. I still need to look into that. I love the fact that this cooler is the same size as the stock one, though. I'm impressed.

As for the graphics card, the case fan that runs perpendicular to the graphics card initially had the fan blowing out (negative pressure), so I reversed it to have air blow in (positive pressure). The plus of this was that it blew cool air right under the graphics card fan, where it draws air to cool the card. This helped quite a bit - it hasn't exceeded 65 C since, even while playing DOOM (4) for an hour. I realize that this seems like a lot for a simple fan flip, so I should add that I also cleaned-up the cables underneath the card. There's room for a couple drives in there now.

I have ordered a right-angle HDMI cable to make the whole thing more presentable, and a new 435 watt power supply, but at this stage, it's working great! I have future plans to add a better graphics card, which should work nicely since my case is running cool with the GTX 950. My dream card is currently a AMD R9 Nano.

Unplanned cost adjustments (shipping included): Cryorig CPU cooler - $32.00; Aluminum tape - $7.65; Gorilla tape - $4.95; PCIe extender cable - $10.00; Total: $54.60

Part Reviews

CPU Cooler

This is fast becoming my favorite cooler for small form factor builds. While it doesn't perform as well as something like the Shuriken Big Scythe 2, it's the same size as the stock cooler and doesn't get in the way of system memory because of overhang on a mini-ITX or micro-ATX board.

Pros: - Easy to install, although because of the backplate, you have to remove the mother board - Reduces temps by up to 20 C in my mini-ITX case - Small - same size as stock Intel cooler - Quieter than stock cooler - Good build quality and packaging

Cons: - You have to remove the motherboard to install

Motherboard

This board surprised me, as a lot of the reviews I read online basically stated the board was low-budget with crappy wi-fi, that was difficult to install. What I've found from working with it is that it's a decent entry-level mini-ITX board with a decent BIOS and good wi-fi.

For the price, you can't beat this motherboard. Very few if any Skylake boards at this price point have wi-fi built in. To do this, ASRock added a M.2 wi-fi card, with little cables that connect to the card and run to the backplate, or case, depending on your build. The connectors are just like the ones on laptop cards, only much smaller. They're a little tricky to install, but not difficult.

Unfortunately, the M.2 slot doesn't support adding a SSD, only the wi-fi, and to me, this is the biggest limitation of this board.

Aside from that issue, setup and use has been seamless for me. If you need an inexpensive mini-ITX board with wi-fi, check this out.

Pros: - Decent BIOS/easy setup - Inexpensive for the features it offers

Cons: - No M.2 SSD support

Memory

I bought this memory off Ebay for a pretty decent price. It works good in the sense that I didn't have any issues with it, but when compared to other DDR4 memory, it's really quite slow. For a productivity PC, because the price is pretty low, this is a good choice. But, there are better choices out there if you want a performance build.

Video Card

This is the little card that "can"!

For starters, you can't beat this card for the price right now. With AMD recently adding the RX 480 and nVidia coming out with the 1060, all previous cards seem to be dropping in price. I bought mine off Amazon for $116 shipped.

At 6 1/2-inches long, it's a mini card, so it will fit in ANY system. Power requirements are low at 90W, so even a 300 watt power supply will keep this thing running all day long. I haven't noticed any additional noise from the fan - temps seem stable and max out at 65 C in my case.

As for gaming - it won't get you to VR-capable, but it plays my 1080p games very well at high - ultra settings. With only 2GB of memory, it's not ready for high-end 4K either, but it does play anything on Steam very well. DOOM (4) works flawlessly.

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Comments

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

Cool modification!

Thumbs up

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

Thanks! I was glad that I only needed to drill two small holes to modify the case for the video card. Sometimes having old PC parts around really saves some time and hassle.

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

i got a msi 960 for like £140

  • 42 months ago
  • 1 point

you can get 960's for 120-130£

  • 41 months ago
  • 1 point

I originally went with the GTX 950 just because it was cheap and only needed 90 watts TDP. Since I wasn't sure if my idea would work, less $$ was better to start with ☺. Ever since I bought it, all I find are better deals for 960s!