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Mini ITX 1440p 144hz i5 Skylake Gaming

by aaronbraich


I had a fully specced out retina macbook (2012) at uni as I did games design so needed something beefy enough to 3D model with but actually playing a game was stuttery on decent settings.

Needless to say - I graduated and sold it - got £1400 and spent it all (plus more) on a new ITX gaming machine. The build was OK but I had a couple issues – all of them stemming from the case...

Biggest thing is the case is hot without an exhaust fan. To the point where the adhesive from the heatsink on my GPU (which also runs hot) melted and a plastic panel came off (just aesthetic one).

Monitor - NICE – I came from a retina so it’s lost the IPS pop but the smooth game play (freesync 144hz) and decent size more than makes up for it. I also managed to get it for £299 from Amazon.

Wont’ bother talking about the rest – it’s good.

Only thing worth mentioning is the Apex Raw keyboard is not good. It was a good deal at £27 – but it feels like too much effort to type on (high actuation force) and the extra macro keys mean I’m going for the edge of the keyboard but it’s further away and I press wrong keys. However, I’d rather do that than pay £50+ for a “gaming” keyboard. I don’t need that rubbish, I just need a standard office dell one with backlighting and volume control and I’m golden – the rest is pointless.

Part Reviews

CPU Cooler

Fans aren't the quietest but its def good value and looks good. ONLY WISH SOMEONE SAID IT HAS A PULSING LED? Annoying - I wish it was on constantly.

also beware of the height of the heatsink as the "visual" tube hit the fans on my ITX case until I got a new mobo and could install on a different rotation.

Video Card

Powerful beast of a card - Looks awesome but the damn LED PULSES and you CAN NOT turn it off! If it distracts m too much i'll have to tape over it - but who pays this much to then tape over the feature?! Also, it ran hot - 95C in my case before I put in my exhaust fan and the adhesive melted off the plastic stripes that are on the heatsink. I expected better from an Asus Strix product.

EDIT** - The annoying pulsing STRIX stip + the fact that it runs 7C hotter than the Sapphire 390 OC backplate edition meant i've returned it and got the Sapphire 390 OC.


It was always between the 250D or the Evolv. Performance wise the 250D seems better (temps & size) but the evolvs looks just reminded me of a halo-esque rig and I had to have it.

The case comes with a big front one & air filter but this is largely blocked by the front bezel/panel. There is space on the sides and you feel the air moving – but not much. It NEEDS and exhaust fan. Invest in the Noctua NF A14 as you’ll need the better airflow than anything quieter – maybe even get something more powerful than that if you don’t mind the noise.

I found the build quality OK – but only 3/5 stars – nowhere near as great as the reviews state. Little things annoy me – like the velcro cable ties on the right panel were upside down, the phanteks sticker on the GPU shroud started to lift off (but was pushed back down and it stayed), the rear panel is pretty flimsy, the USB 3 header cable is very tight and bent the mobo pins, the front LED can be seen from the gap in the front panel when the tower is on the left of you, the white paint at the back of the GPU bracket didn’t cover the whole of it, and there was no included case speaker. The case’s radiator mount was also a pain in the *** to work with if you have an AIO CPU cooler. Perhaps it was just my normal routine or the config I had but I’m sure this is the normal way.

Install CPU to mobo > install ram > install heatsink to CPU/Mobo > install into case. However, as the CPU heatsink was AIO and had the tubing and radiator attached, it meant I needed to attach the rad to the slidey mount. But when the mobo is installed, there was not enough slack to slide it in (needs to be perpendicular to case – very tight fit).

This meant I needed to take off the CPU cooler, install the motherboard into the case, then the CPU cooler again, but this is DAMN tight with the screws. Anyway, this wasn’t an issue until I pushed the rad bracket all the way in and found the fans hit against the CPU heatsink of the Captain’s “visual” tube thing that sticks out. I couldn’t rotate it so the visual tube was in another direction as the mobo heatsinks were in the way. In the end I returned my initial asrock fatal1ty mobo and got the Asus Impact as there was sufficient space for me to mount it rotated on the left (like 9 o clock).

The other issue I found was the GPU overheating – to the point where some of the plastic red covering of my 390 heatsink came off as the adhesive had melted. I expected better from the Strix range from Asus, but it was over 90C at this point (I didn’t have the exhaust fan installed then + was near my rooms radiator – whoops). I feel like the GPU doesn’t have any room to breathe – it’s only got <5mm to breathe between the GPU and the panel above the PSU. The panel does have holes in it though – but I feel they could have moved the whole mobo tray higher, and used the space in the top of the case more (above the radiator mount). See my build for photos..

Power Supply

No problems at all - no coil whine, can't hear it at all compared to the other fans.


I came from a Macbook Pro 15 Retina display so I had a good benchmark. Initial impressions were a lack of "pop" of colours that you get with an IPS, and that colours changes when the vertical viewing angle changed a lot. The horizontal angles were fine though - GF and I watch movies on it perfectly from different horizontal angles.

It is way too bright out of the box and needs a good calibration using some websites to check. I still found it wasn’t as “colour correct” as my old retina, but the size and the smoothness makes up for it – and you have to be really concentrating to notice the difference with anything moving.

With gaming – what this is meant for, it’s great, the resolution is crisp, and the smoothness is great.

I would say the difference between 60hz to 144hz is noticeable only if you’re looking for it. But the FreeSync function does work very well to reduce tearing. I think I’ve only seen 4 instance of a quick judder in about 20 hours of gaming – and that’s probably because I’ve left Vsync off too.

I would also say that (and I know this is all personal preference) that the difference of going from 60hz to 144hz is not as big of a difference as going from a cheap TN panel to a QUALITY IPS panel. I think the colour pop of an good IPS gives a bigger WOW effect than the extra hz. Keep in mind though, that this TN panel is not a cheap TN panel and is very good in its own right, so if you have a good TN panel like this, then the upgrade to IPS may seem not that big. However, if you have a monitor that is old and rubbish, than a good quality IPS panel (and not a cheap one to tick the box of having that tech) will give you more of a wow when you use it. Note that there is no height adjustment, and that’s really needed if you have a TN panel as the vertical viewing angle makes a significant difference on the colours. I would say for most around 510-6ft you’re in luck as its perfect height if on a normal desk and chair height at elbow height. But anyone else would possibly require some stacking underneath its x shaped base or tilting (it only pivots up or down). Also the colour isn’t as MAD as the photos make out/paint is nowhere near as vibrant. It’s such a big panel and the edge is so thin that you don’t notice the orange/red, especially when there is an image on the screen.

I run Star Wars Battlefront (most graphically awesome game atm) on auto settings – this put the game at 1440 on ultra and it looks amazing. Really much better than the YouTube videos I’ve seen of the game at 4k – but likely due to compression and fps of the video that YT impose.

Overall I would definitely recommend this monitor but only if getting for under £350 – it is great value. GSYNC equivalents are much more expensive and although this is a TN panel, it is a very good one. I would however say if you’re spending more than £370 on this then get an IPS unless you’re some kind of superhuman pro gamer who 3ms response time will make a difference (not the case for 99% of people playing games which have their own input lag like BF4).


Only great if you like loads of macro buttons and can stand heavy keys that tire your hand...

Comments Sorted by:

vekspec 3 Builds 3 points 38 months ago

as an owner of a 144hz monitor, I just want to point out that from personal experience, it's very hard for one card to push the frames to 144FPS. if you intend to hit 144FPS, you will need SLI or Xfire. one gpu simply will not have the power to hit 144fps, no matter if it's a 780 Ti, 970, 390, 390x, Titan, w/e. my single 970 was able to only push about 120FPS at max, normally it hovered around 90. adding a second gpu will allow it to hit 144 fps. It's also stated elsewhere on the web, I think on the Nvidia forums or some other gaming forums, that others have also stated that SLI/xfire is need to reach 144fps. that's where I found it out lol. single gpus just don't have the power. just wanted to point that out in case you wanted to go 144fps and was wondering why you couldn't hit it :)

other than that, solid build. would like to see more pics of the components.

Iceman320 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

Would you recommend an 60hz IPS panel 1080p screen over a 144Hz Tn? or would it be better to get a 1440p IPS for the money that was going to a 144Hz?

Im still tossing up which screen to get and I also have a single r9 390...

vekspec 3 Builds 2 points 38 months ago

honestly i'd still take a 1440p 144hz over a 60hz monitor. a single 390 is still going to get you over 60 fps smooth gameplay. your max fps will be higher and your min fps will be higher as well as your card with have 0-144fps to work with instead of 0-60.

Iceman320 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

aren't you meaning 1080p?

And yeah that was my thinking as well, good to hear a supporting opinion :) I will stick with my original plan of a 144Hz 1080p

vekspec 3 Builds 2 points 38 months ago

lol yea well I guess what I'm trying to say is that, imo, any 144hz monitor be it 1080p or 1440p is going to be better than 60hz. because if you have dual cards or just a single card, the game will have all that fps 0-144 to work with, providing you with higher fps, both min and max, instead of being locked at 60fps :)

Iceman320 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

Ah yup yup, very solid point :)

Also just having a smoother experience all round due to the higher refresh rate will be awesome. I have never seen a screen in person with a refresh rate over 60Hz (Tv screens don't count) so im really looking forward to it

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

I'll post some better pics tonight. I only added the ones to highlight the issues so people could see when choosing that case :) i remember I was measuring stuff and looking at blueprints to see if it would all fit.

I agree on more GPU intensive games it wouldn't get 144fps so 144hz is pointless. Dirt Rally showed 110-180 FPS @ 1440....but on games like LoL or L4d or older games - it's FAR FAR above 144 and I still can't really notice much of a difference.

But maybe it's just me - i do notice it's "smoother" but i'd have to be looking for the this rather than just being smacked my smoothness. Where as when there's a decent panel showing good gfx - the effect is more in your face. Luckily this monitor has both. I would highly recommend it - but only if your not paying a premium for it. £299 was a normal non-black friday deal for me on Amazon. :)

This Monitor has an excellent panel though - i watched some actual 1440p content last night and it is ridiculous. Even true 1080 films look nuts. Id even say it's better than some IPS panels after some config.

vekspec 3 Builds 2 points 38 months ago

Totally. I know with WoW 144hz definitely helps with min fps and fps drops during raids. But even with games where you think 144hz is pointless, it actually helps as the gpu has more room to go in terms of fps so you'll see less stutter. And yeah the overall experience is a lot smoother than 60hz :)

I think you have a solid build. I just wanted to let you know in case you were trying to hit 144 fps all the time that you'll need dual cards lol. In any case you got a +1 :)

Slade84 1 Build 1 point 34 months ago

I totally understand this now myself, I have a similar situation, games always hit over 60fps though so just having the 120 and 144 option is good in itself. but yeah now i can see i need another 390. but ikeep reading that a single card is always the best way to go. so maybe by 2017 we can see some new monster cards(not 3dfx =) or i will jsut get another 390 for my rig.

also resolution aswell, anything after 1080p, u need high end, im running 1440 (QHD) and can see 4k isn't really a thing yet nor would my pc be ready to run games at 4k with a nice high frame rate. not at a competitive price point yet.

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vekspec 3 Builds 2 points 38 months ago

true. I guess what i was trying to say, less the techno-babble, is that if you would like a consistent 144 fps in most games, dual cards you will need. but if you are happy with anything over 60 fps and still have smoother experience, then any high-end card and a 144hz monitor will do :)

Zarphos 2 points 38 months ago

Of course your 390 will run hot without any exhaust fans, that's you're fault, not the cards.

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 0 points 38 months ago

I did not deny it was a poor choice to wait until the noctuas were on sale and run it in a small rig without it, but I wasn't OC'ing it or stress testing it. Just a normal game for an hour or so. I wouldn't have expected the adhesive to melt on the heatsink if it was meant to run at 95C before thermal throttling.

I think it is not my fault Asus didn't use good quality adhesive or kicked in the thermal throttling before it started destroying itself. I would understand on a budget product but this is supposed to be the best 390 money could buy.

I since got a new Sapphire 390 (OC edition with backplate) and it gets a score of 31 less on Unigine Valley (0.6 fps avg) and it runs 7C cooler on average. I'll be uploading a more in depth Youtube review soon.

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aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 36 months ago

Daz - "Best" is an opinion -that is made up of GPU performance, cooling performance, price/value, aesthetics and availability.

It's understandable to think the STRIX would be the best at the time of writing as it has the highest frequencies, a triple fan solution; was cheaper than both Sapphire variants, readily available, and a lot of review sites (such as Bitech) gave it good ratings.

The MSI was too thick to fit - although I know this would be the most popular usually. The XFX has known coil whine issues for both editions, despite people changing their PSU. The Sapphire I have now is the OC version with the backplate - it runs cooler but it is slower.

When I had them both I benchmarked - the Asus STRIX was achieving better FPS in all my tests. But it was simply too hot for my case. For other's with an ATX case - it may well be the "best" card still.

Tritone 1 Build 2 points 38 months ago

Thanks for the comprehensive review of the Phanteks case. Very useful.

Sirpz 1 Build 2 points 34 months ago

I find it very hard to believe that card can push 144fps at 1440p

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 27 months ago

Any card can push over 144fps if what it's pushing is easy... For old games like LoL, CS, etc. of course it's this high.

The latest, most system intense game I have is Battlefied 1 (BF1) and it auto detected 1440 and ultra everything. However, on 64 MP maps i get the frame rate icon appear occassionally. So it's obviously not pushing anywhere near 144fps at 1440 all the time.
I need to tweak my settings and see if DX 12 will be better but likely to be more like 60FPS.

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Jytex 1 point 38 months ago

What's the tinfoil used for on the last picture? To hold up the GPU?

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

It's a bit of foam from my psu packaging and two rubber stickers that came with the heatsink. It was only used to hold up the GPU as i was moving house and didn't want it to bend.

I didn't take very good photos haha.

Bor3alis 1 point 38 months ago

Really nice build! How are games running at 1440p with that 390?

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

I finally played Far Cry 4 on it yesterday and it's ludicrously good. Although for FC4 i'm playing at 1080 ultra until I OC my CPU as that will give another 15-20FPS. I play at 1440 on BF4 and it's amazing. I'd say the biggest thing for me isn't even the graphics details though - although that's super awesome, it's just that it's not stuttering at all and with freesync everything is super smooth - makes a good difference this syncin'g stuff - I never believed the hyper until I got one.

gvicta 1 point 34 months ago

How are your temps now with the exhaust fan? I've got an Evolv ITX waiting to be built in but my choice of card is also an R9 390 (don't have it yet), so I'm worried about heat. I will have the exhaust fan in before I start doing anything though, an I may consider two additional exhaust fans on top.

bohemond1980 14 Builds 1 point 31 months ago

Very nice build

ArmyRangerSJ 0 points 18 months ago

The reason you don't notice a difference with your 144hz monitor is because your terrible graphics card you have running at 1440p so you need to change your review for that monitor juts sayin if you want to get 144hz you should of went with 1080p so just add a better graphics card (1080) and get a better cpu and you are golden

aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 0 points 18 months ago

Your English is terrible. Please try using full stops and proper grammar next time. You also must be the ultimate n00b as you should know, different games have different requirements. You mustn't give false statements on PCPartPicker as this helps people decide their builds.

Of course my rig can't push out 144fps for the latest games. However, I stated I tried it with older games (CS:GO & LOL). Therefore, the spec was more than adequate to push 144fps and subsequently be rendered at around 144hz.

There is a noticeable difference in smoothness, but my opinion is that it is far less noticeable compared to using a good IPS monitor. In the case of an IPS, the difference to me was a real "wow". In the case of a 144hz monitor, the difference to me was an "OK cool".

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aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 38 months ago

Indeed. If Phanteks just shifted things up a bit - it would be perfect. the'res actually a load of empty space above the Rad bracket and the top of the case which is why it annoys me....although I do wonder if some slim fans might fit in there.... Doesn't say so on the website though... And your right about the PSU being so close.

Without an exhaust fan this case is terrible, but with one the temps drop dramatically. Everything can run OC'ed and stable just by adding a good high airflow fan. You could even replace the front for two 140s but it seems fine for now. :)

mttkzk 1 Build 1 point 33 months ago

Would be a good idea to get a blower card since it is a small form factor case. Much better airflow to the heat sink getting consistently fresh air from the front

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aaronbraich submitter 1 Build 1 point 35 months ago

No issues with the memory with XMP enabled.

I haven't properly overclocked my rig yet though as I haven't had time. The auto o/c feature on the mobo wasn't stable, but i think that's the voltages.

However, there's no real need for higher frequency RAM - not unless it's the same price and latencies. Have a quick Google of the performance gain from higher frequencies. on RAM - it's tiny compared to the cost. Latency seems to have a bigger impact on most tasks. Think Linus did a vid on it too.

I would get the ones I've got, or any other RAM which is dual channel (as your ITX mobo will be), of the right capacity, low latency but more importantly - a good deal (cheap).

J12 1 point 35 months ago

Just a reminder for you, the more mhz you add, almost always the CAS latency increases. If I do remember tho, there were some Kingston Hyper sticks with 2666mhz and a CAS latency of 13, which is actually pretty amazing lol. (They're really expensive tho.)

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